Various Lies

Monday, June 11, 2012

i think, goodbye

I'm shutting down the blog with this farewell post. I'll lock everything one day, but for now, a thank you to the Reader that stuck around for the random posts.

I feel guilty, for some reason, for not blogging anymore. I've been Tideliar online since 2004; this is the second blogspace I've had here. I've written as an unemployed junior scientist, hateful and frightened of the future and the system I bought into. I've written as a wannabe junior PI and the collapse of that dream, and I've written about the start of a new career (and even the birth of my son). But really, I don't write anymore, and the bizarre nagging guilt has got too much. Hard to explain.

I have a lot I want to write about, and a lot I feel I should write about. Not just the stories I want to tell and the ideas I have, but the career shit and the feeling that I have a lot I could offer as a (gasp!) daddy blogger to mid-level, confused as fuck, career scientists like myself. But most of all the stories.

For whatever reason, and admittedly sleep deprivation might be part of this, I have no energy and no impetus (aside from guilt) to write. And then I feel guilty, as a former writer, for not writing.

Thank you to the many who once read, who won't see this, and thanks to the Amazing Few who do now. Tideliar the Blogger is gone. I'm still on Twitter, and some more relevant, non-storylike posts might start back up at Scientopia. But for now, for this blog and this incarnation,

Goodbye :)


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Smoke em if you got em

smokers lounge, terminal C, Atlanta airport.

Phenotypes observed:
The Rusher: runs in, sparks up, chokes off a quick gasper and flees.

The Lounger: enjoying a relaxing smoke break, no rush.

The Cool Guy/Gal: probably still smoking cos the cool kids do it, look of mild panic on the face due to thick fog really showing what's going on.

The Social: exhales very loudly to clear the lungs, and also because very short of breathe due to trying not to breathe in the fog.

The Nervy: chain smoking, twitching, sweating in refrigerated air...either a non-flyer or has something on them they shouldn't.

The Cougher: alarms those around hir because this cough shows our guilt. That's not a cold or allergies...its where we're all headed.

The Blogger:  the asshole documenting our addiction.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Suits you sir

I'll preface this with admitting that I should probably either drink less coffee, or just stop drinking coffee altogether. My temper, never good at the best of times, is now wound tighter than badly tuned snare skin - ready to crack and split at the first badly aimed hit.

All I wanted to do was buy a suit.

I am speaking at a career conference at the National Institutes of Health on Friday. Dress code is, of course, the dreaded "business casual". What does that mean? A suit without a tie if you're me. There are far more sartorial ways of carrying it off...just Google the phrase and you'll see amazing combinations of trousers and shirts and blazers/jackets (supposedly optional, but I think not (the jacket, not the shirt or trouser)). It can be hellish expensive, but it need not always if one knows one's frame and good clothier/tailor.

Alas, for off the shelf combinations I am out of luck most often. I am blessed with a svelte frame and I can't "do" most combinations. Pleats are right out, as is anything double breasted. I am 6'3" and thinner than the proverbial bean pole.  Even though I've put on more than a stone (14lbs to you non-Brits) in the last year, and now weigh a respectable, healthy 180lbs (13st to you Brits) I am not by any measure broad shouldered. Suits tend to hang off me, draped like damp washroom char in a laundry.

I am also, as if this 'curse' weren't enough, blessed with a youthful face. So anything fancy makes me look like I am a graduate on a job placement interview.

Simple black suits and pinstripes work fine though, so to make business casual work all I needed was a black suit. I can take off the fucking tie and its casual right? Right?

Three. Fucking. Hours.

Three. Three hours driving hither, yither and yon. Betwixt and between stores I drove, looking at, sampling in, and trying on and yet nothing. The final store I couldn't even fucking find. (Fuck you google maps and your grey "mall like area" graphics. Some of us have trouble with directions. Details help.)

Every store the same - aloof staff, raised eyebrows, needless drama this 37yr old professional need do without. SRSLY - 'can' the fucking attitude...yes I've bought suits before, yes I know my price range, no I don't want fucking wool (in memphis?!), and yes...I mean a plain, fucking plain, black suit. No, I don't need a belt, socks, shoes, cufflinks, tie, tie clip, handerchief or godamned motherfucking cummerbund!

