Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Update

Things are humid and sticky here in the heartland. We are getting along fine, even though our a/c stops working on the dot every Friday afternoon so we can spend the weekend simmering in our own fluids. But it's fixed now.

My job is going well. I'm really liking the people I work with and campus is beautiful. The work I am doing is pretty clerical at this point, but I've been promised that it gets better.

Scott is being research-y, and I think he is ready for school to start so he has something to do while he has to wait for me to get off of work. The tomatoes are blooming and I planted black beans on Saturday that are already shooting out of the dirt. Besides that, not much is going on.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Omnivore's Dilemma

This weekend I finished the above mentioned fascinating book by Michael Pollan. It has three sections. The first is how corn has taken over our entire diet and a substantial part of our farmland. The second is his experience in a sustainable farm "Polyface Farm" in Virginia. The third is his quest to create a meal that he "hunted and/or gathered". After reading the book I've come up with some goals for my eating. Granted they are goals and probably not all completely feasible until Scott has a real job, but I think my heart's in the right place.

1)The bulk of what I put in my body should not be processed
2)The food should mostly come from a local source
3)Meat should be a special occasion. Most of our meals should be meat free.
4)The meat that we do eat should be grass fed - we can get this at our farmer's market-I don't know what we're going to do in the winter, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.
5)I want to grow a large part of my own food. This is really the only way I can figure out how to achieve all of this. Vegetables are expensive and food from your own backyard has very little carbon footprint!

Now of course this doesn't mean that we won't eat out or demand these rules from anyone else. I'm really not sure if I can enforce these rules on Scott. I just want to try to be more responsible with what we spend a lot of our money on. "Eat your view!"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Case of Animal Activism

As a scientist and animal researcher, I obviously have biased opinions about animal rights. The nice thing about this blog is that I get to share them with you. Better yet, if you disagree, you have to post it on your own blog because this blog is firmly opposed to absurd opinions.

Now that I've hopefully limited my audience by offending some of our readers, I can finally get to the point. Animal research is an essential part of biomedical science. Some would have you believe that it is unnecessary, avoidable, and even a hindrance to scientific progress. These people would also have you believe that scientists who practice animal research are heartless, cruel and sadistic individuals who relish in inflicting pain and suffering on other species. Many would also try to convince you it is just to strike back at research institutions through vandalism, threats on personal safety, burglary, arson, and other illegal activities. It should go without saying that these people are idiots, plain and simple.

The sad part is that like many idiots, they are good at making their voices heard. Of course, when you look closer at what many of them say, it makes you wonder why they are permitted to open their mouths (see a list of interesting quotes). Nonetheless, they have their first amendment rights and they exercise them liberally. Unfortunately, this has the effect of making their opinions seem more prevalent than they really are, and can have the effect of making it look "mainstream" or even "popular." To complicate the matter, those of us who disagree with their views tend to remain quiet, even in the face of their hate-filled propaganda. That is something that I mean to personally change.

Animals do indeed have rights, and they should be treated with dignity and respect. I believe that while animal research is essential to the progression of biomedical science, it should be conducted in a responsible and respectful manner towards the animals used. In my experience, this is the guiding principle that governs most, if not all, animal research laboratories. Animal researchers do not relish in animal pain and suffering, but we work to minimize or completely avoid it in all of our work. Researchers view loss of animal life as a necessary cost toward developing a science that will improve the lives of both humans and non-human animals. Without animal research, human and veterinary medicine would be still relying on archaic and inaccurate practices and create a far greater amount of suffering to both humans and non-human animals than it does at present.

I have personally had enough of the ignorant falsehoods that the extremist animal activist groups distribute. Furthermore, their tactics and illegal activities are detrimental to society and are designed to deter by fear and coercion (see list of illegal activities committed in the name of animal rights, posted with pride on their own websites...). The term 'terrorism' comes to mind... As such, I am vowing to be more vocal in speaking out in favor of animal research and against the violent, hateful, and dangerous activities taken my animal rights extremists. If you feel at all similarly, I encourage you to do the same, and find out more information from the sites listed below:

Pro-Test
Speaking of Research
Foundation for Biomedical Research
Americans for Medical Progress

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Unleavened Bread

We made naan, and I'm tickled about it. We fell in love with the Indian Oven back in Logan and I've always wondered how you would make naan (my personal favorite part about eating Indian food). Turns out, not difficult. Flour, salt, baking powder, and plain yogurt. Though the baking part was a bit intensive, I think this could become a habit. You have to have a hot griddle going and your oven on at 500 degrees so I don't recommend doing it in the heat of the afternoon. We topped ours with melted butter, honey from the farmer's market, and cilantro (had to use the dried stuff as mine is still trying to grow back).

