Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Littering is not cool. Or KOOL.

There aren't many things that are universally cool, and it's cool not to litter. I'd never do it.

~Matthew McConaughey

I really don't understand people. First, people actually still smoke, despite the overwhelming evidence indicting cigarettes as the harbingers of death they are. Second, littering. What the hell? Wasn't that the theme of the early 80's--don't litter? Before global warming became vogue, littering was the hot topic.

And Bette Midler running around on Earth Day in a goofy outfit.

Ok, maybe Earth Day isn't the most credible reference.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You can't get there, from here...

"Many who would not take the last cookie would take the last lifeboat."

~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

This morning I walked across the overpass that leads from the bus stop towards the health science building just as I would any other morning, but sort of deep in pharmacokinetic thought. I know, its shocking. I will get to that part later.

Let me set the scene for the following fable.

There are always a few buses unloading at once, and thus a good-sized armada of bus-riders walking along with me, at varying speeds and with varying levels of apparent discomfort.

There are two hideous double doors ensconced into the side of the large, drab concrete building at the end of the overpass that lead into the bowels of health science land, and an important difference between them. The right side doors have a button that launch the door open in a couple of long seconds--something for disabled people or people with "hardware" (wheelchairs, etc) to use but is generally used by everyone because people are lazy.

These days, in addition to being incapable of doing anything without an iPod or cell phone attached to their skull, few human beings can open a door under their own power. So this door provides them the necessary comfort of automatic opening at the push of a button.

The other door is normal. Or what I think is normal.

This particular morning I was sauntering across the overpass considering the pk of gemcitabine, and the compartmental model I would use to solve for the various rate constants. What I came up with looks like this:

I was engrossed in how the differential rate equations would be set to solve from some of the transfer rates, and at the same time I walked to the door on the left--the human powered door. I do this naturally because 99% of the people I see walk to the automatic door. Poor weak people. I am amazed they can walk all that way if they can't even open the door.

I see in the reflection, as I get to the door, that people are coming behind me. I open the door and, continuing with my mental mathematicals, I turn and hold the door for the next person. The next thing I know she is inside the door and turns to look at me and says, through a rather rotund face framed by over-permed, over-colored trailer blond hair, "You don't have to be so grumpy about it."

"What?" Was I all I could muster as she trundled away through the NEXT set of doors. This time she went with the automatic doors.

I was baffled by this "exchange." What on earth was she referring to? I held the door open, didn't I? What did she want--a hug and a kiss and a compliment on her disgustingly over-styled receptionist-do?

I gather my expression reflected one of unhappiness. After all, I was doing calculus/pharmacokinetics in my mind while holding the door for her royal pudginess, and I expect that because I didn't smile and make insipid, polite conversation as she gathered herself through the door that I fit into the category of grumpy.

Many mental notes based on this fun little event.

1) She only saw me as a means to not have to open a door and also not stand in line for the real automatic door--thus doubling her laziness in my estimation.

2) If you are doing something out of courtesy, it is simply unacceptable to just perform the act. You must show the person to which courtesy is being bestowed upon that you are sincerely thankful to them for allowing you the opportunity to bestow said courtesy.

3) Mathematics make people look grumpy.

I could have just kept walking. I wonder if she would have used the other door, then.

That is all.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Someone is out to get you. YOU.

“Last night I dreamed I had insomnia. I woke up exhausted, yet too well rested to go back to sleep.”

~Bob Ingman

A small wooden rowboat. Colorless but made of thick, rich wood from long ago. Shapeless but endowed with the character of an eon of riding steady, open waters. I am rowing into stacks of waves, barely moving. It could have been raining, but I felt nothing.

I was on a journey to accomplish something, it was something important. The sky was dark and angry, and the boat was rocking heavily in the waves. The waves were black like ink, and the tips of each wave were gray and foamy. The wind was blowing the tops of the waves a hundred feet away, past me, to a place I could not see. I strained to keep the little boat upright.

The wind was ripping against me. At the same time, the wind was silent.

I rowed for all I was worth, and I never grew weary. My muscles would not scream as they do running uphill. Yet as hard as I strained, I wasn't gaining on the waves.

I turn around and see a rope tied to the stern. I drop my oars and swivel around on my wooden bench seat, noticing the fine, finished mahogany color for the first time. The thick, old rope is attached to a small loop carved into the wood of the boat's hull, just on the transom, and it is stretching at an angle down into the dark water where it disappears. Somehow the rope stays tight, even when I stop rowing against it, as if I were being dragged in reverse.

