Saturday, February 28, 2009

Images from Jono's BDP

Jono had another birthday party, this time with his friends. Since his other party was only family and shortly after Christmas. I noticed, while looking through the pictures I took, that Jono is in almost none of them!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Neurologist Visit for my Bioinstrumentation Class

I teach a class called "Bioinstrumentation" which is about electrical signals that originate from biological sources (nerves and swallowed cell phones). This week we went to visit a local neurologist's office to learn about a test called an EMG, or an electromyogram.

Dr. G. is providing an electric stimulus to the nerve in the arm of Cole, one of my pre-med students studying biomedical engineering. The stimulus causes the nerves in his arm to fire and Dr. G. uses an instrument to measure the voltage of that response and display it on the screen. From that information, he can calculate the speed and strength at which signals propagate down Cole's arm and determine if he has any neurological disease, which he didn't.

The screen shows Cole's nerve firing on the top, and my own brainwave activity on the bottom.

Then, to my surprise, Dr. G. let the students measure each other's nerves in the same way! It was pretty cool and they enjoyed it. Elysa, another pre-med student, was particularly interested and asked lots of great questions.
The thingy taped to his wrist is the sensor, and the red and black probes being applied to his palm are the electrical stimulus. It zaps him with a medium-voltage (50-150 volts) which causes the chain reaction in his nerves. The chain reaction continues down the nerve and is detected by the sensor. It's cool that we spent a few weeks talking about the electro-physiology of all this, and then we got to zap each other and see it happen in "real life".

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A "Go See It" at the Firestation

Jono's Tiger Scouts visited the fire station on Valentines day. The boys thought it was pretty cool. The ladder truck was on display and the boys got to see the ladder go up and down and around.

I was surprised the ladder could be positioned horizontally off to the side of the truck. The truck had automatic feet that went out to the sides to keep it from flipping over.

Jono and Zach are watching the ladder go up to its full height.

The firemen were reading the owner's manual of the truck and it said to change the oil every three months or three thousand miles. So they drove it down to Lube Dude and popped the hood.

Fireman: "And here is where we keep the chopping axes in case we need to chop a hole in the wall of your house."
Boys: "Cool!"
Fireman: "Here's where we turn on the bubbles for the Jacuzzi."
Boys: "Really?"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Village Energy Inc.

I'm sorry I have not been posting much lately. I have been working very hard on the new company that Ryan and I are trying to launch, Village Energy Inc.. For the last two weeks, since he got back in town, we have been really working hard to get our business plans in order and begin the process of seeking investors.

One of the tasks I have been doing is to create a new website for the company. Please take a look and tell me what you think. I need feedback. As you view it, think about what a potential investor would think of it. Does it communicate professionalism? Does it seem like we know what we're doing? Do we seem fake, pretentious, or overconfident? Are we confident enough?

Here it is:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Solar Powered Chickeneers

The team from Engineers with a Mission has been working on the next version of our solar powered chicken coop. (For our first version, click here.) We have learned some crazy things about chickens, buck buck. It turns out chickens can "see" long wavelengths of light, like red, through a light-sensing organ IN THEIR BRAIN!! I am saying the light passes through their heads and is detected by light sensitive cells in their chicken skulls!! I call it the "chickens' mind eye". Freaky weird, you say? I agree! Read more on (no kidding) by clicking here.

Turns out the chickens' mind eye has a direct bearing on their egg laying schedule. That's the biology behind our solar powered chicken coop. Shining light, especially red light, makes them want to lay more eggs. This has been done by chickeneers for a long time and is nothing new. What is new, however, is the use of LED lighting!

(Chickeneers and their solar powered sleep deprivation machine for chickens)

Our system uses white LED's, which have a narrow spectrum of wavelengths shifted towards the blue end of the visible spectrum. Will our system, therefore, have enough red wavelengths to inspire the chickens' mind eyes to stay up late and ovulate? We have no idea!! If not, we may try adding some red LED's to the mix and see if it helps. I think I may have to write an actual academic paper about this!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My First Stress Test - Oh Joy

I can't believe I'm going to write a post about my doctor appointment. I can't believe you kept reading past the first sentence. Both of us are pathetic, really.

This morning I taught my eight o'clock class and put out a few fires. Then I left my office on a bike and headed to the bus station about a mile or two away. Huh? Did he say bike? What, are we in China now? Keep reading, dear bored reader, keep reading.

Sixty degree blue skies greeted my face and hands as I pedalled my newly-repaired, orange Mongoose mountain bike in a February-celebration of Texas winters. (I just now decided to call him "Orangebike". Get it?) The crisp smell of clean air filled my lungs with oxygen, but I'm no Lance Armstrong. I just crawled along at an embarrassing pace. Trying not to look winded, I smiled at passers by.

