LabKitty and funny stuff

LabKitty and friends emailed me about their new Zazzle store: they have a bunch of awesome goodies (t-shirts, bumper stickers, tote bags, etc.) for nerds to nerd out on. I think one of my favorites might be this Newton T-shirt:

Not least because of the posture of the t-shirt model;
he's like "Yesssssssssss. Newton." All the better that he's probably an autogenerated dude-wearing-a-t-shirt image. Check it out, folks.

Envisioning parenthood

Recently, someone whose blog I like to read asked me a question by email, and it inspired me to think really hard about this and talk about it in a way that felt like some good therapy. So I wanted to share my reply with you all:

"How far into the future did you envision your kidlet before jumping in?

Here's what I mean: I have been married for [N] years now, and we do not have kids.  This has never been one decision; it is a decision that we make several times a year - we're not having kids this year.  Not this year.  Should we?  No, not this year.  And so forth and so forth.  This year, we are thinking... meh?  Maybe...?  One of the things that is currently terrifying me about the decision is teenagers - I cannot fathom having a teenager.  A baby, a toddler, sure - I could imagine that, and it's not so terrifying.  But the idea of spawning someone old enough to drive a car??  Really?? Hence, my question - did you envision your daughter being a teenager and think, "Wow, that sounds great!"?  I'm wondering if my fear of teenagers is an indication that kids ain't for me, or if nobody really wants a teenager but everyone does it anyway.

Thanks for your input.

(ID redacted)"

You know, if you asked me this question before I had my daughter I would have thought that my 'envisionment' was more thorough than it actually turned out to have been. I had pictured a kind of fantasy land, where I fell in love with her at first sight and she hardly ever cried and happily breastfed or drank a bottle from her daddy and... then was suddenly a toddler going trick-or-treating in an awesomely cute costume and... then was suddenly in school bringing home drawings and I was brushing her hair and she was making friends... and so on and so on like a montage of little lovely snippets of TV childhood/teenagerhood/young adulthood/etc.

That FELT very thorough at the time, it felt like I was thinking it all the way through. My feelings of wanting her in my life FELT very specific, but now in hindsight I can see they were really amorphous. I easily brushed aside those scarier thoughts (teenager: driving, having a phone, being alone with dudes, doing drugs, trying alcohol, SH!!!T!!!) and I still do. The difference between my pre-baby thoughts and post-baby thoughts about it is that now I just take it one day at a time, one milestone at a time, read what I can to try to be prepared for the immediate next step and don't think too far in the future.

Part of that is a weird superstition I have about assuming anything. I am wary of getting my hopes and dreams entangled in the uncertainty of the more distant future. I am not sure where this comes from, and it has only really emerged since having her (although traces of it have been in my brain since my own childhood). Like I described above, I used to freely build fantasy lands about whatever thing I was considering, as part of my deliberative process. But now, especially about her, I am uneasy about that--afraid to set myself up for unthinkable kinds of disappointment. So, I just try to keep up with the most likely next few steps and wait to deal with the rest when I get there.

The other part is just the result of having that birth process/early infancy/etc. fantasy world SO TOTALLY blown out of the water by the reality of labor and taking care of a newborn. JEEBUS was it different than I expected, and my post-partum anxiety hormones sure didn't help. It took six weeks, six whole weeks, before I felt like she liked being in the world, and she wasn't even THAT colicky (only a little). I did not feel that overwhelming satisfaction at caring for my tiny sweetie that I imagined feeling. I just felt tired, hungry, confused, and kind of dead inside every time I had to do another routine baby task that nobody else was around to help with, or for which I was too irrationally-obligated-feeling to ask for help with. That immense disconnect between what I had imagined and what it actually felt like completely changed my perspective on envisioning the future with this kiddo.

Now, we have grown into our love for each other: I definitely do feel those pangs of love and happiness and sweetness cuddling her to sleep, or when she smiles at everybody as we're walking into daycare, or waves and shouts at her gramma on skype. But milestones don't have accompanying trumpets (oh... umm, I guess she's been standing for a few days now, huh?), and she's her own little person so she reacts to each new step in her life in her own way, which doesn't usually match up with what I had planned for it (like solid foods: I was so stoked to get to start feeding her all these wonderful things and she's like "WHAT is this??"). So I've changed from envisioning the (fake) future to just trying to enjoy and do my best at the real present. And it's good this way.

Women's Health: Survive your doctor

Around Scientopia this week, we're doing a critical analysis of the "science" (or lack thereof) in women's magazines, exemplified by a bunch of articles in Women's Health magazine. Most of the articles we're looking at are pretty ridonkulous, and they deserve the takedown they're getting. The one I picked, however, "Patient care: Survive your doctor" actually gives pretty good advice: be your own health advocate.

As they point out in the article, while "it's a doc's job to (manage) your medical problems," we can't rely on them to know what's going on inside our heads and bodies when we aren't talking to them or following up. We tend to fall into the "respehct mah authoritah" trap when doctors are telling us what is (or isn't) wrong with us, but when it comes down to it nobody knows your body better than you do. Just like no single patient is guaranteed to fall in the middle of the symptom distribution, no one physician is guaranteed to notice, synthesize and correctly identify every medical issue. I definitely groaned at the mention of "House" as an example of how important medical history is to diagnosis, but as a point it is relevant. These days, unless you have a legitimate medical home and someone who knows you, you are the only one who knows your story and you have the right to be heard by your physicians.

This touches a personal nerve for me: last year, my close cousin died of adrenocortical carcinoma. I've written about this before. She experienced the classic demographic-based misdiagnosis--skin getting bad? weight gain? hair loss? anxiety? Periods getting weird? You're a young woman, these are common, just hormonal, maybe polycystic ovaries, try to get more exercise, try to rest more, do you want to talk to a counselor? Let's try prozac. In the end, it took about three years or so of this getting worse, and worse, and worse, until she was hardly sleeping, had the classic Cushing's moon face/abdominal distension, and kept pressing on going to the free clinic until the nurses there finally said "Look, we're going to just test your cortisol." It was so sky-high, it practically hit the limits of the test. Part of the problem was that she just kept assuming, "Well, I guess the doctors know what they're talking about. I must just need more exercise. I'll try to eat healthier," as the tumor grew and grew, eventually invading her vena cava and reducing her probability of survival once it was finally found (in Stage IV) by more than 75%.

What could have been done? Later on, not much. By then it was too late. But early on, the if-only's of her situation are just too painful for us all to contemplate. If only we had noticed, if only we had been able to push her to get more opinions, if only she had better (or any) health insurance during that time (and that's a whole other story...). If only we were all better trained to be our own health advocates. Then she might still be here, laughing with us until she almost pees her pants at the Thanksgiving "kids table" and delighting in with my daughter, her namesake, who would have loved her silliness, spirit and flair.

So, I appreciate what this article says: you have to stand up for yourself, and you have to stay informed. Don't just accept everything you're told, find a physician who you connect with and who you can talk to. Don't just see your gynecologist for every problem, find yourself a medical home. Educate yourself on the options available to you, keep up with current opinions and don't always just accept the so-called 'simplest' explanation.

On the other side of this coin, though, is the risk of falling sway to the woo. Woo is just as dangerous as misdiagnosis. Woo is attractive because it says it can explain these things we just don't biologically understand--it's a catch-all for the fear, uncertainty, pain and anxiety that comes with any complex medical issue. Since there is almost no such thing as a truly simple medical issue (besides things like, say, colds and ear infections), it's that much easier to be drawn to the mystical or "holistic" explanation, the same way humans are drawn to any seemingly satisfying magical answer for their problems (whether financial, health or psychological). But just like time shares in Florida, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

Staying informed about the evidence-based information on possibilities, options and outcomes is our best bet to manage our own health care. None of us are too stupid to understand it, and there are lots of resources out there to help the unsure (like our very own PalMD, for example). Be your own health advocate, but use your brain about it, and accept that you'll either fall within the normal range of the distribution or you won't, and it's your job to trust your instincts about seeking help.

Could the NanoKids play soccer with a Buckyball?

Well I HAD to take minute to blog this!! Sir Harry Kroto answered my question!

So, those NanoParents better buy some of these NanoCars to drive the NanoKids to soccer practice, so someday they can play in the big leagues!*

*(this particular nerdy joke courtesy of my postdoc advisor)

**anybody else think it is awesome that he proudly displays a mini-Spam wall on his shelf? I would not be surprised to find out that Spam contains C60.

Bad blogger

I am sorry (to anybody who cares) that I am such a bad blogger these days. What with family life, trying to buy a house, grant proposals, manuscripts, managing my lab, my 1.5h/86-mile each-way commute and all the rest of it, I just don't have any time for blogging. I especially apologize to melissa's bench, who has been waiting for me to post my thoughts on a question she had for us all for weeks now! I hope I can get my head above water soon, but until then, thanks for your patience.

Sephoral Censorship

Okay, Sephora. For the third time you have censored my review of this "Pore-Fector Gadget."I thought a facial sonicator sounded pretty awesome, and I tried it out. It was not awesome. It was lame. It hardly did anything except lyse some of the cells on my nose where I tried to push out a stubborn blackhead and sonic-burned myself. Since the thing does not come with any warnings about something like that happening, I posted a review sharing my experience so other people would know to be careful. Sephora initially let it go up, but then later I saw it had been taken down. So I posted it again, and again: up but subsequently down. Third time? Not even made it past the moderator.Plenty of other negative reviews are up there, so I think they just didn't like my injury story because of the liability concerns. Well, maybe then you should stop selling the product or at least get a warning put on the packaging.

Sephora, you are silencing my voice of reason!