Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Village

Aside from being completely off-topic for this blog (which I do only VERY maybe twice in 125 posts), this long and sappy, but heartfelt and true post is for those who make a difference in my life.

I am grateful today for the people and places who help me get through this crazy time of life.  Being a single mom is no fun, especially when it comes to stress and finances.  There are great programs in the community that have helped me pay for school so I wouldn't end up stuck in a dead-end job, watch my kids when I need to go to the doctor or just need a few hours off, help pay utility bills, knock $10 off my monthly phone bill, get me $10 per month internet, pay for my food so I have one less thing to worry about in taking care of my family, pay for child care so I actually CAN go to school and work.  I complain a lot about the bureaucracy of the Department of Workforce Services, but in all truth I'd never have made it this long without them.  Thank you.  The Family Support and Treatment Center is my rock...I literally thank God for the nursery there, counseling services, etc.  They've done so much for me.

Individual people have found and given me jobs, loaned me gas money even though they were pretty much broke themselves, informed me about more community resources, picked up my children and watched them for me when I couldn't get there in time myself, or graciously let me bring children to meetings where that would normally not be okay because I couldn't get anyone to take them, given up pretty much every single weekend to babysit my kids even when I have to postpone paying them or "pay" them with food.  Many have listened to me whine and encouraged me to keep going for my goals.  Some close friends were there for me when I didn't know who else I could possibly call, and they gave me love, understanding, and excellent advice.

Wonderful brothers who take my kids under their wings, a sister who let me crash her house for over a year which also made my summer in Oregon a possibility, the best father ever who single-handedly got me through Anatomy by watching my kids 2 or 3 times a week and gave love and support and still does.  A friend who took my kids overnight when I was very ill so I could just...sleep.  A man who fell in love with my kids over the summer and goes out of his way to show he cares about them.
Thanks to all the people who continually encourage me in the things I do.

Friends who tell me I'm awesome, that I can do it, that I will reach my goals and don't give up on those dreams, love me unconditionally, give me great advice, act as a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, and tell me like it is, cutting through all the bullsh**.  You are the best kinds of friends, love you guys.

One unknown, wonderful person left a gift at work for me which made all the difference now as I am experiencing an interruption of food stamps, but I got to use that gift card a few days ago and have enough to feed my family.  Thank you, whoever you are.

It really takes a village to do this single mom thing.  I get discouraged and overwhelmed frequently.  But it's so good to remember what all these beautiful people have done for me.  For the part each of you have done, large or small, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I love you all.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Vision - colors

This podcast about color is so awesome.

Wish I could have the eyes of a mantis shrimp!  We have only 3 types of cones (photoreceptors) for color vision, they have SIXTEEN!  I always feel like there must be colors that I can't see and wonder what they would look like.  I will be coloring a picture and looking around for different colors to use and I just can't find them and I realize that's all that I can see.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Brain Day at The Leonardo was a blast.  I now have a picture of me holding a real human brain- woohoo!





Here is a pretty good visual to show what gap junctions and desmosomes are.  The heart has both.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spelunking aka Caving near Rock Canyon

There are a few small caves around the Rock Canyon area.  One is right next to the trail on the north side of the canyon.  But on Thursday, a friend of mine took me to see a much less-well-known gem.

Here you can see our meanderings...we took the, umm... "scenic route" to finding the cave.  By that I mean, we went straight up the mountain and across a couple ravines before we finally gave up and headed back down, at which point we found the cave maybe 30 meters from where we started.

Fall colors in March?


As we are coming down...oh THERE it is!

The entrance

Tight squeeze

I'm actually proud of myself.  I am a bit claustrophobic and I was worried that I would get in there or half-way in and have a freak-out.  Almost backed out but pep-talked myself, "you can do hard will be worth it."  I took a deep breath and closed my eyes and quickly shimmied myself inside.  The payoff was immediate and well worth pushing through my fear.  These pictures don't come close to doing it justice because they were taken using an iPod and a flashlight. lol
Opens up big enough to stand

Tiny stalactites

Dripping stalactite

Glassy yellow deposits on the wall - minerals? Bacteria excrement?

