Tuesday, December 20, 2011

He put a ring on it and other news

The past few months have been a blur of activity and excitement. In the span of about a week my BF and I got engaged and he was offered a position in his first choice for a post doc!  This means lots of changes in the very near future! I have also been beyond busy in the lab ever since we found out he did in fact get the position, and it is seriously looking like I am going to have no free time between the first of 2012 and when we leave in early summer.

[So it is now official, we are moving to the ivy league!]

Friday, November 4, 2011

Weekend Reads: The Passage

Tags: Horror/ Thriller / Dystopia/ Apocalypse/ Disease
Pages: 800
Rating (out of 5): ****
Buy-Me Blurb: “It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.” 
First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear — of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.
As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey — spanning miles and decades — towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.
Keeping with the Halloween inspired monster theme, I recently finished The Passage by Justin Cronin. Dystopian/Apocalyptic fiction is a guilty pleasure of mine but for some reason I put off reading this book for months. I'm not exactly sure why, it was highly rated on Goodreads, and it seemed as though everywhere I looked the book was recommended as a new spin on the "vampire virus" that has been so popular lately. The problem was simple, I've heard this line before and been left feeling far less than satisfied after taking the plunge.

In general, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it for anyone looking for a slightly creepy read to pass the witching hour. It's well written though the author does get a little "preachy" and "we failed God" a couple of times as a kind of weak explanation to move the plot along. Copout, yes I think so, but I enjoyed the rest of the book so much, I'll overlook it as a laps in judgement or potentially temporary insanity.

This author, like many others the last couple of years, just loves to switch between perspectives, as with George R R Martin and Stieg Larsson. Though I think it ultimately works if done correctly, it did leave this book a little disjointed in places. The major problem is for the main concept of this soon-to-be series to work, the author had to fast track the downfall of the world and the establishment of a new way of living. It's nice that we didn't have to wait for the second book in the series to see this progression, but by combining a loss of time with shifting perspective, I was left a little confused and it sometimes felt like I was starting a new book every couple of chapters.

Other good news is that this is the first book in what is looking to be a good series, and will be a movie in the near future. You can find an excerpt of the upcoming second book in the series, The Twelve, slated to be released sometime in 2012, by clicking HERE.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Proper Lab Etiquette: Labeling Shit #1

It's not good to label a box then cover that label with a lid and toss it in the freezer. It's also not good to have 15 different kinds of clear liquid in conical tubes at your bench with the expectation that you'll remember which is which when you need them again 3 months from now. This is one of my pet peeves, so here is the first in a series.

Freezer Boxes:

  1. Don't write directly on the box. Put tape on both the lower portion of the bottom of the box AND the lid for labeling. You do this because lids can be separated from the box when people are digging around for something in the freezer and it's easier than looking at the tubes later when you're in a hurry.
  2. Use a permanent marker, not dry erase or pencil or fine-point pen. You can't see these things once there is ice on the box and sometimes things other than a good dark marker rub off easy. Also, your samples might be stored for longer than you are in the lab, make it easy on people who come after you and label things clearly. 
  3. Include the experiment number if you have one, the type of cells or animal the tissue are from, what is actually in the box and be specific (cDNA, bacteria stocks, organs, etc), your initials (written legibly) AND A DATE
  4. Make sure at least one of the labels can be seen clearly when the lid is on and the box is in the freezer insert (always point the label out when putting in storage). 
  5. If placing in -80˚C, update the freezer map or prepare to be bitched at later when you forget where you put your stuff. 

Being insanely anal in nature, I include color coded dots for boxes that go together. Anytime I see a yellow sticker (which is also placed on the tape so the boxes can be reused) I know which experiment those boxes belong to. If you only have a few colors, add a large bold letter to the center so you don't have to wipe everything down and read to spot if something is yours.

Consolidate boxes often as you process samples so you're not taking up valuable freezer space for a couple of tubes per box (update the map each time you do this!). When your awesome science has been collected and the box is empty, peal off the tape and put the "almost like new" box in a common area for other people to use. Don't horde them at your desk or leave the tape on for other people to deal with. Wouldn't you hate to do that too?

It's also a bad idea to just put a second layer of tape over the first, probability is good you're going to lose that second layer once the box has frost, so it's better safe than sorry.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekend Reads: Joe Ledger Series

This series is the brainchild of Jonathan Maberry and is based around a mans-man by the name of Joe Ledger. This series starts off with bioterrism and my favorite enemy, the undead but is more about human struggles, greed and balance of power than the initial book in the series would lead you to believe.

BOOK ONE: Patient Zero
Tags: Thriller/ Mystery/ Disease/ Military
Pages: 421
: 4 of 5
Buy-Me Blurb:
When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there's either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills... and there's nothing wrong with Joe Ledger's skills. And that's both a good, and a bad thing. It's good because he's a Baltimore detective that has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new taskforce created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can't handle. This rapid response group is called the Department of Military Sciences or the DMS for short. It's bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance.... 

