Cross-Country Connections: Forgotten

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Forgotten.

Heads up – Mom has a mystery that she needs help solving!

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

CCC Forgotten BrianneOne of the most ginormous and joyful tasks of getting the apartment back in order after the flood is reorganizing my books. During all of that I found this: a signature book that my mom, dad and sister gave me for our family vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. On the inside cover is “Brianne Bilyeu, Walt Disney World 1994″. The first page is filled with signatures from Mom, Dad and Erin with well wishes for a happy trip. Further in are all of the signatures that I collected from famous Disney characters: Mary Poppins, Crazy Dale, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, Brer Rabbit, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland: 

CCC Forgotten Erin

Forget going to work today. Apparently. Freezing rain means lazy government workers get to telecommute today.

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois: 

CCC Forgotten Mom

A forgotten treasure. I have never found any one who could tell me what it is. Not even the nearly forgotten friend who gave it to me.

Who will protect the unborn children…er…the evidence?

New Mexico state representative Cathrynn Brown will take on that cause! She is very concerned about the rights of women who are being forced to have abortions by their rapists, so she has introduced House Bill 206 to define a fetus as evidence if the fetus is a result of rape. And as we all know from Law and Order – you can’t tamper with evidence.

So —> Fetus = evidence

Thus —> Abortion = tampering with evidence

*facepalm*

Here’s part of the relevant language:

Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.

Of course it’s that “procuring or facilitating* an abortion” that really makes this about forcing women to continue an unwanted pregnancy. I’m all about punishing anyone who attempts to compel or coerce another to obtain an abortion. But the beginning part of that sentence implies that even if you aren’t compelled or coerced, even willingly you can’t get an abortion if your pregnancy is a result of rape.

“But wait,” you say, because you have an brain, “how will a fetus or infant prove that a woman was Really Raped?” Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but Rep. Brown didn’t get around to saying what exactly the rape baby would be evidence of. And wait a minute – why would a pregnant woman say she was raped? After all – her body didn’t shut that whole thing down, so she must have wanted it. Oh no…I wonder if Rep. Brown considered that? I should write her.

If you think of any helpful hints or suggestions, you can write her too.

Here’s a video from HuffPo with the story. The reporter on video is fantastic. I love the moment when she drops her professional persona over this bullshit story.

Both chambers are controlled by Democrats. And this was a Tea Party Republican and she’s kind of known for bills like this. She’s introduced a couple of different anti-abortion bills. Um, so it’s not likely to pass, ah, but it’s really interesting that … uh…you know… she was elected. [pause] At all.

I can’t embed the video, so clicking on the image below will take you to HuffPo’s site and the video source.

HuffPo Report

*Meaning that the doc and clinic could be held liable too. This is just icing on the cake for Rep Brown, who is one of the latest politicians attempting to use political power to usurp doctors’ abilities to provide care that benefits their patients when that care has to do with lady bits.

Winter Blues

I’ve been majorly blah lately. I haven’t felt like writing; the world seems full of problems that seem way too big to tackle. Rapes, gun violence, gun rhetoric, environment going to shit, shitty people in political power doing shitty things to the people who put them in power, prejudice and privilege running rampant everywhere I look (including in the mirror), normal background online crappiness. And then there’s dealing with the aftermath of the flood plus super-long hours at work. Ugh. Where to begin? The 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade yesterday was almost enough to get me to put fingers to keyboard, but when I sat down to write I just started at the screen for a while and my mind wandered off. Which was a shame because I had already composed the article in my noggin and just needed to get it out. I finally closed my laptop and went off to bed feeling like a failure. But the feeling was kind of muted and detached, like a voice said “Well you botched that one up.” and I responded to myself matter-of-factly, “Yup. G’night.”

All of these things lead me to believe that I need to start taking Vitamin D pills again. My doctor prescribed them last year because I tend to be on the low end of the normal range, and last winter I dipped way below the low end. Winter blues suck. But I promised myself that I would write and publish something – anything! – tonight. I’m hoping it will kick start a more regular pattern of writing. And hopefully the Vitamin D will help kick start me.

So…let me think. What’s coming up that’s exciting or inspiring? Hmmm… Well, I’m being sent to California for some work-related stuff. I’ll be just outside of Los Angeles (Brea) for a full week. February is a good time for a Minnesotan to visit California. The weekend prior I’ll be at Con of the North, a gaming convention here in the Twin Cities. That’ll be fun. In March the Chicago Skeptics are holding their second Skepticamp on March 2nd – I’m hoping to make it down for that. In April the Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists from the University of Minnesota are holding their first major conference called SkepTech. I’m speaking at that one along with some awesome people y’all might have heard of before.

So yeah, there’s stuff to be excited about. That’s good. Good reminder.

But that’s all in the future. I feel the need to share some happy now. Here – have some scientist kittehs from the blog “It’s Okay To Be Smart“:

deflexion_curvature

Hey – we’re looking for a new floor rug (in the 5′ x 8′ size range) and would love to find something geeky or sciency-themed. We’ve already ruled out the Wampa rug from Think Geek, and we’re not in love with the astronomy/night sky rugs we’ve found. All of the stuff designed for class rooms that we’ve seen has been very primary colored/designed for elementary school-aged kids. I want something sciency-artsy like this on a rug, but to do it I’d probably need to do a custom logo printing deal (and, you know, permission from the artist and all that). Any suggestions?

Cross-Country Connections: Why?

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Why?.

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois: 

CCC Why Mom

Because she can, I guess.

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota: 

CCC Why Bri

…is the rum whiskey always gone?

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland:

CCC Why Erin

I guess this is more of a huh than a why, but there you go. Seen outside a Walgreens, where you would normally see handicap parking spots.

Cross-Country Connections: Ugh

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Ugh.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland: 

CCC Ugh Erin

Ugh, my boys: they’re so lazy.

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois: 

CCC Ugh Mom

Ugh. This will take several days to wash. Need to get rid of some clothes!

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota: 

CCC Ugh Brianne

Post-apartment flooding: All of the water from the shop vac was dumped into the tub. Ewwww. Now the landlord will have to unclog the tub. Ugh.

1000 Posts

This is the 1000th post for Biodork. Some of those 1000 were contributed by others. Some pieces were bigger, more meaningful and thought out than others. But by hook or crook, here we are at one thousand! So:

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank 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you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

One thousand thanks to all of you who have made 1000 blog posts such an enjoyable milestone.

Here’s to 1000 more.

Cross-Country Connections: Field

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Field.

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota: 

CCC Field BrianneA winter field in Chaska, Minnesota.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland: 

CCC Field ErinNot grass but a beautiful field of vision (like how I stretch these themes?) at Great Falls National Park in Virginia.

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois: 

CCC Field MomA field of art. Found on a drive with Bri in Minnesota last Thanksgiving.

Ficoll Fun

Here’s a cool science photo from the lab:

RBCs in Ficoll

What we’re looking at is whole blood that is separating into its various components.

Blood is made up of red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs) and plasma. If fresh, whole blood is left sitting in a tube, the denser RBCs will slowly fall to the bottom, leaving the less dense, pale, yellowish plasma on the top. The WBCs cannot usually be seen unless separated from the red cells by centrifugation.

This particular tube was filled with Ficoll Paque, a chemical that looks and moves like water. It is used to help separate blood into its different components. Ficoll is less dense than RBCs, but more dense than plasma and some of the WBCs. Blood was very slowly and carefully pipetted on top of the Ficoll. You can see where the whole blood was layered and the Ficoll starts – it’s the place where the RBCs begin to “shower down” through the clear layer, making it look speckled. This tube was left sitting on the bench for about 15 minutes and the RBCs are collecting on the bottom of the tube:

RBCs in Ficoll with labels

Neat stuff, huh? Here’s what it looks like after centrifugation:

Separated Cells

The bottom layer is RBCs, followed by a thin layer of granulocytes (the name for  WBCs that have granules in their cytoplasm. The granules make them denser than the Ficoll). Above that is a wide band of the Ficoll, then a thin, translucent layer of white blood cells called mononuclear cells (the name for WBCs that have a single-lobed nucleus. MNCs don’t have granules in their cytoplasm). And at the top of the tube is plasma.

And all we have to do at this point is carefully pipet the different layers that we want separated:

Separate Components

From left to right: the first tube contains plasma, the second tube is comprised of three layers: Ficoll, granulocytes and RBCs, and the third tube holds our prize: the mononuclear cells.

And because I think it’s pretty, here’s one more photo of RBCs drifting down through Ficoll. These three tubes were layered one after the other. The one that was layered first has had the most time to separate, the one that was layered last has had the least:

Ficoll Time Course

Happy New Year – With Butter!

Eye-roll warning – Below is way too much modern city-person excitement about discovering a process that’s been known to this world for thousands of years and probably a number of young students who have done cooler science experiments in class than I did.

You guys – I made BUTTER!

I made some whipped cream for the New Year’s Eve party that I attended, and while I was there one of the guests asked if I had ever let the cream whip too far and accidentally made butter. And I was all like, SHUT UP I CAN MAKE MY OWN BUTTER JUST BY WHIPPING CREAM FOR TOO LONG!?

This was happening. But, you know, after lots of caipirinhas and ringing in the new year.

Fireworks

Happy New Year, 2013! Photo by bayasaa on Flickr (CC-BY)

The next morning:

I had a half pint of heavy cream left over so I threw it in the Kitchen Aid mixer and set that puppy to eight and waited eagerly for sticks of butter to arrive.

And waited.

And waited.

After about seven minutes I had thick whipped cream, but it wasn’t until the fifteen minute mark that I started hearing slurping, splashing noises from the bowl. After about another minute I had this:

Fresh Butter

Fresh butter caught in the whisk and buttermilk left in the bottom of the bowl.

I pulled out the butter from the whisk and strained the buttermilk. All of the butter went into a bowl and then I smooshed as much liquid as I could from it with the back of a spoon. Then I transferred the butter onto some wax paper and made a butter stick…err…roll:

IMAG1064

Mmmm…agitated fat globules.

Of course, then I needed something on which to try out my new butter, so I made pancakes (gluten-free).

Pancakes with Butter

Butter on cherry pancakes.

Oh, and then I used the buttermilk in some alfredo sauce that night.

Yum.

And because I read a lot of time travel books, one of my thoughts during this process was how I’m now totally set for work if I ever accidentally get transported back in time (I assume that most of my science know-how will be a bust because if I start talking about little tiny bugs that make us sick, or other up to 21st century science, I’ll get burned as a witch or locked in an asylum). I’m going to be the butter QUEEN! But I’ll have to figure out how to harness electricity and invent a Kitchen Aid first because that churning crap looks like way too much work.