Saturday, July 30, 2005

Put that magazine down

I know this is going to sound a little childish, but I just can't help myself. It REALLY bothers me that my mailman reads my STAR magazine before putting it in my box. He goes through the entire thing. I know I should not be bothered by such a small violation of the mailman/mailee relationship, but it drives me crazy. I don't want the magazine corners touched and crinkled by a strangers hand--I don't even know if he washes his hands. I don't want anyone seeing how naked Brittany's pregnant belly is or how skinny the hotdog-deprived Lindsay has gotten before I do. I am the one paying for this trash, and I should be the first to behold its glory.

I'm sorry, I'm just cranky today.

Scientists do it all

I think many people picture scientists sitting around their labs at all hours of the day and night plugging numbers into their algorithms, making super-smart rats with their gene guns, and cleaning their pocket protectors with bleach and 70% ethanol. True, we sometimes fall victim to such activities, but you may be surprised to learn that a lot of students, faculty, and post docs find themselves running out the lab door in the evenings to pursue other interests.

A few of us were sitting around yesterday talking about what our fellow classmates/faculty do in their free time, and I was amazed at the diversity of interests within our program. We have:

2 martial arts black belts who are also personal trainers in the evenings
2 people who coach at local schools (swimming and soccer)
a dozen or so "artists", some of whom compete in various art festivals every year
2 students and three faculty who are into making short films for various regional competitions and for fun
3 people (1 student and 2 faculty members) who are in bands
at least 20 people who either play instruments, sing, or both
5 freelance writers
1 person who does public policy work
5 knitters who sometimes hold knitting clubs that I've heard can be fun despite the grandma-associated stigma

In addition to individual activities, we have a program-sponsored softball team (and soon to be volleyball team if I have anything to say about it), several pretty cool book clubs, and a weekly "tea party" where students, faculty, and staff come together to discuss how neuroscience impacts art, ethics, policy, and education over cookies, tea, and wine. I'm sure if we had talked about the topic longer, we would have come up with more people who participate in these activities and probably some other interesting things that people are doing outside of science.

It's amazing how interesting people are when you look at them outside of their work environment. I think the days of the geeky, science-obsessed nerds are over--we are multidimensional and fabulous.

Friday, July 29, 2005

A bad year for the scouts

What on earth did the boyscouts do to piss off the powers-that-be?

Pitching the tent
Heat exhaustion

I was an unofficial boyscout since my dad was a BS Leader and my two brothers were in his troupe. I spent many evenings bandaging up legs, tying knots (useful for incapacitating brother2), lighting fires with flint stones, and racing pinewood derby cars. My mom figured if she could get 3 people out of the house, why not one more. She needed the break, so I didn't mind. While other girls were baking brownies, I was learning how to distinguish between leaves meant for toilet paper and leaves meant for warfare (i.e., skunk cabbage and poison ivy). I still say to myself "leaves of three--let it be" when hiking.

I feel awful for the families impacted by these tragedies.

Scientific Writing

It's difficult to attain good scientific writing advice. Writing formats and expectations vary among disciplines and have changed over the years causing a rift in the advice given by older versus younger scientists. Given the shift from narrow focus to multidisciplinary research, you may even receive conflicting information within your own "discipline" as it may be composed of chemists, psychologists, molecular biologists, etc. having opinions based on their respective backgrounds. The greatest disparities seem to involve using active versus passive voice, inclusion of prepositional phrases, the appropriateness or location of figures/graphs in proposals and/or research goals, and how to structure and format your grants and manuscripts (using goals versus working hypotheses for example). What is one to do?

I've been looking for some type of collection on the internet of common editorial criticisms to help myself and others know what to look for when editing our own writing. If I find any, I will post them. Additionally, I've been spending a lot of time reading grants, manuscripts, and proposals from successful faculty in my program to understand the styles and formats that worked well for these individuals. I feel this will help me to develop my own personal style while keeping within the spectral limits of successful writing methods. I advise students to start early and take your pink sheets very seriously (the feedback sheets you get when you submit a predoctoral fellowship). Ask faculty who have been successful in publishing and attaining funding if you can read the grant proposals for their currently funded projects and keep a file of their published manuscripts. It really does help.

The journal of neuroscience has two links here and here that I thought were helpful and to the point.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

He ate his brother in utero

Test-tube sharks?

The best parts of the story:


"In a process called intra-uterine cannibalism, grey nurse embryo pups develop a jaw and razor-sharp teeth very early in their development and cannibalize siblings in the womb.

The sharks have two wombs in which a dominant pup will consume its siblings, leaving only two surviving pups every two years when the shark breeds."


