So, readers know that I went out West this past weekend to visit colleagues at the University of Colorado, spend some thinking time at the southern Colorado ranchland endowed to us by the late PharmDad, and – most prominently – visit PharmMom and PharmStiefvater on the occasion of her 70th birthday. I’m extremely grateful to my wife, PharmGirl, MD, and the illustrious PharmKid for holding down the fort and handling the emotional and practical issues of the little genius starting 3rd grade on Monday.
When Mom told me she’d been following the aftermath of Pepsigate/sbfail, she asked, “So, what are you going to do about your blog?”
Yes, like Bora’s Mom, my Mom also reads my blog. And yes, my Mom is dialed into the unrest here at ScienceBlogs.
The weekend gave me some great opportunity to get back to my formative roots and have the clarity of the dry, high-country air where my brain seems to work a little better than the way it normally chugs along. I also won’t discount the soul-warming effect of sampling many bowls of New Mexican green chile.
As I watch so many of my friends leave ScienceBlogs, both for other venues and in holding patterns, I’ve asked myself about the purpose of remaining or leaving. One of the best parts of being at ScienceBlogs has been to form relationships with some incredible people, from great writers to great scientists, and often a mixture of the two.
My professional writer friends (you know who you are) were all uniformly kind in assuaging my concern that remaining here so long after the ethical breach of Pepsi buying their own blog did not necessarily mean that my own ethics were compromised. For your expert opinion, kind words, and supportive gestures, I am tremendously grateful.
And as has happened during much of my scientific career, some of the greatest guiding wisdom has come from a few British colleagues (I’ll name you if you’d like) who, again, I would not likely have come to know so well if not for writing at ScienceBlogs. The most useful advice was to not think about whether or not to leave ScienceBlogs but, rather, ask what I want the blog to be in a year or future years and where might I best achieve those goals.
Then my wife reminded me that she had been saying this all along.
Hence, the time has come for me to take leave from ScienceBlogs.
My reasons for doing so are manifold but you are certainly aware of my feelings regarding ScienceBlogs selling one of our competitive blogging slots to a multinational food and beverage company (here, here, and here).
I also won’t lie that while I was saddened to see all of my friends leave this network, it was the loss of Bora Zivkovic, PalMD, and Zuska that tilted me over the edge toward Bion’s Effect, so eloquently discussed the other day by Bora. Each of these people have become among my best friends – not just online friends but real life friends. Each has been a source of strength and encouragement and has in their own way helped me through various life challenges. They are not the only ones of my online community to do so, but their cluster of departures is a bellwether.
However, the primary reason for my leaving now is the thinking I’ve done about the future.
That future is not at ScienceBlogs.
I have to thank Katherine Sharpe because without her, I would not have been here for the last four years, one month, and thirteen days. Katherine was community manager of ScienceBlogs for the second round of bloggers who joined the original 14 hand-picked by Christopher Mims. After only five months of blogging at my old Blogger site, I received a letter of invitation from Ms. Sharpe (on my birthday!) to join ScienceBlogs. Others in that position have subsequently been a great influence – Virginia Hughes, Arikia Millikan, Erin Johnson – but Katherine will always have my gratitude, and respect for her own writing prowess, for seeing in my writing something that this larger audience might enjoy.
Even before the invitation, it was my surgical oncology colleague, Orac at Respectful Insolence, who encouraged me in this endeavor, gave me great advice on considering the invitation to join ScienceBlogs and, like Bora, linked to me very early at my Blogger site and gave me the early visibility that I believe caught Katherine’s eye. Orac has subsequently been a steadfast supporter with a multitude of links of a consistency paralleled only by the support of my family.
There remain today a core of people in whom I find mutual support and camaraderie both within and outside the ScienceBlogs platform (yes, outside SB who had never joined the network ? ). The list would be too long to note here but the wisdom of Janet Stemwedel stands above all – and I think many of my colleagues would consider the same in their own cases. A member of the original ScienceBlogs class and my own daily read before the network existed, many of us considered Janet our den mother. As a fellow Garden State native, Janet was responsible for my Sb pledge name, “Exit 153A.”
In addition to Janet, my colleagues who are also women – Zuska, Tara Smith, Sheril Kirshenbaum, Alice Pawley, Anne Jefferson – (as well as PhysioProf, remarkably) have helped me understand my blind spots as a white man and learn what it really takes to be an ally in promoting and sustaining women in higher education and the academy. Their continuing liberal arts education is deeply appreciated.
DrugMonkey and my other neuropharmacology blogger colleagues have also been remarkably supportive in my dabbling with CNS pharmacology as a function of my broad interests and sense of responsibility in serving as an ambassador for natural products and the field of pharmacognosy.
But the most numerous thanks go to you – The Reader. Without you, there would be no thanking of anyone else. The referrals from my friends probably got you here but I am grateful that you find it valuable to spend five or 10 minutes here everyday (or every few days). Your lurking readership and/or participation in the discussions on our comment threads is what has made the Terra Sigillata community one of few places where you can get what I hope is straightforward, objective information on drugs – botanical, non-botanical, prescription, and over/under-the-counter – that guide you through a world so fraught with market-driven information across the spectrum from dietary supplements to, yes, prescription drugs.
And at home, I really must thank my wife, PharmGirl, MD and the outcome of what actually began as a scientific relationship, our daughter, PharmKid. Besides supporting me in this hobby that has become more serious over time, my wife was the first to believe in my intelligence and capability to communicate, thereby cultivating the confidence I needed to open my mind and keyboard to each of you. In many cases, the topics you read about here were seeded by late-night e-mail referrals during her bouts of insomnia. She knows the topics that motivate me and just as she can pick off a new restaurant menu what I will order, she knows what stories will coax me into a post for you.
While I am obviously grateful for my scientific colleagues and writers within and outside my field who come to read, I am especially indebted to those of you who are not scientists but who come here to learn and ask questions, maybe even be empowered in your own health or in pursuing your own future directions. Preaching to the choir certainly has value in galvanizing the science communication community. However, I can’t think of a single science blogger who doesn’t view this exercise as a form of outreach – to share and demonstrate to our constituents, the humble taxpayers, that what we are charged to do for world health is well-spent and communicated in an objective and approachable manner.
Come to think of it, my time at ScienceBlogs has been nearly the very same four-plus years it took to complete my Ph.D. work at the University of Florida, largely funded for by the taxpayers of that state. Gainesville was also home to Tom Petty and most of the members of his band even today, The Heartbreakers. Their song on Wildflowers was the inspiration of the title of this farewell post (but I prefer the version covered by my musical mentor I spoke of Saturday, Jon Shain, on his previous album, Army Jacket Winter.
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get goin’
What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, grass is growin’
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get goin’
And, indeed, I have no immediate plans to do anything but take up a simple WordPress blog at abelpharmboy.wordpress.com. So, please update your links and RSS feed accordingly as that’s where I have also archived all 1,167 posts written since 9 June 2006. I’ll also contribute on occasion to Science-Based Medicine but probably only on a monthly or bi-weekly basis.
Of course, venturing into the great wide open gives me the “nauseous adrenaline” Petty cites therein.
So if anyone wants to procure the services of an able farmboy, contact me via Gmail at abelpharmboy and we’ll set for a spell out on the front porch and discuss propositions over a couple of tall glasses of iced sweet tea.
In the meantime, I hope y’all will excuse me.
It’s time to get goin’.
The setting sun provides contrast on the faces of East Spanish Peak as taken from a little piece of heaven in Huerfano County, Colorado, 17 July 2010. Photo ©2010 by the blog author.