Archive for the '[Etc]' category

Back to Reality

Mar 19 2014 Published by under Blog Maintenance, Uncategorized

Urologist's ad in bathroom at Traditions Field

Urologist's ad in bathroom at Traditions Field

I have finally returned from a much needed vacation in the sunshine of Florida. We watched six spring training baseball games and saw our daughter. The ad pictured to the right was posted on the back of the bathroom stall doors in Port St. Lucie where the Mets play. My spouse shared that the same practice advertised in the men's room for treatment of erectile dysfunction...something about helping you get to home plate.

Now I must work again. Catching up always challenges me. I have finally learned to do what I can do; the whole backlog does not have to be completed the first day back (even if everyone wants their piece done immediately).

I have some material for posts piling up on my desk, so you should see something science-like in the near future.

In the meantime, I have to see a few patients!

By the way, if you haven't done so yet, go over here and support science education while playing bracketology with Darwin's Balls, our NCAA Basketball group. I have Cinderellas winning a bunch of rounds, so I may be out after the second round!


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Give a Bit of Yourself

Feb 14 2014 Published by under Gadgets, gizmos


The best Valentines are personal, especially if you are a Special Snowflake whose descendants will honor you in perpetuity. To this end, you can leave offspring born and unborn your DNA, preserved at room temperature for all time in the DNA Time Capsule:

This is the patented, triple-sealed time capsule that securely stores your genetic fingerprint for use by future generations. Preserving one's DNA in the present enables future scientific advances to reveal any predispositions to disease—currently undetectable by today's methods—a family's genetic makeup may bear. Dispensing with the need for long-term refrigerated storage in a lab, a chemical matrix of dissolvable compounds stabilizes DNA within a blood sample at room temperature (blood provides a higher quality and quantity of DNA than samples taken from cheek swabs), preserving the sample for over 100 years. A blood sample can be taken at your preferred medical facility or using the included kit. Once a sample is secured within the capsule, it can be stored within a home or bank lock box for decades until one's progeny submits it for genetic analysis.

Yup, for just under $300 you can leave your genetic code behind for at least a century! Now I am unclear on why your descendants would want to test your DNA rather than just doing their own ("Look Grandpa could have developed dementia if he hadn't been hit by that train!"). Maybe researchers might want to pinpoint when a mutation occurred in a kindred, but that would be for research not any practical benefit (that I can see) to your future relatives.

Maybe I am missing something that the good folks at Hammacher Schlemmer thought about, but I seriously doubt it. They just have a gizmo to sell, and they hope someone with $300 to spare will buy it.

Personally, I would rather have a giftcard for shoes.

Happy Valentines Day anyway!



One response so far

Home Filing

Feb 10 2014 Published by under Gadgets, gizmos

I confess; I have high clutter tolerance. As long as scattered objects are not growing mold, and the health department is not breaking down our door, I am fine with some stuff lying about. That does not mean I am immune to the seduction of an organizational system; no, given my love of gadgets and gizmos, devices that promise a neater existence usually find their way into my home.

For example, my husband and I both have stacks of t-shirts. We may come home from work and use one to work-out or do chores. After cleaning up, we may pop on another to relax around Maison Lane. For these uses, a tee can have a few gentle wrinkles, so drawer storage works fine. Unfortunately, we often want a particular shirt to show our support of a sports team or something. These drawers of shirts can become wadded piles of knit fabric after a bit of digging through their contents.

The folding board, my first find, can be seen on television:

My family has already compared me to Sheldon based on ownership of this apparatus; no more snark will be needed, thank you very much. The FlipFold neatly provides t-shirts in a uniform rectangle that easily stacks on a shelf or in a drawer. Many retail stores use it for their display stacks. Even if you do not have the obsessive tendencies to use it regularly, it makes packing for a trip much easier. Tees, polos, and dress shirts can all be managed with this tool.

Of course, when you want a specific shirt out of the drawer, you still have to dig. No matter how neatly folded they were at the start, the shirts end up jumbled after a few weeks. Enter the Pliio(R) filing system:


Filed and ready for duty

Filed and ready for duty

Meet my t-shirt drawer. I would not dare post a before shot (even with my clutter tolerance, it was THAT BAD), but now you can clearly see which shirt is which. I pull one out and tuck its Pliio back into the spot. Once laundry day rolls around, I collect my filers and refold the shirts to go back into the drawer.

Neckwear ready for duty

Lined up neatly in a row

I have also used this system with my scarf collection. Even with these thin silky fabrics, the "fold" created by the Pliio is soft and leaves little in the way of a crease; pull the scarf off, and it is ready to wear. These scarves in a basket are far less tempting to my cat than hanging from the usual scarf racks.

My light-weight knit yoga pants can be folded easily around these filers. They will not accommodate heavier items like sweaters or sweats.