"To inseminate Lonnie, scientists had to first use ultrasound to determine the female shark was ovulating and then sedate a seven-gill male shark, named Gonzo, and internally massage its guts to stimulate the production of sperm, which was then injected into Lonnie's reproductive tract."

What a rough world we live in--talk about sibling rivalry. This is an excellent example of how evolution and survival of the species does not necessarily mean taking care of your blood relatives. Speaking of, my uncle Billy Bob (you remember him) got 90 days in the slammer for using his car as a moving tavern...again.

Is your brain working?

See if this works for you (you will need functional speakers).

There are more of these funny, Neuropop toys/tests here.


I'm not a big fan of waiting--I'm sure most of you feel the same way. As I wait, I create scenarios that are far more bizarre or more painful than that which will actually happen.


My manuscript went out over a week ago. Since it has been over a week, I know that the senior editor has decided to send my paper out for review. It has at least been deemed suitable for the journal--that is a very good thing since I decided to send it off to a high impact factor journal just for shits and giggles. I now have to wait for the 2 reviewers to read it and make their decisions. I can picture them reading it, all hunched over and frowning. They will find all of the holes in the work and gasp at my audacity to make such claims. They will set their coffee on top of it while they peruse the web and let their dogs chew on its corners. For months, they will sit on their decisions just to torture me....


I've been waiting for my test results for 4 days. My doctor and I played phone tag yesterday causing the dreaded discussion to be pushed to today. Of course I've decided that I'm dying, melting from the inside out. I'm thinking that maybe God did a trade off when my husband had his accident. Maybe he sent my husband back from heaven in exchange for me since heaven is short on neuroscientists right now. Of course I know that's not true because the likelihood of me still going to heaven is probably not so good, but hell may need some head specialists. Who knows?


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Cancer Bombs

Check out this cool technology.

From Reuters via

"After the bomb, which is like a balloon within a balloon, is injected into the bloodstream it travels to the tumor and burrows deep inside. The outer membrane then disintegrates and releases an anti-angiogenesis drug so the blood vessels feeding the tumor collapse."

The use (overuse) of the word bomb is telling of the current times. It's as though someone got reassigned from the Iraq war to the health section. Still, the study is very cool, and I love nanotechnology--let's give props to the little things in life.

No Punishment Will Be Severe Enough

I found this on Trisha's fancy sideblog. It made me so sick that I thought I was going to pass out. I didn't want to see it--I didn't want to believe. This article evoked such a strong response in me that I felt I should force all of you to read it too.

Here's an excerpt:

"Mark R. Downs Jr., 27, of Dunbar, is accused of offering one of his players the money to hit the boy in the head with a baseball, police said. Witnesses told police Downs didn't want the boy to play in the game because of his disability."

It doesn't surprise me--not one bit. My husband tried to be a pitching coach for a little-league team once. The parents' behaviors disgusted him so badly that he left one day and never returned.

We can try to cure mental illness, cancer, and AIDS, but we will never be able to cure pure ignorance and cruelty.

Whole stole their lollipop?

Apparently, some scientists are all bent out of shape about the Dalai Lama lecture to be held at this year's Society for Neuroscience Meeting. He will be speaking in a "Dialogues between Neuroscience and Society" lecture for the 30,000+ neuroscientists who attend this annual meeting (including me:).

Ignoring any possible political motives of those protesting his appearance, I'm confused as to why scientists would threaten to boycott a meeting of this caliber over one seminar. The SFN meeting is held over the course of several days and hosts hundreds of seminars, workshops, symposia, minisymposia, poster presentations, lectures, and ancillary events. The world's top neuroscientists present unpublished and newly published data and are often available for question and answer sessions, a wonderful experience for younger scientists. To devalue this experience over a lecture not on religious mumbo jumbo, but instead about a possible model of cognition for us to study is short-sighted and childish.

The Dalai Lama has been fostering a relationship with the neuroscience community for over a decade, unlike other religious leaders and groups who mock the value and advances of the field. He was even responsible for creating the Mind & Life Institute, a huge stride in trying to link philosophy and meditative practices with their physiological correlates. It would not be advantageous to argue that meditation can not be a model for understanding physiological and functional properties of the brain. The question is not whether Buddhist practices and beliefs are valid from a scientific prospective; the question is whether these practices actually modulate brain function and/or plasticity of neuronal networks, and I'm not sure why anyone would believe that they don't. This lecture is not analogous to the pope giving a lecture on the amygdala for obvious reasons (although I would love to see that seminar), and it's important to note the difference.

There are too many panic buttons in this society--to many buzz phrases that we jump all over without thinking. Mentioning religion or philosophy while discussing government or science gets all the frogs jumping regardless of the actual context or purpose of their association. We now have the tools needed to investigate the physiological correlates of practices such as acupuncture, meditation, praying, and any other non-Western medical practice or human behavior. We should not exclude investigating therapies or behaviors just because they are linked to a religious or philosophical system. That would be an abomination to science.

