We're a little crazy, about science!

Archive for December, 2021

New year’s eve!!

It’s that time again. We’re bringing in another year. Let’s be real, the last two years have been progressively worse and 2022 doesn’t look like it will start off any better. I don’t know what will be in store for us in the upcoming year, but my one request to anyone who stumbles upon this is to be kind to each other. Wear a mask, get vaccinated, then boosted, and if we can finally work together, maybe we can at least make 2022 the year we beat COVID. I’m not optimistic, but I’m happy to be proven wrong. To each and every one of the readers of my little blog, happy new year to you and yours. And thank you for spending another year with me on my journey.


Books read in 2021

With the end of the year upon us, I figure it’s time to commit to my books read in 2021 list. Last year I believe I did something similar, if not, I should have. In any case, every year as part of my “lazy goals” I challenge myself to read a certain number of books. The purpose is to stop and relax from time to time. Or just to carve out a couple of hours to enjoy reading a good story, well hopefully good. Want to read something, but aren’t sure what? Don’t worry, I have some recommendations!

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New year, new experiments

We are an alarming number of days away from the new year. Where did this year go? Why did it suck so bad? Why was this possibly the best year we will see in our lifetimes? Why am I asking so many damned questions? Am I having an existential crisis now that the year is coming to an end? That was a legit question and not part of the running gag. I’m a man who likes his plans, so let’s look at what (I hope) is instore for next year.

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Another OR experiment

Time to dust off my scrubs, it’s back to work for me. In fact, I have been so busy with other things I don’t think I mentioned it, but today is yet another OR experiment. With how well the previous two went, I’m hopeful that this one will go well, but a somewhat alarming email from hospital-PI yesterday may throw a wrench into any plans I had.

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Salted caramel apple empanadas

Technically this is a failure and from a previous batch, but I love that you can see the filling inside

Fine, I will give out my recipe! But be warned with great empanadas come great responsibilities! In other words, once you make these for your friends or family you’ll be obligated to make more. Ask me how I know! That said, I never bothered to write down the recipe, I’ve always made it by “feel,” but since I’ve shared pictures twice now of the result I keep getting the request for it.

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A marathon of cooking

How it all started… (remember cut veggies/fruit before meats to avoid cross contamination and ideally use separate cutting boards)

Well it’s been an interesting few days. Since I don’t get to have a traditional holiday experience (due to COVID), like most people I know, I opted to make enough food to feed a small army so I could share some with basically everyone in a safer manner than having one big celebration. Over the past two days I’ve spent a total of 18 hours in the kitchen, but who’s counting? Me, I’m counting.

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Happy holidays!

Well, it’s Christmas day again and we are still dealing with COVID. Maybe you’re numb to it or maybe you’re like me and incredibly stressed out about it. Whatever the case this year probably looks very different from prior years and even from last year. Last year I wished that COVID would be a history lesson and not a current event. Maybe it was ambitious, but I don’t want to lose hope so once again my holiday wish is that next year we beat this and can properly mourn for those who were lost during this (ideally) brief period of history. So from my “crazy” little family to yours, happy holidays!


‘Tis the season!

Well I wish I could say that today is a regularly scheduled day of relaxing. In a way it kind of is? Today is my regularly scheduled prep for tomorrow’s dinner. Now I don’t have a traditional family, but I do have friends and what not, so I’m making a rather large meal. The plan (as it is every year) is to have plenty of leftovers for myself, but also to have enough to hand out to friends and coworkers when Monday rolls around.

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The year I met Alice

Not quite that Alice, but I definitely felt mad afterward.

Every year around this time I think of Alice (not her real name). Alice and I have a lot in common. We have the same last name, same initials, and we had no idea the other existed until one day when I randomly checked my email and discovered a serious case of mistaken identity. That was my introduction to Alice, so every year I think about her and wonder how she’s doing. But my dear reader, the story isn’t about the emails. The story is about what happened next.

