Various Lies

Friday, December 16, 2011

Without a Hitch

I came late to the atheist fold and as a confirmed and ardent believer I kept my head firmly in the sand for too long. I lived that foolish duality that accepted faith and nonsense and unreason while clinging to the rationality that made me an excellent scientist. Oh how I wish I had the blinkers removed much earlier. how much more i could have done and been.

It was late, recently, that i really discovered Christopher Hitchens.

This post is rushed to get some thoughts out before they fully cloud my brain for the day. Hitchens is dead - just yesterday. Too young. Hitch-22 and Arguably are on my list of books for 2012. I wanted to read them when he was alive - I didn't know his end was so close; I have been woefully distracted this year.

The New Yorker has a wonderful eulogy by Hitchens' friend Christopher Buckley. One paragraph leaps out at me and makes me regretful for a year of self-indulgent, self-pitying self-loathing,

"Lunch—dinner, drinks, any occasion—with Christopher always was [bracing]. One of our lunches, at Café Milano, the Rick’s Café of Washington, began at 1 P.M., and ended at 11:30 P.M. At about nine o’clock (though my memory is somewhat hazy), he said, “Should we order more food?” I somehow crawled home, where I remained under medical supervision for several weeks, packed in ice with a morphine drip. Christopher probably went home that night and wrote a biography of Orwell. His stamina was as epic as his erudition and wit."

I miss writing.

New Year's  Resolutions are often a feeble waste of effort and simply reflect a fear of mortality and wasted time. However, the Catholic guilt is deeply written into my soul and so I still make them. Faith and Works etc.

PZ Myers sums it up for me perfectly:

"As atheists, I think none of us can find solace in the cliches or numbness in the delusion of an afterlife. Instead, embrace the fierce strong emotions of anger and sorrow, feel the pain, rage against the darkness, fight back against our mortal enemy Death, and live exuberantly while we can. Confront mortality clear-eyed and pugnacious, uncompromising and aggressive."

This year's is simple: Write More, Write Well, Write for the sheer pugnacious joy of the words.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Statements of Lack of Faith

I am a fairly recent atheist. I'm really more of a Judeo-Christian agnostic, but I have a suspicion this is just old habits dying hard. It's not been an easy journey and it's only recently that I've become more outspoken. This is partly due to becoming more aware of important civil liberties issues that I've read about ('enforced' public school prayers, the 'war on Christmas' being used to suppress diversity) and partly because I'm getting tired of the sanctimonious lies and hypocritical whining of Christians and the militant hate expressed by Muslims. Another important motivator has also been the common view that Christians seem to take, that because they are God's new chosen people* He wouldn't let them come to harm, thus scientists are liars and frauds and climate change is not man made etc. This affects me and my family directly (for e.g. warming up the planet we have to share) and indirectly (for e.g. I'm paid by Federal monies allotted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH); any attack on science is an attack on the meagre wage I get for serving the public good as a scientist).

Three recent events are of note and have spurred this little, meandering post and the two to follow when time permits.

A couple of weeks ago I made my first public statement of (lack of) belief. I read bloggers and writers who are great with their words when it comes to describing and defining their lack of belief in any higher/spiritual power. I've been curiously concerned about how I might speak up if asked about my opinion. I was at a bar with a friend and she was chatting to a gentleman, a dancer and choreographer. She is a Christian and so was this chap. I forget how the conversation moved round to this spiritual realm, but as they made the usual mumbling statements of faith, I stated that i was an atheist. You could have heard a pin drop.

"No you're not!" My friend exclaimed in the tone of voice usually reserved for young adults who make outlandish statements ("I'm going to buy a motorbike mom!")

"Yes, I am." I replied.

The dancer spoke up, curiosity in his voice betrayed by the fear and revulsion on his face. "Why do you think you're an atheist?"

I ignored the condescension of the statement, although I must admit I nearly used it as a springboard for a feisty rebuttal on manners. Heart thumping I paused for a moment and then spoke up "I am an atheist because after searching hard, I can find no evidence that there exists any higher power or any need for there to be a god. I can't believe in something I can find no evidence for."

His reply was a thoughtful, "Oh!". He briefly tied the common PoF tactic of asking me if I therefore believed in love etc., something I've since faced a few times and torn apart with ease. The idiocy of these statements simply betrays a lack of thought and reasoned argumentation on the part of the asker. My friend then steered the conversation back to more libatious matter and we ordered another round of drinks.

I think I handled it OK.

*An inherent LOL to poke at these people is each little sect thinks they're the chosen on and all the rest are hell-bound frauds. This is a very fun stick to poke them with....People's Front of Judea etc.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SfNBANTER - A Review

What can one say about SfNBANTER -the premiere social event of the fall conference season? Once again hostess Dr. Becca excelled with another exemplary venue, menu, cocktail list and guest list. As exclusive as ever, the event was nevertheless overrun with the twitteratti and bloggeratti.


Dr. Zen wins the SfNBanter style award, again!

One must open with a very sincere Thank You to Jonathan Gross and the BioData team for sponsoring the event. It was great to meet Jonathan in the flesh finally, and chatting to the BioData team was fun and added a sense of relevancy to the wired nature of the event. After all, who better to sponsor a Tweetup than an informatics company with a very active social media presence?

This writer met old friends from the IRL (@mocost next time I'll manage more than "hi", @aechase, as ever a pleasure), old friends from the real (on line) world (including the mysterious and prolific @Scicurious and some true pseuds who must remain nameless, but know who they are), and made acquaintance with new peeps. Particular highlights were getting an awesome brain-Xmas tree ornament from @artologica, stalking @loveofscience, punking @mikechorost, losing a bet with @sugarscientist, making @artfulaction blush and swapping zombie tales with @bradleyvoytek. @noahWG and @genetrapper bought me beer, and thus consolidated themselves in the deep, fuscus and wormridden core of my heart for evermore.

A very special moment of the evening was meeting with some of my Scientopia peeps who I've known for years, but never met before IRL. And apologies once again to Drugmonkey for disappearing, and Namnezia for not saying goodbye. I was a case study in nicotine overdose by the end of the night and a brief palate cleaning walk around the block turned into an epic stumble home via a late night pizza parlour and meeting a poor homeless woman who wanted me to help her walk to Massachusetts. The state, not the Avenue...

I wish I could throw out a Heyya to all the folks I met, but the mixture of beer, avatars and real names was dizzying. Even i got confused about how to introduce myself. And that i think is the key to these events. Living online allows us to escape, expand or avoid daily social strictures, be they work or family indicated. Online we can be freer in our expression and find an audience of friends and peers to share our thoughts and writing with.  It was great to meet so many cool, wired and desiccated dedicated folks from all ranks, fields, and social backgrounds.

So join us next year in New Orleans for #sfnbanterIII - in 2010 we celebrated with SfNPosterface in a nightclub with 2000 people. In 2011 we proved we have traction in DC. What will we do in 2012 in the French Quarter?....One positively shudders to even contemplate the debauched science we'll conjure... ;)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's that time again

I'm late, I'm late, I'm late. Well, it's been a tumultuous yeah and I've not been a very active blogger to be sure. But, that's par for the course. I've been doing this since 2004 and you have good times and bad times, times when you're feeling inspired to write, and times when you're not. But now there's some impetus - The Greatest Show on Earth is coming up (next week!).

It's Go Time

The Society for Neuroscience are holding their annual meeting, as is their wont, and this year we're back in Washington DC. last time the meeting was in DC I had to catch the red-eye from Las Vegas the day before my presentation, where I had been attending the orientation for the new members of the Board of Directors of the National Postdoc Association. Ironically, I'm no longer on the Board and now they hold it in DC the week before SfN. Anyway, that was in 2008, I was still a Labrat and the world was only just realising how desperately bankrupt it was.

In 2010 myself and M'Belov'd Colleague Dr. Becca covered the event in San Diego, and ran a serious of semi-coherent videoblogs for it. I think they're fun, and the out-takes are simply FTW. I also ran a review of the SfN Neurobloggers, both before and after the conference.

My comment then, as now stands - the Society is making a farce of its efforts to engage a wired audience. Last year only a couple of the Neurobloggers were actually, y'know, bloggers. Some have kept up with the blogging more or less, but there was no effort on behalf of the Society to seriously screen entries based on anything credible like credentials, experience, following etc.

