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Lame, That Last Blog Was
11/07/08 at 09:45 PM by tjm42
Fuck. Sorry about that last blog. That was pretty lame. I was at work, having a rough go of it and that's apparently what my brain decided to do to cope. I'll have a discussion with my brain.

So, I think I've been going about this all wrong. I just had the best evening in a really, really long time. Like, it was pretty awesome and I had honest-to-goodness, genuine, fun. Turns out I've been going on all these terrible blind dates with people when really, I should just have been going out with myself.

I got on the T, went downtown, took a walk, bought myself dinner and then took myself to see a movie. Good God, it was amazing! I don't know if it was the actually being nice to myself for once, or if it was the semblance of normalcy, but it was wonderful. A great burger, some good whiskey and Kat Dennings made my evening complete. I watched the people go by, I remembered that there are still some good things left in the world, and might have even had a smile on my face at some point.

I need more nights like this.
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Mood Music
11/07/08 at 01:52 PM by tjm42
I'm feeling moody. As in the, 'Put on my moody iTunes mix and just let it play and hope nobody yells at me again today' moody.

The songs aren't necessarily moody themselves, but slower and introspective. It's all cornerstoned by Something Corporate's 'Me and the Moon' which is one of the more beautiful, haunting songs I've ever heard without it being so haunting it's unapproachable. I'm loving this mix more and more, even though I really do have to be in a mental state that I don't totally enjoy being in to really appreciate the music.

But really, I am limited by my collection and my own limited experience. So I'm taking suggestions. What good songs can I listen to when feeling moody. I don't necessarily need to be cheered up, but I need some new things that remind that it's perfectly acceptable to be moody.

And now that I've said moody far too many times in a single post, I'm going to stop. But srsly, any ideas?
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Don't Call it a Comeback ...
11/06/08 at 08:27 PM by tjm42
Dear God, it's been almost four months since I last wrote in this thing? Holy shit. I'm fucking lazy, apparently.

Absence is one of those things that compounds itself. I mean, when you haven't written in so long, you feel like when you do come back to writing, it's got to be fucking incredible. And the pressure makes me not want to write more because I don't have anything important to say.

But as I think about it (actually, I feel like I've said that before), I realize I do have things to say, and they're important to me, so I might as well come back and write about them. No fanfare, no sweeping generalizations, no lofty purposes, just sharing my thoughts and my music.

Also, I guess people have been reading this, since I've gained over 600 views in the last four months when I wasn't writing anything. That's really weird that people are actually reading this. I mean, I'm stoked and I'd love to thank each of you, but it's weird that someone out there might want to know what I think. Cool.

Anyway, I guess an update is in order? I was so lofty in the last few entries ... life, a travelogue of finishing graduate school, etc. I think I've got to man up and try to fill some of those goals. So, what's been going on in my life since July 2nd? Well, let's see: that last post was a bit moody. It was an ugly time. That situation with my friend didn't quite turn out as bad as I thought, but we've definitely drifted apart. I'm not so upset about that, actually ... she's a different person now than when we met, and I don't really like the person she's become. So maybe it was a good thing.

Oh, right! And then, a few days after that, I got a phone call from my roommate. See, here's a little background: my landlord and building owner are major douches. They don't do much work, charge a lot of money and are pretty lazy. We've had this dead, 6 story tree in the back lot for 2 years and they finally decided to take it down. They were going to remove it on Thursday morning, so they told us Tuesday night that our cars needed to be moved. That's a little tough being in Boston, but all right, can do. Cut to Wednesday night when the aforementioned phone call was received.

"Hey," says my roommate. "Remember that tree in the back lot?" As soon as he said it, I pretty much knew what had happened. Therefore, I answered, "It's on top of my car right now, isn't it?"

Sho' nuff ... 12 hours before it was scheduled to be removed, the tree gave up and came down. It destroyed my car. And when I say destroyed, I mean, there are three places a car can be damaged that can't be repaired. And dammit if that motherfucking tree didn't hit all three of them.

So my life up to that point was not going too well. I had only just gotten out of the hospital and started recovering from that whole almost dying thing when a tree totaled my car. I mean, really, in the grand scheme of things, it's only a car ... but it was starting to seem like the universe was trying to tell me something. I didn't have my health, my job sucked, my property was being destroyed by acts of God, and I pretty much didn't have any friends who gave a shit.

Fuck me. That just got really depressing. Let's change the tone.

The rest of the time between then and now was pretty busy, but much more positive. I bought a new car, work got better, I started making a lot of progress towards finishing the degree, my health got better and better, and things are kind of status quo. I mean, my dating life sucks (I have been on countless awful, awful blind dates lately) and my friends aren't exactly coming out of the woodwork, but things are moving forward.

