Wednesday, October 03, 2007

when the world is running down

Sometimes I really get frustrated with how inefficient I am, and that is one of the moments when I'm most glad to be a geek. Because, we're designed to be inefficient. This is probably going to cause any few readers I have left running, but here's the thing- the body has this need to stay at a certain point. I mean, I've already gone off about homeostasis, sure. And I knew it wasn't some static point that we just tightly stay at, that there are always things throwing us off kilter and then other things that set us closer to where we ought to be. But I guess I didn't fully appreciate how inefficient and stupid we are. Or maybe that's not the right way to put it. Maybe the way to say it is that we do the best with what we have, and that doesn't always mean intelligent design.

So, for example, we have to keep our body's pH, or acidity, in a very tight range, and generally this is done with buffers. But we have a couple of different buffer options in our body:

  • A carbon dioxide/bicarbonate buffer, which is not actually a great, powerful buffer. Though it's not a great buffer, it does have one thing going for it- bodies know how to control the amount of carbon dioxide or bicarbonate they're letting go wild at any given time.

  • Phosphate buffers, which are excellent buffers, really the kind of perfect buffer we've always been looking for. The only problem is that they're not around in much supply.

  • Protein buffers, which are also great buffers. But they're a bit slow, and bodies can't control their levels very much.

It's like three boyfriends. One is not a great boyfriend but at least he does what you tell him to do- he's predictable and reliable, even if he is reliably late or predictably falling short. He might not make you happy, but he's also not going to upset you such that you start drinking and listening to The Cure in the dark. The second is the boyfriend you've been waiting for all your life, but you're starting to wonder if he's just a figment of your imagination because you sure haven't seen him around. And the third is the boyfriend that had the whole package but somehow you just never could get on the same page, and you knew there would come some time where your lives would just cause you to drift apart quite naturally.

If your body had anything to say about it, you'd choose the not-great boyfriend. You'd settle. It's not about being perfect, after all, it's about being reliable enough such that you don't end up dying of a broken heart, or in the body's case, of acidosis or alkalosis. The body is very pragmatic that way.

Anyway, I don't know what boyfriends have to do with inefficiency really. But I do know that my feeling towards relationships are sometimes similar to my feels about myself- nothing is ever good enough, and I'm constantly wondering why it can't be better or why I can't be better. Even now, in medical school, I am sort of awed by my ability to slack off or procrastinate despite healthy levels of fear that ought to motivate me into working harder. In the end, I have to remember that it's better to be not-great: after all, if you want to make it to the finish line, it's important to stay alive. I mean that metaphorically, but I don't think I need to drive the point home any further.

p.s. The song of the week is returning on Monday. I miss it, and I'm hoping it will prompt me to be better about posting regularly about something that has nothing to do with medical school.

p.p.s. Big Shots and Bionic Woman were so lame last week. So far, it's looking to be a really lame season for new shows (and no I did not like Aliens in America, in case anyone is about to throw that one in there). I also checked out Gossip Girl, but it turns out I really can't bring myself to care about another set of Dylan/Kelly/Seth/Marissa types all over again. Why are all these shows coming out about rich people anyway? Don't they have enough attention without fictionalizing their already nearly fictional lives as it is?

No comments: