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Posts tagged “writing

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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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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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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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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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…

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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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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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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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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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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A rocky recovery

Hi, it me.

It occurs to me that tomorrow will mark the one week point since I had surgery. I didn’t realize it had been that long because frankly I expected to be doing better than I am at the moment. Let’s talk about where I’m at now and tomorrow to mark my one week exactly, I’ll tell you all a VA horror story I keep mentioning, but never really told.

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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.

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Technical writing: How to write gooder

Know your audience, it’s the first rule of technical writing. I’ve taken several technical writing courses during my education and they all start off the same way. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! In my experience that is usually the end of the advice given. Most technical writing courses assume you know how to write, an odd assumption when you’re supposed to know your audience. Today I’m going to go over what I do BEFORE I write, in the hopes that it will help some of you. Fair warning, this is long and detailed!

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The ambiguity of language

Well we made it, it’s Friday. I’ve finished my experiments, done most of the things that I needed to do and now I can focus on writing for once. No, not my blog. It’s finally time for some technical writing. I’m not thrilled about it, I mean I don’t mind technical writing as a general rule, but it does get tedious with all the edits. Maybe that’s why I like my blog so much, I can just write and be done with it.

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A small reprieve

Well today my midday experiment was cancelled so now I have some time to relax. Just kidding, now I have time to work on the million other things I need to get done this week! That’s the problem with writing daily, a lot of it is the same stuff, but there are some minor differences with today’s list of things to do.

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Grant writing!

writing spelled out in letter tiles

It’s time to help write another grant! In this case, it’s one I actually want. One of these days I’ll write a little tutorial on how I like to do my writing, I think it’s a good system, but then again what works for me may not work for you. This one is particularly complicated though so it needs a lot of attention. It’s not that it’s long, it’s because it’s short.

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A busy day!

Yep I use this image a lot, but it’s such a great representation of our labs work!

Well I didn’t plan for it, but today is a busy day! I’ve got a lot going on at the moment so not a lot of time to write. Let’s just talk about what I’ve done and have left to do so I can get back to it.

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Process the data!

This is what raw EEG data looks like. Seriously, it’s a bunch of squiggles. However, we can make sense of it and we can even write some code to make sense of it in real-time so you can control things with your brain!!! <EVIL LAUGH>

It’s a process… that’s for sure. So you’re a scientist and you collect a ton of data, well now what? We’re talking about me of course. I did it, I collected a ton of data and now I need to do something useful with it. This is the part I wish I could skip over and get to the part where I get all the cool results, but I guess we’ve all got to start somewhere.

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A new chapter and a look back

We’re looking forward today… while looking back too. I did a big thing! I finished my 365 days of academia goal, it felt too big to do, but here we are. So what’s next? Well we’re going to talk about where we are, where we were, and what’s coming, so let’s get to it!

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Day 355: Nostalgia for the unsentimental

Memories

One of the oldest photos I still have, it seemed appropriate for the post today.

To say I had a whirlwind of a life would be an understatement. Until my mid-twenties I moved at minimum once every two years. Not just moved across town, as in moved states. To be fair, as a kid it was bouncing between a few states. It wasn’t until adulthood that I started moving further away. Oddly enough, it wasn’t by choice, life just seemed to get in the way of staying in one place long enough to settle in.

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Day 354: Even more paper edits…

bad writer

These feels brought to you by: phdcomics

Whhhhhyyyy!!! Okay it’s not that bad, or maybe it is. I have yet more paper edits to do. It’s frustrating I just really want to be done with this paper and it doesn’t seem to want to end. I’m trying to keep my eye on the prize and do this right, it’s just soooo freaking difficult. I just want this done.

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Day 340: Writing… a lot.

once upon

This is how I start all my technical writing.

Another day, another set of problems. So what better way to put off my writing for the day than to write about not wanting to write. I feel like I’m living in a meme all of a sudden. Today I’ve got about 4353453421 things to write, give or take 4. Is it odd that I would rather be writing this than any of the stuff that matters?

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Day 324: Rewriting

edits

Today is a bunch of meetings and a bunch of editing. As I mentioned (or at least think I mentioned here), I had to meet with the senior author for the paper I’m working on and I got a lot of feedback, some of it was good, most of it meant more work for me. That’s the process though, write, rewrite, re-re-re-re…rewrite.

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Day 279: Juggling (a lot of) tasks

task juggling

Since the pandemic hit I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what I’m doing in school and things that I need to finish. Turns out I’m juggling a lot. I’ve touched on this before in other posts that I have a lot going on, but it never really hit me until recently that I have all these things and none of them seem to be ending. It’s kind of frustrating and extremely anxiety inducing.

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Day 270: The to-do list

transam

When I say I lived in my car, I really did. This was my 84 trans am, I bought it for $600 after I got out of the military and immediately drove it cross country (like >3,000 miles). It doesn’t look like much, but it kept me dry when it rained and I absolutely loved it.

Well I’m making a list… and checking it… twice? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Well here we are at the precipice of something interesting. I want to show everyone that you can have a life and a PhD at the same time. Or in my case a hobby or two, maybe not a life, I don’t have one of those, but that wasn’t because of the PhD. Anywho I digress. Buying a home is a lot like buying a used car and today I will explain why!

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Day 269: A preview of the weeks ahead

two old school box style robots on a table near the beach looking at the water in the distance

two old school box style robots on a table near the beach looking at the water in the distance

Robots don’t need to social distance, but we do, so no beach trips for me this summer.

Well we’ve officially transitioned to the spring/summer break. Since I am doing my own little 365 days of academia challenge, it’s important to point out that there will most likely be a marked change in the content. So let’s look at what we’ve done to this point and what will be coming up! I’m excited, are you excited? I’m excited!

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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

Pandemic

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.

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

Legion

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

Tree

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

Sleep

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

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…

Sisyphus

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

Magic-spells

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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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.

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Day 196: Review – Changes in Motoneuron Excitability during Voluntary Muscle Activity in Humans with Spinal Cord Injury

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 1. Experimental setup. A, Schematic representation of the hand showing the ulnar nerve and F-waves recorded from the first dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscle. B, On the left side, schematic representation of the head showing the electrodes placed at the cervicomedullary junction and on the right side a raw trace showing a cervicomedullary motor evoked potential (CMEP). C, A cartoon showing the concept of the visual feedback. Individuals were tested at rest (left single horizontal line) and during 5% (middle double horizontal lines) and 30% (right double horizontal lines) of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC).

A little detour from our spinal cord series for my fourth critical review paper. As usual, my PI get a copy and so do all of you! You can read my first looking at elbow spinal stretch reflexes here. My second where I review modulating spinal cord excitability with a static magnetic field here. Or the third where I review modulating the H-reflex while walking in spinal cord injury populations. Today is an interesting paper on motoneuron excitability while walking in spinal cord injury populations. It’s a really cool paper, so here’s my review.

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Day 182: Review – Modulation of soleus stretch reflexes during walking in people with chronic incomplete spinal cord injury

Fig2

Figure 2 of the paper showing examples of the soleus H-reflex (labeled H) during standing  and during different phases of walking in a participant without known neurological injuries (top) and in a participant with chronic incomplete SCI (bottom).

Today is my third attempt at a critical review paper. Since my PI gets a copy, so do all of you! You can read my first looking at elbow spinal stretch reflexes here. Or my second where I review modulating spinal cord excitability with a static magnetic field here. Today is an interesting paper on soleus stretch reflex and H-reflex. I really appreciate the methodology the researchers used and they did an excellent job of highlighting the limitations to the study, which is always important. Per the usual disclaimer, this is my third critical review, so you can take my opinion n the methodology and findings how you will. (more…)


Day 168: Review – Static magnetic field stimulation applied over the cervical spinal cord can decrease corticospinal excitability in finger muscle

Fig1

Figure 1 of the paper showing how the intervention was applied to the spinal cord

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, this is my second critical review paper. You can read my first looking at spinal reflexes here. Today we are looking at a novel way to modulate spinal cord excitability. Overall I find the paper very interesting. Although the authors performed a limited experiment and no follow up (as of now) has been done, it still looks very promising and would provide a new way to explore the circuitry of the spinal cord. This is my second attempt at a “critical review” so you can take my opinion on the methodology and findings how you will.

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