Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Next year I am looking forward to...

In photo, me - age unknown... Photo credit: my dad

... learning how to spin
... putting in new flooring (ours is a really crappy white carpet - who invented white carpet?) in the spring (hopefully)
... making new friends (this one takes a lot of effort for me because I'm more of a homebody)
... keeping in touch with old friends
... immersing myself in my new research topic
... taking a lot of pictures (and getting to the free class that came with my new camera - finally)
... seeing relatives that live nearby more than once a year
... spending as much (or more) time with my husband
... playing fetch with my kitties and snuggling them lots
... learning how to relax

Thanks to Jane Brocket for the post idea.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Posting at long last

Wow, time flies when you start your PhD... This has been quite a busy semester. September was devoted to finishing up my MSc thesis requirements, moving to a new lab, and writing a research paper that we still haven't heard back about (still waiting on a reviewer it seems). October was devoted to writing a SSHRC grant proposal - during which I determined some if not most of what I'll be doing for the next few years - more on that in a sec. November was spent writing a paper for a class and learning more about my new research topic. Oh and there was a graduation ceremony in November too. December was a bit of work and a bit of rest. All through this I had class work and a small side project which earned me enough spare cash to buy a spinning wheel. I'll be ordering a Ladybug in the new year. I don't really have time for a new hobby nor the space - but I'll never have a whole lot of time and space... well we'll have that eventually.

I have been very remiss in posting and have contemplated shutting the blog down. I still might. But I'll try to give it a bit more time in the new year and we'll see how it goes. The theoretical goal will be two posts a week - one wordless. If I get busy I might post pictures with captions and call it a day. I hesitate to call it a new years resolution - simply because I don't want it to feel like a chore. I've got enough things that I feel I have to do - no sense adding another one. But if I get into a rhythm and get some comments (hint hint) I think it might prove to be rewarding.

What have I been up to this December? Hibernating. Two days ago was the first time that Calgary went above zero since December 12th - and even then I think we hit 1 Celsius... (34 F). Right now my computer says it is -12 degrees (approximately 10F). I've been knitting, and working too. Here are some pictures of what I've been knitting.

Fetching by Cheryl Niamath - quick and easy.

A very ugly hat is horrible acrylic - a prayer hat of sorts - very well received though so I made him another hat for Christmas. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures so we'll just have to wait for him to send me some.

I finished up some Uh-Ohs from Anna Hrachovec

I made some Christmas ornaments (I'm in the process of making a different one but I'm lacking the balloon to block it on). These are Snowflake stars by Judy Gibson.

These are Heel Up and Down Socks by Amy Swenson. You knit the heel first - then the foot and then the cuff.

So much fun - I immediately cast on for another pair of socks - I can feel a new obsession coming on.

And these are Straight Laced Socks by Trisha Thibodeau. They are super nice but since the yarn is so fine I need to knit the things on 00 needles. Not a problem in and of itself - I like small needles just fine. But the needles are metal and therefore don't bend like the wooden needles I am used to using. Thus it hurts my hands after awhile.

Tonight I will be swatching the following:

Bird in Hand mittens by Kate Gilbert.

And finally, on Christmas I managed to block something that has been completed since October 12th - it still hasn't been gifted yet so here is just a bit to tantalize

This is long enough for now - next time I will likely tell you about my upcoming research because I'm very excited.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Monday, 22 September 2008


I came to a sad conclusion a few months ago - there is never enough time.

I remember thinking in high school that my life was nice and full and to do more things would require planning and hard work. I didn't want to do the dishes or clear the table because I had SO much to do. The teenager's life is so full and busy and important is it not? And then I attended university for my undergraduate degree. I remember thinking that high school was a time of freedom, with something called "free time". As a university student I felt that now I was really busy. As the years progressed in my undergraduate life the feeling repeated itself - when I was in my final year and doing my entrance exams, my honour's thesis, and planning our wedding, I though, wow, I had so much free time in my first year of university... And again, this repeated when I was completing my master's thesis - undergraduates have so much free time - now I'm really busy and I don't know how I'll ever fit more things into my day.

Now as I start my PhD I realize that this is going to happen again - I'm a freakin' graduate student, I really should be smarter than this, it took me how many repeats to learn my lesson? And I figure it is only going to get worse when I graduate in 3 years, find a job, and have kids.

All this is a preamble to the fact that I want to learn how to spin but have no clue if I have the time or energy to do so. But if not now, when? I think I need to become a stay at home cat mom...

Sunday, 21 September 2008


I walked around for a few hours playing with my camera in an attempt to capture what it looks like around our place right now. The leaves are changing colours and I just love how they look.

And I found this cute little place that I didn't know existed

But the gem of the day was this driveway that Cory and I had seen months ago but I had forgotten about. Kitty prints in cement... I can just imagine the cat having a horrible discovery that his paws were wet and dirty.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

So I thought that I'd be less busy after the defense - turns out I was partially wrong. I am still a little busy with school and my life has gotten somewhat boring. So I didn't have anything to tell y'all in the time that I had. I'm currently writing up one of the chapters in my thesis for publication but it is to be submitted for a special issue so it has a deadline attached to it. Which is a good thing because right now I'm pretty good at procrastinating. But yesterday I got the bound copies of my thesis and I took pictures because this is the last thing I have to do for the technical completion of my degree. There is convocation but I don't have to actually attend - and I'm not sure I will. Finishing my masters just doesn't seem like a really big deal because I still have another degree to go. I'm leaning towards attending but still not completely sure. Anyway... pictures!

"Oh wow! Look! It is done!"

"Yep, and it looks so professional too"

And on a final note, my friend also had her thesis bound but the bindery had an issue with her title...

It should read 5-HT1A Receptors and the Circadian Clock. She is getting it re-bound for free but we got these funny pictures in the mean time. I've heard of Canadians being polite, and saying certain phrases more frequently than other places (eh?) but our own time? This is a new one.

Friday, 22 August 2008


I passed my defense. There were stumper questions and I was nervous but I passed! And I did well. Now I have revisions and then I will be done. I don't know how many revisions I have - thus I don't know how long they will take but the end is near! I'll let you know when I am done done and you can all call me Master Catie (tee hee, just kidding).

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Book Review: Too Far From Home

I recently read an interesting book that I thought I'd share with you. I bought it as a Christmas present for Cory this past year but I am the one who has read and enjoyed it. Too Far From Home: A Story of Life and Death in Space, by Chris Jones. The byline on the front of the book sums it up pretty well

On February 1, 2003, ten astronauts were orbiting the planet. Seven were headed back to Earth on the space shuttle Columbia. They never made it. And the three men left behind found themselves... Too Far From Home.

The book is somewhat dry (according to Cory) but I loved the book. It talks mainly about the astronauts, how they felt, how they coped with not knowing when they would return to Earth, how their wives felt... It talks about their histories: how/why they became astronauts, in some cases, how they met their wives, what they are doing now that they are back on Earth. I'm not fascinated with space, space travel, or stars but I loved this book because it was about people, and coping with the unknown.

I learned about this book via a CBC podcast: Quirks and Quarks. I think it is like the US's NPR, but perhaps a bit more scientific (at least more scientific than the pieces of NPR that I've heard). Quirks and Quarks gets leading scientists to talk about their research in an understandable and interesting way - Harvard, McGill, University of Calgary... People who are big names in their fields. People who recently published in the leading scientific journals. There are a lot of segments on space because the host, Bob McDonald, is very interested in the topic, as are a lot of the listeners I suppose. It is available from the website I linked to and via iTunes and I recommend it. One of the next books on my "to read" list is The World Without Us - which I also learned about from this podcast. I'll try to remember to let you know how I like it.

Now I must return to studying, my defense is on Friday! eeeeeee! so close.

Monday, 4 August 2008


A few months back I got a new camera (Digital Rebel XTi - a dslr) and now that I have more time Cory and I are trying to go out to a place that would make for cool pictures once a week. This is our latest "adventure"

Cory assesses the rapids:

There were a lot of kayakers, one canoe, and a raft - oh and 2 people trying to surf the rapids (well that is what we figure they were doing). Down the river a bit is a slalom course so it is a popular spot I guess.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Into the Oven

My thesis is "done" for now. I have handed in the review copies to my committee members (did it yesterday, due at the latest tomorrow - yea early) and now I study for 3 weeks. My defense date is August 22 - I may have already mentioned this. There were a few scary moments on Monday when I found an error that could have taken a long time to fix - but it ended up being just a day and a half of hard work and long hours. I'd taken a few days off here and there but never slept in very much - maybe 9am on a good day, even when I knew the whole day was not going to be spent working. I guess it was the stress because after Cory left for work I fell back asleep until noon!

This past weekend we were in the Okanagan for a wedding. One of Cory's high school friends was getting married. Mom let Cory drive her car to the wedding and now Cory has the bug for a fast porche car... oi! I still don't care much for cars, I like ones that don't break down, are good on gas, and are new-ish. Hence, I love our car which is a 2006 Honda Civic. His name is Miracle Max (Princess Bride reference).

Saturday, 19 July 2008


I'm late posting the pictures but we managed to remember to have someone take our photograph on our anniversary - woo hoo for remembering 2 years in a row (anniversary = July 8th)

I took part of the day off and we got a picnic from a very nice restaurant (The River Cafe) and watched Shakespeare in the Park on Prince's Island. It was the Tempest. I loved it, Cory liked it well enough - especially seeing as he didn't understand most of it.

I have a date for my thesis defense: August 22, 2008. Cory says I that the best defense is an offense and I should call mine the thesis attack... On Thursday I handed in my first draft of my thesis to my supervisor. Good thing as it turns out he is away on vacation this coming week... It was a relief and a bit scary. I put a lot of heart and soul and sweat and tears into that thing.

We got out of the house today - amazing. You see we live in a really really beautiful part of Canada - about an hour and a half outside of Banff. On clear days you can see the Rocky Mountains from Calgary - not our house, we don't have a view of anything - but on the bus route there are a couple of places. And we seldom go out there. So we went today, and stopped where we liked. We'll definately do it again, possibly soon-ish too. Next weekend we head out to the Okanagan Valley - another really beautiful place that y'all should visit if you have the chance. It is where my parents live and I lived for the 9 years before I moved to Calgary. We have a wedding to go to, yea - I love weddings. The atmosphere is so great, everyone there is so happy for the couple. That was one of the most amazing feelings at our wedding. Knowing that everyone there was so happy for us and supporting us. It was so thick in the air that you could almost feel it. Anyway, back to amazing nature places in our back door - I took pictures, landscapes, water, grass...

We stopped by a lake on the side of the road - it was cold...

We threw rocks in. Cory played a game where he would throw a rock and then try to hit it with a second rock.

I took pictures of the splashes that rocks made in the water. This is just one of several - they look really cool

We took time to relax and just lay down and look at the sky (my knees are purposefully in the picture... Cory tried to put his finger in the picture but I avoided it :)

There were the requisite flower pictures.

Cory took off his shoes for awhile, when we came back we learned a truth about butterflies - butterflies like salomon... There were 3-4 butterflies on his one shoe...

And there were more mountains. These three are called the Three Sisters and are right outside of Canmore.

When I got back I checked my email and found a message from my supervisor. He had read my thesis, liked it and had a few small changes to recommend. So I called him (he leaves tomorrow - and talking is way easier than emailing multiple times). There is a hard copy in the lab with some things written on it and then there are a few changes to make. The biggest one is to move a section from my intro into my discussion and make an appropriate linking comment. Oh and I have to make a few extra figures. So other than formatting, and these changes - 5 figures to make and then it is off to the committee. Yea! Considering it is due on August 1st (3 weeks before the defense it needs to go to them) I am right on track and on time. So relieved. Not out of the woods yet, I don't know how to make those 5 figures... but getting closer by the minute. I may even get caught up on my blog reading soonish. Lately I've only been able to keep up on a few.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

I'd like to set up an appointment with the people in white coats and to book a room in the padded hotel for this weekend. Does anyone know who I should call?

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


No officer, I have no idea why my cat is blue.

ETA: if anyone knows how to cite the observed statistical power of a test in APA formatting please let me know. I'd really appreciate it.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Tip #14 for a Successful Thesis

Do parts of your thesis months in advance, save them in a logical spot with a logical name on your computer, then forget about them. When you go to write that part of your thesis a little bell should (hopefully) go off by seeing the file name and presto wammo - you have a section done that you thought you still had to do. It is best gift you can give yourself, second only to starting really early to give yourself a lot of time... But we all know that that happens once in a blue moon.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Academic ramblings

Just a brief note. If you or a loved one have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) please make sure that they are fed within a day.

