Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Neuron Moon Rocks

If the water wasn't drip, drip, dripping, I wouldn't be going so crazy. If I weren't going crazy, I could focus and finish counting. If I could focus and finish counting, then spending 20 minutes turning my neurons into purple moon rocks would be justifiable. These are rat neurons from the hippocampus CA3 region. The black hole areas are the nuclei; the purple, cell bodies/cytoplasm.

The plumber did come yesterday. He looked at the faucets (note that multiple faucets are dripping, which explains why our water bill last month almost killed us), and said he would have to get parts and come back. The hardware store is less than a mile away, but he couldn't come back until a different day.

So now I have to drip, drip, drip myself into insanity. Posted by Picasa

Fun Times

What are you doing right now? I bet it is not as exciting as what I'm doing. If you want your kids to become scientists, let them have a looks at my glamorous day:

Ready, Set, Go:

*open green channel
open red channel
convert green channel to grayscale
save picture in new folder
switch programs
open grayscale channel 1
set particle size
switch programs
grid out targets on channel 2
switch program
circle target 1 on inverted channel 1
analyze particles
copy measurements
switch programs
paste into spreadsheet
move over one column
switch programs
**circle next target on inverted channel 1
switch programs
make sure the target you circled is correct on grid created over channel 2
switch programs
analyze particles
copy measurements
switch programs
copy into spreadsheet
***move over one column
repeat from ** to *** until all targets on channel 1 are analyzed
repeat procedure from * to *** until all 150 pictures are analyzed

It's like knitting...sort of.

Why don't I used software that automates all of this, you are wondering? I would LOVE to say software like that doesn't exist. It does, however, exist. It's just not free. Free is my spending limit. Being that Kelly Ripa makes more in one second of working (I learned this on VH1's Fabulous Life of Kelly Ripa) than I do in one hour, the cost of my time isn't worth gifts of time- and energy-saving software. I know I've complained about this before...

I should have been a dancer.

Not the exotic kind, though. I'm sure the spin around the pole, take off top, spin around the pole routine gets just as tedious as data analysis.

Your Brain Gave You Away

Because I watched 24 last night and had dreams that Jack Bauer was trying to save me, I thought this would be my offering to you today. We knew it was coming--we've seen the gambling studies and the preliminary data leading up to lying studies. Will it be better than the polygraph? Will it be better than Jack Bauer? I fear that those of you dreading the polygraph portion of your security clearance now have one more thing to worry about.

Who's the Liar? Brain MRI Stands Up to Polygraph Test

from Temple University/Feroze B. Mohamed, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Radiology

My suggestion for expanding this study, the one thing I bring up every time I meet an investigator in the field of "lying", is that one needs to have a group of people who are "expert" liars to see if you can still pick up brain activation in the "lying" regions/patterns. In studies of language, working memory, etc., one always makes sure to keep the demands of the task even across groups, and that is an important factor for "lying" studies also. There are probably folks who have included this group; I've noticed, however, its absence in the few talks that I've gone to on the subject.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

What Science has Done to Me

Science has done something very bad to me. OK, so I don't know if it's necessarily bad; it could be good. All I really know is that it has done something to me.

It has made me into a leisure-time multitasker.

I used to be able to sit down, relax, and focus on something fun. Notice that I said "something fun" and not "some fun things".

Sadly, I fear those days are gone.

During the day I can always be found carrying around a minimum of 4-different files filled with papers on 4-different topics as I run around campus using equipment or teaching. If I have managed to sit down at my desk, you'll find me praying that my computer can handle the 3 Word files, 2 uber-large Excel workbooks, and data analyses software while I try to balance dissertation writing, manuscript editing, grant proposing, and data crunching.

You would think that I go home and slow down--I used to go home and slow down.

Now you will find me simmering several pots of lovely (mmmm...turkey meatballs and homemade marinara) on my stove while I run bathwater and read a few dozen pages of this, this, this and this. Reading one book at a time is for the weak.

Here's the sick part. I've actually also tried to throw in Yoga while the food is cooking and water is running, but my books kept getting in the way and/or closing on me while I suffered in down-facing-dog. At least I drew the line on that one.