And, truth be told, it's been pretty sick lately with shows. I finally realized why I love live music so much and why concerts have meant so much more to me in the last year or so. For three hours, I get to forget everything about my life and just enjoy the music. Music is the only thing that makes me feel better some times. Lately has been no exception. Got to see Relient K in concert again, which was incredible, though too short. Got to see Anberlin for the first time (folks, I'm REALLY sorry, I am SO LATE to the Anberlin party ... couldn't somebody have told me this around the time of Cities? I mean, really). Just saw Dredg the other night, Minus the Bear in the last few weeks. It's been awesome.

All right. Now I'm rambling, but at least I've overcome my activation energy. Hopefully I'll get to write more and more in the coming weeks and months. But I'm pretty stoked to be back. It's nice to write again, it's nice to read AP again (I was so busy for a while that I didn't even get to catch up on my web sites, and then with the election ... sheesh, poltical junkie much?), and it's nice to see a community thriving.

I hope this finds you all well. Seriously.
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I Am Resistant
06/19/08 at 09:08 PM by tjm42
To antibiotics, that is ...

The latest word from the doctor is that I have an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection. Only 7% of people who get this bacterium have this resistant strain. Uh, whee? I started reading some literature on it, and it's not pretty. I'm still fairly ill, now going on 9 days, which sucks like nothing else.

But now, I am bored out of my skull. Bored enough to do an experiment on myself. That's right, tomorrow, I become my work. I'm going back to work, which could be interesting. I might not last a whole day, since I still get winded crossing a bloody room, but it's time to try and start back into life. Like Barney says, "When I feel myself starting to get sick, I make a decision to stop being sick and start getting more awesome. True story." Yes, true story, indeed.

So I'm going to try to return to work tomorrow and pick up the pieces. Being forced to abandon science for a whole week usually has disastrous consequences if you hadn't planned for it. Time to go see what lived, what died, and how far I've been set back. Oy.

And they better be nice to me tomorrow and give me lots of sympathy. Because the only thing worse than a sick man is a sick, pissed off man.

OK. Push to finish all of my work and graduate. Take two. And action.
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Diagnosis: Shit
06/17/08 at 09:33 PM by tjm42
I was admitted to the hospital this week.

I contracted food poisoning from a restaurant in Cambridge. But it wasnít content simply to be normal food poisoning; it was an antibiotic-resistant strain of food poisoning. Whee. Iím a lucky boy, clearly.

I got sick last Tuesday night with (and Iíll spare the gory details), shall we say, gastric ugliness and the most incredible stomach pain. Like, I canít walk because Iím doubled over, pain. Oh, yeah, for good measure, throw in fever, headache, muscle weakness, chills, the works. I couldnít eat anything or drink anything because my body couldnít keep it in long enough to extract any goodness from it. It went two days and I went to the doctor; within an hour of getting there, they admitted me started saline and high-dose antibiotics. I was so dehydrated that they pushed the first liter of saline wide open (translation: funnel that shit into his veins because heís got the consistency of old paper right now). Iím very familiar with the hospital scene, but let me tell you, I was scared out of my mind. And it didnít help that they were rushing me through everything because I know that the only time they rush people through at a hospital is when things are pretty bad.

They sent me home where I continued the antibiotics and the pain. The pain started to slowly subside over the weekend and I got to where I could actually eat small amounts. Today, my cultures finally came back and they gave me a diagnosis. Trouble is, gastric ugliness hasnít gone away, which is not only worrying me, but also my doctor. This thing is supposed to work itsí way through within a week, and thatís without an intervening antibiotic. Tomorrow, I might start wicked antibiotic #2 to see if I can clean up my system and bring things back to normal. So, I have a diagnosis now. Great. Now what? It hasnít really helped since the commonly accepted treatment for food poisoning is, ďTough it out and keep drinking water.Ē Thanks, medical community. You suck ass.

I really do think there are higher powers out to get me. No sooner do I make my ultimatum about finishing up, do I get laid out for at least a week. And not with anything good, mind you. I mean, when everything sucks, you tend to always say, ĎWell, at least I still have my health!í Yeah, well, about that. Now not only can I be miserable and depressed, I can also be sick! Thanks, life. Youíre officially off the Christmas card list.

I havenít been to work in over a week now and have only been able to eat Jello and some plain toast. My experiment with eating egg noodles went horribly awry. This has done such damage to my body that walking to the mailbox feels like running all out for an hour. I see my doctor tomorrow to determine what news he has for me. I really hope itís good, because I canít stand to take much more bad.
Tags: hospital, sick, bad food, pain
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Where I Start to Take Back Control
06/07/08 at 06:39 PM by tjm42
Most people think that finishing graduate school means that you have gone through your academic transformation: you are no longer a wide-eyed naÔve student, rather, you have achieved a level of intellectual maturity, you have learned to design your own theory, and you have stretched your current confines as far as they will go. It is only logical that you be unleashed, a mental powerhouse, into the next phase of study, a professorship or a postdoctoral fellowship, where you will create wonderful things and mature into a bona fide scholar.

