We're a little crazy, about science!

365 Days of Academia – Year two

In need of a break

Well that’s the post. Okay fine I’ll elaborate. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, if I’m honest it’s been a busy couple of months! Between all the writing, data collection, surgery, data analysis, code writing, etc, I haven’t had a chance to breathe! Maybe that’s why I feel dead, I haven’t had a moment to collect my thoughts.

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The coding hole

Help, I’ve fallen into a coding hole and I can’t get out! Okay, to be fair I actually DID get out, but at the time it felt like there was no hope and I would be trapped banging my head against a wall trying to figure out what I was doing. Today I figure we can discuss how I code and what my idea of a coding hole is, it will be a fun break for me.

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The science behind an MRI

Today I had an MRI, don’t worry it was for research purposes. It wasn’t a short MRI either, I was in the bore for almost two hours. Yep, stuck in a tube with nothing but my thoughts, some music, and the sounds of the MRI machine doing its thing. I figure we can discuss what an MRI is, why I had one, and why I don’t mind that it took so long. I may even show off some of the scans, but not today I don’t have them yet.

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The art of coding

Well I did it. I got all the code written for the next two (of three) steps for processing my data. I can’t do the third until the second step is done for at least one dataset, but I’m almost there and the last bit of code is to visualize the data, which is substantially easier. So let’s talk about what I did and why I won’t have to do it again now.

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(Un)motivated

My deadline is fast approaching and I still have a lot of work to do. I’m also struggling with feeling super unmotivated. Normally when this hits I take a day or two to relax and then I’m ready to go. Unfortunately with my deadline approaching I need to use a different technique to get through what I need without driving myself crazy(er).

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A look ahead

Okay the next month or so is going to be busy. Complete and utter chaos levels of things to get done. So today instead of complaining about the data I have to process (since I already did that yesterday!) I figure we can look forward. I have some exciting things happening so might as well give you all a sneak peek at upcoming events.

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Back to EEG processing…

It’s the day after thanksgiving and I made my annual I don’t want to have to cook for the next week or two spread of tasty foods. I don’t do the traditional Thanksgiving foods though, I prefer Mexican dishes (since I’m Mexican). Namely I make a huge batch of tamales, since they are a bit of work I tend to make a comically large amount, think 100 or more. So while I have food to last, I need to get back to my main focus and that’s work!

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Thanksgiving thoughts in a pandemic

Today is Thanksgiving, which if we’ve read our history we know is a time of mourning. I mean let’s face it celebrating the genocide of a group of people that was here in the land a group of settlers “discovered” feels a little disturbing. I mean, nothing was discovered, there were people already here, as in the land you and I are living on. The land people generations ago took from the indigenous communities who called it home.

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How can we record from the brain non-invasively?

Still my favorite photo, which I took showing the EEG setup process we use these days!

We can read your mind! Okay, not quite, we can read the electrical activity going on in the brain and we can do this non-invasively. That’s right, you can do it from your own home if you wanted (here). It’s easy and since you don’t have to break the skin, it’s about as safe as can be. The real question here is why does this even work? For that we need to talk a bit on biology so let’s do this!

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Stay home for the holidays

Yet again, here we are. We shouldn’t need to do this, but people are quick to kill off grandpa and a whole lot of other people in the process, so once again we need to use uncommon sense. Stay home. Seriously, don’t visit family, there are plenty of other holidays post pandemic to celebrate, for now just keep you, your family, and all the families your family comes in contact with safe. Stay the fuck home.

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EEG Cleaning: ICA and Dipoles

This is (a very, very, small portion) of the data I’m working with for this post!

Let it be known that I’m a person of my word and today we’re going to give a rather broad overview of ICA and dipoles. Don’t know what those words mean? Well start here and that will give you a high level view of the entire process. Today we’re going to do a slightly deeper dive into what the heck a dipole is, why we use it for ICA and why ICA is so helpful in EEG data processing. Sound like a lot? Well it is, but let’s take a crack at it anyway!

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How to process EEG data

This is what Raw EEG data looks like. That big spike in the middle of the screen across most of the channels, that’s (probably) eye movement.

For those just tuning in, I’ve been busy! I made my deadline, barely. Unfortunately that was one of two. The second requires me to have all the work done, not just part of it. I managed to finish one of ten (yes ten) of the datasets I had, so now I have less than two weeks to finish the rest of it Let’s take it from the top and discuss how we process EEG data!

