Thursday, July 08, 2004

dispatch from santa monica, #3

The first day of mini-medical school went all right. One more day, and it's Xanax for everyone!

There were three talks over the course of the day. Two were interesting. One was on the cardiovascular system, various different things that can go wrong with it, and why those things become more and more likely to happen as you get older. The other was on cancer, the various things that all have to go wrong for a malignant cancer to develop, and why this becomes more and more likely to happen as you get older.*

The third talk was a biologist laying out an extensive and, as he presented it, heterodox theory bringing together evolutionary history, caloric-restricted mice, demented mouse lemurs, and several other things in trying to explain the relationship between inflammation and the life span. Or something. As far as I could tell looking around the room, no one else knew what to make of it, either.

Afterward, I went for a walk near the ocean. Being a lifelong midwesterner, I have not spent much time near the ocean--neither of my parents have ever seen an ocean, apart from TV--and I have never walked along an ocean by myself. Where I was walking wasn't exactly by the ocean, as there was this superhighway below where I was walking, and then a giant parking lot after that, and then the beach after that, but the ocean was there, looking all, you know, big. I was thinking about actually going down to the beach, but then I felt this thing on my forehead and went to brush it off and got stung--it was some kind of bee/wasp/hornet/yellow-jacket/flying-scorpion-of-death. It still hurts a little bit this morning. Back on the farm, there are wasps' nests all over the place. However, I've never been stung by anything there, but instead the only time I had ever been stung by an insect before was, inexplicably, when I was in the middle of the library at the University of Iowa.

Anyway, after that I retreated to the hotel. There was a dinner for the attendees, but, in the interests of defending my title as the Most Relentlessly And Counterproductively Shy Person On The Planet, I skipped it.

* The cancer talk centered on the concept of "antagonistic pleiotropy", which is basically the idea of having some part of a genetic program have both good and bad effects. In this case, the idea was roughly that certain processes that work to prevent cancers early in life can contribute to their occurrence later in life. The researcher giving the talk threw me into linguistic-confusion-and-self-doubt by pronouncing "pleiotropy"--a word on my list in the sidebar--differently than I do (she says plee- and I say ply-). Merriam-Webster sides with me, so I'll assume my way is a legitimate alternative.

No comments: