Getting back into the swing of things

This is an attempt to get back into blog-writing mode. My time has become split in a thousand different ways. There are a multitude of items that need to be accomplished before I leave for Toronto.

Here's a few of them: I would like to wrap up three ongoing projects, or at least get most of the lab work done. I need to find a place to live in my hometown-to-be. I need to set up the lab-to-be. I need to set up my new lab website, to attract students and postdocs. I need to plan ahead for the next few years, or get into that mind set.

(Excuse me, I'm at home today with the kid and he just peed all over me. It's time for a diaper/clothes change.)

Now where was I ... in any case, you get the picture. There is very little time for the blog. And even less time for reading other blogs. In fact Friday I am giving a Rapoport lab journal club and I need to get ready.

So in short I am considering whether to ditch the blog, or at the very least leave Scienceblogs. I had the privilege to be one of the first bloggers here. Over the years, I've tried to convey the many joys and hardships that accompanies the life of a scientist. I was reminded of many of these old posts this past weekend. We were up in Montreal visiting my big fat Italian family. At one gathering, I sat down next to my fathers siblings and talk drifted to my work and what exactly I do. I explained to them that I was a basic scientist. If my field was literature, then I studied the letter "D". But they insisted that I must be working on some disease or some practical problem. I responded that if Cancer was a Shakespearean play, you would never be able to understand it if you didn't have a working knowledge of the alphabet. I studied the very base of our biological knowledge, I study the ABCs of life. My work indirectly affects all of these higher order problems such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's ...

As time has gone on my blog has become less personal, as my writing drifted more and more towards new developments within cell and molecular biology, and on political affairs (although these have always been from the vantage point of a postdoc operating within the scientific establishment). But I would like to get back to where my blog once was, writing about the "scientific life" itself, writing about the nature of scientific thought. Most people are in awe of scientific developments, scientists are some of the most trusted segments of society, but science is often treated like a mystery, a Byzantine edifice of facts, or worse like some religion that issues dogmatic view of the world around us. These views display not only a fundamental ignorance as to how science actually works, but a simplistic view of the very nature of knowledge and ideas. I would like to try to explain the very mechanisms of science.

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I have been reading a book recently, Everyday Practice of Science, where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic, which has rekindled this urge to explain how scientific theories are created, what is the nature of knowledge, and how do humans use ideas to understand the world around them. I'll have more to say about this book in future posts (I hope), but for now I'll just recommend it to any one who really wants o understand exactly how science works.

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Whatever you decide to do, PLEASE don't start complaining about all the worst parts about being a new TT professor.

"Aw, I have to teach AND they expect me to run a research lab! And the tenured professors are all out to GET ME! The students are MORONS, the worst I've ever seen! This job, that I spent umpteen years working towards and FINALLY got, SUCKS!"

That's just about all that the other new TT professors on blogs are doing, and it's getting old.

"I responded that if Cancer was a Shakespearean play, you would never be able to understand it if you didn't have a working knowledge of the alphabet. "

I really like this explanation!

I think it must be confusing for people to understand how basic and applied research go on in parallel. Some people are working on diseases in a more applied way. So why don't we all do that?

I guess there is a level between the alphabet and fully understanding the play. I'm not sure how to articulate it. Maybe the "applied" or "less basic" researchers are analyzing the play with missing letters, scenes, or characters?

Don't ditch the blog, just take a blog break!

When are you coming to Toronto, by the way? I assume you're not here yet in May? We have a SciBarCamp on May 9th that is totally worth coming up for if you need to plan in any T.O. visits (house hunting?) anyway. (http://www.scibarcamp.org)

Dude, don't shutter your blog! Why don't you set yourself a very easily doable goal, like posting once per week? What's that, one hour per week? And if you're "getting back to your roots", you will be posting about your experiences as a scientist, which makes it easy fucking peasy to hammer out posts, as opposed to blogging scientific content.

Keep it up, even if it's at a reduced pace. I've really enjoyed your explanations of current topics in cell biology that I wouldn't have otherwise been exposed to, but I also love talking about how science is done so it'd be great to hear more about that as well. And, if you want a change of scenery you could always get down with your biocuriosity! :)

Keep blogging, please! I love reading your posts and enjoyed anything you've been talking about, be it science, baymate's adventures ;-) food or politics...

Alex, it is okay to stop.

Nothing goes on forever, not even a PhD project. And life continues beyond words on screen or electrons on server. Sometimes a chapter has to end so that another one will begin.