"He must be saving the environment or something" I heard one mumble under his breath.
"He sure is fat" said another.

I like riding my bike. I like noticing the cracks in the pavement, feeling the gentle up and down slopes to the road, and hearing dogs bark in neighborhoods; these are the things you miss when driving a car. They blurr past you with an other worldliness. You are disconnected from the sensory experience. I also think there is an organic beauty to self-powered transportation. Rocky mountain high.

(But don't get me wrong. I was biking because my car battery is dead. If I had a choice, I would still take the easy way, blurry dogs and all.)

The bus costs a buck fifty and drops me off at my new cardiologist's office across town. Orangebike has ridden in his own special bike rack on the front of the bus. Now I park my bike in that little room between the two sets of sliding glass doors. You know the room, it's where they keep the wheelchairs. Yes, wheelchairs. Good grief. At least the wheelchairs are like cousins to a bike. Maybe he won't feel out of place.

My first impression of the office is that it looks expensive. My second impression is that I am the youngest person in the waiting room by at least two decades. Why am I here, I ask myself. (You may be wondering the same thing. The short answer is that my general practitioner wanted me to see a cardiologist to make sure last month's fainting spells were not heart-related.) Because I am somewhat self-conscious of my weight and general out-of-shapedness, being the youngest person at the cardiologist made me feel embarrassed. It's like being a teenager in third grade, only the opposite.

"Dude, you must be really dumb to be a teenager in third grade."

"Dude, you must be really fat and out of shape to be at the cardiologist at age 41."

While I sat with Moses and Java Man in the waiting room, I sent text messages and made some calls. In retrospect, I may have been trying to prove I was still "young" by brandishing technology. Look at me, I'm a whippersnapper. I was just about to start a crump dancing when they called me back to see the doc.

I liked him. He was crusty and funny and reminded me of the doctor on Battlestar Galactica that smokes cigarettes. He didn't smoke, but he had a similar temperment. He made me do the "stress test". I told him I have plenty of stress already, but he just chuckled and shuffled me off to the back room where Helga keeps her treadmill and Bic razors.

She shaved seven patches of hair off my chest - no cream, no water. She cut the hair in a weird pattern and now, when I take off my shirt, I look like a giant, swollen ace of spades. ♠

"Would you like to use this piece of broken glass, Helga?" I asked her as she shaved me.
"You're a funny man, eh?" she said. "We'll see who's laughing during your stress test."

She put the EKG leads on my chest and started the treadmill. She said the goal was to get my heart rate to like, 800 or something, or to make me explode, whichever came first. I would say that the stress test was on par with a root canal, only with Helga telling me to keep going, over and over.

In short, the doc says my fainting has nothing to do with my heart, and that my EKG looks pretty good, actually. But he also said I need to get more exercise. No surprise. I guess I'll keep riding Orangebike.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Weird Night Pains in Jono's Legs

"Honey, wake up! Jono's crying." This is what my four AM sounded like two Thursdays ago. He was in a lot of pain; his leg was very sore and it hurt to move it. The pain was camping out in the bend of his thigh/hip. When he tried to walk into our bedroom, he said his leg "collapsed". Mr. Vocabulary.

He had a 102.5 degree fever. We gave him some ibuprofen to relieve his pain and knock down his fever. He fell asleep in our bed as The M and I looked at each other with concern and confusion. He felt fine by morning. The next day we took him to the doctor and he looked him up and down to see if he had a hernia of some kind, but everything came back negative. No hernia, no kidney stones, no alien abduction evidence. Nothing more...

until the next Thursday night, when it happened again. This time there was no fever, but the TNT Pain (Thursday Night Thigh) was back. This time the doctor ordered an ultrasound with a voice only audible to dogs. Of course, the pain was gone again the next day, slipping back into the aether from whence it came. We're waiting to hear back from the radiologist.

Jono liked the ultrasound. He said his insides looked "bubbly" and messy. He thought it was pretty cool. The ultrasound technician was charmed, of course.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday SpongeBob

SpongeBob sings to himself about his many failed attempts at flight, and how his jellyfish friends finally helped him accomplish it:

You don't need a plane to fly.
Plastic wings may make you cry.
Kites are made for windy days.
Lawn chairs with balloons, fly away!
Inflatable pants, you may as well skip!
If you want to fly, all you need is...friendship.

Yeah. Good bye Jellies!You taught me a valuable lesson. Although, I'm not quite sure what it is.