Cumerbund? Really? The poor bastard didn't even know the name and did the "Aaron Rogers Touchdown" move (Brits imagine someone showing off their new Baron Haarkonen anti gravity belt (yes, I know that doesn't help. Google "state farm aaron rogers")).

Here a neologism via my friend Prof-like Substance: Dude. Fuck. Sigh.

And so, failure in hand I'll go with Plan A on Friday: black pinstripe, 'English' cut, Billy London suit with a deep lavendar Perry Ellis shirt, silver cufflinks, and no damned tie.

The Usual Sartorial Grace and next time I'll order online.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Self Kerning

Those of us who inhabit the science geek reaches of the interchoobs would see the title of this post making more sense if it were "Self k3rn1ng" - Dr. Kern gained some notoriety in the blogosphere and twitterverse last year when he published an exhortation to young scientists in a major cancer research journal. Dr. Kern reviled the slackers and slapdashers of today's professional scientific youth - apparently we're not working hard enough and have the temerity to ask to limit our work week to 50 or 60 hours and maybe even spend time with our families on the weekend.

I know right!

Around the same time as Dr. Kern's ill-considered and out-dated rant the journal Nature blessed us lowly wannabe's with the tales of two scientists who had "made it" in the big time despite their relative youth. They had markedly different styles of managing their labs. Although it was clear that hard work and excellence were requisite of both PIs, one made the comment that a side-effect of his success was missing out on raising his children and being a family dad. He missed their youth because he was working 27 hours/day, 370 days/year at his research. A comment left by DrugMonkey on his blog at Scientopia really stuck with me:

"Then, my friend, you have failed utterly."

I, like most of my peers, put my long hours in at the bench and I am determined to enjoy the fruits of my labors now I am "the boss". Although I will never sherk or slack off and I am still incredibly driven as a scientist (and especially that the salaries and careers of a half dozen others depend on me now), I will be an active father to my child and husband to my wife.

Right now my son is sleeping in his swing/rocker across the room from me. His mom is returning to work and I'm allowed to use paternity leave to work "part time" for a couple of weeks. My stomach is in knots because of the amount of work I (feel I) need to do. We have a major clinical trial going live in a couple weeks and there is a last minnute glich in one of the data collection systems we're supporting...I missed those meetings this morning. I have two grants I'm supposed to be helping out with, as well as a publication waiting for my attention. I'm off to the NIH this week too and I need to send a bunch of emails and connect with folks up there before I arrive. I have an IRB meeting tomorrow and I have a horrible, nagging doubt that I'm supposed to have to reviewed one of the applications being submitted (IRB approves or disapproves human subjects research. THe meetings are akin to a grant funding study section meeting, but less fun). All these things make me want to call my wife and hurry her home, make me want to open my email and study my notes. Make me consider putting the kid in the car and taking him into the office with me so I can work. Seriously...

But if I do these things, I will begin the slippery slide into failure as a father. My son needs hugs and lunch when he wakes up (any minute now from the gurgling coming from that side of the room). My wife needs the support of her husband and the freedom to keep her own career alive.

So, a blog post. Catharsis. Lunchtime!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Some brief thoughts

Dear me, but I have missed you, Dear Reader. I have missed writing and blogging. So much has happened that I'm not even sure where to start or what to write about. As my second to last post makes clear, I am now a father and this has come with all the wonders, joy, frustration and a pinch of the terror that you might expect. In addition to being new father (and husband), I've also been promoted at work and am now the Director of our Office of Electronic Science Stuff. Our whole Office of Research has been re-jigged so it's a brave new world for a lot of people.

For those not in academia, the Office of Research is the administrative arm of the University that looks after the "big picture" for the scientists on campus - Our Vice Chancellor oversees my group, and a couple of other core research groups (the BIG budget stuff, machines that go ping etc.), as well as looking after the compliance groups that keep us legal and ethical (IRB & IACUC for human and animal research respectively) and the financial/funding arm that gets grant applications submitted on time ot the right agencies with the t's crossed and the lowercase j's dotted. On top of this, because she is a research faculty member herself, she also has to write her grants, write her papers and supervise her lab.

Rather her than me...

Anyway, needless-to-say there have been a lot of changes and rather than live blog these events I've been saving up stories to keep things fun and also keep them to the 75%/25% hyperbole/truth ratio I rely on the keep me out of trouble (and libel court).


Brief thoughts for now, as I stand blogging in the kitchen while making dinner:

1. You can never have enough diapers, because if you think you do you will have to go to the store late at night and buy more.

2. Your child's smile is the most amazing sight and makes up for the sleepless nights, endless poop and occasional screaming shit fits.

3. Either we all eat before His bedtime, or daddy is frantically cooking at 9PM and will get a potbelly from eating too late.

4. My menu of "10 minute" meals is growing exponentially without sacrificing fun, flavour and taste: tonight chicken Kiev with seared asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes. Easy, cheap and fast.

5. BLogging in the kitchen with the laptop on the washing machine is giving me backache. 

6. Hopefully much more to come and a return to usual service.

Friday, March 23, 2012

It pours I hear

I wish I could blog about more things. Work has taken an unexpected, but not unwelcome, turn and I find myself in a position I was looking forward to far earlier than I expected.

Until 't's are crossed and lowercase 'j's dotted I am under self-imposed embargo and vow of silence. But...


How did you not see this coming? I tried so hard to help you, to guide and rebuild. And time and time again nothing registered. Last year ended badly, embarassingly and painfully and yet still today you were utterly blind-sided. This is the problem. This exact issue is the glowing core of the issue. Defensive posturing will not help. It cannot. There is a central processing defect that I cannot reach.

And now the deed is done once more I have to rely on the Grace of higher Powers to deflect the incoming storm. You won't work with me; I know you're now working against me. We'll see how this house of cards collapses.


Monday, March 5, 2012

About time

I'm about to meet my son. I feel (oddly? normally?) Numb. Not sure if it's shock, denial (jk) or the fact I haven't slept for 36 hours.

His mom has been in labor for 13 hours and the Doc has talked to us and she's not progressing and enough is enough. Time for the Roman Entry, as it were.

I get to hold him first, while she gets her stiches. This isn't what I expected, but I guess I didn't know what to expect really, just TV show montages playing in my head. be continued...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hey Baby

Well, this is it then.

Just got back from a final visit with my wife to her ObGyn doctor. My son is due on Saturday (3rd), but she is dilated to just 1cm so the medical advice is to undergo induction on Monday. Wife is a bit nervous about this, but in an abstract way, worrying about the baby. Will he be OK with induction?

Knowing this, we had a great chat with her doctor, and I feel my modicum of one-the-job-gleaned epidemiological and medical knowledge helped assuage her fears. Her primary physical fear is having to have a Cesarian section delivery. She has had a couple of major abdominal surgeries in the past and alas all her medical notes - indeed, her entire medical history have mysteriously disappeared from the hospital in Washington, D.C. where she had said surgeries. Because she is unsure of her diagnosis and the extent of the surgery we don't know what state her insides are in with regards to adhesions and scar tissue

I'm looking at you Georgetown University Hospital medical records department. Not fucking cool.

Anyway, her doctor explained that induction enhances the "drive" into labor, but that there is no guarantee with any delivery that labor will progress "normally". This very afternoon she had to perform an emergency C-section on a woman giving birth to her third child whose labor had ceased suddenly.

She explained that on Sunday they will 'place' a medicated strip onto her cervix to help with dilation and effacement (the thinning of the cervix), and that on Monday this is followed by a Pitocin drip. Pitocin is a synthetic analogue of the hormone oxytocin and induces contractions of the uterus. It seems that the majority of first pregnancies are induced nowadays for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the weakening of the blood supply to the baby as he or she out grows hir placenta* and the increased width of the child's head blocking the birth canal leading to complications and ultimately a C-section delivery.

The 'bad' part of this is that a woman, to quote my mother, goes from 0-60 immediately. There is no gradual ramping up of contractions from mild/discomfort to full labor pains. It just starts! However, Wife is a believer in 'better living through modern chemistry' and thus epidurals are on the menu for Monday, for sure.

So. Here we go then. I'll blog as I am able, and of course, you can follow our adventures on Twitter

*The placenta is a totally fascinating feto-maternal shared organ and I hope to find time to write more about it. The baby side of it is derived from the same original bundle of cells that give rise to the fetus, and thus it could be thought of as a symbiotic, genetically identical support "twin".

Professor Lee Silver in "Challenging Nature" (Amazon link) has a great discussion on placental development and genetics as it relates to bio-ethical decision making regarding stem cell technologies (the book was written in 2006), but which is also very relevant given the current political climate and the conservative attacks on women's reproductive rights.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Day

Apropos 28-and-a-PhD posting at the Scientopia guest blog I offer day today.

0800 - Arrive in the office, immediate pow-pow with Business Manager about staffing issues that must be dealt with today if we are to get a new hire in place by the end of next month.

0830 - Grab a coffee and a shifty smoke. Go for a pee. Check email (25 in inbox)

0900 - Meet with Clinical Trial PI and coordinator (and student) to review database. Discover my staff didn't run a final test yesterday and there are still bugs. Fast-talk like a level 15 thief to keep our noses out of the shit.

1015 - Meet with visiting life science rep from a databasing company to discuss our work and future expansion plans.

1025 - Scientific Director hijacks meeting

1135 - Finally force meeting to close before I pee myself. Run to bathroom whimpering.

1140 - Very unshifty smoke

1143 - Impromptu phone call from collaborator at local institute updating me on developments in our area and inviting me to join the Board of a new research initiative whilst trying to wrangle promises of support for a proposal I haven't read yet

1235 - Phone battery dies. Shifty smoke. Grab lunch.

1300 - Panicky student intern interrupts lunch with request for information on his recent work performance. Break his heart.

1315 - Angry consultant interrupts lunch demanding to know why he hasn't been paid yet

1330 - Meeting with possible project collaborator for development of a campus-wide training tool

1500 - sprint to bathroom, shifty smoke

1515 - Discover why consultant hasn't been paid

1530 - Meet consultant for a shifty smoke and break his heart. Promise to try and fix.

1545 - Meet with payroll staff to discuss how to get consultant paid, and watch incompetence reach literally jaw-dropping proportions.

1600 - sneak out of room as world war three begins due to aforementioned incompetence

1615 - Follow up with my business manager regarding our 0800 meeting and submit final job description to HR

1630 - Meet with my staff to discuss the morning's clusterfuck and arrange another meeting for 0900 tomorrow because there's no point in talking about it today.

1635 - Arrange two more meetings for tomorrow and watch my calendar now fill up completely

1700 - start writing this blog post

1705 - Associate Director joins me for an impromptu chat about a personnel issue

1735 - Finish this blogpost and try and sneak out before email arrives

1737 - minutes from today's meeting arrive with SOW errors...

1738 - Scream, post to blog, shut down laptop and storm out, ready for tomorrow.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I'm all in

I play a lot of poker. Well, more accurately, I used to play a lot of poker. When I first moved to Memphis I was broke and waiting for my first month's postdoctoral salary was hard. Doubly hard because new postdocs really make a shitty salary - I started on $38,000 which was, at the time, the NIH standard salary for someone of my experience. My postdoc mentor was kind enough to arrange an advance for me which helped cover rent and groceries for the first month, but that naturally meant a smaller paycheck for the first two months in order to pay back the advance. And as much as new postdocs are enslaved to the lab for 14 hours a day, we are also often gregarious creatures who need to blow off a bit off steam in the pub and the thought of sitting at home, on the floor listening to the radio waiting for my furniture to arrive from DC and my paychecks to catch up with my meager lifestyle was not an option for me. So, I found a local poker game to play in, and one game became two, which became three, and within a few weeks I was playing poker five or six nights a week.

There are a lot of analogies, metaphors and aphorisms about the game of poker and the game of life. I've written before about the language of poker and the language of science. I've written elsewhere, now long gone, about the thrill of the game, of having a winning hand and knowing it's a winning hand. And of the darker thrill of thinking you have winning hand and playing it out, sometimes against the odds.

I'm back in the game now, and I'm all in.

I can't go into details really, but suffice it to say I am playing for the whole stack right now. The cards are dealt, I know what's in my hand and I've got a better than evens chance of being correct at guessing the hands of some of the other players. I can see the cards on the table and I've got a great hand. I might even have the winning hand. But there's one more round of betting left in the game and the stakes are so high I had to fold and lose everything or just go all in.

I called the bet and went all in.

Everything now rests on the actions of one more player. The play decides my future, immediate and long term. I hope the bet is called and the chips are all on the table. I hope we go there. Everyone stacked into the pot. But more than that, I hope when that bet is called and the cards are shown that I have the hand I think I do.

Win big or go home. I'm all in.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mobile Blogger eh

This thing on?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Political Compass

Well, this is rather interesting.


Screen shot 2012-01-10 at 1.54.33 PM

My Political Compass

Coincidentally, I fall into the same area (almost exactly) as the Dalai Lama. This must show something but Ill be buggered if I know what. To be honest, I think Ron Paul is a fucking douchebag, and even if he wasn't a racist, misogynist I still wouldn't vote for him. So I can't be THAT Libertarian, right?

Where's my bong? Time for some deep thinking.

Tip o' Hat to Stupid Evil Bastard

Friday, January 6, 2012

Crowd Sourcing Ink

There are many changes on the horizon; some before, some aft. The biggest of them I think will be the birth of my son sometime in late February or early March. In true punk-dad tradition I'm getting a tattoo to commemorate this event. However, exactly what to get...therein lies the rub...

I have a few tattoos already...a tribal design on my left  shoulder, and a skull on my left  biceps. My right shoulder has an astrological/zodiacal design on it. My right shoulder blade bears a bulldog, and I need to get the matching one done on my left. My right ribcage has large Kali that needs colouring and shading finally.

So, what to do next...the bulldog, the colouring for Kali? I want to finish my left biceps into a full half-sleeve, and perhaps my son's name or motif...his avatar can be built into that?

Originally I thought to go DeepGeek and use the single letter protein code to spell his name. Alas, unless I can get back in the lab and discover a novel protein and have it accepted with the letter O as its single letter designation, that plan is foiled from the start...and with a protein represented by the letter B, I can't even use just his initials either.

I'm inspired by the folks featured in Carl Zimmer's book "Science Ink". I've been looking at the photos online (not yet owning my own copy). Indeed, I saw that the Science Online Conference this year actually includes a trip to an awesome looking tattoo studio and will feature some of the attendees getting permanently inked! Zimmer finally reaches cult like status! To any attendees reading this who are getting inked for the first time, don't worry too much. It only really really hurts like absolute fuck for the entire time you're under the needle. Some areas are worse than others. My rib cage tattoo hurt so much i got a migraine, and for the skull on my left biceps, I nearly vomited with pain when he started to colour the inside of my arm.

It's like someone carving into your skin with a razorblade. Really slowly, with a lot of pressure.

You'll love it.

And have a few drinks afterwards - the endorphin rush is fucking unreal!


Anyway...I feel strongly that I want something to commemorate my PhD - i used molecular genetic techniques to dissect the function of voltage-gated calcium channels in synaptic transmission using <i>Drosophila melanogaster</i>. Among other things I discovered a novel RNA editing sequence intragenic to the gene we were looking at. That gave a pretty cool chromotograph I could have transcribed somewhere. Or, of course, if I had the money (and patience) a full detailed scanning electron micrograph of a fly head! The tenth anniversary of my defence and graduation is next summer, so I'm saving this up for then.


(credit - J Endocrinology, 191(1) 2006)

For now...well, seeing as there is no O in the protein code, I'm stuck. Hivemind - what thoughts do you have? What has inspired yours (wether or not you actually got it done; many think about it but fewer actually do it).