Monday, May 30, 2005

busy-ness unsurpassed

this weekend was insane. for having 3 days, it seemed to go by awfully quick. friday night, i drove to greeneville by myself (jim having gone down thurs night) for sammy's graduation. we ate at zaxby's beforehand, went to the school, sat in miserable discomfort inside the hal henard gym, then went back to hang out and eat more at jim's parents. it was fun. unfortunately, i had to drive back at 11pm - due to a friend's wedding in nashville on saturday. i slept briefly, then got up, did some errands, straightened the house, cleaned the birds, fed the cages (haha), and then deb and sharon met me at my house, and we drove 3 hours to nashville.

ryan (a vet school compadre) and lacey got married at the cedarvine manor in lebanon. it was a lovely wedding, and since i was there with good friends - most of whom i hadn't seen since school adjourned almost a month ago - i had a great time. eating, dancing, drinking, dancing, and drinking. after the wedding, we went back to fiddy's house in brentwood (guy pal from school too) with 2 bottles of champagne - and sat on the patio under a starry sky with marshmallows and a fire. till 2am. we then adjourned indoors, where we sat up and giggled well into the wee small hours of the night. up promptly at 9am (10am eastern time), left at 11 (12 EST) - and got home around 3, only to unpack, shower off the smell of woodsmoke, have dinner, and meet up with friends to see star wars at west towne mall.

monday was no slower - with a cookout and family get together in greeneville. rather stressful, considering i am babysitting dee and alie's dog - river - a responsibility i take very seriously. river is very well-trained and obedient - but also highly attention deficit...! it was an interesting today with a few minor mishaps...nothing damaging thankfully. and now, here i am - home, exhausted, drained, ready for bed. i actually have to do something work-wise tomorrow - meet with my COE advisor and plan out the course of the experiment/research. which doesn't start till next week. . .

i guess that's all to report here. i'm sure there is other stuff - but i'm too fried mentally to think of it. good night.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

heartstopping moment

so we went to rhiannon's house tonight to look over our 'maybe' living arrangement. we're thinking about moving in with her in about a month's time. she has a 3000sq foot house with a huge basement that has a shower, sauna, and toilet - and room enough for us to set up a little house of our own down there, while still sharing the upstairs den and living room - even though we'd have our own living area downstairs. plus, she has parrots too - and we could share parrot responsibilities - etc. but i have trepidations, as is probably easily predicted. the rent would be GREAT, as would the rest of the bills. probably half of what we pay now. but i still don't know...

anyway, so we left her house and drove out south hills dr to where it meets the main rd that dumps onto alcoa highway. where south hills meets the main road is a very bad blind curve. it was 10p and very dark, and as we came up on the curve, i noticed 3 cars pulled over with hazards lights on. a moment later, i saw people clustered on the other side of the road, looking at something on the ground. jim says 'someone hit a dog' - and i thought he saw the dog. i started to get out to offer to take it to UT - when i see FEET sprawled out. my heart plummetted into my shoes. i sat back down and gasped to jim 'it's a person.' jim, of course, is not a panicker. he is also trained in CPR and first aid. so he jumps out to help. i just kind of sit there, too afraid to look, because i didn't want to see a dead person. he eventually comes back. it turned out to be an 11 yr old kid that was riding his bike on the street at 10 oclock at night, and a woman came around the blind curve and hit him. luckily, the curve is so bad, she couldn't have been going very fast. but, he did have a broken leg, by the looks - and was bloodied. but he was conscious and the ambulance was in hearing range - at that point. probably one of the more disturbing moments of my life. we left, because there wasn't anything to do - and the police and ambulance had arrived. but gawd. left me a bit queasy.

sooo. yeah. i feel like talking about the book i just finished. but it seems frivolous after that story. but the kid was alive and looked like he was going to stay that way, so i guess i can talk about lighter subjects, right? i read 'the clan of the cave bear' - in paperback - all 500 densely packed pages of it. i tried to read it all in one night, but at 5:15, everything looked really odd and my hands kept seeming to grow and shrink on the page i was holding. i figured it was time to sleep then. i finished it yesterday. really good book. i was surprised. i picked it up on whim and couldn't put it down. of course, there are 5 more books in the 'saga' - so i had to gather some old books i didn't want and take them to mckays for trade credit, so i could get the rest. i learned, after buying them, that the series took a nosedive after the 2nd book. but oh well. i'll see what i think. i read reviews of 3, 4, and 5 on amazon, and they were not favorable. most of them called the later books trashy caveman porn. which is disappointing, because the first one was really really good. it was researched (supposedly) in great depth, with details about plants and animals of the ice age - it was just riveting reading - not pornographic at all. so, i'm curious to see if they really do go downhill. i have a sinking feeling they will.

guess that's all to report here. i actually have work tomorrow for the majority of the day. exciting, eh?

