succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Continued Incompetence

So the printer got back to me around 2:30 today. And literally, the proof looked like he'd thrown it together in about 20 minutes. If he had sent this as a first pass, to get my feedback, last week, I would have tolerated it. Sending it as a potential final product, 8 days after getting my files, is unacceptable. I downloaded some poster templates over the weekend to play around with layout, figuring it would be useful to know how to do. Thank goodness for my nerdiness and neuroticism, as my layout looks way better than his (him being the professional graphic design artist who, you know, does this for a living). So I called him up and suggested some layout changes, then e-mailed him mine and suggested combining the best parts of his (the title) with the best parts of mine (pretty much everything else). That was around 4. I called around 5:30, figuring he'd left for the day and not wanting to stress out stalking my e-mail. He was still there, and said he'd try to have something for me by 10 tomorrow morning. I'm just so worried now that tomorrow morning's product will still be sub par, and we're rapidly running out of time to make corrections and get the damn thing printed. At this point I'd much rather cut my losses and send my layout to the university printer (who has been nothing but patient and helpful all week while I drag them along as a backup plan just in case this falls apart). But the more I thought about it today, the more I realized I probably can't bail at this point because a) this other company was recommended by my bosses on another job, I name-dropped them when I made the call, and bailing now might be a social faux pas between me and them and b) although none of it has been satisfactory, it is within the realm of possibility that the current company will choose to bill be for their 'work' so far. I can't really cause my department to get double billed.

On the tiny silver lining part, at least it has distracted me from pining away from my still-being-constructed laptop. And all in all, my therapist says I've been handling my week remarkably well.

Stress! Avoidance!

So I'm giving a poster presentation this weekend. And I finished the content portion of the poster last Wednesday. I tried to send it off to our university printer but they were going to charge an exhorbitant amount to design the layout and do the printing. My advisor, who is excellent, but clearly hasn't designed her own poster in a while, said she was pretty sure we could find another printer that would do both for a reasonable price. So we contacted the researchers with whom we did the last poster (for that conference in CA) and they said oh yes, university printing is a rip-off, use these other people, we like them a lot and they're very afforable. So Wednesday morning I send everything off to them, they reply that they've got the files and will get to work, I remind them of my March 11 deadline. I go to the beach for two days, expecting to come home to a poster proof for approval. No proof, but no sweat, it's still one full week until the conference. I send some updated layout info to them on Monday, they reply thanks. So I know they're out there and working. But still no results. So last night I send a little reminder, hey, I'm getting a little nervous, where's the proof to approve prior to printing? Still nothing. I'm trying (and mostly failing) not to freak out. So I'm avoiding by watching Panda Cam and blogging about the excellent nerd lecture I attended last night.

The nerd lecture was about Maurice Hilleman. Ma-who? You've never heard of him? He should be the most famous person in the history of vaccines. But for a variety of reasons (mostly political) he's not. He died in 2005 and one of his friends and coworkers did this retrospective on his life and accomplishments.

First, a polio update (this nerd lecture was, after all, at the Vaccine Dinner Club, where we spend a lot of time talking about disease eradication) - Nigeria, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are currently the last four remaining countries with endmic polio. Unfortunately, over 2 dozen other countries have recently reported hot spots with new cases. We're moving backward.

Second, for all those anti-vaccine folks out there - today's vaccination schedule actually contains fewer total immunogenic products than our generation's, because the vaccines themselves have been improved and made more 'precise/efficient.' Also, if you've read The Virus and the Vaccine, which attempts to link cancer with the SV40 polio vaccine, Offit reports that it's an excellent books except for one small detail - all of the science in it is wrong.

Third, the speaker, Paul Offit, wrote The Cutter Incident: How America's First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis (which, by the way, is on my amazon wishlist) and will soon be coming out with Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases.

Now, on to the talk itself! In April of 1957 there was an avian flu outbreak in Hong Kong. Hilleman recognized its potential to turn into an epidemic (or pandemic) and cross US borders. So he became the first person to predict a flu epidemic and convinced six US-based vaccine companies to produce 40 million doses of flu vaccine. Result: minimal outbreak in America. And just in case you're wondering, we currently have 0 US-based vaccine companies.

Apparently Hilleman was (in)famous for his profanity-laced speech, and Offit guesses that Vaccinated may be the first book to contain both "DNA polymerase" and "fucking moron"!

Hilleman developed the mumps vaccine from a virus attenuated from his own daughter!

Truman (or was it Hoover?) campaigned on the slogal, "A Chicken in Every Pot," but it was Hilleman who actually made that possible - he developed Marek's vaccine (via Merck) and prevented cancer in chickens, dramatically reducing their price at grocery stores.

And lastly, my favorite quote of the evening - "Merck is like a law firm with an interest in pharmaceuticals."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


BitchPhD has a couple of excellent healthcare issues round-ups:

First, in case you missed it, the Bush administration plans to cut funding for uninsured children. Several states will run out of money for their children's healthcare plans within a few months (I'm pretty sure GA will simply stop enrolling children into the program unless more money magically appears soon).

Second, the FDA plans to shift 30% of the budget allocated for the Office of Women's Health to general use. Oh, and of course, the office of women's health covers children too, because women and children always go hand-in-hand and seem to be the first areas to experience budget cuts.

Third, some companies (including Walmart, I have to admit) are finally coming around to the notion that we're in a healthcare crisis. I'm not convinced that business is the sector to solve the problem, but they can't be any worse than the current federal government (eek! did I just sound like a Republican?).


Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.

If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More Computer Woes

Sigh. Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come. But I had already committed to an HP Compaq when my peanut gallery expressed a preference for Dells (in my defense, CNET rated both my HP choices higher than the Dell options) and already I'm frustrated. 1 - decide on HP Compaq V3000, customize on website, discover that website isn't working properly and cannot place order (hi, you're a computer company, maybe your website should work). Chalk it up as a fluke and call the 800# to order over the phone. 2 - get connected to someone who does not speak adequate English. Have to repeat my street address 4 times before he gets it right. Continue to worry that $1,200 laptop will be lost forever to postal service. 3 - receive e-mail today saying order is being shipped in parts and my carrying case will arrive in two days. Log online to track shipment and discover wrong carrying case. Call 800# again to correct, but will have to return wrong one since it's already en route. 4 - in process of checking order, discover that estimated ship date for laptop is March 14!!!!! Cannot live another 10 days without laptop (it's already been a week). Check Dell, same estimated ship date. Fucking computer companies.