Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A bit of an update and a new blog :)

It's been a long time since I did any blogging. Life's been pretty hectic in the last few months. I'll pick up where I left off.

I took my oral exam on November 9th, 2010 and I passed with no reservations. All of my classmates did well. It was definitely the most difficult thing I've ever done. Basically the 5 exam committee members ate me alive for 2 hours. But in the end, I "passed with flying colors" according to my chair. My P.I. (boss) told me it was one of the best exams he's ever been in. We had a little shindig in the lobby outside of our lab and I shot a champagne bottle cork into the ceiling, leaving a dent and initialing it, as is our lab custom when a student passes their orals. I am now no longer a Ph.D. student, I am a Ph.D. candidate!!

The rest of 2010 was pretty normal.

Flash forward until now, May 2011. Whoa boy. My experiments have been in a state of constant failure for the last 3 months, leaving me to question my abilities as a scientist. I'm simply trying to remove the chromosomal DNA from a few different strains of bacteria and use them in a method called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) which amplifies the DNA to high numbers. The basic premise is that you put the template DNA (DNA from the bacteria), DNA primers (that anneal to the template DNA), DNA polymerase (which synthesizes the new DNA), and the NTPs (the individual pieces of DNA that are being attached to the template strands). This, in theory, amplifies your DNA from 2 single strands to 2^40 single strands in about 3 hours. What I'm doing is using primers that recognize certain genes so that when I run a PCR with my bacterial DNA, only the DNA from those specific genes will be amplified. This allows me to see if the genes are present. Basically - if the gene is present, I'll see a band on a gel from my reaction. If there is no gene present, there won't be a reaction and I won't see a band. Make sense? Well for some reason, nothing is working. We think it's in my chromosomal prep. My problem is that the prep of the DNA is all done using a kit. It's supposed to be really straight forward. And it is. But it's not working for me and I don't know why. It's been a miserable few months. A lot of hanging my head; a lot of beating myself up. I can't move on with this project until it's done (if you want to know more about the specifics of my project, ask me - it's too complicated and long for this summary blog).

On a related note - I am moving to Iowa City, Iowa. My boss, after a lot of drama and stupid nonsense with the University of Minnesota, took a job as the Department Head of Microbiology at the University of Iowa. He's moving there in July and I am going with him. On one hand, it's great because the micro program at Iowa is amazing, this new job for him is incredible, I'll be the senior person in the lab, we get new lab space and I get to see a new place. The bad thing is that there are no jobs in Iowa for my fiancee so she's moving to Austin, TX to teach at a Montessori school. So after 3 years of living together, 7 years as a couple, we're going to have to do long distance. We've done it before, but never this far. I'm set to be in Iowa for 2 more years... We're doing well as far as being engaged goes, and I love her. I just don't want to have to live apart from her now. Totally lame. On another bright note, however, I get to leave a lot of the stupid drama here with some people behind and move forward with my life and hers.

On to some happy things. I finally finished my project pump marker. I ended up getting a gift card for $225 at a paintball tournament and I used it to purchase a karnivor 86* black dust pump kit from CCM. For those who don't know, CCM makes some of the nicest paintball pump markers and pump kits around. A pump kit changes an autococker marker, like my karnivor, from an electric semi-automatic marker into a marker that must be pumped before every shot. Here are some pictures of the marker:


I gave her a try at a recent event and she shoots like a dream. I love it. It needs a bit of tinkering to get it sweet-spotted, but it's a great marker. I'm very happy with it. CCM is a stellar company, so for anyone who's interested check out and get in touch with Mel there. She's fantastic.

