We're a little crazy, about science!

365 Days of Academia – Year two

Not with a bang…

Well yesterday happened and wasn’t some weird fever dream I thought I was having. For those of you who aren’t in the US right now, good. For those of you who are and live in some underground fortified bunker with only internet access to my blog, weird, but we had a coup attempt. As in a literal attempt to overthrow the government. It’s okay though, because they were white supremacists and in the US we give them special treatment.

(more…)

Woodworking progress

So many clamps!

Well I went a little overboard yesterday. Really I got into a good groove and the vanity project is almost complete. Today I’m attaching the last few boards, drilling one more hole into the top (for the faucet) and if I can, I’ll glue the top together. Then all that’s left is the finishing and the fitting. Yeah, I got a lot done, so let’s take a peek at the progress I’ve made since we last talked about the project.

(more…)

New year, new grant

It’s all connected somehow… I just know it.

Nope, still on vacation… I tell myself as I make arrangements to meet with my Co-PI. This is important though and unlike some of the other projects it has a firm deadline. That’s right, I’m writing a grant. No this isn’t an update to the last one I wrote, this is a whole new one. How did I end up in this position? Who knows, but I’ve been trying to figure it out since it happened. Let’s discuss, shall we?

(more…)

Woodworking Update

Some of the wood was warped, so I just put some weight on top of it to straighten it out a bit before I use it.

Since it’s vacation time I’ve switched gears to doing some woodworking projects I enjoy that don’t really benefit anything. Maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it, learning a new skill is beneficial, but I guess what I really mean is that it’s a hobby I find relaxing. Crafting something is an interesting experience and while I still have a few days of work left (at least!) I’m almost done and it feels good.

(more…)

How do I relax?

Yes, once again I am trying to force myself to do nothing useful. Or rather to do useful things for myself instead of for others. My mental health has run ragged since the pandemic hit and it only got worse as the year progressed. Since winter time is particularly difficult for me to deal, I plan on some decompression time. I’ve talked about it before, but what’s the point of blogging daily if I can’t talk about it again?

(more…)

A look forward

It’s a new year, a new chapter, and it’s time to set some new goals. What kinds of craziness will I accomplish this year? Well I have a few ideas. No pressure or anything, I don’t want to force myself to fit things into the year just because I planned for it. Instead I like to set goals so I can check things off a list (I do love my lists). So even if that list rolls into the next year, it’s not the end of the world. Just a helpful hint for those of us who are chronically anxious!

(more…)

A year in review

So long 2020, while the calendar is a human construct, I hope that the significance means something for mankind as a whole. Who knows maybe we will finally take the pandemic seriously, or global warming, maybe even gun violence. Yeah, I don’t think so either, but one can hope. In lieu of stating my hopes for humanity, let’s just take a quick look back at the year I’ve had and what this new year holds. This is my year in review.

(more…)

New year’s eve!

It’s that time of the year again, new year’s eve. It’s been one hell of a year, even for the awful last few years. I have a lot of thoughts this year given that we are living in a pandemic and new year’s eve is usually a time for celebration. I doubt anyone will listen, but stay home.

(more…)

Woodworking progress

So many clamps…

I’m slow at woodworking. Probably because I’m new(ish) to it and because I like to take my time and think through what I’m going to do before I do it. At this stage though, I’m limited to the progress I can make based on the number of clamps I have and the amount of time it takes for the glue to dry. That doesn’t mean nothing has been done since I last posted a few days ago though, in fact I’ve made quite a bit of progress and I’m about to move on to the next steps.

(more…)

I got my COVID Vaccine – update

Well today is day 1 post COVID vaccine. That was the first of two shots that I need to get, the second one will be in the middle of January (already scheduled). Since I was lucky enough to get the vaccine I thought I would talk a bit about the side effects of it, at least from my end. My hope is to help people relax a bit and when it becomes available to the public, you won’t be nervous to get it done.

(more…)

I’m getting my COVID vaccine today!

Today is the day! About a week ago I got an email letting me know that I could be vaccinated. While I’m a researcher in a hospital, my work involves a high risk population (people with spinal cord injury) so I’m front facing with patients on a regular basis. I’m also disabled which may have factored into my group placement. Whatever the case, I got a spot in line and now it’s my turn. My Co-PI who’s lab I work out of already got his, but he was in a higher group than I was. As usual I have some thoughts on all this…

(more…)

More woodworking

The hardest part was getting the framing right, so the rest will (hopefully) go quicker.

It’s been an exhausting year! I’m feeling kind of at a loss about what to write so instead of trying to come up with something I think I’ll just give an update on my woodworking project along with some photos. Overall I’m happy with how things are progressing. I’ve got the frame almost completely glued now and I’ve cut some of the wood for the front as well as the wood for the top.