I need to slow down. No wonder I'm tired.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ripped from the Headlines: Politicians Don't Think

This is even more self-explanatory than my brain/testes post today.

From LiveScience:

Political bias affects brain activity, study finds
Democrats and Republicans both adept at ignoring facts, brain scans show

When I Grow Up

Actually, I believe that this means I should be professional nomad. Thanks, William the Coroner. By the way, William, have fun watching Pittsburgh take home the SuperBowl win while the Browns drown in their own misery. I'm sorry, I just can't help myself.

You scored as Psychology. You should be a Psychology major!





























What is your Perfect Major?
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My brain is big at the expense of my testes

An inverse relationship between testes and brain size?

So many things I want to say...but I'll let the data do the talking.

From the Associated Press:

"A research team led by Syracuse University biologist Scott Pitnick found that in bat species where the females are promiscuous, the males boasting the largest testicles also had the smallest brains. Conversely, where the females were faithful, the males had smaller testes and larger brains."

"Large brains, meanwhile, are metabolically costly to develop and maintain. "

Maybe that's why I'm so smart. I don't believe I have testes.

I wonder how this relates to male-dimorphism and mating practices in other species, such as my favorite example, the dung beetle (I know you all remember my dung beetle post). Being that I'm not sure you can measure a dung beetle's brain size (even neuroscientists have limitations, my friends) we will have to instead substitute brain for horn size. Still, I think that it could be somewhat related in the grand scheme of things. If this does relate, I would lock your back door (to your house, silly) if you have a small-brained man with huge testes lurking about. He's a sneaky one. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if he has horns of any size you should probably avoid him also.

One more thing, you have to read this article on Bluegill cuckolders (sneaker males). It's hilarious. The small little males sneak in, dump their sperm, and run away. When they get older, they pretend they are females (because they look kind of like chicks) to avoid the larger, paternal males.

"Sometimes a parental will even court a mimic"

Well who hasn't had that happen at least once in their lives?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Science in a Sec

Science in a second:

Rabbit-human embryos
Rabbit embryo + human DNA = ?
"Legal experts say it is not clear whether the embryos would be regarded in law as rabbit or human."
Ummm...I'm not sure why it is an either/or question. We should definitely let lawyers and politicians decide because they are so very smart. Maybe, we should let a few develop into a hubbit and see how we feel about it then. We could give it some rights and make it work for less than minimum wage. Of course we couldn't let it get married because that would be against the biblical, hubbit-marriage law.

Man Should Fear Birds
This explains what was going through Alfred's Head.
"Berger concluded man's ancestors had to survive not just being hunted from the ground, but from the air. Such discoveries are "key to understanding why we humans today view the world the way we do," he said."
It definitely explains why I hit the ground every time a bird flies overhead. Maybe this also explains the reason why fighter jets are so freakin' scary, even when you know they aren't going to bomb you. Actually, I can't wait to read the article to see how Berger discusses "why we humans today view the world the way we do". I love thinking about how early-evolved instincts translate into today's world.

Limit your Flavors and you will be skinny
"The idea is perhaps less boring than it sounds. For example, pineapple day features pineapple juice and cereal for breakfast; pineapple-walnut chicken salad and crackers for lunch; pineapple shrimp, bulgur, sauteed peas and tossed salad for dinner; and caramelized pineapple rings for dessert. "

Whether Katz's diet works because it limits flavors, or because it promotes healthy eating and exercise, is unclear, Raynor said. "If you're eating healthy and exercising, you're going to lose weight," she said. "

Here's an idea. Why don't we do a real study between people who limit flavors and people who eat healthy without limiting flavors before we go promoting this concept as being supported by any type of real data? Real data exist only in a world of appropriate controls and analyses, lest we forget.

I'm going to start my own "diet plan" to make money off of such ideas. Because I've noticed that most of the people in the gym are overweight (let's not get bogged down with any real numbers), I am going to conclude that the gym makes you fat. Thus, if you avoid the gym, you will get skinny.

