Archive for the 'Uncategorized' category

What I Am Reading: Meat-Lovers' Edition

May 27 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

I have not posted a book review in a while, but not because my reading has suffered. No, my reading has mostly been new books in series that I have reviewed on other occasions. I also encountered a couple of tomes that failed to keep my attention long enough to complete them. If I am going to tell you what I think of a book, I want to at least be able to struggle through it.

I am delighted to finally break this block with Maureen Ogle's In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America. The author, a PhD historian from Iowa State, also published Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer in 2006. Writing about beer and beef? What a life to emulate!

The book provides a history of meat production in the US, these colonies practically begging the settlers to convert grain to flesh and make big bucks. The author's background as a technical and economic historian shows, and we really begin to appreciate how economies of scale developed over time. Having lived in a number of places with shuttered slaughterhouses (Chicago, Omaha, Kansas City, and Oklahoma City), I now understand how advances made this model of meat production obsolete. Wars and other political events also drove changes in production processes.

One of the books I never finished a felt like reading a series of slides on the topic.In contrast, Meat flows from advance to advance, telling a coherent story that can be hard to put down at times.

My only gripe comes from the portions dealing with the emergence of the pathogen, E. coli O157:H7. This type of the common bacteria has importance because of its production of shiga toxin, leading to aggressive colitis sometimes followed by hemolytic uremic syndrome. The book implies that the danger of this germ comes from antibiotic resistance, something which is not the case.

As a meat lover, I thoroughly enjoyed turning every page. If you have already decided that Big Ag is bad, you will not like this read. If you are trying to figure out whether organic/free range or other "specially-raised" meat is worth the premium price, then this is the book for you.

Now I need to go find some bacon.


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The Spouse Does Good

Apr 17 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Earlier this week my husband received a small package in the mail. From Scotland.

Click for source

When he got home, he handed it to me to open.

Inside I found a necklace and earrings similar to those pictured.

It seems he caught an episode of How It's Made in which these heathergems were featured. Enterprising Scots take the stems of heather, beat them into submission, and mix them with natural dyes to produce these multicolored "gems" that are then lacquered and set. The Heathergems site includes a bunch of cool brooches and other Celtic themed jewelry.

Cool Flash Design!

Good job, Jim! I got something pretty, and I learned something new today!


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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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Saturday Night #Thunder

Feb 24 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Saturday evening I attended a very special event that I was banned from discussing until now.

In a children's hospital, you get used to celebrities doing things. Local personalities hand out goodies, making our patients and themselves a little happier in the process. Most of the time, they seem to target two patient groups. Premature babies get a lot of love, as do the kids with cancer. Other patients with chronic diseases receive less media attention. Kids with cancer might DIE! Children on dialysis will get transplants and be cured, right?

Not always. And a kidney transplant is hardly a cure, given life-long risks of immunosuppression.

I was delighted a few weeks back to hear that a local star wanted to do a party with our dialysis kids. Not only were they (finally) getting some special attention, but the celebrity would be my favorite OKC Thunder player, Serge Ibaka. My excitement was tempered by the fact that at first we nephrologists were not invited to the party.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

I pouted a bit, but accepted my missed opportunity.

A few days later, I got the call that I could come. None of my family could come with me, but I was welcome to watch my patients interact and have some fun. I also was not to bring a phone or camera, although being on call meant I had to bring the phone. This loophole allowed me to take my completely unofficial illicit photo of the shot blocker at right. That's just the kind of rebel I am, folks.

The event took place in the hospital play zone. Each patient and their immediate family spent about 15 minutes alone with Serge (I shook his hand, I can call him that now, right?) and the kids got personalized Thunder jerseys, autographed in most cases. Then we all came together and he answered questions from the patients. After a group photo, he then shot baskets against the kids on an arcade basketball game (one girl even beat him; she is still glowing). Afterwards, he even posed for selfies with some of the teens. I have never seen such big smiles on the faces of these children; dialysis appointments rarely make you happy.

Things I learned or confirmed?

