Gravity's Rainbow

botany, shoes, books, and justice

July 11, 2014
by sarcozona

While you’re waiting for the bus

Stuff worth reading

Why I’m ending my short experiment with Gittip, or: why we can’t have nice things, part 2,039

Every Datum Tells a Story: The dawning of the age of meta-information

Academic publishing.
“Scholars are encouraged to sacrifice integrity and ingenuity to careerism that does not reward them with a career”

The Road to Bad Science Is Paved with Obedience and Secrecy

Like Good Little Girls

Stuff worth reading

Tor founder Tom Doherty on publishing without DRM
I feel less sorry for Hachette, but it still sucks to be one of their authors

Mind the gap: Incomes, college majors, gender, and higher ed reform.
“the next time you see someone arguing that only fools major in art history, remind them that the real thing holding back most English majors in the workplace isn’t their degree but systemic discrimination against their sex in the American economy.”

June 2, 2014
by sarcozona
1 Comment

I finished my PhD proposal, take 2

When I initially finished my PhD proposal, I wrote this lackluster post, but after a month of sitting with my accomplishment I am super proud.

At first I was just sort of ashamed that it took me 2.3 years into my PhD to finish writing my proposal (2.6 if you count my medical leave), but then I realized this is actually a really big accomplishment. First of all, I wrote a proposal just one year into my PhD. It was 2 single-spaced pages that went through 5 rounds of rigorous scientific review and landed me the most prestigious graduate scientific fellowship in this country. I presented a slightly expanded version of that proposal to my committee at the end of my first year. They wanted me to pare down the scope and they wanted a lot more detail. I knew my project was too big and that point and was happy for help focusing it, but many of the details they asked for were actually the whole point of my project.

In order to answer the questions and concerns that my committee laid out to advance during my admittedly kind of weird PhD, I had to do a lot of work up front. So, going into my proposal defence this summer, I’ve got all the data for my PhD and have written out every single step of my methods, including the methods I set out to develop during this project. Now, these methods still need to be programmed and there are still questions to be answered using these methods. There’s still a lot of pain, programming, frustration, teeth gnashing, and twisty, confusing science ahead of me, but I am not a failure for taking 2.3 years to do this. I am a success, and maybe even a little bit of a superhero for having done it with all these migraines. 

June 1, 2014
by sarcozona

This is what it looks like when a migraine drug is working

In mid-April, I started a new medication for my migraines. I actually tried topamax almost 15 years ago, but had to quit due to the side effects. My current neurologist dosed me up very slowly and took my concerns about being able to speak and read seriously, both minimizing the side effects and making them easier to handle than the first go round.*

It seems to be working. The severity of my migraines is way, way, way down – I’m almost never resorting to my abortive medicines. The frequency has also decreased, though not by that much. I’m still having migraines half the month. But they’re short and not very painful. The decline in frequency is actually so minor that it’s hard to say it’s for sure caused by topamax – the concurrent decline in severity makes me willing to entertain the possibility. May Before topamax, I had a non-triptan medication I would take whenever I felt a migraine coming on that left me able to nap, watch movies, read, putter around the house, and run small errands. My motivation, cleverness, and judgement were not good enough to do much more than that and I was often still relatively light and sound sensitive.  About once a week, that medication would fail and I’d have to take a triptan. Topamax reduces the intensity of my migraines enough that I don’t need to use that non-triptan medication very often now and I’m more or less in the same state (though a bit less light-hearted). I’m taking triptans about once a month.

The decrease in intensity from the non-triptan medication and now topamax has meant a big increase in my quality of life, but I still find it nearly impossible to work when I have a migraine, no matter how mild the pain. Even when the pain is the barest twinge, a migraine leaves me unmotivated, unfocused, and stupid. (On the bright side, I’ve watched lots of great movies and read fun novels when I’m like this.) I’ve really got to get the frequency down somehow. I’ve got one more dose increase to go and the medicine could use a little more time to work.

If I don’t get the frequency down, I wonder about asking my doctors for a drug that would help me work when I have a migraine but am not in a ton of pain – if there even is such a thing. Have any of you ever done something like that? Or have any advice for getting shit done with a not-so-bad migraine?

The side effects of my new medicine are also a bit frustrating – the near constant numbness and tingling on random parts of my body is incredibly distracting, and I’m sleeping a lot – 12 or 13 hours a night sometimes. Occasionally I have trouble understanding what I’m reading and I have some trouble with aphasia.

Side effects and weak effect sizes aside, this is the best a medicine has done for me in a long time and I am pleased and excited. I hope hope hope that the side effects fade with time and topamax continues to reduce the frequency of my migraines.


*My old neurologist started me at a high dose and blew me off when I complained about severe problems talking and very uncomfortable paraesthesia. And I lost a lot of weight and got very self conscious. A lot of neurologists treated me like crap when I was poor, chronically ill teenage girl. I write them angry imaginary letters and occasional real angry letters.

May 20, 2014
by sarcozona

I was a bystander

I was sitting on the bus when I noticed a slight teenage girl. Her black backpack and duffel were arranged around a lamp-post in a homey circle with a cardboard sign soliciting spare change. I noticed the girl not because she was homeless, but because she was frightened and defensive. She was standing, arms up half defensive, half placating. Two large punks (whose outfits and painstakingly spiked mohawks I normally would have admired) were clearly harassing her. The verbal taunts quickly became a physical assault.

I remember wondering what they were fighting about, trying to imagine how it was possible a girl so tiny could ever do anything that should provoke a reaction like that, trying to reconcile my previous good image of punks with these assholes.

At no point did I think about stepping in or hope for someone else to do something about the child being held in a head lock by a man while a woman punched her.

When the woman next to me stood up and said “Why isn’t anyone doing anything?,” it took me a few seconds to understand the question the way I do now, as a plea for someone to do something to stop a clearly horrible thing. My mind filled with answers like “they don’t know who’s to blame” or “what’s actually going on,” answers that don’t really matter or make sense.

About 30 seconds after the attack started someone did step in, thankfully.

The bus was full of other people who sat silently watching the attack. The girl was surrounded by a crowd, some of whom barely glanced up from their phones. We were all bystanders.

I knew the bystander effect was very powerful, but I didn’t understand why. I always imagined I would understand what was going on but just pass the responsibility for dealing with on to someone else, that overcoming the bystander effect was simply about being willing to step up and take responsibility. But the part of my brain that recognized that this was a dangerous situation acted in the best way it knew to protect me – by keeping me completely uninvolved. I couldn’t recognize the situation as something that I could or should get involved with. I couldn’t really even recognize it as “bad.” I felt a strange sense of distance from the situation.

I haven’t been exposed to many situations where an intervention is called for, but the ones I have, I’ve acted. I don’t know why I became a bystander this time, but I hope it doesn’t happen again.