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Thursday, April 08, 2004

Being in the moment

A circulating questionnaire about the stuff of daily life. (via Pharyngula)

1: Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says:
"...epithelia with intercellular junctions that act to seal off this space. Another..." from Cells, Embryos, and Evolution, Gerhardt and Kirschner, 1997.

2: Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?
The empty chair of my baymate, who, sadly, has left for Israel.

3: What is the last thing you watched on TV?
South Park

4: WITHOUT LOOKING, guess what the time is:

5: Now look at the clock; what is the actual time?

6: With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
Recirculating water in the fish tank and the blower in the fume hood.

7: When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
3:30 pm, crossed the street to go to the mouse room.

8: Before you came to this website, what did you look at?
Radley Balko's The Agitator.

9: What are you wearing?
Blue jeans, knit shirt, sage green suede jacket, clogs.

10: Did you dream last night?
I dreamed I was having a normal day at lab, but that I had to stop to pee every five minutes. I found this worrisome, and considered whether it indicated a medical condition. Diabetes perhaps? A kidney disorder? Finally, I woke up, realized why I'd been having the dream, relieved myself, and went back to sleep.

11: When did you last laugh?
Yesterday at dinner.

12: What is on the walls of the room you are in?
Shelves that contain books, bottles of solutions, chemicals, and lab equipment. Posters of embryos, a calendar, notes, pictures of data, personal pictures and doodads.

13: Seen anything weird lately?
I saw a guy on the T who looked exactly like Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist from A Confederacy of Dunces. He was very fat and was wearing a hat with ear flaps, a wool shirt, and a huge mustache. Quite possibly he was drunk.

14: What do you think of this quiz?
It provides an excuse for people to reveal harmless and entertaining facts about themselves, which is something we all want to do anyway.

15: What is the last film you saw?
The City of Lost Children. It was very weird. And in French.

16: If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?
A house.

17: Tell me something about you that I don't know.
When I was in the seventh grade, my friends and I would practice spitting at recess under the presumption that the girl who could spit the farthest would be most impressive to the boys.

18: If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?
Require classes in logic and reasoning for accreditation of all schools, beginning grade four and continuing through university.

19: Do you like to dance?

20: George Bush: is he a power-crazy nutcase or some one who is finally doing something that has needed to be done for years?
All politicians are power-crazy nutcases. George Bush's problem is that most of his policies are ill-conceived, poorly executed, and vastly exceed what I believe should be the role of government.

21: Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?
I couldn't possibly answer this without being faced with the situation.

22: Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?
See answer to 21.

23: Would you ever consider living abroad?
No. I want to live in the W or SW, possibly SoCal.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

zoom zoom!

I love microscopes, which is a lucky thing since microscope maintenance is my assigned lab job. Admittedly, though, I have been lax in my duties. For a long time I didn't really exert myself beyond changing the odd bulb or ordering parts when something broke. However, last summer my boss asked me to write a justification for a scope I'd been hinting we needed. (Ok, fine, it was more like desperate pestering, but that is NOT the same as begging.) And now, nine months later, after many bureaucratic hurdles, numerous meetings with sales reps, and reconstruction of the microscope room to control for vibration, temperature, static, and dust.... it finally arrived!!

It is so beautiful: a Zeiss 510 confocal microscope with a Meta detection system, a motorized stage, and an incubator! Very sexy! Like a Lamborghini for dorks, and just about as expensive.

Confocal microscopy is "a good thing", as Martha Stewart would say. Its advantage over other fluorescent methods is the precision with which a fluorescent sample is excited and the specificity by which the emitted light is detected. Basically, lasers are used to excite the sample, and then the resulting emitted light is passed through a tiny "pinhole" such that only a limited amount is collected by the detection system. This results in very thin, perfectly focused optical slices that are not messed up by any fluorescence above or below the plane of focus. Thus, it's wonderful for trying to determine whether two things are colocalized in the same cell. Also, by virtually stacking the thin optical slices, one can see the three dimensional nature of the tissue. And... it generates phenomenally gorgeous pictures.

The above image is from a section of late gestation embryonic mouse pancreas stained for insulin-producing cells in red, and ducts in green. Each blue blob is the nucleus of a cell. At this stage the insulin producing cells, also known as beta cells, are still scattered loosely in the middle area of the pancreas. A few weeks later they will have clustered tightly together into spheres called "islets of Langerhans". Although it has not been shown, this clustering is probably important for full function of the beta cells, which detect and regulate glucose levels in the bloodstream.

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