Terra Sigillata

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’.

07.17.10 Sunset on East Spanish Peak.jpg

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.

Comments

  1. #1 Jennifer Ouellette
    July 21, 2010

    Will most certainly follow you to your new digs. And I think you’ll find those online relationships will survive, too!

  2. #2 Ewen Callaway
    July 21, 2010

    Good luck, and I will be sure to follow your new blog.

  3. #3 Pascale
    July 21, 2010

    I can’t seem to get to your new digs. Are you planning to keep them protected?

  4. #4 Kimbo Jones
    July 21, 2010

    Your WordPress site is still protected. You’re probably aware of this, but I thought I’d point it out as it makes for some weird Google Reader business. In any case, followed.

  5. #5 anatman
    July 21, 2010

    Your WordPress site is protected. You have to log in to access it. Is that your intent?

  6. #6 Ed Yong
    July 21, 2010

    Then my wife reminded me that she had been saying this all along.

    Ha! This happens to me all the time ;-) Best of luck Abel. I will follow on.

  7. #7 Graham Steel
    July 21, 2010

    Dude, one of these days, we WILL meet and music/beer it up.

    New site is now fully functional (and bookmarked, but of course)

  8. #8 Sandra Porter
    July 21, 2010

    Farewell Abel, you will indeed be missed.

  9. #9 Liz
    July 21, 2010

    I’ve subscribed to your new feed, but I can’t help feeling sad. You will be missed at Sb.

  10. #10 Zuska
    July 21, 2010

    Abel, it is an honor to know you and be called your friend. I’ll read you wherever.

  11. #11 Dr Aust
    July 21, 2010

    Crikey (British expression).

    So of the Sb blogs I have read regularly the last couple of years, you and PalMD are gone, and Orac is wavering.

    And of the ones I have read on and off, Effect Measure has shut up shop, and PZ is on strike. Which only leaves ERV of my “occasionals”.

    It’s kind of sad what a terrible balls-up (? – is that just a British expression?) Seed have made of all this. Anyway, hope it works out for you. And Best Wishes from another blogging middle-aged WM scientist married to an MD…

  12. #12 jre
    July 21, 2010

    The blog is dead!
    Long live the blog!
    I look forward to following your thoughts over at the new place.

  13. #13 Eric Suh
    July 21, 2010

    I’ve mostly just lurked around here all these years since you first moved to SB, but good luck on your new digs! I’ll definitely be following you there.

  14. #14 Jackie
    July 21, 2010

    Hmm, there’s gotta be a better way to keep in touch. I think in the future the answer won’t be so much in blogging networks such as Sb, but in online aggregator tools that individuals can use to keep track of their favorite bloggers. RSS is still too clunky.

  15. #15 Sharon Astyk
    July 21, 2010

    For my own sake – Oh, Damn!!!

    For your sake – I’m glad you are doing what’s right for you and I wish you well.

    Sharon

  16. #16 Kristjan Wager
    July 21, 2010

    I’m sorry to see you leave ScienceBlogs, but I will certainly follow you wherever you go.

  17. #17 Maryn
    July 21, 2010

    Huge support, and sympathy that it’s so hard. See you in the ‘sphere. (And in NC in October!)

  18. #18 Sally
    July 21, 2010

    Ah as long as you keep blogging somewhere, they’ll be readers and all. Added you new blog to my sciblings rss folder :-)

    Hope to catch up with you in person at a cancer conference some day and hope your health is returning to 100%!

  19. #19 antipodean
    July 21, 2010

    And that’s it. Not a single blog on my roll from SB anymore.

    Have updated my blogroll to your new place and look forward to more of your wisdom there.

    -antipodean

  20. #20 Crudely Wrott
    July 21, 2010

    /delurks only to say quite generally:

    As is usually the case, courage, cooperation and emotion-neutral decision making will be seen, in hindsight, to have carried the day. This applies to a wide range of actual outcomes.

    Science blogging will find a way to survive and thrive, I am sure.

    I am not expressing faith, here. Rather, observation and experience. Reality has a way of edging aside the competition even if only an inch at a time. It’s the cumulative affect which is also the common thread of science historically.

    –this comment posted at some other SB blogs just now. Because I can and because I care, deeply.

    Best of luck and fare thee well, Pharmboy. I envy your new home. I’m a mountain boy myself from the square state just north of you and agree that the environs are liberating and inspiring.

  21. #21 Abel Pharmboy
    July 21, 2010

    Oops, yes, sorry folks – I did have the WP blog still set on private. Turned one switch off but forgot to turn the other on.

    Jen, you rawk!

    Ewen, how awesome to see you! You wouldn’t believe how the old HSC campus looks like a post-Chernobyl ghost town.

    Ed, indeed.

    Steely, the day will come, I am certain. We really want to get over there and our little girl is getting old enough to appreciate it. The PharmGirl is of Scottish blood, you know.

