Seeing life through the eyes of an animal

I have eyes similar to an animal. Being someone who has studied biology will lead  you to think that way. In biology life is characterized by how complex the organism is; something can be unicellular other things are complex and multi-cellular.

Yet, with much study you learn to appreciate life at all levels and you realize how living organisms sustain other living organisms. This past weekend I went to the Brookfield Zoo and appreciated life on all scales from the tiny naked mole rat to the large African elephant.

Here is my photo journal of this experience (using a simple point-and-shoot 8 mega pixel camera):

baby giraffe

baby giraffe

Who doesn’t love babies? This is no exception. This little long necked patterned herbivore, was so cute I had to take its picture. I guess everyone needs a time to rest and lay down even baby giraffes.



Cassowaries are very unique flightless birds. I love their beautiful blue and red necks, which indicate  their aggressive behavior (when provoked). Nature has many of these signs can you read them?

A more ordinary beast

A more ordinary beast

Cows have always been an infatuation of mine. Perhaps because they are taller than me or maybe because I always wanted to live on a farm.  Living in an agriculturally rich state like Iowa might do that to you.

A beloved beast

A beloved beast

Sorry this image is hard to tell what it is;  there is a little girl and a dolphin (in the left hand corner). While perusing my images this was a favorite. Not because its composition is the best but because of its content. This image speaks to me about what I think a zoo is; its a place for us to discover the animal in us. When I was a very young girl I loved whales and dolphins perhaps because I viewed them as birds of the sea; and I love birds! Dolphins can swim quite deep (not always to the bottom) and they can dive out into the air (opposite of a bird can do into the sea). Another thing I noticed was that the dolphin viewing area was a busy exhibit, unlike the naked mole rat’s. Can you image why? We often like to relate to and watch things that are beautiful, even though at times we are not. Who wants to call himself or herself a rat?

Looking at the great apes

Looking at the great apes

Oftentimes, when we observe the great apes like the gorillas above, we can see ourselves. This is because they are the creatures that are most like us. They are within our same taxonomic order and therefore share many of our same characteristics. Due to this fact they are  the most fun and hardest animals to watch. Sometimes it shows us the cage we have put ourselves or others have put us.

grizzlybearA very dangerous and beautiful animal. The grizzly bear is powerful, but not indestructible. Like most carnivores they are misunderstood. They eat others to survive. They were given sharp teeth and claws to kill for survival. They normally don’t kill animals when they are ticked off, so don’t fear them because of what they eat. But do leave them alone!

Kitty taking a stretch

Kitty taking a stretch

Another carnivore but less misunderstood. They are the cats. These is not your everyday domestic short-hair, but they are often loved because we keep their distant relatives in our homes. (Sadly, not me I’m allergic.)


Looking down at a mandrill

Keep your distance. This beautiful primates’ colors warn you of what it bares in its mouth. Just one quick yawn from this primate will bare his secret; large teeth. These animals are omnivorous (they eat both plants/fruits and small animals).

A higly textured friend

A highly textured friend

Herbivores come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes like this rhinoceros above they have large horns. A less obvious distinction for this animal is its armored appearance. Do you like those textures? (Sorry they are hard to see).

A wild favorite relative

A wild favorite relative

As you probably have read between the lines. I love horses, and due to this fact I love zebras. Their stripes express to me the epitome of the freedom I see in the horse.  However, they are not a horse they are a zebra. They could be seen as a symbol of race relations like  Jerry Seinfeld would suggest for the black and white cookie.  Not only could they be considered a symbol they are also blinding. A lion is blinded by a herd of zebras, but not by a single zebra running. What does this say? I don’t know and I don’t pretend to.

Hope you enjoyed the photographs, or at least what I said about them.


Give a little bit!

Being a college student with too little time sometimes makes me think that I can’t give but that is most certainly NOT TRUE. Giving a little bit can go quite a long way! Giving isn’t about how much or how often. Giving doesn’t necessarily mean money either it’s really about a well intentioned thought and a desire to help out. So here are a few suggestions if you’re thinking about giving but are not sure what to do:

Giving to Schools:

logonewBox tops for education

Find, clip, cut, contact are the magic words for this type of giving. If you are not aware there any many household items that carry this box top label (but just a warning its not always on the top of the box; in the case for Kleenex boxes). For this charity you find the schools that are participating and send the labels to them. Your school can earn up to $60,000 a year! Click here for more information.

cambellslabelCampbell’s soup labels

A very similar charity to Boxtops but now you’ll be searching the pantry for UPC labels. Once again find a school you want to donate them to and send the labels to them. Click here for more information.

Giving to Feed the Hungry:

pfp_lidYoplait Yogurt lids & seals on cereal

Clip and send! When you send in the lids and seals you help to feed America! General mills donates 10¢ per seal up to $275,000. See here for more information.

feeding_america_btnDo the pound for pound challenge!

What could be said for this charity is lose weight for others to gain! By signing up and committing to lose weight, Feed America, will donate a pound of food for every pound you lose. See here for more information.

Giving to help sick children:

ronaldmichdonaldSave poptabs for Ronald McDonald House

If you’re a pop/soda drinker this might be for you. Keep and send your poptabs to Ronald McDonald house to help families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. See here for more information.

Giving your time:

clockAt times this can be the hardest thing to do, but if you’re out of options it’s the simplest. Just take time to help or share your wonderful self with others!

You are needed now go serve!

Know Thy Self: Anatomy

After taking two different types of human anatomy courses, (one in undergrad and another in graduate school) I have learned the human body is a beautifully, complex and fascinating system. I have also realized there are two main approaches for studying the body; systemically and regionally. There are probably rationales for each, but in studying the body regionally you come to appreciate the closeness of the surrounding tissues relative to one another. I have also learned that the body has been well-labeled by anatomists, which is great for specifically locating and describing where something can be found. However, when trying to study anatomy you quickly become overwhelmed! How many muscles does the human body have? 656-850 (depending upon the source). What?!

This is where having great resources to study from is key. Some of you might have heard of Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy or Clemente’s or even Rohen’s photographic atlas. These are all good resources, and each one has varying views (anterior, posterior, medial, lateral) for depicting a particular organ or region of the body, along with varying rendering styles. I don’t mean that Netter’s illustrations depict the heart as square and Clemente depicts the heart round; rather Netter’s color palette is  more saturated than the illustrations depicted in Clemente’s  atlas.

That being said each person generally has a preference to what resource(s) they like to use. An atlas that I would highly recommend to check out is the Atlas of Anatomy by Gilroy. The illustrations in this book are absolutely beautiful! Voll and Wesker did an amazing job! Beyond the illustrations I love the layout of the atlas; it is more intuitive than other atlases I have perused.

I hope this information is helpful for those seeking to learn a bit more about themselves and their Homo sapien counterpoints!

Robotic Surgery

Keeping up with technology is an arduous and expensive process. The technology inherent to medicine is no different. However, the nature of this technology is special in that it is often implemented to save a life. One of the latest technologies (as of 1985 with the 1st robot used to assist in a brain biopsy) is robotic surgery. My first introduction to this technology had me a bit skeptical; however after becoming more familiar with its proper use I realized how it can reduce certain risks associated with surgery.

One of the more well-known systems of robotic surgery is the da Vinci surgical system, named after the great Renaissance artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci. This system is controlled by the surgeon and the robot just mimics, filters and translates the hand movements of the surgeon to precisely move the surgical instruments.

The instrumentation of this robot is quite similar in look to many endoscopic surgical apparatuses. Some of the main exceptions that make the da Vinci system different from these apparatuses are in the way that the surgeon controls the instruments, and its overall precision.

Watch the following  video highlighting the precision of this robot, in a very fun way!


If you want to learn more about the da Vinci surgical system click here.

Is the American Dream still alive?

americandreamThe American Dream that I am talking about is being able to pull oneself up by their boot straps. I know there are a lot of opinions and books out there that seem to claim this dream is dead. However, recently in a John Stossel program on ABC, showed many counter claims to this opinion. While interviewing young college graduate, Adam Shepard, and recent writer of Scratch Beginnings, Stossel finds support that this dream is still quite alive. Shepard’s story is one with purpose; he decided to see if he could start out with $25, and the clothes on his back and make it in a strange, new city

of Charleston, South Carolina. He had goals that paved the way for his achievements of $2,500 in cash, a car, apartment and a job with prospects for advancement. Some might think this was possible because he was young, or had the college background and these were the reasons for his success… Which might be true, but upon receiving a college degree is not a ticket for your first job, a house or a car. It may help, but it really comes down to your qualifications and ingenuity.

In reading another article, in World Magazine, interviewing Shepard about his book, helped me to further understand his situation and what helped him in achieving the American dream. Here are a few highlights from the interview:

Q: What did you learn about the difficulty of getting and keeping a job, and saving money?

A: That it wasn’t as easy as I had predicted. From the onset, I figured I would arrive in my new town, it might take me a few days to get a job, and then I would have a steady paycheck coming in. Two weeks later, I was unemployed and living in a homeless shelter, wondering if I could actually achieve my goals. In the end, though, I knew that once I had a job, saving money would be the easy part as I sought out ways to budget everyday expenses.

Q: You went into this experience with an education and with values oriented toward working and saving. How much of your experience is applicable to those without your education and values?

A: On a basic level, it’s very applicable, because regardless of our own respective talents or education, we wake up everyday to face our own unique situation. Some of the people that I met-uneducated and having come from an impoverished background-were exploiting their talents to the best of their ability. Others were squandering opportunity that was right in front of them. To me, the success of your own American Dream is answering the question, “did I fight to better my life along the way?” Some are. Some aren’t.

Q: Are values key, then? And what’s the best way to change them?

A: Values are key for sure, and it is obviously true that some people have access to those values while others don’t. I don’ know that the values need to be changed, rather we need to keep an open dialogue that engages the spread of those values across boundaries. I have friends from my small private college that missed those values just as I met people in Charleston were in the same situation. The values are there, and I speak in the epilogue of Scratch Beginnings on how we can help more people have access to the same values that helped make my journey a success.

Essentially the message of the American dream is to not lose hope and to persevere. It is a dream that involves sacrifice but ultimately this sacrifice is not in vain. Knowing the American dream is alive is a great message for all especially for those (like me) that plan on entering the workforce shortly, and begin pulling up their boot straps.

To learn about the homeless shelter where Shepard stayed click here

To read more about Scratch Beginnings click here

Making Edutainment using Unity 3D

For my final project in my stereography/virtual reality class I will be making a primitive, strategy, web-based game using Unity 3D software. This program is designed for making game applications for the I-Phone, Wii, Web and a few other

platforms that I will fail to mention just for simplicity. Unity 3D supports three different scripting languages: JavaScript, C# and a dialect of Python to program interactivity of buttons and other gaming assets.

You’re probably wondering by now, “Why is someone in Biomedical Visualization trying to make a game?” If I can be so bold to surmise your inner dialog. Well, part of what is essential to my graduate program is thinking in an innovative way along with with knowing how to do many innovative things.

This brings me to the discussion of edutainment. If you have not heard this expression before it is merely a form of entertainment designed to educate as well as to amuse (Wikipedia). Edutainment seeks to instruct individuals by embedding lessons in some familiar form of entertainment such as: television programs, computer and video games, films, music, websites, multimedia software, etc (Wikipedia). So teaching information about science or more specifically medical topics should no longer be considered boring, hard or not fun right?

The topic of my Unity 3D edutainment project is looking at how a part of your bones, spongy bone or also known as trabecular bone, repair itself after it has undergone stress and has cracked. Here is a link to a six page PDF of the essential concepts outlining my game. Let me know if you don’t understand or have any other ideas. Thanks and enjoy!

Click here to open PDF of game concepts

Interested in seeing more examples of edutainment?
  • Here is a youtube video describing the heart and more specifically EKGs (Warning: contains heart dissection images)
  • Here is a CNN video detailing a doctor training environment


bolt1Now on DVD is a must see computer-generated film by Disney! Bolt is a comedic tale of man’s best friend, the TV star super dog and his co-star owner, young Penny. The escapade begins when Bolt is separated from his owner under false pretenses and finds himself shipped across the country. Obtaining help from two unexpected characters, Mittens the cat and Rhino the hamster, leads Bolt on many misadventures in order to be re-united with his master. Or is it too late…?

I found the film to be laugh-out-loud funny with redonculous situational and slap-stick humor. Along with the comedic moments are a few tender

ones, which could conceivably make one’s eyes water. Looking at the technical side of this picture is its delightful imagery; within the first few minutes you are looking through glass at a young pup playing with a carrot-shaped squeaky toy. There was much consideration taken into each main character not only in its physical form but also in their personal stories.