I'm reading an article and it seems that the nutritional needs of individuals with TBI are increased relative to those without injury (you and me) and that this need is not being met early enough. The article states "patients who were not fed within 5 and 7 days after TBI had a 2- and 4-fold increased likelihood of death, respectively." (5% were not fed within 7 days) No kidding - you don't feed them and they are more likely to die eh? I didn't know this was an issue. And a review cited in this paper found that early feeding may be associated with a trend towards better outcomes after TBI. Well, I'm glad the paper has been published so that protocols may change. Obviously they didn't randomly assign the patients to the feeding and no feeding conditions because of ethics so this is a correlational study - thus it doesn't say that lack of food causes an increase in mortality, but rather that they co-occur. But still...


Hartl, R., Gerber, L. M., Quanhong, N., & Ghajar, J. (2008). Effect of early nutrition on deaths due to severe traumatic brain injury. J Neurosurg. 109, 50-56.

Back to reading.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Tip #13 for a Successful Thesis

Tip #13: Remember it could always be worse, you could have to write the thesis on a typewriter, or even worse, by hand, without whiteout.

These are the tomato plants from before, they don't seem to be getting much bigger and they haven't produced any tomatoes but I can't blame them - yesterday and today were the first days that it hit 30oC here in Calgary. And yes, those are red plastic knitting needles supporting them - I love how it looks.

I'm still plugging away at my thesis. I am scared by how much I still need to do - I'm sure I'll finish on time, but I'm going to have to pull some (or a lot) of long days. Not that that has stopped me from posting more this month than ever before, but I think it is a bit of many things - being near a computer all day, needing brief breaks from the monotony (at times) that is the literature on animal testing, and having ideas about what to briefly post about.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Tip #12 for a Successful Thesis (cigarette anyone?)

Tip #12: Try not to be distracted by sexy article titles while searching for articles related to your thesis.

Cigarette smoking induces apoptosis in rat tesis - and they think this is one of the reasons why they found defective spermatogenesis in the rat following chronic cigarette smoking in a previous study! I haven't read or downloaded the article, such restraint I know, but I had to share my distraction with you. Bet it wasn't funded by the cigarette companies eh?

by the way, the citation for the article is

Rajpurkav A., Jiang Y., Dhabuwala C. B., Dunbar, J. C., & Li, H. (2002). Cigarette smoking induces apoptosis in rat tesis. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol., 21(3), 243-8.

Tip #11 for a Successful Thesis

Tip #11: Time is a really good motivator, well lack of time. Try to use other motivators before this one.

I am so tired, want a break and can't have it. I might not even go to Stampede next weekend - I really wanted to this year - a first for me. I was going to go to the Sheep shearing contest. It might still happen, by a miracle or some amazing writing. In the mean time it is 8 am and I'm going to read Behavioural Effects of Neonatal Lesions of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex and Subchronic Pubertal Treatment with Phencyclidine of Adult Rats by Schwabe, Klein & Koch (2006). Ugh...

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Tip #10 for a Successful Thesis

Do not trust the spell check on your writing program. Beyond this cute poem it will lie blatantly. For example, my program currently dislikes attentional, immunocytochemistry, and immunohistochemistry (Blogger doesn't like the last two either). There are more words, I've just added them to the dictionary on my computer. But some words that are caught, like attentional, make me wonder about my spelling and I go to my dictionary to check. And low and behold, I am sometimes right. Perhaps one day I'll tell you why my spelling and grammar are crappy - it involves not being taught any grammar and very little spelling until I was 11 years old...

And since I like adding a picture to these posts, here are two from my trip to Kelowna in May. The dog is the irresistible Zeke (my mom's dog) and the thing on his head is called Doggles. I guess one of my mom's friends gave them to her. We didn't keep them on very long - just enough to snap a few pictures.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Cookie Pride

So I just watched an older episode of the Colbert Report (June 19th) and I found out some horrifying news: Cookie monster has abandoned the cookie movement! Some of you, especially those with young kids, may have known about this for awhile but I thought that it was just an urban legend of sorts. Fruits and vegetables are any time food and cookies are sometimes food... well okay but Cookie monster isn't Cookie monster without the cookies. It is like Fuzzy Wuzzy I suppose. My dad used to tell me:

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair, Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't Fuzzy was he?!

I understand that kids are overweight left right and center but I don't think that Cookie monster had much of an impact. I'm a kid of the 80s and 90s and I never thought that I should eat like Cookie Monster. But then I also didn't feel that my Barbie made much of an impact on my self esteem or how I though that I should look. Barbie is a doll, not a role model. Fashion shows, magazines, TV shows with real people, models - those are the things that might make a kid think that she should be super thin, not a doll. If changing the behaviour of Cookie monster is going to affect children then I think we have a different problem on our hands - kids watch too much TV and/or TV is too influential. And I think that there is going to be a generation of Sesame Street watching kids that are going to be confused as to why Cookie monster is called Cookie monster if what he eats is fruits and vegetables.

I love cookie monster the way he was, he didn't need to change at all. Cookie monster, if you are reading this, don't fight your addiction - eat cookies, they aren't a harmful drug like heroin and they didn't seem to make you gain any weight over 20+ years. Your metabolism can handle the cookies so go for it.

As a side note, the Cookie monster segment is hilarious - the car runs on a very good fuel - imagination!...

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Tip #9 for a Successful Thesis

Tip #9: Post-it notes are awesome. Of course you need different types and sizes. My collection is currently small as you can see from the photo above. I use these things all the time, and could really use some more sizes. I'll pick some up the next time I am at the grocery store if I remember.

Yesterday I got to meet my friend's horse, Baytoven (yep, his breed is Bay). He is super friendly and I thought that y'all might want a break from cat pictures.

And least you think that I ignored the barn cats, here is the guard cat - he was super friendly and followed us around.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Tip #8 for a Successful Thesis

Tip #8: Do not become allergic to your test subjects prior to the completion of your thesis, or at the very least, before the end of data collection.

Why yes, my allergy to mice is progressing quite well and quickly. I've had hives for about 2 months now and they only get better when I am not in the lab for 4-5 consecutive days. Not fun, I highly recommend avoiding allergies in general - they are the pits. Luckily most of my testing is done and I will work from home or my office at school. Oh yeah, because even being in the darn lab, when no one is doing anything with the animals at the time, makes me react. I didn't mention anything until now because I didn't want to give too much information, but it fits with the tip theme so I'm telling you now.

Above you can see the latest fashion accessory, a N95 mask, that helps with the allergy IF I wear it all the time that I am in the lab, and I'm not in the lab for more than one day - two consecutive days and my body gives me the old f**k-you!


Sunday, 22 June 2008

Tip #7 for a Successful Thesis

Tip #7: Back up your computer/important files regularly (you should do this even if you are not writing a thesis). Do not believe your friends and family when they tell you that you are acting paranoid because you have your data on 3-4 computers and 2 of them are backed up on external drives... and they are in 2-3 different locations for extra security against fire and theft.

As a side note, I personally have most of my stuff in this situation. There are a few things that are on one computer only and may not be backed up - this scares me and I will remedy it soon... But I'm not paranoid... seriously... I just back up my own computer and my supervisor backs up the lab computers... Well okay, I look paranoid but I don't feel paranoid... It is 2 years worth of work and worth a degree! Okay, I'm a little paranoid but I maintain that it is a normal level of paranoia...

The above picture was taken from the airplane on my way home from Kelowna earlier last month. If you look closely you can see the Rocky Mountains peaking through the breaks in the clouds.

PS: GO ITALY! The 2008 EuroCup (soccer) quarter finals are today.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Tip #6 for a Successful Thesis

When you are working on your computer for long periods of time you should make a habit of looking away from the screen, preferably at things that are far away, and then close - switch back and forth a few times to give your eyes a bit of a break and a nice little stretch. Cats and children are good at reminding you to take frequent breaks, though sometimes the breaks are longer than intended.

These are some Black-Handed Spider Monkeys at the Calgary Zoo a few weeks ago. They were a lot of fun to watch and photograph. Monkeys are often one of my favorite exhibits at a zoo.

And these are some Bison from the same visit. The Calgary Zoo had a lot of baby animals - including a baby elephant but perhaps that will be a different post.