Various Lies

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In which I feel a nagging sense of unease and shame

"Hey what's tramadol?" He asked, trying to show me his uncreased prescription and medication notes.
"I don't know," I stammered, and tried to walk around him.
"Please, what's tramadol?"
"I really don't know, I'm sorry." I said. "Good luck though."

Even as I walked away, I knew the name 'tramadol' was familiar - it was either an anti-emetic, or a pain reliever. And like most people in the US I had a computer in my pocket, with unfettered, high speed internet access. It would have taken just seconds to look the name up and tell him. But I didn't.

I walked away, making excuses to myself and then I found myself making excuses for these excuses.


My campus sits in the downtown area of a large, relatively poor Southern city. I was walking back to my office from the Children's Hospital on the other side of campus. Separating these two areas is a large hospital with a Level I trauma center and ER. It isn't the most salubrious place around, and panhandlers and vulnerable people end to congregate around the area, like so many helpless zombies in a cheap horror flick. I get panhandled all the time for smokes and change; it's a fact of life here and you learn to deal with it (the tourists don't, but then they don't usually visit this neighborhood unless they've been shot or run over).


His medication notes were uncreased, and the prescription stapled to them hadn't been bent back, as it might have been if someone had taken the time to read the notes. But medication notes aren't written for people who likely have at most a fourth grade reading comprehension level. His doctor hadn't taken the time to explain what the medication was, or what it did, and he saw me, in a suit, walking by the hospital with appropriate looking name tags and ID card, and made the assumption (both correctly and incorrectly) that I was a doctor.


It may have been a ruse to panhandle me for smokes or change. Or he might have been one of the more vulnerable innocents who gather in the shadows of the buildings and it could have got frightening or worse very quickly. It's safer to walk away. I keep telling myself that. But I keep asking myself the same question, and it makes me feel sick because I can't immediately answer it:

Would you have still kept on walking if he'd have been white?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Setting the Stage

This is a preamble.

I moved to the US from Europe 15 years ago. In fact, this month marks the 15th anniversary, although I forget the actual date. And I only stayed for 6 weeks before going back to wait on my visa, so I guess the real-real move date was November 26th 1998. But it was in August 1998 that I moved with my fiance and got her settled in her new job, and helped put our new apartment together, and discovered the wonders of shopping malls that have everything, and supermarkets with vast and varied selection, and public transport that, even at it's best, was pitiful and allowed for a welcome sense of superiority. It was utterly overwhelming, and wonderful, and breathtaking, and vast and the sky seemed to go on forever and there was a sense of untapped promise and youth, even in the woods and hills of central Pennsylvania.

After the novelty wore off there was sudden, massive culture shock, and with that came rebellion. Everything was wrong for a while, and everyone was annoying and the warmth and openness was suddenly cloying and mawkish. The summers too hot, the winters too cold (who gets frostbite waiting for the bus?!). I grew out of that with the help of a Canadian friend who steered me back on track with a firm hand and the admonishment, "You chose to move here. You can't go on hating on everything. Learn to love the differences or just go home."

He was right, I grew up and life has moved on and me with it. I came here a staunch liberal democrat, a confirmed pacifist and a lifelong Royalist. I was English middle-class to the bone and fiercely proud of my rights and understanding of my place in the world. After all, anyone with any sense knew that God was an Englishman. How times have changed. I'm now a right-leaning libertarian, a staunch republican (not Republican, fuck those guys), and atheist.

I moved here knowing frighteningly little about the US. If I'd've moved to Spain, or Brazil, or anywhere needing me to learn another language I would have taken the time to also learn about the culture and social mores of my new country. But for the US (and I assume the same would be true for Canada or Australia (or even New Zealand)), I didn't have to learn a language, and so made no effort to learn the culture. In the last 15 years I've learned a lot. My republicanism stems from my understanding of the struggles the Founding Fathers went through, the horrors of the Rebellion (the second British civil war it should be known as). I've learned about, and grown to love the Constitution and The Bill of Rights. I love them as both a moral ideal and a physical document espousing truths that were far ahead of their time.

I've got my Green Card, and my carry-permit, and in two years I'll likely have Citizenship. Is America perfect? Hell no. The current (and former) Administration are a shower of lying, murderous wankers, sitting on top of the most inept attempt at buy-your-own-politics the West has seen in a long time. And I don't think it's going to change fast, or soon. But, I do believe that change comes from the people and as soon as I can exercise my right to vote I intend to start helping make change locally and see what I can work to accomplish. Because that's what it means to be an American.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

So here I am once more

In the playground of the broken hearts,
One more experience, one more entry in a diary, self-penned.
Yet another emotional suicide 
Overdosed on sentiment and pride.
Too late to say I love you,
Too late to re-stage the play,
Abandoning the relics in my playground of yesterday,

Fish wrote that for another thought a lifetime away from here. It feels appropriate in a maudlin fashion.