Comments: I'm a sucker for a good thriller, and throwing flesh eating enemies into the mix just makes it that much more exciting. If you are searching for indepth character development and meaningful dialog, this is not the right series for you. Most of the main characters are extremist, in that if someone is a badass that's really the only thing they have going for them. There is lots of action, and shaky science, but overall a great book. This series is being made into a TV series in the near future (think 24 + Jason Bourne + resident evil).  

BOOK TWO: The Dragon Factory
Tags: Thriller/ Mystery/ Disease/ Military
Pages: 486
: 3 of 5
Buy-Me Blurb: Joe Ledger and the DMS (Department of Military Sciences) go up against two competing groups of geneticists. One side is creating exotic transgenic monsters and genetically enhanced mercenary armies; the other is using 21st century technology to continue the Nazi Master Race program begun by Josef Mengele. Both sides want to see the DMS destroyed, and they've drawn first blood. Neither side is prepared for Joe Ledger as he leads Echo Team to war under a black flag. 

Comments: This was my least favorite book in the series thus far. In this book you pick back up with Joe and his team once again saving the world from evil scientists... this trend of smart people being evil or complete nerds started to get old pretty quickly. Overall it was an okay read, but having read the third volume in this series I think it was more building up for the next book, which gave it the typical second book syndrome of not being that great until after you continue the series. People who actually work in science will have to overlook some of the "science" they discuss in the book, but there is enough other action to do so without it being too distracting.  

BOOK THREE: The King of Plagues
Tags: Thriller/ Mystery/ Disease/ Military
Pages: 448
: 4 of 5 
Buy-Me Blurb
 Saturday 09:11 Hours: A blast rocks a London hospital and thousands are dead or injured… 10:09 Hours: Joe Ledger arrives on scene to investigate.  The horror is unlike anything he has ever seen.  Compelled by grief and rage, Joe rejoins the DMS and within hours is attacked by a hit-team of assassins and sent on a suicide mission into a viral hot zone during an Ebola outbreak.  Soon Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences  begin tearing down the veils of deception to uncover a vast and powerful secret society using weaponized versions of the Ten Plagues of Egypt to destabilize world economies and profit from the resulting chaos.  Millions will die unless Joe Ledger meets the this powerful new enemy on their own terms as he fights terror with terror.

Comments: Follows Patient Zero and The Dragon Factory as the third novel in the "Joe Ledger" series. The Department of Military Sciences (DMS) is once again under attack from a secret organization said to be older than the Skulls and Bones. Their intent is straight forward, destabilize the world economy through the Ten Plagues of Egypt and remake it as they wish. This book ties the first and second books together nicely and expands on the background of the mysterious Mr Church. Ledger falls particularly flat in this one for me, but it redeems the series in some ways, by returning to the slash and gore style of the first book. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bangles & Bacteria: Jewelry in the Lab

Exhibit A: As it turns out, Beyonce gave bad advice and you should, in fact, NOT put a ring on it. 

Being somewhat of an amazon woman, combined with working in a lab full of tiny Asian people, often leaves me with labcoats that don't quite measure up in the sleeve department. Recently, that small amount of skin between where your gloves end and your labcoat starts, perfectly framed my metal watch. This, of course, wasn't intentional, but being very busy with several experiments I didn't realize and a small amount of organic solvent splashed from my beaker, and landed squarely onto my skin and watch. There was the typical, "oh, well isn't that fabulous" sigh before I wiped the liquid away and rinsed off my arm. A few minutes later my skin started to itch and at first, I didn't think much of it. A few more minutes passed and my wrist started to burn, with increasing intensity. I looked down and noticed my wrist had turned bright red. I rushed to the sink and wash the area, removing all metal objects, then washing them again for good measure.  Bringing me to my point, what amount of jewelry is considered appropriate when working in bench science?  I wore the watch because I used it to time the different portions of my experiment, and the thought of wearing the timer around with me while I did other tasks didn't settle well (i.e. gross, other people have touched that!).

Exhibit B: We've all seen this PhD Comic, and know it's true. Who wants to accidently transport anything from this picture home? 

With the prospect of engagement in the near future, and my bling factor increasing from optional to expected, I was wondering how many people wear wedding rings while working at the bench? Does the use of gloves damage the ring in any way?

As a general rule, I tend not to wear anything that could dangle while working at the bench, mainly due to the sheer "grossness" factor of what those things might come in contact with. I mean honestly, who wants to find rodent parts on their scarf the next time they put it on. On that same note, no matter how cute a bracelet might be, it is infinitely less so when there is potential for it to be covered in pathogenic bacteria because you didn't watch your sleeves while working in the hood (see Exhibit C).

Exhibit C: Example of inappropriate accessories. Remember kids, bangles and bacteria don't mix. Ever. Period.