Other things I have made during my unemployment:
Pesto-from my own basil
Tomato Basil Pasta Salad
Basil Lemonade-a new favorite-can you tell we had a lot of basil to use?
Baja Black Beans, Corn and Rice

My job is going to be a great one. One of my main responsibilities is to work with scholarship recipients and donors. The Dean wants me to start nurturing past donors and making sure that they get updates on the recipients of the scholarship that they funded, stuff like that. They had to do a background check on me because I will be dealing with other people's money and that takes 3-5 days so hopefully I will start on Monday. Here is my next gardening project.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Updates

First off, this post is to commemorate our first 100 posts on Cumulative Record (this being the 101st post). Yay for us!

Since Jentry kept everyone in suspense about her job and everyone seems antsy to know what it is, I thought I might as well post and give our friends and family some updates on how we're doing in Lincoln. You'll note that this is a break from the norm in my posting style; as I mentioned to Jentry, I prefer to limit the topics of my posts to the superficial rather than real. However, it always brings a smile to Jentry's face when I do actually post something other people actually care about, so here I go.

The move went well, despite being expensive (as all moves are). The most costly part of the move was not the U-Haul rental, the new apartment deposit, the fuel consumed while travelling, or even our overnight stay in North Platte, NE. It was the gap between paychecks we're experiencing between our last checks from jobs in Logan and our coming checks from our new jobs in Lincoln. It's amazing what a difference a few weeks without pay makes when you're living from paycheck to paycheck. Nevertheless, we're surviving and actually doing quite well in spite of it (please, no charitable donations, unless you last name is Gates). Jentry had a slightly harder time of the move than I did, since when I got here I immediately had things to do in my new laboratory, whereas Jentry had to look for jobs and wait for them to get back to her, with nobody to hang out with all the day long. Being the trouper that she is, however, she got along quite well considering how miserably bored she must have been at home alone all day long while I was on campus.

Fortunately, Jentry will no longer have to endure to loneliness of our empty apartment, as she has indeed found a job, and just the job she was hoping to get at that. If fact, she has much reason to be happy because she actually got the first job she applied for, and not many people can say that. As fun as it would be to leave it at that and not tell you what job it is, I'm going to be civil and share the secret: Jentry is working as a Staff Assistant to the Dean of Education and Human Sciences on the East Campus of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. It is the exact same job she had in Logan except that she'll be in the Dean's Office instead of the departmental office, and as a consequence, she'll also make a bit more money. What her additional responsibilities will be I am not certain, but maybe she'll divulge sometime if everyone behaves nicely.

As for myself, graduate school is both exactly and not exactly what I anticipated. My schedule is definitely more flexible, and I have a lot more freedom to govern myself and spend my time on things that I am personally interested in. In the same vein, however, I feel somewhat confused at times about what exactly I should be doing. Mostly I have been doing a lot of reading, both of various papers that have been recommended to me to read and articles that I find on my own that I suppose might be interesting of valuable to know. I have been doing a lot of procedural training as well. As every lab is slightly different on how they take care of their animals or perform their injection procedures, or maintain their laboratory, etc., I have a lot to learn about how things work around the UNL lab. For one, I'm having to learn to perform injections much more rapidly, for many more rats. It's a good thing. I really like the lab here, and I think their procedures are very refined and efficient, so I'm eager to learn what I can. On Saturday I will get my first experience with surgeries. Twenty rats need to have IV catheters surgically implanted, so several of the graduate students will be in the lab to perform them (which will take most of the day) and I will get to observe and be trained on anesthesia procedures, etc. It should be interesting, and I'll let you guys know how it goes.

As for my projects in the lab, I have been given several things to work on (as of yesterday), and all of them involve IV-prepared rats, which is a new experience for me. It isn't typical (from what I hear) for a graduate student to come into the lab and have several projects to work on immediately, or to even start training on IV-procedures so quickly, so I feel both a little nervous and pretty excited about the opportunity to do so. We'll see how things go. One of the big differences between this lab and the USU lab (of which there are many) is that most of the people in this lab have a strong neuroscience and pharmacology background, but less of a strict behavioral and learning training. USU was quite the opposite, for the most part. So it is interesting to be coming into the lab from a quite different perspective, and to both be completely ignorant of many principles of neuropharmacology, but somewhat knowledgeable about principles of learning and behavior. I'm very glad I came to this lab because I feel that I both have a lot to learn from the people here, but also a lot to contribute from my previous behavioral training. Let's say that I am optimistic about my experience at UNL.

