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. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekend Reads: Song of Ice and Fire

When I'm not on pain killers and can focus for more than 5 minutes at a time, one of my favorite cold weather activity involves cuddling up with a good book and a warm blanket. With winter quickly approaching, I decided to start a regular "weekend reads" post for whatever literary work has currently or recently captivated my attention.

A friend suggested I sign up for Goodreads, which has ended up being a great resource to find new books and explore genres I might not have otherwise even attempted. This, along with the recommendation by the same friend and the release of the new HBO special Game of Thrones, lead me to start the "Song of Ice and Fire" series by George R R Martin.

I don't think this series would have been something I would have gravitated to by simply reading the buy me blurb on the back cover, but I did suffer through all 4 Twilight books, after all, so I decided to start with the first book in the series and go from there.

This series takes the idea of perspective to another level by switching between characters within a continuous time line. Normally I find this constant switching very disruptive, and it seems like you spend the first half of a book waiting for the character's plots to collide and become cohesive (think the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo). Martin did an excellent job painting the majority of the characters as real people, and as you switch between the lives of different characters, you begin to sympathize with individuals you initially didn't care for.

This book does have a fantasy element, in that there are dragons. It's also set in a more medieval kind of realm, akin to middle earth for you Lord of the Rings fans. Unlike Tolkien's work, to which this series is constantly compared, these books focus more on political drama than a new world. If you're a fan of the HBO series, I would highly recommend reading the series, because winter is in fact coming and you should know what perils await.

BOOK ONE: A Game of Thrones 

Tags: Fantasy/Politics/Medieval-Times
Pages: 835
: 5 of 5
Buy-Me Blurb: Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective wall. To the south, the King's powers are failing, and his enemies are emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the King's new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but also the kingdom itself. A heroic fantasy of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and evildoers who come together in a time of grim omens. 

Comments: Great story of the struggle for political power and the many perspectives allows a greater understanding of the rational characters have for their actions. Introduction of the major houses and a major play for power that colors the rest of the series. 

Tags: Fantasy/Politics/Medieval-Times
Pages: 761
Stars: 3 of 5
Buy-Me Blurb: Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders--Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over an age of enforced peace are dead...victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky—a comet the color of blood and flame—six factions struggle for control of a divided land. Eddard's son Robb has declared himself King in the North. In the south, Joffrey, the heir apparent, rules in name only, victim of the scheming courtiers who teem over King's Landing. Robert's two brothers each seek their own dominion, while a disfavored house turns once more to conquest. And a continent away, an exiled queen, the Mother of Dragons, risks everything to lead her precious brood across a hard hot desert to win back the crown that is rightfully hers.

Comments: Picks up where the previous book left off. Introduces new characters at the beginning, which is slightly confusing because it takes a few chapters to figure out how they fit into the world and story we already know. Little else can be said about the individual books without spoilers, but if you're struggling here, give it until the next book before you make a decision. 

BOOK THREE: A Storm of Swords

Tags: Fantasy/Politics/Medieval-Times
Pages: 1128
Stars: 4 of 5
Buy-Me Blurb: Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King’s Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. . . .
But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others—a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords. . . 

Comments: Martin never allows the reader solace in knowing their favorite characters are safe and this book is no exception. Starts slightly slower, then picks up like mad near the last half. Major spoilers prevent more information than that being shared.  

BOOK FOUR: A Feast for Crows

Tags: Fantasy/Politics/Medieval-Times 
Pages: 1060
Stars: 2 of 5
Buy-Me Blurb: It seems too good to be true. After centuries of bitter strife and fatal treachery, the seven powers dividing the land have decimated one another into an uneasy truce. Or so it appears. . . . With the death of the monstrous King Joffrey, Cersei is ruling as regent in King’s Landing. Robb Stark’s demise has broken the back of the Northern rebels, and his siblings are scattered throughout the kingdom like seeds on barren soil. Few legitimate claims to the once desperately sought Iron Throne still exist—or they are held in hands too weak or too distant to wield them effectively. The war, which raged out of control for so long, has burned itself out.