Surely, and really, fucking obviously, if you're trying to get more attention to your conference in the wired world, it would make sense to gather a stable of popular, talented and proven science bloggers to cover the event. Right?


They wouldn't make the same mistake twice they?

Would they?

Even after a few of "us" actually contacted the Society In Real Life and spoke to them about it.



Yes. Yes, they would. #DFS.

They're making no fucking effort to advertise this at all as usual. The SfN hashtags on twitter are being run by the usual Twits, and thankfully it's self-organising well. But once more they've picked a stable of writers, with a couple of very notable exceptions, who are totes WTF.

Zen Faulks has beaten me to the punch this year, so here's linklove to Zen. To whit:

"Last year, I wrote about the puzzlement about the Society for Neuroscience’s choice of official bloggers. I didn’t recognize a one.

With today’s announcement of the Neuroscience 2011 neurobloggers, I confess I am still baffled by the SfN’s social media strategy. Unlike last year, year, I do recognize one blogger, the mighty Scicurious [Ed: I'll add Jason Snyder of Functional Neurogenesis to this too]...I’m most baffled that two blogs didn’t exist at all a week ago, which happened last year, too. The application to be a neuroblogger asked for samples, including previous conference coverage...


Seriously, I just don't fucking get it. Why bother having a call for applicants if the entire process is so desperately farcical. Last year I worried that the n00bs were opening themselves up for a shit storm because of the possible attention. However, by all accounts traffic was so low it was moot. I know Jason and Scicurious will do excellently, and as usual they'll likely get good traffic. The rest of you, if you actually exist, have fun, but don't sweat it. The entire thing seems to be a waste of time and effort unless you're already up and running. And if you are, you don't need this faux 'boost' from a Society that clearly doesn't give two shakes of a fuck about promoting itself, or you, to the Wired World.


FWIW, I'll be attending sporadically and blogging when I can - I have some family business to take of while I'm in the area so i'm staying in Annapolis and commuting.

Most importantly::: I'll see y'all at BANTER. mad levels of props to M'Belov'd Colleague Dr. Becca for organising the whole thing while I've been Blogger in absencia this year.

This is the second (annual?) blogger and tweeter hang out and if it's even close to last year, you'll need a free schedule Tuesday morning, and a handful of aspirin with that morning coffee.

Remember, if you don't want to out your Pseud, take your fucking name tag off before you go into the bar, or write your Pseud on the back of it, wear it in reverse and geek with pride.

See y'all on Monday ;)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Link on BBC new webpage  - Searching for the next Google... along with this picture

(credit BBC I guess)

I get it - it's all techphillic and shit, but couldn't they have picked something slightly more fucking relevent? Either use Google to draw attention or mention chemical engineering or whatever the fuck that you8ng an is doing with that test tube.

...and test tubes? Who the fuck uses test tubes nowadays (shut up chemists)

DFS, at least it isn't the UEoBL* (pronouced weeble)

Oh shit i think my building is on fire. BRB. ETA - nope. false alarm

(*Ubiquitous Eppendorf of Blue Liquid)

Winter Retreat

It's cold. Cold in Memphis. We don't "do" cold very well, which is silly because it's only hot here for 6 or so months of the year. Starting about now the weather gets grey, and chilly. The damp stays in the air and the chill is pervasive, leaching into your bones. It demotivates. All I want to do, and I think a lot of my fellow Memphibians would join me, is find somewhere warm to curl up. Somewhere with an open fire, a limitless supply of soup and good books (substitute TV for anyone not me).


The cold. It demotivates in a different way to the heat. The heat saps your strength and energy. The constant grinding humidity. It never cools off in the summer. The nights are a miasma of discomfort.

I am demotivated. I got my "old" job back and a promotion is promised. I still don't have a faculty position so I am demotivated to work on grants for the third year in a row. I do a lot of the writing and editing and am "just" a line item. It's stupid, I know. I need the grants to keep myself and my team employed, and I need them more to prove I am the One who Can and thus earn the faculty position. But, I am demotivated.

I have book reviews to write for Lablit, and they're half written. Discarded and angry passages and paragraphs. Aimless and meandering. I promised a book review; I have others waiting to be written and now even WW Norton have stopped sending me books.

I have editing I should have done, but I lost my motivation and lost my contract with a major publisher to serve as a free lance editor.

I have blog posts to write. I used to love writing and blogging. BANTER and the Society for Neuroscience meeting are coming up. This time last year I was railing over at LabSpaces and getting excited for SfN. My dear friend and beloved colleague Dr. Becca is doing it all on her own right now, and god knows how she finds the time with her new lab.

I am demotivated. Depression is a shitty illness.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Eye witness silliness

Is more proof needed than simple human hatred and the desire for vengence?

"Updated at 8:19 p.m.] The mother of the police officer that Davis was convicted of killing told CNN's Anderson Cooper that she is "absolutely devastated" that the execution has yet to happen.
“I’m absolutely devastated because I want it over with. ... They’ve been through the courts four times there in Georgia. They’ve been to the Supreme Court three times," Anneliese MacPhail said in an interview from her home, referring to previous delays. "This delay, again, is very upsetting and I think very unfair to us."
"I'd like to close this book," she said. "We feel (Davis is) guilty. The evidence and everything that we have seen that I have seen , because I’ve been to all the trials he is guilty, and I believe in that. And so does the rest of my family.”

Your heart is broken because a man who might be innocent is going to be murdered by the state that messed his trial up in the first place? You don't want vengeance, you want blood. And the blood of an innocent is just fine, because black blood is cheap.

The jury have retreated because the eye witness accounts are corrupted by all accounts. Corrupted by the police force your son worked for. Why wouldn't you want justice? Or do you just need closure? Humans are good at closure. If Mr. Davis ever gets out I don't think we have to look far for the lynch mob.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

In honor of CPP

NFL fucken networke is a fuckine joke. 2 hours before the fuckin game and a room full of over paid has beens are analysing Chad Ochocinco's fucking TWitter stream? Michael Fuckin Irving looks like he's going to have a fucking heart attack roaring about Ochocincos fuckin TWEETS?

What a fuckin joke. No wonder no one gets shit anymore. Hundreds of thousands of zombies are watchng these assholes thinkning that this is entertainment. And these douchefucks are being paid millions o dollars to act like spoiled slightly inbred fucking morons.

I fucking despair. What hope that the gamewill be any fucking better?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labour Day Mark 12

Today is my twelfth Labor Day, and my first as a Permanent Resident. I still have no idea what one does on Labor Day or, indeed, why it's so important. To Americans it marks the official end of summer and this has always struck me as odd because the weather (at least where I've lived over the last decade or so) is usually glorious and often 'better' than "real" summer (less humid, less hot).

The start of summer, Memorial Day (May), is marked with barbeques (cook-outs as we call them here), as is the Fourth of July, which includes the additional bonus of fireworks. Other holidays have associated phenomena - Martin Luther King Day (January) is a time of introspection and thought, doubly so here down South where the racial divide is still strong, and triply so in Memphis where Dr. King was murdered. (The site of his death, the Lorraine Motel, is now the National Civil Rights Museum and well worth a visit if you're in town.)

There are the pseudo-holidays of Columbus Day (celebrating men who refuse to stop and ask for directions) and President's Day (celebrating...uh, the President or something?). There's Thanksgiving, which to me is a chance to practice cooking a turkey in time for Christmas (my favourite holiday).

And there's Labor Day. A day off of work, but to do what? Some folks have one last hoorah at the beach (too far from here), or "one last" cookout (Tropical Storm Lee has put the kibosh on that in Memphis this year). It just seems a funny anti-climactic holiday.

But in the tradition of starting traditions where none exists, MusicGirl and I have decided there will a Labor Day breakfast and she will prepare it, just like Granddaddy Jim used to when she was a kid (Granddaddy Jim was Native American and she has fond memories of him smoking his cheroots and getting ash in the pancake batter, and then getting the batter in his long braided hair). So, this morning at the crack of dawn *ahem*...9:45...I headed out to The Store to get the makings for breakfast...and over an hour later returned with what I assumed was the correct makings. See, I don't "do"American breakfasts - when possible I make myself an "English" breakfast that most of my friends refuse to eat.

