Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dear faithful readers,

A few posts ago, I promised to write about redox boundaries. Except it dawned on me that I don't really know what they are. I mean, I do, but not well enough to write about them publicly.

Instead, I give you a summary of a lecture I went to that spurred the unkept promise. And perhaps you could explain this redox boundary thing to me.

Bjorn Sundby’s lecture, “What can we learn from metals in the environment: A tale of two oceans” included highlights from research projects involving two bodies of water– the Arctic Ocean and Lake Matano.

In the Artic Ocean, Dr. Sundby’s research team used redox tracers such as manganese, rhenium and AVS (acid-volatile sulfides) to determine the location of the redox boundary in the ocean-floor sediment at several stations in the Arctic Ocean basin. At about 10 cm of depth, ocean-wide, there was an enrichment of AVS, but no
enrichment of rhenium. Organic carbon was found in the top 10 centimeters. Dr. Sundby’s team concluded that recent global warming has reduced the volume of ice in the arctic and caused a huge flux in organic carbon to the ocean floor, which is supported by the position of the redox boundary.

At Lake Matano, the presence of banded iron formations suggests that organisms
inhabiting Earth’s early oceans metabolized Fe2+. Dr. Sundby and his colleagues
studied the chemistry and fauna of the lake and found that at 100m deep, the
environment became anoxic; however, there was photosynthetic activity occurring
below that depth. They determined that between 110 and 120 meters, a mixed community of Chlorobiaceae inhabits the waters. Because the levels of sulfates in the deep waters of Lake Matano are low and the waters are iron-rich, Dr. Sundby’s team concluded that there are ferrophototrophs in the lake and that Lake Matano is a modern analog of the oceans of the Archaean.

On being a pushover...

I like to think I'm a nice person. Sure, I have mean, terrible thoughts and I quietly hate on a lot of the world, but I don't usually act on those thoughts. I try to be kind, compassionate and if I wouldn't want you to do something to me, I try not to do it to you. I try hard - key word being try- to improve my outlook and attitude. I do it actively, every day. In fact, sometimes I spend so much time thinking about it that I cause myself heaps of anxiety.

I like avoiding controversy when possible. But, every time that somebody takes advantage of my tendency to avoid controversy, a little bit of me dies. Today, two manuscript authors called me with, um, concerns about their papers. Both of them treated me like I was a child - telling me how to do my job, treating me like I was a disinterested customer service representative. Both of them, when I explained the status of their papers and why they weren't ready, fed me the "that's not okay" line, which is really annoying, because, well, it's going to have to be okay. If you want us to publish your paper, you're going to have to be okay with the process.

I am not a complaint department. My job is not to compensate for other people's technology retardation. It is not to make excuses and grovel and apologize. My job is to make sure that your manuscript gets reviewed by other professionals and that the publisher knows what and when to publish.

Did I say this to the two angry callers? NO. And I wish I had, because now I feel like I didn't take care of myself when I was being attacked. I let someone else (2 someone elses!) walk all over me and I was polite and quiet because was afraid I'd lose my job if I wasn't. Except now I've lost a bit of my dignity.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I just stumbled across this poll on my university's website:

I'd Rather Do Anything Than...

a) clean
b) exercise
c) study
d) balance my checkbook

I'll give you  one guess at which one is the most popular choice.  For the record, I chose "balance my checkbook."  

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The state of my carotid...

I went to see a neurosurgeon last Tuesday and he told me a little more about my aneurysm. It's in the cavernous carotid, which is a good thing because if it were to rupture, it would probably not bleed into my brain. So, not fatal, really. But, if it ruptures, it could cause my eye to swell and pop out a bit from the socket. Think final scene from Total Recall:

So, in a year, they do another CT angiogram to determine if it's growing. And if it is, they want to consider doing a minimally invasive surgery called Coil Embolization, in which they will snake a catheter into my leg and into my blood vessels and then, through that, insert a small coil into the aneurysm. Blood clots will form around the coil, preventing blood from flowing into the aneurysm and therefore releasing the pressure on it.

I'm hoping the aneurysm just stays nice and small. I don't want to have something foreign snaked into my brain through my leg. That sounds horrible. And apparently something like 7% of the procedures require additional surgery or treatment. Not great.

But it could be worse, so I'm pretty happy about the news.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back to school...

The Spring semester officially started this past Monday and so far, so good. I started off my first day with the second half of a year-long introductory biology course. This semester, we're covering Mendelian genetics, evolution, ecology and some physiology. The course is pretty centered around humans and disease, which I find rather disappointing. Every topic, whether it's cell reproduction, metabolism, evolution, or genetics, is somehow connected back to human beings and medicine. It makes sense, since most of the biology majors at the university are actually pre-med students and since there's a hospital connected with the university that has a decent med program.

I'm running into a lot of interesting problems this semester already. For one, I am in smaller classes, which is fantastic!, but I really feel like the weird old lady and I know that people have noticed that I'm not a traditional student. Often, I get asked how old I am by other students, which doesn't bother me, but it is a little strange. Students are much more likely to start conversations with other students in their peer group, so I feel like it's a little hard for me to make connections, which is unusual - I usually am pretty good at meeting people and socializing.

Another problem I've run into is my own ego, which somehow has convinced me that because I'm older than my classmates, that I should be smarter. Yesterday, we were solving a simple genetics problem using simple probability rules and I just couldn't do it without drawing a Punnett Square. All around me, I could hear people saying "Oh! I get it!" and I was getting so annoyed with myself. Why wasn't I getting it? In the end, I left the class a little shaken up - partly because I struggled with the material, but mostly because I don't want to be the kind of person who thinks their age is related to their intelligence. I don't want to feel competitive with my classmates...at least not in that way.

My geology class went a bit more smoothly. In fact, I'm enjoying the class so much that it's going by way too fast. Every day, when the professor says "That's all the time we have for today," I get so disappointed. His class is really interesting and he is very engaging. I felt comfortable with him the first day I stepped into the classroom and I think that that comfort will allow me to open up to asking more questions.

Anyway, things are going well and I'm excited to be back. More to come on the following:

-how I went to the wrong class, twice
-the state of my carotid
-redox boundaries

Friday, January 9, 2009

I know, I know...but it's almost over!

This contest is over in a month and you have all been SO SO SO helpful and I really appreciate it a lot! I'm currently in 4th place and I need another round of votes to boost me up again!

Also, if anyone can figure out how to make the photo show up in the above box, I'd appreciate the advice...I'm not great with html code.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Just make my eggs, dude...

There's this old cranky racist that works in the cafeteria in my building. He's the short order cook in the morning and every time I order scrambled eggs, he peeks through this little window (the one they use to pass plates of food from the kitchen to the serving area) to see who's ordering the eggs.

One day, my co-worker ordered eggs. The woman in front of her, a young black girl, had also ordered eggs. The cranky cook peeked out to see who was ordering. The black girl got a tiny pile of eggs while my co-worker got a heaping pile.

This morning, I decided I was sick of having to look at this guy's face. When I ordered my eggs, I ordered them at the register and stayed out of the line of sight of the window. He never saw who ordered the eggs and I got the biggest pile of eggs I've ever gotten.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year's Meme

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before? I attended my first academic conference and traveled alone for the first time.
2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? For the most part, yes. I didn't wear makeup all year (except for photo shoots...but that's different) and I quit smoking.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? My friend Alison gave birth to a beautiful little girl named Emma.
4. Did anyone close to you die? My cat, Echo, died of lung cancer. It was and still is pretty horrible.
5. What countries did you visit? I went to Canada...
6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008? More time to read non-school books.
7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? August 14th - I put my sweet little teddy bear cat to sleep. November 4th - I gained some hope for my country.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? I had two 4.0 semesters, despite J's illness, my cat's death and my enrollment in the most difficult course I've ever taken.
9. What was your biggest failure? I neglected my blog.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I had a cold and a stomach bug...and now I have an aneurysm.
11. What was the best thing you bought? An SVP membership and two plane tickets to Cleveland.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration? J and the blogosphere...I got so much support from you all...
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? George Bush and Ben Stein. I'm sure there are more.
14. Where did most of your money go? The SVP annual meeting and Echo's vet bills.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? SVP. I was excited for, like, six months straight!
16. What song will always remind you of 2008? "Walk the Dinosaur" with accompanying images of Tom Holtz and Julia dancing around at the after-hours party.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer? I am happier, fatter and poorer.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Reading, writing, spending time alone.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Worrying.
20. How will you be spending Christmas? Oh...was I supposed to do this before Christmas? I spent it with my family and a very sick J. It was lovely.
21. Did you fall in love in 2008? I was already in love. But I guess I fell in love with geology...and sloths.
22. How many one-night stands? Nada
23. What was your favorite TV program? So hard to choose from...but probably Battlestar Gallactica with Dr. Who running a very close second.
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? No...I hated them all last year, too :)
25. What was the best book you read? I really liked "The Secret Life of Bees" and "Wonderful Life."
26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Morphine. I know it's not new music, but the song "I'm Free Now" just blew me away.
27. What did you want and get? Big stuff: I wanted to meet people in the paleo world and I met some amazing amazing people. Small stuff: I really wanted a nice rock hammer and some long johns. I got those, too :)
28. What did you want and not get? I really really wanted some magical fairy to come down and say, "hey...here's some money for college...don't worry about it." But that didn't happen, and I suspect it won't.
29. What was your favorite film of this year? I loved The Dark Knight. And if they never make the Watchmen movie, then I'm declaring the trailer as my favorite film.
30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I worked, but then I went home and had dinner and opened gifts and just spent some time with my roommates, which was nice. I turned 26.
31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Being in school full-time.
32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008? Jeans and tee shirts.
33. What kept you sane? I don't know that I was sane.
34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I don't know...I guess Obama got my attention the most.
35. What political issue stirred you the most? The election! And some evolution/creationism stuff.
36. Who did you miss? My family and my close girl friends that I haven't seen in too long.
37. Who was the best new person you met? Any of those paleo blogger people...and the non-blogger paleo people.
38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008. I can do things and do them successfully if I stop quitting out of fear before I've even started.
39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. Bah..I can't think of one. It would contain the words hope and fear.