Science News: Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun...

... won't ya please shine down on me! To make my skin healthy? Wait, aren't we supposed to stay out of the sun these days?

This recent study, featured in ScienceNOW: The Good Sun talks about how getting a bit of sun may trigger immune cells to be more active near the skin's surface eating up damaged and infected cells.

Oddly, I've always gotten the impression that a moderate amount of sun makes my skin (especially my face) feel and look healthier and less prone to break-outs. Of course, I'm careful to keep the amount of sun I get low and try to keep out of mid-day sun for fear of damage, and just plain old sunburns (which I get stupidly easily), but it does seem to me, especially in the winter when it's difficult to get much sun at all, that completely hiding from the sun not only makes me almost blindingly white, but my skin just doesn't look or feel very good and I'm constantly battling with it. I wonder if it's really this effect going on? Curious. Guess I'll try to poke my head outside while there's still daylight!


Friday Funnies with Flickr

So, while browsing around on Flickr:Explore for some lunch eating entertainment, I came across this group:

Flickr: Stick Figures in Peril

Now, personally, being a huge fan of stick figures I LOVE IT. Excuse me while I go look through all my photos for something to contribute...


What I think a lot of us know to some extent...

news@nature: Science blogger Bora Zivkovic/The editor of a new book, an anthology of science blogs, talks about how his blog saved his career in science.

How blogging brought him back to science, back to writing his thesis, why blog... interesting. Also touches on where Science Blogging may go in the future.

You can also check out his blog here: A Blog Around The Clock, though he claims there will be less posting now that he is working on his diss again... hmm... can anyone say procrastination mechanism?? Best of luck Bora!

Quote of the day

PC: "Keyboard error: press F1 to resume"

Science news roundup: Where the mind wanders, More than the sniffles, Setting a good example

Ever wonder where your mind goes when it wanders? This news item features a study examining what parts of the brain are active when the mind wanders... it suggests we have a sort of "default" setting which helps to generate spontaneous thought. Does this mean daydreaming might lead to that next great Eureka moment? Maybe someday it will be a good thing when the boss comes in and catches you off on a cloud?!?

ScienceNOW: Peering Inside the Wandering Mind

Mounting evidence that the 1918 flu pandemic turned us against ourselves; meaning our own immune systems did the dirty work putting the young and healthy in greater danger.

ScienceNOW: Portrait of a Killer

Editorial addressing issues of scientific misconduct on both the grand and seemingly minor scale:

news@nature: Leading by example

The article makes a few points I think are of note:

"No aircraft are going to fall out of the sky because somebody fudged a graph in a materials-science journal. Rather, the problem is the time wasted by other scientists chasing up minor and not-so-minor infractions in pursuit of their own research."

This is quite true... most pure research never directly makes it to the public, so it isn't going to be the public at risk, but rather the "front line scientists" (mostly graduate students, post-docs, and junior researchers) who will have to wade through the crap, puzzling over this equation, or that graph, and trying to make sense of what may have been fudged, or even just not checked thoroughly.

"But most important of all, as the first scientific studies of the factors behind good conduct confirm, is the example set by senior researchers themselves. It is here in the laboratory — not in the law courts or the offices of a university administrator — that the trajectory of research conduct for the twenty-first century is being set."

Here's where I like to make the analogy of research groups to families... a professor in my department once told me about meeting up with his "scientific sister"; they had done their PhD's together, and the analogy made so much sense to me. Your supervisor(s) and other senior researchers that you interact with are like scientific parents: they are your role models in everything from measures of success to ethics to how you conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis. You "grow up" scientifically during these impressonable years and learn how to conduct yourself in research and in communication, and it is natural to look up to those people near you with more experience. I think that last statement of the article is critically important. Perhaps today when problems with cheating in schools, and "padding" resumes has become almost acceptable, it will become increasingly important to be aware of the example being set for the next generation of "science kids".


(almost) end of day update

So, lest I leave you with the impression that all is rosey after my upbeat, chipper, happy morning post... I figured I'd update as this seemingly never-ending day, I think, finally is drawing near a close.

