Various Lies

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Moderate this, bitchboy

Yeah, comment moderation, or at least word verification is now active. Sorry, I hate it too, but if one more spambot tells me my dick is too small I'm going to develop a complex.

Monday, February 15, 2010

IRB: Irritating Risible Banal

I understand the need for Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). There have been too many travesties of justice committed on the defenseless and innocent in the name of progress.

Or, to put it another way, back before we were Enlightened about the Rights of Man we could be real assholes to each other. Although I would encourage anyone who is interested to look beyond your politically correct textbook, or CITI training manual and read about the work done and understand the time period in question. Paul Offit's "Vaccinated" is a good example, dealing with the use of mentally handicapped children as "guinea pigs" for vaccine research. Maurice Hilleman's defence of this tactic does have some credibility given the state of Human Subjects Protection at the time (or lack thereof). Not all of "Them" were soulless monsters. Perceptions were different back then and we must be careful of using too broad a brush stroke when applying the tar and feathers. Hilleman is a fucking hero and there should be a statue to him in every schoolyard in america.

Anyway, I digress from my rant. Ahem, excuse me while I work up the necessary ire, and if you are easily offended turn away now for this might be bluer than most.

As I said, I understand the need for Institutional Review Boards and the necessity of getting neutral, experienced, third-party observation of any protocol involving human subjects. However, you are taking the fucking piss when i am trying to submit an exempt IRB and it still takes, literally, hours of fucking paperwork. I am working on an IRB for an anonymous survey of the users of the database I administer (maybe a few dozen people). All we want to know is whether, in their opinion, the DB is performing its function: making their data collection & analysis easier. There's no possible repercussion for a negative answer, nor is there any possible repercussion for failing to provide Consent and thus declining to take part in our survey. It is 8 motherfucking questions about whether the DB works as we promise and, if not, what can we do to make it better.

I spent all day Thursday and Friday working on it. I got maybe a third of the way through... I think. The system we have to use (automated, of course) provides no guidance as to your % completion. I spent an hour or two just struggling with the second page of the questionnaire because it kept asking me for information that wasn't actually included in any of the possible combinations of questions being asked. I ended up calling for help on that one.

By the end of the day on Friday I thought I'd made pretty good progress.

Well, i just logged on to have another crack at it, and it came up with a nice official looking dialogue box telling me a new version of the form had been come out and I needed to convert my current form to the new one. Apparently someone has a pretty fucked up sense of humour, because "convert" apparently means DELETE pretty much everything I did last week. The only thing remaining is the motherfucking "title" page and of course, the second page that I got stuck on last week.

Thank you very fucking much. Whoever the fuck designed this system wants their fucking arse kicking. I know Faculty bleat endlessly about the amount of administrative bullshit they have to wade through, and I really feel for them. This is not what they signed up for (or rather, it is, but isn't clearly marked on the tin). It is wankery like this make the practice of Science such a fucking chore.

If I'm having this much trouble with a fucking exempt survey, then imagine my dread of the next one: requesting permission to harvest Electronic Medical Records for a text-mining/data-mining study for an Alzheimer's grant.

The fucking President and all his little congressmen (and congresswomen) run around like fucking chickens with their balls cut off wailing about how we need to do Big Science and Spend the Public money wisely, and they event futile, irritating piss-poorly-planned hurdles like the motherfucking HITECH Act without the vaguest consideration of the fucking consequences of their actions.

Fucking genius! Make us encrypt EMR and Personal Health Information to Federal standards (FIPS 140-2). And make it a scary Act by empowering the very division of government (Health & Human Services) that enforces it with the need to fine failure to enact in order to fund it's own witch hunt. But of course, don't take into account the fact that the manufacturer of the world's most popular web-browser doesn't auto-support this.

Assholes. (uSoft and the Gubmint).

And of course They demand that the only ay to try and get some fucking money to do your research is to try and do Big Science and gather medical records for the good of mankind, but make the system that protects those records either (probably) corrupt it's pointless, or so impossible to manage completion is needlessly Sisyphean.

Log Phase

There's a meme doing the rounds about "why we blog". It started with Martin Fenner over at nature Network a year or so ago, and post-Scienceblogs vs. Nature Network.

