Saturday, January 28, 2012

Elation and Belation

A bit of Saturday night random while I take a break from studying...

Elation: I just realized that Blogger has finally rolled out their nested reply feature for comments!! Woo hoo!  I still think I will mostly reply to comments via email (for those of you that have it set up), but for those of you who are first time commenters or who don't have your email set up, now I can reply directly to your comment make sure you subscribe to follow comments!

Belation: I know I haven't posted today's SciSat post.  Part of it is because I'm lazy and haven't written it yet.  Part of it is because I've been studying virology all day.  Part of it is because Matt has commandeered my laptop to play The Great Midwest Trivia Contest (a super fun contest held by our alma's not really trivia as much as "how good are your googling skills because we wrote really convoluted questions", but it's fun nonetheless).  I promise I'll have it up by the end of the day tomorrow. SciSat on Sunday :)

*yeah, I know I made up that word...belation.  But it rhymes and rhyming is legit.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mozart!

A lot of musicians dislike Mozart for his happy-go-lucky and predictable tonal compositions (cough, cough, Matt).  His music doesn't really make you smarter.  His music isn't particularly driven by overt emotion.  It music isn't transcendental like Beethoven or Liszt, it isn't as melodious as Chopin, nor is it anywhere as harmonically complex as Bach or Brahms.  But sometimes we overlook the beauty in simplicity.  Sometimes we just need to take in a breath of fresh air.

Here's a recording from my senior recital of the first movement from Mozart's Sonata in C major, K330 - not the "famous" C major sonata...the better one ;)  Definitely botched the trills in the recapitulation (the final section where the main theme returns), but it's still one of my favorite pieces to play!

Una Semana Bien

My five positives this week:

1 - More affirmation from my professor in regards to how I'm doing with research.

2 - Staying up late watching YouTube videos of dogs playing, babies laughing, and babies laughing at dogs playing.

3 - Discovering new music thanks to my awesome younger/bigger brother. (he's younger than me, but WAY taller than me...hehe)  Check out this Buddy Holly tribute album!

4 - Nice warm weather - it was in the 60s/70s this whole week - though, I do miss WI snow.

5 - Having a positive mini-discussion about dinosaurs, the creation account in Genesis, and modern scientific evolutionary evidence with some people from church who had questions.  Thanks to my hubby who told them "talk to Mariel about it, she's a nerd..."

What were you thankful for this week?  Were you looking for positives, or focusing on the negatives?

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 
-James 5:13

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Science Saturday: Music Video Edition

This week, I'd like to feature some amazing YouTube videos that help promote science, teach a science concept, or just show how science is fun!  Enjoy!

1.) Grab your periodic table and follow along as rock band They Might Be Giants sing us through "The Elements."

2.) Musical parodies can be found by the handful on the internet, but this Lady Gaga "Telephone" parody takes the cake for being one of the most clever science music videos.  They have the lyrics posted, so you can sing along with "Chromosome."

3.) Symphony of Science takes video clips from science documentaries or lectures and autotunes them to create these catchy music videos.  The whole series can be found here, but "The Quantum World" is one of my favorites. (Matt and I will sometimes randomly start singing the chorus...nerd city...)

4.) PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is a laboratory technique used to amplify a piece of DNA to quickly produce multiple copies.  The "We Are the World"-style supergroup, "Scientist for a Better PCR", give us a brief history on PCR and it's applications.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fanboys/Fangirls FTW!!!

I've only watched about 5 minutes so far, but this is the most amazing thing ever!
"Finally, the crowd-sourced project has been stitched together and put online for your streaming pleasure. The "Director's Cut" is a feature-length film that contains hand-picked scenes from the entire collection...
In 2009, Casey Pugh asked thousands of Internet users to remake "Star Wars: A New Hope" into a fan film, 15 seconds at a time. Contributors were allowed to recreate scenes from Star Wars however they wanted. Within just a few months SWU grew into a wild success. The creativity that poured into the project was unimaginable.
SWU has been featured in documentaries, news features and conferences around the world for its unique appeal. In 2010 we won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media. "

Don't Mess With Mr. In-between

Continuing from last week, I want to list five positive things from my week.  I think I will try to make this a weekly Friday post as a way of reflecting on the good before going into the weekend.

1 - I slept in this morning and it felt great :)

2 - My western blot turned out pretty darn close to textbook perfect this week! (Compare with my first blot seen here in a SciSat post.)  Affirmation from the professor I'm working with made it even better.  Here's hoping I can replicate those results next week!

The dark bands at the top are the specific protein that I was probing for.
3 - Matt and I watched all the Lord of the Rings films (extended versions) for the billionth time.  Those movies are some of the best cinematic productions, as well as best film adaptations of a book, in the history of film.  We are now working our way through the appendices (special features) and will probably re-watch them with commentaries :)  It's a wonderfully vicious cycle!

4 - I successful made dinner!  Haha.  It's no secret that I can't really cook.  Well, I tried out a crock pot recipe the other night and it turned out pretty tasty!

5 - I "beat" the main storyline of Skyrim, so now I am having fun doing side quests, leveling up, and fighting more dragons.  I've barely scratched the surface of what that game has to offer!!

I hope you've had many positives this week - enjoy your weekend!!


Thursday, January 19, 2012


The Grey Havens by John Howe

Pippin: I didn't think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path. One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass... then you see it!
Pippin: What? Gandalf? See what?
Gandalf: White shores... and beyond. A far green country, under a swift sunrise.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
(film adaptation)

The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked like it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean.  It was the unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried: "I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here..."

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle - C.S. Lewis

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:1-5


Though Tolkien and Lewis use their words to paint a beautiful idea of what is to come, heaven isn't just a's a real place that will be more beautiful than our imagination could grasp.  We will be in constant worship for our Creator and be filled with His glory and majesty.  We will be home.

Don't let heaven be just a fantasy...

Saturday, January 14, 2012


I was inspired by my friend Lydia to write down 5 positive things from this week.  Life always has ups and downs, and I typically lean toward the negative side of things even when I know I should focus on the positive.  But thinking about them and writing them down as an active reminder of the "good" always makes the "bad" pale in comparison.

1 - I only have 2  classes this semester (my LAST semester of my Masters program!) and I am very interested in both of them, cancer biology and virology.  I'll be doing a lot of reading from academic journals/research and I look forward to it!

2 - JoJo and McGhee make me smile.  Everyone says their dogs/cats/babies are the cutest, but when these two get into a playful mood (or snuggle mood), they really are the cutest :)

3 - Since the "Hate Religion, Love Jesus" video came out this week, I've been involved in a couple conversations (via social media) regarding the poem.  I'm inspired by those who are passionate about their faith and am thankful for intellectual thinking about how we Christians should live.

4 - Matt and I are having fun playing with our new Kinect that we got for Christmas.  Don't let the "Kinect Adventures" game fool is a great cardio workout!!

5 - I started to re-read The Lord of the Rings this week.  It's always a captivating journey.  Tolkien will always be one of my favorites :)

What was positive about your week??

Science Saturday 2.2: Twin Suns, Gerp's Mouse Lemur, Prions, & More

If you have never watched a TED talk, you are missing out on some of the most thought-provoking and innovative ideas in the world of technology, entertainment, and design.  The following video does not disappoint.  As a visual learner, I often scribble things out onto my giant whiteboard when trying to understand a particular biological concept or pathway.  I love looking at images in my textbook.  Drew Berry takes the scientific understanding of biological processes one step further and animates them in a visually stunning and accurate representation of what is going in on your body at the cellular level.

Last September, science fiction and science collided when Kepler-16b was discovered to orbit a binary star system and was lovingly nicknamed "Tatooine" after the planet from my favorite sci-fi saga.  Two more twin-sun planets have been discovered and named Kepler-34b and Kepler-35b.  Both planets are only about 5,000 light years away from Earth, and there are thought to be millions more in our galaxy.  Cue John Williams score...

Meet the cutest new primate species out of Madagascar's Sahafina Forest, Microcebus gerpi, or Gerp's mouse lemur.  Though not the smallest mouse lemur species, the discovery of these little guys helps to understand the localized species population response to deforestation. 

Featured microbe: Prions
While most well known diseases are caused by bacteria or viruses, there are also a number of prion related diseases that have hit the news over the past decade.  Prions are infectious proteins which cause abnormal cell membrane proteins to develop, particularly in the brain, leading to transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.  This disease is characterized by plaques or holes in the brain tissue (see image below), causing neurological damage, coma, and death.  The most common prion diseases include mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), scrapies in sheep, and Creutzfeld-Jacob disease in humans.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Science Saturday 2.1: Perihelion, Appendix Appeal, Citizen Science, & More

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

At 1am GMT on Thursday this week (or 8pm EST on Wednesday), the Earth reached perihelion, the orbital distance closest to the sun.  Aphelion (the farthest distance) occurs in July.  In addition to contributing to seasonal changes, one slight (not visible to the naked eye) measurable result of this half-year movement is that the Sun changes 3.4% in size.

The mutualist-appendix hypothesis, which is the idea that the appendix serves as a reservoir for native fauna, or beneficial bacteria, that could help prevent or fight off serious gut infections.  A recent study showed that individuals who had their appendix removed were four times more likely to get a recurring bacterial infection.  Further studies need to be conducted to fully support this hypothesis, but this is definitely a breakthrough in understanding the "useless" organ.

Ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut?  Want to spend 5 whole minutes at zero gravity? For just  $200,000 you can be one of the 430 travelers to visit space aboard the new Virgin Galactic commercial space vehicle!

In the very first SciSat post, I mentioned Foldit, a video game designed for everyday people/gamers to contribute to the scientific discovery of protein folding.  Another such game aimed at citizen science contribution is called Phylo, which arranges sequences of DNA "blocks" comparatively to other sequences to determine the source of genetic disease.

Featured microbe: Plasmodium Malaria in humans (and the mosquito vector) is a result of a Plasmodium parasitic infection.  The life cycle of the parasite causes rupture of red blood cells and releases the "young" parasite form, infecting other cells.  Scientists were able to capture this "invasion" event on video for the first time.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Homeward Bound

We are on the road back to Mississippi. Our little rental car was packed full on our way to WI, yet we managed to acquire four times what we started with due to generous Christmas gift giving.

One doggy in my lap and one at my feet, jamz blasting, hubby taking first driving shift...see you in about 13 hours, Mississippi!!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The obligatory resolutions post.

2011 was a year of significant change.  We moved cross country.  I realized that I didn't want to become a physician and that I'd like to pursue science research.  I think one thing that did remain constant was learning to thrive as a young married couple on a tight financial budget ;)

2012 is going to bring even more change.  My future is still up in the air as I wait to hear back from graduate schools for a prized interview slot and a secure position in a PhD program.  Will we move yet again? Will we stay in Mississippi?

While these things are still uncertain, one thing that I DO have control of is my own personal well-being.  New year goals are often made but rarely kept, but it's still fun to jot down aspirations and cling to the hope that I can keep them!

1.) I want to do all that I can to prepare myself to become a good scientist.  In my research, I want to ask questions and look for answers, read more journal articles, and become active at commenting on my favorite science blogs or Google+ posts.

2.) I've tried year after year to start a "Read the Bible in a Year" plan and pretty much set myself up for failure.  But I've realized that it isn't a race - and that is what most plans seem like.  Rather than trying to read cover to cover, I want to spend QUALITY time in the Word, letting God speak into my life at the moment.  Reading chronologically won't do that for me.  I don't want to treat the Bible as another textbook to schedule into my study time.  I want it to truly be life-changing.

3.) I want to commit myself to being a better wife - selfless and serving.  Simple as that.

4.) I am an introvert, and I am awful at keeping in touch with even my closest family and friends. (Naturally, this is why I started blogging - to have a place for people to "keep in touch" without me actually having to communicate directly...heh)  This year, I want to be better at making phone or Skype dates.  I want to write handwritten letters and cards.  I want to get better at small talk conversations.

5.) I want to read more for leisure.  There are so many great books that I've started and never finished.  I need to get caught up in the Song of Ice and Fire series.  I want to re-read The Hobbit and LOTR before the new movie comes out.  I want to start some new series.  I love to read, but just never make time.  2012 is the time to make time!

6.) I want to get back into playing the piano.  Without having to worry about juries or recitals, I should enjoy practicing because it will be for ME and for no one else.

What are your goals for 2012?