Rediscovering the Joy of Science Writing

Over the last 12 years or so my writing has changed, and not necessarily for the better. As I recuperated following seven weeks of radiation treatments for tonsil cancer, I happened to come across a printout of an assigned essay I wrote as an undergrad in 2008. At the risk of sounding immodest, I was surprised by how much clearer and cleaner my earlier prose was than much of my later writing. So what the heck happened? As I reread some of my other undergrad writing, what struck me was my focus on sharing the joy, pleasure, and satisfaction of learning about the world around us. Around 2010, the focus and tenor of my writing morphed into an outlet for my frustration and annoyance at—to be blunt—the stupidity of large numbers of my fellow human beings. As a result, my writing became denser and more detailed, increasing the likelihood og my flying off on a tangent—my favorite trig function—but also took much of the joy and pleasure out of the writing process. Though

Baloney Check—"Nazis are the same as Socialists"–Part 1

I’ve written elsewhere of one annoying downside to being a military veteran is when people, knowing nothing else about me other than I’m a veteran—and the obvious demographic data points like probable age, ethnicity, birth sex/gender, etc.—then go on to make totally unwarranted assumptions about my political, religious, or ideological leanings. This genesis of this particular essay was in a conversation with a client at my desk several years ago. Out the blue, my interlocutor told me in utter earnestness how much he “hates it when liberals call conservatives [presumably upstanding, white, male, veterans like himself] Nazis, because everyone knows Nazis were the real socialists.” Overall find my job rewarding and worthwhile, but I’ve also had a great deal of practice keeping a straight face when confronted by such daft assertions. To see how pervasive this particular misconception is, one merely need look at this web page . Debunking baloney takes far longer than spewing it, and

The Big “C” - Chapter 4

November 20 — December 4, 2019 Where my cancer is will taken into account in the treatment of my cancer, as it will affect the way the radiation therapy is delivered. For those with brain tumors, cognitive impairment, sometimes very severe, can be a lasting side-effect. Most, quite reasonably, would be happy to shave a few points off their IQ if doing so meant not dying from cancer. But hey, guess what? To a significant extent, this is very much all about me! To those who’ve read some of my other blog posts, first I must apologize for my writing—but the souls who have risked loosing their latest meal will already know parts of my tale. For those who do not, here’s the short version: my childhood medical records document my diagnosis as “hyperactive” in 1970, and after some trial and error I was put on Ritalin, but was off it by the end of elementary school. Then, 12 years ago, at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with adult ADHD. I was not surprised, but at the time

The Big “C”-Chapter 3

October 29 — November 1 9 , 2019 While chemotherapy is not Plan A, on 29 October I met with my chemo oncologist for the first time. He was able to pull up my 25 October PET scan. “PET” is short for positron emission tomography. The process leverages the “fuel” needs of metabolically active sites in the body. Part of the MO of cancers i is to create new blood vessels to supply their ravenous appetites, so when radioactively-tagged “fuel” — in my case, glucose—is intravenously administered, it quickly concentrate s in the most metabolically sites in the body, such as the heart, brain...and my cancer. Of course, the carcinoma on my left tonsil was glaringly obvious, glowing a bright yellow-white. My heart and brain were also quite active, as was the tissue of my gums as they were healing following the trauma of having most of my teeth pulled. The doctor pointed out the nearby lymph nodes that may or may not be showing activity related to my cancer — which I noticed were about

The Big “C”-Chapter 2

October 16-October 28, 2019 Once I knew the type of cancer I have, I immediately googled “squamous cell carcinoma” (SCCs). The way I approach online research of serious, academic subjects is to review the initial search results to look for possible keywords. Wikipedia is a good place to find further keywords and search terms. From there I turn to the academic research databases EBSCO and Proquest (normally available to anyone with online access to their local public library card). Many of the webpages I initially reviewed referred to SCC as a type of skin cancer. On a hunch, when I added “oral” to my search terms, I noticed “HPV” was frequently mentioned as well. This struck me as possibly significant; in 1987 I was treated for genital warts, so I may have bits of HPV i DNA in my blood and/or plasma, just as having chickenpox as a kid means I have the virus causing shingles quietly sequestered somewhere in my body—at least for now. What I found in the online Merck Ma

The Big “C”

The Big “C” On 15 October I learned I have cancer. More specifically, a squamous cell carcinom a currently sitting on my left tonsil and I’ve no doubt my 40+ years of using smokeless tobacco contributed to this development. For many people, learning they or a loved one have “cancer” is a devastating blow. Given the line of work I’m in, I’ve come to appreciate the concept of resiliency in the face of personal crises and try to aid clients as they seek a way through their individual struggles. Now, I have (yet another) opportunity to put into practice what I preach. I’ve always been a half-full glass sort of person. If told I’m incapable of doing or learning something, I frequently take it as a personal challenge to prove the naysayers wrong. My ninth-grade algebra teacher, after barely passing his class, advised me not to take geometry in high school because, in his estimation, I would almost certainly fail. Admittedly, I was not particularly optimist

At Last, a Female Doctor Who

I’m not a frequent user of social media for the simple reason that I have adult ADHD—nor do I suffer fools gladly—so with all the idiots on social media, these ingredients come together to create a supermassive black hole ready to devour all my time. So I take a pass on social media. I did however look at web sites reporting on the social media reaction to the announcement that the new showrunner for Doctor Who ( Who ), previously the showrunner/creator of the crime drama Broadchurch , has cast Broadchurch actor Jodie Whittaker as the 13 th Doctor—the first female to play the role on an ongoing basis. I am jazzed at the prospect, but it saddens me to read the vitriolic reactions of what I can only hope is a small minority of some self-identified Who fans. Unfortunately, the online very negative reactions of these supposed “fans” i to this news has much in common with the backlash from a sub-population of supposed Star Trek “fans” surrounding the casting