Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category
So, I’m alive. When the dust settles, I’m still here, still kicking, and am now (apparently) a master of something.
Which brings me to the point of what to do with this blog. This was always a student’s exercise, and now that I am no longer a student, I am not sure if I will keep it going. I DO want to continue blogging, but maybe not with such a hard-science focus. So right now the toss-up is in between keeping this place, splitting my time between blogging here and elsewhere, or just starting another blog without a specific focus.
We’ll just have to see where it goes.
So as you may or may not be able to tell from the long silence, things have been kind of busy and crazy on this end. Our semester effectively ends on the 3rd of May, and well, there is a ton to get done before then. Of note, I am doing some very involved research for a literature review on HIV latency, so I might wind up posting about some of the interesting things I have been finding. HIV does some really odd things, even when the virus is supposedly ‘controlled’ by HAART.
I tend to be wary of activists. To me, an activist is someone who has taken it upon themselves to support a particular opinion, regardless of that opinion’s status as right or wrong opinion (which is to say its truth value). This leads to a turbulent relationship with fact that may involve everything from cherry picking ideas to outright denialism, and generally makes for a very “fair-weather friend” relationship between opinion and (my personal tool of the trade) reason. Now, many activists can and do behave responsibly and rationally and they have my greatest respect (another tip of my hat to the intelligent and thoughtful feminists over at Fishnet Bluestockings, they are on my blogroll for a reason), but I find that it pays to be on my guard against those that don’t. Which is why I employ the following guidelines with activists:
- You are entitled to your opinion and the expression of that opinion in the appropriate forums and manner. To give you any less than that would be a violation of your rights and my moral code.
- Do not confuse an opinion with an argument. Don’t expect to persuade without evidence or reason, it will get you ignored.
- Attempts to persuade through lies & half-truths, the propagation of misinformation, shame or peer pressure, or any other end-run around mutual respect and properly formulated argumentation will get you ridiculed.
- Resorts to threats and violence will get you watched, reported, arrested, and (in the most regrettable cases) hurt.
I feel the need to bring this up today, since there is a group out to threaten, harass, and possibly attempt to kill me and my fellow students (as if a bisexual, transgendered person doesn’t have enough animosity directed towards her/him already). Negotiation is Over is a hate group directed at researchers in the life sciences. They call themselves animal rights activists, but they seem much more interested in attacking researchers than saving animals. And now they have specifically turned their gaze on students as they announced yesterday:
Every time a vivisector’s car or home — and, eventually, the abuser him/herself — blows up, flames of liberation light up the sky.
When we attack professors, we can only expect limited gains. They are deeply entrenched in the holocaust, have vested financial interests, and enjoy a network of support and protection. Students, however, have no round-the-clock police protection, no access to the FBI, and no access to legislators. The weakest link in the chain is the student body. Vivisectors-in-training can be shut down with relative ease.
Students also need to understand that making the wrong choice will result in a lifetime of grief. Aspiring scientists envision curing cancer at the Mayo Clinic. We need to impart a new vision: car bombs, 24/7 security cameras, embarrassing home demonstrations, threats, injuries, and fear. And, of course, these students need to realize that any personal risk they are willing to assume will also be visited upon their parents, children, and nearest & dearest loved ones. The time to reconsider is now.
It goes on like that for quite some time, with a lovely picture of a firebombed car just to make sure there can be no ambiguity about what they are advocating. As an added bonus their site has links to state by state directories of research universities they consider offenders via their “Animal Abuse Crime Database”. Guess whose uni is on their list?
But I’m not afraid of these creeps, and I urge you not to be either. Stay safe, don’t let them get to you, and promptly report any threats. These people are terrorists, and terrorists like to cause terror. So don’t give them the satisfaction. And if you have a forum for it, I hope you will speak out and let them know that their tactics are impotent. In time they will try to do something stupid and get arrested/shut down, or they will tire of their game. Either way, the wanna-be scary monsters will be stuffed back under the bed and we can get on with the business of saving lives.
Now, my opinions on the morality of animal research are complex, and I will talk about them in a later post and hopefully be able to present a rational basis for them. But my opinions on this issue are stark: this is unacceptable. Even if you personally find animal research reprehensible and feel that making transgenic mice is on par with Tuskegee, realize that this sort of behavior is not the way to go about effecting a change.
Violence remains the last refuge of the deluded and incompetent.
Okay, so I had a friend ask me to talk a little bit about the basics of nuclear radiation and its effect on humans. This question specifically prompted by the tragedy that has recently occurred in Japan. And I intend to do that throughout the rest of the week, but today was…taxing (and technically it is Tuesday here now).
