Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Girls Do Manhattan

Sophie is really a "city girl". Last weekend was her 2nd trip to the Big Apple, plus she's lived in both Boston and Paris so far.

Her vocabulary is beginning to expand (though it's only about 15 words currently)--probably about 1/2 French and 1/2 English thus far.

Here she is with Aunt Laure.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Vermilion Road Reunited

My next-door neighbor Eric from growing up in Duluth, MN was in Boston for a conference this week--we had him over for dinner tonight and it was great reuniting after all these years. Go, Vemilion Roaders!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Burn After Reading

I saw the Coen Bros' latest film yesterday: "Burn After Reading", and had a good time viewing it. I fittingly saw it with my friends Tom and Dave--fittingly because about 6 months ago the three of us went to the movies together, only we had opted against seeing the Coen Brothers' "No Country For Old Men" in favor of watching the lame Will Smith sci-fi flick "I Am Legend", a decision which all three of us regret to this very day.

Anyways, "Burn After Reading" was pretty good. One of the thoughts I have after seeing it is that Brad Pitt is actually a pretty decent actor: in this movie he is successfully converted from his usual suave, ultra-hip "Ocean's 11" persona into an unsophisticated gym trainer doofus. I also enjoyed his character in "Twelve Monkeys", one of my favorite sci-fi movies, in which he plays the insane leader of an extreme animal rights' group . I predict that in 10-15 years he will be seen as a much more talented actor than he currently is if he continues to choose his films wisely--kind of a Harrison-Ford-type.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Soaked and Lost in Cambridge

My errands today were 2 simple ones:  (a) go to the comic book shop, and (b) return some old cable boxes to Comcast in order to avoid paying a hefty fine.  I succeeded in both quests, but got completely SOAKED while doing so and it took me about 2 hours longer than it should have.  My main strategic error was not remembering that I I have absolutely no sense of direction when it comes to navigating Cambridge.  The streets are just too damn confusing and there's few landmarks that I recognize.  

Anyways, now I'm in lab and hope to dry off before catching an evening showing of the Coen Bros' "Burn After Reading"--probably the first movie I've seen in the theater in about 2 months.  Have a good weekend, all.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sophie Pics Courtesy of Laure

Here are some bonus Sophie pictures, courtesy of my sister-in-law Laure, during their walk at nearby Coolidge Reservation. The girls are gearing up for a big weekend-in-New York, leaving me to hold down the fort here in Boston.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Chad's Mohawk

Went back to work today...I was wondering about the possibility of sustaining a schedule which involved doing intense lab work until midnight every night, then taking every other afternoon off in order to participate in some intense outdoor activity--which is essentially what I was doing at the MDIBL course. While this could potentially work, it unfortunately neglects the real-life facts of having a wife & kid(s).

Anyways, I've been thinking about renaming my Fantasy Football Team from "The Duluth Dominators" to "Chad Ocho Cinco Sucks My Left Nut." The guy was my 3rd round pick, and he has yet to catch a pass for a TD or for more than 25 yards. On the plus side, you can now buy a Chad mohawk mask (left) for Halloween.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Return to Normalcy

Just like Warren G. promised, it's been a return to normalcy around here. The past week was great, but kind of a weird existence as it combined near-constant experimentation or rather intense hiking/biking. I'm glad to be back home.

And we're going to be having some visitors for the next 2 weeks: Claire's sister Laure and her friend Benedicte from France arrived in the U.S. about an hour or so after I got back from Maine. Here are some pics from our walk around the nearby U.S.S. Constitution, a.k.a. "Old Ironsides" the naval boat of "War of 1812" fame.

The U.S.S. Constitution was built way back in 1797.

Canons in place and ready to fire!"Sophie, be careful when you're playing with the machine guns!"
Les Filles
Naval Officer Sophie Hellman
Funny old sign in the Charlestown Navy Yards

Friday, September 19, 2008

Last Day in Maine

It was a successful end to the first inaugural Origins of Renal Physiology course at Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory.