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OR experiments, the aftermath

The good news is we have data! Lots of data, more data than you could shake a stick at, although I don’t know why you would shake a stick at anything… That’s beside the point(ed stick) though! Yesterday was not one, but two OR experiments and I have to say surgeon-PI must be in way better shape than he appears because both hospital-PI and I are exhausted!

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Interrogation of spinal networks during movement preparation using transcutaneous spinal stimulation

Rundown of the experiment (A) shows where we stimulated and what muscles we recorded from. (B) is our experimental protocol that we used. We had an auditory cue, a tactile cue (a small electrical stimulation of the foot, which causes a slight tickle) and an isometric contraction task. (C) has examples of what the evoked potentials look like and it can be hard to read at first, but the far right has a very clear example (R1 is our first stimulus and R2 is the second). I don’t go into why we used 2 pulses, but there is a reason, it’s just a bit technical so outside the scope of this general review.

That’s not the name of the paper, but that’s the general idea. We tend to take movement for granted, I mean most of the time we do it without thinking. I don’t look down as I’m typing these words, yet my fingers know what to do to make it happen. Similarly, we don’t really think about balancing ourselves when we walk, we just do it. So if I’m not consciously thinking about every step I take when I walk down the street, who, or what is keeping me going?

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Yet another rush…

It’s a familiar story by now. Tomorrow is not one, but two experiments in the OR. In fact, I’m going to be so busy tomorrow that I’m probably going to write tomorrow’s post today. The good (or at least interesting) news there is that I have a good topic lined up for tomorrow since it just happened to fall in my lap. But for today, well let’s just say there’s not a whole lot of time.

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Holiday magic, a how to guide!

Well it’s the holiday season. Whether you’ve already celebrated, are about to celebrate, or don’t celebrate at all, one thing is certain. Things look a whole lot different than just a few years ago. I, of all people, understand feeling numb or helpless as we look around us and see all the suffering that is going on. I can also acknowledge that if we’re going to get through this then some self care is in order. For a lot of us, even if we’re not the religious type, the holidays are supposed to be magical. So it’s my annual reminder that with a little effort you can help bring a little magic, or maybe a bit of mischief to the season.

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End of the year blues

As the year wraps up, I still feel like there’s quite a bit of work left for me to accomplish. Now to be fair, year end isn’t some magical barrier, but it is a good way to mark the passage of time and I’ve had the opportunity to do some amazing things this year, so I’m not complaining. Still, with all the accomplishments I’ve had, and there were several, why do I feel like I have so much left to do?

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The path moving forward

Pick your battles. After having a conversation with another student about their PhD plans and how soon they want to graduate, they offered that sometimes you need to pick your battles. I couldn’t agree more with that statement and when I met with school-PI a few days ago virtually to go over my big PhD plans I asked what I needed to do to finish. I needed to pick my battles.

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Double OR experiments!

It’s official, I just got not one, but two new participants for our study. This will be happening next week and the scary part is they are both on the same day, so it will be more than a full day in the OR, like 12 hours or so for the whole day. Not all of that time will be spent in the OR, thankfully. Every attempt we’ve had thus far in the OR has gotten better and better, so if the pattern holds, we should have some very good data after this next round of participants and I will have more data than I know what to do with.

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Success! Journal paper 2 of 4

Well kids, Christmas has come early! As of this morning my second of four journal papers I’ve written has been accepted for publication! Since it’s been a somewhat long and confusing road, I figure today I can remind everyone why I’m so thrilled about this paper and why this is good news for me in particular. There’s still a lot to do and more papers to publish as we go, but things are looking up!

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The fifth OR experiment

Well we did it. I finally have the first (mostly) complete dataset from a patient. Overall I think it went well and we got good data. Mistakes were made! But thankfully none of them derailed the project and overall I am happy with the outcome. Let’s get into what went wrong and what went right, because having some post surgical notes will help me next time we do our thing.

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Prepping for the experiment

Today’s the day, experiment number five. With lot of luck this will be the first full experiment we do for this protocol. It will hopefully mark a turning point for us since after four attempts we’ve yet to get a full dataset. However, I’m hopeful, but I’m also going in alone today.

