Fair Warning

Jun 11 2014 Published by under Blog Maintenance

Tomorrow I am off into the friendly skies again, headed for that city on the bay for the 74th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association. That means my posts for the next week or so will involve diabetes and its complications, especially kidney disease.

Other random shiny objects sometimes catch my attention when I travel, so get ready for those as well.



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Work Re-Entry After Travel

May 14 2014 Published by under Travel

Nothing on your backlog rates this response...

I have returned to my office/clinic/hospital after two weeks on the road. I often tweet "No trip goes unpunished" during this period, because I always find an amazing amount of catch-up, even if my travels took me to something work-related with no opportunities for fun.

Some things can make this adjustment more tolerable:

  • Return home a day early, or take an extra day off: I got home Saturday night, so some of the laundry and household stuff got handled before I had a single chore at work. It cannot always be accomplished, but it sure helps if you can swing it.
  • When traveling on business, organize receipts during the trip: For this past travel block, I had 4 separate conferences. Receipts must be kept for reimbursement and, when I am paying my way, for tax purposes. Having each meeting's receipts in a separate envelope improved my mood substantially as I scanned and organized them. Scanning en route provides the most efficiency (see my review of Expensify from last year) so your report can be assembled quickly, but some organizations still want hard copy receipts.
  • Even on vacation, scanning your email for 5 or 10 minutes each day can make re-entry so much more pleasant: at least two-thirds of the emails I receive can be deleted, often without reading. Most of the rest requires no action on my part or a quick reply via smart phone. After a week incommunicado, I could easily accumulate 500 messages. Coming back to 20 makes that first day less onerous.
  • Finally, prioritize: Many of these items have been on hold pending your return to reality. Most of them can remain on the back burner until it's their turn for action. You do not have to get everything done at once. If you try, you will make yourself crazy, and then you will just need a vacation (and do this all over again).

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A Little Break...OR IS IT?

May 03 2014 Published by under Travel

I previously related my two weeks, four meetings, cross-country travel extravaganza. Jet lag no longer troubles me; my body has no idea what time zone it inhabits, not which one it should be in. I now find myself about half-way through my travels, with a beautiful day of me-time.

Hand Held Scanner Cam

Hand Held Scanner Cam

Today I went to a DC hot spot I had never visited, the International Spy Museum. The museum brings you in via an elevator filled with flashing lights, up to a third floor where you pick an identity. I went with a 50-year-old female microbiologist (although she was born in Viet Nam and now resides in California). You watch a short movie about espionage (narrated by Linda Hunt), and then you enter Spy School.  From there you have more exhibits about gadgets and spy craft.  For example, at left is the "rollover" camera that took photos as you rolled it over a large document. Sound anything like, say, hand-held scanners?

Pigeon Cam

Pigeon Cam


At right is my personal favorite from the pigeon room, the Pigeon Cam. Carrier birds provided invaluable transmission of messages during WWI. Someone came up with this small, light, automatic camera that took photos as the bird flew its route. The most famous pigeon, Cher Ami, won the Croix de Guerre for delivering a message, despite fatal wounds, that led to the rescue of a lost battalion. While her story made this museum, her taxidermied body minus the leg lost in battle can be seen in the National Museum of American History in the Smithsonian. This bird also made Time Magazines list of heroic animals (in fourth position).

Remember Cher Ami next time you kick a pigeon out of the way or call them "rats with feathers."

As it says, a rectal tool kit, filled with sharp instruments...

As it says, a rectal tool kit, filled with sharp instruments...

The gadgets and gizmos section also showed a number of miniaturized tools that would make Q jealous. Many were developed for paratroopers who needed stuff when they dropped in behind enemy lines, but it had to be small, light, and not easily found. This led to knives, compasses, and other items secreted into shoe heels, uniform buttons, and other locations...although the next photo would be "above and beyond the call of duty" in my opinion (all puns intended).

This option never came up in the James Bond movies, although there is an exhibit of 50 years of Bond Villains in the museum. All sorts of movie paraphenalia is on display, and the biographies of each villain are outlined. My favorite portion here involved a giant touch screen. When you hit a button, it opened metal "doors" into a tank of sharks (no laser beams; sorry, Dr. Evil). After just long enough, a large, open, toothy mouth hits the screen, appearing to break the glass. I watched a young boy damn near wet his pants!

