Just a quick announcement: Many have pointed out that new content for this site has been a bit lacking recently. I totally understand this and the concern that the twilight of Depleted Cranium might be looming. However, I have every intent of keeping up the blog.
Right now, I have a number of personal and professional obligations converging. As a result, I will be on more or less of a hiatus from new posts until April.
I realize that blogs thrive on new content and taking some time off will likely mean diminished traffic and page ranks. Unfortunately, I just have too much going on.
Space flight is dangerous. Taking a rocket into orbit means sitting on a controlled explosion happening under an enormous tank of fuel and oxidizer. Rocket engines are under such tremendous forces, they push engineering to its limits. Once one arrives in space, the spacecraft must protect occupants from one of the harshest environments imaginable. Then, upon return, the rapid reentry to the atmosphere subjects the craft to enormous heat and pressure. Every part of a space mission is dangerous.
It is more dangerous when politics and a desire for good publicity and scheduling gets in the way of more important concerns over safety and engineering. This is what happened to the Challenger. It was the first American space mission to result in causalities (although astronauts had died before in practice sessions and dry runs, such as Apollo 1). It was the worst loss of life in a single space mission up to that time. It would be tied by the 2003 breakup of the shuttle Columbia.
The accident put a temporary halt to the US space program and resulted in numerous safety improvements. Unfortunately, these improvements were not enough to stop another tragedy from happening with the Space Shuttle. While the Shuttle proved to be one of he most capable craft for low earth orbit, with unique capabilities, like the capacity to retrieve satellites from orbit, it also has some other, more dubious, distinctions. More lives have been lost in the Space Shuttle than any other spacecraft. It has a LOVC (loss of vehicle and crew) rate of greater than one percent, for all launches.
For me, the Challenger incident has other significance. I was three years old at the time if happened. It is one of my earliest distinct memories and the earliest memory I can pin directly to an event.
My memories are vague, but I do remember a few things. My mother worked with a man whose television was not working on that day. He came over to my home to watch the TV coverage. He and my father were glued to the set all afternoon and evening. I was upset because I wanted to watch Mister Roger’s neighborhood and we only had the one television.
My parents watched ABC news. It’s amazing but these videos actually jar distinct memories for me.
Any regular readers will notice a great lack of new posts recently. I’m aware of this, obviously, and it certainly has resulted in a big reduction in traffic.
No, I have not given up blogging and no this site is not dead. However, I’m in the midst of a major political situation which is taking all of my time for the moment. I do, however, hope to be able to make a couple of new posts in the next week or two and I will certainly make many more in the future.
In all likelihood, my time will be very limited and posts will be relatively few up until July. Thereafter, I will have a bit more time in August, but expect to be consumed once again in September and October. Then, following November, I’ll either have a lot of free time or very little time.
I have to be careful here or I might actually get teary-eyed, which almost never happens….
Recently I broke my right humerus just bellow the shoulder. I broke it badly, I broke it very very badly. This was not just a clean fracture. I am talking about a nasty, complicated, jagged, destructive break. If that is not bad enough, the joint was badly dislocated. The ball on the end of the fragment of bone no longer engaged the shoulder rotator cuff and was pushed to the side, sitting in my upper arm.
It was not clear that my shoulder joint could be saved. The orthopedic physician who saw my injuries told me it was the kind of job that necessitated a the best surgeon available. Still, there were no guarantees, even with the best, that my joint could be saved.
If it could not (and that looked like it might well be the case) then I would have to have it removed and replaced with a fully artificial shoulder. My bone and cartilage joint would be replaced with one made from metal and ceramic.
Of course, joint replacements should themselves be considered an important feet of science. Millions have recovered from severe injury or had their lives drastically improved thanks to the technology of orthopedic joint implants. If I had to receive a shoulder replacement, I would have been benefiting from modern medicine, enormously.
Still, for an active 31 year old, living life with an artificial shoulder is, at best, sub-optimal. There are complications that can occur. The durability and range of motion can’t match a natural joint, and I would likely need the prosthetic replaced, perhaps multiple times.
Thankfully, that’s not what happened. If I had experienced this accident ten years ago, or if I had been admitted to a different hospital, that probably would have been the case. However, I had the great privilege of ending up at Yale New Haven Hospital. In addition to the hospital providing extremely attentive and high quality care, I was able to have Doctor Ted Blaine preform the surgery.
Doctor Blaine is one of the best shoulder and elbow orthopedic surgeons in practice. He is the head of the department at the Yale school of medicine. He is also very active in research and development of better surgical methods and teaching new doctors how to preform the procedures.
It took more than four hours of surgery and what Doctor Blaine described as “A lot of screws,” but my joint was put back together and my original anatomy retained. At present, I have little use of my right arm, and I probably will need to have it immobilized for upwards of another month. After that, I face a long process of physical therapy. However, I am expected to recover normal function and use of my right arm, though it may be several months before I reach 100%
Of course, I have communicated to Dr. Blaine that I would be eager to participate in any medical research. In fact, I would fully consent to invasive procedures or to experimental rehabilitative techniques that carry the risk of setting back my recovery or being inferior to standard methods.
My desire to participate in such research comes, in part, from my enormous gratitude and respect for the scientific knowledge and hard-working researchers who have helped make my recovery possible. However, it is also because, even despite the excellent care I received, this has been, quite literally, the worst experience of my life. After the anesthesia wore off, I experienced two days of physical pain I could not have even comprehended before. I have had my share of minor injuries, but nothing can come close to the agony of the post surgical inflammation. This was not due to any inadequacies in my care. I was given the most powerful painkillers possible, including high doses of IV morphine. But it did very little. The pain is simply due to the nature of the operation required. Thankfully, it was temporary and the hospital did do everything possible to provide some relief.