You can find more info at Mind Hacks and

Take on Me

You may not be a Family Guy fan, but when I saw this video (Click on Chris/Family Guy) over at Apropos of Something, I was so excited. It will give you warm fuzzy flashbacks--I swear. How can you not feel good listening to a-Ha?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Tribal gaming without the Buffalo

Another reason why you have to read the entire article--scientific or otherwise:

From Reuters via

California university to offer tribal gaming degree

"LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- A California Indian tribe on Monday said it would fund the first U.S. university degree in tribal gaming to bring professional discipline to a multibillion-dollar industry often "run on intuition."

I thought they were talking about a different type of gaming, and I thought "Wow, gaming is a billion-dollar industry?" Then I thought, "Intuition?". Then I sat there confused. Then I read the article. Now the lightbulb is on.

The connections our brains make are hilarious at times.

The Buddy Program

My latest run-in with a doctor who had the bedside manner of a warty toad made me think a lot about how we can train our medical students to not be so...uh...peckerheadish (best word available right now in my brain). As luck would have it, I stumbled across this article today. I know that medical students and/or residents are sometimes video taped with their patients so that the student/resident can actually sit back a see how they interact with the patient (mannerisms, conversation, body language, etc.). It's amazing how floored some people are when they witness their own behaviors. I thought the Buddy program mentioned in this article sounded interesting and unique. I know that my personal experiences with the diseases I research has influenced both my commitment to my work and the quality of my research.

Speaking of the warty toad, I think it's absolutely deplorable to not recognize that you've scared the bejeezus out of someone even after they've burst out into tears. What is wrong with people?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Soft Brains on the Walls

My husband is doing better--thank you for your support and kindness. I keep telling him that I'm going to put cushioning all through the house so he can't hurt himself again. You can imagine how excited I was when I found this over at Mind Hacks. My husband has always drawn the line with my brain decorations at my collection of brains in jars. I personally feel that fabric brain art would not only add a little class (or something) to our decor, but it would provide some soft surfaces on which he could fall next time he passes out. He's not buying it. He obviously didn't hit his head that hard.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Becoming a Grown Up

Many people talk about being an adult--they pay their own bills, have a "real" job, and have turned X-years old. They feel free to judge others and comment on how "life is" because they have met their self-designed rules of adulthood.

Many people talk about knowing what "love" feels like. They know they love someone because that person makes them feel whole, complete, etc. They feel that because they made it through the rough times--the fights over bills, the flirting, the fender bender, and all sorts of nonsense--they are one with each other.

I think that many people do a lot of thinking but not a lot of knowing. I thought I knew--I thought I was. I wasn't, and I didn't.

There was a crash, and the room shook. Jumping out of bed, I realized that my husband was not next to me. I fumbled for my glasses without luck. I pressed my face against the clock to read it--it glared back at me with an angry 4am.

Shit, shit--what is going on? I stumbled out into the hallway, nearly tripping over something very large. Bending over, I realized what was lying on the ground in front of me. I dropped to my knees and started pushing the pool of blood away from my husband's face with my hands. He could not talk or move; he just mumbled in babble speak. God, no, no. Please talk to me. Jesus Christ...please say something.

Babble speak....babble speak...tick, tock, tick. It's funny how loud clocks are in the middle of the night.

Honey, do you know who I am? Yes
Do you know where you are? No
Can you move? No...I don't know
Do you know what happened? No
Please try to move. Wiggle your fingers.
Wiggle your toes.
Can you see? I don't know.
Can you see? Yes
Can you read this (holding up a magazine)? Yes
Read it aloud.

God, where is all of this blood coming from? O.K. his chin--he cut open his chin. That will need stitches and X-rays...definitely some X-rays.

Honey, can you remember anything. No

911, What is your emergency?

I found my husband lying on the floor…he just collapsed…I didn’t push him or anything, he just fell (yes I know how bad that sounds in retrospect). He's bleeding, he can barely talk, and he doesn't know where he is or how he got, he doesn't have any medical, no drugs...I don't know what my address is...yes, I do...please hurry.

Honey, what's happening to me? Please, what's happening to me. His eyes teared up. In the seven years that I’ve known my husband, I have never seen him afraid.

This is the point where my heart breaks and my head snowballs. I can not live without this man. I can not do this alone. I am not strong. I am helpless.

Can't find the insurance card..where the fuck is his wallet? God, the dog and cat are licking the blood up. I can't do this alone. Oh, my god. Who can I call? Why didn't I make any friends--why did we move so far away from our family? Oh, my god.

The paramedics arrive--all nine of them. My house is so small that only two can fit in our hallway. The rest wait downstairs staring at me while I stare back at them. My lip trembles, but I do not cry. I need to act like I'm not afraid. I’m covered in blood along with the dog—the cat, thankfully, has disappeared. My husband can not answer their questions, and the stretcher is too wide for our stairs. I hate this house.

He’ll be alright mam. He probably had too much to drink at the game and passed out.

He did not have too much to drink, and the game was 10 hours ago. Do not tell me you are sure that he didn’t have a stroke or seizure, because you do not have the tools necessary for such a statement. Do not tell me that his blood pressure is fine when it is 135 over 85, which is well above his average bp and way too high for someone who has been lying flat for 25 min.

I get in the ambulance in my pajamas. The hospital is not that far away so I can walk home during the CAT scan and get the car. Too bad we were rerouted and had to go to a different hospital.

Hours later my husband is stitched up and feeling better. He still is a little confused about what happened, as is the doctor. It’s not a tumor, and it wasn’t a stroke or heart attack, so I have calmed down. He was 6 inches away from falling down the stairs, just 6 inches. We’ll meet with the neurologist next week, but there’s a good chance he was a little dehydrated and had a vagal response causing him to black out. When 220 pounds falls over and lands on its head, there’s bound to be some confusion in the aftermath.

Did you ever try to get home from a hospital when you don’t have any money or any idea where you’re at? Did you ever wait for a cab on the highway in your pajamas, while your poor husband, bruised and stitched, tries not to pass out from exhaustion and pain killers? What a debacle life is.

I now truly understand that being a grown up means. It means that life is not all about you and that you are responsible for the lives of those around you. It means big things happen, and you may have to deal with them completely on your own. I also now know that love is more than how someone makes you feel. Love is about praying that God takes your life instead—it’s about being willing to sell your soul for another few years of memories.

I wonder what the paramedics were thinking when they walked into the house. I wonder if the 911 operator told them that I had stressed that I didn’t knock my husband out.

I need some sleep.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Job Hunt--Let's Kill Some Rabbits

1.) I'm not promoting rabbit murder--I just needed a catchy title.

2.) If you are looking for jobs in science, you should stop by the National Institute of Health's Virtual Career Center. Actually, you can find a job in almost any field via these resources.

There's advice on the differences between creating a resume versus a C.V. along with examples of both.

There are links on networking (online and in person) and career growth and development.

There are also resources for people looking at post docs and faculty positions as well as alternative careers such as think tanks, biotech/industry, and government services.

For those of you just starting this process, there are resources for continuing your education. This page has a lot of info on grants and fellowships that I highly recommend.

If you are a woman and looking for a job (sorry men), you might want to check out women for hire. They are hosting job fairs in cities across the country, and their list of clients is HUGE.

ex.: American Express Financial Advisors Cisco Citigroup Dell Ernst & Young GlaxoSmithKline KPMG Lockheed Martin Morgan Stanley New York Life Northrop Grumman Target......

Today's horoscope

I'm obviously not one for horoscopes, but I needed something to do while I waited for my trainee to show up this morning. I don't know why I even bothered since my horoscopes are never right.

What is this supposed to mean?

"You have a knack for delaying gratification. You have also been known to exhibit great impatience - particularly with yourself. The planetary energy are encouraging you to focus on your strength, and to strive to create a world of balance around you. Commitment is the key to success and you must commit to a healthy physical life in order to have balance and harmony in the bigger picture. It's not about denial - it's about getting everything you want."

Ooooo, and this one is creepy:

"There may be something strange going on at work. Empty promises may leave you confused. Do not get intimately involved with someone you work with. Try to be honest, but don't divulge something that will get you into trouble. "

Intimately involved????? Blah-gag-blah

I do like SOME of my traditional traits, though:

Modest and shy
Meticulous and reliable
Practical and diligent
Intelligent and analytical

On the dark side....

Fussy and a worrier
Overcritical and harsh
Perfectionist and conservative

I hope my trainee shows up soon....

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Daddy James

Ooooo, family stuff is in the air. I was going to post about how I just clicked on the submit button for my manuscript, but James trumped me with this one. He is going to be a daddy!!!

Family, Vietnam, and a Lesson Learned

While I'm on the topic of family, I wanted to point out this site for those of you who don't know of its existence.

We will miss you:

PFC - E2 - Marine Corps - Regular
19 year old Single, Caucasian, Male
His tour of duty began on Mar 12, 1969
Casualty was on Mar 20, 1969

As I watch the news and see the puppets dancing to their self-designed symphony, I can only hope that our eyes open before it's too late.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Deserving Love

This is in response to Maddy's post. I can not begin to touch upon the pain and sadness I felt after reading it or grasp the depth of emotion and complexity of thought it evoked in me.

I believe that many people feel that they do not deserve the love they receive.

Jessica once made a comment about what a good sister I am. Her words should have made me feel happy and proud, but they instead filled me with tremendous guilt for playing a role I do not deserve.

When brother1 first became ill, I was 16-years old. His childhood had been far from easy while mine had been blessed with good health, academic success, and childhood friends. My parents put every last drop of energy and willpower into my brother, and, given my propensity for perfectionism even as a youth, they found themselves letting me be my own parent. I don't blame them, and I don't feel that they did anything wrong--they loved me and supported me, and that's all a child should truly want and need. When you are a child, however, the world appears so very different.

I wanted the attention brother1 received. I couldn't understand why my parents invested so much energy in him when I was the one doing all of the things that other parents wished their children would do. My yearning for attention manifested itself into outright cruelty towards brother1--I made it my mission to crush him verbally, and, sometimes, physically. While my brother was more than happy and quite adept at returning my punches, a duel with my tongue always left him lying in the desert full of wounds that I pray have healed over time. Anything that he wanted, I made sure I got. The plan was always simple: get brother1 in trouble, and he loses his privileges. I had eternal shotgun, prime computer use, and my choice of TV viewing. I'm a firm believer that truly bright children are born evil and must learn to be pure.

Timing is everything. The day I was supposed to get my driver's license, my parents were a no show. My youth pastor took me instead, and I somehow passed even though my three-point turn was more like 6, and I killed a cone while parallel parking. When I called them in excitement, they informed me that they couldn't pick me up to celebrate; my brother had been taken by the police to the mental hospital. At a time when I should have rushed home to support my family, I didn't. It's hard to be supportive of others when you are dwelling in your own self-pity. I could not have helped my brother, but I could have taken some of the burden off of brother2 who was 12 at the time. He took care of my parents and the house for 2-years while I wallowed in my egocentric world. His scars from those years kill me every time I look at him--they are now my scars too.

I was happy every time brother1 went into the hospital because it meant our house was calm, filled with the peace of silence. When he was gone, my parents noticed that I was starting on the varsity team, or singing in the state competition, or winning in the art festival. I was special, and I loved it, and I never stopped to think that I had traded my brother's health, happiness, and freedom for momentary, selfish bliss. I reveled that there was no fighting at Thanksgiving dinner and was jealous and hateful when my grandmother took holiday cookies to brother2 in the hospital--she had never made cookies for the rest of us.

There were so many moments when I could have helped, when I should have helped, but I didn't. I lashed out at my parents and my brothers and nothing was ever the way I wanted it, the way I thought I needed it. We forget, sometimes, how trivial things are so important to you when you are a teenager.

On the day of my highschool graduation, my parents were supposed to attend a small party that my friends were throwing in honor of me, the valedictorian. At the time, it was an accomplishment so important to me because I never thought I would end up at that podium. As my parents approached me after the graduation ceremony, however, I knew they would not be coming with me. My brother had fallen ill again. I should have gone with them to the hospital--I got drunk instead.

I lived life in the moment for several years after that. I pitied myself for turning down the acceptance from the college of my dreams so that I could attend a university closer to home to "be there for my family". I don't remember going home once to help them during those years. I had my cake and ate it too. Unfortunately it was made of cyanide.

Life knocks you down and when you get back up, if you get back up, you may be lucky enough to have had your eyes opened by the fall. My family is everything to me now, and I can't remember the last time I felt sorry for myself. It makes me sick to think about how I used to be, who I used to be. I feel as though I have to spend every waking moment trying to erase the wounds I delivered, trying to make life easier for my exhausted family. I still have a lot of ground to cover, but I feel blessed that my family survived long enough for me to come back home.

The most ironic part of those years was that I was my family's defender as I am today. There were several occasions when my protection almost went too far--I believe that I would murder if necessary to protect my family and god knows there were several times I thought about it. I couldn't, however, protect them from myself. We often wonder why the "bad" people get everything and the "good" people get nothing but trouble and misery. I struggle with that aspect of life everyday. My brothers and my family didn't deserve those years; if anyone deserved them, it was me.

I'm sorry...for everything.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

How Far Should You Run

Apparently, there is a simple equation relating optimal running-event distance and body size. Nature has a calculator to figure out what your event should be. It was pretty accurate for me.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Mind Hacks

Ooooo, I like this blog.

Flesh popsicles are born every second

Want to be frozen like Ted Williams?

No, no, no, no, and no.

Do you actually believe that after we've cured all diseases and figured out how to reverse cellular aging, we're going to wake your frozen-asses up? Do you think that the overpopulated earth will want to have all of you flesh popsicles walking around, using up resources that we inevitably will not have enough of for the people who haven't died yet? Suckers.

