Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Persistence vs. Diligence

“Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much more restful.”

~Mark Twain

Because they care so much, the fine people in charge of this place I work sent me this letter this morning. Thought I would share with everyone.

"Dear Aaron,

As we approach a new year, I want to take this time to discuss briefly your status in the Pharmaceutics doctoral program. As you know, you entered graduate school at the University of Washington in the fall of 2004, which puts you into your 6th year in the program. This exceeds the 5 year limit of guaranteed RA tuition and stipend support that the department provides to its students, as described in our Policy and Guidelines document. We recognize that individual progress to the PhD degree varies and is dependent sometimes on factors not completely in the control of the student. Nonetheless, we require that a student demonstrate “progress towards the degree” in order to continue receiving financial support beyond the 5 year limit. Provision of this evaluation is charged to the thesis advisor and the thesis advisory committee. With this in mind, I want to encourage you to meet regularly with your advisor and the committee to keep them apprised of your progress so that they can help you achieve your career goals and to discharge their duties. In your case, a meeting at least twice a year would be appropriate.

I am confident that you are working as diligently as possible to complete all of the requirements for the PhD degree and I look forward to the day when you can achieve that goal and plan for the next phase of what I am sure will be an exciting and rewarding career in the pharmaceutical sciences.

I would be glad to meet with at any time to discuss your status in the program, and even your thesis work, if you feel that my input might be helpful.

With best regards"

Now. Doesnt that feel good?

Friday, December 25, 2009


“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family”

~Anthony Brandt

Whether or not he was "pleasant" about it is debatable, depending upon the perspective from which you observed it, but my grandfather valued his family above everything else. It is obvious to me this morning on Christmas. It wasn't necessarily "fun" for him but it was important. Having the family together was important.

I am still probably too young to understand a lot. Ok, I AM too young to understand a lot. However, this morning, I miss my family. All the ridiculous emotional drama hasn't changed from the past, but I have also not spent a holiday with any member of my family for years. And each year I feel the pull getting a little stronger.

It was the eve of Christmas Eve, 367 days ago, that my grandparents, on the phone at the same time, called me. I was at the bus stop at school, on my way home. They called me and shared the news of my grandfather's lung cancer and he told me he had decided to give me his car. More than anything I remember wondering if I had missed my last opportunity to spend thanksgiving or christmas with him.

And as it turns out he is spending it with me still. I will take his car out for a drive today in the sunny Seattle christmas air, and remember the holidays in the past that I am fortunate enough to have shared with him and the rest of my family. And remember them fondly even if they weren't as fun as I think they ought to have been at the time.

Because I can't get them back now. And it can never happen again.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mel 'n' Collie

“It is one of the paradoxes of American literature that our writers are forever looking back with love and nostalgia at lives they couldn't wait to leave.”

~Anatole Broyard

Its a little bit frightening to admit, but I feel a little nostalgic about school today.

Its Monday before Christmas, and I have a lot of work to do. The lab is completely empty except for me. Its a double-sized lab, with two full labs connected into one big giant lab (by graduate school standards), which means it feels two-times as empty right now.

Graduate school hasn't been, most of the time, the greatest experience for me. However, being here alone, now, it is a little sad to me. The quote I chose for this blog entry I believe sums up my own experience and feelings perfectly.

I remember joining the prestigious Unadkat Lab. I remember it was packed with people to the point that there was no room for me to have a desk in the lab. When there finally was (another year later) I crammed into a nook and watched the machine whirring around me. It was impressive to say the least.

The lab is still prestigious, but now it stands mostly empty. I am getting ready to graduate. The people I knew over the years have either left for faculty positions or graduated. The science machine that we call Unadkat Industry is now little more than a messy storage space.

It is noisy with silence.

And as bad as things have been, I miss the buzz of activity, the pressure to work because everyone else is working, the lab meetings with standing room only.

This too shall pass.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Science of Bathroom Stalls.

“If there is a God, atheism must seem to Him as less of an insult than religion.”

~Edmond de Goncourt

I do not condone vandalism. However, here at the UW, the bathroom stalls have become the "philosopher's media of debate". And you rarely see a blank stall wall anywhere in the health science building. I really do not support it...

But in the name of research, 1 year ago on this day, I started a little, um, debate...

I did it after seeing that the entire bottom of this little bathroom stall wall was crumbling onto the floor in a rusty pile, and therefore will probably be destroyed under its own weight soon or replaced.

You notice in the upper left a few words written in a very dark pen.. "Math is God." I chose this for a lot of reasons, mostly because it is highly inflammatory and guaranteed to start good debate.

I wrote this on December 17th, 2008. The wall was completely blank. Follow the action.

I particularly enjoy the correction to "Math is God's Creation" followed by ""for that" would be an unacceptable construction in the eyes of the lord."

And, perhaps not surprising, it inevitably becomes a contemplation of God's fecal qualities.

But eventually someone decides that a probability algorithm should be created to solve using logic the question of math and God.

Doesn't that just prove my point???

Oh well.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


"The new Siddhartha felt a deep love for this flowing water and decided that he would not leave it again so quickly."

From Siddhartha page 81, Hermann Hesse

Are we the flowing water or are we the rocks against and over which the water flows?

I am both.

One day I am immovable and determined, like the rock. Time and life must move around me, I stand firm and strong. But over time, the water eventually wears and shapes me, often without my recognition, until I crumble and am swept away by the water. The music of the water leaves its signature upon me, the song ever changing.

Another day I am the water. I flow with time, adapting and bending to the situation in order to find the path of least resistance. But the easiest path is not always the shortest or best path, and my way, while easy, is subject to the whims of the rocks.

Does the water become shaped by the rocks, or are the rocks shaped by the water flowing across, around, above them?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Google Car Effect

"Man is rated the highest animal, at least among all animals who returned the questionnaire."

~Robert Brault

If you see a camera, what do you do?

Let us say, hypothetically, that you are walking down the street in your city. You suddenly see a news reporter from a local TV station (gosh that sounds archaic when I read it--are their still "local TV stations?") giving a report in front of a cameraman.

What do you do?

Some people make a concerted effort to NOT move in the view of the camera.

Some people make a concerted effort to MOON the camera, or do something idiotic to be noticed. (For reference, I fall in the middle somewhere, but look idiotic anyway.) This behavior is deeply rooted in us all, and regardless of the media, will surface to some degree. Streakers at football games (that's soccer to us in the US), the crowd outside of the morning TV news show, it is always happening. But now, there is a new phenomenon.

Google Street View.

The newest craze is to get your picture in the google street view display. For example, my canadian friend Marc took the picture of the google car you see at the beginning of this post. At the same time, it was taking this picture of him:

Pic of Marc by Google

That was just an accident. But it's becoming a sort of contest.

"Man drops his pants to moon Google streetview car from his own front porch"

So far, one of the best I can find is this:

@Bestguitars on twitter proclaimed:
"I successfully predicted where the google car would go next "
http://ff.im/-ckIvf (click on the quote about the google car)

So, the next time you see a regular looking car with a giant 360 action camera mounted on top, do something silly. You might be famous.