Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Descent of Posts

Back in late September I was tagged by Mike for an evolution-themed meme. This meme provided an opportunity for the tagged bloggers to dive back into the vault and contemplate the evolution of their blogs. Since I was tagged in the midst of finishing my dissertation, submitting several papers, and starting the third year of medical school, it has taken me a while to put everything together in a way that makes sense to me and might be interesting to you.

My very first post consisted of one version of a story about my blog's namesake. Long story short, after Pandora unleashed evils into the world, she also had the sense (or luck) to release hope as an antidote to the ills. Pandora's box is an often used frame in conversations about science and society, particularly surrounding technology and ethics. So I thought it was reasonable for my blog to start out with the following goals:
1. To generate a conversation about science and society.
2. To contribute interesting and meaningful content to the digital community.
3. To improve my own writing and argument skills.
4. To learn more about what others think about science.
5. To encourage scientists to think critically about how their work fits into society.
I am happy to say that more than a year later, I am sticking with these objectives.

My first posts were personal - I had been quarantined by the King County Department of Health for mumps. It turned out I had a salivary stone, but because I had traveled recently through some cities with mumps cases, I was to keep out of public places. Here is one reflection inspired by my quarantine:
This brings me to another point: economic productivity. I wonder what the effects of a widespread quarantine for H5N1 avian flu would have on the economy. I'm no economist, but I would imagine that any effects from lost work would hit the poor first and hardest. Do employers make any allowance for workers on quarantine? Is that something the government is prepared for in the reports recently issued about the possible pandemic? Who's responsibility is it to keep food on the table when the breadwinner is quarantined?
I even wrote some bad poetry about the experience That's a path you may not want to travel.

Which brings me to my next theme: carbon footprint. In the interest of contributing content to the web (and attracting readers), I started writing a weekly column about how to reduce your carbon footprint. Each of my posts was personal. I was motivated by what seemed to me shaky science and imaginary economics to pick areas of my own life that I could improve on. This came back to bite me when I wrote about cell phone chargers. I still think I did my calculations correctly, given what I knew. Even the experiments to test the idea that chargers use power when plugged in seemed rigged and misinterpreted. Anyway, my favorite post from that series featured some of my local farmers' markets and added a splash of color to the site.

Speaking of flashes of color, as I grew more comfortable with the blog, I posted more entries that revealed my sense of humor. Many of these fun entries were collected from other sites. Some I embellished or inserted into my own context. Others were enough to stand alone. When I encountered a video of surfing rats, I could not help but point out the link between one Australian animal trainer and the laboratory experiments I conducted at the time.

But it's not all fun and games at Hope for Pandora. As I had the ideas and energy, I would ponder some serious issues. Occasionally, I would rail against how some new stem cell study had been overhyped. Sometimes, I would comment on issues related to science in religion. My most viewed entry (thanks to a link from PZ Myers) was one where I supported the atheist Out Campaign. Go figure: a Christian supporting 'the other side.' I guess that was my way of denying the tenability of the warfare thesis in the science and religion debates. One quote from that post is:
My conversations with atheists about science, politics or religion are as interesting and meaningful to me as discussions on the same topic with Christians. In many instances, my agnostic and atheist friends are more likely to be open to thinking about new and different ideas. In the kinds of discussions I like to have about science, society and social justice, it doesn't matter what people believe in. It matters that they are respectful, honest and open to conversation.
Finally, I recently made a transition in my 'real life' from graduate student to third year medical student. With that comes different blogging patterns - weekend heavy and sporadic. I use my blog these days to record and explore experiences from medical school. It is easy to move from one day to the next without pausing to reflect on the significance of what filled the day. My favorite medical post so far describes my first delivery. When the difficult delivery was at a critical stage,
We were patting and rubbing him, sticking tubes down his throat, and forcing air into his lungs. All we wanted in return was for him to scream at us. After 4 minutes, he took a breath; 30 seconds later we heard a weak cry. The intern kept imploring Seattle's newest baby boy to tell us how angry he was. When he did, I wasn't the only person in the room with wells for eyes.
That about does it. Hope for Pandora is an evolving entity that closely reflects its author's evolutions. It is a tool for me to express myself and a way to develop a voice.

In the interest of keeping this meme alive, I will tag a few blogfriends. Mostly because it would be fun to hear about their sites' evolution. I don't want to be pushy about it, so they will have to discover on their own if they've been tagged. The worst that can come of it is that I send a few new readers to those sites.

Mark of blogfish
Kate of Anterior Commissure
Ben of nosugrefneb
Noel of Constructive Procrastination


Mike Haubrich, FCD said...

I liked this, it was fun to go back and see what you had written before PZ sent me here to check you blog.

Ben said...

Thanks, Thomas, for the invitation. I'll have to go through my old posts (and blogs?) and see what I can come up with.