Motionless, all.

I pick up my oars and row, feeling the resistance of the rope. I can't budge this invisible anchor. I row the opposite direction and nothing happens. The boat is paralyzed, dead in the water, but held still. I realize the boat is completely immobile.

Could it be the very thing preventing my progress is the same thing keeping me from losing balance?

Maybe it wasn't a dream, really. Maybe it was a sleeping metaphor of real life. How often is my vision so narrow that I fail to see what is so obvious? How often are my obstacles and advantages the same, yet I am unable to see them because of perspective (or lack thereof)?

I rely on my brain to get me through a lot of difficult situations. Yet my brain, I believe, is often the biggest obstacle, the most difficult barrier I have to overcome.

Pride. Tough to swallow. I can be great, I remind myself.

Doubt. Easy to fall into. I could have been great, I scold myself.

Laziness. Comes from doubt. What's the point if I keep screwing it up? I ask myself.

Persistence. Comes from experience. I will learn from the last time I screwed up, remember I can be great AND make mistakes, and remove doubt by getting it right at least once. I smile inward at myself.

If I would only let it, that rope would push my boat for me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Let it be.

"And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be."

~Paul McCartney

The memories of Lake mornings break into a thousand pieces like the sun reflecting off of a million tiny waves. All of them beautiful, some brighter than others.

Unlike the night previous (the fire-fly like sparks rose well into the sky, danced with the billions of stars visible, and disappeared)-- which coagulated the deepening red of the evening into a bluish ink sea, fading to black-- a pale gray/blue stirs in the east, over the mountains.

The rain stops, but the sound echoes in my thoughts. Pine cones falling through tree branches, a squirrel voicing its displeasure (or pleasure). The roof shakes with the wind and the creaking of loose boards sets me into a hypnotic state, alternative to sleep, something of a meditation. The light is soft and dramatic, a silky, flowing river of light upon my hand, which I have outstretched toward the drawn curtains. The dull roar of not too distant waves crashing on the beach are a metronome, soothing and constant.

I hear the sound of my grandfather coughing from the floor below where my bed is; his trademark cough in the morning.

It was always strangely comforting.

The heavy, cast-iron lid of the wood burning stove clangs into place after its morning feeding of tamrack. Popping and hissing as the pockets of air and pitch are released by the ensuing flames. Grandpa clears his throat, the TV clicks on, my grandmother scuffs into the kitchen.

Chatter, now. The simple morning chatter repeated a thousand times, with similar questions, similar answers. I maybe roll my eyes, but it's like mom fixing your hair. You love it and hate it all at once. Smells from the kitchen are now making their way up the stairs, and my stomach responds affirmatively. I roll over, excited for another wonderful day of lake things with my favorite people and favorite sights and sounds, and plant my feet on the floor. Cold, unfinished wood. Sand in the grooves.

And with each step down the old, steep stairs there is a groan and a creak, signal (and warning) to those already awake that the kid has arisen. Quiet time is officially over.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Use your head!!!

Some things are too funny NOT to put out for everyone to see.

Behold, the test of manliness in the Unadkat Lab.


“Beware of the young doctor and the old barber”

~Benjamin Franklin

Just looking at that picture above--man, I have a funny shaped head.

I find it to be interesting that I have a lot of distrust of people with PhDs or MDs. Funny that I decided to go get my PhD, isn't it?

I am trying to decide which is worse between two hypothetical situations:

The someone who thinks they are always right, or the someone who is always afraid to be wrong. And I think there is a difference. Something inside of me feels that the latter of the two is more dangerous. Especially with aforementioned MD after their name.

The belief that we are "right" is annoying, and certainly is not true for anyone. At least anyone that I ever knew. In side of my feeble brain, when I consider these two options, the first strikes me not as dishonest or with mal-intent, but with a sort of arrogance and piety that drives me nuts because they always have something to say. Holy crap, I think I am pretty darn close to describing ME, here...

The second option, always being afraid to be wrong, is different. I find myself feeling distrustful of this person because in their fear of being wrong they may choose inaction or silence, which often is the same as dishonesty. I don't know. I really could say a lot more about this but I haven't thought it through very well, it just sort of struck me as I thought about the last few years and my dislike of the established medical profession.

And, more pertinently, perhaps, being here in grad school-- I get to see both options... sometimes, I think, in the same person. Imagine that.