This is why scientific training is important for all people, not just scientists.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I haven't had a chance to read the articles yet, but I thought it was a light bit of science that everyone might enjoy so I wanted to share with you ASAP. It makes me wonder if I should stop wasting energy being so incredibly hilarious and just laugh at my husband's jokes more often. Now, don't get me wrong, hubby is quite funny, but it's hard for him to realize his full potential with someone as polished in the realm of humor as myself living under the same roof.

  1. Bressler E. R.& Balshine S. . Evolution & Human Behavior, 27. 29 - 39 (2006).
  2. Bressler E. R., et al. Evolution & Human Behavior article in press (2006)

There's a summary in this month's Nature:
Laughter Paves the Way for Romance

"Women generally preferred men who were funny, while men favoured a woman who thought he was funny, the team report in a second paper accepted for publication2.

Bressler believes that the findings might hint at why humans have evolved a sense of humour at all.

According to one theory, proposed by psychologist Geoffrey Miller at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, women prefer funny men because their wit reveals an active and healthy brain - and a fine set of underlying genes. "It's a very powerful and reliable way to show creativity and intelligence," Miller says. "

I laugh at G dubs all the time, but I think that must be a different kind of funny.

Dirty Harry Days

I know what you're thinking: "Did he fire six shots, or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But, being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya punk?

When I was young, everyone around me worshipped Rainbow Bright, Strawberry Shortcake, and Barbie. I, however, being a girl in a man's world, was a big fan of Dirty Harry. I've decided that this idolatrous relationship with a fictional bad-ass has helped me through periods like this--times when the whole world is out to destroy me.

So, here's the secret to this scientist's productivity today.

I am going to conjure the spirit of Dirty Harry. I don't believe there is a scientific way to do this, so I'm going to light some candles, play some angry music, and shoot foam darts at my binders with my bad-ass foam dart gun.

I am going to kill my way through my dissertation's methods section. I am then going to write a brilliant response to my paper's reviewers. Everyone will find themselves wishing they could remember if it was 5 shots or 6.

Go ahead, make my day.

If I keep telling myself that I can do it, maybe I can. Right?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Happy Happy, Joy Joy

To top off the wonderful week of doom:

"We regret to inform you"

You should never get a letter that begins with those words at the end of a week like this.

And last, but not least:

The microscope is not working. The one and only microscope available to me in this stinkin' university--the one piece of equipment that I need to finish my work--has become unhappy after having some routine maintenance done. Oh the irony. The one thing that was working perfectly fine. Thank God the "experts" came in to "tune it up" and destroyed it in the process. I hope they choke on their happy hour drinks. Well, maybe not choke, but I definitely their drinks taste "tuned up" in a funky sort of way.

It's all so funny. Ha, ha, hee, hee.

I'm going to sit here like a pro and wait for Ashton and the camera crew to jump out and tell me that I've been Punk'd.

Yep, that's the only explanation.

Do you find it odd that neighbors who we barely speak to just popped in 5-minutes ago to ask if they can borrow our car to move a piece of furniture?

That, my friends, takes balls.

Oh well, we'll help because they are really nice and, obviously, outgoing. Also, I guess we'll help because we're those kind of people. You know, the kind without any balls.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Every Little Thing Gonna Be Alright

I did not cry. I will not cry.

I will not let the Man see me cry. Swallow it down, get back on the horse, and smile like you just fell on a needle filled with valium.

The Bad: All of my samples were stored in that fridge so I can not continue any experiments that I hadn't started yet before the freezer died. The samples are from chronic animal treatments, so to repeat them would add 6-months to a year onto my thesis.

The Good: I busted my butt for two years and generated enough data to have a complete thesis even without looking at the samples in the fridge. There will be a few unanswered questions (a.k.a. "holes), but I can live with that. Some of the fixed tissue will be OK, so I can still get a little more data from those samples.

What did the Man do in response to the incident, you may be wondering?

Absolutely nothing.

Not a word, not a comment, not a suggestion.

You would think that someone who badly wants tenure, someone who has less than a dozen first author papers (and no papers as a PI) in his 20-some years of research would care more. He's not teaching, he's not at the bench, there are no grants currently do. We have never had a lab meeting in all of our years here, and he has never written more than one sentence of any of my grants, papers, or abstracts. He sees my presentations the day I present them, and he didn't even bother looking at my posters this year, let alone coming to them.

You would think he would at least pretend to care more, at least until he got tenure.

Thank God I have two mentors. One is obviously not enough.

I'm OK. Thanks for your support. I just need to get out.

As a wise man once said:
Don't worry, 'bout a thing.
'Cause every little thing, gonna be alright.

That wise man was also extremely high at the time, but the words are still valid.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

There's no crying in Baseball Science...right?

Water was the least of my worries

Mental Note: Next time you complain about the water being messed up, stop and remember that it could be worse.

For instance, the -20 freezer could stop working overnight, leak all over the lab, and cause the destruction of all of your slices and/or protein samples. That's right, you could lose 5-years of samples just because your lab thought it would be a great idea to buy a Sears standard freezer instead of a medical freezer. "We will save so much money", the Man proclaimed.

I promise to not stab myself.

I think.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

To My Happy Place

The dH20 is acidic for some unexplainable reason today. Because this has happened before, I always check it before I start making up solutions. Thank God, I checked.

If the department would give me a key to the ddH20 room, this wouldn't be a problem. Apparently, the key elves are on strike so we can never again get another key for that room. That doesn't help me when it's early in the morning and no one is there to let me in. Did I mention that many other labs have a key? In fact, we may be the only lab who has been banned by the elf union.

In times like these, I go to my trusty spare water that I bottle and hide for emergency use.

Only, today the caps were stuck. I don't understand how that happened because I specifically remember leaving them a little loose. Perhaps someone found my stash....?

Regardless, I decided to use a screwdriver to encourage the lid to come off. It works with jars of pickles, so why not water?

I would have never guessed that I am strong enough to hack off the entire top part of the jar, lid included.

This is why it's hard to motivate myself to finish these last few control slides.
Water should not be the most difficult part of the protocol.
I'm going home.


This is why owning a talking monkey would not be a good idea, no matter how seemingly charming it is.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Science and the Walmart Sisterhood

Reading this made me realize that science is Walmart. Well, not exactly. One could just as easily argue that Science is China or India, but I think I'll stick with Walmart.

Conduct your business in a global market where the number of workers/manufacturers far exceeds the demand. Rely on a market that creates a surplus of skilled laborers who will take what they can get just to have a piece of the pie. Lock in your employees and make them rely on public assistance instead of providing it yourself. Healthcare...what is this healthcare that you speak of? Why pay $10 per DVD player when Korea will sell them at $2?

If you want to compete, you had better stop relying on how good you are at doing A,B, and C because there are a lot of people who can do A,B, and C. And, as your 11th-grade economy teacher pointed out, that makes your value as low as the lowest bidder's. Because the lowest bidder feeds off pipe dreams, pride, and making ends meet, he is willing to undercut the competition--well, at least he's willing to do A,B, and C for chump change.

You can sit around and complain about the system--you can round up the masses and demand change. I'm willing to bet that those tactics will work as well as those being employed to stop outsourcing, offshoring, and free trade agreements.

You can cook or get out of the kitchen. You can stand by a happy face sign and be rolled back, or you can figure out a way to put yourself in a different market...maybe a Target-quality market so that you are no longer one of the A-,B-, or C-ers. It's not about learning the D. The D is a short term fix, a solution with boundaries and limits.

No you have to figure out how to make yourself something totally different than A,B,C, or D. You need to figure out how to become a full WORD.

You must not only think outside the box, you must convince them that what they need is a circle.

I need some sleep.

This year

I noticed many people are recapping last year, highlighting all of the major highs and lows of this crazy thing called life.

I have decided that I'm deleting the year 2005 from my memory banks. I have never in my life deleted an entire year before--even the really rough ones that could have killed me had I not been asleep.

So, I guess I will have to unleash my goals for 2006, instead.

