Archive for August, 2008


Posted by tungtide on August 29, 2008, 12:36 pm

Had I thought through the titles of my posts I would have made the previous one “24 hours to go” and followed up with this one being called “I wanna be sedated.” Still, I was at least able to have Success and Fail as titles within a short period of time.

I did indeed pass my oral exam yesterday. For those who may not know, I’m working on a Ph.D in Pharmacology and Toxicology.  I stood in front of five faculty members (4 Ph.D’s and one M.D), presented my proposed research, and answered questions on just about any related subject. After an hour and 45 minutes of testing the committee decided that I passed. The average amount of time to pass this exam is usually around 2.5 hours, so I was able to succeed rather quickly.

The exam itself begins with a 10-15 minute presentation where I introduce my preposed research, background information, and the significance of my work. Aside from having the hypothesis and specific aims of my research pre-written on the board, I have no other information available to me. Everything must be from memory. Once the presentation is complete the committee is allowed to ask just about any relevant question about my research and the associated science.

I had questions about dose-response curves, histological signs of toxicity following exposure to chemicals, compensatory changes in gene knockout animals, methods associated with proteomics (although I amazingly avoided mass spectrometry related questions, an area I know well), and experimental design with appropriate numbers of samples and appropriate controls.

It was a tiring and difficult experience. I slept a good 13-15 hours yesterday (not quite sure when I fell asleep at one point) because I seem to have been running on caffeine and willpower.

All I have remaining is another three years to complete my research.


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24 Hours

Posted by tungtide on August 27, 2008, 9:03 am

In only a meager twenty-four hours I will be beginning an exam that will determine my future in graduate school. The oral qualifying exam is the last hurdle before I achieve Candidacy for my doctorate. All I need to be able to do is convince five well-informed, expert faculty members that I know enough about my chosen field and area or research to continue to stay at the institution. Easy, right? I’ve spent months preparing and more than a month in intensive study and rehersal/practice.

After this is all said and done I will be doing two things (aside from the celebratory use of alcohol): taking a much needed vacation and updating this blog on a more frequent basis. As I said at the beginning of the month, August was going to be light on updates.

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Posted by tungtide on August 18, 2008, 11:21 pm

Rarely have I seen such a clear and well-worded response to those who claim atheists function solely to attack god. BGH of The Information Paradox says it best.

I cannot rail against that which I disbelieve. I can only rail against the actions of those who use their belief as motivation to infringe on my rights.

Still, despite the irrationality (and my poor transition), more than 50% of adults in a recent survey said that they believe god could miraculously save a terminal patient when all medical information claimed the opposite. I understand the desire to see a loved one recover, the belief that they will somehow get better. I even understand that doctors and nurses need to be patient and understanding with the variety of beliefs in this country. I wonder, though, what the cost might be. A brain-dead patient in a hospital consumes resources (food, IV, equipment, staff time, etc.) that could easily be redirected to help another (as much as I hate to say it this way) more viable patient. On top of that, a prolonged hospital stay does nothing but rack up bills that are either covered by the family or by the insurance. The family can easily be bankrupted by the excessive costs, while the insurance companies will pass the costs along to the living.

Finally, the California Supreme Court ruled that doctors cannot refuse to treat gay and lesbian individuals based on religious objections. The case involved fertility doctors that began treating a lesbian woman but refused to perform the actual artificial insemination. The lawyer for the clinic had this to say:

“The Supreme Court’s desire to promote the homosexual lifestyle at the risk of infringing upon the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion is what the public needs to learn about,” said Tyler, who leads the nonprofit Advocates for Faith and Freedom in Murrieta, Calif.

My initial concerns about the ruling were cleared up after reading the statement. No one would be batting an eyelash if the doctors refused to treat a hispanic patient because of her race, or a Jewish patient because of her religion. Freedom of religion allows you to believe what you would like, but not to use that as a justification to treat other people differently. The doctors in this case are offering a service. They must either offer the service to all individuals or none. It is unethical to charge different rates for different groups, and it is just as unethical to refuse to treat a group.

The closest parallel that I could think of is the ongoing kerfuffle about pharmacists and birth control. Pharmacists who believe birth control is tantamount to abortion will refuse to fill prescriptions for the pill. The result is a prescription held hostage by religious belief. Certain loopholes in the law (as far as I remember it) allow the pharmacist to transfer the prescription to another pharmacist or pharmacy that will fill the order. In some cases the pharmacists were refusing to transfer the order and holding it in limbo. While I’m unsure about the legality, I would think that a pharmacy that opposed birth control would simply not carry it, and would not accept the prescriptions in the first place. This would simplify the process and allow all parties to get what they needed. Then again, in some rural areas there is only one pharmacy (others may be 50-100 miles away and have the same objection) and this would effectively deny the patient of a legally prescribed medicine. Guess simplicity isn’t the answer.

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No Explusion

Posted by tungtide on August 15, 2008, 1:15 pm

I’ll keep this short. Webster Cook, the student who unintentionally started the whole sequence of cracker-related shenanigans, has been cleared of all “charges.”

I’ll link to the Friendly Atheist version and leave it at that. Back to studying.

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Posted by tungtide on August 12, 2008, 12:18 pm

For the remainder of the month I’m going to be light on posts. I have a major qualifying exam to deal with at the end of the month that is already sapping the vast majority of my time.

A small diversion: My new favorite game while wandering around campus is to deliberately get in the way of bicyclists who are riding in inappropriate areas (sidewalks, no-bike zones). At times they’ll yell at me to move, and I can often point to the clearly displayed signs that surround the area. For the sidewalks I simply have to point to the bike roads that cross the campus (usually empty while they are riding on the sidewalk).

The game can be turned around when I’m riding my bike instead. Pedetrians will completely block the bike paths (in shared pedestrian/bicycle areas). After a few rounds of “excuse me” being ignored I’ll follow up with the “MOVE!” command. Somehow this annoys them. One pedestrian even told me to “go around,” indicating that I should move the opposite direction around the traffic circle and likely cause a major addicdent.

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Posted by tungtide on August 8, 2008, 9:48 pm

I have a variety of subjects that I am combining into a single post, mainly because I have it all in my head at one time.

First – A couple signs of times, or at least the economy. A local casino is offering to help casino-goers avoid making difficult decisions. Rather than having to decide whether to fill you gas tank or gamble away your paycheck, you can do both. (Seeing as how this is a promotion, the link will probably be incorrect after August 24, 2008. The screenshot below shows the state of the webpage on August 8.

Casinos are attempting to draw in crowds by offsetting the cost of driving to the casino. Other casinos are running monthly prize and cash giveaways. Even with the dip in gas prices back below the $4/gallon mark, it would appear that some forms of entertainment are beginning to suffer.

The other sign that people are seriously considering the cost of simply getting around can be found in shopping carts. There are a number of apartment complexes within walking distance of the nearby supermarket. In the last three weeks, though, I’ve seen a greater number of shopping carts appearing at distances farther from the store. My apartment is maybe a mile from the store and over the course of the two years I’ve lived here I saw only a single cart lying around the complex. In the past three weeks I’ve seen at least ten carts. Even some of the houses I pass on my bike route into campus have carts appearing in their yards. Things will unfortunately get worse long before they get better too.

Second – I’m a day late in coming across the post at Possummomma’s page, but was angered to find that there’s a counter-blog specifically designed to thwart her efforts. I don’t know P-momma personally and have only had limited communication with her, but have found her to be nothing but friendly and thoughtful. Her accounts of her life and family make it clear that she is a dedicated, successful, loving mother. The actions of the No Possum Zone are reprehensible and done under the guise of “love.” Oh yes, they don’t get a link because I don’t like them. If anyone’s really interested the NPZ is linked through the P-momma page at the beginning of this paragraph.

Finally – since anyone who’s read this far deserves a small treat. The Senate finally has a new album (also available on iTunes). I saw them live while in Seattle two years ago (on the birthday of one of the members. I even got to talk with his mom for a while which made the experience that much better) and highly recommend them. (Try to ignore my poor sentence structure and semi-channeling of (((Billy))), it will pass, really). To those of you in Seattle, find them and watch a show.

Update (a few minutes after the original post): The newer Senate album was released back in March, but I just found it yesterday. Based on when I was in Seattle it was Andrew’s birthday and I saw them in Cafe Allegro (under the College Inn off University Way near the University of Washington campus).

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Free Speech Zones II

Posted by tungtide on August 6, 2008, 9:57 pm

My original post covered the restriction of free speech in regard to where protesters are allowed to, well, protest. The upcoming Democratic National convention in Denver (Aug 25-28) was one of the examples. As much as I may disagree with the message that DNC protests might bring, I fully support the rights of dissenters to protest and disagree.

It is with a heavy heart that I must update the situation. A federal judge has ruled that the defined “free speech zones” are, in fact, legal.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger agreed that the protesters would suffer some infringement on their freedom of expression but said those interests had to be balanced with security concerns.

I officially call bullshit.

This is the same tired argument that the White House has been using for almost eight years as an excuse to chip away at our civil liberties. It’s always in the “best interest of security” and delivered with a father-knows-best attitude (or in this case, mother-knows-best).

Should we sacrifice security? Of course not. Is it possible to balance the need for security with the rights of citizens to express themselves peacefully? If not, we are doing something seriously wrong. I can’t think or write straight right now, so I’m just going to end this here.

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Lazy Update II

Posted by tungtide on August 6, 2008, 2:03 am

This is more of a link dump than anything else. (It is almost 2am right now and I still can’t sleep).

Over at Friendly Atheist, Hemant linked an article from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It details the difficulties that the FFRF’s new legal intern faced growing up as a Jehova’s Witness. She lived in fear and oppression before finally gaining the courage to step away.

On the eve of my sixteenth birthday, I called the police. After obtaining a six-month restraining order against my father, I sat in the car, in front of the courthouse, with my maternal grandmother, while my mother attempted to console my father.

Her tale is one that details the negative impact that religion has on families and the growth of children.

Six months later, after six months of peace and quiet and tranquility, I got down on my hands and knees in front of my mother and pleaded and begged her not to let my father back into the house. She said no. She chose him, because she thought that’s what Jehovah wanted her to do.

Her mother chose to live in an abusive, unhealthy relationship that was harmful to her children, all in the name of religion. I was truly at a loss for words by the end.

Second, I have a link from The Information Paradox where author Pariahjane has a simple request

Her post is in response to an attempt to update the “Conscience Clause” for pharmacists who are unwilling to dispense birth control due to religious objections. In recent years (I’m too lazy to find links right now) there have been cases of pharmacists refusing to fill birth control prescriptions and holding those prescriptions without transferring them to another pharmacist or pharmacy to be filled. Currently it is illegal for a pharmacist to refuse to transfer the prescription. They must allow another willing pahrmacist fill the order.

In areas with limited pharmacies and/or limited public transportation, an updated conscience clause would allow these pharmacists to completely (and legally) restrict access to birth control.

Pharmacists, just like everyone else, are entitled to their beliefs. They are not, however, allowed to use their position as a means to promote their own world view.

Finally, I’ve added links to three more blogs on the right. PhillyChief’s You Made Me Say it, The Exterminator’s No More Hornets, and (((Billy))) The Atheist. With the exception of Billy, I’ve been reading the other two blogs for a while now. I got into a discussion with those three in the No More Hornets comment section, so I’ve decided to shamelessly plug them.

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Comment Policy Update

Posted by tungtide on August 4, 2008, 4:35 pm

I had meant this to just be a new post, but instead it ended up as a new page.

I’ve amended the comment policy in two ways:

First was to change the policy of deletion of comments with identifying information. Those comments will be edited to remove personal information.

Second, I’ve specifically listed linking to pornography as a deletable offense. I have nothing against porn, it just has no place on this blog.

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Not A Doctor

Posted by tungtide on August 1, 2008, 9:43 pm

Wanted to pass this along and recommend reading Cecitc.

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