Slices of Heaven

I cut 2400 brain slices yesterday in a record time of 5 hr and 35 min. No elves, no Oompa Loompas, and no hired help. My back is saying "I hate you, and when you turn 40, I'm going to morph you into an early-onset-hump back freak". My thesis committee, however, is going to say "You can go and leave this hell-on-earth to pursue a real life". That will be totally worth a hump or two.

If you're interested, this is what I cut my brain slices with a cryostat. This is kind of what my slices looked like, only mine are thinner so they are a little more transparent. Now you know;)

Speaking of Oompa Loompas, here are some games from the new Willy Wonka movie site. Although I'm not sure why they cast Joan Rivers...uh...I mean Johnny Depp as Willy the weirdo (they made his face tight in this flick), I am excited to see the new version. I wish I had the Golden Ticket.

His Corpus Callosum is HUGE

I thought you all should know that we are now famous. Joseph has earned himself a second plug on this blog for being funny, having wicked divergent thinking skills, and for being a little too smart for his own good (your wealth of literary knowledge is a little freaky).

Like a well-planned Simpson's episode, his post twist and turned and ended up here:

" Then, I stand in aisle 7 at Meijer, the only man amidst a crowd of women, searching through the thousands of boxes of feminine products, making sure I get the right kind.

Note to unmarried guys: you would not believe how many different kinds of those things there are. Note to recently-married guys: for some reason, you HAVE TO get EXACTLY the right ones. Don't even think of coming home with the wrong ones, unless you have an unusually large, air-conditioned, doghouse in the back yard."

I just wanted to add one thing: "Super" does not necessarily mean "The best one" in the world of feminine products. Oh, and another thing on top of that one-more thing--there are two things that one shouldn't purchase the generic forms of: toilet paper and tampons.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I need a helper elf

I was so busy yesterday that I found myself forgetting to breathe from time to time. My husband says it's not good to stop breathing when I'm concentrating, especially when I do it while lifting weights and driving, but it's not as though I'm aware right away when I've stopped.

I first spent hours trying to find the source for a statement I had made in my paper. Having a great memory is good only when you can remember all of the details. I can remember facts and concepts when I'm reading, but I really have a hard time remembering authors, paper titles, and/or the journals containing the cited papers of interest. When I'm writing, I usually cite as I go, but occasionally I forget to put in a reference right away. If only I had a helper elf to go through my stacks of papers and pdfs (sigh).

I next spent hours labeling slides--I labeled 300 to be exact. Imagining filling out 300-address stickers by hand. If that sounds fun to you, you need to seek help or get a job in a packaging factory (or as a scientist). I put some crappy shoes, a hammer, and some shoe polish out on my porch last night next to the slides, but my elf never came. (I suspect the evil squirrel with the stumpy tail may have had something to do with my no-show elf). What good are elves if they won't do anything but fix shoes? They apparently won't even stop by to do that anymore--my shoe still has a hole near the toe.

I then tried to crunch 698 words down to 500. This would be easy if the 698 words hadn't already been edited several times. I have put everything into active voice, taken out as many needless phrases as possible, and crunched things into as many compound nouns/adjectives as I could think up. The conservative bastard who started this whole concise is good/word limits are good propaganda should be shot. Concise is good; word limits, however, can be very, very bad.
I don't think my elf could help me with this one. I've never met an articulate elf. I think they spend too much time in trees making cookies and cereal--the fumes alone make them a little wacky and stunt their language development, I'm guessing.

After everything was said and done, I still had to figure out how to turn hot dogs, eggplant, spinach, and left-over pizza and taco salad into a meal. We had a little bit of everything, but not enough of one thing to be a meal alone. If I had an elf, he could have run to the store for me. Or he could at least run and get me some Tums right now. I would be thankful either way.

My husband did the dishes, so I didn't need an elf for that one. Thank God, because I'm beginning to think that maybe elves don't really exist.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Play the tuberculosis game

I can't believe there is an actual TB game. This website has so many cool educational games/animations.

Maybe it was just my right (or wrong) brain

As I was reading a post over at Corpus Callosum on the link between dopamine agonists and gambling (some day I'll post on my theory of DA and the origins of the seven deadly sins), I began to think about the actual corpus callosum.

If you don't already know, your brain's left and right side communicate largely via the corpus callosum. Much of what we know about functional specialization in the left and right brain hemispheres and communication between the two arises from split brain patients. These are people who have had their corpus callosum snipped (corpus callosotomy). Their two brain hemispheres, in turn, no longer communicate "normally". I remember seeing a fabulous and bizarre video in a clinical course several years ago on the topic. There was one patient who took hours to dress herself because one hand would button her shirt while the other would unbutton it. I couldn't find that video, but I did find this one: The man with two brains.

