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I thought I would continue with the "inspirational cards" since I am mulling over the next blog posts and for now, these cards are proving to be worth a lot to me. Stressful times at the moment and some words of wisdom can help me... sta...
I thought I would continue with the "inspirational cards" since I am mulling over the next blog posts and for now, these cards are proving to be worth a lot to me. Stressful times at the moment and some words of wisdom can help me... stay tuned for more.(I did post one card tuesday on twitter so why not repost that one here too? Especially suitable this week for me since I'm off Friday. Oh glorious long weekend and a much needed short vacation!)
about 5 hours ago
We can’t just live on a diet of alternating snark and rage at the feral Republican children trying to burn down the House.  Rather, we could — but that’s like suffering the health effects of a day-after-day Super Size M...
We can’t just live on a diet of alternating snark and rage at the feral Republican children trying to burn down the House.  Rather, we could — but that’s like suffering the health effects of a day-after-day Super Size Me diet of political high fructose corn starch and a bucket of Krispy Kreme’s — and I, at least, need some happier stuff from time to time just to remind me that the world isn’t simply a playground for the worst of us. Hence this delightful tale, via my science writing friend David Dobbs, who led to this gem from David Quigg, proprietor of the Two Many Daves blog. The link takes you to a post ostensibly about Quigg’s ongoing pursuit of Ernest Hemingway’s FBI file — in which he’s making progress, but still faces G-manned roadblocks between him and what he really wants to know. Quigg (deliberately, I suspect) buried the lede.  Hemingway’s a side show.  The really sweet tale he’s managed to extract from the Great Redactor introduces a new character, Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley.  Shapley had a mixed record as an astronomer — he picked the wrong side in the famous Curtis-Shapley debate on whether or not the spiral nebula that had been observed by 1920 lay inside or outside our Milky Way galaxy, and he rather unfortunately thought Edwin Hubble had committed junk science.  But he had the right enemies.  A political liberal and friend of Henry Wallace, he was targeted by Joe McCarthy,* which is what landed him in the FBI files that Quigg received. Seeing a now rather obscure name in the history of astronomy turn up in the file led Quigg to the magical Google machine — and that’s where this story goes from curious to great: According to Dr. Shapley, he and Frost met at an annual faculty get-together during one of Frost’s stints as poet-in-residence at Harvard. Frost sought Shapley out, tugged at his sleeve–figuratively, if not literally–and said something like, “Now, Professor Shapley. You know all about astronomy. Tell me, how is the world going to end?” [1] Taken aback by this unconventional approach, Shapley assumed Frost was joking. The two of them chatted for a few moments, but not about the end of the world. Then they each became involved in conversations with other people and were soon in different parts of the room. But a while later, Frost sought out Shapley again and asked him the same question. “So,” said Shapley to his audience in 1960, “I told him that either the earth would be incinerated, or a permanent ice age would gradually annihilate all life on earth.” Shapley went on to explain, as he had earlier explained to Frost, why life on earth would eventually be destroyed by fire or ice. “Imagine my surprise,” Shapley said, “when just a year or two later, I ran across this poem.” He then read “Fire and Ice” aloud. He saw “Some say” as a reference to himself–specifically to his meeting with Frost at that gathering of Harvard faculty. I should add that the anecdote comes from Tom Hansen, who recalls hearing Shapley lecture about (inter alia) his conversation with Frost.  Hansen doesn’t dispute Shapley’s memory of the encounter, but he does point out that the poem itself is not a versification of cosmology, and hence, that Shapley’s puff of pride at his muse’s role is very likely (IMHO too) misplaced. In any event one may — I do — kvell at the thought of those two mutual incomprehensibles sipping sherry whilst thinking such different thoughts fashioned out of the same words. Beats trying to deal with the Repblican’s Boehner problem, that’s for sure. *Shapley’s line on McCarthy’s accusations:  ”the Senator succeeded in telling six lies in four sentences, which is probably the indoor record for mendacity.”  Not bad for an ivy covered professor
1 day ago
It seems fitting for a Monday morning when I am procrastinating writing a few reports, finalizing an assays and having another meeting about all those other things. "The things I don't do" are the things I stress out about, not the thing...
