Jan. 31st, 2012

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There are days that remind me of why I'm doing this.

Of course, there are days that don't. There are days that make me wonder why - why, in the name of all that is lizards - I'm subjecting myself to this, and for so little money! And there are days where the spark just doesn't catch and it's just a job (like today, for example).

Anyway, I want to write about one of the formermost days that happened a few weeks ago, but for that, I'm going to have to give you a little background.

As many of you know, I was raised by a crazy woman and her sidekick. Or, as my wife likes to put it, I was raised by Captain Kirk and Frodo Baggins (now there is a match made in heaven) and my parents were just two people I had to put up with in the meantime. The truth is kind of elusive. I'm certainly a fairly crazy person thanks to my parents' behavior, but I'm a lot more selfless and creative, less neurotic and doubting, than you'd think I'd be with parents as nutty as mine. I'm proud to say that part of it probably is because of my adoptive dads James and Frodo. It's probably partly because, as an older child, I identified more with the somewhat less aggressively crazy of my parents, my father, also an older child. The fact that I spend nearly a month in an incubator might have also prevented me from bonding properly with my mother, which might have contributed to our lousy relationship today, even as it kept her from pouring as much of her crazy into me. Part of it is because for all their dysfunction, my parents have always loved me as deeply as they were able, something which they communicated despite their issues. And part of it is because of the other adults in my life, my teachers, mentors, and relatives.

Chief among them, in many ways, was my uncle Michael, my mother's brother. Michael was a chemist who worked on identifying hazardous chemicals in products and preventing them from becoming a danger to health and the environment. As a young person with a growing interest in science, Michael was possibly the coolest thing to ever happen to me, and every time he visited us - and that one time we visited him - we would stay up long into the night and talk about science.

The thing I remember most clearly about Michael was his incredible patience. Here was a guy doing very high level science at one of America's leading universities, and here is a ten year old who likes the Time Life: Human Body series and Eyewitness Science books.

And yet, I remember one of the proudest moments of my young life was the day that I proposed inventing a chemical that would stop HIV from copying inside a host cell and my uncle told me that I had just predicted the principle behind AZT, one of the first drugs to slow the progress of HIV to AIDS.

A few weeks ago, I was proud to find my class discussion of the mechanics of HIV turning in the same direction, with my students asking me, with significant creativity and clarity of thought, about how HIV might defeated. It was a lot of fun, and it made me feel close to my uncle, and proud that I've created a classroom that is, at least sometimes, a place where my students feel safe to explore their ideas.

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electricpaladin

June 2012

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