I'm definitely going to give the course high marks on its evaluations so as to encourage future renal fellows to have the chance to participate in such a course. It's been a funny week which has involved intense lab work with equally rigorous play time (e.g., hiking, biking, etc), though I am certainly ready to get back to family life with Claire & Sophie tomorrow.

To end my MDIBL chronicle here are some pics of today's final hike up "The Beehive".
The path was steep and not for those with a fear of heights.

With rewarding views from the top.

Before I left, I had to make sure I took a picture of myself in front of the Kidney Shed, site of many famous renal physiology experiments at MDIBL as performed by Homer Smith.
The end of the course was marked by a good old-fashioned Maine-style lobster bake. Mmmmmm.

The lobster bake was held at Seawall Point, on the far south portion of Mount Desert Island, which to me appeared even more secluded than the rest of the place.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Creationism Revisited: An Evolutionary Poem--by Dick Hays, a prominent MDIBL scientist. I found this poem lying around somebody's lab and thought it appropriate as it is impossible to spend time studying kidneys from sharks, zebrafish, mice, and humans without at least thinking about the theory of evolution. Here we go:

There's an evolution engine that really is quite nice
It turns gooses into mooses, and guppies into mice
You take hoxes (in their boxes), and give the things a shake
And, in Adam's lovely garden, an apple is a snake!
Thus, over the millenia, with evolution's push
A lizard is a hummingbird, and Jefferson a Bush
But in this random process, things needn't get much worse
Remember that the engine can swing into reverse
So think, dear friends a moment of what you'd like to be
A fruit fly or a coelocanth, or something in a tree
Perchance a pterodactyl in flight above the bay
With all this in the offing, let's savor every day!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Eye is Watching You!

The Eye Is Watching You!

This is a picture our research group took of the eye of a zebrafish which had been injected with a fluorescent compound. I have probably taken and analyzed a total of about 250 such pictures over the past 48 hours.

We had another glorious afternoon off today (a welcome respite as we had actually spent two consecutive nights in the lab 'til midnight doing experiments), and spent it doing a spectacular bike ride around Acadia National Park. My legs are SORE. Here are some pics from our trip:

Here I am with Sindhu and Maddelena, two members of the zebrafish study group.

Yet another scenic view.
A sliver of ocean in the background.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Other Wacky Experiments at MDIBL

There are a whole host of bizarre activities going on today, only some of which I had a chance to participate in. Among the more notable were experiments on toad bladders (they apparently have the right type of membrane characteristics which allow for the study of water transport), more shark rectal gland experiments, and a host of nephrology fellows who tested the effects of salt loading by each personally eating up to 16 grams of salt during lunch (most physicians recommend limiting sodium intake to only 1-2 grams, so this was like eating 2 weeks' worth of salt at one sitting--impressive!)

No, today I spent my time gazing at zebrafish under an immunofluorescence microscope--something I will probably have all too much experience with when I return back home...

Monday, September 15, 2008


Busy day. After giving our group presentation on the shark rectal gland (which wasn't bad if I do say so myself) a bunch of us headed out to experience the nearby Acadia National Park, also located on Mount Desert Island with MDIBL.

The day's activities included a hike up Mount Gorham (a very windy but beautiful & sunny day at the summit), going to a small sandy beach and taking a quick dip (for those of us brave and/or stupid enough to submerge into the cold Maine waters), and watching the sun set atop Mount Cadillac.

Then back to the lab for a lovely seafood dinner, followed by a few introductory zebrafish experiments which kept us busy 'til around 11:30pm for our next educational module for this course. It's been an exceptionally full day.

Here are some pictures of todays Acadia hike: I wonder what the record is for most number of nephrologists summiting a peak simultaneously?
Long-distance view of the sandy beach we ended up swimming in later on in the hike.
Cool rock formations.

Sunset at Mount Cadillac.
The entire coastline around Acadia is dotted by small islands.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Science Dork Fence

This is a very blogworthy place.

