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Archive for May, 2020

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.

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.

“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

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
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.
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.

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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