1.) Drink more than 6oz of water every day.
2.) Be satisfied with my best. Try to feel some pleasure knowing that I did everything I could given the circumstances.
3.) Stop waiting for tomorrow to be happy today.
4.) Stop being so angry at the stupid things stupid people do
5.) Go fishing more often
6.) Play outside when I'm sad instead of watching crappy TV
7.) Read one novel written in Spanish (I try to do this every year, but last year was so...I don't remember).
8.) Write something for publication, other than a data-related journal article.

I'm going to stop at 8; it's a good number.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Festivus and Finales

My fellowship proposal, albeit imperfect, is turned in. I'm hoping that my inability to eat without feeling like I'm going be singing to the porcelain goddess will now go away.

On a brighter note, my husband and I celebrated festivus with his father, step-mother, sister, and sister-in-law with a surprise pop-in by a family friend.

For lack of the neurons required to talk about anything thought-provoking today, I am now going to waste time by telling you about Festivus. Feel free to ignore:)

We had festivus in a log cabin this year--I think we were so far out there that we may have actually been visited by a bear. Damn terrorists.

Our Festivus rules each year are pretty simple: all gifts must have been attained without monetary cost to the attainer and wrapped in anything except wrapping paper. For instance, my sister-in-law made paper (she is an artist) out of dryer lint and used it to design Festivus cards. You should have seen my microbe-fearing face when I realized what I was holding. After the initial shock, however, I was quite amazed at her skill and creativity. I usually give away all of the free promotional items I get at conferences. Thus, my entire family walks around promoting neurons and pharmaceuticals. You are also allowed to regift things that you don't need/want anymore (ex. books, CDs, games), although usually we give each other crap.

Where was I...oh...gift wrappings are to be made into sculptures during festivus and attached to the festivus pole (a plastic pipe). Decorations are kept and reused from year to year. Usually we use recycled foil to wrap the gifts because it's easy to mold and it's a good, non-capitalist form of tinsel.

Each year one participant invents a game that we all will play during the festivities. Prizes can be won during these games, but you can lose your prize in a subsequent challenge. Challenges involve mental and/or physical feats of strength. This year, we played a family trivia game made by my father-in-law and held nose Olympics.

Another (new) rule is that we have a food theme each year. This year it was soup so everyone had to invent a soup and bring it. We were only allowed to eat soup for the 48-hr stay, so you had to make your soup with this in mind. We made bacon-mushroom-cheeseburger soup, fruit soup, and potsticker-stirfry soup. Others brought pumpkin potato, strawberry cream, creamy carrot, turducken wedding, and chicken minestrone soup. Needless to say, I was dying for solid food when we got home.

Because my brother couldn't go this year, we used one of his Festivus gifts, a Freud action figure, as his replacement. We took pictures of Freud gazing at the stars, swinging from a ceiling fan, and chugging from a wine glass. Those pictures will be great gifts for next year...

And last, there is the airing of the grievances. We won't go into those, though;)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Breakdown or Just Offline?

I like to think offline. Wait...one minute...scratch the word like and replace it with "need".

I have always been an offline thinker. I do not study by agonizing over notes and text--I read everything in short segments once and then walk away from my books to do some random chore, take a bath, or read a few pages of a book. When I come back, it's somehow all there in place.

When I write, I am never at the computer. I am washing dishes or playing with the dog outside.

When people talk to me about ideas, I stare at them blankly. At no point do I feel like I have processed what they just said. In fact, I probably would have difficulty repeating what we had just discussed. I let them know that I have to go do something else, and I will have an opinion or suggestion when I get back. Some people find that odd or annoying or maybe just plain inefficient.

I believe in the power of offline productivity. You may have to wait--there may be an unbearable delay--but you will get top-notch productivity in exchange for your patience.

It's difficult to explain to my husband, when he comes home and finds me covered in a blanket, from head to toe, in front of the TV, that I am writing a grant.

I may also have been having a nervous breakdown, given the tears and the gasping for breath, but that's when I do my best work.

It's weird...this thing called the brain.