The whole point of this post was, in addition to giving you some cool sites to go to, was to declare that I now believe that I was not body-snatched. Being body snatched is way to in the realm of scientology for my liking. My scientific conclusion is that I had a mini-stroke yesterday, temporarily paralyzing the connection between my right and left hemisphere and causing me to behave "oddly".

That is a way more logical conclusion than my first.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Kitchen Chemistry--clone something (well, not really)

So, if you have kids or if you are bored, here are some geeky things you can do in your very own home:

kitchen chemistry

Freaky Monday

Sometimes, I'm sure that I've been body-snatched.

Today is one of those days.

First, I have spilled 4-containers of solution today. I NEVER spill solutions because a.) they smell, b.) they're a little toxic, and c.) they are a pain in the ass to make. Occasionally, I have bad days where my hands are shaky and my head is a little cloudy, and I will spill a container, but I never spill FOUR.

Second, I ate lunch today. I rarely crave lunch--usually I'm running around too quickly to even think about eating. Today, for some reason, I needed to eat. If that doesn't amaze you, here's the real kicker. I ran over to the campus store and bought sushi. I NEVER eat sushi. I find it disgusting and noxious and blah-gag-blah. For some reason though, I just had to have wasabi, ginger, and soy sauce, and the only sane way to eat these thing together is to have some sushi.

Third, I got everything crossed of my list. I NEVER get everything crossed off my list because my lists are over ambitious. I even had time to do some extra chores like labeling some slides for this week and organizing my brains so that I can pull samples more quickly when I need them. Weird.

Last, but definitely not least, I smiled at two complete strangers today. I try to smile at strangers randomly so people don't think I'm some crazy bitch (I would rather have them think I am just plain crazy), but I usually only pass on one smile every other day or so. I've smiled at two people on campus today, and it's not even 2 o'clock yet. Very weird.

Someone has taken over my body--my handwriting is even a little off today. The sad part is that my invader is apparently more efficient, better organized, and either nicer or more socially inclined than I am. The only thing that I have going for me is that I'm more coordinated, but maybe the solution spilling incidents were just my invader's way of pissing me off.

I guess I shouldn't complain. At least I got my list done for today.

Monday morning reads

Monday morning reads:
Here are the briefs--the original reports are cited below each article.

Curcumin (yellow pigment in turmeric/found in yellow curry) may have anti-cancer properties. Too bad both the taste and smell of yellow curry makes me want to gag. I do like turmeric when it's not in curry, though.

Genes that may make the most out of a cord blood donation. (They named one sprouty. Yep, that's right--sprouty. Valley girls (or boys) have grown old and become scientists, apparently).

The rich not only have nicer things, but they suffer less pain in the years before their deaths?! WTF--where is karma when you need it?

Why I will study in coffee shops but never in libraries.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Marxism Gone Bad

Dear Sir,

I appreciate your comments on my paper. I'm sure they were informative and insightful, and I now feel a little better that you will be listed as an author since you now meet one of the requirements for authorship. Since I've learned to choose my battles wisely (or maybe because I'm sick of arguing), I will ignore the fact that you still do not meet all of the requirements for authorship.

As I was sifting through your provocative and creative suggestions, I realized that I need to ask you a question. Why did you write your comments in Russian? I was under the impression that if you are collaborating with someone on a paper, you are collaborating with both the first and last author. As I am the first author, it would make sense to write the comments in English, my language of choice. The few words of Russian that my grandmother taught me 20-years ago are, most likely, not words that you would use for commenting on a scientific paper (unless you said that my writing was shitty).

Thank you,

Thursday, July 07, 2005

High-tech Toys, Smoking Sue, and Johnny Cash

OK, so I'm obviously fixating on geeky-science toys today. I know everyone says things like "toys weren't this cool when I was a kid". It goes hand in hand with "I walked a mile to school through the snow, and it was uphill both ways".

They did not, however, make toys like this when I was little. I think that scope is better than the one I have in my actual lab.

We didn't have one of these toys either, but we had my Cousin Sue who was the equivalent of the smoking Sue doll. It's weird that they have the same name. Maybe it's the name Sue? What about a boy named Sue? It's been a while since I've given a shout-out to Shel and Mr. Cash.

Can you tell I'm having some concentration issues today?

Jelly and the red-light district

Jelly fish are evil as evidenced by their red glow.
Now that's a statement I'd like to put in a scientific paper.

Alright, maybe they aren't evil.

"but this is the first deep ocean invertebrate known to use red fluorescent light"

I know I'm supposed to talk about the brain, but I thought this was cool.