Pliio folders can be purchased at Bed Bath and Beyond and at Amazon. A ten-pack costs about $20. That seems a small price to pay for this much neatness.


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Art & Fashion, Meet Science

Feb 07 2014 Published by under Fashion (or not)

Loving this scarf.

Loving this scarf.

Are you looking for a gift for someone special? Valentines Day is next Friday, you know. If your sweetie wears scarves and loves science, you should give a sciencey scarf from Michelle Banks. Today I am wearing my latest acquisition, Portrait of a Human. Each panel on the 72 inch silk charmeuse scarf shows her rendition of a different cell from the human body.

Below is a better view of the details of the scarf; I wish this photo did justice to the vivid colors.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

What could say "Be my valentine" better than a scarf with a normal ECG, Heartbeat? Neurons and various microbes also adorn silk in this Etsy shop. What if your sweetheart is not a biology junkie? No fears; Michelle produces other wonderful designs with an astronomical flare.

Of course, not all of the world can rock a scarf like yours truly; for the less fashion minded, original watercolors of various designs and other ornaments can be had.

So buzz on over the the Artologica Etsy Shop and buy a colorful piece for Valentines Day or some other occasion. You will not regret it!


3 responses so far

Upright Update

Jan 24 2014 Published by under General Health, gizmos

After one week, I am pleased to report that I still love my VariDesk. I am still standing for 20 minutes and sitting for 10 when in the office, although occasionally I extend the standing period to 40 minutes. If I am eating lunch at my desk, I may give myself a 20 minute sit until I finish.

I can feel my new posture in the muscles in my back and flanks. Clearly standing engages them much more than sitting. I hope my plank time starts improving.

The other big change is that I have more trouble sitting still. In clinic today, while waiting for a student to finish interviewing a patient, I found myself standing and pacing while I read an article on my iPad. Sitting in that situation just feels wrong somehow.

I will update again after a month or so, but so far, so good. I would definitely buy my VariDesk again!


5 responses so far

What I Am Reading: An Open Letter to Alan Bradley

Jan 22 2014 Published by under What I'm Reading

Dearest Mr. Bradley:

I love Flavia de Luce. I first wrote about this almost 3 years ago when I discovered the 10-year-old chemist and binge-read the first novels. I was 10 or 11 when I got my first chemistry set, and I remember the thrill of heating stuff with my bunsen burner, especially if it gave off a horrific odor. I ran out of sulfur quickly.

Click to Amazon

I have pre-ordered each of these books, letting them download to my iPad to delight me once again. The latest volume, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, once again left me wanting more. This despite the fact that the book wrapped up some long-running plot questions.

The action begins on the railroad spur to Buckshaw, the family manor. The body of Flavia's mother arrives by train, with her coffin draped by the Union Jack and Churchill in attendance. Finally, we get confirmation that her mother did not go off mountain climbing and die in some madcap heiress scheme. No, she was working for the British government's war effort in the far east. Of course, being Flavia's mother, her death was no accident either. She leaves the name of her murderer written in invisible ink which, I am delighted to tell you, was probably her own urine. Yup, something to make this nephrologist very happy.

I will not reveal any other important murder information here. Suffice it to say there is more than one body and plenty of suspects.

After the main action resolves, Flavia finds out that she is being sent to Miss Bodycote's Female Academy in Canada, the same school where her mother was "finished." This is not the usual finishing school; the chemistry department may be run by a murderer, and it has acquired the latest spectrophotometer for its students. Those facts make Flavia a willing traveler to the other side of the pond.

Unlike earlier de Luce books, this one does not include the title of the next tome in the ending material. Many loose ends wrapped up with this title; does this mean the end of Flavia's adventures? I sincerely hope not. I want to go to Canada with her! Or at least visit Buckshaw when she goes home on break! More chemistry! More poison! More death!

Please don't take Flavia away yet!

Of course, we do have a Flavia de Luce TV series in the works for 2015. I hope the producers do it justice (they seem to have a good track record at least).

What I really want are more books, to see Flavia grow up and achieve and put away more murderers. Please, Mr. Bradley, make it happen!




2 responses so far

A Standing Resolution

Jan 16 2014 Published by under General Health, gizmos

Like many of my readers, I once again resolved to improve my fitness in 2014. I actually did lose a few pounds in late 2013, and the scales remained stable over the holiday. Today I installed my latest device to assist the endeavor: a VariDesk.

Standing position (Click to Enlarge)

Standing position (Click to Enlarge)

This ingenious device provides a stable adjustable surface for your computer monitor and keyboard. When you need or want to sit (like when speaking with others seated in your office) the surface drops to 6 inches above your desktop. The keyboard can sit at a comfortable height just below the work surface on a keyboard area that pulls forward as needed.