I just want to make a brief note about something else that has happened recently. A massive outpouring of (predominantly American) online vitriol against Japan. Ignorant and Online is doing a good job cataloging the more egregious of these. This ranges from insensitive jokes to rage filled tirades, and seems to be motivated by everything from old grudges to crazy religious theories. I had an acquaintance trying to send me his own crude jokes not two hours ago. He seemed unabashed when I politely explained that he wasn’t being witty and called me a person who prefers to cry at tragedy rather than laugh at it. I wish I did cry more, it would probably be healthier.
I can see the value in pain based physical comedy, I enjoy dark humor, and I don’t shirk away from death in my entertainment media. But to be perfectly clear: when real people begin to suffer and die, things stop being entertaining. When confronted with a tragedy, the appropriate response is to do something about it, and leave people who are more concerned with laughing or crying on the sidelines because you don’t need them getting in your way. Human suffering is not a spectator sport.
There are earthquake victims, tsunami victims, radiation victims, and a host of people without water, power, or food. Dedicated members of Japan’s SDF and international aid organizations are risking their lives to do something about it. As I write this, a skeleton force of fifty people have taken it upon themselves to wage an uncertain war pumping sea water into a nuclear complex to try and prevent more explosions, more radiation, more sickness, and more death.
This is not funny. Making a litany of (predominantly racist) jokes about this is not a way of “whistling in the dark” or a “valid method of dealing with tragedy”. Either do whatever you can to help these people (which may validly be very little, I personally can’t do much more than donate to aid organizations) and show a little bit of decorum and decency. The last thing you should do is laugh at their suffering and the work of those trying to help.
So, this week is going to be kind of rough. Due to inclement weather, some exams that were supposed to have been last week were postponed. This would normally be fine, if not for the fact that the exams scheduled for this week stayed right where they were. So basically I am caught in the middle of a midterm train wreck. Delightful.
Since I highly doubt anyone wants to hear me ramble on about cell bio trivia (and really that’s all most exams are, trivia contests, which seems especially short-sighted in a field this dynamic) I am afraid y’all are stuck without a proper article today.
I am going to leave a link to something I stumbled across this morning however, cause I found it kind of cute: Esther Inglis-Arkell over at io9 has put together a list of Ten Things Bacteria Can Do That You Can’t. It might not be exactly rigorous, but since it made me smile as I sipped my morning tea and glared at the stack of textbooks on my desk, I thought it worth sharing.
Regularly scheduled articles should be back on by Friday at the latest. If I somehow wind up with a handle on things mid-week maybe we will see some Wednesday activity, maybe not.
So once again it is Friday, it is late, and I really have no topic. Going to do my best to get this blog better organised in the coming weeks. Really. Perhaps now that I have the burden of writing lectures (or at least, writing my lectures, I am slated to help a dear friend over the weekend) off my chest I can finally cover some ground.
Anyway, I thought I would spend this time and technically get a blog post out before midnight, although I am sorry that it isn’t really more academic. I just wanted to talk for a minute about why I do what I do. That is to say, why I bust my ass in grad school and am driving myself nuts trying to get a lab fellowship. Quite simply: I am a very afraid person who wants to save humanity. That doesn’t sound too hubristic, right? Although the devil of the thing is trying to figure out why I would want to do the later.
Here is the deal: Species rise and species fall and in the end ΔS is greater than zero for any real system. That’s the world we live in, in a nutshell. Anyone who tells you that humanity is different, that humanity is special, that humanity is outside of these rules, is most likely selling something. Either we die out, are naturally selected into something we won’t recognise, or live till the limit of macro life before heat death. And those are listed in exponentially decreasing order of likely-hood. But it can take a shorter or longer time to reach that point of extinction, and the quality of the living we do in the time our species has is important.
Disease is rampant, disease will always be rampant, it is the nature of things that bacteria will want to feast on us, viruses will want to reproduce off us, parasites of many forms and flavours will want to drain us dry. And the worst part is, that people will largely ignore it. 2,752 people died in the September 11th attacks. And America has spent a fundamentally staggering amount of money and life waging war overseas as a result. Now, almost 3,000 dead is a tragedy, and it deserves a response. However, ~40,000 people die each year in America from influenza ~500,000 worldwide. Now, look at the relative amounts of governmental spending on warfare versus influenza vaccine research. And that is one subtype of one disease. Where is the outrage? Where is the proportional response? Death and suffering due to disease are accepted as a status quo and certain groups will even fight for it (anti-vaxers, certain religious groups, many in the ‘alternative’ medicine crowd, etc) . But I don’t think they need to be. And I am dedicating my life to the idea that I am right.