We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “life

The digital disconnect

Some themes just resonate with people because they are universally felt. Feeling like you don’t belong in your own skin isn’t something new. Movies tap into things like this a lot, the Matrix for example gave a sci-fi spin to the feeling. One where you could simply unplug, wake up, reality wasn’t amazing, but it was reality. I think a lot about the handful of suicides that followed the movie, people thought it was a message, a call to action so to speak.

(more…)

The death of hope

Maybe I’m being over dramatic, who knows. It’s been a struggle and yes, today is not a good day. Not that many days around this time of the year are good, but today in particular is a bad one. Depression sucks and the thing about depression is that it’s hard to explain to others, especially if you’ve never had to deal with clinical depression or if you’re like me, had to live with chronic treatment resistant depression.

(more…)

Madness on the ship of Theseus

Awhile back I made a quick comment on the ship of Theseus problem and left it at that. I guess it’s been rattling around in my head since then because we’re revisiting it. Everything in my life feels like it’s falling apart and for the past month or so I’ve been desperately trying to hold onto any bit of flotsam that I can find. Once again, I’m left to pick up the pieces, try to rebuild, and move on. But if there’s nothing left of the old life, am I still the same person?

(more…)

Falling up

Things are still falling apart in my life. My mental health has tanked, and while life never had the shine it should, it looks especially dull at the moment. In short, my world has been steadily unraveling and will probably continue to do so for some time. As painful as all that is the most disorenting thing about my life has been falling up, and it’s happened again.

(more…)

They come at night

I once explained to my therapist that I hate going to sleep. Bad dreams and just bad things are there when I’m alone with my brain. She said something though that really stuck with me and it makes me miss her to this day because she really got me. When I said I hated going to sleep she just asked, “because they come at night?”

(more…)

The monsters were never under the bed

It’s funny that as children we all have the same strange fears. There’s monsters under the bed, in the closet, hell the feeling that something will take our foot off in the night is so universal there’s comics making fun of will happen if you leave a foot outside of the sheets. Parents happily reassure our childish beliefs, because it’s true, there are no monsters under the bed. What they don’t tell you is the monsters are real, they just live in your head.

(more…)

There’s no such thing as solid ground

I am a private person. Is it then ironic that I blog about my journey? The ups and downs of getting a PhD, the trials and things life throws at me, the interplay of choices I’ve made and their effects decades later. It’s the ship of theseus paradox, how much of me is still me after all the bits and pieces that have been shaved off over the years and replaced. If there’s no one around to see me change, was change even made?

(more…)

The week ahead

There’s a lot happening this week, it SHOULD be the last week I’m technically jobless. Right now I’m not getting paid by anyone, not by the school, not by the hospital, basically I’m living off the last paycheck I got at the beginning of the month and the next one may not be here until close to the end of next month. If something happens and my start date gets pushed back, well that would mean that I would have no money for anything. That would be bad.

(more…)

The transition to clinical research

Today should be interesting… it’s my onboarding appointment, which is one of the last steps I need to complete to be hired at the hospital. There’s a lot going on in life at the moment, some of which is personal so I won’t be sharing that here, but let’s just say everything has been incredibly stressful. Oh and since I need to get the appointment done this week if I want to start on time, this was the last day I can get it done.

(more…)

More publishing news!

Black and white photo of the Cincinnati Old Main Library taken 1874. There is a single person for scale and the library is massive in size with several levels seen in the single photo alone. Unfortunately the library was torn down in 1955.
Black and white photo of the Cincinnati Old Main Library taken 1874. There is a single person for scale and the library is massive in size with several levels seen in the single photo alone. Unfortunately the library was torn down in 1955.
The Cincinnati Old Main Library (taken 1874). Unfortunately the library was torn down in 1955, but I absolutely love library architecture. It feels like the closest thing we will ever have to magic.

Well sometimes the good news just keeps coming. I’m slightly suspicious since this never happens, so eventually something is going to come crashing down around me and everything will slowly fall apart. Until then I guess I can enjoy this bit of good news too. This isn’t academic related exactly, but it’s still something I’m excited about. I’ve got a book chapter that I wrote about my life coming soon and I’ve got some fun updates.