Green deposits on wall

Coming out took a lot more wiggling, but was less scary than going in. :P
 This cave looked natural except the back ended so abruptly I wonder if it had been dug out at least partly.  Really not sure.  But it was very cool.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Einstein and Pie - I mean Pi

Today is a very special day for two reasons - Albert Einstein, and Pi!
Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879.

And today's date is the first three digits of Pi -  3.14 which are pretty much the only digits the typical person knows.  Pi is an irrational number, so the digits are infinite and non-repeating.

The best Pi ever... today I'm going to listen to this song, eat a piece of pie, and solve the area of a circle all at the same time. ;)

My favorite Einstein quotes:
"The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them."

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as judge in the field of truth and  knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods."

"The only source of knowledge is experience."

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"

Lastly, my personal and blog motto:

Videos for Einstein's Theory of Relativity

Happy Pi Day - go eat some pie!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Battle Creek Falls

I have lived in this valley all my life, and this was (at least to my memory) my first time going to Battle Creek Falls, up a small canyon next to Pleasant Grove, less than 10 miles from my home.  My goal is to explore all the canyons that have been in my back yard my entire life that I haven't paid enough attention to.  (For labeled pictures of said canyons, click here.)

It was a good morning, had the trail to myself, with lots of water in all its forms to keep me entertained. :)

Small cave next to the trail

Close up of the cool rocks by the cave

Ice falls... oh wait that's not the real falls

Part of the real falls covered with snow and ice in awesome designs

The main waterfall

I have a good video of the waterfall above and below but it's not letting me upload this video, I'll get it up if I can figure out what's wrong.  But here's another one showing how the spray froze the plants and ground nearby:

The front of the falls - notice the water falling behind the ice

And from the back. :)

That was fun.  Hoping to do a different hike every day this week because it's my spring break.  Should be more posts to come if I'm successful in my plan. :)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Street Gardening

I have sure been doing a lot of learning about nutrition lately, it's awesome.  Just saw this awesome TED talk by Ron Finley - an awesome man who is now one of my heroes.  I think we should all do this.  If I had a yard, I would totally do it. Watch!

I look forward to having my own home so I can have a garden, it's honestly something I miss the most about having an actual piece of property instead of an apartment building.
He also talked about how kids want to work - this is so true!  I need a garden so the kids can learn to work.

Can you imagine what we could do for hunger if we planted food on every one of the ridiculous 3-foot-wide strips of grass they have between the sidewalk and the road all over the place?  "Growing your own food is like printing your own money."
Come on people, seriously, get this started in your community.  If you own property, you have to "maintain" those little pieces of land, plus you have your own yard you could add at least some fruit trees to.  Farmers Markets could pop up way more with everyone selling the excess from their own harvest, so not only do you get free food for your family, but could earn a little extra income as well.

Community Action Services and Food Bank does something similar to this - it's a "Community Garden" - people can have a plot and they have to spend time weeding and helping out, and then they can have the food for their family.  Totally awesome!  Let's expand on that.

"Ecolutionary!"  Let's do it!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Brain Food - Nutrition for Learning & Memory

What are the best foods for learning?  Can your diet help improve your memory?

These are foods you should add to your regular diet which will boost your brain's ability to function and help you do well in school.  For info on what to eat for alertness before/ during studying, I will make another post and put the link here when it's done.

"Top Ten" Brain Foods
(according to this article)

1. Fish - Omega3 Fatty Acids are crucial to neural health, and can even prevent dementia.  They also promote heart health by reducing risk of blood clots, which will reduce risk of heart attack. Bonus!  It's recommended to have at least 2 servings of fish per week.

2. Nuts - high in essential fatty acids which help your brain perform its best, as well as iron which will help in getting oxygen to the brain (because the major component of hemoglobin in your RBCs is iron).  It's also got unsaturated (good) fats which will give sustained energy.