But as in the aftermath of any climactic struggle, it is not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters start to gather, picking over the bones of the dead and fighting for the spoils of the soon-to-be dead. Now in the Seven Kingdoms, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed, while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—are seen emerging from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges ahead.

It is a time when the wise and the ambitious, the deceitful and the strong will acquire the skills, the power, and the magic to survive the stark and terrible times that lie before them. It is a time for nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages to come together and stake their fortunes . . . and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors. 

Comments: Much slower pace book than the previous three in the series. Originally this was a larger book and was sectioned into this book and A Dance with Dragons. Ends without much resolve so take that into consideration before starting, and have the next book in the series on hand and ready to go (not that it will help much)! 

This is the book where you learn George R R Martin is a complete asshole. His editors didn't like the length of this book so he was told to split it into two books or edit this one down to a respectable length, he chose to split the book... literally. The end of this book is a major cliffhanger and he summarizes what I just wrote as an explanation as to why you have to wait a year (which of course turned into two) for the rest of this story. Because of this there seems to be disposable characters introduced, as simple plot fillers to fill out what was supposed to have been half of a larger installment. On another note, Martin starts making up nonsensical words in this book, to the point I thought my ebook had editing problems, which it also had, but that's another post at another time.  

BOOK FIVE: A Dance with Dragons 

Tags: Fantasy/Politics/Medieval-Times 
Pages: 976
Stars: In progress 
Buy-Me Blurb: In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance—beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.
Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys’s claim to Westeros forever.
Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone—a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.
From all corners, bitter conflicts reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all.

Comments: I had such high hopes for this book after the cliffhanger that was Feast for Crows, but it looks like he added filler here too. I love the characters, but several of my absolute favorites are all but absent from this book, which means I'll have another 1-2 year wait to continue their story. I will, in fact, continue with this series, but this was another asshole move on Martin's part, and I think the timing was more to coincide with the HBO series premier than to satisfy readers. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bad News & Baby Animals: Animal Care Condolences

I think at least half of my job is making sure that facilities we are required to pay and use actually do their jobs. I received a less devastating version of the little gem below a few weeks ago, which of course, left me screaming obscenities in the cold room to calm down before calling to find out what the hell was going on.

When I was younger I really believed everyone tried their very best at their jobs [cue rainbows, butterflies and dancing ponies]. Now that naivety has been stripped away, I've realized the majority of people are giant flaming fucktards who would rather half-ass their job and leave the mess for someone else, than do it right the first time.

Case in point, every single university ran organization set in place to "help" the professors and research staff. After the freezer screaming fit mentioned above, I was finally ready to proceed with the "what the hell is going on" questioning. I was told that every single year at least one facility on campus becomes infested with a weevil that likes the animal diet. The interlopers were noticed by a tech, not the people we pay to check the damn cages every day... meaning they hadn't been doing it. I made the mistake of asking what they were going to do to prevent this from occurring again? Their response was one word--nothing.

[bangs head repeatedly against wall in frustration]

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Let the sorting begin

It's official, I'm in Ravenclaw bitches! An absolutely awesome friend and coworker got me in for beta testing of Pottermore and the shot below is from right after sorting.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Defending the Lab from Ninjas

So, I have managed to hurt my back twice in the last two weeks by doing super cool things like vacuuming and moving a chair defending the lab from ninjas.  The second time I ended up fainting into a closet, onto my boyfriend and the doctor's exam table, which finally made me realize going to work wasn't going to happen in the near future. I surrendered to the idea that I'm incapable of doing anything productive at the moment due to this injury and compounded with the fact I have the attention span of the average 2 year old due to the medication I'm on. This combination makes for a very disgruntle individual. I'm quite certain that if I wasn't already insane, and I'm not, my parents had me tested [snort.. geek reference], I would be after this week.

Exhibit A: For those unsure of who has been in the lab, know your enemy so you don't end up bed ridden like me.