In my experience, this is all a byproduct. Over 90% of people finish because they decide they're done due to being fucking sick of school.

Iím not sick of school, but I never realized how much of the decision to finish lie with me. I always assumed someone would tell me, ďYouíre ready to go Ö youíve done what it takesĒ and that it would be obvious when Iíd published X number of papers and had Y number of accomplishments. But itís much grayer than that. The decision to end can come with a loved one; if your significant other is moving somewhere, and you want to follow them, you can make the case to finish graduate school. If you have a baby, you can make the case. If you decide to change your path, you can make the case. If youíre ready, you can make the case. All of these reasons are perfectly valid and, in many cases, are granted by the school if theyíre not made lightly. Iím not following a loved one, Iím not having a baby, Iím not changing my path, but for the first time, Iím realizing that I might be ready. I donít know what made me come to this decision; itís been ruminating for some time, but Iím ready to take a stand.

Starting today, I start moving things toward finishing my doctorate by next June. I will walk in June 2009. They will hand me a diploma, I will be hooded, and people will have to call me Doctor. At least until the novelty wears off.

Iím declaring this here for a number of reasons. First and foremost, if itís written and public, then it feels more real to me. Second, it just might give this blog a purpose. I mean, Iím not the most fascinating soul in the world: Iím a little socially awkward, I donít go to fancy places and have amazing stories, Iím not gorgeous and monks have better love lives than I do. But I am a student. Iím a fucking good one, and I know the ins and the outs. Maybe for a while, this is going to be my ledger for going through new experiences as I try to finish my degree. The nervous highs of giving talks and trying to publish papers, the lows of not getting critical experiments to work, the creamy middles of day-to-day life, itíll all be there! I might still complain, but perhaps my complaining will have a purpose.

Itís time I made some decisions for myself and stopped thinking about everyone else all the time.

Iím here too, damn it, and if you didnít hear me before, well shit, itís all about to change.
Tags: Resilience, Mission, The Beginning of the End?
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A Long, Low Growl ...
05/22/08 at 02:08 PM by tjm42
Rules to Live By (an incomplete list):

1) Never go to the grocery store when you're hungry.
2) Never blog when you're so furious you can't even see anymore.

Perhaps a real update when I'm not so pissed. But, loyal readers (if there are any of you ... if so, say Hello!) can know that I'm not confused anymore, and that's making me pissed. We're back to the old story.

Two more notes:

1) Today's PhD comic is my lab, to a tee. Guess where I fall.
2) The only good thing so far this week was the Local H show last night. Fuck. They're so good.

That will be all. I've got to go punch something.
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Yo Soy Confussed
05/14/08 at 10:45 PM by tjm42
Confusion is an interesting thing. Confusion embodies indecision about what to do, where to go, what an outcome will be, etc. and implies that one is in dire straights because of said confusion. I donít see it as being inherently bad. Rather, I see confusion mainly as the drawback to having potentially great things happen to you. Itís that nebulous time when things are happening, but itís still unclear as to whether those things are positive or negative. Hence, the potential of said things to be great. Iíll explain.

Right now, Iím confused. Not about a single thing, but about a number of things.

N.B. I donít want to sound like Iím complaining, because I am truly pleased that (as you will read) things donít suck as much now as they used to. But, rather, Iím trying to work through all this confusion that comes about with some positive things happening in oneís life.

Life has taken a slight upswing in recent weeks. Now, you have to be careful how loud you say that around here (as my friend says) because (as I say) someone is around the next corner looking to smite you. But things havenít been so dismal as they were for the rest of the year up to this point. But they werenít confusing; things can still suck donkey balls and not be confusing. I knew my work sucked. I knew my relationships with people sucked. I knew my supposed friends didnít gave a shit about me. I knew my advisor was supportive but uninterested in my work. All of these things were certainties; no source of confusion therein.

Now, things are looking up, but the dark side to that brings confusion. Everybody says (regarding graduate school) that, for years, your shit is just not gonna work. And then, one magical day, about 6 Ė 12 months before you finish, things just start working. Youíre not going to do anything differently, itís just like one day, the world turns a switch and your experiments start working. I never believed that, but recent events have indicated that there might be a slight bit of truth to that. For the last 6 weeks, basically, everything I did worked out. I found a new phenotype for my gene, did some awesome rescues of said phenotype, found a new gene with similar problems that was expressed in the same place as my first gene, and they all made sense. In 6 weeks, I almost doubled the amount of data that had taken me nearly a year to amass. Now, thereís clear direction and, dare I say, a finish in sight for this project. If I can get the next series of experiments to work as I think they might, then itís a story worth publishing in a highish profile place. Hereís the easy confusion. Now that I know more, there are so many things in the story that are so complex. I mean, in science, we can wave our hands and argue that many things are happening, but thatís about as satisfying as jerking off. I mean, it gets us to an end, and we kind of have fun speculating and playing every side Ö but what we really want to do is fuck. And I think I need to stop that metaphor before it goes places that nobodyís comfortable with. Right now, weíre in the place where Iíve got information on every angle, but some things just donít fit together. The trouble is, theyíre important things that folks are really going to need us to fit together. So coming up with a gigantic model that fits all of my data, fits the data thatís out there (or disproves it in a REALLY good fashion) and makes biological sense Ö is hella confusing. But see, this confusion wouldnít have come about if I hadnít been successful in getting data. This is the kind of confusion, I suppose, that keeps us going in science. If we didnít have this, then Iíd be out of a job. So now, my work is confusing, but itís not firmly in the realm of suck anymore. I fear weíve not seen the last of suck, but at least thereís more basic data to fall back on now.

My relationship with my advisor now is confusing, though. To his credit, he was very supportive during my depressed period, when I couldnít even walk into work without fucking something up. I mean, it was clear that mine was far from his favorite project and that he had no qualms ignoring my project in favor of two other gold mines, but it seemed that it was never active. He never once yelled at me for being unproductive for so long (because, truth be told, I was working my fucking ass off Ö but nothing was working out for me) and tried to be helpful with troubleshooting. Once I started getting data, I thought that this relationship would only improve. The thing with science advisors is that they tend to equate their appreciation of you with how much data you bring them. So I thought that, with all this new data, heíd be super-excited and supportive and happy. Not so. Every time I brought him new information, it was clear that he was becoming less and less interested. He just didnít have the same enthusiasm that I was bringing to the table and didnít even react in a manner in which I thought he would. Moreover, as I got more and more on my feet, he seemed to alternate between days in which he would barely speak to me and avoid me, and then the next day, heíd come and hang out and tell stories and laugh and joke back and forth with me. Now, itís at the point where I donít know what kind of interactions heíll have with me until he opens his mouth that day. And thatís a major source of confusion. I donít know why itís fallen that way and I donít know if I can lump this in as another source of confusion due to getting data. So perhaps this isnít exactly like the one previously, but itís something Iím desperately trying to figure out. Determining how to energize someone about your work when theyíve all but written it off, is difficult. Determining how to energize someone into doing their job, when theyíre clearly not, is ridiculously difficult. How do I tell my advisor heís not being an advisor? And do so politely and walk out of there with my head still intact. And why is he being so pissy with just me and not everybody else? Oy. The confusion.

Personal life is also confusing. This is the most nebulous of events because I truly have no fucking clue whatís going on. First off, letís go for the big one. I knew my love life sucked. Well, didnít even get a chance to suck because it doesnít exist. Hasnít existed for a long time. It sucks, but itís not confusing; nothing is not confusing! Now, holy shit, there might be something?! I mean, really?! There might actually be someone interested in me for reasons other than just the fact that Iím an awesome friend? The fact that thereís absolutely no conclusive indication one way or the other adds to the confusion. Itís in that super early initial phase where statements and actions could be seen to convey interest, or they could be purely coincidental. But Iíve not even been that far along in a situation in forever. So thatís the obvious source of confusion. Does this girl like me or not? Am I ready to go through with anything? How the fuck do I get back into relationships and whatnot? Does sex still work the same way as I remember it, or has it evolved? I mean, is it like Demolition Man, where it requires weirdo mind helmets and no fluid exchange? This is the positive one, though: I mean, great! Iím kind of nervous excited about a girl. But so confused as to where it goes. I think Iíve reverted back to high school and before because of sheer lack of use of the part of my brain that covers romance.

Letís finally round out the mixed bag with the most confusing confusion of all: my friends. By and large, their treatment of me for the last four months has been absolutely abysmal. There have been a few shining examples (you know who you are and I am forever blessed by your continued presence in my life), but most of them have been dreadful. When I went through my severe depression earlier in the year, some of the feigned concert but dropped it as soon as they figured out that I wasnít planning on killing myself. Quite frankly, I disagree with suicide. Iím not going to do somebodyís dirty work for them; if someone wants me dead, theyíre gonna have to do it themselves, dammit! But nobody would talk to me, nobody would respond to my approaches to talking and they had this absolute disinterest in me. Now, it seems to be shifting a bit. My friends are coming back into the fold, theyíre talking to me, but itís unpredictable. They remember some things, then they donít talk to me the next day. There seems to be this mass epidemic of pissy and I just donít understand it. I guess this is the weakest point in my little thesis here, so Iíll not spend much time on it. But itís damn confusing on top of everything else, to figure out why my friends are flaky and why theyíre only now coming around and half-time so.