I would also add Avocados to this category, because they have a great amount of unsaturated fats which will give the same benefits as the nuts.  As a bonus, they have no cholesterol or salt!  Here's a site with info on avacados, how to pick a good one, how to slice, etc.:

3. Whole grains (quoted directly) - Eating lots of refined carbs like white bread and pasta is not only bad for your physical health, but it also leads to sleepiness, lethargy, and mental dullness. Luckily, whole grains tend to have the opposite effect and can lead to enhanced memory function and even better grades. Chow down on whole grain breads, crackers, and pasta while you study for a quick energy boost.
This source website has some info on a few whole grains you might not know about
4. Apples - skins of apples contain an antioxidant called quercetin that enhances memory. :)  Plus it's a good source of fiber to help you feel full, and is a very quick, portable source of energy.

5. Cruciferous Vegetables (direct quote) - In case you’re a bit rusty on your vocabulary, “cruciferous” vegetables make up a family of vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and bok choy. A long-term study conducted by Harvard Medical School revealed that these type vegetables had the most positive effect on memory retention, meaning they are the most likely to help you achieve better grades. Eating these vegetables raw is the best way to get the optimal nutritional benefit, since cooking them often cooks out the nutrients your body and your brain need most.

6. Dark Chocolate (direct quote) - Not just any variety will do, but a certain type of chocolate – dark chocolate – can feed the brain, not only by improving memory, but also by increasing blood flow to the brain, increasing alertness and clarity. The darker the chocolate, the more benefits your brain will receive.

Click the following link for another article with more great things about dark chocolate, such as the facts that it has antioxidants, it prevents blood sugar spikes, even helps keep your teeth healthy! (Who knew?) Article on

7. Spinach - great source of folic acid which can reverse memory loss, lots of antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and even some Omega-3 Fatty acids.

8. Berries (direct quote) - Here’s a quick solution for the problem of how to study better—pop a handful of colorful berries in your mouth as you prepare for your next test or exam. Colorful berries such as blueberries, cherries, black currants, raspberries, cranberries, blackberries, gooseberries, and even grapes have significant health effects directly related to brain function. Not only do these flavorful snacks reduce the level of toxins in your bloodstream, but they also contain phytonutrients and antioxidants that improve blood flow to the brain and enhance neural activity as well.

9. Legumes - very high in protein to fuel your brain without blood a sugar spike and plummet, and also have folic acid to help with memory recall.

10.Onions - The compounds in onions, namely anthocyanin and quercetin, have even been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.  Help improve memory and focus.

Another case for some good proteins

Amino Acids Can Excite or Calm Your Brain

The amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine must both cross the blood-brain barrier in the same pathway. If tryptophan crosses the barrier, it will have a calming effect. If tyrosine wins out, then you will be energized and alert.
A high-carbohydrate meal can increase the brain's tryptophan levels, and hence the serotonin that promotes contentment and normal sleep.
Therefore, a carbohydrate-rich meal may be more appropriate for the evening meal.
On the other hand, one can be energized for hours after a morning meal high in protein, because it raises tyrosine levels in the blood and brain – causing neurons to manufacture norepinephrine and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that promote alertness and activity.
Tyrosine is crucial to brain power and alertness in another way. It's also needed for your body to make active thyroid hormones. Low blood levels of tyrosine are associated with an underactive thyroid gland. (Extreme thyroid deficiency causes severe mental retardation known as cretinism.)

Source above text is from

Tyrosine is actually made from phenylalanine in the body.  It's used to make neurotransmitters including epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine.  Here are some dietary sources:

Tyrosine is found in soy products, chicken, turkey, fish, peanuts, almonds, avocados, bananas, milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.

Another source has some info on Amino Acids boosting brain function, on

Brain Food No-No's
Some things NOT to eat (avoid as much as possible): alcohol, caffeine, and sugar (as in simple carb sweets).  There are many ways these items are bad for your health, a couple of which are their propensity for being addictive, help you gain weight, and to produce a giant sugar crash that will put your brain out of commission.  Here is another nice physiological reason, related to the neurotransmitter Dopamine.


Dopamine is the neurotransmitter needed for healthy assertiveness and sexual arousal, proper immune and autonomic nervous system function. Dopamine is important for motivation and a sense of readiness to meet life's challenges.
One of the most vulnerable key neurotransmitters, dopamine levels are depleted by stress or poor sleep. Alcohol, caffeine, and sugar all seem to diminish dopamine activity in the brain. It's also easily oxidized, therefore eat plenty of fruits and vegetables whose antioxidants help protect dopamine-using neurons from free radical damage. More and more healthcare professionals recommend supplementing with vitamins C and E and other antioxidants.
Age-related cognitive decline is associated with dopamine changes in the brain. People whose hands tremble from Parkinson's disease have a diminished ability to synthesize dopamine, which is crucial to fine muscle coordination. Attention deficits are also connected to dopamine.