  1. Standing next to a 6'10" guy makes me feel even smaller than usual.
  2. During the games, Serge looks fierce, like he would not mind breaking your nose. In real life he is charming and quite attractive (and roughly the same age as my children; I have already heard all the Mrs. Robinson jokes this weekend, thanks).
  3. He speaks 5 languages, including his Congo tribal tongue, French, Spanish, Catalan, and English. Many of our patients and families have Spanish as their first language, so this was another delight.

Saturday's event left me with such a happy feeling. I am hoping others will take on the fight for kids with less publicly emphasized disorders, including the drive to raise money for research and treatment. All children deserve to have their health struggles acknowledged.

Thanks, Serge. Now go block some shots.




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Dec 24 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Every year I end up with some Christmas song stuck in my brain, a festive ear worm to end the year. Here is this year's lucky song. Enjoy and have a happy holiday, whatever you celebrate.


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A Holiday Tradition

Dec 18 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Here I sit, waiting for patients that seem to be not showing up or being extremely late for their appointments. Lucky for me I can do this in my administrative office; the clinic computers will not let me blog!

This will be my last week at work this year. Next week I will be working at home to prepare for a big celebration, including both of my offspring arriving home on Monday. Once they leave the nest, you no longer are guaranteed their presence for holidays, so this year could be very special. That means exchanging gifts at the office this week. This morning, my secretary and nurses surprised me with a Page-a-Day calendar about shoes. And I mean cool, potentially unwearable and/or unaffordable shoes. Pure shoe porn.

I gave my co-workers my traditional gift, consisting of something chocolate and something from Heifer International. For 2013, I felt it wise to create real duck dynasties by donating flocks of ducklings:

Flock of Ducks for $20

Your gift of a flock of ducks gift provides project participants with a starter flock of ducklings. For millions around the world, duck eggs form the cornerstone of a healthy diet. Duck gifts benefit the family because they:

  • Yield eggs and protein for nourishment
  • Boost income through sales of ducks, their eggs, feathers and down

Ducks are good for people and for the environment. They rid the area of insects and weeds, and the eggs they lay provide protein for hungry families.

Thanks to your flock of ducks donation, families that begin with a starter flock can eventually manage hundreds of ducks. The money earned from selling the ducks and their eggs can afford a family the opportunity to send their children to school.

Last year my spouse went through the catalog, and we gave a water buffalo because how cool is it to tell people you bought a WATER BUFFALO?????!! This year our family gift will be a llama.

Llama! Only $150!

Please consider donating this holiday through Heifer International. Families get the means to provide themselves with food and income. This can then free children to go to school, as well as advancing the economy of an entire community when participants donate offpring of their animals to another family in a special ceremony.

Besides, you know you want to tell someone that they're getting bees this year...


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Back in Flight

Nov 01 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I write this post in the Oklahoma City airport, named for Will Rogers. This famous entertainer died in a plane crash, making the airport an ironic memorial.

Today begins 10 days on the road. The first stop is Philadelphia for the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Next week I relocate to Atlanta for Kidney Week 2013; I hope you have all your shopping done for the festivities!

Today while I enjoy the friendly skies, enjoy yesterday’s post; if nothing else, it includes the GIF of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer dancing in The Sound of Music. You’re Welcome.


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I <3 Figshare

Jun 20 2013 Published by under Uncategorized, [Information&Communication]

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Over at my other place, Academic Women for Equality Now, I have been creating female leadership gradecards for US medical colleges. Generating a report that contains all of these documents produces a large file, one that crushes the capabilities of most WordPress sites. Two years ago I got creative and found a bunch of work-arounds.

This year I put the whole thing on Figshare, a wonderful data-sharing site that I learned about at Science Online 2013. As shown in the figure, I can post a variety of formats there with a bunch of meta-data. Others can download, comment, and share what I have posted. They even provide a citation format and export capabilities to a number of reference management programs.

Figshare data can now be embedded on another site, like this blog!