The day continued on with the 007 theme. Raymond Benson and Jeffery Deaver are the only two American authors that the Fleming estate has allowed to write Bond novels. They have assembled and edited a collection of stories of Cold War intrigue, Ice Cold. They did an hour of Q&A, discussing their writing techniques and how they approached an iconic character like Bond. They also discussed the books and movies, as well as their own stuff.

They deny having anything to do with Putin's latest activities that have raised Cold War images again (although clearly the book's marketers have got to love it).

I also got to give Jeffry Deaver a piece of my mind for the 6 months I could not take a cab after I read The Bone Collector. He told me a couple of activities I may shy away from if I read his latest novel, The Skin Collector. You know, I really won't miss my laundry room.

Tomorrow it's back to business after a train trip to Philadelphia for the fourth Vision 2020 Congress. Or is that really the purpose of my trip? Can anyone really be certain?



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Countdown to #xBio 2014

Apr 11 2014 Published by under EB2014, Societies and Meetings

Two weeks from today I leave my home and head to glorious San Diego for Experimental Biology 2014, the annual gathering of the organizations that comprise the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, AKA FASEB. My favorite of these groups, the American Physiological Society, once again asked me to blog the meeting. I have finally gathered scheduling information and abstracts to organize my activities.

I will be attending and summarizing Saturday's session on storytelling for scientists, presented by Randy Olson. He has followed that traditional career trajectory from tenured professor to film school, and he wrote two books about scientists and communication skills (or, more accurately, lack thereof). I heard him speak at a screening of his film, Flock of Dodos, a few years back. His latest book, written with Dorie Barton and Brian Palermo, is Connection: Hollywood Storytelling Meets Critical Thinking. I am looking forward to seeing how his message has morphed over time. Obviously, I love communications, so this session is right up my alley.

Saturday also starts more traditional fare, including the Cannon Memorial Lecture. James M. Anderson of the NIH will present his talk, The Contribution of Paracellular Transport to Epithelial Homeostasis. As someone who teaches renal pathophysiology, this topic will be relevant. Look for some live tweets during this session.

Of course I will also attend and discuss the Gottschalk Award Lecture for the Renal Physiology Section on Monday afternoon. Susan Wall of Emory University will present her work on The Role of Pendrin the the Pressor Response to Aldosterone.

I have selected a number of abstracts that interest me; next week I will contact authors about coverage, either through email interviews, conversations on site, or perhaps even videos of them at their posters. See something in the program you think I should explore? Drop me a line via twitter (@phlane) or email (pascalelane [at] gmail...you know the rest).

Be sure and follow me on twitter as well as @expbio, and track the official meeting hashtag (#xBio) while you're at it. You may not be gazing on San Diego harbor in the sunshine, but you can still get a feel for the science at the meeting.

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Back to Reality

Mar 19 2014 Published by under Blog Maintenance, Uncategorized

Urologist's ad in bathroom at Traditions Field

Urologist's ad in bathroom at Traditions Field

I have finally returned from a much needed vacation in the sunshine of Florida. We watched six spring training baseball games and saw our daughter. The ad pictured to the right was posted on the back of the bathroom stall doors in Port St. Lucie where the Mets play. My spouse shared that the same practice advertised in the men's room for treatment of erectile dysfunction...something about helping you get to home plate.

Now I must work again. Catching up always challenges me. I have finally learned to do what I can do; the whole backlog does not have to be completed the first day back (even if everyone wants their piece done immediately).

I have some material for posts piling up on my desk, so you should see something science-like in the near future.

In the meantime, I have to see a few patients!

By the way, if you haven't done so yet, go over here and support science education while playing bracketology with Darwin's Balls, our NCAA Basketball group. I have Cinderellas winning a bunch of rounds, so I may be out after the second round!

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Back in Flight

Nov 01 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I write this post in the Oklahoma City airport, named for Will Rogers. This famous entertainer died in a plane crash, making the airport an ironic memorial.

Today begins 10 days on the road. The first stop is Philadelphia for the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Next week I relocate to Atlanta for Kidney Week 2013; I hope you have all your shopping done for the festivities!