Source above text is from
Visualization for Alertness & Success
Another tip while you are studying and taking tests, you want to make sure your Reticular Activating System is active (as I'm sure you already know, this part of the brain is what controls your awake and alert state- it determines what you focus on).  A great way is to actually visualize yourself succeeding.  You hear a lot about thinking positively.  Well it's true.  Successful people visualize themselves being successful, and that actually makes them more successful.  Here's an article if you want to learn more:

By the way, since the RAS includes the Thalamus which takes in sensory info - so if you use a multi-sensory approach to visualizing and studying, you can trigger your brain during the test.  For instance, if you always chew the same flavor of gum while studying Physiology and visualizing your success, then chew that same gum during the quiz/ test, it could help your RAS pay attention to being successful!  Just a thought. :)

Hey, if you remember from the post about the brain anatomy and functions, I pointed out that the Reticular Activating System is just as active while you're dreaming as when you're awake - perhaps that's the logic behind listening to lectures, music, etc. while you're sleeping or meditating too!  Interesting...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Muscle Contraction

Muscle Contraction is a very cool, amazing process.

Within the myofibrils, this is what's happening:
Here's the explanation of the picture from the source's website:
a. Without calcium ions (in relaxed state). Because tropomyosin completely covers the sites (indicated in blue) of actin binding to myosin, myosin cannot bind to actin.
b. When calcium ions released from excited muscle cells bind to troponin, the binding sites of actin are exposed owing to the shift of tropomyosin; however, the extent of the shift is not sufficient for myosin to bind to actin.
c. When small amounts of myosin heads bind to the binding sites of actin under state b, tropomyosin shifts further, resulting in the complete exposure of the binding sites of actin.
d. Because the binding sites of actin are completely exposed, many myosin heads can bind to actin, which enables the generation of a large muscle contraction power. 

I love that it is showing the myosin heads (green globs) all the way around the actin.  Most of the time we look at it as a very 2-dimensional thing, but when you look at the picture below, you can see that it is a very 3-dimensional process, with myosin heads able to bind all the way around.  Each of the small dots represent actin, the bigger ones are myosin (seen on the ends of the myofibrils).

Keep in mind, myofibrils are organelles within a muscle cell.  So the sarcoplasmic reticulum is the muscle version of ER, wrapped around each myofibril.  Stuff is diagrammed 2D to make it simpler and more understandable.  Once you understand it, it's cool to look back and imagine the bigger picture.


Love to weed through the options and find a few good ones for you, this time I've included a song, rap, and skit!

Very short and sweet, this is just a good little animation to show how the filaments slide past each other, with the myosin heads moving along at different times.

One recommended by a student.  It says it's for invertebrates, but looks like it's accurate for us as well.

Hahaha, this is a fun one.  A song/rap explaining the whole process.  I probably like it because the background music is Daft Punk (they did the music for Tron Legacy).  Anyway!  Maybe it's helpful for someone, and it's kinda fun to listen to.

This skit is a great idea.  It's hard to read their signs some times, but this was a fun little video and it might help a couple things click for you like it did for me.  I want to get a bunch of people to act something like this out some day! :P  (Don't worry, no plans to make my study sessions do this...)

The singing on these videos often leaves much to be desired!  But the info in this one is pretty good...

Here's Dr. Ashworth's explanation she gave permission to share.  Thanks Jessie for recording and sending it.

Enjoy. :)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Plastic Beaches

Plastic sand is NOT a sand I would collect except to throw it away.  Look at how we humans are destroying things for all the other living things on the planet.  I can't wait to see this movie when it comes out later this year.

Trailer for the new documentary Midway, coming out later this year.  Really beautiful photography that is shocking.  A must watch.
It didn't have a way for me to embed it, so go to that link to watch it first.

Then watch this one: