work & science


It’s also for autumn, which goes nicely with apple season. The beginning of apple season, for me, marks the approach of cooler and generally more pleasant weather, plus the availability of one of my favorite snack foods. (Apples are also a major component of my fallback dinner plan of apples-and-peanut-butter.) Since my discovery of farmers’ market apples and the wider selection of varieties available, I’ve grown especially fond of Ginger Gold, Honeycrisp, Royalty, and Suncrisp apples. Mmmm. (*Crunch*.)


Of course, A is also for axon guidance, to which I devote far more of my time and energy than I do toward apples, but this isn’t a science blog. Briefly, axon guidance is the study of one aspect of neural development, in which neurons send branches to the cells with which they’re supposed to communicate in the developed nervous system; we’re working on figuring out how the cells match themselves up. (If you have questions, I’m happy to talk science over e-mail.)



(Hmf. I can’t get the picture to link to the Ravelry group, but I don’t have time to mess with it now.)


When this posts, I will (I hope) be on a plane to Atlanta, where I will await another plane to Denver, on my way to Boulder.  In the spirit of vacation, and since I never posted them here, I present a couple of my favorite pictures from my lab’s two June field trips.


boulder field with tree



That first picture is from our lab canoe trip, shot with a waterproof disposable camera; the rest are from our lab hike in Hickory Run State Park, specifically the boulder field there, and were shot with either my digital camera or my "real" camera. 

The place where we went canoeing, on the Brandywine, was fun, though perhaps on the more challenging side of what I was anticipating, my prior canoe experience having been very mellow.  Still, it was fun, but I never again need to see people wielding a chainsaw from a canoe.  (They kindly turned it off when they saw us approaching.)  And next time, the canoe-steering learning curve should be steeper.

Hiking at Hickory Run was awesome.  The trails could’ve been marked better, but we didn’t have too much of an adventure…  It was wonderful to be in the woods, to pick blueberries, and to see this amazing boulder field.

I expect to be away from the internet until Wednesday evening, by which point I may even have finished some knitting.  I got in a good few inches on the wool/mohair sock on Sunday, but that’s pretty much been it this week. 

See you (or, well, your internet presences) next week!

After having had most of them saved to my computer for months, I’m finally getting around to posting the Science Scout badges for which I qualify:


the ‘talking science’ badge: It’s a big part of my life, so I tend to talk about it.  Just not here, so much.


arts and crafts: This one should be obvious.


the ‘confident around an open flame’ badge: Bunsen burners in lab, campfires and fireplaces outside of lab.



the ‘sexing up science’ badge: I used to maintain recombinant-inbred lines of flour beetles.



the ‘has handled human organs’ badge: My first neuroscience class got to hold [thick] slices of [preserved] human brain.



the ‘has done research with no conceivable practical applications’ badge: I like basic science.



the ‘I know what a tadpole looks like’ badge: I should hope so, seeing as I’ve dissected eyes out of them.  And I helped take care of some Xenopus (adults and tadpoles) in college.



the ‘cloner’ badge: Not much, but probably enough for the badge.



the ‘experienced with electric shock’ badges, levels 1-3: nonhuman organism, nonself human, self

I’m probably stretching the Level I definition, since the nonhuman stuff I’ve shocked is dissociated cells, but the other two are from neuroscience classes in which we gave each other [very] mild shocks as part of our somatosensory perception unit.  (If you space the two electrodes in a certain way, and time the shocks right, it’ll feel like the shock is moving continuously between them.)



the ‘I have used a standard telescope’ badge: Lunar eclipses are fun to watch.



the ‘doing science under the influence’ badge: What, you think I actually leave work after drinking champagne at post-defense parties or beer at departmental happy hours?  (Well, yes, of course, just not immediately.)  I also had one advisor who suggested beer as a potential aid to dissection when one’s hands are slightly shaky.



How about the rest of you?



I spent even more time than usual in lab and otherwise working during February.  Since I can’t share what I was actually working on, I snapped a couple of pictures of things on my bench (lab workspace).  (Yes, they’re usually covered.  No, I’m not worried about having left the tubes and tips uncovered for long enough to take these pictures.)