(more…)

The uncertain future

old door in middle of field, which opens to a whole different world.
old door in middle of field, which opens to a whole different world.

My Co-PI is leaving! Or maybe he’s not? But he could be?! I don’t even know. It doesn’t help that he has no idea and there’s no real deadline for him to make a choice, it’s whenever he’s ready. In fact, we currently have a line graph with his daily percentage on staying or leaving. I wish I was joking. It’s not just my future I’m worried about, there are others in the lab, most of us wouldn’t be able to make the journey to his new workspace, even if we wanted to (and trust me when I say if I could, I would).

(more…)

The long goodbye

It’s not official, but it kind of is… my Co-PI and I will be parting ways unfortunately. On one hand I’m happy for him, he’s found a better opportunity to help him grow and progress his career. We don’t do research for the money, but we do it for the adventure. We do it for the help we can give people. We do it for the discoveries and friends we make along the way. He has a chance to grow and it looks like he’s taking it. We worked together for over two years now and I didn’t expect it to be coming to a close anytime soon, but plans change and I need to change with it.

(more…)

The big brick wall

Art by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie (who will never read this, but her art really helped me)

No one likes to think about dying. Death is one of those things that is taboo because we’re alive and don’t need to worry about that sort of thing right now. There’s too much to live for to worry about death, so we tend to ignore the big brick wall we’re headed right for. No one lives forever and frankly I’m not sure that I would want to even if I could, but I can’t help but think about what happens when I get closer to that wall and what life will look like before the day I hit it.

(more…)

Depression, a tale of hunger

Let’s pretend you have a pet that is constantly hungry. You can’t leave the house, you can’t sleep, you can’t even take a shower because anytime you want to do something for yourself this monster of a pet just won’t allow it to happen. It’s hungry. It wants to be fed and it wants to be fed NOW. Oh you’re exhausted, feed it. You want to do something for yourself? Too bad, feed it. It’s all consuming, it never sleeps, it never is satisfied, and you cannot get rid of it. Chronic depression is the pet you never asked for that demands your attention all day, every day.

(more…)

On birth and family

Sometimes a topic just rattles around in my head until I get it out. Today is one of those days. A friend recently decided to cut ties with some toxic family and it was probably well overdue. I’m happy for them and I think they are making the right choice, but I know not everyone would see it that way. Sometimes people confuse the idea of family and romanticize it, but the truth of the matter is family isn’t the people who gave birth to you, it’s the people you choose.

(more…)

Great expectations

What did you want to be when you grew up? Sometimes the question ends in hilarity, a dinosaur, a unicorn, or maybe some other type of animal. Sometimes it leads to dreams of a sci-fi future, deep space traveller, Mars colonist, maybe a superhero. Whatever the answer is, they all have something in common. No one dreams of being average, but the average exists because so many people fall into it. Most of us have our dreams die as the reality of our existence becomes clear. I say fuck that, dream big until your last breath, why not?

(more…)

I lived!

What a combo breaker, two years of dedication and daily blogging down the toilet because the government was trying extremely hard to kill me. I’m not mad, just disappointed, okay I’m very mad (in the government stuff, not my streak that’s not a big issue). Technically I’m not through the storm quite yet, the power could still go back out, but I have had power longer now than I have in the past few days. Long enough to write a quick update anyway.

(more…)

Not cool Robert Frost!

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” starts Frost in a poem that most people are at least familiar with, but typically is misnamed. The poem is typically identified as, “The Road Less Traveled”. This makes sense because the poem talks about the thought process behind why he chose the road less traveled and that it was worth it. That’s not the name of the poem though.

(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…)

The juggle

This wikihow image has me dying, this is exactly how I would attempt to juggle.

Every sunday without fail I make my list of tasks for the week ahead. Some of them are automated and repeat as needed, but most are specific to that week so I need to go in manually and add them. It’s nice to have everything written down in one place, in order, with times and reminders. I don’t have to stress out about remembering everything when I have a nice app on my phone that keeps me informed. Unfortunately there is a downside…

(more…)

The recovery

A lovely stock photo showing some spine surgery. I really didn’t feel like posting a picture of my incision sites.