(more…)

Winter woodworking

Gluing up the frame for the vanity, it should be dry at this point.

It’s the day after Christmas for me and blah! The holidays are an excuse to eat like garbage and let me tell you I feel it. Yesterday I did absolutely nothing above what I needed to do. Basically no work, school, home, or otherwise. It was nice, but I get antsy so today I’m planning to do some work on a project I started over the summer.

(more…)

Happy Holidays!

If you read my blog, it’s no secret I celebrate a non-religious Christmas, but no matter what you celebrate I hope you and your loved ones have a happy holiday season. While the pandemic means that things may look different for a lot of us, we shouldn’t need a holiday to remind us to be kind and love one another. The holiday season may be a good time to remember that lesson, but it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate any time of the year. When this is all over we can mourn the loss of loved ones and celebrate being able to be close once again properly. For now, stay safe, stay vigilant, and hopefully the new year will bring some good changes.


A Video Game Christmas

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, the computer could be heard along with the clicking of a mouse. Sure it’s a cheesy way to start today’s post, but have you seen the rest of the blog? Without all the traditional holiday festivities due to COVID, I’m making a moderately sized dinner tomorrow. Since I don’t need to do a whole lot of prep, I’m free to find other activities for the day.

(more…)

It’s Christmas so why shouldn’t everything break?

It’s the holiday season, for me that means Christmas. I’m not religious and while the holiday has religious undertones, let’s face it, a lot of people celebrate it who aren’t religious. Regardless of what you celebrate, there is probably some expense attached to it. For some it may be more than others, if you’re like me and are a poor college student your budget is pretty tiny to begin with, but you save over the year and manage to eek out a little something to make the season magic. Of course, that means you have no savings, but what could go wrong?

(more…)

The year I ruined Christmas

I’ve been promising (or perhaps threatening) to tell the story about the year I ruined Christmas. Yes, this is the stand mixer tale I’ve been alluding to in my previous posts (here and here). Don’t worry, it has a happy and hilarious ending, but the lead up to it was, well a bit uncomfortable to say the least. It has made for a running joke though and this year was the return of the stand mixer to celebrate. Let’s just dive into the story and things will make more sense.

(more…)

How to REALLY wrap presents! Part 2

santa

As promised we’re going to talk more about how to wrap badly, on purpose! Basically I’m trying to introduce a new way to level up your gift giving experience. It’s a way to make your holidays more magical, best of all, this works for any present giving time, birthdays, weddings, anytime! If you’re just tuning in you should read part 1, where I introduce the first principles of stealth wrapping. Today I’ll give some more examples and a few helpful hints I’ve learned over the years of doing this. Let’s get going!!

(more…)

How to REALLY wrap presents!

Regularly shaped gifts can be so boring! Who wants to look at a bunch of box shaped gifts?!

Tis’ the season! Every year I try to make the holidays slightly more magical than they normally are. Depending on your traditions and what you believe in, you’re probably planning on giving gifts to the people you care about too. Think about it for a second, perfectly wrapped rectangular packages organized neatly just waiting for you to open them. But that’s boring!!! Why wrap your gifts nice and square when you can have some fun with it. Let me blow your mind.

(more…)

The pandemic, holidays, and your mental health

When was the last time you thought about your own mental health? I mean really thought about how you’re doing right now, not the typical, “Huh, I think things are going to hell, but I’ll worry about it later” kind of thinking about things. Maybe it’s just me, but this time of year is hard to begin with, add to that the fact that we’re almost a full year into the pandemic and I would think this time of year would be overwhelming for the majority of people.

(more…)

Time off!

Today was the last experiment that I’ll be doing for the next couple of weeks and since classes are over it’s time to kick my feet up and relax. Okay, not really. There are still some odds and ends that I will probably be working on while I’m “taking a break,” but overall I’m excited to not have things I NEED to do. I’ll probably be doing some house stuff too, but hey at least its a change.

(more…)

The perils of publishing

So you want to publish some science. I don’t blame you, as a scientist we’re driven by the “publish or perish” mindset. The further along you get the more you’re stuck having weird nightmares about h-index and impact factor. Or maybe that’s just me, who knows? In any case, any publication is a labor of love, one that typically turns into a labor of spite. Because publishing isn’t easy, or maybe that’s just me.

(more…)

Outreach

I just finished with my Skype a Scientist session! You can do it too if you want, just sign up. I had a lot of fun and while today was going to be on a slightly more depressing topic, I figure we can talk about how it went instead. I love doing outreach, it’s probably one of my favorite things about being a scientist and I got to show a whole bunch of interesting things I get to do as a scientist. This was an interesting group, so that’s also a good reason to talk about it.

(more…)

More data surprises!

Data’s the gift that keeps on giving. Okay not really, but I wish it were!

Well I’ve finished with the new dataset I collected for my PhD project, it was a fast analysis so there is still a lot more I can do with it, but I’ve finished at least the initial processing and plotting. Overall it’s good news so now I’m just waiting to hear back from my Co-PI to confirm my findings or more than likely temper my excitement.

(more…)

On the importance of vaccines

Once upon a time polio was more feared than the atomic bomb. Thanks to the vaccine we’ve practically (not completely mind you!) eliminated polio from the planet. We successfully eliminated smallpox, the only existing strains live in special labs now. Vaccines are a triumph of science and are so successful that people have forgotten they are necessary for a reason. In short, vaccine fear is a byproduct of vaccine success.

(more…)

Please, stay home for the holidays!

Don’t do it. Seriously, why are we having this discussion right now? It makes no sense, there is a pandemic going on and if you live specifically in the US (which I do) you’re going to need to stay home. Sure the holidays can be an important time of year for families, but do we really need a holiday to celebrate with our family? Why not wait until this is over? More importantly is it worth putting all of them, yourself, and the people you come in contact with at risk?

(more…)

The art of doing nothing!

That’s right kids, it’s time to let my hair down and relax! Time to change out of my fancy sweatpants into the causal ones. We’re going all out and I’m moving from the computer next to the couch to the dammmmn couch! I’m going from bare foot to bare foot, I’m talking comfy shirt to pajama shirt, the whole works! Okay so maybe the comfy lifestyle in a pandemic makes taking a break a little less obvious, but it’s still worth it!

(more…)

And finally something good…

I don’t know why my mind went with hidden treasure, but that’s what we’re going with today.

It was bound to happen eventually, some good news for today! I had a meeting with my Co-PI and we went over the latest findings in the dataset I’m processing for my “super secret” technique and I have to say it went much better than was expected! He’s excited, I’m excited, we’re excited. The issue is we don’t know what any of it means, but I think that’s why it’s so exciting!!!!

(more…)

Outreach in a pandemic

I’ve been matched! No, not with a dating service, with an outreach program called Skype a Scientist. If you are a scientist (any type will do) you can get involved too! I’ve talked about some of my outreach activities in the past, but heck let’s run through why I think outreach is so awesome and how the pandemic has actually made it easier to do!

(more…)

A change in my timing

The meeting with my PI is done and it’s not all bad news. It went better than expected in some aspects and not so great in others. That’s how these things work out, it’s not a linear progression, it’s a lot of going back and forth and sometimes side to side too. Thankfully we met before I made any firm plans! Anywho, let’s just dive in and talk about what happened.

(more…)

More data, more problems

Maybe the title should be no data, no cry. Anyway here we are another day and there’s a lot going on, but I finally did it! I got some results from my new dataset that I hadn’t had a chance to process yet. And would you believe (despite the title) that I found something!? Yep, which is great news… except there’s more I need to do! My Co-PI who likes to temper my excitement when I come to him with results has reminded me that I should wait to celebrate until the rest of the data are analyzed.

(more…)

A meeting with my PI

It’s a treacherous path, but one I need to take

Well I may have overestimated how fast I could get the data processed from yesterday. I have it basically done, but I was up until almost 2am getting it to that point and I didn’t have the energy to start the analysis so that’s going to happen today. Instead of sharing my excitement for a second day in a row I thought I would share some news. I got an email back from my PI and tomorrow we are meeting.

(more…)

An early present

Since my deadline has come and gone I can look around for a moment, but more importantly I don’t feel the pressure to hyperfocus on a single project. So today instead of working on that dataset I’m switching to a dataset I need to get done before my PhD proposal defense. It’s data that will (assuming I find something) further help make my case for studying my new “super secret” technique for the next 2-3 years depending on how long everything takes.

(more…)

A mental health day

Today the fatigue of the past few weeks has finally caught up to me. With the adrenaline rush that came to a head from the presentation I did yesterday wearing off, I feel exhausted. So today I am taking some time to recharge and rethink what the next few months will look like. This is me taking a mental health day, but let’s talk about the events leading up to today and what the plan is, at least for today.

(more…)

How to fail giving a presentation

Today is the big day! The day where I showcase the stuff I’ve done. It’s a bit anticlimactic to be honest because I haven’t had time to do a full analysis, just a very general overview. It was COVID you see, we shut down for a few months there so I didn’t get any data collected. When we finally got started again I had weeks to do the analysis, not months. Needless to say it’s not good.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

(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).

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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!

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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!

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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!

(more…)

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!

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)