Friday, September 24, 2010

In which, unable to sleep, I inaugurate a mostly politics-free DIY biology blog.

I used to blog, some years ago. I wrote some couple of thousand entries across three self-hosted MovableType managed blogs. One of those blogs took over over my "free time." Eventually, I dropped the lesser blogs into the bit bucket and let their domain names expire. I continued posting to the remaining blog; in the fullness of time, I let that remaining one go dormant. My reasons for dropping out were varied: "I'm too busy" to "MovableType template maintenance is a pain in the ass" to "I'm tired of hand-crafting DELETE FROM statements in SQL to ream out the CMS' backing store of penis enhancement comment spam," but really it boiled down to this: I simply got tired of blogging. Less interested in writing, discouraged by lack of feedback, and bored at the generally spotty quality of interaction my posts elicited from the few motivated readers who'd stumbled upon my blog. It had become a chore.

And of course, "life happened," as per cliché: I left a good job at a great company in order to pursue a long-harbored passion for regenerative medicine. This meant giving up a comfortable income, a nice California apartment, and shifting as far east as continentally possible without falling off the drier part of the land shelf. I moved into a one-room university-owned apartment in a pre-War building, hit the books hard, slept little, and emerged a few years later in May 2010 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Columbia University, along with a year's experience from benchwork done at the Genetics Department of Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

In other words, I was ejected from the undergraduate pipeline an impecunious-but-proud, dazed-but-happy, moderately well-grounded novice in a new field, after having achieved some measure of "seniority" in another. Pretty crazy, huh? But I hadn't been living the life I'd wanted to live, and in the words of Robert Heinlein's character Daniel Boone Davis from The Door Into Summer, "In the course of a long life a wise man will be prepared to abandon his luggage many times." I don't count myself particularly wise; smart, yes, but not necessarily wise. This isn't false modesty speaking, but rather a genuine expression of a fear I think we should all share: that of getting intellectually soft about the hindquarters. Smugly, dumbly, comfortably soft. I fear the Previous Investment Trap, I dread throwing irreplaceable time after unrecoverable sunk costs. So, I shook things up and did something different.

Now that I've paid back around three years or so of a rather impressive sleep debt, I'm back at it. The stuff I plan to write here comprises all that miscellany inappropriate for email, 140-character Twitter pseudohaiku, and Short Attention Span Theater postings to my own limited social graph on Facebook. I simply despise the thought of writing acquaintance-tagged Notes on Mr. Zuckerberg's centralized panopticon cocktail party cork board, only to have them disappear eventually down the Orwellian Memory Hole. No thanks, I'd rather throw some thoughts and work notes out into the wild, where I maintain at least some small measure of control over persistence of memory and referential integrity.

This blog pertains to my new life as a biologist. Expect little in the way of political ranting, except insofar as politics gets in the way of doing my thing, e.g. the occasional venomous rant against cretins who insist on imposing their pre-Medieval views of ensoulment on the rest of us and mucking with our stem cell research. That kind of thing, you know, standard fare for the life sciences and those who try to practice them unmolested. Here I'd rather publish my domain-relevant longer opinions, my code snippets and technology explorations, and an occasional book review.

That, my friends, is my characteristically long-winded way of saying, "OK, I'm blogging again, for what it's worth." Hope you like it. Feed me, hire me, buy me beer.


  1. Hey Russ, I'll buy you a beer. I'm on that same bit o' shelf too.

    Did the science thing for a while before I dropped out and started my first co., on # 3 now - that's that FairCareMD thing - something I call DIY Healthcare Reform. Check it out if you haven'y already and tell me what you think.

    I do miss the science though. What is the DIY science thing? sounds like a lab in the garage (which I have by the way.) No flux capacitor loaded Deloreans there, just some half done projects that I may unbury and finish after this startup is running itself...

    You can sleep later. Science and entrepreneurship are more fun!

  2. Alex, your question "What is the DIY science thing?" is exactly the type of inquiry this blog is intended to help answer, over time and in endless iterations, for myself and others. Here's a stab at it, written a couple of nights or so ago when I felt I needed to synthesize my thoughts on the matter for my own understanding:

    The piece addresses a particular issue - my opinion of the importance of using the same organisms as the pros - but does so through the lens of my attempt at understanding the people I've been meeting the last few months. Hope this helps a bit.


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