We’re post-op day 2 so far and the word of the day is ouch. I don’t know that I went into detail about the surgery I was having, I mean I’ve been out of it these past couple of days since the surgery. It was a spinal cord surgery, there was some scar tissue that was giving me some trouble and they went in bilaterally (both sides of the spine) to remove it. That was… fun.

(more…)

The aftermath

My anti-nausea gift, apparently it’s slow, but works.

Well I had a surgery yesterday and it didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped. I’m home now thankfully, but there were some… complications and it could be for a lot of reasons, but I’ll cover the most likely issue and then go and rest some more.

(more…)

Surgery time

Well today is the day. I just checked in and ready for surgery. For those of you who follow along, this isn’t the first surgery I’ve had. I’ve had two surgeries a year for the past four years. It’s a lot, but each one offers the promise of a slightly better life.

(more…)

Today is a bad day

The day hasn’t even started yet, but it’s a bad day. No I’m not ripping off a children’s book with a similar, if not more hyperbolic name, it’s seriously going to be a bad day. You may be wondering how I know, well this time of the year is always rough for me. A lot of bad things happened that I don’t have the space, mental capacity, or time to talk about. Today is a bad day.

(more…)

The (other) secret

whispering a secret into someone's ear.
Shhhhh….

Some days there’s just so much going on it’s hard to figure out what to write about. Daily writing is hard because some days you have 50 things you want to share and some days you can’t figure out a single thing that would be interesting to write about. While I have a million things to do, none of them are new and interesting enough to share. So today I’ll let you in on my secret.

(more…)

Catching up

This feels about right, I’ve been running on empty!

Sunday means getting ready for the rest of the week and what a week it will be. In my Co-PI’s lab we typically have a steady stream of people coming and going for experiments, this week (and probably next) it will be a flood. We’re trying to make my main-PI happy.

(more…)

A whole pile of work

Pretty much a live shot of my life right now…

Why does everything happen at once? I mean you’re minding your own business and bam, suddenly you have a million things to get done. One minute you’re on top of things, the next you don’t know how you’re going to get it all done. I’m somewhere in the middle of all that right now. I’ve managed to get most/all the things I needed to get done, but not without some new things popping up.

(more…)

Behind schedule

Well it’s Thursday and by looking at my list of things I need to get done, I wish it was still Monday. There’s been a few setbacks the past couple of days. My data processing is going well, but not much else has been accomplished because of an incident that happened a few days ago. It’s not a fun time…

(more…)

Day 359: Car problems

Engine

Thought it was the PCV valve, but nope…

Well if things weren’t bad enough as it is with my own little world, we get to add car troubles to the list. Dealing with issues like this during normal times isn’t so bad, besides the bill that is, but this isn’t normal times. Nope, we’re dealing with a pandemic, school is about to start, and to top it off, I firmly do not have the money to fix the damn car, what’s a guy to do?

(more…)


Day 353: Experimental prep

Matlab

Sometimes a parfor loop in just doesn’t cut it because the things you want to do in that loop aren’t allowed (like save or load data a certain way). In those cases (see above) I can run multiple instances of MATLAB and process my data much more efficiently than if I did it one at a time. In this case I had 8 subjects that needed a rather long mathematical operation performed, so I did it all at the same time. It’s a little silly, but it worked! If you didn’t know you could do that, now you do!

Yesterday I told the story of how we got to this point, a long two year journey and next week I finally get to take the next step. It’s exciting, but it also means because of my flare-up, I’m behind on what I need to do to be ready. Not to worry though, I’m taking it slow so I don’t make whatever I have worse. What goes into an experiment like this? I’m glad you asked!

(more…)


Day 352: My experiment is coming!!

EEG Cap

I just really like how this photo came out. Here’s one of my lab mates gelling the electrodes for a pseudo-experiment. The scary looking syringe has a blunt tipped needle, we don’t break the skin in our lab so no pain, just a bit of gel to wash out of the hair once completed.