Another great addition to my life - my new bike. My Granddad bought me a commuter bike for passing my orals/christmas gift. I could never have hoped to get a bike like this. It's the Surly Crosscheck ( ), black. I've been commuting for most of the time since January. Some of the days have been bad - I've almost been hit a few times. We just had 3 cyclists/pedestrians killed by car drivers in 1 week. Wow. I'm going to have to be careful out there. I'll post some pictures of the bike soon. I'm saving for a Brooks leather saddle (seat)... So nice, but so expensive. My legs are starting to look good ;)

A final couple of updates. Some friends of mine, some great ladies, have started a new site called Fat, Ugly, or Slutty? It's a website in which people, usually women, submit screenshots of guys being just downright rude, degenerate, chauvinistic and all-around not nice while playing online games (PC, PS3, XboxLive, etc.) The language is pretty offensive so I'd say NSFW, but if you are willing to read some crazy stuff and aren't at work, check it out. Great site. These ladies are some of the greatest. Check out follow them on twitter at @fatuglyorslutty, @likeOMGitsFEDAY @jaspirella and @_gtz_. Note: Feday has a great blog, too. Her blog is Game On! ( ) and her youtube channel is . She has some great stuff - it has been a while since she updated because of her job, but check her out peoples!!

My final update is that I will be creating a new blog soon, on top of this one. I find that science is often portrayed poorly in the media and, well, damnit, it pisses me off. Too often the media screws up or makes an incorrect assumption, or sometimes even makes a big deal out of nothing, and it hurts us scientists. We depend on public funding from the government to get our research done, and if the public doesn't trust us or understand us we won't be getting anymore funding. Right now we need all the help we can get. So! At some point in the future, when I have some time, I'm going to be making a blog in which I write article reviews on current research papers and topics and discuss them so that they make sense and are easily understood. Won't happen for a bit, but I'll link it here for those who are interested when it happens.

Pip pip, cheerio!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Some Life Changes!

I have a date scheduled for my oral exam - finally! Well, sort of. I scheduled it for November 9th. The "tentativeness" is because it turns out my boss will be out of town that day and would prefer I do it on the 8th. He doesn't HAVE to be there, though, so we'll see what my committee says.

I also got rid of Twitter. I just really didn't use it that much, and to be honest, does anyone really care what I'm doing every few hours or so? Probably not. I don't really care that John Smith (fake name) is having coffee with eggs at 9am and then at 12 he checked in at the bike shop on 55th ave. I don't need to be that involved in people's lives. I'd rather be able to write a whole explanation out with basic updates every few days or weeks and let people read it if they want to, rather than blow their twitter feed up with stupid useless information.

I did, however, join a social site called Culinary Culture. It's similar to the other networking sites in that you friend/follow people, etc. but it's all about food. People post reviews of restaurants and recipes/techniques they're trying out. I followed a forum buddy o' mine named Jennifer who has some really great recipes. She's also got a great foodie vlog for healthier eating aimed at gamers. I'm not much of a gamer anymore, but her tips can apply to EVERYONE not just gamers. Her first vlog was about different herbs and what they go with. It was a great video. Check her out!

Her second video is good too, a recipe for basil garlic chicken (Yum!)

I started working out last week as well. So far it's been tough but good. I'm really sore, but it's a good sore. I've been riding my bike to work for a couple of months now and I really really like it. I picked up a pair of Shimano MTB shoes last night at REI and some Pearl Izumi leg warmers so I can ride when it's cold out. I've been to 2 different Yoga classes and I liked those as well. We'll see where it all ends up, but for now I'm eating healthier, working out and riding a bike. I'd like this to last for a long time, and that's my goal - WILLPOWER!!!

Off to work and studying for now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some Paintball Stuff :)

I've played paintball 2 times since I last posted. One was a great time at MN Pro where we had a huge game - I think there were close to 150 people? I'm not entirely sure but it was fun. I got some great kills and even though a lot of the field was up to my thighs with water, I still had fun.

Most of our guys weren't there due to the weather kind of being off and on, but there were 3 of us and 3 more guys who are now in the process of joining the team. (In case you care, my team is Dead Squad... Please ignore the awful picture of me - it really might be the worst picture ever) Our team lost, but I ended up with the 2nd most points of all and I won a $225 gift card to MN Pro's shop. I'm currently now in the process of figuring out if the CCM karnivor pump kit I mentioned in an earlier post will fit my gun. It looks like it will and so it seems I will FINALLY be able to work on that project!!!! Yay!!

The second game was this past weekend at Splat Tag in Hudson, WI. It was the Giant Big Game, and Darrin runs a great field with great refs. Usually. I have to say, this was not such a good game. We lost, which is ok. We didn't play that great and the larger team we were on had quite a few players who really weren't interested in playing that much. But the reason I didn't have as much fun was because the referees had NO clue what was going on. No one seemed to know the rules - points were given then taken away, bases were lost because the referees didn't know who was where - just awful. The referees even had radios that died on them. Who plans an event for 300 or more people and doesn't charge the radios for those who are RUNNING the game and need to be in contact at all times? I had my radio on from 10 am until 5 pm, and it never went down... Blech. If the referees had actually been good, I'd have had a blast. I was in some of the longest and most challenging firefights I've ever been in. I got shot more times in the first 15-20 minutes than I have ALL year in my other games. It was nuts!

Most of my shots were taken in the gun or the mask, but I got a few on my legs - pardon the extreme paleness. I'm in MN and refuse to go to tanning beds.

Note: these have all been healing for 4 days now. They're not as bad as they were.

These 3 bruises are on my right leg and hit me from about 60 feet:

This is a picture of a bruise on my outer left thigh. Was about 20 feet away:

This was the nastiest one. I got shot from the same person as the one above, but I was closer when I got hit. Maybe 10 feet. The one above was after I called myself out and was walking away. You can actually see the two bruises in each of the photographs a bit.

In retrospect, as pissed as I was at the refs, it was still fun.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


It's been a whirlwind of events the last few months. I've been crazy busy with everything and very little paintball has been played. That's ok, though. I got the proposal done and turned in and after a few revisions, my written preliminary exam was passed and done. I'm currently trying to schedule my oral exam date - trying to get 5 professors into one room at the same time so they can test me is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I'm aiming for October but we'll see.

The biggest news currently is that I was published for the first time. It was back in May and was on a project I did in another lab when I was doing rotations for grad school. I have to be honest and say that I don't remember the entire point of the project, but I generated the mutants they used in the paper. I'm listed as the second author, which is pretty cool (technically I'm written as the 3rd author, but the first 2 authors are co-first authors, so...). I'm very grateful that I was listed as an author, I figured I'd at most get an acknowledgment in the back of the paper. Even more cool was that we were published in the inaugural issue of mBio (as ASM online publication).

Here's the link:

Also, in line with this I found out another professor I rotated with during that same time has acknowledged me in his new paper for making mutants in his lab. The paper isn't published yet, but still nice to know I got an acknowledgment. I feel like I'm moving up in the science world. Now if only I could get my OWN paper, I'd feel better. That'll come soon enough though.

We've got some really cool things going on in the lab which I'll discuss more as we make progress and publish (Probably won't talk about too much that isn't published - I don't want anyone stealing my work... I don't think this because I have an ego, but unfortunately it happens in science a lot). I'm really excited to see where we are going with stuff. What I can say is that I'm working on some very important pathogenesis and physiology stuff and that we've begun some vaccine studies. I feel like a real scientist now :)

I'm going to my first conference in Chicago at the end of September to present some of my data on a poster for a large group of people at the GLRCE regional meeting. I'm nervous but excited. We've got some great data and I am really happy with the direction we're moving in.

My paintball gun project is on hold for now. The parts needed are pretty expensive and I don't have the funds at the moment to really do too much with it. I'd rather be able to play and not build my gun than to build my gun and not be able to play - it's kind of dumb to have a paintball gun as a paper weight.

More to come!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My Karnivor Pump Project

So here goes, my first actual post about something. A month or two ago I started a pump gun project with an old semi marker I bought on ebay. I bought a WGP Karnivor on Ebay back in 07 and the thing never worked. The guy I bought it from disappeared and so I was left with a broken gun. I spent a long time researching and tinkering and a good amount of time taking it to 'cocker techs to get fixed but no one could figure out the problem. I called WGP, but the warranty was bad due to the seller swapping parts from two different color Karnivors. Basically it was a huge mishap. So, after a few years of it hanging out in a box, and my new love of pump paintball (as well as some nice new pump kits for the Karni) I decided to make this bad boy a pump.

