Saturday, 22 March 2008

Feline Roommates Decrease Stroke Risk

I was in the car yesterday when the following came up on our all news radio station: A recent study has shown that people with cats have a decreased risk of stress. Researchers say that individuals with cats were 40% less likely to have a stroke, likely the result of the calming effects of petting a cat (reduced anxiety and stress). Individuals who have had a cat but no longer own one (if you can call having a cat in your house owning the cat - I really think that my cats own me... but I digress) still show the protective benefit. Researchers caution that they do not know if the individuals in the study who owned cats were already at a lower risk of stroke or had a lower level of stress/anxiety - ie/ they are from a different population of people than the comparison group(s). This is the correlation doesn't equal causation clause which every good researcher emphasizes when reporting correlations to the general public (just because two things co-occur doesn't mean that one causes the other - I've heard of another study which showed that the more toasters a family had the more likely the family would have a teenage pregnancy...). I haven't read the article myself, so I take this report with caution but it has been on my mind for over 24 hours so I thought I'd share.

In case I don't post tomorrow: Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it (and happy long weekend to those who don't).

Friday, 21 March 2008

Feeling Pissy & PhD News

So I'm sitting here at work on Good Friday wishing I was still at home sleeping. Normally I take the statutory holidays off, after all, graduate students are people too, but the mice have ordered my presence today and tomorrow. Perhaps even Easter Sunday but we are still in negotiations about that. Over the past month I've been meaning to post but couldn't think of something to say. My life is pretty monotonous and boring so I can't type more than a few sentences about that (unlike Amy Lane who seems to have quite an eventful life). I go to school, do research, go to classes and go home. At home I normally sleep, eat, knit (a little), watch TV, and look at things on the internet. I would be happy with this if the knitting were more frequent and the research was on a different topic. In books the heros always want exciting but not me, I am happy with not much interesting going on. To me interesting often ends up meaning stressful. And I am good with the current stress level (or lower not higher please). 

But I scanned through the blog and realized that I didn't share something very important... I have a PhD placement at the University of Calgary in the fall. In the fall I will be working with Dr. Penny Pexman. I think that I will study figurative language acquisition in children (aka sarcasm acquisition). I find this interesting because I don't get sarcasm in my everyday life. I have to think about it more than other people. I am very excited about my next thesis, a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel. 

But I still have a ways to go on the current project and a lot of things to do that I detest doing. When I think about my current project I get a lump in my throat (you know, like when you are about to cry but are trying not to) and feel sad/depressed. I won't quit and I won't do a half-assed job but damn it there are days I want to. There are days that I want to quit grad school and be a bum. Or play computer games all day. Or... sleep. But as a student in my lab tells me, this too will pass. 

I guess I'm feeling pissy today because it is the weekend and I am at work - I live for weekends. I know grad students who work on the weekends but I just tell myself to work hard during the week and take some time off. And I tell myself that by taking time off on the weekends I am more productive. 

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Thesis-Related Epic Battle #1

The first thesis-related epic battle versus statistics is currently in progress. It started sometime around 8:30 am on Monday and has claimed 5-8 hours per day since then. Currently the student front (me) is suffering from headaches at the end of the daily skirmishes (lots of time in front of a computer screen) and sore wrists. The troops (me) are becoming increasingly distractible (Vanessa Farquharson made 366 eco-friendly changes last year and documented them on her website). The epic battle is slated to end sometime this afternoon or tomorrow after a short skirmish. I will update you with the casualties (number of pages written) when the battle has ended.

ETA: it is 3:15 and the battle has just finished. The casualty is 21 pages double spaced Times New Roman, 12 point font. 67 paragraphs containing 6,536 words! This is just the results section of my pilot data (experiment 1 of 3-4) for my Master's thesis. My wrists hurt.