Top 10 signs the day is long:

  1. It feels like Friday. 12 hours ago it felt like Monday.
  2. Your eyes are scratchy.
  3. You can't remember what you had for lunch (peanut butter... I think... but only because that's what I usually have).
  4. You wonder why you are still wearing the same clothes as yesterday... oh wait, no, that was today.
  5. Half your dinner is sitting beside you in a styrofoam container.
  6. You keep wondering why you can't figure out what day of the week it is... oh right, still Monday.
  7. It's 9pm and you're still sitting in the flourescently lit hell vaugely refered to by most as "the lab", and still have things to do before going home.
  8. You have written three blog posts in 1 day, when usually you post less than once/day.
  9. You find yourself convincing yourself: "Self?" "Yes, self?" "We can do that tomorrow, right?" "Yes, I think so. Good call, self."
  10. Actually you are too tired to think of 10 things...

It hasn't really been a bad day; I am happy to be doing an experiment. It's just been really long... and well, not as sucessful as I'd hoped. It does still feel better than sitting in my office battling words though!

So, um, I'll finish up then, and see if my sanity returns again in the morning. *fingers crossed*

save the data!

Further proof via PhD comics that grad students get a bit *squirelly* at times...

A nice companion to my much earlier Scrat (from Ice Age) does Grad school

Good weekend

cuppa joe (fetching), originally uploaded by saburke.

I had a *real* weekend, and now I actually feel refreshed.

We did a few projects around the apartment we've been meaning to get to on Saturday, and refused to go outside in the windy -20deg C weather. We drank lots of coffee, made cookies, Hubby played some Civ4 and I did quite a bit of knitting.

I finally finished up my fingerless gloves (Knitty.com: Fetching in an alpaca/silk blend), pictured above. Not very practical, but cute. I like. (Photo credit to Hubby.)

Sunday we went to church and got to see the Deacon who did our marriage prep with us... he is an amazing person and seeing him made me feel like all was right with the 'Verse again. :)

Then it was off to the lab for a quick stint...

Until... Hockey! For some reason, I was really, really super excited about the game yesterday. Maybe it was hockey class on Friday (my first time in Hockey II: Intermediate, not Beginner), or maybe it was feeling well-rested from Saturday... but as I sat on the bench waiting to go on I found my legs bouncing up and down like a little kid who just can't wait. Anyway, we lost. Totally out-played. Sometimes frustrating, but I had fun. They were a little rough, but not too bad. Pig-tails continue to protect me for the most part. ;) (Who checks a girl in pig-tails?? Note: I play in a non-contact men's league, and yes, I have been knocked around a bit.)

So, today, despite a bit of soreness, I feel good. I'm doing a sample this week, rather than writing (the draft has gone out to authors again, fingers crossed for it being the last draft), so it's going to be a better week. I can feel it in me bones. :)

Just so you don't get the impression that I'm some great hockey star...

... me, last semester after miraculously getting the puck from someone... I lost it about 2 seconds later.



Ok, so I was checking out some news and I ran accross this article in the Globe and Mail:

Enough of the iHype already

and so being a self-proclaimed mac-hugger I had to read...

The jist is this: Apple is really good at marketing... especially viral advertising.

No.... really??? You mean... you never figured that out before??? Duh. What I really don't get is why this is a big deal. We are bombarded with marketing everywhere and for everything, esepcially electronics where the need must be created.

I don't need a cell phone, iPod, computer... I need food, shelter, clothing. Yet most people have most of these things today. (ok, fine I need a computer for work... but whatever, you get the point). Companies generate a need for these things... through marketing. One look around on a bus or a coffee shop, or your own apartment will telll you that they're doing a damn good job.

So Apple plays the game, and plays it very well. I remember the add for the first iPodnano... man, I wanted to get my hands on one of those. I even had an iPod, but I was suddenly struck by a burning desire to hold, if not own, a nano. It's rare an ad is that effective on me.

Maybe what gets to people most is that Apple still gets play off its underdog appearance. There is still a cult of mac, people who zealously defend and push Apple products (I know because I used to be one of them... I still love macs, and personally think they're better, but unless you really pick a fight with me in the PC vs. Mac arena, I try to keep my trap shut)... but hey, now it's catching on. iPod is everywhere. Students are toting MacBooks around campus, baby-boomers are putting iMacs in their living rooms. Apple profits are up. And ads like the Mac vs. PC portraying Mac as young and hip and cool compared to the barely functional, emotionally fragile, uptight PC are still hugely popular. Has Apple become successful enough that it's just no longer fair to pick on Windows?