Somebody at Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) designed & built a cute cell biology-themed fence close to several of the lab buildings. For those biology geeks in the audience, you will notice references to the phospholipid bilayer cell membrane, the Na-K ATPase (one of the kingly molecules of Nephrology), and the endothelin receptor (complete with 7 connected transmembrane domains).

Shark Rectal Gland

I can now check off the box entitled "Dissect out and do experiments on a shark's rectal gland" on my master "To Do" list of life.

Why would a bunch of kidney doctors study the shark's rectal gland, you may ask? It turns out this interesting gland has played an integral role in understanding how salt is handled by the kidney.

The shark lives in the ocean--where the salt concentration is extremely high. Yet their blood salt concentration is essentially the same as that of humans. The shark rectal gland's function is to continually excrete sodium at high concentrations which enables it to live in such a salty environment. In contrast, in humans regulation of the sodium concentration occurs in the kidney--but using many of the same proteins that are found in the shark rectal gland, hence its relevance to nephrologists.

Here I am wrestling a small spiny dogfish shark.

Dissecting the underbelly of the shark allows one to easily identify the shark rectal gland--the brownish, worm-like structure which is a little less than the size of my pinky finger.
The next step is to bring the rectal gland back to the lab, where you can hook up its artery to a perfusion catheter (left) and hook up its duct and vein to catheters which monitor its output (the two tubes coming out on the right). Different chemicals added to the gland cause it to secrete more or less salt. The greenish stuff is just mounting clay, to hold the gland in place. The glass hot-dog-shaped object upon which the rectal gland rests has seawater pumped into it to keep the specimen cool. This has to definitely be one of the coolest, most mad-scientisty things I've done so far...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reporting Live from Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratories

For the next week, I'll be reporting live from Salisbury Cove, Maine--about a 5-hour drive from Boston--while I'm attending a course entitled "Origins of Renal Physiology". It's at a placed called Mount Desert Island Biological Lab (or MDIBL for short) and is basically a small, private research center in an idyllic Maine environment which has been dedicated to studying marine organisms and their physiology. What relevance does this have to the kidney? It turns out that a lot of the pioneering work in understanding how the kidney functions was performed in fish. We'll be discussing and expanding on several of these classic experiments.

Here' s my rental car parked in front of my living quarters for the week. Not too shabby.

Here's a view from one of the labs overlooking the cove.
While I was walking around today I easily found the shark tank--starting bright and early tomorrow, we will actually be doing some experiments with these sharks, I will keep you posted.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Eggo Waffle Calculations

It's 2:30am here in Boston; I've just returned from a long day with morning clinic and gazing at zebrafish embryos. It seems like a natural time to calculate just how many Eggo waffles I have eaten during the course of my life thus far.

I was introduced to Eggos during a visit to my Grandma Grace when I was in 5th grade--probably about 11 years old. I am now 34 (35 in a couple of months) so that's 23 years of Eggo waffle eating goodness. Since that time I have included Eggo waffles as a staple of my breakfast menu, from an East High Greyhound to a Yalie to a medical student to a budding nephrologist. For the vast majority of these years, I ate 2 Eggos per day. In recent years however this number has dropped to 1 a day, and because I suffered an Eggo withdrawal during my year in France and because Eggos were a rare treat during my four years of college dining hall experiences, let's be conservative and say that through the years my average has really been one a day.

So: 23 years x (365 days/year) x 1 waffle/day = 8,395 Eggo waffles. Kinda puts things in perspective, huh?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


There's a Russian guy in our lab...today he taught me that the Russians have a universal symbol for "Let's go drink some vodka", which consists of flicking one's neck, and then holding the thumb and pinky out in the surfer "hang 10" signal. It's probably been since my college years that I drank straight vodka. Which is probably a good thing.

Here's some Sophie pics from around various Charlestown playgrounds, while the Russians enjoy their vodka: