Posts filed under ‘Science’

Back from SJ

I am back from San Juan! Let the blogging resume!

As I was packing and preparing to leave last weekend, we had a pretty big storm, and the electric went out. Thank goodness we had unpacked all 4 candles that we own and had them sitting on the fireplace mantle. It was a bit tricky trying to pack, do laundry, and prepare my talk without any electricity. Packing went okay, but I had to fix a button on my white blouse, and ended up using bright yellow string to attach it. Oops! The talk and the laundry didn’t happen. Also, the dog was TERRIFIED. Kind of hillarious. See?

Yes, our 75 pound pitbull is cowering behind the sofa AND the side table.

Anyways, that was a fairly stressful way to start the trip (especially since I had NO clean clothes to pack), but somehow I managed to wake up at 3am, when the power came back on, and throw in a few more loads of laundry.

The rest of the trip went without a hitch, though, thank goodness. San Juan is very cool, my CPDD friends were all at the conference, my roommates were awesome, our room was fantastic. I couldn’t ask for much more.

I attended much of the conference, since Jason wasn’t there to distract me and make me hang out at the beach/pool like he usually does (okay, I confess: it didn’t take much coercion to get me interested in hanging out near a beach/pool).

One of the highlights of the week was Bill’s birthday dinner. Bill turned the big 3-0 on Sunday, and we all celebrated by hanging out poolside and consuming pina coladas. Later in the week, a smaller group of us went to an amazing tapas restaurant to celebrate Bill’s birthday again (Bill – what was the name of that place?). It was delish and the sangria was also fantastic. Best meal I had all week. I wish I could go to Bill’s birthday dinner every week.

Greg, Michelle, Emily, Bill, and I at Bill’s birthday dinner!  (Emily and Michelle were my fabulous roommates for the week!)

Mmm… Sangria!  And it tastes even better when it comes in an adorable pitcher.

Me and the birthday boy!

Other than that, lots of great talks, great chatting with people, and all that. My talk on Thursday was the LAST TALK OF THE CONFERENCE (save the best for last?), and most of my friends had left by then, but I think the talk went well. My public speaking skills have improved dramatically in the last year or two – I think because I gave quite a few talks at UK. As I proudly exclaimed to JT after my talk, “I didn’t even do anything funny like itch my neck repeatedly!” He suggested that I check myself in the mirror to make sure… in the past I have done funny things like itch my neck while talking, and he made sure to give me crap for it. Constructive criticism, right? Sigh.  I suppose that if JT doesn’t tell me these things, I will probably not know they happened.

Dr. DJ Stairs pours himself a glass of flavored water in the hotel lobby.

Thursday evening, Emily and I and others headed to Old San Juan for dinner.  We ate at a restaurant called Tantra that featured “Indo-Latino” Cuisine.  Basically, it was a Puerto Rican take on Indian food.  And it was delicious.  And so were the mojitos.

I spent much of Friday morning sunning myself at the pool.  It was fantastic.

Somehow, I managed to drag myself to the airport for the long trip home.  Flights were delayed, and I didn’t get home until after midnight, but JT and Barley came to the airport to greet me, and JT had even gotten a haircut!


June 22, 2008 at 12:16 am 4 comments

bye bye, second winter

Jason has been referring to our recent “cold” spell as second winter. (“cold” because it’s not technically as cold as real winter, just kind of a disappointment after having weather in the 70s… with sun). It kind of cracks me up, kind of makes me nervous.

Funny because I get to hear about how Jason saw the breath coming out of his mouth. Nervous because what if the pipes burst? Anyways, it should be slowly getting warmer this week… perfect timing since the heater is getting fixed Friday – just in time for the warm up. Oh well, it’s Minnesota, we could still get snow. (but I really really really hope we don’t).

Anyways, some important things going on at work: I have been offered a new job in a new lab. The new job would technically be a promotion above my current position. So it’s decision time – switch labs? or stay? And really, it should be an easy decision, right? Take the promotion, I’m sure you’d say… but! I’m in academics, remember? Things aren’t always what they seem in the crazy world of academia and I find myself asking (myself) where would I learn more? Current lab? Other lab? That seems to be one of the most important factors in my decision, the other main factor being where would I be able to retain the most independence?

I hate big decisions, and this is one of those times when I envy the suits and skirts working in the “real” world. Because I’d assume that in the real world, a promotion is a promotion, and you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Or something like that. Maybe I should go back to business school?

Another note about work: I sat on my desk chair the other day, and something broke. And that something was metal, and it was responsible for holding the chair more than 1 foot off the floor. Oh! The embarrassment! Two of my office mates were around to witness my little moment… Perhaps this is a sign telling me that my pre-wedding exercise and eat healthy is not going quite as well as planned…  And you know what, sign, I already know!  I’ve been eating gummy bunnies and other assorted candy to excess recently and not running!  I get it already!  You didn’t have to break the chair!  I’ll cut back on the candy now that the 10 bags of gummy bunnies I stockpiled at Easter are gone, okay?  I’ll walk the dog!  (I can’t run because my knee is broken and I know I need to go to the doctor and get it fixed and I just don’t. want. to. go. to. the. doctor.  Not interested at all.)