When I think of the pain I experienced as well as the long and difficult recovery I face, I can’t help but be heartbroken by the thought that millions of people will experience such agony and worse. For many, it won’t be temporary. Most will not get the quality of care that I did. After this experience, I hope that there is a way I can help advance scientific knowledge and reduce human suffering, perhaps leading to more people not needing to go through as much as I did.
Finally, and on a slightly unrelated note:
Bikes are great. They are a simple and elegant form of human-powered transportation. They provide for enjoyable and low-impact method of exercise. They allow people to travel locally while experiencing their community in a more direct way than being inside a car. They are a great way to avoid traffic, enjoy the fresh air and save some money on gasoline.
While I am all for biking, and will surely continue to bike ride, it is certainly not a risk-free activity. On a bike, there’s really nothing separating the rider from being thrown off and injured.
Please wear a helmet and exercise due caution. When in doubt, be more conservative with speed and safety boundaries.
I know this is obvious, but, given the circumstances, it’s worth repeating.
I had been planning on returning to full time posting and I was about 75% done with a post on GMO opposition when I suffered a mishap which will prevent my return to full time blogging.
On Saturday I was on a bike ride when a family decided to stop and completely block the bike trail on a blind curve at the bottom of a hill. This, by the way, is a stupid thing to do.
I could not stop in time. I swerved to avoid them. I successfully missed hitting anyone, but was thrown from my bike so violently that I fully lost consciousness. I started to awaken in the ambulance as it arrived at the hospital.
I have the following injuries:
Numerous bruises and soft tissue injuries
Minor skull fractures
Badly broken right humerus
Of these, my right arm is by far the worst. I am right handed and have zero use of it. Also very painful. It is in a sling, but I am scheduled to have it operated on next week. Screws and pins will be required to rebuild it.
I am told it will be months before it is 100% back to normal, but hopefully much sooner that I will be able to type with both hands. For now I am of limited capability and taking a lot of pain killers. Hence, no new posts for at least a couple weeks.
Also: I do not doubt there are typographical errors in this post. It took a grueling 45 minutes to write. Please, just deal with it. I am in no mood to go back and edit errors which may be obvious but do not detract from understanding the content.
I regret to inform readers that there will be no further posts for about two weeks. I realize recently there have not been many posts, as i have been busy.
Unfortunately, I recently experienced the unexpected death of my dog, who was my best friend. It happened under tragic circumstanced while he was in the care of my family. I also experienced a falling out with someone who was very important to me and some heartache over the differences we had regarding feelings etc.
This comes after a period of time when i have been very busy with a number of high stress responsibilities.
I have been advised that i should probably consider taking a vacation. In light of this, I am making it a point not to post on this blog or do a number of other things for the next two weeks.
If you are wondering why I am saying this and not withholding the details, it is because i find it somehow therapeutic to be honest about it. Also, I was advised that admitting to having a lot of stress and that i feel terrible about my dog or had relationship issues is not likely to be held against me politically, especially with the race well over a year away.
Do you support nuclear energy? Do you think the US government should not have unlimited powers to spy on its people? Do you think that the rise of biotech and technologies like 3D printers requires revamping of intellectual property laws in a way that avoids being overly restrictive toward end users? Do you want to see the US start funding big science programs again?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, I hope you will consider making a contribution to my campaign for the US Congress.
PLEASE NOTE THAT IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO SO, NOW IS ABSOLUTELY THE TIME TO DO IT.
Recently I have received word that another candidate has started fund raising in the district and this makes NOW a very important time. In the next days and weeks, I will be going to committees and talking to potential big contributors, PAC’s and the media. The candidate who has the largest number of contributors and the highest amount of money raised will always be regarded as the leader and will have a much easier time getting endorsements and contributions. In other words, if a candidate fails to get some support at this critical moment, they will fall behind and never be able to catch up. Conversely, if they get more than the other candidate, they will become the presumptive nominee and it will be easy for them to get more funding in the near future.
Even small contributions help. Yes, your ten dollars DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Of course, more makes an even bigger difference.
We recently lost Roger Ebert, who had been struggling with cancer since 2002. Although modern medicine did manage to give him another decade, he lost his ability to speak and eat normally due to surgery on his throat and jaw. Roger Ebert is best known as a film critic, but he was also a great editorialize, a humanist, a skeptic, a promoter of the arts and, of course, a champion for the great artistry of cinema.
Of course, as a film critic, Roger Ebert had to sit through many movies that he would not have watched by choice and did not exactly find much to like about. One of his greatest talents was his ability to putdown movies which were sorely in need of it. It’s an often unrecognized talent, requiring creativity, wit, masterful communications and an excellent vocabulary of insults. Ebert was able to quickly, in just a few words, capture the sheer awfulness of two hours of garbage and communicate it to his audience in a way that was sharp and on point. His insults not only captured the very stench of the crap he had to review, but were clever and funny in their own right.
As someone who so often reviews crap online, I find Ebert to be a high standard to aspire to for his ability to cut down those who need it.
To all readers –
You may have noticed that Depleted Cranium has been a bit light in posts recently. It’s been a few days since the last one and that one was a few days after the one before that. Sorry about that!
My personal life has just been very busy recently. On top of that, I’m working on a couple of posts that are going to be rather long and highly researched. Please bear with me while I get things updated. New posts will come soon!
Also, please don’t tell me it should be “bare with me,” because it is actually bear. Bear is the animal, but it also means to hold, carry or stay. Bare means naked.