It seems fitting for a Monday morning when I am procrastinating writing a few reports, finalizing an assays and having another meeting about all those other things. "The things I don't do" are the things I stress out about, not the things I do. It's fascinating that it always goes in the same circle: nervousness about doing all the stuff, putting all the stuff off, being more nervous, putting the things off even more.... rinse and repeat. Then once I make one thing I feel relaxed, although a little annoyed that it took me that long to remember again that "it's just to bite a chew and do it".So today I'll bite down and get it done. Go away report I (and maybe II), I will get you done!(I have a few of these inspirational cards that I found when I was cleaning the house this weekend. Oh yes, procrastinating = clean house. Always a silver lining somewhere.... I'm thinking the cards might be a good segway into blogging a little more regularly, maybe someone else will like them too?)
2 days ago
A friend asks: "I have some progressive hearing loss, likely due to a hole in the upper part of one my tympanic membrane, along with scar tissue. The nerve appears to be healthy and there is a conductive problem. The hearing loss is ge...
A friend asks: "I have some progressive hearing loss, likely due to a hole in the upper part of one my tympanic membrane, along with scar tissue. The nerve appears to be healthy and there is a conductive problem. The hearing loss is getting worse (nobody knows why) and is worse in some frequencies than others. I have a consult, but before I speak to the ENT surgeon, can you tell me about the success rates, risks (especially more hearing loss), complications and so on for tympanoplasty and ossiculoplasty?"*What?The middle ear is the part we're concerned with. The tympanic membrane ('eardrum') conducts sound to small bones (the malleus, incus, and stapes, or the 'ossicles') which then do complicated things with nerves. Nobody has asked me about sensorineural hearing loss and anyways, it's generally irreversible.**There are a number of more-or-less standardized tests used to measure and characterize hearing loss. You can read about them here. (For a good time, read a bunch of papers wherein ENTs argue about the relative subjectivity of the audiogram, a boring-looking line graph.) In this case, since the hearing loss has a mechanical (conductive) cause, the audiogram is in fact the test in question- the faintest decibel level a person can hear at a certain frequency. Surgery in generalI have read a lot of very convincing papers about surgical success (see also a book called "The Checklist Manifesto"); they suggest that the two biggest predictors of a patient's outcome, aside from the particulars of the patient's condition, are how many of that surgery the medical center performs per year, and how many of that procedure the surgeon has personally performed. (The use of checklists is, naturally, strongly recommended.) Surgical studies in general frequently suffer from low N - that is, they don't have that many patients, so they lump everyone who got a certain surgery into one big group regardless of why they got the surgery specifically. This makes it challenging to interpret the results. This is also probably part of why surgeons, even more than other doctors, often rely on personal experience more than randomized controlled trials. How To Fix Mechanical Hearing Loss?You rebuild the part that had problems. TympanoplastyThe tympanic membrane, it turns out, can be reconstructed. There are two main methods for major damage: using a piece of fascia (fibrous muscle covering) generally taken from behind the ear. Here is a somewhat disturbing video of an endoscopic fascia tympanoplasty (seriously, don't watch it; you don't want to see what goes on inside people). Basically they take a little piece of fibrous gook, rough up the edges of the tympanic membrane, fill the ossicular space with gel gook, stuff the fibrous gook down into the ear, pack it in with more gel gook, and then it magically grows together and the gel slowly gets hydrolyzed or resorbed or vanishes in some way. The other way is to take a little piece of cartilage and do more or less the same thing. Many studies in reputable journals suggest that cartilage tympanoplasty has a higher graft rate and a lower rate of surgical failure requiring a repeat of the surgery.My understanding is that, because the entire ear canal ends up packed, one will be functionally deaf in that ear for quite some time, until everything heals/ dissolves. * Complications in TympanoplastyLike any surgery, things can go wrong. There can be nerve damage if the surgeon isn't very, very careful. They can damage the little bones inside the ear if they aren't very, very careful. Extremely rarely, people react to stuff used in surgery, like surgical ointments. How common are these? It's hard to say. But, without a doubt, the most common bad outcome is that it simply doesn't work. Depending on the method and the surgeon, the tympanoplasty failure rate varies from 5% to 40%. It's also nearly impossible to know which group one will fit into. Obviously, methods that, in general, work more o
2 days ago
Josh Marshall over at TPM picked this up, but I can’t stop myself from echoing his thoughts here. The only actual pleasure I’m taking out of our current circumstances — in which one major political party has decided to ...
Josh Marshall over at TPM picked this up, but I can’t stop myself from echoing his thoughts here. The only actual pleasure I’m taking out of our current circumstances — in which one major political party has decided to refight 1861-5 via the legislative process* — is the degree to which or Republican friends are exposing their political id ever more unmistakably.  Instance(n)** for your delectation: Like my grandmum would have said, if she said such things:  should the FSM feel moved to give you enemies, oh, please, dear Noodly one, make them stupid. R’amen. *Really, this is more like the late stages of the 1840-ish to 1860 maneuvering of the Southern rebels, attempting to achieve their aims by procedure as the gateway drug to armed treason. **where (n) is an arbitrarily large number.
3 days ago
From the inbox, a couple of positions, including a not-typical-for-this-feature tenure track position at UC Irvine:The Department of Chemistry of the University of California, Irvine invites applications for a tenure-track position at th...
From the inbox, a couple of positions, including a not-typical-for-this-feature tenure track position at UC Irvine:The Department of Chemistry of the University of California, Irvine invites applications for a tenure-track position at the Assistant Professor level in any area of organic chemistry. We are seeking a Ph.D.-level scientist who will establish a vigorous research program in organic chemistry and who will have a commitment to teach organic chemistry at the undergraduate and graduate levels. We are especially interested in individuals who will engage with UC Irvine's Cancer Center and who are enthusiastic about making an impact on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Applicants should send their curriculum vitae, a list of publications, and a description of their proposed research program, to the Organic Search Committee, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-2025.For those interested, click here. (The department has other positions available.) For the industrially-inclined, a R&D chemist (M.S./Ph.D. (0-5 years)) position at Fontarome Chemical in Milwaukee, WI:An R&D Chemist I provides support to one or more Senior R&D Chemists in their effort to develop and improve manufacturing processes for Fontarome. It is essential that this person be familiar with synthetic methods of organic chemistry and can conduct organic reactions up to 50L. He/she must be familiar with analytical techniques, pay great attention to details, and document their work very well. A Senior R&D Chemist is responsible for the development of synthetic methods for new products and to improve existing processes. This individual works primarily at the bench but also in the kilo lab and sometimes in Production. The individual may work as part of a team and may have a supervisory role. It is essential that this person be familiar with synthetic methods of organic chemistry and can conduct organic reactions up to 50L. He/she must be familiar with analytical techniques, pay great attention to details, and document their work very well.Interested? Click here.
5 days ago
No, Sen. Reid.  Tell me what you really think [Politico link]: “He’s a coward,” Reid angrily said, referring to Boehner’s private push for federal health care contributions for lawmakers and their staff. Boehner later backed legislation ...
No, Sen. Reid.  Tell me what you really think [Politico link]: “He’s a coward,” Reid angrily said, referring to Boehner’s private push for federal health care contributions for lawmakers and their staff. Boehner later backed legislation to end those subsidies in order to win points with House GOP conservatives. “He’s a coward!” Reid exclaimed. [via] Challenge to the commentariat:  design the holiday cards those two will exchange. And then there’s everyone’s least favorite Texan.  And I do mean everyone: And on Wednesday at a private luncheon, several Senate Republicans — Dan Coats of Indiana, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — assailed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who has led the movement to block funding for the health law. Ms. Ayotte was especially furious, according to two people present, and waved a printout from a conservative group friendly to Mr. Cruz attacking 25 of his fellow Republican senators for supporting a procedural vote that the group counted as support of the health law. Ms. Ayotte asked Mr. Cruz to disavow the group’s effort and demanded he explain his strategy. When he did not, several other senators — including Mr. Johnson, Mr. Coats and even Mitch McConnell, the minority leader — joined in the criticism of Mr. Cruz. “It just started a lynch mob,” said a senator who was present. Put that last in the latest in Republican misappropriations of history…but I’m loving imagining that lunch. Even better?  The next line in the NYT piece: Despite the uproar, Mr. Cruz did not offer a plan for how his party could prevail in the shutdown battle and suggested his colleagues were defeatists. Increasingly, it seems to me, Tailgunner Ted (R-TexCanada), resembles no one so much as this guy: Or at least, so I devoutly hope.*¹ *Indulging in a little historical hyperbole of my own, I guess.  Sue me. ¹In fact, Cardigan would be a step up from Our Ted: “His progression through the Army was marked by many episodes of extraordinary incompetence, but this can be measured against his generosity to the men under his command and genuine bravery. As a member of the landed aristocracy he had actively and steadfastly opposed any political reform in Britain, but in the last year of his life he relented and came to acknowledge that such reform would bring benefit to all classes of society.” Image:  Francis Grant, James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, c.1841 — or about 13 years before his most infamous exploit.
5 days ago
And so are we…getting it good and hard, as my man Mencken preached it so long ago. This is just a quick addendum to my recent posts on the connection between the Republican party’s passion for denying millions of Americans a...
And so are we…getting it good and hard, as my man Mencken preached it so long ago. This is just a quick addendum to my recent posts on the connection between the Republican party’s passion for denying millions of Americans access to health insurance coverage. As everyone not resident at Bag End knows, the self-anointed leader of those who think that providing health care for millions is the gateway to the dictatorship of the usurper is  “Tailgunner” Ted  Cruz, R-TX. That made me wonder — how many of his own constituents is the freshman Senator trying to roger? The Texas Medical Association has the goods: One quarter of the Texas population is uninsured (compared with a US proportion of 15.7% as of 2009). 17% of Texan kids are without insurance, compared to 10% nationwide. One third of Lone Star adults 19-64 lack insurance; the national total is 22%…and so it goes. Don’t lose sight of what all this means.  Folks are dying now in Ted Cruz’s Texas when they shouldn’t — and he’s aiming to make sure that moral outrage continues. Texans and, alas, the rest of us are stuck with Senator Cruz for another four years and change.  Let’s make sure we do whatever we can to see that his BFFs in the House pay the price much sooner than that for conspiring before the fact in the deaths of American citizens.  And let’s help our countrymen and women in the great state of Texas rid themselves of this noxious pest at the first opportunity. Image: William Hogarth, An Election Entertainment,  1754
6 days ago
I recently heard someone ask a graduate student that they did not knew, "So when are you going to graduate?" The asker was not being purposely unkind, but I felt that it was sort of a rude question. (Ultimately, it belied their lack of e...
I recently heard someone ask a graduate student that they did not knew, "So when are you going to graduate?" The asker was not being purposely unkind, but I felt that it was sort of a rude question. (Ultimately, it belied their lack of experience in academia.) When I was in graduate school, the only person who I did not mind The Question coming from was my very elderly grandparent, who had a much shorter time horizon than all the rest of my interrogators. I bring this up in the context of my soon-to-be-retired father, who recently relayed to me how much he hates being asked "So when are you going to retire?" from his younger coworkers. I don't doubt that, just like the first case, it's an innocent question; however, I wonder if the asker realizes all the different questions that one is asking:When might you leave this job? Do you have enough money? (By the time you're 3-5 years to retirement, the lifestyle at which you will be living is pretty much pre-determined, whether you're going to be in your vineyard in Tuscany or your trailer in Flagstaff... or your kids' basement.) Did you know that you're much older than me?When might you leave this job? I confess that I have been guilty of speculating about my older coworkers' retirement schedules sotto voce, but I have not asked. Now, I don't think I will, either.
6 days ago
Good morning! Between October 1 and October 2, there were 24 new positions posted on the C&EN Jobs website. Of these, 13 (54%) were academically connected and 7 (29%) were from Kelly Scientific Resources.Chicago, IL: Abbvie is hiring a B...
Good morning! Between October 1 and October 2, there were 24 new positions posted on the C&EN Jobs website. Of these, 13 (54%) were academically connected and 7 (29%) were from Kelly Scientific Resources.Chicago, IL: Abbvie is hiring a B.S./M.S. chemist for a research associate position in process chemist.Imperial Valley, CA: CalEnergy Generation is looking for an environmental chemist; B.S. + 5 years experience desired. For those who like the desert...A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and USAjobs.gov show 195, 701, 2,522 and 11 positions for the search term "chemist." LinkedIn shows 136 positions for the job title "chemist", 7 for "research chemist", 21 for "analytical chemist" and none for "organic chemist."
6 days ago