We're a little crazy, about science!


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


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


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


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


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


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…


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


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


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


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


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…


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


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!


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


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


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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Day 240: Conferencing at a distance!

video conferencing

Not everyone has access to such luxurious setups.

It’s that time of the year again, well one of two times of the year really (for us anyway). Unfortunately with the coronavirus conferences are better held virtually than in person. While I have mixed feelings about the usefulness of meeting virtually to share our work, I am grateful that there are workarounds, don’t get me wrong, but there are some logistics that make it, well painful and some things that make this worthwhile.

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Day 239: Review – Burst-modulated waveforms optimize electrical stimuli for charge efficiency and fiber selectivity

Example processed nerve responses during stimulation trials.

Example processed nerve responses during stimulation trials. The individual CNAP responses for each stimulus (thin traces) were averaged (thick trace, n=20 stimuli). All traces are shown from time 0 to 6ms. The top trace corresponds to an amplitude of 0, the bottom 1mA, and the traces in between are arranged in increments of 0.2mA. Peak latencies and heights (o’s) and widths at half peak height (x’s) were extracted from the averaged signal. The peaks labeled for the 0mA trial are due to noise and baseline activity. These peaks are not actual response peaks from the nerve and are ignored.

Another two weeks, another critical review and as always since my PI gets a copy, so do you. Technically this should’ve come yesterday, but I really wanted to follow up with the Roosevelt mess going on. In any case today we are looking at something not quite spinal cord stimulation, but has applications in the spinal cord stimulation field. Let’s take a look!

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Day 238: Well spoke too soon…

USS Roosevelt Outbreak Navy Guam

Yesterday I gave an update on the USS Roosevelt situation. It was basically an update to the predictions I made about how the military was going to handle it and it turns out I was on point. Today is going to be a short post, but I guess there is more to add to the story so let’s just go ahead and get started.

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Day 237: Coronavirus and the military response – Part 3

USS Theodore Roosevelt

Well it’s been ten days since I made my predictions about what would happen with the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt and it looks like we have some updates so let’s see how close I was to guessing what was going to happen. Let me just start by saying, I hate it when I’m right about this stuff. Some of the things I predicted were longer term, but some of the shorter things we can compare.

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Day 236: Ugh, coder’s block

coder's block

Okay, maybe not just coder’s block, but I feel like I’ve hit a wall. Every homework assignment I’m given for this class includes a “create your own problem and solve it,” element and for the first two assignments I feel like the topic sort of found me. We can talk about what those two projects were, but let’s first talk about this latest assignment.

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Day 235: Video making issues


I’m not normally one for making videos, in this case I have to make (or rather narrate) two videos for this class. The first one was for our big class project and the second was explaining the COVID-19 model I created. It turns out narating isn’t as easy as it looks, even with a script.

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Day 234: Learning… at a distance

distance learning

Believe it or not, I don’t mind the quarantine. I mean sure going out without the fear of catching the coronavirus is nice, but I’m not generally a social person. There is one thing that has taken some getting used to however, that would be the education portion of the quarantine. Distance learning isn’t particularly enjoyable for me and I’m fairly sure I’m not the only one.

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Day 233: Coronavirus modeling – Part 6


Model estimated death rate plotted in blue compared to the actual death rate plotted in purple. The model predicts deaths based on the previous infected datapoint, so it’s only predicting 1 day ahead, which is not very helpful. However, it lets me check that my model is running correctly.

Another day another unfortunate datapoint for my model validation. On one hand it’s good to be able to further validate my model, on the other, it’s heartbreaking to see it coming to pass. My model prediction isn’t pretty and the trend so far has been very similar to the model. Let’s talk about how we validate the model.

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Day 232: Coronavirus modeling – Part 5

SEIR flowchart

Well I did it! I finished my model to the best of my abilities. There are a few things I wish I had time to change or do differently, but I think that just comes from actually doing it and not having a clear idea of how I wanted to do it when I started. Let’s take a little look at some of the outputs from the model and I’ll talk a little bit on what the model is designed for, it’s limitations, and the things I wish I could’ve done differently

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Day 231: Coronavirus modeling – Part 4


Still working on my model. It’s taking a little bit longer than I wanted it to take, but I’m getting somewhere finally… I think. In any case, I don’t have a lot of time for an update. So for now this is it. I’m making progress, but I still need to get it done before my deadline, which is fast approaching. Hopefully I can manage before then. Back to work I go!

Day 230: Coronavirus modeling – Part 3


Comic by: XKCD

Well today will need to be short. I broke my model… on purpose, but it still broke. That means I need to go back and check my equations, make sure my assumptions are correct, then figure out why the heck I’m getting the results I’m getting. I have a good idea about what the problem is, I’m just not sure how I want to try to fix it.

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Day 229: Coronavirus modeling – Part 2

Here we have my estimated exposed population vs the measured infected population, the exposed population is calculated two ways, the first using our susceptible population dynamics (blue) and the second is using our measured infected rate (orange). This is compared to our measured infected since we would expect to see a much higher exposed (asymptomatic) population than infected (symptomatic) population, which we do.

Here we have my estimated exposed population vs the measured infected population, the exposed population is calculated two ways, the first using our susceptible population dynamics (blue) and the second is using our measured infected rate (orange). This is compared to our measured infected since we would expect to see a much higher exposed (asymptomatic) population than infected (symptomatic) population, which we do.