Ho hum...apparently 6 eggs was too few, 'center cut' bacon is wrong and it took me 35 fucking minutes to find the pancake mix - why isn't it with the rest of the cake mixes!? (And, yes we could make fresh, but we're still living out of boxes and some utensils etc. are missing). It took another 15 to find the maple syrup (why isn't it with the rest of the dressing, condiments, unguents etc.?)...and then 10 more  minutes of sorting through the 873 different varieties, all of which were proudly "sugar free" or "lite" before I found something 'real' ("lite" syrup, really? Irony spill on aisle 5).

Well, what the hell! This year traditions clash meet and we get Tideliar's catered variation of the Official Labor Day Breakfast!

At least some folks look like they're existed....Can haz catsup?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Federal Bureau of WHAT?!

Ah, there are few finer things than receiving mail. Well, to qualify, mail that isn't flyers or bills. A letter from home perhaps, a note from a loved one somewhere, reaching out to let you know that at that moment, that precise moment days or weeks ago, she was thinking of you and took the time and effort to write a card, a letter, a note - and then mail it.

This doesn't happen too much anymore because we communicate electronically. I can email my mom from my phone to tell her I love her anytime, why wait for a vacation or a major family event right?

For me, an immigrant to this wonderful, crazy country, most of the non-junk mail I receive is actually from the government. Citizens have little idea, although we likely share(d) the joy of the Federal refund check after tax time if we were lucky enough.

I am used to getting "official"mail referring to my visa, or my immigration status in some manner. Isn't it wonderful that the postal system exists where a transient email account might not guarantee delivery of a vital document - a travel permit, or for the lucky few, a work permit of some sort. Using this archaic 'technology' to communicate so vitally adds great import to important documents like these. That's something my country(wo)men will never know unless they too decide to explore the world outside their birth borders.

So, imagine my surprise/terror/delight/gut-gnawing-terror when I saw this in my mail box this afternoon...


(I am particularly taken by the "Have A Nice Day" motif.  Federal ANYTHING scares the crap out of me. It's something an immigrant can understand - after all, it's made clear, constantly, that we're second class citizens most of the time. Thankfully, I'm white and speak English, so it's OK. Unless I'm in Arizona and then my "funny" accent could get me in trouble...

You see, the United States Customs & Immigration Service (UCSIS, used to be INS) isn't so crass as to bully us with a FEDERAL stamp - they know we're already nervous. Why bully the bullied until you need to?

I wonder what's inside...I have a few friends who have Top Secret clearance, or are working to get Top Secret clearance, so maybe it's the one-in-a-hundred recommendation check? Or...?

On this Federally gifted Labor Day weekend I refuse to be bullied by my government. I'll update you next week when I get round to opening it...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gotta go find my kid

One of my favourite  TV shows of this year is Sons of Anarchy - I guess the the show actually started a couple of years ago; season four starts in a couple of weeks. I found it on Netflix, and with the urging of some friends started watching. I was hooked almost instantly, and was furious when I got to the end of season2 and found that netflix wasn't showing season 3.

Then a buddy pointed me at iTunes and I bought it! Alas, each episode is about 750MB and I was using my Android cellphone as a portable wifi hotspot so it took about 21 hours to download each episode.

So I called AT&T and dropped a wad of cash on their Uverse dealio so I could get fast wireless in my house and thus download the whole season in minutes instead of weeks.Not cheap, but worth the money.

For the uninitiated the show follows the trials and tribulations of a rather nasty "Hell's Angel" motorcycle club in California. These guys are portrayed as the "good guys" because they only deal in guns, they don't like the drug scene (the irony being that they sell the guns to their rival clubs who are then using them to protect their drug turf...). They work "with" the corrupt sheriff of their little town to keep the pace locked in a kind of 70s time warp. The baddies are the rival gangs, as well as the big corporations who are trying to muscle in on the town of Charming, as well as the "Feds" - the corrupt and avaricious DEA & ATF agents who are trying to shut down the gangs.

The club is known as "Samcro" - Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original" - they are the original charter, founded by 9 disillusioned young men looking for a way to fight back against a society they had learned to hate.

I don't know why, the excellent writing and casting I assume, but this show resonates with me and tugs at the angry young man I used to be. I wear my suit and tie, and do my science now, but I used to be a very different person. But that's another story for another day.

(screencap from here)

The leading man is the dreamer (and utterly dreamy) Jax Teller, club scion, son of the first president.  In the first episode of the show we see Jax's estranged partner give birth to his son and the subsequent weight of responsibility this brings to this formerly free-spirited young man. That too resonates deeply within me. Needless-to-say the child is a key plot device and most of season 3 is spent in the hunt for him after he's been kidnapped by a rogue IRA member. One issue with this whole story arc really struck me though. At every turn in the plot Jax keeps saying, "I gotta go find my kid." And after about the 50th time it became a real annoyance to me and jarred the script. The "Kid" had a name, and a gender - he was a son. But more important than the lazy writing was Jax, or rather the actor Charlie Hunham's lack of authenticity (to my eyes). The child had become too obviously part of the story, "I gotta go find my bike."

This morning my partner turned to me and asked about daycare services at my institution. I know we have them and I know they're awesome and thus I know they're usually full. So, I was duly told to call and find out, and I dutifully did so.

"Hello, campus childcare, this is Mary, how can I help you?"
"I'm inquiring about your services, uh, childcare?"
"Yes, we have a full daycare center here. Is that what you mean?"
"Yeah. I need to know about daycare for my kid."

My kid...did I say 'kid' because I don't know gender yet, or because this early on I feel ridiculous saying child? Or was it, as I suspect, because kid is a distance term - he or she isn't real yet. Just a plot device. I need to pay more attention to the script I think.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Americans In Line LOL fail

This one is a true classic. Well done AOL, screencap taken at 1953 on 08/11/11

 I can haz programmer who gets basic web design?

No...HAHAHAHALOLz1111!!ELEVENTY....POWERS...of FAIL..... activate!

Bravo, AOL, bravo...or Netscape...or, no, wait, aren't you the Huffington (com)Post now? I lose track of the trail of fail, and then am reminded of why I totes trust you with my spam account. And only my spam account.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

hey kiddo

Well, here we are then. I guess you really are real. It's not just your mum making things up to get extra food and sleep, and to uh miss her period, and make me stop smoking finally...and...well, anyway...



I don't know what to say because I have too much to say. Too many thoughts. I wonder if you'll be like me and think too much sometimes. I have a million wonders about you and I can't wait to figure them out.

Sometimes I think I'm going to be right (actually, most of the time for your first decade and half). Sometimes I'm almost definitely going to be wrong (but I'll never admit it, so here is lesson one in self-control). Most of the time though I think we'll figure that out as we go. I can't wait.

It's the oddest thing, I already love you and you're just a kumquat.

But I saw your heart beating inside your chest. I heard your heart beat through ultrasound. You're alive, you're real.

You were our embryo, and now you're our foetus. You will be my baby, and you'll always be my child.

Here we go kid. Wish us luck.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

G+ RageQuit FTW

Ignore last night's post. Due some significant work/life issues I was in the middle of a total stompy-foot ragequit over G+ and planned to extend it to any Google service. yeah. Whatevs brohan.

FWIW, to any readers who had me in a circle onG+, I did totes IRL delete my G+ account. I'm not using if they're gonna ban psueds. Go read Janet Stemwedel or Scicurious' post (and links therein; especially BugGirl) for why it's a sexist, assinne and bullshit argument. Support your sisters. Ragequit G+

Fuck yeah!

Anyway. Fuck G+ but for Blogger et al., it's business as usual for a while as we see how this plays out.

Monday, July 25, 2011

should I stay or should I go now?

Wow... Damn... Google got busy over here huh? Google Buzz (WTF) Google Wave (LOL) and now Google Plus... I hear no Pseuds allowed so I'm killing that tonight before I get locked out of 'everything'...for daring to have a persona behind my real name...which is.... Melody Juicybump*!

Shit is up in the air Dear Reader. On top of all this mayhem, I log into Blogger, where I have resided off/on since 2004 and I can't even figure out how to post and I've only been gone a month. Been bloggin here since 2004 and I can't figure out how to post... What. The. fuck. Guess I'm an old dude now. Damned kids...something something my lawn!

Guess I'm not your target demographic anymore?