While watching the film you will recognize two familiar voices – John Travolta as Bolt, and Miley Cyrus as Penny. You will also notice that this seemingly innocent film is rated PG for mild action and peril. So don’t let the young, young ones watch. Most importantly I thought the movie held a great message, of loyalty and perseverance, a message most people can afford to hear. So consider Bolt on a free weekend and enjoy!

Exploring Chicago

Last Friday, I took a trip downtown to visit the Art Institute Museum of Chicago with a friend and before we met I decided to tour a few streets near Michigan Avenue. I took along my camera and planned on taking pictures of the buildings and other unique aspects of this large city. It was fun playing tourist in a city that I frequently pass through to go to school. This city is beautiful in its own right; it’s not the picturesque beauty of mountains and trees. Instead its beauty persists within its architecture and opportunity. Here are my digital observations of downtown Chicago:

Sign for Chicago pedway system

Sign for Chicago pedway system

After doing a little research behind this sign I discovered that Chicago has a underground pedestrian walkway system that connects around 50 buildings in the downtown business district.  This was an exciting discovery for me. Click here to read more on the pedway system!

Looking north on  Michigan avenue

Looking north on Michigan avenue

Michigan avenue is one of the more well known streets of downtown Chicago. It is a shopper’s delight but it is also home to Millennium park and the Art Institute Museum of Chicago.

An interesting clock near Wacker

An interesting clock near Wacker

I found this clock on a building at the corner of Wacker drive and Wabash Avenue.  I know it is hard to see but surrounding the face of this clock is a circle of red lights. This just adds to my bewilderment over the clock, with the bearded angel-like character holding a scythe and  hour glass.

A tribute to American Gothic

A tribute to American Gothic

I had to take a picture of this sculpture! Its a rendition of one my favorite regionalist painter’s works, American Gothic. Grant Wood was an Iowan  just like me!

Road Closure

Road Closure

Hopefully drivers would not need the sign to tell them that they could not travel on this road. This is actually one of the road bridges that cross the Chicago River. I  find it fascinating to see the the bridges open and the road pointing towards the heavens.

Looking southwest on Michigan avenue

Looking southwest on Michigan avenue

I just wanted to capture some of the people traveling on the sidewalks of Michigan avenue and the detailed relief work on one of the bridge’s pillars.

Item found on bridge

Item found on bridge

This life preserver I found in a glass case on the Michigan avenue bridge. I like how the picture captures not only the preserver but the reflection of the buildings, cars and people on the sidewalk.

Chicago athletic association building

Chicago athletic association building

I really enjoyed the patterning in the architecture of this building. I also enjoy seeing the size of the building relative to the people on the sidewalk below.

Two famous streets

Two famous streets

Since I did my post on Paul Harvey and learned that there was a street in Chicago named after him I had an urge to find this street and take a picture. The other street, the Magnificent Mile,  is another name used for North Michigan avenue.

Window washer

Window washer

What a perfect day to wash a window! It seems like everyone is doing some spring cleaning.  I could not imagine  sitting on a board, way up there washing windows.

A way of touring Chicago

A way of touring Chicago

This was a bit of  satiric moment. I was a “native” tourist taking pictures of a tourist on a segway. There are so many ways to tour Chicago, boat, train, foot, bus, car or segway.

Art museum greeter

Art museum greeter

This is one of two green lions marking the entrance to the art institute museum. This is the end of my picture exploration. Hope you enjoyed!

Leaning tower of Niles

A tribute to a tower in Tuscany

A tribute to a tower in Tuscany

Beware my readers!

Today is the day of fool-making; don’t fall to the deceit of your neighbor. I find today a curious day in its nature. April fools is not really a national holiday that we can get reprieve from work or school instead it’s a day that still exists in practice. So be on your guard today of the toilet seat saran-wrap or any suspicious behavior or requests made to you by your fellow man. I know I might be taking the fun out of it for the few pranksters out there but I’m just trying to protect my fellow gullible persons!

As for the photo above I wanted to share with you an interesting landmark I found on my travels around town. I was contemplating using it as a ploy to see who would think I went to Tuscany but I knew you were all smarter than that. Enjoy the photo and the rest of your Wednesday!

Here is a fun/informative article from Wikipedia on April Fools