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Disability and Education

Per the VA, I am 100% totally and permanently disabled. I wasn’t always given that designation, I had to fight for it, go through years (yes, years and in fact almost a decade) of medical tests and several diagnoses before they finally acknowledged it. Thinking about how hard it was to get to this point, reminded me of an important issue, disability and education. The system isn’t accessible, but don’t worry that’s by design.

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More data!

Today marks another day that I got to collect data for my project. The good news is we got a LOT of it, the bad news is I got a LOT of it! Okay, only semi-kidding about that last part. I’m happy I have more data than less data, but it’s also a busy time so I don’t get to process it until I finish all this other work.

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That time I angered my PI

king's roads from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell
Navigating the right path isn’t always so easy.

I met my deadline, so now I’m going to take a short(ish) break and tell a quick story. I have been debating about telling it since it’s embarrassing and talking about failures (or really mistakes) is uncomfortable. I had enough uncomfortableness just trying to hit my deadline, but now that I’ve made it I figure I can at least tell the story for posterity’s sake.

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The due data

It’s time, my data and the results from the experiment are due today. Okay, if we want to get technical the due date is tomorrow. HOWEVER, and that’s a big however, I need to get it to my PI today to review before I submit it. Which means he needs to see it today so I can send it off to the center for review.

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Computer rebuild

Okay, lots of work and not a lot of time to do it in, but today I thought I would show off the internals of my computer since I had to swap out the watercooler for one that wasn’t garbage. This is a follow up to this post, so with the background out of the way, let’s go!

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Time to work

So this post is coming a lot later than I would normally do this, but it’s been a day (already) and it’s going to get busier. I’ve had one experiment, one class, and now I need to repair my computer so I can perform the analysis of the data I have to get done before Thursday. Fun times ahead!

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Computer troubles

It’s my baby! The case is unique, but I wanted something that could grow with my needs and this case is not just fun to look at, it’s huge! Unfortunately that makes the computer super heavy.

I had a feeling this may happen, I just didn’t expect it to happen when I was so against the wire to get this project done. I’m having computer troubles. Not my laptop thankfully, but my desktop computer is feeling a little… warm. I’ll explain and then get into what I’m doing to fix it, so today let’s talk about my computer!

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A race to the deadline

Yet another day closer to my deadline for this EEG project and I’m still trying to pre-process my data so that I can make sense of it. We’re racing the clock here and my PI is pushing me to get it done, sure I think I can do it, but then again… maybe not?

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EEG, not quite mind reading

Still one of the best photos showing how we set up EEG, that syringe has a blunt tipped needle and we use it to apply gel to the scalp. Don’t worry, we don’t break the skin, so it just looks scary, but it’s really safe.

Well I’m behind schedule and even though I was given an extra week (6 days now) I don’t know that I’m going to meet my deadline. It’s not me, it’s my computer, things take time to run so I’m stuck waiting for it to do its thing. Today let’s talk about what EEG is and how we make sense of it.

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Please don’t thank me for my service

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.
Art by the amazing Lora Zombie. (two days in a row, because I love her art)

Yesterday was veterans day, the day before that was the Marine Corps birthday. I purposefully was going to ignore both, but an interaction on twitter the other day made me realize that I should at least touch on the subject. My feelings surrounding my service have always been complicated, but why not talk about it?

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Why do we lack a safety net?

Art by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie

Ever have a day where you just don’t want to do anything, but need to do basically everything? Today is one of those days. Most of the time when the feeling hits I have at least a buffer that I can use to relax and not have to worry, but unfortunately that’s not the case this time. Why the hell we built a society like this is beyond me, but here we are.

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The stress of an education

Art by: DestinyBlue (you should read their story too if you have time)

I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment. I’m sure that’s probably true for most people, but in academia it’s somehow considered normal that you balance the tightrope of sanity while more and more pressure is added to you. It’s a toxic environment for sure, more so now that COVID and current affairs are gumming everything up.

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COVID and Education

Not my school, but still not effective at prevention either.

Today I received an email from the Chancellor of the school I attend. This is the person that is in charge of the entire university school system (since there are several campuses). The email was with regards to a survey that was sent out asking how comfortable we would be with returning to school with the pandemic going on. Why it was up to popular vote is beyond me.