When those pesky visitors depart, the return to standing work could not be easier. Two levers just under the work surface allow you to pull the desk up to the appropriate height and lock it in place.

My VariDesk, shown above, is the single monitor configuration. It weighs 41 pounds, and it can hold up to 35 pounds. The device also comes in a larger size for dual monitors that weighs 48 pounds. The single costs $275; the Pro configuration for two monitors runs $300. Both stands come fully assembled. Removing the packing material and setting up the VariDesk takes about 5 minutes.

In addition to the hardware, the company offers an app that lets you set the time you want to sit and stand. It then reminds you to change your position at the appropriate time. You can also enter your weight to estimate the calories you burn while standing.

Click to Enlarge

Not an eyesore (Click to Enlarge)

A whole parade of folks have toured my office this afternoon to see the VariDesk. I may have started a trend. In this case, that would be a very good thing.


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Twenty-Fourteen Travel Begins

Just one week into the new year, and I am already on the road. As I write this post, I await the first leg of my trip to San Antonio for the alumnae group of the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine for Women. This every-other-year get-together will give me a chance to learn new stuff, reconnect with friends and mentors, and renew my professional self. 

One topic for this meeting will be fashion and image. Since we would be focused on these issues, I felt compelled to dress the part. This meant some planning via a spreadsheet:


First I identified the key events for each day of my meeting. I then identified the most appropriate form of dress for those events. Since Friday will focus on fashion, it’s the day I want to shine in my nice suit. I do have some meetings on my travel days, but a nice pair of dark-wash jeans with a jacket or cardigan will work for these rather casual gatherings. The other two program days also require business attire, but not necessarily as polished as Friday. By planning items that coordinate with my suit and other accessories, I can maximize my wardrobe flexibility and minimize my luggage requirements. 

Spreadsheets are not just for accountants; they provide a great way to organize all sorts of data. 

By the way, for my friends in the north, San Antonio is supposed to be ~70 degrees while I am there. The deep-freeze should be well out of OKC by the time I get home as well. Not that I would taunt about that…well, actually, I would!


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Holidays Done; Football Continues

Jan 02 2014 Published by under Sports

Tonight the Oklahoma Sooners face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. I understand what my colleagues feel today:

Click for source

As I said when my Missouri Tigers faced The Crimson Tide last year, it's like watching your child in the Hunger Games; you're hoping for the best, but you know the likely outcome won't be pretty.

Speaking of those Tigers, tomorrow night they will face-off with Oklahoma's other team in the Cotton Bowl. We have our tickets and commemorative sweat shirts ready. Dallas is but a short drive away from OKC, making this bowl quite convenient. On paper, the teams seem well-matched, but I hope my guys in gold prevail.

M  -  I  - Z  -

                            Z  -  O  -  U 


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What I Am Reading: Autism Spectrum Edition

Dec 21 2013 Published by under What I'm Reading

Click to Amazon


On a trip this autumn, I finished my novels and began scouring Amazon for something else to keep me entertained and sane in airports. Their algorhythm suggested The Rosie Project; once again, an on-target suggestion that did the job.

The book begins with an introduction to Don Tillman, a professor of genetics with a highly-structured routine that does not vary from day-to-day. Despite his self-acknowledged social difficulties, he has decided it is time to find a wife. He approaches this in the same manner as his science- he develops a detailed, 16-page survey instrument to distribute to candidates to find the perfect woman. He shares the survey with his womanizing colleague, Gene, who has been trying to fix Don up for years.

In the first chapter, Gene has asked Don to give a talk for him, a talk to a parents' group about the genetics of Asperger's syndrome. Don constructs a massive technical talk that has to be toned down. At one point, the moderator suggests that he is saying that Asperger's is something intrinsic, that the disorder is nobody's fault. His response, delivered loudly:

“Fault! Asperger’s isn’t a fault. It’s a variant. It’s potentially a major advantage. Asperger’s syndrome is associated with organization, focus, innovative thinking, and rational detachment.”

Simsion, Graeme (2013-10-01). The Rosie Project: A Novel (Kindle Locations 124-126). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

By this point, the reader has figured out that Don falls on this portion of the autism spectrum. His survey would scare off any rational woman, and Gene tries to get him to soften it a bit. Meanwhile, Rosie is directed to Don's office for something else entirely. Rosie pretty much illustrates the opposite of every trait the survey tests, yet somehow she and Don end up dating.

The story of their relationship has the ups and downs and twists and turns of a major roller coaster, but we all know how it will turn out in the end. While we are on that ride, we do get a feel for Don's perpective on life. Since the story comes from his viewpoint, we understand that differences in mental processing are just that: differences, not necessarily errors. These differences can make life more challenging, but it does not mean that life will be less rewarding.

I highly recommend this book if you like a romantic comedy with a twist. It also gives a loving, positive look at the value of living a different life, one complicated by autism.




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