Thursday, March 02, 2006

WordPress flogs Blogger

So I was just toying with creating another WordPress blog over at ( to be exact). I tried out the (excellent) blogger import tool built into WordPress, but it seems that it spitefully mangled my blogger blog. I can't really blame it. A piece of software so vastly superior shouldn't idly allow the existence of such an obviously inferior product; it should eviscerate it. And obviously it has. So consider this my impromptu and unexpected announcement of my new blog address. Once again: Cheers. Edit: I should clarify that I will no longer be posting here. I apologize for all the blog-hopping I've done in the last few months. This blog was initially supposed to be temporary, became permanent, and then I got really sick of Blogger being crappy. Anyone else who's sick of Blogger, let me know if you want your own WordPress blog at (or It's totally easy for me to set up, and even easier for you to administer. It's also totally easy to import all your Blogger posts with comments intact, but as you can see here, your template may be devoured.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The grad student in our lab, Josh, took me over to ETC today to discuss possible collaborration between our neuro lab and another professor's engineering lab. It looks to be a pretty mutually beneficial arrangement, and it's pretty exciting. On the one hand, they're engineering researchers with an interest in neuro regeneration (working with C. elegans), and on the other, we're neuroscience folks with an interest in their experiments and amazing equipment. Their lab was decked out with all sorts of femtosecond lasers (able to cut 0.5 microns a pulse; a major improvement over the clumsy, sharpened-glass pipette that we use for transections), with mirrors strategically placed all over the huge vibration table. They've also got a two-photon microscope that will be a huge improvement over our ancient scope. They also seem really friendly and eager to work together, so I'm looking forward to doing some more tissue culture as well as the surgeries I've already been training to do.


I pulled my car over earlier to scribble this down. It may be the ramblings of sleep deprivation, and it may be terrible. But I haven't written any poetry in a long time, and I hope this means I have started again. I am the neglected East Side the strip-mall-neon crackling   through my veins the screeching-tire track-marks I am rolling hills and city views   obscured by demented industry   seen by sunken shifty eyes On your drive home I am the screaming, shrinking   reminder of how good   your life is.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sigur Ros

I'm seeing them tonight. You should be, too.

It's not exactly sliced bread...

I think I may have invented something. I mentioned before that I'm working in my neuro prof's lab, where we are studying nerve regeneration utilizing polyethylene glycol for rapid fusion of crushed axons (sciatic nerves in rats). Exposing and crushing the nerve is no problem, but applying the electrodes and taking the readings is problematic. The way they've been doing it, the stimulating electrode is applied to the proximal end of the nerve (closer to the body), and the recording electrode is applied to the distal end (closer to the foot), with the electrodes pressed on top of the nerve and making incidental contact with the muscle and connective tissue below and surrounding the nerve. The stimulating electrode sends a little shock down the nerve, and the recording electrode reads the magnitude of signal produced. Because the extraneous tissue conducts electricity, often interfering signals will appear on the oscilloscope obscuring the nice, smooth action potential curve; the electrodes also often do not make consistent or sufficient surface area contact with the nerve to produce a readable signal. So these were some things I noticed in the last couple of weeks of observations. I asked my professor if there were any better setups for the electrodes that he was aware of - not to his (extensive) knowledge. I had some initial ideas for how to solve the above problems, but I couldn't quite decide on the material to use. So I stopped by the local toy shop for some ideas. I ran across something quite absurd that might actually work. To my surprise, when I ran the idea past my professor, he thought it was excellent. So now I get to go toy shopping for lab next week. I hope my idea works!

Thursday, February 23, 2006


It was very foggy on my drive home, and I had the strange feeling that I was traveling through something, rather than on or in or to something. It was a moment of clarity in which I was reminded that through is always really the appropriate preposition. I am reminded of this again as I watch the Nova episode, "The Ghost Particle." According to the show, a hundred trillion neutrinos pass through us every second. I have a passing familiarity with the particles, as they were my last physics professor's research subject. They mathematically must have existed, due to the laws of thermodynamics, but they were never seen. Only traces can be seen in shockwaves that occur when neutrinos scatter electrons, either in giant, underground tanks or now in a more natural environment. Either way, to say we're swimming in a giant tank of particles doesn't do justice to the fact that we're swimming through those particles. The universe is very foggy.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Practice MCAT

So I took a full-length practice exam this past Saturday. I'm very pleased that I improved in all categories from the original diagnostic I took in January. I hope the trend continues.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Dentistry Considered