This is my first paintball project ever. I'm not very far. I've taken it somewhat apart, and I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but this thing is in pretty bad shape. I had to buy 2 different screw extractor sets just to get off the snatch grip screw. The snatch grip screw is completely stripped out and I'm not even sure it's the original screw. I'm almost 100% positive the guy just went to a hardware store and picked some screw up that fit.

I think the guy used loctite on the front reg because I've tried everything to take it apart but I can't do it. Not a big deal as I'm going to use a Custom Products shorty reg on the front, but still a pain in the butt to not be able to get in there and see what's inside.

Here it is so far (I've only included the body, the hammer assembly and the IVG). The hammer assembly is in pretty bad shape. The cocking lug is pretty rusty and looks pretty rough. I've got to find a way to clean them up.

I still don't have a valve tool, so I haven't been able to get the valve out, but I'm ordering one off of here soon. I'm actually quite concerned that the internals and the valve are going to be rusted after sitting in a box for as long as they did. I may have to buy a new Karni valve - I don't know where I'm going to find one of them anymore :(

(looking down in from the back of the gun)

My ultimate goal is to rebuild this thing with a Chipley Custom Machine AT pump kit. They are expensive but they are really really nice. I looked at saving money and getting a Sanchez Machine pump kit but apparently the latest batch has been having issues with pump rods breaking, and I have had awful luck with this thing so I'm just going to spend the extra money and get a really nice kit from CCM - they come with a lifetime warranty.

I want to get it anodized digi-cam or something, leaving the grip and pump handle black. I just think that would look really nice, and be useful for our scenario games. I may actually get it powder-coated white. That's be really nice looking, too, and much more my style.

We'll see. Much more to come, but for now, this is it

First Blog ever

So, I'm taking a break from writing a grant proposal, and I was looking back over some paintball forum posts I've made, and I decided I want to make a blog about the sport and my life. This isn't going to be a place I come to rant, it's not a political or debating blog where I get on my high horse and berate others. This is simply a way for me to post things I find useful or interesting, a place for me to post a bit about my life, primarily my interest in paintball. This blog is going to contain reviews of paintball gear, my general impressions of the sport, stuff about my life, almost anything and everything - but I promise no politics, religion, or anything like that. There are too many useless opinions out on the net about that crap already. Nobody cares about my take.

I got engaged about a month ago to my girlfriend of 6 years, Kelsey. We couldn't be happier. Wedding planning is a bit of a tough thing for me, as I'm not a great planner, but I'm actually enjoying it. I go to school at the University of Minnesota as a PhD student in the Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer biology program. It's a LOT harder than I expected, but it's really really fun. I research Staphylococcus aureus in the lab of Pat Schlievert.

For those of you who don't know me very well I absolutely love paintball. I started playing when I was 12, living in Rochester, NY. I had a friend who played with his younger brother in the woods just behind their house and he got me into the sport. I bought a Brass Eagle Tiger Shark pump and played with them every chance I could get. I loved that thing. I moved to Florida about a year later, but kept on playing. I played all through high school moving from the Tiger Shark to a Spyder SE to a 2001 Dark Angel LCD and then to an ICD Promaster (I'm actually going to do a small review of these markers at some point). About 3 years ago, I made the switch back to pump and bought a CCI Phantom.The semi-auto play in the speedball circuit became too expensive, and to be honest, I got tired of the skate-park-rejects that came along with that play style (this isn't everyone who plays speedball, but many of the kids I played with were this way). I now play on a team in Lakeville, MN called Dead Squad. We're primarily a scenario/woodsball team, but some of the other guys like speedball/hyperball/xball as well. I'm not a great player, I never have been, but it's really fun. It's the only activity I've ever done that I enjoy everything about. I may not play speedball anymore, but if it's on TV or a tournament is broadcast online, I'm watching it.

I like to bike, to play my guitar and bass (they are still in Florida, poo ), I love to hang out with my fiancee and friends, I love to do research and I love to play paintball.

Welcome to my little, random world.