April 2007


I think John Edwards drunk emailed me. Or at least his campaign manager, David Bonior, did. The email opened with:

“There is a trail of rot making its way through our government—and it leads straight to Karl Rove.”

The rest of the message is filled with vitriol and liveliness, using keywords such as “cynical, destructive, partisan,” and “insidious.” And then, “Karl Rove must be fired.”
I dislike Karl Rove and the policies he conjures up as much as the next socialist, but hate has never advanced humanity. Sure, it’s won elections (see current administration), but we are always left precisely where we started, with the same old ideas being regurgitated. John Edwards has some very unique and feasible ideas for providing healthcare to all Americans, so I find it somewhat dismaying that the hostility is starting so early in the election cycle when he has actual substance to hold himself up and shouldn’t need to resort to such tactics.

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Who cares what people look like anyway?

I think Richard Feynman summed up graduate school quite well when he said it consisted almost wholly of, “canned food, lack of funds, and irregular hours.” The concept of a 9-5, 40 hr. work week is alien to me now.

On a more exciting note one of my students almost burnt his face off this past week. He violated the addage “acid to water is do what you oughter.” Or something like that, because goodness only knows what he mixed, where he got the chemicals from, and why he mixed them. I’m fairly certain their lab manual doesn’t have them mix things in proportions or in orders that result in volcanoe-like gushes of flesh-eating concentrated acid.

As soon as it happened I looked over at the student and I’ve never seen anyone so scared in my entire life. This man who has been hardened as an emergency medic on the battlefields of Iraq was shaking like a leaf in the wind. As I got him under copious amounts of water, his labmates crowded around like good rubberneckers. His wife, who also happens to be his lab partner, did not though. She kept on with the lab seemingly unaware that her husband’s face might be bubbling off. Evidently he does this a lot at home.

This is why I became a theoretician.

As a grad student blogger, it is my responsibility to inform all of my readers about the intricacies involved in slogging towards the ever elusive PhD. Highlighting the ins and outs of the bottom rungs of the ladder toward enlightenment. So what do I do when I come upon someone who’s done it better? Steal it, of course. Or in the language of the biz, cite the work with proper footnotes and references. I stumbled upon this comic from the Stanford Daily, after seeing various strips hung on office doors. After reading a few of them I’m convinced the author has been following me around for the past “n” years and documenting my every move. He’s got it all. Funding issues, dating undergrads, free food, housing issues, nonproductive trips to see the family. It’s eery. Here’s one that I’m going to print out and bring with me to seminar today. The only square on here that isn’t routinely used is the HIV/cancer one. Amazing.

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The last time I shaved, my students nearly had a collective heart attack. They told me I couldn’t be a real graduate student without a beard. So now it’s back. No one’s going to tell me I’m not a real graduate student. I’ve got the pay stubs to prove it.

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“Science never cheered up anyone. The truth about the human situation is just too awful.”
-Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut has finally stopped laughing at his own agony and that of those around him. He denounced life on this planet as a crock. He died.

Everyone should read their favorite, or any, of his novels.

In my attempt to crush their souls into a mess that can be rebuilt in the model of people actually deserving of college degrees, I just may have done something right. I have quite a large number of returning students to my lab sections. In one section I have a 75% retention rate, which is light years beyond the average 10-15%. After all of the low averages, high expectations, and mediocre performances they yearn for more. I guess they’re smarter (in a highly non-scientific or academic sense) than I supposed. They know a quality totalitarian when they see one.

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