Monthly Archives: April 2012

The grad school blues

A large portion of grad school is reading. Lots and lots of reading and doing what you can to synthesize the information into a whole and then do something with it. This is much more difficult than it may seem for a plethora of reasons, but when it really comes down to many areas of the literature the larger picture makes sense. Things are somewhat ordered.

This is not the case with the literature I’m reading for my project. The area I study seems to be nothing but a clusterfuck of randomness. However, the data is rarely presented this way which makes reading the papers that much more difficult. For instance, I just read a paper that had a very nice looking bar graph, but after reading the text I realized the data for that figure was only from ~15% of the cells they recorded from. I’m not saying that making the comparison they did wasn’t valid, it was, but it was also somewhat misleading since you kind of had to dig for the rest of the story.

This is really bringing something to light that I wish more people in my lab (really, just some of the higher ups) would recognize: the nucleus we study IS NOT HOMOGENOUS. All the cells share some basic characteristics, but that does not mean we can treat them as a homogenous group like we do. I’ve been fighting this stance since the beginning due to the literature and my own findings and while I seem to have convinced my peers the higher-ups still don’t apparently see it that way.

Science can be frustrating.

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Filed under animal research, biology, disease, grad school, neurobiology, parkinson's

A sucker

There are two things I’m a total sucker for: love songs and “The Fountain.” I’ve known this for quite some time and was actually quite ashamed of it until a few years ago. I am not entirely sure why I was ashamed to be a sucker for these things, but it may have something to do with “manliness” or some other bullshit like that. This is ridiculous of course, and now I can unabashedly embrace my love for the idea of love.

This whole line of thought came about through the creation of a list of the ten greatest songs I currently own. It was remarkably difficult, but the one undeniable fact that came from this was that love songs are often some the best songs written by any particular artist. I don’t know if it’s due to the intensity of love and how it feels differently to everyone or what, but it is clearly some of the best song fodder of all time. This is by no means a novel observation and I don’t mean for it to seem profound, but it’s something that is nice to finally accept for what it is.

The love songs serve as a good transition into my feelings about Darren Aronofsky’s 2006 film “The Fountain.” I’m not even going to touch the artistic aspects of the film that make it such a masterpiece, but instead I am going to focus on the story and why it makes such an impact on me every time I watch it (which happens to be at least once a month).

Two things strike me deeply every time I watch The Fountain. The first is that I can realistically see myself as the main character, Tommy. He happens to be a scientist working on brain cancer research; the very same research that could cure his ailing wife. I could see that being me. Working endlessly, using all my intellect to solve an insolvable problem to the point of neglecting the very thing that drove me to work so hard in the first place. It was all Tommy knew, so he lost himself in his own work for the entirely selfish reason of not wanting to let go of the love of his life even though she was finally comfortable letting go. He took a commendable, yet self-defeating view of his terrible situation and reaped the consequences later on in the film.

The second thing I see is the most intense depiction of true love I’ve ever witnessed on film. Knowing the realities of my own history of love it gives me a depiction of what I aspire to have at some point. At the same point, the movie terrifies me greatly. You see, one of the most clear ways love was shown in the film was though moments of the most intense sadness. Desperation, complete despair, a total mental breakdown, and finally a single, unbreakable focus were what made Tommy the remarkable man he was in this story. What I fear is that I am simply not capable of having such intense emotions, and by extension can never feel the love he felt for his wife. I realize this is probably an unreasonable way to feel, but there’s something in me that keeps me from not rejecting it entirely. All I know is that I want to feel for someone the way that Tommy felt for his wife, Izzy.

Is that too much to ask?

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Filed under life, marriage

Too long between posts…

For the first time in quite a while the science is going relatively well. I want to write about it, but with science being the way it is (and my boss being the way he is) I shouldn’t go into details. What I will say is that the optogenetics work I have been doing is finally coming to fruition and the postdoc who made it seem so fucking difficult was clearly just trying to dissuade me since my first animal gave me data. Bitch…

Had a group dinner where the lady I’m kind of interested in was also in attendance Wednesday night. We were kind of segregated from the rest of the group and ended up talking most of the dinner. Not gonna lie, there were some awkward times but I would like to feel that they were overshadowed by the not awkward times. I don’t know what to do about this woman. Is this one of those carpe diem times or is it more complicated than that due to my divorce situation? I’m leaning towards the former since at this age amazing single women are becoming more difficult to find by the day.

Overall, good shit. I like life again.

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Filed under biology, divorce, grad school, life, marriage, neurobiology, parkinson's


Turns out that going without internet still sucks (I did this a few years ago when I first split with my wife), but going without gas is even worse. Yeah, the morons from the gas company shut my gas off instead of beginning to charge me for it. I knew they were dumb, but this has been going on for a week now and I’m getting real sick of it. Cooking is my stress relief, so thank god there’s very little stress in my life right now

On a more positive note the divorce paperwork is all filled out and ready to go. Turns out it’s just checking a few boxes and signing your name about a dozen times (as long as you’re getting an awesome divorce like my wife and I). Have to say it looked much more intimidating than it really was.

My apartment is coming along nicely since I got my bed on Friday. I’m at work now, but when I get back I plan to put up a bunch of pictures and paintings and really help make my place feel more like my home. Still need to get rid of those boxes though…

And science-wise things are progressing quite nicely. This Thursday will be a trying time since the mice I injected with Channelrhodopsin will be ready to use and, fingers crossed, I get a boatload of data. In theory I can knock out all the data I need with just a few healthy animals with unique injections. It won’t work out quite that nicely, but I still have hope that all my training will get me through this.

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Filed under animal research, biology, divorce, grad school, life, marriage, neurobiology, parkinson's

Going Without

Companionship, internet, a bed…

Break-ups, especially long ones, are particularly difficult in the early stages. This is something I have been living for the past few days since I moved out of the residence my quasi-ex-wife (still working on the paperwork. We’re lazy) and even though I’ve been though a similar situation in the past this time is particularly difficult since I know there is no possible chance for a reunion. We are both very happy with the outcome, but that does not mean that the transition to true single life is going to be an easy one. So far it’s been fine, but it’s also novel and that alone is enough to keep me happy for the time being. The problem with novelty is that it is by definition temporary and will at some point be lost and I will have to deal with the mundane existence that is the dating/single life.

For some reason I find this both exciting and terrifying. I find it to be exciting since this very situation forces me to meet new people, and that is something I like to do that my previous life actively kept me from. And to be quite honest, I simply love meeting women. The chase is an amazing game that I at one time loved to play. This is also what scares the living bejesus out of me. I have a number of friends who have been in the dating game for a long time and who have had absolutely terrible outcomes with multiple relationships. Mind you, these are the tails of the normal distribution and I completely realize this, but it still frightens me.

However, I do have an advantage in this whole situation: my attitude. I’m going into this new stage of my life with a completely rational attitude. If I ask someone out with someone and she denies me? No problem and no hard feelings, that’s just the way things work out sometimes. So be it, no reason to waste a possible friendship due to hurt feelings that really weren’t there to begin with. I understand this may seem like a naive perspective, but the people who know me understand that if anyone can pull it off I can. Another reason I feel this way is that I’m a relatively good looking, relatively young, goddamn neuroscientist living in motherfucking Chicago. If I can’t find someone here in my situation then that’s my own goddamn problem.

I’m still optimistic about the whole situation and I feel that is good at this point. We shall see how long it lasts, but at least it’s how I feel right now and that type of outlook has to count for something.

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Filed under crazy, divorce, life, marriage, sleep deprived