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Solo OR experiment

Tomorrow will mark attempt number six to get the data we’re after from the OR. We’ve got a very unwieldy experiment to do which involves coordinating with the surgeon, but also the staff to make sure we don’t run into each other. It’s a delicate dance and if you haven’t been following along, it hasn’t been great so far.

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A not so certain future

I have a lot of health problems. If I were to dedicate a post to each we would be here awhile. They affect me in ways that I’m very aware of and sometimes I’m left to wonder if they affect me in ways I don’t always notice. Maybe my communication skills are just that awful or somehow my brain just can’t make sense of things. I feel like I’m going crazy, but it has to be me… right?

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Paper three resubmission!

This was quick even by my standards, but we’ve managed to make the changes we needed to the manuscript that came back just a few short days ago (here). I’ve got to come up with a more descriptive way to talk about these papers than numbering the order in which we did them, but that’s what I’ve been using for the moment. In any case the paper has been submitted, so what now?!

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A big idea…

You ever have an idea that you just KNEW would change the way you were doing things. Like the first person to invent a surgical robot, it was just a good idea and it completely changed the way things were done. I don’t think that this idea is going to change things that dramatically, but much like my super secret technique, I think my recent revelation is going to mean some great things for me. Lighting struck the other day and it has hospital-PI incredibly excited.

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Journal Paper three update!

Well that was fast, we got reviews back on a paper we recently submitted and they were surprisingly good for us. It’s still considered major revisions, but they gave us ten days to make the changes. Ten days as of Monday, so were about a week away from needing to resubmit. There’s some work to be done for sure, but I think we can manage.

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Fun with collaborators!

So much has been going on that I can’t even keep up with it. I was debating about what news to share, but I think we’ll talk about something I’ve had in the works for awhile now. Actually I just checked my email exchanges, this has been in the works for over a year and today we finally crossed the threshold from hypothetical to real world data collection!

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Update from the OR

I don’t share actual surgery photos online (even if I could, I don’t know that I would), but there are plenty stock photos, like this one!

No, I’m not updating this while I’m in the OR, but we had OR attempt number five as a maybe today and I have good news. We managed to get a yes at the last minute and got some interesting data. It’s all very exciting, so now I need to dig around and see what we found. For sake of remembering, let’s run through how today went!

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The art of fixing things

Me right now.

Well today has been one hell of a day. It’s a long story and we’ll get into it, but I had to once again do some car repairs. It got me thinking about others who may not have the skill to do that or other things that feel very necessary for living, but I’ve had a hard life and so you have to learn the skills that others may not have needed.

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Another OR experiment… maybe

I got a random email yesterday from hospital-PI that I didn’t understand and I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on, but it looks like experiment number five may be happening as early as Monday! It will be an early morning and a long day, but it will be worth it, assuming it happens. Like everything in my life at the moment, we’re not 100% sure that we will be able to attend.

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The BIG result

Art by: Rebecca Wright

Today I had my meeting with school-PI and I have to say it went both better and worse than I was hoping for. The good news is I’m still a member of his lab and he seemed surprisingly okay with me switching projects for my dissertation, not that the project would change much, just the funding source. Of course that doesn’t mean it was all sunshine and rainbows, because that would be too easy.

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The BIG meeting

I am a simple man. I keep my life as simple as possible because some days I can barely get out of bed. Breakfast and lunch have been the same things for years and I’m okay with that, in fact dare I say, I look forward to it? I keep my hair cut short so I don’t have to even think about it and besides the things I need like money to live, I don’t go out of my way to complicate things. Aside from my education and the things related, I have very little that I NEED to do, so I can focus on surviving the day. It’s a good system.

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To catch an error

Well it’s been an adventure! First we collected some one of a kind OR data, then because of technical difficulties couldn’t get it to open. The support team for the software has been amazingly responsive and we were able to recover the file! Or so we thought, saving the file caused the error to reoccur, so we needed more help. Thankfully because we could open the file, I could debug and now I look like a data wizard. So this is the story of how I attacked and dethroned the data gods.

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