Okay I’ve got an experiment update today and I’m really excited to share because it feels real finally. I know I already wrote about some of this, but when I reread my previous post, it felt disjointed so let’s go over how we got here and what’s coming. I’m excited, are you excited? I’m excited!

(more…)


Day 351: Digital color

Online persona

Anger, after thinking about it, it was anger I felt. Not at anyone in particular, but I was angry and hurt and a lot of other similar emotions, but I was angry most of all. People kept letting me down and it took a chance twitter conversation for me to realize why I was yet again left feeling so fucking angry.

(more…)


Day 350: In construction…

extruder

I redesigned my extruder to make it beefier, this has nothing to do with the post, but I’m really proud of it and wanted to share. Haha

Well today despite feeling like refried dog poop I have to go do experiments. It’s part of the job and to be honest I want to do it even though I feel like dried monkey vomit. I could go on, but you get the picture. I do have some more good news not related to yesterday’s news. So that is the conversation for the day.

(more…)


Day 349: A story in three emails

Drowning

I was awarded something, we’ll get to the what shortly. I was awarded something and I was excited because it felt like validation of my work. It felt good to have people take notice of my accomplishments. There are precious few times in my life where I’ve got to feel like someone selected me out of a group as exceptional. Here I was being nominated for something! I was walking in the clouds. I could do anything, be ANYTHING.

(more…)


Day 347: The precipice of … something

precipice

Today is a mash of things, because frankly I still am not feeling good. My the scaly bits on my hands, face, and apparently elbows (missed that one until last night) haven’t gotten worse (yay), but they haven’t gotten better either (boo). On one hand it’s a realization that whatever is wrong with me was worse than I had thought, on the other, the world still moves forward and unfortunately I have work to do, so what’s a guy to do?

(more…)


Day 346: What is going on with me?

exhaustion

It’s going to sound like depression. I realize that as we dive into today. I don’t normally do this, but I’m rewriting this intro because I know what it sounds like. It’s not that, this is something else and it worries me. I know depression, I’m good friends with depression, this is something different so don’t tell me it’s depression, it’s not I promise. It just happens to be worse than I can ever remember right as I’m dealing with the worst flare up [of whatever I have going on] in my entire life, so it couldn’t be a coincidence … could it?

(more…)


Day 345: Undergrad research presentations

Virtual classroom

Well today is day one of three for wrapping up our undergrad/high school research experience. We had a group of about 50 I think, just in our lab and a good portion of them were high school students. Because we’re living in a pandemic, this was all done virtually! Today we get the first glimpse into how we did as mentors.

(more…)


Day 344: In which we are reminded I’m not that smart

Depression

It will pass, it always does, but for now I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. I don’t enjoy the feeling of being average, or more than likely below average. It means I have to do twice the work for half the result. I see genuine greatness and know that no matter how hard I try, that will always be out of reach for me. What do you do when you want something so bad you would die to get it and you know you will never reach your goal?

(more…)


Day 343: On lab equipment

BrokenLaser1

Luckily this wasn’t my fault, but it does make for a good story now.

It was bound to happen eventually. We all knew it would, but we didn’t expect it to fail in such a spectacular manner. That is to say, all at once. One of the people I’m mentoring checked out some lab equipment since we had come up with a way to do experiments from the comfort (see: safety) of her home. That was the plan anyway…

(more…)


Day 342: When stress hurts

Drawing of a man with cracks forming at the back of the neck. He looks sad, looking down.

Drawing of a man with cracks forming at the back of the neck. He looks sad, looking down.

I have a lot of disabilities. Some are more debilitating than others for sure, most are just annoyances or give me weird quirks that people sometimes are frustrated with, other times get a laugh from. For the past few days I’ve been dealing with a flare up so bad I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. It was a painful reminder that I was in fact stressed.

(more…)


Day 338: Feeling stuck, again

feeling stuck

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I feel stuck. With the pandemic going on and the protests (Which are still happening!) I don’t feel like there has been any forward movement in anything I’ve been involved with. I hate feeling like this, it’s so frustrating especially when I feel like I’m drowning in work to be done.

(more…)


Day 319: The (dis)information age

misinformation

Look around, we’re drowning in information. It’s an overload, we literally were not made to absorb this much information all at once. News stories bombard us with new bits of it. Social media is full of it. Ads promise you forbidden knowledge with this one weird trick. It’s no surprise it’s hard to tell what’s real.

(more…)


Day 318: The why.

parts

With everything going on it’s been tough to write about just one topic. When I started 365 days, I started it with the intention of highlighting my struggles and trials through one full year of my PhD with the idea that I may (or may not) keep going for the duration of my PhD process. Then COVID hit, Black lives matter protests took off (finally), and I had the realization that I, like most people, am more than just my studies.

(more…)


Day 226: Coronavirus and the military response

U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt

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.

(more…)


Day 225: Class presentations

Presentation

Presentation

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.

(more…)


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

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.

(more…)


Day 212: A small break

It was bound to happen, with the COVID-19 outbreak, my entire schedule has been shifting faster than I can keep up with it. I was going to force myself to write today, but I need a break. I’m exhausted both mentally and physically. There is a possibility I won’t be getting my stipend from the school this month, even though I’m still working, and I have assignments due soon, so I can’t dedicate the normal hour or so I would writing.

Friendly reminder, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and practice social distancing. Even if you’re healthy, you can infect people that are not healthy or worse, people who work with others who are not healthy. Don’t be selfish! It may seem stupid now, but if we don’t do these things then it will get a lot worse and no one wants that. We can get through this if we all work together.


Know your spinal cord – Transcutaneous spinal direct current stimulation

tsDSC simulation

tsDSC simulation

E amplitude distribution over the spinal cord and nerve surface. The color scale on the right is normalized with respect to the maximum of E amplitude in the spinal cord.

Well after our short break yesterday with my biweekly review paper, it’s back to the know your spinal cord series and we’re on day fifty-two! If you’re here for the first time, you can find the posts in this mini-series in the neuroanatomy category. We’ve taken a few twists and turns since we’ve started the series, but we’ve covered way more than I originally planned. We’ve covered how transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation is thought to work, that post focused on the type of spinal cord stimulation I’m researching. However, there are other ways to stimulate the cord. Transcutaneous spinal direct current stimulation (tsDCS) is a different way to stimulate and today we will talk about the difference.

(more…)


Day 210: Review – Cervical trans-spinal direct current stimulation: a modelling-experimental approach

Cervical trans-spinal direct current stimulation - Fig. 3

Cervical trans-spinal direct current stimulation - Fig. 3

Average magnitude of the E-field and average amplitude of its components in the spinal-WM in all montages along the z axis. Position of spinal segments is marked on the grey vertical bar, electrodes are represented by vertical bars and active connectors are marked with letter “A”. Volume plots of the E-field magnitude in cervico-thoracic spinal-WM, brainstem and cerebellum are represented at the right of the average distribution in each montage, with the corresponding colour scales

I lied! I did know what today was going to be on, it’s the fifth critical review paper. Since my PI gets a copy, so do you! To be honest, I need to create a category for these reviews (Update: I did make a category, Critical reviews), but for now, my first looking at elbow spinal stretch reflexes is here. My second where I review modulating spinal cord excitability with a static magnetic field here. The third where I review modulating the H-reflex while walking in spinal cord injury populations. Lastly, my fourth on Motoneuron excitability during voluntary muscle activity in a spinal cord injury population  can be found here. That said, let’s take a look at my latest review.

(more…)


Know your spinal cord – Microglia

macrophage eating a bactria

macrophage eating a bactria

We cover this in the post, but it’s so cool I had to use it for the featured image.

It’s day fifty-one of knowing your spinal cord! For those of you who just found us, fear not we have all these posts in reverse chronological order listed in our neuroanatomy category. For everyone else, lately we’ve been talking about glial cells. This came about from the post on glial scarring which made me realize we should probably define glia. There are four types of glial cells found in the spinal cord (that we know of) we’ve covered three of them already and today we are talking about the last kind, the microglia.

(more…)