While I get frustrated with my job, I deal with that frustration like any well mannered southern belle [if you classify the lady-like response as cussing like a sailor and shooting stuff]. The fact of the matter remains that I love what I do, and I'm desperately ready to return to lab... there is also the fact that the longer I am away, the greater the likelihood the lab will be in complete disarray when I return. This also stresses me out because I've been told I'm a little OCD when it comes to my job, which is what makes me beyond awesome at what I do, and hard to deal with when people f*ck with my stuff. For those who aren't aware, I define "my stuff" as the whole lab... sooo, yeah, see Exhibit B.

Exhibit B: My view of the precious, precious lab supplies & equipment ... ahh precious..

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bringing sexy back...

Okay, not really, but it got your attention. I have decided to bring back the ever popular breaking bad news with baby animals--science edition as a regular blog feature. Though I have no affiliation with the actual company, who doesn't want a cuddly little creature to tell them their dreams of science grandeur are shattered into a billion tiny little pieces? Besides, they don't seem to be geeky enough to pull this one off on their own, and lets face it, I have nerd-power to spare.

This cuddly little bunny is experiencing a little taste of what a friend of mine is currently going through while job hunting. She has good credentials/references and an adequate number of publications but it seems as though everywhere she is applying is wasting her time and their resources by requesting that she fly in and interview for positions they have already, unofficially of course, filled.

In my opinion this is but another example of scientific masturbation--lots of foreplay with no payoff. Jump through all the paperwork hoops by showing that you interviewed qualified (or sometimes unqualified) applicants with a variety of backgrounds before giving the job to the person the listing was created for in the first place. I've seen this first hand at previous work places, but I didn't realize how common this practice actually was until recently. I guess it gives meaning to the phrase "it's not what you know, but who you know that matters."

Has anyone else been in this position? Gargantuan waste of time and resources, right?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Rural Education: Donors Choose

For those who are not aware, myself and my BF grew up in the very rural, very poor parts of Arkansas. Though BF is 8 years older than me and from an area about 3 hours from where I grew up, we had a comparable school life in that our teachers had to do some very creative "making due" to get the point across. Which brings me to my main point, the need for the donors choose program most science bloggers are now involved in. I love the idea of fostering a love of learning and influencing the lives of future mad scientists. After looking through the items many classes have requested I'm left a little stumped. Some are wanting books and other supplies, but many are requesting items that could be made with a bit of ingenuity and help from the community. I understand teachers aren't in a position to spend so much of their own income to make these things happen, but why aren't the parents more involved?

I don't accept the argument that they don't have the money either, because I grew up in an impoverished area too but we still scraped together the things we needed for creative learning. Is it a change in the way parents view the student's relationship with the school? I've heard more times than I'd care to admit that learning is the responsibility of the school and the parent shouldn't be forced to participate in their child's education. Most of this attitude seems to have come about in the last several years, but maybe there is more to it than that.

When I was in 6th grade we started learning about ancient Egypt and the pyramids. To help us understand the tools and methods they used at the time, my [absolutely awesome] history teacher sent a request out to our parents for supplies. She needed lumber and nails to construct molds for blocks, sand and straw for building materials and buckets for mixing. A parent who worked in construction donated scrap lumber and creating the boxes became the first step of our class project in pyramid construction. Another family donated the sand, and a farm donated a bale of straw. Before you knew it we were elbow deep in pyramid creation, and the teacher had whole lessons around each step so we would see and do instead of just passively listen. In another class while learning about the judicial system, we put the big-bad wolf from the three little pigs on trial, with each of us taking an active role through a lottery system.

Is today's "teach to the test" system killing these kinds of learning opportunities or are the parents just not as involved as they were when the BF and I grew up? Sometimes I want to think the detachment is because these are urban schools that don't have the sense of community you find in lower populated areas, but is this really the case? Granted our little pyramid project took up a large block of class time, but considering it has been more than 15 years ago and I still remember that lesson, I think it's time well spent.