Well, most of my trip wasn’t precisely photographable (and the abstract book and my notebook were heavy enough that I didn’t want to also carry my camera), but I took some pictures at the wildlife refuge we went to last Wednesday. (It’s right near the meeting we went to.)


click for full-size version

I was exhausted enough when we got back to the hotel every night to knit more than a couple of rounds on my flame sock (over the course of five days), but I did do some knitting in the car on the way there and back. Pictures tomorrow or Wednesday.

1. I presented a poster (of my labwork) for the first time this week. It was stressful, somewhat awkward, and exciting.

2. This has really been my ideal kind of Friday night: some minor socializing (a happy hour for a friend who’s been given permission to write his dissertation), maybe some errands (grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, including sushi for dinner), and hanging around my apartment with a book, my computer, and Mel. The rain and wet-street traffic noises are excellent bonuses.

3. I slid down a few steps of my staircase on Wednesday morning, on my way to take out the recycling and fetch my laundry. Ow. (Still.)

4. What’s wrong with this picture?


If you answered, “Oh, no! A broken Lantern Moon dpn!” you get a [virtual] silver star. (Or red or green, if you like those better.) My plan is to see if I can sand down that end and refinish it somehow.

If you answered, “Oh, no! The heel was supposed to be black onyx, not amber!” you get a [virtual] gold star. I’ll be ripping back the heel flap as soon as I locate the black onyx yarn. And I was so hoping to finish these soon… Oh. Wait. I know where the black onyx yarn is now. It’s in the cuff of sock two. Hmm…

5. Hey, look! I’m knitting something with my handspun and I’m planning to keep it!


I really wouldn’t call this color “pine”, although I do like it. It’s too close to “seafoam green” to be “pine” to me. I might allow for “blue spruce”, though, if a tree name were desired.

Oh. You wanted to know what it’s going to be? A wristwarmer. I’m thinking I’ll be able to get one wristwarmer out of an ounce of roving, so I’ll use two colors of the corriedale from my Boogie sampler. They should be done just in time for air-conditioning season.

6. Maryland Sheep and Wool is in two weeks! Two weeks from now, I’ll be camped at a state park near the festival! Whee! (I hope I’m not still sore from the steps.)

7. I’ve already basically planned out my Maryland budget. I want a couple more bobbins for Amy, a couple of skeins of Socks that Rock or something similar, in good almost-solids, and some fiber. I need to figure out how much to get for a potential sweater.

8. I’m going to be moving (my apartment, not my blog, and only a few blocks) in June. And I have a medium-sized presentation in the end of June. So if I’m unusually scarce in the next several weeks, figure I’m either working or packing or cleaning.

9. Mel did the whole screen thing again this morning. There was a squirrel on the cables (I don’t know what kind…) that run along/just outside of the back of my building, such that the squirrel was only about six inches away from the highest point Mel could reach. The squirrel, clearly familiar with windows, was pretty nonchalant, if a bit chittery. Mel, on the other hand, was very, very excited and frustrated.

I just got up to shoo Mel off of the dining table, which is still covered with blocking boards and pins because I need to reblock the shawl. (I couldn’t wait for it to dry fully because I’d’ve missed my train. It was fine for inspiring awe among nonknitters, and it’s not like it was anything like cool enough to wear a shawl last weekend.) When I grabbed him off of the corner closest to me, I thought I saw something drop off of the other side of the table. No, it wasn’t something on top of the blocking board…it was the corner of the blocking board. Ah, well, at least they were cheap. And I have a handy pickup truck for if I want to get some sort of replacement.

In a similar vein, there was a bit of conversation at my lab happy hour (goodbye-probably-only-for-the-semester to our summer rotation student) this evening. I don’t recall quite how we got to the topic, but I said something about how I hadn’t even been knitting yet at happy hour (that time), and then I pulled out my sock, since people were asking what I was knitting these days. Angela asked something about the fiber content, I think Thomas said something about other knitting projects…and somehow the conversation evolved toward my saying something about the size of my stash. Being nonknitters, they did not immediately think of yarn or spinning fiber. Nope. Much mirth ensued. (But no one gets either flame or smoke anything like that close to my yarn stash! Even the Chanukah candles stay on the table, on the other side of the room.)

And, while I’m being tangential and rambly because it’s late: On the train to Trenton on Saturday, a group of women sat down in the seat across from me and found a small (~2cm square) ziplock bag of green leafy stuff, which I (and they, clearly) presumed was what my labmates pretended to think my stash was. (In case you were wondering, they gave it to the conductor as soon as he came by.)

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