Monday, May 23, 2005


our IACUC protocol got 'overlooked' when submitted, and so now, i can't start my research for 2 weeks. unfortunate. IACUC is institutional animal care and use committee. that have to approve whatever animal research we do, and somehow, our proposal got stacked with another by my research advisor - and missed. so, it takes 2 weeks to go through. this is only a ten week project, and 2 weeks are about to be wasted. drat. since i've already learned the flow cytometer, i'm finished with that stage until i start doing experiments. i'm going to learn comet assay sometime this week or next, but they don't have full kits for it yet, so i have to wait until they do to start that in full. this is frustrating. i don't really have anything to do for the next 2 weeks, except research and hashing out the intro to the paper. this is my paying job, too. so i'm going to have to spend a great deal of time everyday reading and writing about what we're doing. that's ok, i suppose. but i was excited about starting my research....and this is the 2nd time i've had to put it off.

sooooo...yeah. my allergies have been moderately bad. just enough to be seriously irritating but not incapacitating. i'm taking zyrtec, but i don't think i'm taking it frequently enough for it to build up correctly in my system. i usually take it every 15-20 hours...instead of every 12. i need to be regular about it. but i hate taking medication.

nothing else to say. i think i'm going to read the da vinci code ...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

going to try and explain

since amy seems interested, i'm going to try and explain how the cells are made to 'glow' more and also how they are differentiated from one another. bear with me if it gets gory because it's sooooooo neat how they do this. makes me wonder how people come up with these ideas. take a chicken Thelper cell. all Thelper means is a cell that helps fight off viruses (among other things). and they look at the surface of the T cell and say hey! that T cell has a special little antenna on it called CD4. other T cells (cytotoxic T for instance) and other immune cells don't have that little CD4 antenna. so they take that antenna off the Tcell over years of careful research and money, and they purify it and make a little solution of CD4 antennas. they inject those into a mouse. the mouse's immune system says 'hey! that ain't part of me! it must be bad, let's kill it!' so the mouse mounts an immune response and makes antibody to the CD4 antennas. so now you have something that reacts against the chicken CD4 antenna. that's what an antibody is. so, over many years and with lots of money, the CD4 antibody is isolated from the mouse and stored in little vials with a special fluorescent tag attached and sold for $300 for 0.1mg by southern biotech and the like. i order that and i put it in my chicken blood. and that CD4 antibody recognizes the CD4 antenna sticking out of the Thelper cell and says 'hey! i'm an antibody and i'm supposed to fight bad things! and i recognize that CD4 as a bad thing!' (because it came from the mouse, where CD4 antennas from another species are a bad thing) and it attaches to the CD4 antenna. and voila! now, you can run it through a flow cytometer and you have a little fluorescent tag attached to all your CD4s. that way, you can count how many you have and see if the immune system is working!! it's called mouse anti-CD4 chicken specific monoclonal antibody. (or mAB)

how neat is that?

double hohum

not much to report here. i ran the flow cytometer friday all by my little self - no supervision - and actually got good results. i figured - given my less than perfect lab technique coupled with my inexperience - that i would screw it up. (that's why i was practicing on chicken blood). but i did well. i'm pleased. now, i'm supposed to actually start doing research, but i don't have any parrot blood to start with - so i'm just waiting for something to happen. i may not have to work tomorrow, because really - i have nothing to do.

we went out to dinner last night at a place called t-ho. it was a vietnamese restaurant (south viet). it was really good food. i was surprised - because i'm so picky, but i really liked it. for an appetizer, we had 'grilled meatballs' - which turned out to be thinly sliced pork strips with cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, ginger, and peanuts wrapped in a paper thin rice thingy. really really delicious. for dinner, i had a chicken bowl with thin noodles. again, really good. i'm happy that i tried something new - given what a picky eater i am. and found a new ethnic food to enjoy. before dinner, alison and i shopped all day. i spent too much money, but it was fun.

i'm not reading anything right now. i don't feel any books speaking to me, which is generally a pre-req before i'll pick up a book. so i'm waiting. sooner or later, i'll feel one that wants to be read...

summer is a really boring time to hear from me.