Today my child was born. Emotional day, long time coming. 9 months is a lifetime and more and second time around it's more, in every way. 2 lives now depend on me; 3 with my wife's dependence upon me. More and more with reciprocal and recursive need, dependence. Now add family. Now add The Bloodline.

All my life was the bloodline. Something about us, we, me and it never ended even when Ancestry-dot-com showed we were mutts in our mother's line (but what interesting mutts! There was money, and a European aristocrat in almost-living-memory. If almost living is a military minded family who thinks in terms of how the Hanoverian changed our relationship with Europe for the better (We Won the War(s) after all)).

I act the role in classic style 
Of a martyr carved with twisted smile
To bleed the lyric for this song 
To write the rites to right my wrongs 
An epitaph to a broken dream
To exercise this silent scream
A scream that's born from sorrow

And here I am so worn from the hoped for grandeur that I always wanted because it's all ever I wanted because it's all I ever knew. Too much fantasy, too much fiction, and suddenly a father of two. A son and a daughter. A name to continue (and secretly, far more importantly, a real bloodline to continue  Her mitochondrial genome far outweighs our meagre contribution. The Jews are half right. She is the bloodline, but he the heir. Let the Patriarchy run strong.))

The fool escaped from paradise 
Will look over his shoulder and cry
Sit and chew on daffodils and struggle to answer "Why?" 
As you grow up and leave the playground 
Where you kissed your prince and found your frog
Remember the jester that showed you tears, the script for tears

I'm home alone. The Heir is with his grandmother. The mother alone. All is as it should be and largely beyond my immediate control.

There was a dead fly in a glass when I got home tonight. I emptied the glass and it flew away. It wasn't dead, it was just drunk. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

i think, goodbye

I'm shutting down the blog with this farewell post. I'll lock everything one day, but for now, a thank you to the Reader that stuck around for the random posts.

I feel guilty, for some reason, for not blogging anymore. I've been Tideliar online since 2004; this is the second blogspace I've had here. I've written as an unemployed junior scientist, hateful and frightened of the future and the system I bought into. I've written as a wannabe junior PI and the collapse of that dream, and I've written about the start of a new career (and even the birth of my son). But really, I don't write anymore, and the bizarre nagging guilt has got too much. Hard to explain.

I have a lot I want to write about, and a lot I feel I should write about. Not just the stories I want to tell and the ideas I have, but the career shit and the feeling that I have a lot I could offer as a (gasp!) daddy blogger to mid-level, confused as fuck, career scientists like myself. But most of all the stories.

For whatever reason, and admittedly sleep deprivation might be part of this, I have no energy and no impetus (aside from guilt) to write. And then I feel guilty, as a former writer, for not writing.

Thank you to the many who once read, who won't see this, and thanks to the Amazing Few who do now. Tideliar the Blogger is gone. I'm still on Twitter, and some more relevant, non-storylike posts might start back up at Scientopia. But for now, for this blog and this incarnation,

Goodbye :)


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Smoke em if you got em

smokers lounge, terminal C, Atlanta airport.

Phenotypes observed:
The Rusher: runs in, sparks up, chokes off a quick gasper and flees.

The Lounger: enjoying a relaxing smoke break, no rush.

The Cool Guy/Gal: probably still smoking cos the cool kids do it, look of mild panic on the face due to thick fog really showing what's going on.

The Social: exhales very loudly to clear the lungs, and also because very short of breathe due to trying not to breathe in the fog.

The Nervy: chain smoking, twitching, sweating in refrigerated air...either a non-flyer or has something on them they shouldn't.

The Cougher: alarms those around hir because this cough shows our guilt. That's not a cold or allergies...its where we're all headed.

The Blogger:  the asshole documenting our addiction.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Suits you sir

I'll preface this with admitting that I should probably either drink less coffee, or just stop drinking coffee altogether. My temper, never good at the best of times, is now wound tighter than badly tuned snare skin - ready to crack and split at the first badly aimed hit.

All I wanted to do was buy a suit.

I am speaking at a career conference at the National Institutes of Health on Friday. Dress code is, of course, the dreaded "business casual". What does that mean? A suit without a tie if you're me. There are far more sartorial ways of carrying it off...just Google the phrase and you'll see amazing combinations of trousers and shirts and blazers/jackets (supposedly optional, but I think not (the jacket, not the shirt or trouser)). It can be hellish expensive, but it need not always if one knows one's frame and good clothier/tailor.

Alas, for off the shelf combinations I am out of luck most often. I am blessed with a svelte frame and I can't "do" most combinations. Pleats are right out, as is anything double breasted. I am 6'3" and thinner than the proverbial bean pole.  Even though I've put on more than a stone (14lbs to you non-Brits) in the last year, and now weigh a respectable, healthy 180lbs (13st to you Brits) I am not by any measure broad shouldered. Suits tend to hang off me, draped like damp washroom char in a laundry.

I am also, as if this 'curse' weren't enough, blessed with a youthful face. So anything fancy makes me look like I am a graduate on a job placement interview.

Simple black suits and pinstripes work fine though, so to make business casual work all I needed was a black suit. I can take off the fucking tie and its casual right? Right?

Three. Fucking. Hours.

Three. Three hours driving hither, yither and yon. Betwixt and between stores I drove, looking at, sampling in, and trying on and yet nothing. The final store I couldn't even fucking find. (Fuck you google maps and your grey "mall like area" graphics. Some of us have trouble with directions. Details help.)

Every store the same - aloof staff, raised eyebrows, needless drama this 37yr old professional need do without. SRSLY - 'can' the fucking attitude...yes I've bought suits before, yes I know my price range, no I don't want fucking wool (in memphis?!), and yes...I mean a plain, fucking plain, black suit. No, I don't need a belt, socks, shoes, cufflinks, tie, tie clip, handerchief or godamned motherfucking cummerbund!

Cumerbund? Really? The poor bastard didn't even know the name and did the "Aaron Rogers Touchdown" move (Brits imagine someone showing off their new Baron Haarkonen anti gravity belt (yes, I know that doesn't help. Google "state farm aaron rogers")).

Here a neologism via my friend Prof-like Substance: Dude. Fuck. Sigh.

And so, failure in hand I'll go with Plan A on Friday: black pinstripe, 'English' cut, Billy London suit with a deep lavendar Perry Ellis shirt, silver cufflinks, and no damned tie.

The Usual Sartorial Grace and next time I'll order online.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Self Kerning

Those of us who inhabit the science geek reaches of the interchoobs would see the title of this post making more sense if it were "Self k3rn1ng" - Dr. Kern gained some notoriety in the blogosphere and twitterverse last year when he published an exhortation to young scientists in a major cancer research journal. Dr. Kern reviled the slackers and slapdashers of today's professional scientific youth - apparently we're not working hard enough and have the temerity to ask to limit our work week to 50 or 60 hours and maybe even spend time with our families on the weekend.

I know right!

Around the same time as Dr. Kern's ill-considered and out-dated rant the journal Nature blessed us lowly wannabe's with the tales of two scientists who had "made it" in the big time despite their relative youth. They had markedly different styles of managing their labs. Although it was clear that hard work and excellence were requisite of both PIs, one made the comment that a side-effect of his success was missing out on raising his children and being a family dad. He missed their youth because he was working 27 hours/day, 370 days/year at his research. A comment left by DrugMonkey on his blog at Scientopia really stuck with me:

"Then, my friend, you have failed utterly."

I, like most of my peers, put my long hours in at the bench and I am determined to enjoy the fruits of my labors now I am "the boss". Although I will never sherk or slack off and I am still incredibly driven as a scientist (and especially that the salaries and careers of a half dozen others depend on me now), I will be an active father to my child and husband to my wife.

Right now my son is sleeping in his swing/rocker across the room from me. His mom is returning to work and I'm allowed to use paternity leave to work "part time" for a couple of weeks. My stomach is in knots because of the amount of work I (feel I) need to do. We have a major clinical trial going live in a couple weeks and there is a last minnute glich in one of the data collection systems we're supporting...I missed those meetings this morning. I have two grants I'm supposed to be helping out with, as well as a publication waiting for my attention. I'm off to the NIH this week too and I need to send a bunch of emails and connect with folks up there before I arrive. I have an IRB meeting tomorrow and I have a horrible, nagging doubt that I'm supposed to have to reviewed one of the applications being submitted (IRB approves or disapproves human subjects research. THe meetings are akin to a grant funding study section meeting, but less fun). All these things make me want to call my wife and hurry her home, make me want to open my email and study my notes. Make me consider putting the kid in the car and taking him into the office with me so I can work. Seriously...

But if I do these things, I will begin the slippery slide into failure as a father. My son needs hugs and lunch when he wakes up (any minute now from the gurgling coming from that side of the room). My wife needs the support of her husband and the freedom to keep her own career alive.

So, a blog post. Catharsis. Lunchtime!