G+ is gonna go the way that GBuzz did. Y'all are re-inventing the wheel for users and not innovating for users. One draws users, the other creates traffic. I know how it works, but at least give me a fucking reach around huh? Y'all fucked me with dual accounts (no reach around), then with Buzz (no reach around AND no lube!).


Anyway. Bad day at work. Was gonna catch y'all up with the goss and the whatevs. But I log into 'home' and it's all fucked up. A Pseud is only as good as the horse s/he rode on right? A couple of thousand of you visit me every week, when I post regualarly, and I than you for you interest and my commenters for their insight. I can be found, it's just the fucking internet after all.

Tideliar ain't dead but it's time for my bi-decadal** DILLIGAF

Ciao for now.  You know how to find me if you want to (thanks Google!).


*No, Google, that's not my real name. But due to Male-Based honesty priviges I could LOL at YouTubers and watch their ire every time I write under a female pseud. You see, IRL, I think it unlikely anyone will track me down to "just look at me" (you ain't just looking son). But, thankfully I have my BSD to deal with any bitches (male or female, fucking ladyboys huh?) that disagree! huh! eh? Huh! ...

 ** that means every five years, right?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

There be dragons...

I've just bumped into a friend of mine. Haven't seen him in ages, probably a year at least, not since a mutual friend left town for pastures new. (Field application specialist I think, biotech or there abouts.) This bloke works nearby, nice guy, good scientist. Married to a scientist. Both of them. Scientists. Working at the same institute. Them and my friend, the FAS, started about the same time.

I've been in this town for 6 years this week. I've known them for most of that. What's wrong here?

"Hello mate! Not seen you in ages."
"Yeah, I think not since Mike's leaving party, right?"
"Yeah, bloody hell, that was a good night out. What, a year ago last September wasn't it? 18 months at least?" I'm boisterous, louder than normal. I want to know what's going on in his head. It's the Tidelinterogation. I have an ulterior motive: he's in a good lab, and so is his wife. They're both very talented scientists and I want to know what's next. How is our sister institute prepping people?

The blogosphere has recently been all flutter about the archetypal disgruntaldoc and how a postdoc doesn't prepare you for anything and yadda fucking yadda yadda. Guilty as charged. My post based on a long chat with an unhappy postdoc inspired Prof-Like's query and I forced him to wear the meat pants again. Clearly they ain't doing him any damage, and neither is the feeble gnashing of the disgruntdocsphere.

But the feeble gnashing of the disgrunts is making noise out in non-blog land...and I fear that link might not work because it's to a LinkedIn chat on a closed circuit.

Scientists are human too and no one wants to see their dreams taken away. It's the basis of most decent tragedies, TV, stage or otherwise. But it happens. As M'Learned colleague has spake:

Academic Science is not Care Bears Fucking Tea Party


"So what's next? What are you guys planning? You've been here a while right?"
"Yeah, four and half years. So we've got at least six months left. We're planning and stuff. Y'know." At which point he is fixed by the steely and unhappy glare of a furious Tideliar. "Six months? So, what are you going to do? Academia? Industry? Bench? Non-Bench? Regulatory Affairs? Curator? Instructor? Policy Advocate? Legal Affairs? Tech-Transfer? Tenure track? Science Writing? Professional Development? Academic Administration? Editor? Research Communication? Librarian? Research Assistant Professor? Technician? Director of Animal Welfare? Informaticist? Teacher? Fucking Bartender? What are you doing?"

A laugh. A shrug, and disarming grin, "Well, I probably can get another year out of my grant. So maybe 18 months," For you, think I, what about her? "So maybe academic, maybe industry. Y'know. Thinking about it. Networking."

A shaft of light! Networking. "So, you're going to conferences, shaking hands, publishing, giving guest lectures, offering to review manuscripts? At least...right?" Right?
"Yeah, y'know. A bunch of emails." That confident, empty grin once more.

I've been there. Get your fucking arse into gear. Just because you got a bloody doctoral degree doesn't mean you're owed a job. Rememeber the fear you had about looking for your (first) postdoc appointment? "Am I good enough?

Amplify that by 70,000. Seventy Thousand.

Because that's how many postdocs in the US are competing with you for every damned job. You're on a treadmill and it's speeding up.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The good fight

Now, I had it in my head to have a talk about another thing that had happened to me, and had, by coincidence, and nothing more so help me FSM*, happened to a friend of mine. However, someone has had the temerity, and so help them FSM for their forthright attitude, which I cannot help but admire, to challenge me on something I think an adult could reason without recourse to challenge***.

Now I want to preface this by making clear the loss of any life is an awful thing, because this blog post involves an interaction between me and a MediaHound that concerns a recent, local loss of life. Not just a car crash, RTA, but a fatality.  I can only imagine the pain these families are living in.   I also appreciate all the hard work our local NewsHounds do to keep regular Joes like me up to date and clued in with everything that might affect us. Like a major fatality crash nearby. Important for two reasons, one opening us up to the shared pain of loss, and one a simple matter of local infrastructure.

There was a crash, in Arkansas, involving a TDOT vehicle. And people died. Our local NewsHounds posted about this on the Twitters, and, I guess, being as voyeurostic as they hoped I'd be, I looked at the photo....

But it's a picture of a (T)DOT truck with dented side panels. There is nothing but a picture of a truck. And of course the usual interchoobs commentary. And suddenly I am struck with regret for my own voyeurism and...something more...

Why the FSM would a news channel have this on their Facebook page? It seems cruel and unnecessary to do this. The corollary is why are we driven as conusmers to look at this: Because they provide us with content we demand**.

Its just a dented truck - it adds nothing to the story, it brings no new information to the situation, it in fact, I dare to suggest, does nothing at all but runs the risk of inflaming opinion.

I expect, by definition the news media to give me information. There was no information in this photograph, other than the pointed statement of here is a dented truck.

So to this I tweet,

 (I also 'broke' the URL so it couldnt be followed directly)

and with all due respect @3onyourside, the twitter feed of the news agency WREG, wrote back to me (bystander @friend redacted).

And this is wonderful, (and the point behind this post)! I don't believe them for an everliving second, and I think it's utterly disingenuous for them to suggest that they are absolved of any criticism of voyeurism just because 'they' were passing on information. However it is just my opinion. And thanks to  media provided by 21st century technology, I get to express my ire and they (or at least George Brown

) gets to respond:

Now, I still call bullshit and hold my NewsHounds to higher standards. But WREG, and its representatives, got to talk to me directly and rebut/address my criticism. Now if that ain't a good thing about living in 2011, I don't know what is.


**which sells advertising traffic

***Dude. WTF. Really?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Things I hate

I don't mind getting beaten* in a poker game, but I'll be damned if I can be sanguine about trip kings getting out-kicked on the river by a fucking boat of sevens full of kings.

Son of a bitch. Son of a godamned lucky river rat bitch.**

Who fucking calls all in with a fucking King Seven? Who?


(* may contain traces of LIE)
(** I would have been one of two players left in the game)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Postdocs, what are they good for?

A postdoc is best served, by definition, by gaining skills needed after a doctoral do...something...[needs citation definition]

In life science n00b postdocs expect to train for faculty status. You have your freshly printed PhD in hand and everyone (except the postdocs) at your graduate lab has been telling you that if you apply yourself as a turbo-gunner real life growed up scientist you'll be a Principal Investigator one day. This is a simple fucking fact - no one tells graduate students that they're embarking on career path with a ~20% chance of success*. And at postdoc level we add to this is fallacy, because not only does gaining more/perfecting bench skills prepare you for nothing more than a technical post, the simple math of the job market should tell you that you have at best a 1 in 10 chance of securing a good research-based PI position. But then again, who looks at the stats?

Your postdoc should prepare you for PI status by simply exposing you to the daily reality of running a lab. If you have the druthers and wherewithal to cotton to this you'll really be OK. Alas, that is rare and increasingly so because postdocs are, today, ten-a-penny and ultra low overheads make them a cost effective labor option** No one is teaching you, because after all you're a postdoc and should be self-sufficient, personnel or budget management or how to write a grant or how to appeal to an editor when the curse'd third reviewer chimes in with impossible demands. No one explains how to negotiate a start-up, or balance the three/four tiers of the tenure track. They don't demonstrate how to say no to increasing committee obligations despite a pressing need for 'time' to write grants.

You learn nothing as a postdoc, except how to be a good technician. To save your PI time and nervous energy by generating data as quickly and efficiently as possible.