Wow. This really did become an actual thesis. I need to learn how to blog without gigantic intent sometimes. But basically, what it all boils down to is this: Iím glad that things arenít sucking colossally anymore, but I could do without the confusion that comes along. Itís not all bad, but it would certainly be more awesome if some of this confusion could sort itself out and give me some clear direction. But then it might not be as fun. Who knows?
Tags: confusion, thesis, girls, science
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Bass Recs
04/21/08 at 01:33 PM by tjm42
I have only a few musician friends of which to ask for recommendations, and even fewer friends who actually play bass. So I turn to all of you!

Long story short: I want to buy a new bass.

I haven't played in about 6 years and want to pick it up again. So I need recommendations on what I should buy. I want to spend less than $700 ... preferably all told (bass, amp, etc.) but I'm willing to go as high as $700 for the bass itself, if it's really worth it.

I'm trying to treat this like I'm a total beginner: what's a good beginning bass guitar, but won't become painfully underpowered as I get better? Basically, I want something that has a good range for ability.

Any and all help would be appreciated! Thanks in advance, everyone.
Tags: bass recommendations
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Turn It Up, Keep It Coming
04/20/08 at 04:47 PM by tjm42
I have a man crush on Kenny Vasoli.

But I need to qualify that. Itís not a ďI want to get myself some sweet sweet Kenny Vasoli lovinĒ nor is it a ďI want to give Kenny Vasoli some sweet sweet Timmy lovin.Ē I donít see that happening, well, ever. Not that heís not an good looking hunk of man, but Iím just saying.

Itís more of a ďIf I ever had the chance, Iíd take Kenny Vasoli out for a whiskey and spend the time talking to him about life, what his views are on any and all subjects and then, possibly, throw in a bit about how much TSL has rocked my world and the effect that their music had on meĒ type of crush. So perhaps thatís more of a drinking buddy crush on Kenny Vasoli.

That crush was confirmed last night when, for the first time, and possibly the last time, I saw The Starting Line live at one of my very favorite venues, the Palladium in Worcester. It was an all around incredible show; Bayside and Four Year Strong (teh hometown heroes Ö yay!) almost stole the show, but for me, TSL just blew everybody away.

The show was fairly good in terms of mixing albums fairly, though it was pretty SILYMI-heavy. Iím not complaining, though. I knew, however, that it was going to be incredible after the first, roughly, five minutes. To open with ĎGiven The Chanceí and then to extend the final chord into that straight into the opening of ĎGregís Last Dayí was flawless. I mean, come on, Gregís Last Day?! Motherfucking Gregís Last Day?! Iím not ashamed to admit that I squeed a little bit. That EP is pure gold, start to finish. And the live version was everything I could have hoped for.

Itís also a testament to TSL as to the energy of the crowd. Kenny was surprisingly humble (you know, for a lead singer); he thanked the crowd a few times for staying to listen to them, after it was so clear that FYS and Bayside stole the show. And it didnít seem like the bullshit that some people say every night Ö you felt like he actually meant it. That he was genuinely honored that people wanted to hear them play. He then proceeded to continually remark on the energy of the crowd, which was pretty high, and also thank them again. Iíve been to way too many great shows that were really marred by a lack of enthusiasm by the crowd (people at The Pink Spiders show last month at Harpers, Iím looking right the fuck at you). The crowd was great, though, this huge level of energy that was there for FYS stayed right at the top for TSL and really made it an amazing show.

But the music was incredible. They played for almost two hours, never losing the energy that they came out with. And they played everything I wanted to hear: Surprise, Surprise; Leaving (oh man, Leaving was incredible with crowd participation); Island; Birds; Bedroom Talk (despite itís fucked up chorus lyric, it must be pretty awesome to have a crowd of a thousand or so singing ĎIím gonna tear your ass up like we just got marriedí back to you); Up and Go. They surprised with a couple of gems from BOATS. I never thought Iíd hear ĎArtistic Licenseí or even ĎReadyí live. Oh, man, Ready was fucking incredible. Kenny started to play that one solo and it really did produce the ĎWait. Is he playing what I think heís playing? HOLYEVERLOVINGSHIT! He is!í moment in my head. For almost two hours, I was a little fangirl. They closed with the obligatory ĎBest of Meí and left the stage to the crowd finishing the song for them. For any other band, I would decry that as a cop-out, but here, it was a testament to how much people love TSL and how much of an impression theyíve made on folks (N.B., I avoided the ĎLasting Impressioní pun, even though it was so easy). The chanting crowd shouted on as they took their bow and left the stage.

Iím not pissed that theyíre going away; Iím just sad. I wish theyíd stay around for a while longer, but I canít fault them one bit. They put on an amazing show, theyíve given us five amazing discs and left us with so much amazing music and so many memories. And if theyíve got to go, that show at the Palladium was one hell of a way to go.

Kenny, Matt, Mike, and Tom Ö I raise my glass to you and thank you profusely for the last 8 years. Youíve been one of the few bands to make me happy consistently and marvel at how good music can be. I look forward to seeing what happens next, because I know it will be good.

And Kenny, I owe you some serious whiskey.
Tags: the starting line, kenny vasoli, the palladium, awesome
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W T Bloody F ?!
04/18/08 at 12:14 PM by tjm42
This is the real detriment of having a laptop. Snap judgments while in the middle of working.

But why the fuck can't things be simple? Or make sense? Why do there have to be so many levels to each entity such that, when you think you've got a handle on something, forty new things appear to show you that you had NO idea what the fuck was going on.

What the hell am I talking about? Science. I'm working right now.

The good news is, I got great data from one of my experiments, but I kind of already knew the answer, so it's a little less satisfying. But the weird / bad news: I think I see a totally different gene where I never thought it would be. And it looks really nice and really specific and there when it shouldn't be. If this second gene really is present, then life becomes forty times more complex. It shouldn't be there ... it makes no sense (much like this blog to 95% of the folks out there; sorry about that). It looks nothing like the proteins that normally end up in my target tissue.

But there is one thing about it that makes sense with my pet theory, which could be interesting, but it would put so much more burden on what I've got to say and offer so many more caveats.

Why the fuck do I have to be so goddamn thorough? If I didn't go looking for every gene in the fucking pathway, I'd have been blissfully ignorant. And nobody would have faulted me for it. But now I know this, I can't ignore it. Just when I was thinking it might all make sense, nature throws me a bloody curveball. Thanks, Nature ... you sux.

And if you've read this, thanks for "listening" to me rant. I know this is pretty nonsensical, but it's what I do and when it works, it's pretty fucking great. But when it doesn't, it hurts like hell. It's exactly why there would be an incredible niche market for 'science emo,' It would be incredible.
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Now I Recall ...
04/16/08 at 10:21 PM by tjm42
Today was a shitty day. Not only did I have a large number of slightly important things to do, but I was pulled in all directions whilst trying to do them.

Everybody in the lab wanted something from me, or to do something for them when I barely had time to do anything for myself. And they all wanted it done yesterday. Even though my doing it was a favor for each of them. On top of all of that, one of the postdocs really went too far with a joke and did some nasty demeaning of me in front of the entire lab. She'll make it my fault somehow and I'll have to deal with it later, I'm sure.

But something recovered it at the end of the day. I'm so glad I hung out and worked with Richard for almost four hours tonight. He's our sabbatical professor this semester; I've never even been in a lab with a sabbatical professor before. He's been working on Wlds for a while but wanted to learn our end of neurobiology.

It was so cool; we got to talk like real people, about life and science ... I'm realizing that I'm not comfortable enough with my lab to do that too often with them. It's been no secret that I'm coping with some pretty hardcore depression, and having simple discussions really helps that because it makes me think that I'm actually a worthwhile person.

What was most useful, though, was what we did in our four hours of working on the microscope. He did some basic preps and I took 3-D pictures of them for a reconstruction he wants to work on. In a lot of the things folks do (not just us, but everybody, I think), things get so busy, and there's so much to do, and we get side-tracked with other things, that we forget why we started doing whatever it is we do in the first place. I think maybe that's the way I was becoming with science. There's so much to do and there's so much pressure on getting published, that I was starting to forget why I started doing it in the first place: to learn, to discover and to help.

We saw beautiful things tonight; we reconstructed a single nerve and watched where it made a 90-degree turn to connect to the right target and stop moving through the body. We tracked a single nerve from the brain all the way down to a single muscle. And it was fucking gorgeous. It's so simple, and it's so elegant, and it's so perfect. And seeing things like that, seeing nature at work, and realizing how far we've come and how much we've yet to even think about discovering ... it made me remember why I'm doing what I'm doing. How does a nerve know how to turn 90 degrees? How does it travel so far and do everything right? What controls these things?

I think this wide-eyed, amazed intellectual and curious self went away for a while when I was trying to figure out how to get my work on track, how to cope with life, and how to be a scientist. Now it's seems like that side of me might be coming back ... he definitely stopped in for the night to hang out and do some confocal reconstruction.

I really hope Scientist Tim sticks around; he's pretty bad ass ... and he's a lot less scared than I am.
Tags: Wonder, Hope, Raw Prawn, 3-D Confocal Reconstruction
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Randomosity
04/13/08 at 03:43 PM by tjm42
I don't really have any coherent thoughts to offer the world right now; I just started a massive scan, so I needed something to do in the interim.