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The politics of education

It’s time to make a minor shift back to the focus of my little daily posts and that’s getting a PhD. Technically even the most political of posts are part of this journey, but I think it would make sense to discuss the link a little more explicitly since we never made the connection and I think it’s important.

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Trump is out, but there’s still work.

Well today started off with me thinking it was going to be yet another election day. However, surprise of surprises, they finally called it. Biden will be our 46th president. We will have not only our first Black VP, but a Black Woman! I don’t particularly care for either of there politics, but it’s a baby step from the brink, so let’s take a day to celebrate because there is a lot of work to do.

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Remember, Trump is just a symptom

Well we may have actually done it. It’s been days and while we are still (STILL) waiting the final count, things are looking good at the moment. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a rocky several months or that the victory is assured. It also doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of work to do.

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Why does counting votes take so long?

Well here we are, it’s a few days post election and we’re still counting votes. It seems odd, right? We should know by now who won and who lost. Part of the problem is that racist piece of crap the electoral college. That isn’t the only issue though, if you want to know why we still have no clue who won, we need to remember that this was a manufactured problem.

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The power of racism

Fuck Neo-Nazis. People carrying confederate and Nazi flags (so the same fucking flag basically).
But why would you call them Nazis just because they have a different opinion? Gee… I have no idea.

America the colorblind. It’s not that we don’t see color here, it’s that we ignore it intentionally. Willful ignorance to the depths of our hatred for others is not an excuse and has never been one. We, as in the US, elected literal neo-Nazi’s to office (not talking about Trump, or rather not JUST Trump). I fought for this country, buried friends for this country, is it so fucking hard to ask that the country not be racist?

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The Fall of the House of America

I’m old enough that I remember the fall of the Berlin wall, but young enough that at the time I didn’t understand its significance. We will get into why that’s important, but let’s talk about the post for the day. Today is yet another history lesson courtesy of the labs. Like all history, we’re doomed to get kicked in the face by it. Oh well, let’s do it anyway…

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Your vote doesn’t count, but you should still do it.

The U.S. election is here, we will soon decide who leads us for the next four years. Four years, that’s the standard length for a military service contract. It didn’t seem like a long time, I mean four years out of what, on average eighty or so that we get to live? Yet the last four have felt like decades and it reminds me that while your vote doesn’t count, you should still do it.

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Out of my hands

November 2nd at 11:59 pm. That’s the deadline for this years NDSEG application. Which means that today is the last day for me to get my application materials ready, double check that I have all the boxes ticked, and that my references did their part (they did). Then we play the waiting game.

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Love is Forever

Boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, partner, there are a lot of names you call your significant other. Personally I prefer partner, because let’s face it that’s what the relationship is at its heart, a partnership. It’s a commitment to be a team forever, but what happens when it doesn’t work out? Well you could just walk away, but what if you couldn’t? I mean a partnership is forever, right?

Read more, if you dare…

On anxiety

If you’re finding yourself in the high anxiety club, welcome! I’ve been a member since well before the pandemic. I’m sorry, but I’ve got some bad news for you. We are constantly being bombarded with reasons why we should be highly efficient and constantly producing something. That’s how we end up with articles claiming that we can turn anxiety into a super power. Which are complete garbage and are written by people who’ve obviously never lived with chronic anxiety.

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NDSEG Fellowship Tips

I might as well talk about it, this will be my second time applying for NDSEG, so today we’ll go over exactly what that is, why I’m doing it, and why, if you’re working on a PhD, you may want to do it as well. NDSEG is tricky, but if you get it then you should be pretty well set for funding, it’s a great program, but it also means you’re being funded via the DOD.

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Funding and you, a PhD story

New day, yet another topic for me to talk about. Today I’ve decided to spare everyone from hearing about my data processing woes to instead touch on a topic that I haven’t discussed before (at least I don’t think I have!). Today we’re talking about funding your PhD. Specifically why it’s important and what power you have over the funding you recieve.

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The end of the experiment

Well today was a milestone for me, the end of an experiment I wasn’t too excited to do in the first place! Of course, now comes the semi-difficult part. I need to process the data, draw some conclusions, probably publish a few papers, and get a presentation made. Things need to happen quickly too, so while I’m done, I’m not. At least, not yet.

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I’m writing a book chapter!

Well talk about spoilers am I right? The title gives away the surprise for sure, but we can talk details since that’s probably why you’re even reading this. I get to write a book chapter, as in a actual published book you could get at the library, book chapter. Not something technical either, something more personal. Don’t worry I’ll explain.

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A writing realization

I had one of those shower realizations last night. I was thinking about all the writing I’ve done and how much I still have left and suddenly it occurred to me that I was done with all the writing… for now. That’s not the only thing though, I had the realization that I wrote more the second two weeks than I had the first two, by a lot.

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More on mentorship

I’m not sure I would enjoy being a teacher. With the typical size of the class you teach I don’t feel like I could give each student the personal attention that I would want to give them. Thankfully, one of my jobs is mentoring, which is like teaching, but with just a handful of people. I absolutely love it and today I’m going to share a very funny (or maybe just fun) story.

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Fellowship applications

Well looks like we’re switching gears. That’s right, now that I’ve finished (FINALLY!) writing the draft of my grant proposal, I can move on to some other funding opportunities. It’s fellowship season and since it ’tis the season, I need to iron out my CV and best of all I get to do something different!… wait it’s just more writing.

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The Dissertation Committee

Well it’s been a journey… but every person I emailed has responded and they all agreed to be part of my committee. That’s right, we’re making serious progress on the road to my dissertation proposal. It’s been a little surreal and I’m nervous that even though I’m here I’m not quite ready for it. Today, let’s talk about my next steps and what forming my committee actually means.

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The abyss of uncertainty

It’s been a day. Meetings, planning, the usual stuff, just a whole lot of it. There is a few things that have been left unresolved unfortunately, namely I’m not sure what my main PI is going to do or how to be ready for it. I get the feeling that he’s trying to move on to the next phase in his career and I’m not the only one.

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Calm before the storm

a painting of a ship at sunset on calm seas
I’m sticking with the sea theme, it’s metaphorical!

Time is a great teacher that eventually kills all of its students. We’re all dying, I mean that in the literal sense. We’re slowly headed to a brick wall that we can’t avoid. I guess the difference between that plodding path forward and what I’m feeling now is just a time-scale difference. You see, I’ve set off a chain of events that are destined to blow up. I just hope I’m not part of the casualties. Am I being dramatic? Well, let’s review and you be the judge.

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A storm ahead

I’m not sure how to even start. Maybe I’m just being overanxious. I’m an anxious person and this happens! Frankly, I think I’m just overreacting, I mean I have to be. My main-PI wouldn’t do something to hurt my career, it just doesn’t make sense, yet I can’t shake the feeling and the email I got today doesn’t help ease my mind.

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Adrift

Technical writers block. Is that a thing? I’m struggling to finish this thing and I’m not sure why, it’s hard to make an idea fit a page limit, especially when that idea fits on half the pages that are expected from you. So what are you supposed to do, add fluff? It feels antithetical to the purpose of technical writing to add in garbage. What do I do?!

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Committee selection

Old black and white photo of blindfolded man in a suit reaching out in front of him.
It feels exactly like this somedays…

Well here’s a post that I thought I wouldn’t be writing this soon. Or maybe I’m right on track and I just don’t want to admit that I’ve made progress. Either way, even though it is the weekend I’m taking an important step in my goal to my PhD! I’ve formally submitted my list for my dissertation committee to my PI. Not a PhD or don’t know what that means? No worries, that’s why I do this, so let’s talk about my committee!

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Return of the DEADline

I know it’s here somewhere…

It’s back and it’s not safe here anymore. You need to go, get far away from here before it gets you too. No one is safe because the deadline is back! Of course, maybe you’re like me and you didn’t take it seriously. That’s the problem, it wants you to feel safe! That’s how it gets you. You’ve been warned, the deadline is here!

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Real Life Zombies!!

Zombies: Science Fiction vs. Fact
zombies ahead

It’s my favorite post of the year!!! Every year I update and post my favorite Halloween tradition!  That’s right today we bring you the science fact behind the undead. Zombies, those brain loving little things are everywhere. Sure, we are all familiar with the classic  zombie, but did you know that we aren’t the only zombie lovers out there? It turns out that nature has its own special types of zombies, but this isn’t a science fiction movie, this is science fact! Sometimes fact can be scarier than fiction. Let’s talk zombies.

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