Now those of you who just cannot be bothered to click a few links can get this report right here! Feel free to share this report with anyone who will listen (that's sort of the point); just give me some credit and use this citation:

Women Leaders in Academic Medicine 2013. Pascale Lane. figshare.

Retrieved 15:14, Jun 20, 2013 (GMT)



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School: Not Out Yet

May 24 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Next week is the traditional end of the school year, but our friends at Donors Choose want to end with a bang! They asked us at Scientopia to get the word out that all donations up to $100 will be matched between now and June 7.

How can you participate?

  1. Go to our giving page
  2. Pick a project
  3. On the payment page, key SCIENTOPIA in the Match or gift code boxMatchCode

That's it!

Unfortunately, the general fund for the tornado schools in Oklahoma does not qualify for this program :(

There are plenty of worthy projects available. Pick one and do double what you think you can!



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Good for the Soul: Claude Bernard Lectureship #EB2013

Apr 22 2013 Published by under Learning, Uncategorized

keep-calm-and-talk-science.pngP stands for many things in my life. It's my first initial. As a nephrologist, it's liquid gold. It can stand for physician or physiologist, either of which I will admit to.

It rarely stands for Physics in my world.

Yet Sunday, a packed room experienced Confessions of a Reformed Lecturer, a performance by Eric Mazur, Professor of Physics at Harvard. He brought his peer instruction technique into the convention center, convincing a large group of physiologists about their validity (and teaching a spot of basic physics along the way).

Last fall I taught my 6 hours of renal pathophysiology using the flipped lecture technique with peer instruction. I converted my talks to video, asked the students to watch these and read the handouts ahead of class, and then be prepared to use the material in class. During the assigned "lecture" time I would post a case-based problem and then ask the students to discuss among themselves what was going on and commit to an answer. We would then discuss the right and wrong answers and the logic behind them. Those who attended and worked in small groups seemed to "get it." Some students sat isolated in the back and did not participate in discussions. Many did not show up at all. If they can learn the material without being in class, I am OK with that.

Several months later the evaluations for my coursework came in. They were the worst of my career, even worse than my initial efforts with plain old lectures.

Damn! What happened? Flipped lectures were the answer to it all, the "mom and apple pie" of education.

Turns out a lot of educators, including Eric Mazur, get students who do not appreciate this method. For their tuition dollars, they expect us to use the time we have together "in a more responsible way." *

So back to the Bernard presentation or performance (you can view his slides here). He asked each of us to think of something at which we excel. Then he asked us how we got so good at it. Overwhelmingly, the audience said practice. Mazur gives this talk over and over, in countries around the world, and the answer is always the same. Lectures and reading may transmit knowledge, but they do not make us good at using it.

ElectrodermalActivity.jpgPart of this is because we do not engage our brains in lecture. Wearable sensors for electrodermal activity (a strong correlate of sympathetic activity reflecting emotion, cognition, and attention) show that students flatline during lectures. Their tracings during lectures look like those while watching TV. Students appear to be more engaged while asleep than in class! Labs, homework, and studying all appear to invoke more physiological engagement! (For the original study and a peek at a tracing click here.)

By the end of the hour he had us all convinced that plain old lectures would not do. However, he had not addressed my question: how do you get student buy-in? How do you convince them that they have to learn to use the material themselves?

I swam upstream through the crowd, and Mazur was kind enough to point me to his website, Peer Instruction. All it takes to register is a valid email address and an ability to fill out a captcha. Soon I had access to the blog, Turn to your Neighbor, a source of amazing treasure for educators. If you teach anything, anywhere, you need to have access to this information! Many posts deal with the issue of student buy-in. I have only begun to scratch the surface of the treasure buried there.

I am already plotting how I can keep my interactive format with peer-instruction next fall but without so may bad evaluations! This was by far one of the most practical sessions I have attended on teaching (and I saw Khan speak last November).

Congratulations, Dr. Mazur, for a well-deserved award, even if your discipline is "the wrong P," at least in my humble opinion.

And I will never forget what happens when you heat a metal plate with a hole in the middle.

*Seriously, from one of my evaluations


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