November 03, 2002

A few days ago a post-doc that I'm working with asked me why I got my conches pierced. That's when I realized that I didn't have a nicely packaged false answer to give people that don't really care why I got pierced in one of the most painful places one can be pierced. I mumbled something about liking the way it looks (which is true), and he went away happy. But the experience also made me realize that most of you guys probably don't know why I did it. And seeing as how I do care whether or not my friends know my real reasons, I thought that AC might be a decent place to explain myself.

Pain evolved as a deterrent for unhealthy behaviors. If ancient man smashed his hand with a rock, nerves fired to let him know that he had just caused damage to his own body, and that he'd better not to do that any more. But pain was for the most part unavoidable. For hundreds of thousands of years, the life of any given person was filled with physical pain and hardship. But within the last hundred years we're suddenly been given the option to avoid, dull, or even totally abolish, pain. In a modern first-world country, an average person can go most of their entire life without experiencing something that was absolutely central to hundreds and thousands of years of human history.

At this point I'd like to point out that I'm not implying that I'd like to seek out every ailment that modern medicine has cured. Purposefully giving onesself tuberculosis wouldn't really be a good idea. But we've reached a point in our history where we can completely obey the "don't do that again" messages our own body sends us. In fact, most people choose to completely avoid the messages in the first place.

So why did I decide to make a beeline straight for those messages? Partly it's my love of irony (purposefully doing something that my body sends me messages not to do). Wrapped up in that is proof of will (verifying I can intellectually go through with something that all my instincts tell me not to do). I also want to remind myself to not stray too far from something that's so fundamental to the existence of so many creatures except relatively wealthy modern humans. And finally, I'd be a liar if I didn't admit that I really like the aesthetics of a piercing.


Posted on November 03, 2002 10:55 PM

as a canned explanation, it's terrible. far too wordy, and who really wants to sit through all of that? i'd like to demand that you take down the entire text of this post and replace it with, "because i thought it would look cool."

Posted by: dianna on November 3, 2002 11:07 PM

If there was an effective way to stick my tongue out at you and make rasberry noises online....I'd do it.

Posted by: Jacob on November 4, 2002 08:07 AM

Interestingly, some of that explanation was repeated almost word for word in Secretary on the


"Coming out as a Dominant/Submissive" audio tape she listens to. the part about pain being part of life etc.

SPANK HIM, DIANNA! ew. I can't BELIEVE i just said that.

Posted by: didofoot on November 4, 2002 08:42 AM

you know what's wierd was that i was thinking just this morning about you and your consultation this weekend and wondering indeed about why you would be doing these kinds of things to yourself. and admittedly i did them to myself but for wholly different reasons... so suffice it to say, question answered. thank you, jacob. =)

and also, kristen! stop it! ew.

Posted by: michele on November 4, 2002 08:54 AM

kristen, i beg your pardon? this is a family forum, and i'll thank you to keep such perversions out of here!

Posted by: dianna on November 4, 2002 02:26 PM

That's right! Smut like that has no place here!


Posted by: Jacob on November 4, 2002 02:36 PM



"pat it pat it pat it pat it pat my butt....."

oh those wacky teletubbies. and jacob. and jacob's well-defined ass.

Posted by: michele on November 4, 2002 02:54 PM

unbeknownst to us, jacob hid this graph picture here and didn't TELL anyone that it's going to be his tattoo.

ummm...what's it a graph of, exactly? how big will it be? where on your back? details man!

Posted by: michele on November 7, 2002 02:32 PM

It's geeky sciency stuff that amazes me. It's the representation of the structure factor as a vector traveling along the plane of complex numbers. Which basically translates to "It's the actual data you collect when determining the structure of a protein".

It'll be right on the top of my back just below the line of my shirt, and will be .... 4 inches? 6 inches? (can't remember exactly how large I made it) wide.

Posted by: Jacob on November 7, 2002 03:15 PM

like on the side or on the spine?

sweet! that is really cool. =)

Posted by: michele on November 7, 2002 03:18 PM

like on the side or on the spine?

sweet! that is really cool. =)

Posted by: michele on November 7, 2002 03:33 PM


Posted by: michele on November 7, 2002 03:33 PM

It'll be centered right in the middle of my back, so the middle break should be right over my spine. (owtch)

Posted by: Jacob on November 7, 2002 04:47 PM

ouch indeed.

Posted by: michele on November 7, 2002 04:57 PM

Sweet lord man! You are really committed to this structural biology stuff aren't you? Perhaps I should get a tattoo of a microarray... I am sure that the artist would love to draw 16,000 green red and yellow dots on me. It would have to represent actual data I collected of course, so the shade of each dot would have to be precise. Perhaps I could even use the fluorescent nucleotides as the dye for the tattoo in order to be truly accurate... but then people would have to shine lasers on me to see the tattoo. Does this sound like a good idea to anyone else?

Posted by: Doug on November 7, 2002 08:05 PM

I think just getting red/green dye isn't realistic enough. You should either go with the nucleotide idea or tattoo the red/green ratio (thousands of tiny numbers) to signify the wt/mut expression levels.

And really, the structural thing is sort of representative of why I got into biology in the first place: digging into the tiny bits and interpreting the data into a bigger picture.

Posted by: Jacob on November 7, 2002 08:43 PM

I have done some more thinking and I have realized that the fluorescent nucleotides would quickly be incorporated into my skin cells, and would cease to be recognizable as useful data. So much for the array-tattoo idea.

Seriously though, the wave thing is a cool design, and I think its relation to your reason for liking biology makes it all the cooler. Plus, it is sort of like sailors/pirates/longshoremen (the tattooed social groups that I respect the most for obvious reasons) getting tattoos of anchors on their arms or ships on their chests- the tattoo relates to what you are doing with your life. But most of all, you will have to educate your grandchildren about how to solve a crystal structure whenever they ask you about your tattoo, so it is all in the interest of biological education. For these reasons, I commend you and your future tattoo, sir.

Posted by: Doug on November 7, 2002 11:26 PM

Many thanks, Dr. Doug! But....nucleutides incorporated into your skin cells? Are you competent? *grin*

By the way, did you notice the REAL trick about the tattoo? It's a little hard to do on a computer screen, but if you look at it as a wall-eyed stereogram, the wave is spiraling around the axis (and thus a TRUE representation of the structure factor).

Posted by: Jacob on November 8, 2002 12:18 AM

I think that my skin cells might be competent enough to incorporate single nucleotides when they were injected into the skin, vs. a whole fluorescent plasmid, but regardless, the tattoo would certainly be screwed if I spilled transfection reagents all over myself (as I am prone to do).

Wow, the 3d thing is awesome. So, people will have to stare blankly at your back while you explain solving crystal structures to them. I foresee many surreal situations in the future. I don't know much about tattoos, but I am guessing that a stereogram must be fairly unique. Very cool stuff!

Posted by: Doug on November 8, 2002 08:38 AM

I'm certainly HOPING that people will stare blankly at my back. That's when my lackey will steal their wallets. Because, along with a tattoo, I've decided to get a lackey.

Maybe I'll even get a tattoo of a lackey. The possibilities are endless.

Posted by: Jacob on November 8, 2002 09:08 AM