    Sandra, Liz, and Zuska: all in a row. Your support, advice, and even lecture notes over the years have been greatly appreciated. Our addresses may change but our friendships will not. But I’ve now got to get serious about updating my own feeds and bookmarks!

  22. #22 Anton Zuiker
    July 21, 2010

    Nicely written, and another reminder of why I admire you very much.

  23. #23 Abel Pharmboy
    July 21, 2010

    Dr Aust – I’ve heard of a cock-up but not a balls-up. Whatever it’s been, it hasn’t been pretty. But, alas, times change. And yes, I remember that we had these other attributes in common as well – all the best to you and thank you.

    Eric – wow, it’s been a long time. Glad to know you’ll still follow. Thanks!

    Jackie – the thing I don’t like about RSS feeds is that I really like to see the blog itself. However, I tend to open 35 pages on Firefox or Chrome in the morning and make them crash.

    Sharon, I love your posts – yours is a very refreshing presence here and I wish you all the best. Your life sounds wonderful – hard work, but wonderful.

    Kristjan, thank you very much. You’ve been a longtime commenter and I was delighted when you started your own blog.

    Maryn, thank you so much for everything over the last few months. I am so excited to have you visit and speak with our students. Superbug is super!

    Sally! I’m so used to seeing you on Twitter. Yes, I’m almost 100% although I was out for parts of the last two days with a little bit of ozone-triggered asthma. But I’ll be ready for one of the next AACR meetings although I probably won’t make it to Berlin in November. We’ll be in touch.

    antipodean, your comments have been a huge part of this community. I love your insights and I’m really glad to know that you’ll follow us. btw, I appreciate your comment on the Anil Potti post as to just how lofty a Rhodes is.

    Crudely Wrott, thanks so much for delurking and for all of the kind thoughts. I do feel that I have been part of an excellent experiment in community and four years is forever in web years. I’m excited to see what happens with each of us. My hope is that there become many portals to share science with society. And yes, the West is a very special place – we are both very fortunate to know it.

  24. #24 fvngvs
    July 22, 2010

    Damn.

    And another one bites the dust. ‘Sokay Abel; I’ve got the new site bookmarked…

  25. #25 Ginny
    July 22, 2010

    will follow, abel! on to the next blogging chapter.

  26. #26 Candid Engineer
    July 22, 2010

    I’ll read ya wherever you go.

  27. #27 isles
    July 22, 2010

    It seems like you just came to Scienceblogs about two weeks ago! I think the internet operates on dog years. See you at the new place…

  28. #28 Pam
    July 22, 2010

    As an often times lurker and rare commentor here (and at other SciBlogs) – I’m disappointed at what has lead to the exodus of so many folks from SciBlogs – but happy that they so many of you will remain online, and keep writing. You guys have been a late night escape for me, an oddly familiar place – and I for one appreciate all of the time that you put into it. I’m with you on Zuska – wow – as a female in science, boy has she been a comfort. She’s been my place to go when I feel like I might go crazy. Good luck with what comes next – I’m guessing that as long as the grass is still growin’ all will be well. And if I’m every up that way, I might invite myself over for a tall glass of iced tea (unsweetened – I know, for shame). Take care.

  29. #29 Sili
    July 22, 2010

    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

    Well, I was certainly just made aware of a honking great blind spot of my own.

    All the best.

  30. #30 Catharine
    July 23, 2010

    Abel, there is so much I want to say to you, but I don’t have a clue where to begin and how to end — which makes me very grateful that this is a ‘to be continued’ and not an actual end. Mostly I want to say Thank You. You (and Revere and Janet also deserve my thanks in this context) you have taught me so, so much and on the occasions (and there have been plenty, here and elsewhere) that I have spouted off some nonsense (because of either lack of knowledge, not thinking something through, or a shaky emotional state), rather than giving me the smack-down that I probably deserved, you (and others mentioned) have responded gently, kindly, patiently, and generously. On top of that, you have been a personal friend, supporter and benefactor (who else would have had the idea, the inclination, the guts to set up a fund for Coturnix & family?). You seem to be able to read between the lines of what we have shared publicly, because, although it *is* embarrassing, I admit that too often lately, our family has been hungry (literally). It is a terrible feeling for my children to be hungry and to be absolutely powerless to do anything about it.

    Abel, you are quite simply a mensch. The expression came into being because of people like you who are nice, yes, but that’s not it, good, yes, but that’s not it either — you are absolutely golden. And I am forever in your debt.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    May all of the good that you have brought into the world come back to you one-thousand fold!

  31. #31 Abel Pharmboy
    July 24, 2010

    Catharine,

    I’m merely a conduit. The generosity is coming from people around the world who’ve been helped directly by your husband or who know of his importance in promoting science who just want to help out. I’ve been absolutely amazed by their generosity. Many people helped me out when I was in dire straits and I always said that when I had the means, I would help others like me. I’m just happy to have the platform and the readers to do some good for y’all.

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