That more or less sums up our experience thus far in Lincoln, but I'm sure we'll keep you posted on further updates.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Window/Balcony Garden

What once were these:


Became these:


Are now these:



The tomatoes survived the car trip and are thriving in the humidity. I am growing them upside down so gravity does all the work and I don't have to worry about keeping them standing upright. With the process of getting them through the little hole in the bottom of the pot some branches got ripped off, but I think they will be okay. Hopefully before the summer is out we will have some tomatoes!

P.S.-I got a job - a really awesome one.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Home on the Range

Jentry has recently been reading a book entitled The Omnivore's Dilemma, which from what I understand is a well prepared criticism on our food-industry's over-reliance on corn in virtually all food products. To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, but I'm also not the one reading the book. One thing that Jentry and I have discussed a few times that the book mentions is the differential pros and cons of grass-fed beef compared to grain-fed (corn-fed) beef. To give a brief summary of the issue, post-WWII, the beef-industry has switched from raising cattle primarily in open grassland ranges to grain feedlots. The shift is largely due to ranchers' ability to produce beef year-round, at a lower cost (to producer and consumer), at a faster rate (corn-fed cattle grow much faster), and with more consistent results. Economically speaking, these are all terrific advantaged for cattle ranchers. However, proponents of grass-fed beef argue that there are several disadvantages to grain-fed beef. Some of those include:

  1. Grain-fed cattle succumb to more health problems, like acidosis and rumenitis, "feedlot polio," liver problems and others. In fact, it is considered the norm for feedlot cattle to have one illness or another (Gardner, B.A., et al, "Health of Finishing Steers: Effects on Performance, Carcass Traits, and Meat Tenderness." J. Animal Science, 1999. 77:3168-75.).
  2. Grain-fed cattle ranching practices are believed to contribute to climate change by environmental scientists. Obviously, this is one of the more controversial arguments against grain-fed beef.
  3. Repeated studies have shown that grass-fed beef is nutritionally superior to grain-fed beef. Specifically, grass-fed beef is reported to have more beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), less saturated fat, more omega-3 fatty acids, more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, believed to reduce the risk of heart-disease and cancer, and often added to grain feeds because of its health benefits), more Vitamin E, more protein, and lower levels and more benign strains of E. coli than grain-fed beef (numerous reports, but see Kraft et al. 2008, Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 56:4775-4782.)
  4. Antibiotics and hormones administered to grain-fed cattle have been correlated some health risks in humans, including breast cancer, premature sexual maturation in females and reduced antibiotic efficacy in treating bacterial infections (Casewall et al., 2003, J Antimicrob Chemother, 52, 2:159-61.)
While it is true that grain-fed beef is cheaper, easier to find, and argued by many to be more tender and flavorful, perhaps it comes at a unforeseen cost, particularly to human health. It's an interesting issue, one I'm not sure I've completely formed an opinion on, but aside from being more expensive and slightly less convenient to purchase, I don't see any reason not to prefer grass-fed beef when the choice is available. As a bit of a BBQ connoisseur, I'm thinking about grilling up some steaks from both grass-fed and grain-fed sources and comparing them in terms of flavor, tenderness, and cost, and perhaps posting my opinions for the rest of you to analyze. It seems like a good excuse for some great steaks nonetheless.

Check out EatWild.com for more information on grass-fed meat.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

New Pad


Front Room

I put together this table all by myself!

Bedroom

The view from our balcony.

Nebraska sunset view from our balcony after a storm

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Amazing Weather

Amanda, one of the fellow graduate students in the lab, tipped me off to this great weather website that has much more information that weather.com, which is was I was using. the site is Weather Underground, and it's pretty cool, I must say. Best of all though were these amazing photos that people had posted on there of weather and wildlife. It makes me wish I had a fancy camera really bad. Someday it'll be my new hobby. Below are a few sample photos from the site.










Tuesday, July 01, 2008

We live in Nebraska now

We made it to Lincoln. Here are a few things I have learned so far:

I hate moving mostly the packing and then the unpacking

Key Bank and T-Mobile do not exist in Nebraska (who knew? you would think that if they existed in Logan, UT they would exist everywhere else.)

Not having a job is boring

Not having a job and having to unpack boxes is even more boring

Not having a job and having to unpack boxes in the humidity and being alone because your husband is off being a Ph.D student is boring.

Pictures to come