Before my trip to Guatemala, I had never really seriously considered dentistry as a career option. Dr. Wayne had a good influence on me, though, and I'm now considering it very seriously. An interesting avenue just presented itself in the form of oral/maxillofacial surgery (via my mom, who apparently likes to discuss my potential career with her Medical Director coworker). According to my mom, paraphrasing her coworker, "you will make 1.5 M a year and you will be doing "God's work" would be recontructing people who have been in auto accidents, and would have long term relationships with patients who are very appreciative." Ha... my mom's way of summing things up (read: bluntness) is so funny. I'm pretty sure that description's not in the brochure. Although the money's not a factor for me, dentistry in general is an attractive option simply because, practically, it offers the thing about family medicine I desire - patient relationships - and less of the insurance/compensation headache. After working with Wayne in Guatemala, I've come to realize there's much more medicine involved in dentistry than I had previously thought. When Wayne initially told me to consider dentistry, I mostly dismissed the idea. I thought that it would lack the problem-solving of medicine; I was proven wrong. I also enjoy the technical aspects of surgery, and so a residency program in OMS would allow me to practice that (from what I understand, in much less time than a surgical specialty in medicine). It's something to think about, at least. I'll probably take the DAT sometime after the MCAT. It seems the material overlaps a bit, and it's only 4.25 hours, instead of 8. It's strange to imagine myself as a toddler, telling my mom I wanted to be a dentist. It was the first profession in which I expressed interest, and my mom tells me she shifted my attention elsewhere because she had heard about their high suicide rates. I find that whole situation really funny. What kind of kid says he wants to be dentist? Man, I'm weird.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


This is the eleventh and final part in my Guatemalan series. Click here for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. At the beginning of this journal, I expressed the hope that Glory would somehow prove an appropriate book for this trip. I just re-read the paragraph my "Roads Less Traveled" bookmark rested upon ("Roads Less Traveled" is a book by Cath, Mary Anne's travel journalist friend who joined our group for a while; she also is an award-winning photographer, and I was surprised and flattered when she told me some of my photos were publishable; I may yet take her up on the suggestion I contact my local paper). In this paragraph, I seem to have uncovered a deeper thread tying one of the themes of my trip to a central theme of the book:
"I know, I know," said the Frenchman wearily. "You, les Anglais, are fond of wagers, of records" (his "records" sounded like a drowsy growl). "Who wants a bare rock in the sky? Or - good Lord, how sleepy one gets on a train! - or icebergs or whatever one calls them - or, indeed, the North Pole? Or these marshes where one perishes from malaria?" "Yes, you may have put your finger on it. And yet even that, even le sport, is not all. There are besides - how shall I say? - glory, love, tenderness for the soil, a thousand rather mysterious feelings." (pp 155-156)
Oh, what marvelous and malevolent deeds are done in the name of Glory! We in the New World live in a distant ripple of that long-ago plunge for glory, and it is only more obvious when one visits the more turbulent epicenter. This concludes my transcription of the writing in my journal. I would like to conclude by saying that I feel incredibly fortunate to have traveled to Guatemala and experienced the satisfaction of helping those in need and the camaraderie of a truly outstanding group of volunteers. It was like we had all known each other for years; we would stay up chatting and laughing for hours after dinner every night. I will miss those nights. I hope to stay in touch as much as possible, and I can't wait to go again.


This is the tenth part in my Guatemalan series. Click here for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. I just noticed the carving on the back of an antique Spanish chair in our hotel. In our last few minutes here, I wish we had more time so that I could soak in all the little details.


This is the ninth part in my Guatemalan series. Click here for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. I just came home from the Hard Rock Cafe imitation in Panajachel, with the Danes (Michael, a pre-med, and Sara), and then the inebriated Brits out in the street after closing time, and I opened the patio to let the breeze from the lake pour into my room. I stepped outside, and as I looked up to admire the new moon and more stars than I've ever seen in a sky, a shooting star briefly burned itself out. - - We're now approaching Antigua, once the Spanish capital for all of their New World. How hard it is to imagine the first Spaniards to visit this strange place, wild and undiscovered, and then to build streets and buildings, to - for better or worse - teach the native people their language, their religion. I wonder if they could have imagined the lasting legacy they established, to which this city still stands testament. - - I think my room is haunted. I also think it used to be a closet. Just handling the heavy, enormous, wrought-iron skeleton key bestows upon the user a heady sense of history. The mind conjurs the original owners and invites them to wreak havoc with the imagination in a dark, cramped, hundreds-of-years-old room. - - Antigua's central plaza at night is heart-breakingly romantic for a lone wanderer. The water splashes in the fountains, lights are strung throughout the trees, and the whole scene of cuddling couples and strolling families is backlit by the glowing church to the east. I find it hard to imagine that just a few years ago this peaceful square would have been, at this late hour, a dark, threatening and dangerous place.