So, bearing in mind these happy truths, what the fuck are you doing as a postdoc? Training to be a tech*** or taking the bull by the horns and driving...DRIVING...your career in the direction it needs to be?

*In my career to date, in academic life science, I have met only a small percentage of graduate students (10% maybe) who were pursuing their degree with the deliberate and explicit intention of pursuing a non PI career track.

**a postdoc earns ~$40k/yr + ~10% indirects = $44k. A tech earns $50k/yr + 40% indirects = $70k/yr. Now think about your NIH modular budget and add inflation over time.

***This is an excellent and under-rated career option - technician or research associate/RA prof is an excellent and under rated career move for technically excellent PhDs who love the bench and hate the 'drama' of running a lab

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Blind stupidity or short memories

Wait a fucken minute, I know I'm not the most observant person ever...I tend to look at the big picture, not the important minutia (which is probably why I'm in admin and not bench science)... but by the flood level from 1927 that everyone is clamoring about, we're fucken over it. We're at 47 feet by "new" measurements, and something like 52 feet by "1927 measurements"...

Now I've seen this river flood the locale 5 out of the six years I've lived here. I figured the city planers who developed the sandbar I live on knew what the river did irregularly, and we'd be OK.


It turns out Old Man River does this fairly damn regularly

Son of a bitch. 1927, 1937, [gap? drought? who knows what?] 1973, 1993, 2009 (my call), 2011...

Excuse my naivete as a 5yr n00b to the town, but WTF?

This happens on an almost decadal basis and still people are dying and being dispossessed? I understand you can't tame the river, but surely we could try and tame the local effects that we don't make hundreds homeless - or is it John Q. Public's right to build a fucken house in a flood zone?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Love is a big fat river in flood

A few photos from the Mississippi River near where I live


The new...bulwark (?) that now protects the lowest point in Island Drive where the road meets the bridge that gives access to Mud Island.
The bank is about 10 feet above the water so this should stop the river blocking our access.


The river near flood. Taken from the pathway, normally 30 feet above the river.


bloody wrong bloody filter for the bloody sunset. That's the river with the sun setting over Arkansas


The Wolf River Lagoon, just 100 yards from my house.
You can see by the trees in the background this is 15-20 feet higher than normal.
The water is now 2 feet from the bank. Three days ago there was a six foot gap.
The water is backflowing into the lagoon again...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Eate Itt!

Everyone's favorite, mildly psychotic rantroll, Physioprof, has been wowing the blogosphere recently with his pasta recipes. I've seen DrugMonkey, Dr. Isis and Namnezia doing same, and I hear rumors that Jason Goldman is, not just "huge on the internet in China" but in on this recipe posting too.

Recently, my highly Belov'd BlogSis Dr. Becca had a crack at Physioprof's fusilli bolognese with interesting results. Not to be out done, I thought I'd have a go at this pasta blogging shenanigans. I'm not much shakes when it comes to pasta - so much so in fact that I hardly ever cook it because it's so...meh. I figured with my Blogmates as inspiration, and some general advice from Physioprof ringing in my ears, whatever I made couldn't be worse than what I can already conjure up. It seemed that the key ingredient was patience - don't rush the sauce. And wine. Lots and lots of loverly wine. I do, after all, somewhat resemble Keith Floyd and he never cooked without a glass to hand.

So... our obligatory still life (albeit mid-prep cos I forgot to photoblog at first)...


Half an onion, finely diced
Some garlic (2 big teaspoons of pre-diced)
1 red bell pepper, diced largish
2 tins diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons EV olive oil
2 tablespoons cooking butter
3 cups rainbow rotini
1.5 cups of white wine
Red pepper flakes
kosher salt
black pepper
fresh thyme
sliced zucchini (for the side dish)

Heat the oil till it's fucken hot, then add the diced bell pepper. Cook it till it starts to blacken a little


then turn the heat down a little to med-high and add the diced onion. Give it a stir and when the onion starts to turn translucent, add a generous pinch of kosher salt. This makes the onions sweat and adds to the oils the shitte is cooking in. Be patient and let this shit cook till it starts to caramelize, then turn the heat to medium and stir in the garlic. Give it another few minutes but don't let the fuckken garlic burn.


Now crank the heat back to medium high and pour in a half glass of white wine. PhysioProf refers to deglazing and has some foreign sounding shit at this point. I don't know nothing about that though. The wine will reduce pretty quickly, so be prepared to move fast at this point.


As soon as that half cup starts to boil off add the tomatoes and tomato puree and stir well. Then pour in the rest of the white wine and give it a good mixing. Keep the heat medium high till it's bubbling goode and then turn it down so it reduces slowly. You're gonna evaporate the alcohol and some of the water, but you ain't boiling it. This isn't gonna be soup. Now, keep an eye on this shitte, because it thickened way fucking faster than I thought it would.

This is the point that I boiled the water for the pasta and started the courgettes zucchini. I could have probably started these guys right before the deglaze and saved a couple of minutes. As it was I ended up moving the sauce off the heat and covering it while everything else got ready, then quickly warmed it through before serving.


To do the zucchini, heat the fucking butter till it's fucking really hot. Add the sliced zucchini and let it sit for a minute or two, then turn it over and get the uncooked side in the hot oil. Turn it every few minutes and you'll see it sweat and then start to blacken. Blackened zucchini is the fuking shitte, but alas, it's also easy to over cook and because of the sauce drama playing out on the other hob, I did kind of give it just a bit too long. It was still delicious though because I am awesome.


Mix the sauce and the pasta, plate that motherfucker and serve the zucchini on top.


Serve with a flourish, fresh basil and parmesan, a fresh rustic baguette and a nice fucken bottle of red plonk wine - this feast brought to you by


All in all it was the best damn pasta dinner I have ever cooked, and I'm actually looking forward to trying some more ideas and having more tasty feasts. So, PhysioProf thank you for the inspiration.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Science is a Voyage

I’m the son of a sailor. My father served 35 years at sea. My uncle was a sailor too. I grew up listening to stories of adventure, both real and fictional. My favourite nautical hero is C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower, likely because we share many of the same characteristics . Thanks to Forester’s meticulous attention to detail by the age of 10 I knew the names of all the sails on a ship of a line. I knew the difference between ropes and sheets (which are also ropes). I knew how to use an old sail to fother a shot below the waterline, when to run the guns out, and how to quell a mutiny. Most importantly I knew how to pronounce forecastle without being laughed at. In addition to this theory, my father taught me all the knots I’d need for my imaginary career on the high seas, and I still count time in bells to confuse my friends sometimes (7pm is 6 bells in the dog watch, for example). I’ve always had a taste for adventure and was exploring Europe with friends by my mid-teens, and had visited northern Africa before I was 21. When I was 23 I moved to the US and embarked on my greatest adventure to date.

In Nathanial Philbrick’s outstanding historical biography “Sea of Glory” we learn of the epic voyage of the U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-42. Although it ended in ignominy and is little known nowadays, this awesome 87,000 mile trans-global voyage officially “discovered” and first mapped Antarctica, they also created detailed maps of many of the islands of the South Pacific, and charted the Columbia River in today’s Oregon and Washington states. Finally, and vitally, their voyage lead to the establishment of the northern and western borders of the United States. In addition to these feats, in the aftermath of the voyage the US gained the US Botanic Garden and the National Observatory in Washington, D.C.

I find it not a stretch of the imagination to use these brave and foolhardy young men in a science metaphor. The seamen are the most junior scientists in this experiment. They are the graduate students and talented undergraduates. The men acting in roles we would refer to nowadays as non-commissioned officers, the First Mate, the Purser and so on are the techs – stolidly toiling away keeping the ship running, the sailors fed, the laboratories working. The junior officers – the first and second lieutenants, are the postdocs. Working under the command and direction of the Captain, they yet have tremendous latitude to advance their careers and the mission underlying the expedition. A ‘bad’ captain, think perhaps of Hornblower’s nemesis Captain Sawyer, like a bad Professor can create a terrible working environment and ruin the careers of the lieutenants working under him. A good captain, like Captain Pellew for example, can strongly advance the mission, while working to secure the careers of his trusted junior officers.

