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Friday, November 21, 2008

A Paean to Penicillin

I guess I could have also titled this post a "Canticle to Ciprofloxacin hydrochloride" since I'm actually allergic to penicillin but then you might not have known what I was talking about. (Although I know you are all very brilliant minds and you would have figured it out quickly.)

Last night I finally took myself over to Urgent Care to get a prescription for this stuff because after a week of "oh, I think it's going away..." I realized that I needed some real medicine. (No worries, I'm fine.) But anyway.

The thing I walked away most grateful for last night, besides the extremely nice people that helped me-- from the intake lady to the doctor to the pharmacist who let me sneak in and filled my prescription in like 30 seconds even though they were closed-- was how freaking lucky I am to have received a slim plastic bottle of pills that will make me feel all better by tomorrow or the next day. Even though I am going to take the entire week's dosage and I hope that you take ALL of your antibiotics like you are supposed to because it's very very very important and I'll get back to that later.

I can't help thinking about what it must have been like to live 100, 200 years ago with a minor illness, which although not life threatening is certainly life-annoying and can get much worse if left unchecked, without the benefit of something like penicillin. I've always loved to read the biographies of scientists who made major discoveries to the benefit of all mankind. Louis Pasteur, you are the man. Marie Curie, you're even more the man because no one wanted you to study science in the first place.

One of the books on my nightstand that I'm chipping away at before bedtime is about Joseph Priestly and Antoine Lavoisier, one a humble English minister type and the other a French nobleman who was eventually guillotined during the Terror, and their quest to discover oxygen. Subject might not sound like a blockbuster but in the history of important knowledge that's benefited humankind, it is. What strikes me about both these guys is that their lives were not easy, got totally messed up by religous zealotry (one in the strict sense, and one by the religion of political fervor) and how the human mind can be so single-mindedly brilliant when it wants to be.

The tiny list of scientific explorers I mention here helped to pave a way to an improved quality of life for all of us, and they did it without the benefit of government grants, readily available ingredients, laboratories or assistance, and sometimes working under life-threatening circumstances. That type of perseverance, to the understanding of our physical universe with the side effect of benefiting fellow humans and generations to come that could build on their discoveries, always fills me with pride and hope that we can do more and be more as a species, regardless of our gender, religion or nationality.

I am not going to talk about Sarah Palin and the fruit flies again. But to me, now, she is the ready poster girl for a subset of people who not only walk around clueless, but could possibly impede the future and direction of scientific inquiry. This is not a rant but if you want to read a well-reasoned and informed one, check out Andrew Sullivan. Now I'm not saying that all of us have to geek out on science like me. I used to hang out after school in junior high and help my biology teacher separate and count fruit flies, not for extra credit, but because I thought it was very cool to be a tiny part of a scientific process, even at the age of 12. So even back then, I knew that studying fruit flies wasn't just blowing smoke up someone's ass. (Certainly at age 12, a person can find lots of things to do after school besides observing Drosophila melanogaster.)

What I hope is that our country will turn back the clock on eight years of morality-induced prejudice leading to anti-scientific inquiry. I wrote a post recently about change and what we might be willing to do to help move our country forward, to the benefit of all Americans and the world. I'm thinking maybe one avenue for me might be to help support issues regarding the advancement of scientific research. Not just because of the Cipro. But because to me, Science can be a tool to advance Hope, and wasn't that also a theme of this election? Making life better for all of us in a measureable, meaningful way?

But first I must address why I woke up at 1:20am and found myself here in front of the computer. (Actually, I was thirsty. So I'll get my drink of water and catch you all later.)


ps.: For a hair-raising but very important read on why we all need to do our share to help prevent the development of super-resistant strains of bacteria, read Laurie Garrett's The Coming Plague. It's like reading The Andromeda Strain or The Stand and then coming to the uncomfortable realization that you're reading non-fiction. Want to believe in a real Armageddon? Good chance it could come from a microbe. And there's no mention of the Rapture, either.


Vanessa November 21, 2008 at 4:16 AM  

All hail Marie Curie!

I actually have been reading up on the subject, relating to some study in chemical and biological weapons. It makes me shake my head. There's nothing that spells "enormous potential for good and evil" better.

Pare November 21, 2008 at 4:57 AM  

"That type of perseverance, to the understanding of our physical universe with the side effect of benefiting fellow humans and generations to come that could build on their discoveries, always fills me with pride and hope that we can do more and be more as a species, regardless of our gender, religion or nationality."


I can get teary talking abt pharmaceuticals, trust.

Red Shoes November 21, 2008 at 6:27 AM  

That nasty little thing you've got, I get chronically. Cipro is my best friend...I can't imagine the misery I'd have put up with by now if not for that stuff. I am never happy to see it, though--because I fear the super-resistant nasties as well. Jeebus help us then...

Thanks for all the neat info here!

paris parfait November 21, 2008 at 7:25 AM  

When I was a child, I was fascinated by Marie Curie (and Pierre Curie) and read everything I could get my hands on about her, Louis Pasteur, et al - the scientific geniuses who rocked the world. You can imagine my delight when in Paris I got to see where Marie Curie lived and worked. And you're so right about science and the segment of the population who simply refuse to acknowledge its importance (i.e. Palin). For the last few years, we've been subjected to the dumbing down of America. And that has to stop! We need to harness all the brainpower possible, not only to survive, but thrive as a country.

Excellent post, poor sleep-deprived sick girl. Hoping you feel much better toute de suite! xoxox

Bill Stankus November 21, 2008 at 7:34 AM  

I've been fortunate to have had experiences in both science and art. When I worked in the science world and spent every day with people doing sci research I can't possibly explain how uplifting it is to be with brilliant dedicated and forward thinking people. Just as it is to be around really good artists - forward thinking and creative.

smith kaich jones November 21, 2008 at 8:03 AM  

Well, I'm just impressed that you can read about plagues & all that kind of nasty stuff and not develop every little symptom mentioned. I can barely visit someone in the hospital without imagining the germs lurking on pens.

Get better, and yes, thank God for drugs & the people who invent/discover them.


julochka November 21, 2008 at 9:46 AM  

this is a great post, but all i have in me is that i totally loved the stand. i read it like 5 times as a kid and once said in an interview that it was the book i would take with me to a desert island. i think the answer they were looking for was the bible, but hey, i'm nothing if not honest. today, i'd take murakami with me...

Christina November 21, 2008 at 11:09 AM  

I am sad that I don't know about, any of the wonderful people you are speaking of. I need an, amazon trip. ; )

So happy, you are feeling better. ; )

I am allergic to penicillin, too! Hmm... sisters in many ways. ; )

willow November 21, 2008 at 2:44 PM  

The thought of those super-resistant strains is TOO scary. And no rapture mentioned? Yikes.

I am allergic to penicillin, too, BTW. Terrible rash. Icky.

Blue Sky Dreaming November 21, 2008 at 2:52 PM  

I believe what I'm getting from your post (besides the great science stuff) is the need, desire for all of us to participate, support or join in on this spanking new era. Our country needs all of us and I too am looking for my place of contribution. I'm letting go of my attitude about being a non-joiner and willing now to find my spot and truly give. Thank you for your clear statements...feel better!
Oh, look at me...I'm on your Super Duper Eye Candy and Creative types!

sarah December 5, 2008 at 6:49 PM  

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