(teh ghey fight, if ever there was one...Seriously. I'm not going to get into the whole thing here (yet), but what a fucking waste of electrons that row was. They are two different media, catering to two different audiences, with two different operating paradigms. Fucking bullshit, comparing electrophysiological analysis of NMDA Receptors in HEK cells, v.s patching native neurons in organotypic slices. Yeah, you can address the same basic questions, but you're look at two completely different fucking systems.)

Anyway, the meme has started up again via Steffi Suhr. I'm not one for scribbling about that stuff. This is a (mostly anonymous) semi-rant blog and I'm fairly sure, Dear Reader, you don't give a fuck about my motives for blogging...








...I was looking at the weekly email from my stat counter peeps today though, and saw something modestly exciting. And thus I'm going to break my own embargo on writing about why I write.

I have been a blogger for something like 6 years now. My first blog was virtually identical to this one and was inspired by the discovery of the first blog I ever read. It's gone now, long defunct as the author/blogger has moved on in his life. He was (maybe still is) an inspired musician and comedian, very entertaining writer and an associate in the same musical scene I moved in when I lived Up North. I saw what he was writing and enjoyed it greatly. After a while I saw through some of the humour, and realised there was catharsis in his writing. He was exorcising some daemons and exercising others. I wondered if I could do the same thing, seeing as I was in an interesting and transitional period of my life; I was separating from my wife, but still living in her house while she worked in Florida, I had just quit my job and was unemployed and almost an illegal immigrant, and I played drums in a fairly well known local rock band. I felt I had enough material to write, but wondered, "could I write".

Yes, it turns out I could.

Sometimes, you, Dear Reader, have been kind enough to leave a comment or two complementing me on my writing or praising a somewhat demented turn of phrase. Well, back in ought-four I started the first version of Some Lies and slowly, slowly, slowly accumulated readers and commenters. I learned the cardinal rules of blogging through trial and error (its funny how there are now websites devoted to telling bloggers the most obvious fucking things).

  1. Use pictures (see below)

  2. Keep it to the point (bollocks to that)




These last three are how you accumulate readers, and without readers, you don't get comments. And despite what anyone says, we all love to get comments.

Despite the pleasing sibilance of the aphorism, If You Build It, They won't come. because no one knows you're there and if someone does stumble upon you, you're just noise in an infinite system. You need to stand out. There are other tricks too (like using Technorati and Vlog (if that even still exists)), because they force-direct traffic to your page.

Anyway, I gradually watched my stats climb and it was fucking brill. At it's height (right before I killed the blog) I was getting thousands of hits each week and averaging 20+ comments per post. Not the most awesome comment count, but pretty damned good, considering maybe 1 in 20-50 of your readers will actually leave a comment. Especially on blogs like mine, because they tend to be the kind of blogs that build a comment-clique and folks are hesitant to jump in just to say "nice story" (which is a real shame).

Through my blog I mapped and told the stories associated with my changing life. I blogged through my move to my current location, my trouble with a long distance relationship and the exciting decline into alcoholism and emotional meltdown that went with watching my career as a postdoctoral (post-PhD/grad school) scientist collapse in ruins around me. The blog gave me an outlet and through it was able to hone my writing skillzorz, and actually pick up other writing gigs.

When it came time to re-direct my focus, clean my fucking shit up and move on with my career/life I used the blog as a crutch. And when I finally transitioned away from the awful fucking diseased soul destroying hell of the lab bench traditional basic science into clinical administration, I killed the blog. It is still stored on Google's servers, and I go and re-read now and then, and I've lifted some old posts from there for shits and giggles.

For reasons of my own I wanted an outlet for my writing/rambling/musing and frothing mental ejaculations and decided to resurrect Some Lies. And here we are, Dear Reader, a year into the new Blog. It still has that New Blog Smell because I don't post as frequently as I should. But that might change now I have discovered MarsEdit. I get to write offline in mark-up text, and post when I'm ready at the click of a button.

Fucking. Brill.

And on top of that I just saw my stat counter reflecting a log 0.5 increase in readership hits! (Don't worry, non scientists lurker, I made that up. I'm not sure what log 0.5 is either).

Oh Joy! I'm building traffic, my loins vanity is swelling and I have an easy and accessible means of writing that doesn't involve the crappy fucking TextEditor on my Mac.

Thank you, Dear Reader, for pooping popping by. I'm going to be making a few cosmetic changes around here (including more pics, see #1 above). Let me know if you think they suck, or even better, tell me how awesome they are and how much you wish you were just like me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I use a Mac laptop at work, but have an htc/Android phone. This means I have issues trying to get a calendar that does "everything" for me. I have a very busy schedule most days, with lost of meetings and teleconferences and shit like that to take care of, so it is important that if I use a calendar it is synchronized between platforms.

On my Mac I use Microsoft Entourage. This is because, essentially, I have to. My boss uses it and thus everyone under her uses it (or Outlook for those still on PCs shudder). Entourage does come with a fairly nifty calendar and I can color code events by 'meaning". This is so I can scan my day at a glance: I have meetings in green, teleconferences in pink, seminars in orange etc. I have also set the server to auto-forward all email sent to my work account to my Gmail address, so I get my email on my work phone without having to log into the work email servers remotely.

I need to be careful when replying to email though, because I don't, for example, want the Executive Vice-Chancellor getting emails from "Tideliar"... (especially as Prof-like Substance pointed out, and as some of you now know, because my MeatSpace moniker does also appear next to Tideliar if I email you).

Now, you'd think that if one can pseudo-synch email like this, there can be no earthly, nor indeed, heavenly, reason why one might not also synch calendar events. And one would be sorely mistaken.

I have just spent an hour trying to synch Entourage Calendar (my laptop) with Google Calendar (my phone).

can't be done

It's a known flaw that no one has fixed yet.

"But Tideliar," I hear you cry. "You can synch your Entourage calendar with iCal on the Laptop, and then synch that with Google Calendar."

Yes, dear Reader. Yes you can. But it's a one-way fucking synch. I can synch everything from my Google calendar (phone) to iCal (laptop), and everything from my Entourage calendar (laptop) to my iCal (laptop)...and you can see the inherent flaw in this plan. If I need to use the Google calendar on my phone I am fucked. iCal is a sweet little whore that will take it from anybody, where as Entourage and Google are the expensive courtesans waiting for the right cock and paycheck.

Bastard Buggery Fuck, as old Mother Tideliar was wont to say in times of angst.

So, the only way round this is to either enter events on my Google calendar (Laptop) as they arrive, or manually update Google as my Entourage calendar fills up.

And yes, I know this shouldn't be a hassle, but there are some annoyances, like accepting invitations in Entourage (because we all use the same system in the office), and then remembering to go back and update my Google calendar.

And additionally, and importantly, it's 2010, and these problems have been known about for 4 or 5 years and I don't want to have to fucking deal with them to be perfectly honest. I shouldn't HAVE to deal with them.

Isn't that point of all this sodding technology?

Friday, February 5, 2010

well I've never done that before

I was pottering around the Blogosphere, as is my wont, eating a 3 Musketeers (if a Yank) or a Milky Way (if a Brit). I lumbered over to the EXCELLENT and full of WIN Scary Duck for he does make me laugh and squirt coffee out of my nose on the keyboard (even if I'm not drinking coffee!) and saw a post about a band I didn't called The High Fidelity.

Apparently The High Fidelity was/is the band that evolved from the awesomely good Soupdragons (Glasgow's second finest export after my mate Lefty). Well, Scary Duck had linked a couple of The High Fidelity videos for his reader's perusal and I had a click.

And I liked it.

And I went to iTunes and downloaded the fucking album. On the basis of a fellow blogger's admitedly biased opinon and the ravings of the usual fucknut hordes that comment on YouTube videos.

This had better be good. Or else Mr. Duck (Scary) will find himselkf KILLED TO DEATH by an irate ex-pat Englishman who's down ten bob on a dodgy techno/pop album from 2002.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Does it work?

A chum over at Nature Network alerted me to a groovy "offline" blog writer called MarsEdit. I'm playing with my 30 day free trial...Let's see if it works!