Wednesday 15 June 2022

Occupational disease

Last month, I alluded to the irretrievable loss of some [of my] original scientific / historical research. For reasons set out below, I had a complete set of Carnivore Genetics Newsletters a periodical produced through the 70s and early 80s of the last century. For years, I lugged these around with me because I like complete sets and C.G.N. was my intellectual jam. Then I decided that storing this information in a box in a shed at home was not really getting maximal use out of the information contained in the series. Accordingly I donated the set, including some periodical storage library boxes [PSLBs], to the library of the Genetics Department at my Alma Mater, Trinity College Dublin. At the time I was back working in that department, so it was easy to achieve this archival aim. 

But the rise and rise of genetics servicing the human genome and big data meant that space was increasingly at a premium to house gophering post-grad students and ambitious young faculty. A new departmental librarian was appointed [everyone pays their community admin taxes except the total gobshites with delusions of Nobel grandeur]; and the C.G.N. archive was discarded as just too retro for a modern school of molecular biology. Better communication and a more inclusive sense of "worth" might have alerted me to the discard so I could dumpster-dive them back to my shed. But, no, they're gone; I am not bitter.

C.G.N. was produced several times a year by my boss, the US co-editor, out of a cellar in Newton, Massachusetts aka the Carnivore Genetics Research Center C.G.R.C. Because I started my US years living in that same cellar, for four years I was always part of the production team:

  • Taking the camera-ready typescript to the cheapest reliable printer in Cambridge MA
  • Collecting several xerox boxes of collated newsletters and a box of end-covers printed on slightly more robust 160 gsm stock.
  • Standing round the dining room table with whomever was available and willing
  • slapping covers on the inside pages
  • applying two industrial staples to each composite copy
  • crimping flat the exposed ends of the staples with some modified pliers
  • stuffing envelopes
  • applying address labels and stamps
  • lugging the boxes to the post office for dispatch 
I was usually designated to do the crimping and every time I developed a fine red case of crimper's thumb - an occupational repetitive strain injury from applying significant pressure with pliers to the inside edge of thumb and fore-finger. But begob, I infinitely preferred crimper's thumb to collator's paper-cut. And in a wider occupational disease view, crimpers thumb is better than scrotal cancer and it's less disabling than chippy's knee. I'd like to use that back-story to explain why my thumbs feel painful at the bottom joint when I close them to the far side of my palm. But it won't wash, because both left and right thumbs are about equally affected and I was ever and only a right-handed crimper. Must be some form of Arthur-itis.

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