A major focus of both Philbrick’s book and Forester’s novels is not just with the adventures of the men aboard the ships, but also with the politics, the funding, the hard fought backroom battles that lead to a mission’s existence and survival. I miss being part of the voyage of discovery. I miss the excitement of the chase, the hint for the elusive result, the image, the data, the understanding. I gave that up for a corner office and a pay rise. Now I am one of the faceless suits that directs the voyage. It is on my whim that you set sail on your voyage, or languish in dry dock while your purser frantically looks for money to feed the men before mutiny sets in.

One of Hornblower’s most trusted friend’s is William Bush, who remains a lieutenant while Hornblower moves from strength to strength during the course of the novels. It is Hornblower, not Bush, who has the connections and the luck to further his career. Much like the postdoc who gets the right project under the right professor, he got his CNS papers and secured himself a tenure-track position. I was once a First Lieutenant working under a Captain who might be best described as a cross between Sawyer and Pellew. The good days were good, the bad days were terrible and it was obvious fairly on that I would never get to command my own ship. I would never be a Hornblower and couldn’t face being someone’s loyal Lieutenant Bush for ever. So I changed the rules of the game. To extend my Hornblower analogy, I went to Their Lordships at the Admiralty and asked if I could side-step that whole messy career at sea and just join in with them. To my surprise they said yes.

One day in the middle of my second postdoctoral appointment I went to the Vice Chancellor for Research and asked for help. I explained that I wasn’t going to get on the tenure-track and I knew there was little to be gained by wasting everyone’s time in applications that wouldn’t be considered. I loved science (and indeed still do). She was able to procure me an interview with someone looking for a project manager and I managed to talk my way past their hesitation and into the position. Their hesitation was obvious and they can’t be faulted for being reluctant to recruit a failed neuropharmacologist to a biomedical informatics project manager position. But with due diligence and great deal of hard work I made the job work and I remade myself from bench scientist to administrative scientist.

Now I have that corner office and healthy salary it would be easy to get complacent and become one of the dreaded Administrators of science that so clutter the Ivory Tower. I am very aware that people like me can make the life of the ‘real’ scientists incredibly difficult. We're the ones that demand you re-do your IRB, re-file your IND, we form endless committees and have endless meetings all to regulate and guide your work. Our efforts stifle your creativity and freedom. We remove the flexibility you need to explore the bounds of your imagination. Ours is a tie that binds – our endless red tape forms the Gordian knot anew.

I don’t want it to be like that. It was the vision of a few powerful and talented leaders, among them the Secretary of the Navy and President Jackson, that found the funding to get the unpopular U.S. Exploring Expedition started. If that had been modern academe it would never have happened. Too risky. Too “blue sky”.

No guaranteed return on investment.

I want to be the kind of administrator that helps drive projects to completion. I want you to succeed and I want you to be free from as much of the mundane nonsense as possible – that’s really what I’m paid to do – I’m not paid to stifle research, I’m paid to administer research. We’ll explore that in the next post (which will likely contain fewer tortuous nautical metaphors).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sex & Fire

The hardest thing is growing. Wait.. that sounds wrong... The hardest part of what I'm going through is the growing. I've been a bachelor most of my life and as any bachelor I'm using to taking what I want, when I want it. Not, of course, in a juvenile predatory way, although God knows (and may She have mercy) I'm at least as guilty as that as any man. But as an adult when there are two consenting people, why not enjoy one of our 4 innate biological needs?

It ain't that simple is it? Of course not.

A beautiful woman is asking you to have sex with her, and as your body responds your brain is saying "No". It's saying "No" for innumerable reasons, and yet the temptation, the desire, the want for that sweet taste of "company"... the sweet taste of sex, her skin, her lips, her warmth, the scent of control, the drive to own and possess, to feel her body respond to you, to feel your own response and the totality of the union...

...but that's why you're saying no. Now is not the time. You are not the person. I can fuck you, for sure, and clearly want to. But I don't want to fuck. The flesh is willing, but the spirit...the spirit says "No".

So, I'm growing. But I want it. Sometimes it's offered like that, and the usual excuses fail and you're left with, "Please, no. I want to but not now."

But I do want it now.

And so what. Home, frustrated, TCB again?

Yes. It is. It's called growing, and as it hurt to physically grow as a boy, sometimes it's going to emotionally hurt to grow as man.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Sometime I need to talk about the seven. I also need to tell you that story about the clowns. You'll laugh at that, that's a good story. But seven... that's a long story. It's a good story, don't get me wrong, but it's a long story. Now isn't the time...


Every number is an individual, until you divide or multiple or perform any function upon it. What if seven is made of separate ones added together... is there a greater whole than the sum of any parts, or even of some of any of those parts?  Is each individual 'one' an equal member of the total, or do some individual 'ones' add more than others?

That, Dear Reader, is a philosophically complicated mathematical conundrum I can't answer right now. But, on the assumption that anything that in combination can be greater than the whole... the ones that add to the whole thank you. Thank you for helping some of us be greater than the sum of our parts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Absentee BlogLord

Damn it's been a while.

This is a nothing post, just a place holder to let my Reader know I haven't fallen down a hole somewhere.

I split up with my fiance, which sucks, but is probably a good thing in the long run. We had a lot of self-fulfilling, overindulgent bad habits that need to be addressed and we were getting nowhere trying to do it together. I met again last night to tell her I need to not see her for a while, for despite being separated we were still hanging out most weekends. It was a thoroughly depressing talk and I got the feeling that she doesn't really get it. We'll see. I have to have my space if I'm going to fix things. Then maybe there'll time to fix us, but I can't and won't make promises.

Our big CTSA grant isn't going to get funded and we're out of submissions so on or before June 1st my institute will cease to exist. This has obviously been massively stressful, because no only is it my job on the line, but those of "my staff". Four young(ish) men who rely on me to keep the money coming in. Two had babies (or rather, their wives did) recently too, so there's an added pressure bonus.

I've been offered a position as Director of Faculty Development within our Office of Academic Affairs. This would pave the way to a possible Deanship in a few years, or even a Vice-Chancellorship. But... as much as I've enjoyed doing some of the work they've given me to test/train me, it's when I sit down to work with our faculty collaborators on their clincial trials that I really feel the love for my job.

I am a scientist at heart and I love the 'doing' of science, albeit vicariously. However, it's scary thinking about turning down a promotion and payrise to stay where I am, on soft money in an Institute that soon ceases to exist. My Unit will be kept around -  we actually generate a portion of our running costs and it will get better as we pick up more projects. But... we're also getting a new Vice Chancellor for Research soon and will s/he want to keep me/us around? Will she see the value in providing core biomedical and clincial informatics support? I hope so - my University is looking to recruit up to 70 new MD/MD-PhD clincial scientists over the next five years and my Unit provides an essential service (secure, centralised, professional and cost effective data management support). But, who knows what the new VC will judge her priorities to be?

So... a lot on my mind right now. It's hard to write. I'm reading your blogs, but not commenting right now either. I'll be back soon, hopefully with happier and better news. Or at least a story involving something humorous. This place has been a bit morose recently....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The American Heart Association Responds

Anyone who followed the discussionThomas Joseph and I had in the comment thread on my last post saw that we both concerned that there wasn't enough interaction between Societies and other funding agencies when it came t lobbying Congress. I thought I'd contact the Advocacy group at the AHA to ask what their tactics are.... (I have been in touch with them previously about helping in local advocacy and lobbying here in TN)...

From: Tideliar
Sent: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 11:39 AM
To: Rick - ; Advocacy DC
Subject: Re: American Heart Association Follow-up

Dear Clarissa & Rick,

I have received several emails in the last day or so from different societies asking for “my” help in advocating against H.R.1

So far The Society for Neuroscience, the AHA, FASEB and the National postdoc Association have all contacted me via email. I am an active “academic/science blogger” and have noticed some of my colleagues also posting about the emails calling us to action.

A discussion has also started about possible inter-agency communication; does it happen, are we coordinating across societies effectively etc.? An issue that is raised time and again by pro-science advocates is the difficulty in combating well funded and well organized anti-science lobbyists. I’d appreciate your thoughts on this issue and the opportunity to share them with my pro-advocacy colleagues.


From: Advocacy DC
Sent: Friday, February 18, 2011 3:35 PM
To: Tideliar
Subject: Re: American Heart Association Follow-up

Dr Tideliar
thank you so much for your note and apologies for the delay in responding. Your message went to our general email box so it didn’t make it to me right away.

AHA is part of a coalition of like minded groups that meet regularly to coordinate on the messaging and collective ask for NIH research funding. Members include FASEB, ACS, ACC, etc.  Lobbyists from the various organizations meet regularly so we can come together as a research community and have a more powerful voice in the process. I can share that we expect to have a common budget request in the coming weeks. We also coordinate on engaging advocates during a similar timeframe and when possible coordinate on DC based events. Over the years we have found this to be an effective approach and AHA is proud to play a leadership role in the group.

If it’s helpful to share insight as to messaging and strategy with your colleagues I would be glad to put you in touch with the appropriate lobbyist at AHA. Your ability to help spread the word via blogging and through colleagues is so valuable. It sounds like you already have it but I am also sharing the link to our current call to action on the issue. We appreciate all you do as an advocate and please let me know if there are any additional questions I can answer or resources I can provide.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ZOMG do something!

Hi Reader,

I know you love science and shit cos you read this blog right, and I am, nominally at least, a scientist. Right now science in the US is directly under attack from a deliberate and cold-blooded anti-science cadre in the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

The BadAstronomer has written a series of posts (for e.g. here and links within)  about how anti-science (and usually, pro-evangelical) business interests are damaging many of the important committees in Congress. Climate change is held to be a lie, teaching of evolution is attacked in public schools and now the National Institutes of Health budget is under seige too. Inspired by m'learned Collague the deliciously shoetastic Dr. Isis, I urge you to help in the fight.

Anti-science politicians want to cut the largest healthcare research budget in the nation, and at the same time ruin the careers and research of hundreds, if not thousands of hard working academic scientists. Most of the scientists affected will be younger and more junior academics, either just starting out their own independent careers after a decade or more of servitude, or else it will effect those still in servitude - postdocs.

The vast majority of postdocs in the US are paid from "R01" research grants, and it is these that will take a hit. if the NIH bugdet is cut then contuning funding amounts will be cut too. This means there will not be enough money to keep folks employed in many situations.

I'm not arguing about jobs though, I'm arguing about lives. the lives of these dedicated and exceptionally taltened young mena dn women and the invaluable research they perform. Most of the top quality biomedical research conducted in the US is performed by postdocs. Already over worked, under paid and in many cases without any benefits or even health insurance, these tens of thousands of dedicated scientists *do* the research that makes *your* world a better place.

This email arrived today from Dr. William Talman, a jolly nice chap and President of the Federation of American Societies For Experimental Biology (FASEB). Among many other things FASEB is an active and vigorous advocate on our behalf. I urge you to read Dr. Talman's email, then click the link and find out how to CALL your local representative.

Don't be scared. They work for us. We voted them in. Do it. As soon as you can. Please.

$1.6 Billion Cut Proposed for NIH: Call Your Representative TODAY!
Dear Colleague,
For months the new House leadership has been promising to cut billions in federal funding in fiscal year (FY) 2011. Later this week the House will try to make the rhetoric a reality by voting on HR 1, a “continuing resolution” (CR) that would cut NIH funding by $1.6 billion (5.2%) BELOW the current level – reducing the budget for medical research to $29.4 billion!
 We must rally everyone – researchers, trainees, lab personnel – in the scientific community to protest these draconian cuts.
Please go to [THIS LINK]  for instructions on how to call your Representative’s Washington, DC office today! Urge him/her to oppose the cuts to NIH and vote against HR 1. Once you’ve made the call, let us know how it went by sending a short email to the address provided in the call instructions and forward the alert link to your colleagues. We must explain to our Representatives how cuts to NIH will have a devastating impact on their constituents! 
William T. Talman, MD
FASEB President

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Call me Frankie

He walks into the apartment, kicks the door shut behind him, drops the bag of groceries on the kitchen counter. He takes out pork chops, butterfly cut and thick. Fat rind. Her favorite. He puts the broccoli next to the chops, the mushrooms. She loves broccoli. He’s standing, looking at the food. Puts the butter in the refrigerator, but leaves the food out. Opens a beer instead.

Frankie stares at him. Seems to shrug. You knew it was coming, she tells him. He tells her to fuck off and takes deep pull from the beer. An India Pale Ale. Her favourite. He takes an ashtray from the cupboard. It’s dusty, hasn’t been used for a couple of years. He pulls a Marlboro from the pack and lights it, deep inhale. Pulls smog deep into his lungs. He watches the smoke, blue from the cigarette, grey from his mouth, curl up towards the ceiling. There’s a pang of guilt but it’s quickly and deliberately pushed back down where it belongs. There’s a lot of guilt inside and it should all be together. All the guilt. Safe, tucked into the darkness where it belongs. What had she called it? The black hole. Where all his darkness lived. It lived there breeding, fucking, growing, rutting on itself in the darkness. There’s going to be plenty of time to enjoy that guilt, a bad enjoyment, like using your tongue to pick at a sore and rotten tooth. It’s going to be painful, but you’re going to do it anyway. Might as wait and do it properly. Wait till you’re really alone and no one can see and really fucking make it hurt. You make it hurt because when you dig into that dirt and pain you think it’ll make it all better.

“She’s gone Frankie.” There might be tears pricking at his eyes, but might be the smoke. Frankie shrugs again. So what? I’ll miss her later. Did you bring food?

“Fuck you Frankie.” She shrugs again and smiles at him. “Will you miss her? I do. I think I do. Part of me is glad, but so much of me is just empty. I don’t know what to think right now.”

Frankie sighs, stretches, and looks at him. Looks him in the eye the way she sometimes does when he’s holding her front of the mirror. It's like those times when she stops looking around, enjoying the change of perspectives, and actually looks at him reflected the mirror. Not at his reflection, but at him. It had always made him wonder what was going on in her head.

“Why are you so concerned about thinking about what you think you should be thinking about?” Her voice is high pitched, but not squeaky like he thought it might be. Her accent is impossible to place and as he thinks of that he laughs, hard. Of all the stupid things to think about, you think about her fucking accent?

“Do you know why this happened? Do you know why she left? Do you understand what you did in this?”

Surprisingly anger flares, “Yes I fucking know!”

“I doubt it,” She laughs. “But you will. Eventually. You’re all so complicated with those big fucking brains. That whole neocortex, useless because everything is run by The Hind. The Hind. Heartbeat. Fighting. Fucking. Eating. You do all of that, and yet you have this big stupid useless mind that messes everything up.” She emphasizes the word ‘mind’, accenting it deeper, as if the word is alien to her, and laughable in it’s strangeness.

“What the fuck do you know about eating, fighting and fucking?” He demands it of her, but the words sound impotent as they leave his mouth.

“How much do you watch? How much do you know? How much do you listen to the silence of life? Everything with you is noise, rushing and doing and moving and motion.”

“Don’t avoid my question. What the fuck do you know of love and life?”
She laughs then. There's a high pitched, uncontrolled freedom in her laugh that makes him uneasy. There’s madness in there. Something waiting to be let loose, and the feeling that if it got loose it would a wonderful glorious freedom that might not want to stop.

“Fuck you,” She laughs again. “Oh, don’t look so hurt. Am I supposed to worship you and your Big Useless Brain? We are so alike. We eat, we drink. We love, We fuck. We shit. We mourn our losses and celebrate our victories. But you…you are so much weaker by your ‘gifts’. Supermarkets, processed foods, airplanes, cell phones, cures for cancer (for humans at least). You have all these wondrous gifts your Big Useless Brains have given you. But the only thing that really matters is each other, and you can’t do that, can you? You can’t even fucking talk to each other.” She laughs again, a genuine deep laugh. “You can’t even fucking fight without wanting to kill each other!”

“So what do I do?”

She stares at him. “How the fuck should I know. It’s your brain my friend. You’ll find a way. It’ll likely be much more complicated than it needs to be. It’ll take too long, and really, it probably won’t help. But you’ll do what you feel you should. All of you need to spend more time feeling, instead of thinking. Trust me. It works.”

He’s suddenly tired. The conversation is not only a surprise but seems to be going in the wrong direction. “I’m drunk. Fuck dinner. I’m going to bed. Maybe tomorrow will be better.”

“No, it won’t, but at least it won’t be tonight. Go to sleep. I’ll sit here on the edge of the bed and keep watch. I’ll keep your demons away tonight. Just sleep.”

He lies down. The room is dark, the moon is a thin crescent on the horizon and the street lights can’t reach into the room. The beer bottle is empty and he drops it on the floor. He sleeps, glad she’s there to watch over him.

Frankie smiles to herself, curls up by his feet and falls asleep.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Do Not Open This Door!

No matter how much I beg. No matter how much I plead. No matter the screams you might hear!

The greatest movie ever made!

Do not open this door, or you will ruin all my hard work!

Yes, Dear Reader, we're going for another attempt at stopping smoking. Not quitting; no one wants to be a quitter. So, I'm just...stopping.

Those of you who've followed my Meanderings over the last year or so will remember I last tried to stop in August 2010, and I wrote about it over at LabSpaces. I think I stayed clean for a month or so before slipping back into old habits. A ciggie here, a ciggie there, all OK cos it was just a trip to the bar with mates. Nothing bad. I wasn't really smoking again, seriously!

And then eventually buying a pack because I felt bad about stealing off my friends (a habit I despise in others' and which I will not tolerate in myself). Of course rarely can I smoke an entire pack in one evening, no matter how late I stay up, so there's a few cigarettes left in the morning. Just one to help me get the day started. Just to take the edge off the craving and the hangover.

And then, well I might as well just keep this half pack in my pocket, seeing as it'd be a shame to leave it laying around at home where the cats might eat it (a drug addict's internal logic is a wonderful thing).

Then a bad day at work, exacerbated by writing our CTSA grant with little to no guidance. High stress, pack in my pocket, just one smoke...

An endless litany of excuses and weakness. My dad once said I had the willpower of a hobby horse and I fear he's right (he quit cold turkey in 1979). However, as Cervantes said, "Faint heart ne'er won fair maid". And thus, here we go with another attempt.

I want to stop. I really want to stop.

I hate smelling of smoke
I hate being broke because I spend upwards of $200/month on smokes
I hate having to plan social events around smoke breaks
I hate being breathless
I hate being a demographic that dies young
I hate being an addict

Wish me luck Dear Reader. Feel free to leave messages of support and admonishment. Feel free to check up on me. Feel free to bully me on Twitter.

02/02/11...WILL be known as the day I stopped being an addict.

I am Dr. TIDELIAR!! (non-smoker)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hi-fibre writer's diet

I don't claim to be any great shakes in the writing department. I like to tell stories and I enjoy writing. Most of my writing is (pseudo-)confessional and the disclaimer on the right (under my avatar) should tell you all to need to know about the truth:invention ratio I employ.

But right now I'm working with my brother on a short story. We've spent a couple of weeks bouncing ideas off each other and then he wrote the first draft. I edited and returned. He started working on it and hit a wall. I said I'd take over. I've been writing for years, both professionally and in other contexts. He hasn't, he's a recovering artist and creative writing is new to him.

So the ball is in my court. But...when it comes to any writing we know it's hard to get started, hard to get focused. Once you're going it's usally fine, but getting going is tough. And when you're re-writing someone else's work, even if it is mostly collaboratively, all of it is 'getting going'. What does this paragraph need? What does this thread/arc need?

I am in the depths of imaginative constipation right now. I spent a week writing in my head, developing the story arc (as much as you can with a very limited word count). I developed the character a little, added some details, worked on a little depth.

...and now I'm in front of my computer none of the ideas will come out. I'm so full up with old ideas, they've formed a stiff and tight blockage and now I'm all bunged up. I need a mental laxative that keeps me cogent and my fingers working... suggestions?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

who is that in the mirror?

When do you say enough?

She is divorced 2 years now, and has earned a reputation as the village bicycle. We all go through it after a break up, but the judgement on women is far harsher.

but after 2 years it's not the same thing. You're on a destructive streak a country mile wide. You stay in bars to get drunk, get high and fuck strangers. All. The. Fucking.Time.

every night. your kid got sick and you co-opted the sympathy to make sure your bills were paid and your coke habit was fed. Who is that person? Who do you see in a mirror? No one, I think. You don't want to die, you're to fucked up to know you're still alive.

Me and my girlfriend drag you out the bar to try and make sure you're safe. You try and fuck me as soon as we get home and her back is turned. What the fuck is wrong with you?

she has her eye on a guy in the bar. We pointed out that she doesn't know him, anything about him. She's a predator. She's sharking him. She's now trying to talk Kali into driving her to the bar, because after she found her car keys we then had to explain that her car wasn't here.

And now she's bad mouthing me. I can hear her, telling how I made a move on her, so as to manipulate Kali to her side so she'll drive her back to the bar. To try and fuck a stranger. And more likely to get some blow.

I'm live blogging a woman going to hell, because I'm hiding in the attic staying away from her. If I go downstairs she'll sexually assault me again, "thinking" that pointless sex fills the void of companionship she needs, and also by doing so she'll make Kali upset at me and get driven back to the bar.

Now she's crying crocdile tears about her son with cancer. But I know it's lies now. It's not just about him. It's another fucking addict trying to get what she wants. A free ride to some blow. But she's also my friend.

So tell me. When is it enough?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Where to go...

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day, Dear Reader. In Memphis, we had the day off work so we could do something...uh...for the cause, or something. Not sure. I mean, our city (downtown) is 52% African American. We have a black mayor, have for over 20 years in fact. Dr. King was actually, totes IRL assassinated, or (even murdered!) right downtown, at the Lorraine Motel. I know dudes who worked for the city and like went on strike and stuff when that shit was going on. Marching and everything, cos they damn well cared. I've read about how the Black Power movement came out of those days, the militant branch giving up on Dr. King's message of peaceful progress. He was like the black Ghandi or something and it wasn't fast enough.

Thankfully the world is a better place now, and we all have a equal voice.


This time last year a 'friend' of mine called my girlfriend a nigger. Because she was rear-ended by an ambulance and is looking to do nothing more than get her medical bills paid. But because she's black she's nothing more than a typically money grubbing nigger. Go figure. She's probably enjoying keeping Whitey down at the same time. Fucken white cracker ass motherfuckers keeping the black (wo)man down.


Thankfully, the world has moved on a lot since Dr. King was murdered, but it hasn't moved nearly far enough. If I was posting this on my grown up blog I would stick a whole bunch of links to research on the neuroscience and psychology behind inter-racicial hate and fear. But we're not on my grown up blog. We're here. So I get to be pissed off and you can just read it, or leave.

I started dating Kali when we lived in Washington, D.C.. She's a musician, and I often went to the clubs she would play at. There was one, Bar None, a basement bar on U-Street and 14th. She would play at the open mic night there. Mostly it was spoken word poetry, but she would step up with her guitar and perform her music for the crowd. It was awesome to see my brand new, shiny, fresh out of the box girlfriend captivate a room, and I was so fucking frightened that someone was going to hurt me or beat me. Because I was white.

Of course after a couple of weeks I stopped thinking that every black man is Ice Cube in "Boyz in the Hood", and out to kill a white motherfucker. TV educated me. Real life re-educated me.

I was usually the only white in the room. Sometimes maybe one of two or three. Only once, out of a couple of dozen times, someone stepped on my foot and gave me the shoulder. I was curious why everyone was fine with me being there when it was clearly a Black Club.

"Oh, well you're not white. You're English."

That gave the lie to the whole ecumenical vibe I thought we were sharing. Turns out I wasn't welcome as a White. I was welcome as a foreigner.

Maybe it was just his perspective. I don't know. I've been through a lot of shit as a White dating a Black, and nothing has been any fucking easier since we moved to Memphis. 99% of it has been snide remarks, or comments, or judgement because she's black.

I'm not dating a lazy ass bitch. I'm not dating a fucking nigger. I'm not dating one of then dirty spear chuckers. I don't think it's funny when you make an off hand comment about "them". Who the fuck is "them"?

Dr. King believed in his cause. I think I believe in it too. It's a simple enough damn cause. The color of your skin shouldn't predicate anything but the fact you may or may not need suntan lotion. We have to work harder at this. How we do that? I'm just keeping about my business, treating my fellow humans like humans. I don't expect the world to change, but one thing we can do is make some small changes at home. Don't make stupid "Hug a N***** Day" jokes. Don't judge me on the color of my skin. Judge me on the actions I perform, the tone of my voice when we talk and how I treat you. America is a multi-cultural society but it will never, ever survive if we can't treat each other as equal humans first, and different cultures second.