Or does the author of the article just really not want to want an iPhone and went off on a disparaging rant to convince himself that he doesn't.

Anyway, the article sent me off on a tangent looking for spoofs of the Mac vs. PC adds and I ran accross this completely politically incorrect, but hugely funny video:

Enjoy, and don't get mad at me... I warned ya.

Knitting for homeless

So I've been thinking about this idea for awhile... Actually since last Christmas when I learned taught myself how to make mittens.

The stumbling block has been that it takes me a bloody long time to make a pair of mittens, and as such I would have to spend all my knitting time creating mittens for homeless people to feel like I was doing anything of any use, and well, I'd like to also knit for my family and friends, and heck, occasionally myself! (That may sound a little selfish compared to the needs of the homeless, but it's honest and realistic.)

So I decided I'd do scarves instead. Those can be knit in bulky yarn and go fast with little to no thought process (perfect for doing while running my experiments!)... So I went to Zellers the other day to look for inexpensive yarn that has some value in terms of warmth (to me this means it must be mostly wool). No dice. All acryllic all the time... maybe that's ok, better than nothing, but I'm not very satisfied.

So now I have a plan to go to a store that carries yarn I've not yet explored... except I'm not sure I want to go alone because last time I went through that metro station I was... not quite accosted... but well... let's just say Hubby quickly jumped in kindly offering his seat in order to step between the man and me who had stepped between me and Hubby and begun leering at me. So thanks to Hubby's quick reaction and way of dealing with things (oh, and probably size) nothing happened... but I'd like to take him with me on this mission... just in case.

Ironic, no? An experience with a homeless person is keeping me from helping homeless people.

Anyway, I just came across this via the knitty blog:

The StreetKnit Project

but it's for Toronto. I think it's a fantastic idea though!

So I started looking for Montreal, and I found a group which is trying to accomplish something similar:

Knit Hook & Give a Little Warmth

but the group seems to focus on a specific project at a time (their next meetup is to make Teddy bears, which sounds more complicated than my original mitten plan). I've just decided I'm doing scarves for now... so I don't think I'll join them at this particular time. However, they do mention Dans la Rue in Montreal (homeless youth) as a project, so maybe I'll contact them once I get some yarn.

Anyone else in Montreal interested in joining me? Scarves, hats, mitts for homeless in Montreal?


Euro-photos finally up

mirror, mirror on the wall..., originally uploaded by saburke.

So for those of you who have been reading for awhile, I've finally gotten around to posting all of my photos from my trip to Europe last summer. They are now located in a set on Flickr.



you might be a nova scotian (aka bluenoser)

So, I have this big long, actual post planned... but I have a ton of work to do also... so here's a cop-out post. My parents fowarded a list of "If.... you might live in Nova Scotia", sort of "... you might be a redneck" style, and I found a few kind of funny. If you're not from Nova Scotia, or anywhere near, or know anyone from there... never mind... they probably won't make sense.

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there... you might live in Nova Scotia.

If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number... you might live in Nova Scotia.

If you have sw itched from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day and back again... you might live in Nova Scotia.

If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both unlocked... you might live in Nova Scotia.

If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit... you might live in Nova Scotia.

If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow... you might live in Nova Scotia. 

If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction... you might live in Nova Scotia.


Apple Mojo

Wired news story: Why Apple Makes Me Cry.

'nuf said.

Damn that Steve Jobs and his brilliant company. How does he do it? Why do we all want it... whatever it they come out with?


shiny new apple products

iphone - oooh... yeah, i'd like to phone on iphone... ;) seriously though, this is pretty cool... ipod, pda, portable web and phone all in one. i see people on the bus juggling all these things at the same time and wonder how many times they've dropped them all. so nice to have them in one package.

apple tv - enh. i like the idea of not having wires around, but i'm not super excited here... not yet anyway. i think it's the right direction, but not for me right now.