Few people will find this interesting or amusing, like I do, but I find the following series of things funny:

1) On the microscope, I've been most often listening to Armor for Sleep.
2) The fan club for Armor for Sleep is the Ghosthunters
3) I am on the microscope counting these neurological phenomena called ghosts.

So, in effect, I am ghost hunting. It all comes full circle. And I like it.

I also felt like I should say something on passing 500 views on this blog. This is my little place to spew my opinions and thoughts and complaints onto the world. I know I said I'd talk only about music, but it became what I said it wouldn't: a place to complain about normal life. It's actually become both and, has actually been very helpful in working through my head and my life.

So to the 500 viewers, I offer my thanks and my humble respect. I'm flattered that people actually are interested in what I have to say. Any day now, I'm actually going to say something worthwhile, so keep watching. But really, thanks for "listening" ... if you're ever near me, I'll buy you a beer if you're old enough. If not, a tasty cream soda.

And now, I'm gonna make the obligatory request for comments. If you're reading, and you have anything to say, or even just to say Hello, I'd love to hear from you!

All right. Scan's almost done; there's always something happening when you don't have the time to run it down. I'll be back later.
Tags: Thanks, Ghosts, Random Stuff
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Rhino Blindness?
04/04/08 at 11:42 AM by tjm42
I'm not certain how, I'm not certain when, but I'm fairly certain that I've become invisible.

People don't talk to me; they look right at me, and walk by. They don't say 'Hello,' they don't ask me how I am, they don't make a stupid pleasantry, they don't do a single thing. It's as if I'm not even there. Somehow, this is not as cool as the Fantastic Four have lead me to believe. I mean, couldn't I have gotten the fire thing instead? That would have been far more useful.

If I could harness this power and use it at will, it would be pretty awesome. But it seems to work inconsistently. For example, when somebody wants something from me, or wants me to do something for them, I lose my powers of invisibility. When I say something that's wrong, my powers of invisibility leave me. However, when I make a good suggestion, or say something right, my powers of invisibility are intact and are compounded by the inability of my voice to travel beyond my ears.

As one might imagine, this is becoming an increasingly difficult issue to deal with. It's damn near impossible to get help from advisors and discuss things with colleagues, or even get a date (not with colleagues, mind you) when you're invisible. I mean, it's not like I'm a small man, or that I wear clothing that allows me to blend in with the concrete walls that are my work place. In fact, I wear dark colors, most often, which are in strong direct contrast to the bright whites and yellows of the hospital I work in.

The normal physics approaches don't appear to work here. Perhaps I need something more drastic. And I'll be glad of any suggestions that anyone who's bored enough to read this has.
Tags: invisible, people suck, i work with assholes
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Acoustics, the Cello and the Supershow
03/29/08 at 03:34 PM by tjm42
Iíve not been in the right writing frame of mind lately. Iíve been so wrapped up in work and pitying myself (a more than full-time job) that Iíve just not been able to find myself on the creative end of things. Iíve had some ideas for a while and, though theyíre now a hair out-dated, Iím gonna try to bust through them. This one comes from three shows in particular Iíve seen lately.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------


My friend and I have seen a lot of shows since moving to Boston. Because of that, I feel slightly entitled to express my opinion on what shows are lacking, or, moreover, the entire touring situation completely. There are three elements Iíve recently come to the conclusion need to be incorporated more into live music. These are acoustic shows, the cello, and an entity Iím gonna call the supershow.

First off, the acoustic show. I just saw the Yellowcard acoustic tour. Now, I know, logically, that since LPís grandmother is ill (our prayers are with her during her illness), a full Yellowcard tour is not so easy. Nobody wants to be a touring anything when their close family is ill. Additionally, though, Yellowcard has always been the band with the mix of acoustic songs and hard rocking electric jaunts. Therefore, there has always been a buzz just below the surface (sometimes boiling up over) for them to do an acoustic tour. Kind of like a volcano, you know? But for Yellowcard, this is actually pretty prescient. I mean, if youíve seen them on a normal tour, then you know that certain songs are not usually played. Things like ĎView from Heavení or ĎCigaretteí since they are predominantly acoustic songs. So these songs need a showcase in which they can be appreciated for what they are: great 3 minute entities.

The Yellowcard show was amazing. For starters, it was really cool to hear some of the new stuff and some of the more electric older songs reimagined as acoustic numbers. It was actually really interesting to hear the chord changes and translations on ĎRock Star Land,í for example. Not to mention that I never thought Iíd hear ĎAvondale,í ĎOctober Nights,í and ĎRough Draftí all in the same concert. Yellowcard took a beautiful opportunity to bring out older songs that are crowd favorites and not only play them beautifully, but to showcase them in the atmosphere that they were intended, acoustic songs. Moreover, the songs were not hastily thrown together Ė they were organized, expertly arranged, and precisely performed. The acoustic version of a song is oftentimes done shoddily, to accommodate a radio station going for the intimate feel. Yellowcard brought mastery to the acoustic show, and it was widely appreciated.

The second element was also featured in the Yellowcard show I just mentioned, but also in a far more unexpected place. My first reacquaintance with the cello this winter was when I saw the Foo Fighters. For many of the songs on the new record (which, by the way, is pretty boss, so you should pick it up if you donít have it), a cellist was an integral part of the recording. The sound of the cello when combined with rock music is amazing. It provides such a rich tone to the rhythm of a song, occasionally invading guitar territory to provide countermeasure to chords. Itís beautiful. It also contributes a fair amount of live versions of a song. For Yellowcard, it was a tight replacement to an acoustic bass (because my biggest acoustic pet peeve is the band that says theyíre gonna play something acoustic and then the bass player plugs in a normal bass Ö suck it up and learn how to adjust your sound for an acoustic bass, dammit!) and also added a range of string to a song that, for all his considerable effort, Sean Mackin canít do alone with a violin. Not because heís not awesome, but solely because, itís a violin. With the Foo Fighters, it just made the songs sound so much richer, so much more sonic and so much larger than life, which I suspect is how they were intended. The cello adds an element that nothing else can. I know it might be viewed as lame and clunky, but as an addition to sound, itís incredible. Kudos to these two bands for figuring it the fuck out and putting it into their shows.

The final element is something Iím gonna call the supershow. IĎll explain it partly bytelling a story about my travels. Seeing a supershow was one of the coolest things Iíve ever done. See, I never did so much crazy shit when I was a kid or when I was in college. Apparently, I saved it for now. I got on a plane on a Tuesday morning at 6 AM and flew down to New Orleans for the day. I didnít sleep; I walked around the city all night, and then got on another plane back to Boston at 6 AM on Wednesday morning. I went with said friend from the top of this entry. At this point, I should mention the date, so you can figure out who we went to see in concert. It was March 11th. 3-11-08. 3-11 Day, 2008. Weíd heard tell of 311 and their 3-11 Day show occurring every other year, usually in New Orleans (save for 2006, when it was held in Memphis because of Hurricane Katrina). Weíd heard of this day created by the fans to celebrate the band that they love. Weíd heard of the extended set, the rarities, the incredible people, the ability to get stoned just by standing near the arena, and the general awesomeness. When word of the show came around, we decided it was just the crazy thing that we should, nay, needed, to do.

I know itís not fair to put this up against the shows Iíve otherwise seen, since the baseline is extremely skewed. But this easily became my favorite concert of all time. The show started at 7 PM. It ended around 1 AM. They played three sets of 21 songs each Ö 63 songs. 63 FUCKING SONGS! They played everything you knew, three songs that had never been played live, ever, and a number of songs that hadnít seen the live light of day in more than 5 years. It was amazing. The energy was incredible, the appreciation for all of us traveling so far to see them was limitless, and the performance was spot on. It was, perhaps, the only chance Iíll ever have to hear the majority of an entire discography played live and it was wonderful.

But seeing 311 put together 63 songs from their entire career and perform them with the energy of 5000 mules put together got me thinking. Why donít more people do the supershow? I mean, OK, logistically, itís damn tough. And for a ton of bands, there just isnít the material. I mean, if All Time Low played a super-show, it could start at 8 and weíd be home by 10:30 (N.B. not a dig Ö just an example of a band that has only a debut album and an EP). Very few bands could pull this kind of thing off because of the fan base necessary and because of the sheer amount of a discography. For it to be worth travel and worth the hassle of putting such a gigantic thing on, youíd better have a lot of songs to play. Who could do this Ö and whoíd be worth seeing? A few come to mind: Green Day could do it and put on a good show. Iíd like to think Saves the Day could do a low budge version of it. They definitely have the catalogue, but I just donít know what the fan base of STD would travel for. Ditto for maybe Alkaline Trio. U2 also Ö but theyíd probably charge thousands of dollars (the 3-11 show, by contrast, was only $40 for a ticket). Others are tough to bring to mind for me. But to do this, youíve either got to be old (ish) or prolific. Two things that arenít quite common in this scene.

So, in conclusion Ö three things that concerts need to avail themselves of. Bands, whoever you are, throw in a cello when itís appropriate, play some well-thought out acoustic shows, and, if you can, put together a supershow every couple of years. Guaranteed Iíll love you more and more, and youíll get an immense amount of satisfaction from pleasing your fans.

But really, Iím just looking to fly to some random city for a day and rock out for hours. Who wouldnít want to do that shit?
Tags: 311, Yellowcard, Foo Fighters, New Orleans, Awesome
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