Thursday, March 29, 2007


So what is it that I do on a daily basis? Basically, this:


The above is an example of one of my cells. All three of them are the same cell - to make an extremely complicated cellular/molecular story simple, I inject the DNA of the protein I want to study right into the nucleus of these sensory neurons (the nucleus is essentially that empty black space in the middle that you can see in the green picture). The DNA then gets translated into my protein, and is expressed in the cell.

Then I can manipulate various things and look at the results.

The DNA has this tag on it that makes it fluoresce in red under the confocal microscope. The green is a similarly tagged antibody that I use to look at some functions of the protein under various conditions. The last picture is a merge of red and green filters.

This is a gorgeous example of the neurites (cell processes) that grew in culture from one particular experiment:


If you're bored already, I give you free and entirely understood permission to stop reading and/or let your eyes slowly glaze over as I so often do when my supervisor starts talking extensively over my head (which is a daily event).

The protein that I study is an atypical isoform of protein kinase C (PKC). This is a model which partially explains the role my protein may have in memory processes:


That little question mark in the motor neuron is thought to be the role of PKCs.

So yeah, fun stuff isn't it? (Hey, I heard that!)


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Alchemist

As my creme brulee sits under the boiler, caramelizing the topping of a wee sprinkle of brown sugar, I thought I would blog about the book I'm reading right now.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, is actually more along the lines of a fairy tale: subtitled "A fable about following your dream". It's quite short, and yet it is very full of those life-lessons that normally take people their entire lives to realize - let alone put into action.

It can be interpreted very religiously, but that's not a necessary interpretation. I'm actually enjoying it quite a bit, it reminds you to do all of those things that you often take for granted on a daily basis. The catch is, the "daily basis" is actually your life. The entirety of your existence culminates from the "daily basis".

What's even more interesting about this book, is I bought the copy I'm reading in a second hand bookstore. The woman who read it before me (I can only assume it was a woman due to the fairly effeminate hand writing) made numerous very insightful comments in the margins. It's been really affective to have these notes to go along with the story - instantly having someones personal thoughts and reactions to the very thing that you just read.

My favourite of these comments to date is "It is always easier to go back to what is comfortable, because less space lies between what is comfortable and what is dreamed".

I am really glad I picked up this book from the second hand store, having had absolutely no idea what it was about. I most definitely recommend it to any of you!


Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Kitten

So my cat Ashes has been at my apartment for the weekend.

My parents dropped her off on Thursday as they were supposed to leave on vacation to Alabama on Friday. We decided that instead of having someone come in to feed the cat, that she would spend the week at my place - so she wouldn't be too lonely and be with someone familiar.

But because of a big snow storm on Friday they had to cancel their trip, and they've since rescheduled to take a one week all inclusive to the Dominican Republic (again, bastards). They are now leaving on Wednesday, and thus sticking me with the cat for another week and a half.

Let me just say that it's so far been an effing hassle. Ashes was monumentally upset when she got here, having freaked out on the car ride over. She kept me up the whole night, meowing and running around and jumping on my bed and dresser and shaking my mirror and poking me. At 4:45 am I had to lock my bedroom door and wear earplugs so as to not be kept awake any longer by her insistent meowing.

She's since mellowed a bit, having come out from under my bed (being covered in a fair amount of dust bunnies) and began eating. When my cat doesn't eat, you know there is something seriously wrong.

She now sleeps through the night on the foot of my bed, but wakes me up at 5:45 am wanting to play. During the day, she likes to stay in my room - she'll sit in front of the mirror (vain thing) and meow constantly until I come see her. Freaking demanding little thing!

At least she's insanely adorable, and it's nice to have her around at the end of the day. I am powerless in face of her gravitational cuteness - oh, and I apologize for the baby voice... it's not my fault!

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