Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'm baaaaaack...

I'm back.

I spent most of June and July (6 weeks total) at Embryology
Boot camp
in Woods Hole, MA; came back to California after
stopping off in NY and Minnesota to visit parents & relatives; and
then went to Antibes, on the Cote d'Azur / French Riviera for a week
with my in-laws. I've been back just over a week, and I spent most of
that week dealing with long-neglected tasks and restarting my research
work.


Embryology Boot Camp


The Embryology course was really amazing. It was an intensive 6 wk
intro to animal development; we covered worms, flies & other
arthropods, four vertebrates (chick, mouse, Xenopus, and zebrafish),
ascidians, sea urchins, several annelids, ctenophores (comb jellies),
cnidarians, clams, other lophotrochozoans, and more clams. The format
was 2-4 hours of lecture a day, interspersed with 6-12 hours of lab
work, 6 days a week; each day usually stretched from 9:30am 'til 2am.
Drinking -- occasionally heavy drinking -- was part of
the course (par for the course? ;), as was late night swimming and
almost weekly parties.


The instructors were all excellent. Each lecture was typically
given by a different professor, and the professors were among the best
in their field. We usually had an hour-long Q&A session after each
lecture, so we could really get into their research. And in general
the lectures were coordinated with the labs, so immediately after hearing
about e.g. chick development, we could go into the labs and work with
chick eggs.


The lab part of the course was stunning: each group of teaching assistants
brought reagents and technique handouts, and were available throughout the
lab period to answer questions and help with techniques. I've never had
so many expert biologists waiting hand and foot on me ;).


Zeiss brought several million dollars worth of microscopes to the
course, too, so I could play with scopes that I simply don't have
daily access to even here at Caltech. They did keep on breaking their
own scopes by swapping out hardware, but that just means that I'm now
somewhat expert at troubleshooting their microscopes!


The best part of the course was the other students. There were 25 students
total, and I got to know the other 24 students really well. It was definitely
a boot-camp atmosphere, with the attendant intimacy and group dynamics.
Good stuff. I expect to be seeing 'em all again over the next few years.


It's hard to really explain how great this course was, but that's enough
gushing for now ;). I'll post some pretty pictures from there over the
next few weeks



Antibes and the Cote d'Azur


If you've been there, you understand. If you haven't, go. The
Nice/Antibes/Cannes area is fantastic. We stayed at the Three Palms, which I highly recommend.


For-work & for-fun programming


I'm slowly catching up on stuff. There are some twill issues
that need to be dealt with. I'm also working on updating the Cartwheel documentation to
fix the problems that an installer has been reporting. And sloooowly
but surely I'm picking up the pieces of my research from before the
summer: PhD or bust!


--titus


p.s. Looks like advogato's domain name has expired. Couldn't figure out anyway to renoo it.

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