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Day #290: A guide for treating tear gas

CS gas

When exposed to CS gas (tear gas) do NOT use milk.

Well this won’t end and frankly it shouldn’t end until there are sweeping changes to institutions who refuse to make those changes. In the meantime good and innocent people are being subject to CS gas (tear gas) and there are a lot of ways people are suggesting you treat it, some are better than others. Let’s talk about what CS gas does and how to treat it best.

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Day #289: Classes started today

protests

Well today we kick off our summer internship courses. It’s just a little hard given everything that is going on in the background, but here we are. It’s tough all around for the black and minority communities, but as an institution we press on to teach. I’m still disheartened that we can’t even pause in a moment of turmoil like this, but institutions like this are part of the system so they can’t meaningfully acknowledge what is going on.

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Day #288: The things we do in the dark Part – 2

blackout

As with most mornings I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about, but my topic found me. He who controls the flow of information controls the narrative. Wars are won and lost by the control of public information. The government knows this, it is a tactic the government has used for decades and they are at it again.

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Day #287: Racism and our pale blue dot

pale blue dot

If I were to show you a map of the known universe the size of a large building, the spot marking earth and where this photo was taking would be overlapping. Feel small yet?

We don’t learn from our mistakes, the 1918 flu for example. We learned nothing from it and were doomed to repeat history when COVID-19 came around. Look at the news right now, any of this look vaguely familiar? It should, even in my lifetime we’ve seen this happen several times over, but nothing has changed. We refuse to learn.

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Day #286: On the militarization of police

Police violence

Photo from Slate

The US is under attack, not by some foreign power, but by the people tasked to protect us. The police have increasingly become more militarized and as such their power to incite violence has increased exponentially alongside its budget. Notice I said incite violence, not end violence.

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Day #285: Interesting times

twitter

Yet another disgusting and violent tirade from Trump.

My Co-PI lived through the fall of the USSR. I told him that must have been an interesting time to be alive. He responded by telling me that they actually have a curse for others that goes something along the lines of, “I hope you are cursed to live through interesting times.” We are living through interesting times now and I can see why that would be used as a curse.

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Day #284: The things we do in the dark

2020-05-29

It’s the least they could do.

Disinformation is a powerful tool. We are often taught that while previous wars had the overall and almost total support of the American people, the Vietnam war did not. You may think this had to do with the sentiment at the time or a cultural shift. However, this was most likely due to something far more innocuous, the television.

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Day #283: Lies the police told me

police

Depending on who you are and your experience in life the police are either heroes that are looked up to or they are oppressors that are feared. The truth is that they are all part of the same racist system and that inevitably makes all police bad. You may not agree, that’s fine and I would bet that you are most likely white. To which I would say, it is okay not to notice the systematic racism until it is pointed out. It’s normalized, so why would you notice?

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Day #282: Review – Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation of the cervical cord modulates lumbar networks

Experimental Setup and tSCS electrode placement (A) H-reflexes were evoked via stimulation of the tibial nerve and recorded in the soleus muscle during a consistent background contraction of ≈5% peak muscle activity. The left leg was held static in an extended position, and stimulation to evoke the H-reflex was delivered with the left arm at 0°. (B) tSCS was delivered via two 2.5 cm round cathodic electrodes placed midline at C3-4 and C6-7 (cervical) or T11 and L1 (lumbar) spinous processes. Two 5 × 10 cm rectangular anodic electrodes were placed bilaterally over the iliac crests.

Experimental Setup and tSCS electrode placement (A) H-reflexes were evoked via stimulation of the tibial nerve and recorded in the soleus muscle during a consistent background contraction of ≈5% peak muscle activity. The left leg was held static in an extended position, and stimulation to evoke the H-reflex was delivered with the left arm at 0°. (B) tSCS was delivered via two 2.5 cm round cathodic electrodes placed midline at C3-4 and C6-7 (cervical) or T11 and L1 (lumbar) spinous processes. Two 5 × 10 cm rectangular anodic electrodes were placed bilaterally over the iliac crests.

It’s that time again! My biweekly critical review paper is due for my PI. He gets a copy and so do all of you. This is a particularly interesting study that falls in line with a lot of research that I am doing, so it’s interesting to see how other groups are progressing. Overall I think this is a great study and while it is behind a paywall, I think I summed it up very well. The drawing they did (above) is awesome, especially for a scientific journal where we normally use simple line figures. Anyway, let’s get to it.

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Day #281: The New Colossus

Statue of liberty

The march of time stops for no one, yet we shut down the world. Only for a moment. Then that moment passed, but not by choice. There is a pandemic going on, tomorrow we will most likely pass the somber 100,000 official deaths from COVID-19 in the US. There is a very good chance the actual number is much higher. It hasn’t stopped, it won’t stop, but somehow we are choosing to ignore it.

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Day #280: A somber remembrance

I swear I didn't kill anyone by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie.

“I swear I didn’t kill anyone” by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie.

Memorial day brings mixed feelings for me. It’s the inevitable culmination of militarism and hero worship. It’s a yearly reminder of my failures and losses. It’s a memorial for the civilians that are blind to the abuses of the military. It’s for those who greedily accept the most we can do is have mindless celebrations and for those who enjoy the egregious use of platitudes that punctuate the day. Well now, it’s time for some cold hard truth that you don’t want to hear.

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Day #279: Juggling (a lot of) tasks

task juggling

Since the pandemic hit I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what I’m doing in school and things that I need to finish. Turns out I’m juggling a lot. I’ve touched on this before in other posts that I have a lot going on, but it never really hit me until recently that I have all these things and none of them seem to be ending. It’s kind of frustrating and extremely anxiety inducing.

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Day #278: Teaching… virtually

virtual teaching

We are about to start the big summer internship program at school. I’m actually kind of excited about it. I enjoy teaching and mentoring and this is just as much a chance for me to learn as for the people I work with. However, this year we are doing it all virtually, so there are some growing pains and a lot of challenges that come along with this. Let’s look at what I will be teaching this year and how I’m going to deal with the need to teach virtually.

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Day #277: 5 tips to survive the apocalypse

Person in gas mask and full PPE holding a globe

The world is on fire right now. We’re literally living in a real life horror movie. Depending on your proclivity for survival you are stuck almost exclusively inside your home. Yet, everyone on the internet, your PI, and maybe even colleagues seem to tell you the same thing, you can now be more productive! Yes, we are at home almost exclusively and more and more people are suggesting to use this extra time to be more productive. Well fuck that, instead here are my five tips to help you survive all this.

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Day #276: Survivor Bias

Mom

This is my mother with me as a baby. She wrote notes on the backs of the few photos I have. It’s surreal seeing her handwriting, but it sounds like she really wanted to be a mom. I will always regret not getting the chance to know her. She may still be alive, I just don’t know and apparently no one else does either.

I have suffered more than most. I like talking about it, especially mental illness because keeping it to myself helps no one and hurts a lot of people who think they are alone. Today I will attempt to do something I am not known for, I will concisely tell a short version of my life. I will then tell you how I succeeded despite the odds. I will tell you that I struggle every damn day, but that I made it. Then I will tell you, you probably won’t and that breaks my fucking heart.

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Day #275: Summer Mentorship

planting a tree

It’s summer, so we’re taking a break from my DI…why?! series to talk about my favorite thing about working over the summer. We get to do mentoring! As you may recall, mentoring is my favorite part of the job. Over the summer we get students from high school, international students, as well as undergrad students from all over the place to visit our little lab.

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Day #274: DI..why?! – Removing the forever cabinets

20200516_134107

Today we’re going to do some demolition! Woo, time to break things!!! Actually I was hoping this was going to go smoothly, but I’ve already ripped out some of these cabinets and they are not easy to do, even after thinking I had the experience I needed to rip them out. Let me introduce you to the forever cabinet.

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Day #273: DI..why?! – How to install a smart light switch

20200517_140414

Today we are installing a pair of these, we’ll cover how to install one and you’ll be able to do as many as you want once you get the first one down!

I had three options for a post today, so we’re going to go with the simplest and probably most helpful. Here’s the scenario, you want to change out a light switch, but you don’t know how to do it. You could pay someone, but why spend the money? You’re in luck, this is a simple job and I think anyone can do it, why did I change out a light switch, well I’ll tell you my reasons, but they may not be the same as yours, that’s fine too. No judgement here!

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Day #272: DI..why?! – Holes in walls

10

You may notice my wood ladder, I built it to get to the ceiling.

Today we’re going to go over a few other patch jobs I’ve had to make around the house since I’ve been here. These were intentional as you’ll see. I needed some outlets put in and in order to do that holes were made, luckily I have some photos of that portion of the work just because it was so fun to watch. While, the plugs were installed professionally, the patches were done by me.

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Day #271: DI..why?! – Awkward lighting

5

What do you do when you want to install this, but the electrical box is 8 inches to the right? Well let’s go over that!

Well since I anticipate a lot more DIY posts, I’ve created a new category for them! I’m calling it DI…why?! because every time I try to fix something, I find something else that was wrong with the way they built the home. To kick this off, let’s talk about the curious case of the cockeyed casing. Or without the alliteration, the stupid builders put the electrical junction off center for no apparent reason and we’re going to fix that.

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Day #270: The to-do list

transam

When I say I lived in my car, I really did. This was my 84 trans am, I bought it for $600 after I got out of the military and immediately drove it cross country (like >3,000 miles). It doesn’t look like much, but it kept me dry when it rained and I absolutely loved it.

Well I’m making a list… and checking it… twice? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Well here we are at the precipice of something interesting. I want to show everyone that you can have a life and a PhD at the same time. Or in my case a hobby or two, maybe not a life, I don’t have one of those, but that wasn’t because of the PhD. Anywho I digress. Buying a home is a lot like buying a used car and today I will explain why!

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Day #269: A preview of the weeks ahead

two old school box style robots on a table near the beach looking at the water in the distance

Robots don’t need to social distance, but we do, so no beach trips for me this summer.

Well we’ve officially transitioned to the spring/summer break. Since I am doing my own little 365 days of academia challenge, it’s important to point out that there will most likely be a marked change in the content. So let’s look at what we’ve done to this point and what will be coming up! I’m excited, are you excited? I’m excited!

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Day #268: Review – Magnetospinography visualizes electrophysiological activity in the cervical spinal cord

Reconstructed currents of MSG from the cervical spondylotic myelopathy subject. There are two different sets of plots, the furthest left shows the electrophysiological recording taken from the epidural space and the other set shows the reconstructed currents using MSG. They agree fairly well.

This is the results of the cervical spondylotic myelopathy subject. The left graphs are the ascending spinal cord evoked potentials (this was electrophysiological recordings taken from the epidural space) by stimulation of the lower thoracic cord showing conduction block at the C4/5 disc level. The right graphs are the reconstructed currents at the midline of the cervical spinal canal (red) and 2 cm lateral (blue). The leading component (the first waveform in red) attenuated and disappeared through C4–6, and the trailing component (the second waveform in red) disappeared at C5/6. The perpendicular inflow components greatly attenuated at C4/5 (the second waveform in blue).

Another two weeks, another critical review. This time I was more critical than review, unlike the last one where I was blown away at the possibilities. Why was I more critical with this one? Well in my opinion, the authors took a baby step when they should’ve taken a leap. All that aside, it is an interesting study and one I hope has several follow up experiments. This one is open access as well, so have a read for yourself if you’re interested.

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Day #267: The problem with exams

test anxiety

I like to take my anti anxiety medication with a light snack thirty minutes before the exam. That way I get the full effect from the meds at about 30 minutes into the exam. The effects don’t last long enough to make it the entire exam, so I split the difference and this gives me the best result since I can’t stop half way and take more. Unfortunately, they don’t help, they never really do. I feel jittery, like I had too much coffee. I can’t remember the things I need to know and screw up even the simplest parts of the exam because I’m more focused on keeping my heart from exploding out of my chest!

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Day #266: Pandemic research pressure

Pandemic

Think of research like the post office, nor rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor pandemic, we will be there working. My dumbass had to make the transition from design to human experimenting the year before a pandemic. I could be safely at home designing cool robots in solidworks, but no we need to collect human subject data and despite the pandemic, I’m feeling the pressure.

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Day #265: The lazy goals

prototyping a microcontroller on a breadboard. Random bits of wires can be seen around the black table.

A “for fun” prototyping project, I thought would be appropriate cover art for the topic at hand.

It’s the end of the term for me. This will be the end of the second year of my PhD program, we have officially started the big countdown to the end of 365 days with (depending on how you want to count) 100 days left, and despite the pandemic, I am making my lazy goals. Mental health is important and my lazy goals help with that, I’ve mentioned lazy goals before, but let’s talk about it in detail.

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Day #264: Summer Research

EEG cap

Pay no attention to my messy desk… instead look at the cool EEG cap I set up.

It’s supposed to be a busy summer for me. With the pandemic going on, I’m not sure how that will play out. Since we don’t know yet, let’s talk about how it was planned and then we can discuss how that changed thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. This may be bad as far as my research timeline… maybe.

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Day #263: The Reliable Narrator Fallacy

tell tale heart

True! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily –how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

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Day #262: A Brief Repose

Legion

A project from a few winters ago in my old home. My workshop was so organized!

A friend once described me as, “a maker if there ever was one.” If you ask me, he was being overly kind, but it’s true I enjoy making things. I’m always looking to learn new skills or sharpen old ones. In fact, I’m taking up some “light” woodworking over the summer to do some custom pieces for my home. It will be a fun task, if not a bit tedious and time consuming. I have a list of projects you see, but not a lot of time to do them.

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Day #261: On Being a Mentor

Tree

One of the many hats I wear as a PhD candidate is my mentor hat. It’s probably one of my favorite jobs and I get to work with some truly brilliant people from all types of backgrounds. I’ve had the chance to mentor a small handful of people and I always look forward to learning from them and through our interactions, in that sense, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

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Day #260: The thing about endings

The end

…and thus our mighty hero slay the beast and rode off into the sunset to live happily ever after. But why? Have you ever really thought about the way some stories choose their endings? Our hero goes through live altering and extremely daunting challenges only to brush it off like he caught the wrong bus. Pardon me, but what the actual fuck?

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Day #259: The Postscript

Sleep

After awhile you supposedly end up resembling your pet, I think it’s happened. She looks how I feel.

I just want to sleep for fifty years, is that so much to ask for? The deadline is gone whence it came! That does not mean it wasn’t a fight to the end or that there is a weird stillness permeating the house like a calm after a storm. What is it about things ending so abruptly that throws a person into a spiral of confusion?

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Day #258: The deadline

Deadline

It’s here.

If you’re reading this, then it is already too late. It’s here, do you feel it? It’s in the house… the deadline. It’s a sneaky dark and evil thing from a time forgotten, but you can feel its presence long before it arrives. It whispers in your ear as you sleep, or did it? Of course, there isn’t anything there for real, right?

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Day #257: Tomorrow…

Sisyphus

Well we’re up against the wire now. Tomorrow is the due date for my paper and with it the video I am working on. Will I make it? How much work is left to do? Why am I talking in questions? Find out more… now…?

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Day #256: Two days left…

cookie monster

A live shot of me waiting for my data to finish processing

Well here we are and it’s… ♫ the finalllll count dowwwwwn!! ♫ My paper is due sunday at midnight and between the video I need to make, the data that still needs to be processed, and a shitty team mate who has done absolutely nothing to help, well I’ve got my work cut out for me.

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Day #255: The impossibility of complete knowledge

Magic-spells

Have you ever tried to learn something and you just can’t seem to get it to stick in your brain? That would be my life, well most of my adult life since I left the Marines. There is just so much knowledge in the world and wrapping my brain around even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of that knowledge seems to be an impossible task. So what is one to do?

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Day #254: Review – A Brain to Spine Interface for Transferring Artificial Sensory Information

Fig.1 of paper showing drawing of implanted electrodes and the two experimental setups for the rat.

Experimental setup for artificial sensory discrimination using DCS and brain-to-spine interface. (a) Rats were implanted with recording electrodes in motor cortex (M1), somatosensory cortex (S1) and striatum (STR) and dorsal column stimulating electrodes in the thoracic epidural space.  (b) Behavioral setup for artificial sensory discrimination using DCS (c) Setup for the brain-to-spine interface consisted of two modified aperture width tactile discrimination boxes.

If you ever were to read one of my review papers, this one’s for you. It’s so awesome and falls in line fairly closely to the things I want to accomplish, albeit going a different route to get there. I’m super excited to share this with all of you and I hope I did the study justice in my summation and while I admit, I had far too much enthusiasm with this one, it shouldn’t take away from just how amazing this is, see for yourself! The study is open access too, so if you want to know more details, you can go take a look!

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Day #253: A race to the finish

finish line

Well still quite a bit of work to do and some of it was frustrating, but here we are. So let’s run through what I’ve got left to do before the end of the term (ALREADY?!) and talk about the next few posts since I have somewhat of a plan… for once.

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Day #252: Dead…line

dead...line

Today is the day, my group presentation is due. Is it done? Well… sort of? Okay not quite, but we’re getting there. My group member still sucks, but since I yelled at him (in a professional manner of course), he’s gotten a little better and has been more responsive, so what’s the hold up? What a great question, let me explain.

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Day #251: Deadline tomorrow

deadline

Well the apocalypse can’t stop the gears of education. Tomorrow is our final presentation for the class I am in, so there is work to be done and expectation maximization will come another day. For now let’s give a quick rundown of what I’m working on.

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Day #250: Maximum Likelihood Estimation

probability

If we are going to talk about expectation maximization (now that I’m done complaining for a bit), we are going to have to introduce the idea of maximum likelihood. It’s going to be very easy to introduce, but it is a very powerful tool in estimating the state of something. Of course, it takes understanding a little bit of statistics, but trust me, if I can understand it, so can you.

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Day #249: A stern email later…

angry

Photo of me responding to his email …

I don’t want to jinx it, I really don’t, but I have an update on my group member situation and it isn’t completely awful! I mean, I’m still doing all the work and blah, blah, blah, but I’ve got an interesting story and I hope that things will be better now.

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Day #248: A Virtual Conference

background

Every zoom meeting I try to break my PI and get him to laugh, this was my last attempt, still nothing… my work continues.

This will be my first conference since the pandemic and it will be a virtual one. To be completely honest, it wasn’t until yesterday that I was reminded we had one today. It’s a little bit different from our normal routine and I think that is what is throwing me off.
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Day #247: The Kalman filter – Part 2

Kalman filter estimate

The Kalman filter converges on the optimal state estimate using noisy measurements and a model that we create.

Okay I lied, I think we can do a better job explaining the Kalman filter, more importantly I have a fun little demo I can share with everyone. It’s not mine, but I like it a lot and it will give you a feel for what the kalman filter does. So let’s get started!
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Day #246: The Kalman filter

We have 3-dimensions here even though it is a 2 dimensional problem. the third dimension is time, this way we can see the path over the course of the recorded time. Notice there are no units, becuase in this case we were working with synthetic data so the units were meaningless and I did not include them.

This is just one application for the Kalman filter, I estimated a two dimensional position using a random walk model. We have 3-dimensions here even though it is a 2 dimensional problem, the third dimension is time. This way we can see the path over the course of the recorded time. Notice there are no units, becuase in this case we were working with synthetic data so the units were meaningless and I did not include them.

Since we’ve been talking a lot about it, I thought it might be a good idea to formally introduce the Kalman filter. This will be a semi-high level introduction (like my knowing your spinal cord series), but at the end of it you should have a relatively good feel for what a Kalman filter is.
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Day #245: Fine, I’ll do it myself.

Thanos - I'll do it myself

I will not fail this class becuase of a shitty team member. I will not allow it, I’ve put too much effort and time into this class to do poorly at the last minute because my team member can’t be bothered to do the job he agreed to do. I suppose, this was… inevitable

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Day #244: The end of the term!?

end of term

Okay, where the hell did that come from?! It’s almost the end of the school term. WHAT THE HELL!? It feels like we just got started, but my instructor just sent out the final assignment, which is due the last week of school… next week. I’m sort of freaking out right now.

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Day #243: Deadlines approaching!

deadlines

It seems like it’s been non-stop for me left and right. I have experiments to do, papers to write, and classes to work on. With the pandemic I was hoping to get a chance to take a break, but nope it seems like I’m even busier than normal. I HAD thought that I was caught up finally when I finished processing some of the experimental data I had laying around, but nope I was reminded yesterday that I had not one, but two major deadlines coming.

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Day #242: Experimenting in the time of a pandemic

Experiment-blur

Another day forward in our new normal. I’ve left the house exactly once in the last two weeks and while it’s nice not having to commute to school, I do miss living in a world without the constant fear of catching the virus. What day is it? Who knows, it doesn’t matter anymore. I do have some things coming up though, so let’s talk about experimenting in the age of COVID-19.

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Day #241: Modeling the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19

Today is the day. I submitted my super high level explainer video on how I modeled the COVID-19 about  a week ago and I got an email from my professor telling me that it was great (yay) and that she had uploaded it to her labs youtube channel. That means I finally get to share it with all of you!

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