so, i'm going to try and attempt to explain my research briefly.

ok...we want to be able to evaluate how a parrot's immune system is functioning. to do this, you need to be able to look at the different amounts of cells in the immune system. for those of you who don't know, your immune system has many cells, including B cells and T cells - which deal with either problems coming from outside your body (B cells) or problems within your cells (T cells), to see how your immune system works - we need to be able to count those types of cells. the way to do that is to use a flow cytometer. the cytometer uses a beam of light to count individual cells as they pass through the light in a liquid medium. all cells have a natural ability to fluoresce. but with the flow cytometer, we want to "pump up" that ability so that the flow cytometer can see them really well and also to mark the individual cells. so, we attach something to the cells (B, T, and a variety of others) that is SPECIFIC for that cell type and that cell type only. this attachment helps the cell fluoresce more. what the attachment is - an antibody essentially - is really complicated, so i'll skip that part. so - the attachments are EXTREMELY costly and difficult to make - takes years to develop them. as a result - we want to see if we can use the pre-existing attachments - made for chickens - in parrots and get the same results. that way we can start evaluating how a parrot's immune system is working (indicative of disease) without spending years and years and millions of dollars developing parrot-specific attachments (really - a parrot specific antibody).

see, wasn't that easy? you guys better'd read this...i'm excited about it

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


well, i'm back in the school environment. and i'm actually glad of it - which is probably a sign that i need serious mental help. but at any rate, i started my literature research today on flow cytometry, the comet assay, and avian hematology. i have a lot of reading to do tonight! btw, my brief explanation of my research is probably inaccurate and extremely simplified. what i'm doing, as evidenced by my literature search today, is actually kind of difficult to explain or understand...but i have a basic handle on it - and i'm excited to start!

yesterday, jim and i went climbing at the obed/clear creek scenic area. it is so beautiful up there. it's a gorge that runs in the cumberland plateau - and it's very wild/wildnerness area with heavy regulations regarding road building, cell phone towers, etc. it was a flawless day with exceptionally blue skies. we spent the whole day up there. we only actually climbed 2 climbs, because both of us are so out of shape physically. it was rather embarrassing. or would have been, had anyone been around to watch. but i enjoyed the day thoroughly and got a good workout by climbing and by hiking.

when we got home at 8p, i planned on a shower, then early to bed, as i had work this morning at 9. however, at around 8:30p, school called to see if i would come in as a member of foal team for a couple of hours. foal team is a group of us students (not 4th years) that are voluntarily on call to monitor foals when they come in to the hospital. foals that are sick need to be constantly monitored, and obviously, the 4th year students don't have time to do that. so, we go in and sit with the foal in 2-3 hour shifts to make sure they don't 'crash.' unfortunately, last night they needed someone after midnight. so i worked the 12:30-2:30 am shift. then came home and went to bed... i enjoy foal team though - so i didn't mind going in. even though i was a bit groggy at 8am.

i guess that's all that i have to say here. i read a really good book called 'midwives' - finished it tuesday night. it was about a midwife that is mid-delivery when she thinks the woman has a stroke and dies. she then gets a kitchen knife and does a c-section to save the baby's life. however, her assistant and the father both insist afterwards that the mother was still alive, just unconscious - as blood 'spurted' from the site of knife entry. the book is about her trial and the affect it had on her life. it was thoroughly enjoyable, very well-written, and convincing. i kept forgetting that it was a fictional book. i would recommend it to everyone. nothing objectionable in it.

at any rate, i have research to read.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


i went and saw 'crash' with sharon tonight at downtown west. it's a movie about racial tensions. not something i would normally see, as hollywood is such a skewed mess of self-aggrandizing, idiotic liberals. but the movie was good. it was less about racism than about hatred and segregation based on perceived stereotypes (or is that just another way of saying racism). i appreciated the movie on many levels. i'm sure it was flawed, but the movie didn't force awareness of its flaws on me (unlike revenge of the sith, which was just swill). the movie was beautifully filmed and the acting was amazing. it might have been just slightly too pat - the coincidences too perfect. i don't know. but it was a riveting movie. there were some parts that were so gut-wrenching and edge of the seat that i will probably not forget them for some time. there was one scene in particular that just grabbed me and held me. but i can't ruin it, lest some of you see it eventually. at any rate, i highly recommend it. i haven't given it a lot of critical, analytical thought, it's not a movie that lends itself to that - at least not on the surface. but i still enjoyed it thoroughly.

school starts in a month. it seems like a long time, but i know it won't be. it's interesting to me that i can realize that as much as i'm looking forward to it now, i'm going to be wishing it were over soon, too. how can both things be true? or perhaps i will go into school with a much improved attitude this fall and really enjoy the entire year. but then, vet school can crush you down sometimes..................ah well. it's all about attitude, right papa?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

tonight is the last night of my relative freedom:( tomorrow, at 8am, i join the masses of working stiffs (again!)...i start actual research on wednesday - monday and tuesday are orientation and introduction to doing research at the graduate/professional level. should be dull and useless...but anyway. at least it's not school, right? on a funner note, i started studying again last night. i know, i know - call the men in the white coats to lock me up. dee and alison came over - we watched a movie, then jim and dee finished up band of brothers. while they watched that, i studied bacteriology and immunology. i've decided, since i feel that i didn't learn anything in vet school, that i'm going to read some of my textbooks this summer and try to get a better feel for some of the subjects -namely bact, immunology, and virology. we'll see how long this drive lasts.

so, i'm sure everyone is just dying to know about my research. i'll keep it short, sweet, with small words. bird blood is different from any other species because (unlike every other species) birds' red blood cells have a nucleus. so, when doing a complete blood count (CBC) you can't distinguish (with machines) the difference between red blood cells and white blood cells. that's a crucial part of looking at blood. so...when looking at bird blood, you have to COUNT it by hand...on a microscope. it's time consuming and difficult. so, i'm using a flow cytometer this summer - which is a machine that uses a beam of light to examine centrifuged blood. the beam of light hits the sample and the way the light scatters indicates the structure of the cells. the hope is that this machine will be able to be used in blood samples for birds. on top of that, we're going to evaluate immune function in birds. i'm a little hazy on that should be fun though. at any rate, at least it'll be interesting. and my COE advisor has assured me that by the time i'm finished i'll be able to hold a parrot with one hand, draw blood with the other, and do a microscope smear all at the same time. handy knowledge.

at any rate, i guess that's all there is to report here...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

a wasted evening/morning

i went to mckays yesterday - with alison - to find a nice, light summer read to kick off the start of my 'freedom'..and i picked up nelson demille's newest, 'night fall', about the crash of TWA800. i started it at midnight last night, after i got back from alison's place. i tore through all 500 pages in about 6.5 hours - because the story was riveting and who doesn't love a good conspiracy theory? but the book was a crushing disappointment. the author builds and builds this story and you're sucked in, drooling, desperate for a climax. and then - you realize that you are 10 pages from the end of the book, and nothing has been remotely resolved. not a good feeling. then - enter the dues ex machina - albeit a real one - but a plot device nonetheless - and suddenly all the suspense and building tension is meaningless. it SUCKED. i'm so mad that i stayed up till 6:30 reading it, then 8am fuming that i wasted time reading it. you know it's bad when you actually stay up because you're too mad to sleep. i can't believe that an author like demille would resort to a stupid ending ... but he did. turns out, while writing the book, demille realized he'd 'written himself into a corner' - and asked his son for a suggestion on how to end the book. and i guess that explains why it is crap? ugh.

on the bright side, i got a nice copy of tolstoy's anna karenina - which i've been meaning to go back and read since my freshman year in college. i started it during the semester and found it very interesting. unfortunately, i didn't have time to finish it...being like 4000000 pages or something. so i bought it to read. jim's got a copy lying around somewhere, but it's nice and hardback, so i didn't want to break the spine or anything. i also got midwives, which i've been wanting to read ever since it popped up on oprah's (Read: satan) book club. i don't know what i'm going to read next. i'm so disillusioned! i guess i should start with a classic, something slow and weighty that i know will be good.

anyway, i start real work on wednesday of next week - but i have 2 stupid orientations to go to on monday and tues - so i guess my fun ends this weekend. i am getting a week off mid-july to go to the beach with my family. and i also get the 3 weeks off prior to school starting. i have a feeling that summer is going to bolt by...

Monday, May 9, 2005

filling the void

well, i'm finished. it feels real now, because i got the other 2 grades i wasn't sure about today - epidemiology and micro anatomy. so, my final grades for the semester:

Parasitology: A
Virology: A
Epidemiology: A
Micro Anatomy: B+
Physiology: B
Gross Anatomy : C+

yes, it sucks, i did make a C+ again in Anatomy, but it really doesn't matter - because i survived this semester with most of my mental health - and made purty darn good grades. except for gross! it's a great feeling knowing that i want to take a nap - at 5pm - and that i can - no guilt, no worries, no responsibilities. of course, my house is filthy and disgusting and all my school paraphenalia from this semester needs organizing, categorizing, and storage- but i can ignore that until i wake up...

i have big plans for this summer. lots of reading, relaxing, napping -- parrot research...i'm looking forward to the rejuvenation. i'm also - strangely - already looking forward to next year and all the challenges it's going to bring. ok, honestly - i'm really looking foward to being in the 2nd year classroom - and never having to sit in the AWFUL first year classroom again. for those of you who haven't seen it - the 1st year classroom is designed to hold about 50 people and AV equipment and a professor - but we had 70 crammed in there. all the desks were right on top of one another and one couldn't sneeze or stretch without spraynig or kicking someone (respectively). it's not designed for maximum visibility or acoustics either. basically, it's a crowded, dark room. the 2nd year classroom - on the other hand - is tiered (like the new movie theaters) with heavily padded, movie-theater style chairs - at least 1 foot on any side before you touch another desk or person, a movie screen type LCD screen that comes down from the ceiling - and good lighting. it's like going from night to day. i'm so excited to be in that room next year. i've also decided that i'm going into next year with a different (eg positive) attitude. . .!

so, i guess i could talk more about my summer plans - but that nap sounds awfully good right now.

Friday, May 6, 2005

it's over

i was up till 4:30am. i'm going to bed. for a long time. good night

Thursday, May 5, 2005


hello chickens. i've passed exhausted and move straight into total delirium. in a little more than 14 hours, i will be finished with my first year of vet school. i can't tell you how happy that makes me. all the vets i talked to told me what a great time vet school is - how much fun you have - etc. and while yes, i have made lifelong friends and discovered things about myself that i never knew - and been more stressed than i ever thought possible - i don't think you could pay me any sum of money to live through it again. but -- on the other hand -- when i think about graduating and living in the real world, it kinda makes me sad. school is great. it takes up all my time, sucks up all my mental powers - all my strength and sanity - and yet - all i have to do every day is go to school and learn. and hang out/study with people whose company i really enjoy. not so truly bad, is it?

i made an A on my parasitology midterm, which absolutely blows my mind. i didn't get to do any studying except for the day before - which was awful...but i made an A on the final and kept my A in the class. YAY. oh wait, grades don't matter in vet school, right? ha. i made a C in anatomy, as predicted. but i can't complain, considering i BOMBED the final *128.5/200 points* -- i wish i had done better, it would have been nice to get a better grade this fall, but i have friends who made Ds, so i can't really bitch about it.

so at this point: CCE: A, Parasit: A, Virology: A, Phys: B, Gross: C - leaving Epidemiology (took today - GRUELING) and Micro (in the morning). Epidemiology was mentally exhausting. the test revolved around general concepts of research and also 3 lengthy articles, which we were to read in great detail prior to the test and dissect into minutaie (spelling?) - it took me the full 2 hours - and by the time i left - my brain was aching. i came home, took 2 aspirin and 2 sudafed, and slumbered for a good 3.5 hours. and now i'm here, marooned in the computer lab - studying for my LAST FINAL of FIRST YEAR.

ok, to work now. kisses.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005


this is catherine ashe, reporting live from just this side of hell. you might think i'm referring to los angeles or a third world country like ethiopa, where they have REAL problems - but no, i'm referring to finals week. i just finished my fourth final - parasitology. i have 2 more left - epidemiology and micro anatomy. at this point, i have 2 As (virology and CCE) and 1 B (phys). i don't know any other grades - at this juncture.

finals suck. i'm running on around 4 hours of good sleep per night - and short naps (2 hours) during the day. i keep telling myself TWO ....... MORE ..... DAYS. then it's over. i think i have an ulcer. every time i eat, my stomach burns horribly, and i can't finish a whole meal. i've also been in major gastrointestinal distress since the week started. it's been fun all around.


i'm going to take a nap now, before i die of cotton-stuffed headedness.

Monday, May 2, 2005

1 down, 4 to go

this morning at 9am, i joined my fellow 69 classmates and took the gross anatomy final exam - laboratory and practical. it was grueling and awful. i feel terrible now that it's finished. stupid, i guess. it was very difficult...and it just made me feel so stupid when it was finished. i could cry right now. i should be happy. i'm finished with gross anatomy forever. that's a good thing. but instead, i just feel cruddy. and i have to settle down and study for neurophysiology, because i could possibly keep my B in that class.