I’ve made a lot of progress! Unfortunately, my model needs some more work and the code is pretty messy right now. For now, I’ll share some of my outputs and discuss what I need to do to finish my assignment. It turns out I have a few extra days to finish the work, I thought it was due Monday, instead it is due Wednesday. The slides and write up are going to take the longest so I’m still crunched for time even though I am mostly done. Let’s go over it.

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Day 228: Coronavirus modeling – Part 1

Coronavirus modeling

Well the CO of the Roosevelt just got reprimanded just like I predicted. Ever predictable as usual, thanks military. In any case, that isn’t what we are talking about today. Today we are discussing the coronavirus model I’m creating, why it’s important and why no one should believe a model. I’m being slightly facetious, but read on and I’ll explain. I’ll even share some of my model results, it’s not finished, but I thought it would be interesting to share anyway.

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Day 227: Coronavirus and the military response – Part 2

USS Theodore Roosevelt

Sometimes I hate it when I’m right. The military is as consistent as ever and we have some unfortunate updates today regarding the crew of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. It is about what I expected, even with the public looking in and I think we can break down the response and I’ll go ahead and make my prediction for what’s going to happen next, spoiler, it won’t be pretty.

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Day 226: Coronavirus and the military response

U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt

Well I got word yesterday that the coronavirus found its way onto an aircraft carrier. For anyone who’s never seen one in person, because the pictures don’t do it justice, these things are huge. Think floating cities with the crew size to match. Inside an aircraft carrier, there are roughly 3,000+ people who work, live, and maintain the ship. The one in question, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt has over 4,000 crew members and those are just the ones that need to be quarantined. This is bad for a lot of reasons. For those of you who haven’t served in the military, I’ll explain.

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Day 225: Class presentations


For the past week we have been utilizing online resources so that classes can continue while we are all social distancing. While this is means that we mostly use Zoom, we also have message boards and other resources that we can use. However, these resources are sometimes a poor substitute for in person classes. This is especially apparent when we have certain assignments for the class, such as a group presentation.

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Day 224: Review – Cortical and Subcortical Effects of Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation

Figure 1 of the paper showing the experimental set-up and the type of pulse used for stimulation

Experimental set-up. (A) Participants were comfortably seated in a customized chair during transcutaneous electrical spinal stimulation (TESS) or sham-TESS for 20 min. TESS was delivered using a surface electrode on the back of the neck between C5–C6 spinous processes segments (cathode) and a surface electrode in each anterior crest of the hip bone (anode) using a custom made 5 channel stimulator (BioStim5, Cozyma). Electrophysiological and behavioral outcomes were tested before (Pre) and immediately after, 15, 30, 45, 60 and 75 min after the end of the stimulation or sham stimulation period. (B) Schematic representation of the type of current used during TESS. We used 5 biphasic pulses at 5kHz with each biphasic pulse lasting for 200us. The middle scheme shows the blocks of 5 biphasic pulses passed at a 30Hz frequency. Lower part of the schematic shows the number of pulses delivered in one second.

Well it’s been two weeks since the last critical review so it’s that time again. As usual, my PI gets a copy and so do all of you. Since I’ve done several of these now (this is number six) I have a category just for these reviews called critical reviews. This is a really new study which tries to help tease apart what we are actually stimulating when we apply transcutaneous spinal stimulation. I think it’s a super interesting paper and I hope you do as well.

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Day 223: Hell is other people

From Dante's Inferno, a drawing of Lucifer in hell

15th century art impression of Dante’s Lucifer from Inferno

Sure, Sartre didn’t mean that hell is literally other people, that is a common misconception and therefore the quote is often misused. However, I’m misusing it on purpose because right now in my situation, hell really is other people. Did I mention that I hate group work? I really do and as a change of pace I’m going to try to explain without the tangents I tend to take because it’s going to be a fairly long story.

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Day 222: We’re still experimenting…?


Yesterday we did science. It’s a weird feeling to be doing science when there is a pandemic going on, but I actually enjoyed it. There is something about being in a small(ish) windowless room and getting to tune out the rest of the world for a few hours. Yes, I said a few hours, experimenting takes time. Things are in flux though, even for me when I seem to have the most consistent schedule out of our lab.

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Day 221: Doing my part

My first print from way back when I got the 3D printer (a Lulzbot Taz 6).

My first print from way back when I got the 3D printer (a Lulzbot Taz 6).

Another day another update. I have to admit while the situation is fast changing it gives me something new to write about at least. Small victories maybe, I don’t know. The point is I was never one to sit around and let things happen. I’m a fairly busy person, between school and my fellowship I don’t get a lot of time to do things. Thankfully someone else with more time and/or resources has set up a way to help with the coronavirus supply shortage. Read the rest of this page »

Day 220: Modeling the spread of COVID-19

covid19 map

Here’s the situation. We still have classes despite the county shuttering for a few weeks. I mean they are online classes, don’t panic, we’re using zoom like a lot of schools. However, it means that we still have class work and what not going on. For our last assignment we had to come up with our own problem to solve, then solve it. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds, but that is how I got this request (see the title of the post). Don’t worry I’ll explain. Read the rest of this page »

Day 219: The county is on lockdown now

stay home limit travel save lives

Finally. The county has asked that everyone shelter in place basically. Only go out if you need to go out. Everything is shut down and people seem to be taking this seriously (somewhat). While I am still pissed off about yesterday’s statements by the GOP, this is a good thing and I’ll take a win when we can get it. Unfortunately, there are some caveats to the lockdown and of course it affects me… Read the rest of this page »

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