Today while I enjoy the friendly skies, enjoy yesterday’s post; if nothing else, it includes the GIF of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer dancing in The Sound of Music. You’re Welcome.

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No Trip Goes Unpunished: Many Tiny Receipts

Apr 26 2013 Published by under Travel

One of the "joys" of returning from a trip involves sorting receipts.  Food, cabs, and other expenses have to be documented, either for reimbursement or tax purposes. Manually entering stuff into a spreadsheet seems so last decade...

Expensify provides a 2013 method that even interfaces with Evernote, a ubiquitous clip-and-file app that works across all major desktop and mobile platforms. You get receipts into your Expensify account through several methods, including email (great for airfare), scanned PDFs (hotel bill), or photographs taken with your smart phone (most everything else). The latter can be saved to an Expensify notebook in Evernote which will automatically sync with your online account. Alternately, you can use the smartscan app within the Expensify app to add those items. The service can identify the vendor and total amount without issues. It dates receipts by default with the date of the scan; I wish it would use the date on the receipt instead, as it does for the ones I entered in other ways. You can add comments, tags, and categories for your receipts via the smart phone or web platforms.

You then assemble the receipts into a report. You can cluster your items by category or in other ways. Below is a screen shot from the web site:

The report can then be emailed to other users, saved as a PDF, or merely printed out. The report will include thumbnails of all receipts plus full-sized versions. My four-day trip to Boston generated 18 receipts, mostly for cabs. The final PDF is 25 pages long because it includes all of these images.

The Expensify app is free, and a Core account includes 10 image receipts per month. Upgrading to the Pro level lets you scan additional receipts at $0.20 each, a bargain in my opinion. I had my information organized in a flash this morning, all ready for the IRS in 2014.


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KBO: Keep Blogging On

Apr 17 2013 Published by under EB2013

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Winston Churchill during the Battle of Britain admonished folks to KBO or keep buggering on (he would use "plodding" when his delicate lady typists were present).  In my case, KBO will be my motto for Experimental Biology in Boston, as noted in the title of today's post.

I have picked out some sessions that I want to hear and write about. Now I want to give Whizbangers the chance to nominate presentations. Do you have an abstract that you would like featured? I am game to write about it (although you neuroscientists will have to assume a very rudimentary background knowledge on my part). Either send me a message on twitter (@PHLane) or you can email me (pascalelane) at gmail etc.

Click to buy an Ass-Pet

Keep an eye on my twitter feed to know when my meeting posts go up. Also be ready for more ASPET jokes; ASPET is just so much fun to say!


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Stiff Upper Lip and All That

Apr 16 2013 Published by under Travel

Yesterday our hearts went out to the people of Boston and the Marathon. I cannot imagine running 26+ miles, let alone facing carnage at the end.

Of course, like a number of other scientist types, I am visiting Boston for Experimental Biology later this week. My husband's first reaction last night involved me cancelling the trip.

No, I decided. Boston will be swept with a fine-tooth comb over the next 4 days. It may be the safest place in North America.

Also I am reading a book set during the London blitz right now, with the population dealing with German bombs from the skies and IRA bombs in the tubes. Did Britain let these threats stop them? Hell, no! They plastered the buildings left standing with inspirational posters and hunkered down.

We should do the same, so I made this today:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Turns out there is a website where you can create your own variations on this poster. You can even buy merchandise with your message on it.

Terrorists/criminals win if they keep us away, and we will not help a single person by staying home. Let's show them what scientists are made of and get our butts to Boston!

It's the patriotic thing to do.

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Back Home Again

Nov 16 2012 Published by under [Etc]

I am finishing up my November travels. These began on Halloween with travels to San Diego to think about kidneys, followed by a flight up the coast to San Francisco for the Association of American Medical Colleges meeting. While there, I got to attend a great election watch party with a whole bunch of like-minded people. 

I came home for a weekend and a couple of clinics. This week I headed west again for my first trip to Portland and the annual congress of Vision 2020. We had an intense day discussing women and equality, with a panel on thoughts post election. [Hint: we all want Hilary to be president in 2016]

Now that I have once again acclimated to the pacific time zone, it's time to return to Oklahoma tomorrow. Future posts will deal with kidneys and discoveries and rampant feminist musings. In the meantime, I have to get packed.

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