The BF taught 4-5th grade before returning to school for a life in science, and has stated that it's hard to work creativity into the class when school funding is based on the results of standardized tests. Teachers are often forced to move on with lessons and stick to ridged pre-approved lesson plans even when a large portion of the class doesn't necessarily get what they just covered. It's more about quantity of material than quality of learning, in that he was required to teach certain skills and wasn't given the time needed for the students to do more than memorize for tests. I think this shotgun type approach is a major reason programs like donors choose are necessary, though it saddens me that the teachers have to rely on programs like this instead of the participation of parents and the community in which they live. This shouldn't be a blame game, but it seems as though each incoming freshman class has less and less critical thinking skills. A teacher friend recently called me at a complete loss for words because she put a "what do you think this means and why" kind of opinion question on an exam and the vast majority of her students answered with "idk." When she explained that it was an opinion question and if they had put anything down and rationalized their response they would have been given credit, the students replied that it wasn't a fair question because the answer wasn't stated in the passage they had to read.

Scary, right?

A bit of background

For those who aren't familiar with the madness that is me, or didn't [for some unfathomable reason] read the random ranting I spewed regularly over at my humble little cave, I thought I should provide a little background on what makes me, well me.

First and foremost, I'm dangerously over-educated and have dabbled in a little of everything. This dabbling included some beyond awesome work experience for several federal institutions, including NASA and the USDA. I've done clinical research and worked as a registered dietitian which means I've worked in various hospital settings and have taken more physiology/pathobiology classes than any non-major should ever be subjected to.

I get bored easily and love to try new things so, like normal, after a few years and I was once more itching to try something new. This prompted me to go back to graduate school for the second time and switch fields. Since moving to Happy Valley in 2007 I have graduated from Penn State now work in a molecular/biochemistry lab. My role there is a lab tech, aka lab genie and I'm involved in pretty much every project in my lab, from neonatal development and biomechanics to infectious disease and everything in between. In short, my nerdyness is strong but the pseudonym "damn good technician" was already taken.

I'm a reformed southern beauty queen who finally embraced her inner geek and turned to a life in science. I'm dating a 5th year physiology student who studies the neurological pathways related to addiction. I collect hobbies and am slightly obsessed with canines and dog training. Being southern means I love to cook and do stuff outdoors, especially when those outdoor activities include firearms.

I plan for this blog to be an outlet for science-y goodness as well as a smattering of random stuff but remember, we're all mad here, so you never know what chaos my mind will produce.

On another note, I don't pretend to know everything and neither should you. If you don't like what you're reading here, fuck off and go somewhere else.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Thwarted By Life Once Again

Anytime I think of a topic I want to blog about in the near future, I save a tentative title and a little info to jog my memory as a draft. The problem is I'm now looking at somewhere around 15 titles in the queue with no prospect of time to finish any of them before the weekend. In addition to developing two new UPLC methods, I'm refining a few new conversion and extraction methods, teaching students and running two big experiments ... and it's only Wednesday.  *sigh* ... time to get to work.

How I feel by the end of Tuesday every week

Monday, September 26, 2011

Techs: The Macgyver of Science

My idea of humor is often referred to as "atilt," but I found this hilarious. I disagree though, and think Lab Techs are more akin to Macgyver than Chuck Norris. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Anonymity Lost

I recently realized the idea of keeping my identity hidden is going to be nearly impossible. After a year on the wagon, I was sucked back into the great time-waste that is twitter and realized that nearly everyone I follow in the science world is associated, though sometimes indirectly, with someone I know in real life. This posed the question of do I remove all identifying information and join the great nothing world of spooks or at best, the men in black, or suck it up and realize science is a small world and that I'm lying to myself if I think I can remain anonymous? I chose the latter. How would people feel if I didn't include the frequent drunken debauchery that I'm often assaulted with due to the location of my lab? I mean come on,  scenes like the one below, courtesy of Tideliar, are just a normal Tuesday here in Happy Valley.

Props to the photographer for even capturing the too-old-for-them men "talking" to the drunken young girls.

This all being said, I don't want to make it too easy for the would-be stalkers, and will not refer to myself by my proper name here (this implies that I hope those that know me will follow suite). Anyone with more than two neurons to rub together will still probably be able to guess who I am, but why help google if you can help it, right?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Coming Soon...

Ahh, it still has that "new blog" smell. Nearly have all my things moved from the science cave, just a few more finishing touches and all will be ready.