October 8, 2010

tales from the grading crypt

First round of exams to grade and I get this gem:
Q: In what situation would you use MEG instead of fMRI?
A: When the patient has a metal plate in their head because fMRI could make the plate heat up and cause injury, like on House last night.
Me: *facepalm* "Don't EVER cite TV again." minus all possible points.
It is going to be a long weekend.

September 18, 2010

post-quals celebration ideas

1) An actual party (which will, in fact, occur. or so I am told)
2) Re-pierce nose
3) Dye hair pink
4) Re-watch the entirety of the West Wing
5) Re-read The Brothers Karamazov
6) Finish the complete works of Flannery O'Connor


September 13, 2010

new semester

Gosh, not actually taking classes is awesome. I'm just sitting in on one as a refresher. So, 2x/week + 0 tests = good life choice. Except that one of the major reasons I'm doing this is because I take my qualifying exam this semester. In about a week and a half. 2 days + 4 exams + 4 hours for each = *whimper* That's more equations than usual for around here. And a few weeks after that is the oral follow-up (which does not involve a dentist, more scary profs). Also, coping with quals stress via the Avett Brothers was a good choice. It seems to be very effective
I start teaching lab again tomorrow. At last check, 17 of 20 available slots are filled. It seems that a lot of people dropped because the giant waiting list (for a senior-level lab, at least) is empty and more than my section has extra space. None of the exercises have changed from last year, so this should be pretty easy.
Tomorrow's lecture will consist of:
1) Quick run-down of anatomical structures that they have to look for on slides
2) Biophysics review
3) Please don't be afraid of the electronics
3b) Troubleshooting the electronics
4) Please don't break the electronics
4b) How to not break the electronics
It's going to be a good day. And I do not mean that sarcastically.


August 26, 2010

fashion (please don't laugh yet)

Here's my confession of the day: I really love Project Runway. It is the only reality show that I like. Although, I'm always afraid that someone will turn on my tv later and see that the last channel I was watching was lifetime. Seriously, though, it's really interesting to watch the creative process and craftsmanship. Some of the things made are beautiful, some are bizarre, and some walk the line between the two. Although there's some element of "destructive" reality tv (people portrayed as less than wonderful, disaster clothes), it's generally a "constructive" show (look at the amazing things these people can do).
The best part is seeing the construction. Thus far, my favorite is a dress made out of folded napkins. Even with more traditional materials, the process is fascinating.
And now for the part where I feel conflicted. It's about stuff, about appearances, about living up to some social standard, and a dose of product placement. There's an element of what certain people say is "fashionable" is absolutely true. But this conflicts with what is said about being true to your own aesthetic.
So I like the idea, design, creativity, making things, lots of viewpoints. But the undertones of consumerism and conventional standards of female beauty really bother me. I will keep watching and likely keep being slightly irritated.


July 13, 2010

Wonderful book that I should have mentioned a long time ago

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen. It is lovely, and has one of those -story-within-a-story things going on in the margins. It's about a 12-year-old boy who is a cartographer/naturalist. Read it. You'll like it.


June 23, 2010

clearly a blogging slacker

Imaging software
given cost, should be simple
bane of existence

Anyway, science for me mostly consists of image analysis and optimization, making figures, etc. I've tried 5-6 free programs that should do 3-D images, and, of course, none of them quite work. This means moving onto the not-free programs. And one of those not-free programs is $5000 for one non-movable license. For that, it should do backflips and be able to read my mind. But, alas, it does not. I have even had to read the manual.
Life lesson of the day: If you want to make ridiculous amounts of money in science, get into research technology.


May 24, 2010

Beginings and Endings

Today my little sister graduates from high school. This is a good thing, as she will be free.
I'm done with year two. This semester was just awful, class-wise. But it's over and wasn't a complete waste of time. Now on to studying for quals (which are in September) and doing as much research as humanly possible. I'm working on 5 different projects with a possible 6th.
1) Anatomy
2) in vivo physiology
3)in vitro physiology
4) allometry/development
5) cross-taxa coding model
6?) comparative within taxa

As I write this, I'm watching the Blues Brothers--which is always a good choice.
I'm reading Intuition by Allegra Goodman to see if it's a good alternative to the awful novel we read for research ethics. With about 50 pages to go, I'm very pleased. Decent writing + interesting treatment of ethical issues = good choice. Anyone else ever read a good novel about research that has some form of ethics in it?


April 15, 2010


Anyone who knows me knows how much I like graphs and charts and any kind of visual representation of just about anything.
I found this website:
And here's the graph for the ingenious site you are now perusing: http://www.aharef.info/static/htmlgraph/?url=http://laboratoryamusings.blogspot.com/
I can't figure out how to get the code into blogger, so you'll have to click.

I'm writing a paper on how the brain and intelligence may (or may not) be related on various anatomical and physiological levels. So, in that spirit I give you this:

What they (CBS News) tell you about the brain:

Reality (well, at least closer):

The letters are abbreviations for different structures/areas and each line indicates that the areas are connected to each other

Real post someday soon.


March 10, 2010


In an effort to avoid studying for my midterm (yes, it's tomorrow, and, yes, I'm avoiding studying right now), I decided to look at my recommendations from netflix. It tells my that I like "visually-striking cerebral dramas" along with "mind-bending romantic comedies." I don't even know what those categories mean. But I think it makes me sound really pretentious.
Back to molecules.

March 7, 2010

books, work, etc

I should be programming now. But I'm watching the Oscars. Which is rather inexplicable. But there's Neil Patrick Harris doing a song and dance number wearing a sequined suit jacket, so that's totally worth it. Also, if Avatar wins best picture, I will be very cranky. Because that was neocolonial nonsense. Along with about a hundred other awful things that I will not enumerate (out of sheer mercy).
Programming is still making me crazy. But I shall beat Matlab. Woman shall triumph over machine.
I've finally finished The Dangerous World of Butterflies. And it was wonderful. Far more so than I expected.

Back to pretending to work.


February 27, 2010


Paper due (almost)
So I have two more days left
Procrastinate much?

I'm writing a paper on octopus intelligence (for animal intelligence seminar, of course). Really. So in that spirit, I give you OCTOPUS VIDEOS!!. They're actually neat little (or giant) organisms. And the invertebrate factor makes for an interesting discussion; one I may subject my dear readers to at some point.
Clearly, I haven't been a very good blogger lately. This semester has been more frenetic than I thought it would be. And I was betting on very. My computational neuro class, while fascinating, involves Matlab programming. Which makes me want to curl up in the fetal position. Cellular and molecular neuro is fantastic and makes me miss biochemistry.
So yes, that brings us to 3 classes. 10 credits. And almost 0 research. This makes me very irritable. I have some data to analyze, but most of it looks like trash. And I have some digital models to work on, but no time to do experiments.
Which brings us to our point: I have a lot of ambivalence about this interdisciplinary program thing. I chose this program, this university because I wanted the broad background in neuroscience. But right now, it is making me absolutely crazy. We're required to take a few more classes than the other biology programs, which doesn't seem like a big deal, but a few more grad classes is a lot. I know I'll be grateful for it in the long run (when I try to get a job), but I just want to be done with classes and get fully into my dissertation research. This is like how I felt about gen ed classes in college. Let's be honest here: US history post-Civil War was a royal pain in the ass when I was taking it. But I'm glad I did.
Has anyone else had this experience?
Anyway, I shall continue to trudge through the code and signal pathways and primary literature.


January 13, 2010

builiding rehabilitation

Duct work, new lighting
Ladder evasions galore
Let it end soon, please

They're ripping out all the lighting and duct work in our building. Which is nice, yes, but I had to avoid three ladders to go from my office to the lab. And that is a distance of about 10 feet.
Other than that, experiments proceed as planned. It is awfully nice when classes (other than intersession) aren't in session. It is so quiet. And there's no line at the co-op!
And on top of that, I have an awesome new vegetarian cookbook. The two recipes I've tried so far have been quite tasty. Good days all around.


January 12, 2010

New year?

Another new year
Another year of lab work
Maybe some progress