Anyways, in a sneaky, top-secret manuver, I eventually managed to swap out my desk chair for another desk chair in the office (oh! the new guy joining our lab this summer has a real treat in store! hee hee!). Only, the new chair has buttons that poke into the back of my legs, and is constantly trying to spin me to the left. So I’m mostly spending my days at work typing away on a computer (I still have 4 manuscripts to write, down from 7 earlier this year), and fighting my stupid desk chair, trying to pull it to the right so that I can actually look at the computer instead of my coworker’s cubicle.  And those buttons are getting really close to just getting torn off altogether.  Don’t push me, buttons!

April 30, 2008 at 10:33 pm 1 comment

Barley’s First Day of School

Yep – you read that correctly. Barley boy had his first day of doggy school this evening at the Twin Cities Obedience Training Club, and it was a pretty predictable evening. Jason let me be Barley’s handler for the evening, which meant that I was in the ring, trying to get Barley to do tricks. The important tricks like: sit, lay down, listen to your name, walk normal. He loved every minute of it! Except he wasn’t too thrilled that he wasn’t allowed to play with the other doggies… he even started to whimper at the beginning when we wouldn’t let him play.

Barley is ready for school.

Our boy is good at the following: paying attention to all other dogs and humans who are not Jen, pulling on his leash, and sitting or laying when you have a treat in your hand.

Our boy is bad at: paying attention to Jen as she’s frantically waving treats in his face, listening to Jen as she tries to get his attention.

Barley gets his homework out. He is such a diligent student.

Of course, Jason and I (being trained animal behaviorists) had critiques of the instructors and lessons. Mostly, it was a good class. But we think they’re trying to classically condition some behaviors (think Pavlov’s drooling dogs), and we’re just more used to operant behavior training techniques (think rat presses lever, gets drug). Also, they seem completely against punishment, but everything we’ve learned in graduate school would suggest that punishing a behavior is the quickest way to stop it. We’ve been doing a combination of reinforcing behaviors we like (e.g., giving a treat when he sits after we say “sit”) and punishing behaviors we don’t like (e.g., growling at Barley when he does something we don’t like). Anyways, since our dog is not yet perfectly trained (I suspect that is mostly due to us not really working with him), we’ll take the help.

And that means that Barley’s got 2 FULL SHEETS of homework for this week. Man, doggy school is tough!

Jason helps Barley with his homework.

February 26, 2008 at 12:02 am Leave a comment

you thought you’d never have to hear about it again.

but you were wrong… the bowling obsession continues…

Ian and I high five for good luck.

Today was the first Thursday in about 4 months that I’ve actually gotten enough sleep to make it through the work day. Why? Because our bowling league is over.

Our bowling teams: Little Lebowski’s Urban Achievers and Mark it Zero.

And good thing, too, because I’ve got some serious deadlines to meet – 3 manuscripts all need my attention before next Monday, and they are on things I know nothing about… like rodent neuroanatomy. Yeah, that’s right – you can divide their already tiny little rat brains into even smaller sections. It wouldn’t be so tricky, except that their anatomy doesn’t quite match up with human neuroanatomy, and why even bother with rats if we can’t translate what we’re doing to humans. So my quest to understand the rodent brain continues… wish me luck.

Strike! Let’s hope that I can feel this good about my manuscripts.

Anyways, it was a long day, but I came home to find a great surprise: Jason made guacamole! Delish!

Mmm… Jason’s homemade guac!

February 21, 2008 at 9:30 pm Leave a comment


Unfortunately, I have 5 papers to write.


November 9, 2007 at 9:42 am Leave a comment

research math

Jason sent this to me today, and it was great timing, because I was having this sort of a research day. Let’s just say my recent data is not as intuitive as I’d like it to be.

Anyways, if you get it, you’re probably as much of a nerd as I am.

August 28, 2007 at 7:52 pm Leave a comment

the brain-eating dream

I often have strange dreams (nightmares) relating to the things that are going on in the lab. For example, one night I had a dream that the rats were housed in my room without cages – they were just running around on the floor. And another night, I had a dream that the monkeys escaped from their cages and were sitting in the lab office with me.

But this one takes the cake.

I’ll qualify this by saying that I sat at the cryostat (aka tiny meat slicer in a -18 C compartment), freezing my hands off while slicing frozen rat brains (we will not discuss how said brains were obtained) all day Thursday and Friday. So maybe it was really natural that I had a dream about eating rat brains Friday night – I was just popping them in my mouth like they were cherry tomatoes. On second thought, that is not natural at all.

In completely unrelated (and a bit more pleasant) news, I found this on my front porch planter the other day:

I don’t remember ever seeing a praying mantis up close before, much less finding one in my garden. Excellent.

This weekend was low-key – a much needed break since I’ve been out of town the past 2 weekends. Plus, I needed to organize and update my data spreadsheets (oh boy!) and I had some things to do at work this morning.

My neighbor had a party Friday night, and Barley was a good protector dog – he barked as some of her guests were walking down my driveway to leave. And it was a ferocious bark. So I feel pretty good about that – like there might be a slim chance that my afraid-of-everything pit bull might actually do something in the event we had an intruder. I will continue to hope, though, that we do not have any intruders.

Today, we had Tracy and Bella over for dinner, and the doggies had a ball! Even though Bella is about 1/3 Barley’s size, she managed to keep up with him, and I think she may have even have asserted her dominance over him. Tracy is super-cool – probably my favorite new Lexington friend – and I will be trying to convince her to move to Minneapolis when she gets her degree. (note: it appears that she is not the only one that I will need to convince to move to Minneapolis).

August 26, 2007 at 10:26 pm Leave a comment

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