Give your kid ebola

Ooooo, nerdie moms unite. I found this on positive and dense. Give your kid ebola or the flesh eating virus (I love the forks). Not satisified? Try mono, the kissing disease, an ulcer, or giardia.

Cheating spouse? Give him or her syphilis or the clap.

I think I'll get myself a bookworm.

Our world

Our world is a terrifying place.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Terrifying World

One day, after I explained to my husband how one should run away if held up at gunpoint (the odds are in your favor that your attacker will miss), my husband looked at me and said, "My god, you live in a terrifying world."

I guess I do let things snowball in my brain. When a squirrel fell from a tree one day, narrowly missing my head, I turned it into a revenge-assassination attempt (I had run over a different squirrel earlier that morning). I'm constantly planning my escape route from any number of disasters, and I can tell you the odds of being killed by the ebola virus, anthrax, terrorist attack, hurricane, or all-of-the-above (not likely to all happen at once, thank the lord).

The worst part of my brain activating these dark, reverberating circuits is that I'm finding I have little "safe" time. Even when sleeping, I can't escape. Last night, I dreamt that I was being suffocated by a man dressed in a long, dark coat and top-hat. He was squeezing my ribs so hard that I could feel them cracking and puncturing my lungs. It was so real and painful, the kind of pain elicited by the combination of lacking oxygen and having your chest compressed by a truck. I tried to escape, but the man followed me until I became paralyzed with fear. I could feel myself trying to move and scream in real life, but it was one of those moments where you only partially wake up, that almost-awake dreamstate. My husband started shaking me before I was officially murdered--I apparently looked like I was convulsing in my sleep and was screaming "No--go away!".

I understand the concept that sleep is needed for memory consolidation and for linking abstract ideas into meaningful concepts. What I don't understand is how that man got in my dream. Isn't it bad enough that I live my waking hours afraid?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Paternal Depression

Sometimes we forget about the dads.

From Reuters:

"The relationship between boys' behavioral development and depression in their fathers is striking," Ramchandani said."

Anti-troll apparel

Team Prozac
I'm Glib--you could always use another tanktop


Does anyone have a cure for regaining momentum after a lazy-holiday weekend?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Butterflies are Hoochies

Sarahlynn posts a book review in which she discusses her frustrations with the portrayal of caterpillars in modern children's literature. I just wanted all of you to know that you don't have to morph into a butterfly to be beautiful or cool or exciting:

Stinging Rose
Waved Sphinx
Spicebush Swallowtail

Brain Stimulation

Since Scientologists would have you believe that electrical stimulation of the brain will turn you into nothing more than a vegetable, I want to share with you an electrical therapy for movement disorders, including Parkinson's disease, holding great promise for treating a variety of neurological disorders.

It's called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). The Cleveland Clinic is one of the leading centers for this treatment, and I think their site explains it well (here also). Although DBS is mainly being employed to treat Parkinson's Disease, it most likely will be used to treat other motor disturbances. Additionally, there is also some evidence that DBS may be useful in treating intractable depression.

Using electrical stimulation for treating neurological diseases is haunted by the use of maximal-electroshock during psychiatry's "dark ages". We now know that there are better methods for eliciting electrical stimulation's beneficial effects, and we are trying to move forward with some of these therapies. It is difficult, however, because of the stigma associated with "shocking" patients.

Electrical stimulation changes the electrical properties of your nerve cells without adding potentially-toxic drugs and associated-drug metabolites into your system (the reason for drugs' side effects). Drugs are used to change the electrical properties of your brain just like direct-electrical stimulation, but there is no way for a drug to have a "pure" effect.

Some things that you may not know about electrical brain stimulation:

Do you know that minimal, electroconvulsive seizures (ECS) are neuroprotective? ECS may be one way to treat Alzheimer's Disease, and in animals, pretreatment with ECS protects neurons from being killed by subsequent seizures and ischemia/stroke. Modern ECS is not the same as the historically-used electroshock therapy (even though it's hard for people to understand this for some reason).

Do you know that ECS is currently the only way to alleviate some forms of severe depression? In fact, lithium and ECS alter many of the same biochemical pathways, yet ECS does not have the debilitating side effects associated with lithium use. The main side effect of ECS is temporary memory loss (similar to the temporary memory loss associated with having temporal lobe seizures).

Do you know that deep brain stimulation works when L-DOPA fails? You can watch the video here. Most Parkinson's drugs stop working over time--DBS may be one way to extend treatment.

We all have to make a concerted effort to realize that the ills of psychiatry's past should not cloud our judgment when evaluating modern treatments. It's important to remember history so that we do not repeat our mistakes, but we should not let our minds be controlled by fear and stigma.