Airport Extreme (802.11n) - this i like. i mean, faster wireless = good, but shared wireless harddrive for backups? awesome. :D unfortunately, we've already got an airport express... so for now, we'll just stick with that.

summary? given that iphone is with cingular, and thus probably not coming to Canada for awhile, and I probably couldn't afford it anyway, I will remain iphone, or any-phone -less for awhile yet. the others are cool, but not purchases I'm looking to make right now. nope, nothing here to drool over for me really.

Edit: some real photos from Wired

To buy or not to buy?

I like to shop as much as the next girl... but I am cautious with my money, so every time I go to actually buy something, I here a little recording of my mother's voice from when I was younger saying "If you spend it, you won't have it anymore..."

As it turns out there is now some scientific evidence that this is pretty much what the brain says too when debating a purchase. Check it out:

ScienceNOW: When Your Brain Goes Shopping


A really truely "special" day... or... how God smote me for not going to church

Two words: Giant Cockroach

Now for some background...

In Sept 2002 I moved to Montreal to start my MSc. Since I did my undergrad in my hometown, it was my first big move, my first place to myself, first time (since being too small for it to be relavent) living in a big city (I grew up in a small city). My Mom made extra effort to make sure we found an apartment that would not present any problems for me. We thought we had done well. I moved into what seemed to be a well kept building with semi-respectable neighbours (though mostly students). Looks can be deceiving. I met the first cockroach one morning at 6am... it was crawling up my leg. I didn't know it then, but it was just a baby. Actually at the time, I didn't know what it was... just a weird-ass bug. Anyway, I managed to kill that one and a couple more that morning, and promptly threw out my new plant (lest it was the source). I met the next one a couple weeks later staring me down from atop my toothbrush. That one was I think fully grown for the particular variety (somewhere half an inch to an inch). I met various others on occasion over the next 9 months... then I moved. The building managers never dealt with the situation properly. Only after several months of chasing the damn things around by spraying individual apartments did they hire a real exterminator. Apparently the problem was a tennant two floors above me who must not have minded roaches. Ugh.

Anyway, needless to say: I have a problem with bugs now. Not that I was ever the kind of kid who really enjoyed bugs (I also have a bee/wasp/hornet phobia and I hate spiders and earwigs etc), but now I get to a point where my adrenalin is pumping I get super paranoid and twitchy and I absolutely cannot sleep if there may have been bugs around. Did I mention that I hardly slept for several months in that first place? No? Well I didn't.

So, the events of yesterday went something like this:

I didn't sleep well Saturday night for no particular reason. Maybe it was the espresso I had at 7pm, or maybe Hubby was being a bad bed-sharer and stealing my space and blankets. Whatever. Point being I overslept Sunday morning and we really had planned on going to church. When I realized our lateness I hopped in the shower and tried to get ready as quickly as possible... I just couldn't quite make it, and I refuse to go to church late (I hate it when people walk in 20 min late... you've missed half of it! it's disrespectful! to God of all people! ... sorry pet-peeve with my current church). Anyway, so Hubby shouted out "cancelled" and poured another cup of coffee and retreated to the couch. We ended up starting on one of our many little home-improvement projects and realized we needed more glue, so out we went. All's well so far...

On our return, as we walk down the hall of our floor, we notice a black spot on the floor near the baseboard... it's between lights, so it's hard to see... I ask "what's that??", Hubby says "nothing, keep walking". As I walk by I'm certain I saw it move... I say "it moved"... I've said this before about shadows, bits of leaf, a piece of a chocolate bar... so when Hubby says "I'm sure it's nothing" I'm sure he meant it. We drop off our stuff in our appartment, and I insist on investigating. So we go back into the hall and check it out... this time it definately moves and it is definately a cockroach measuring about 1 1/2 inches... maybe 2 inches.

Oh... God... here we go again...

Fortunately, even though this is a Sunday, the girl in the office was there. So we went down to tell her about our "discovery", and ask her if she wants to come see... she hesitated a moment, but came. Now, I have new respect for this girl. She seems like a somewhat waifish girly type, and I had my doubts about her abilities to deal with crises. However, she looked at that bug, looked at us, and said "oh no, that's just not normal"... in a tone that really said "oh no, that just shouldn't be... and then, get this... proceeds to try and stomp on it!. Anyway, I offered to go get my super-duper roach spray that I'm never without... you know... just in case... and I swear it took half the can to kill this thing... and I'm pretty sure it was dying anyway.

So now the real question is: are there more?? Was this just a hitchhiker from someone's tropical Christmas? Or maybe a special live dinner for someone's exotic pet that got away?

Not knowing, we went into lockdown. We cleaned everything. We established a perimeter with spray to deter them. We are leaving lights on 24hrs a day in at least the kitchen and bathroom. No dishes will be left un-washed. No water left standing. Still... despite our efforts, I didn't sleep. I maybe caught a few zzz's at 5:30am, woke up, and went back to sleep at 6:30am. Alarm went off at 8:00am. I'm so tired.

Did I mention the power went out for about 5 hours just after this?? That hindered our cleaning efforts.

Apartment-office-girl said she would call an exterminator today, if she couldn't get one on Sunday. She lives in the building. Despite her heroics I think she was distrubed... very disturbed. I felt bad for her, she had a shitty day too. I think she'd planned on sitting in the office doing some paperwork by her little Christmas tree for the day. The power outage also resulted in some kind of alarm fault she was trying to deal with.

I think I'll to church next Sunday. One Sunday year before last I thought it would be a good day to go to Ikea... that ended in the emergency room getting 4 stitches next to my eye after tripping on an escalator and catching my fall with my face. I've gotten away with no bad things happening on Sundays I skipped church, but I feel like there's a message here. Can't hurt right?


today i will get things done

I'm hell-bent on making today productive so I can have a guilt-free relaxing weekend. I've got reading, writing, emails, and web-maintenance to do.

Wish me luck.


damn, b... run out of space already!

So, just as I'm starting to really enjoy Flickr, and just as I get a new camera for Christmas, I went to upload some pictures and this pops up...

... ahhh nuts. Should I do it? Should I "go pro"?? It's really not much money... I just dislike paying for web-services. :(

(note: since I'm a mac-user, Picassa is not a solution... windows only. plus, I do enjoy the "photo-community" thing that Flickr has going on... like yesterday when I signed in and found that some talented people had marked two of my photos as favorites!)


Today was... um... "special"

So, I'll have to make this quick... part of the fun today was that I forgot my power cord at home today, meaning limited computer usage.

Today I:

  • Tried to get here at 9am after being on vacation for 2 weeks... I made it for 9:30.
  • Was trying to get here at 9 for a repair person who was maybe coming because things were unclear before Christmas as to what was happening because someone else was supposed to be here but is still away.
  • Got to school to find the repair person was coming, but not until afternoon, and that no one else would be around.
  • Repair-person and I ran into some odd, odd problems (ever seen copper turn into black flaky stuff?? apparently it can happen! oxidation???? :S )
  • I recruited hubby to help me replace molecule sources... which lead to more fun of cleanning the shutter for the evap in the ultrasonic bath, and I kept dropping it back in when trying to retrive it with tweezers from the beaker.
  • There was mysterious powdery flaky gunk in one cruicible... I'm sure it's carcinogenic... I just have that hunch since I can't seem to avoid getting it floating around everywhere.
  • I dropped a screw that goes in UHV on the dirty, dirty floor... had to clean that again... while the repair-person waited for me to get the evaporator back on... his time is worth $250/hr if I recall correctly. Gulp.
  • The evap wouldn't go back on because the gasket slipped... had to take it off... accidentally touched the gasket, so had to replace it too.

See? Special... and that's day one at work in 2007... should be a good year eh?

Proof that people will score anything...

For your bloggy enjoyment... my life: 7

This Is My Life, Rated
Take the Rate My Life Quiz

Being an over-achiever, I feel that 7 is a bit low... however, it seems to be higher than the average, indicating that things are going well in my life. Well, I agree... they generally are. If I could just manage to convince myself to be less stressed about things at work, then I think that mind part would come up significantly. Actually, let's make that a resolution of sorts for this year: be less stressed in 2007. Unfortunately that does jive very well with getting my research done and starting writing the diss... or maybe it will just go more smoothly if I would just chill.