Thursday, July 28, 2011




I was asked to build a counter in the lab where systems physiology and cellular & molecular biology are taught - here is what I came up with. My understanding is that a moveable cart will be put back in front of the door (it is a rarely used access to the roof) and the other spectrophotometers/computers from the first picture (or their replacements?) will go on the counter.

*I find it humorous that the last time this room was painted the electrical conduit was not painted behind some moveable object as can be seen in the second picture.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lessons from Canoeing

Lessons learned from hundreds of miles of canoeing – primarily in the wilderness of the Canadian Shield.

When paddling, it is the goal we choose that determines the journey we take and not the direction of the current. Pursuing this goal may require paddling upstream and at times we come to places where the opposing current is too strong to resist – here we must take to the wilderness, and from there we can either carry our cargo around or, with our feet on solid rock, pull it through.

Sometimes the current moves toward our goal – but it is then that we are in the greatest danger of being swept into rough water, or, calmly but swiftly drifting past on the opposite bank from the mouth of the next river in our journey – or simply losing track of where we are in relation to the map. For these and other reasons we must carefully and frequently study the map as well as paying attention to the landmarks around us and consulting with those who have done the journey before. It is especially important to study the map before making changes to the planned route since alluring deceptions abound. By studying our map we will be aware of the dangers ahead and be better prepared to negotiate them. Once again, when facing a stretch of rough water, take to the wilderness, study your map, and plan the best route through or around the rapids.

It is customary for those traveling downstream in water that is calm and deep to accumulate extra baggage - but when water is rough or shallow (or worse yet, both) or a portage is in order these niceties can bog us down and slow not only our progress but also that of our companions as we journey toward the Goal.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Lessons from GIS

It just wouldn’t go where it was supposed to! I had a drawing of building footprints (made with CAD software) that I was supposed to superimpose on an aerial photo of the exact same buildings for my geographic information systems (GIS) class – I could rotate the drawing, I could move it around a little bit, but I wanted to make it line up with the buildings that were on my map of a college campus in Pennsylvania (where they belonged). Instead, the building footprints were somewhere in the vicinity of Kentucky and facing the wrong direction.

I tried doing everything that should have moved it, searched for tips on the web, and blindly hunted through various tabs and toolbars trying anything that looked vaguely promising without any better results. It was like setting two marbles down on opposite ends of a table and subsequently not being able to move one of them more than an inch in any direction.

Upwards of two frustrating hours later, on my third or fourth time starting over from scratch, I happened to try clicking a different checkbox during the process of importing the troublesome file. This proved to be the key which allowed me to move the drawing onto my map from where I could adjust it to make it line up with the buildings.

In my exercise I had two, fully formed pictures which I needed to reconcile. I could zoom in to each one to view it in more detail and it was easy to see how the details ought to line up if one drawing could be moved, resized, and reoriented.

As a student of biology who believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God I am in a similar situation. It is as though I have two pictures of this world’s change through time to the way it presently appears. However, unlike the layers in my GIS assignment, both of these pictures are largely incomplete. Both pictures are supported by evidence I myself have seen and experienced, yet I have not been able to reconcile them very well in any meaningful way.

In another GIS assignment I ended up with countless map layers which, although interesting, and even useful for generating predictions, did not end up being necessary for the final project... and if one of these had been difficult, or even impossible to align with the others it would have been of little consequence in the grand scheme of things.

In a similar way to this second assignment I believe that our mission here in this life does not require us to reconcile all available opinions but rather, that the data needed to complete life’s assignment is all available from a single source.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I received a phone call yesterday in which a guy in his early thirties whom I’ve never met before was requesting the phone numbers of single females I knew – preferably the “homemaker” type since he has several children. He had two names in mind of girls my age and younger (for whom I actually did have the numbers) and suggested that I could think of a few more... I declined in short order to give out contact information for any of my many “sisters” to a stranger - but if any of you are disappointed with that decision I could arrange for him to contact you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Electron Microscopy Part II - the SEM

The face of an ant

The face of a Gnat

The face of a flea

Friday, March 11, 2011

Electron Microscopy

Capillary cross section with a red blood cell in it (8,900 x magnification)

Skeletal muscle in which you can see the various bands as well as multiple mitochondria near the "Z lines" (15,500 x magnification)

Monday, January 3, 2011

You've Asked Me This Before

While fueling up at a gas station in South Bend yesterday I noticed a man approaching me. Deep in the recesses of my brain I thought he looked familiar but I couldn’t place him until he began to speak. With a unique nasal tone in his voice and obsequious mannerisms he began by saying “this is really embarrassing, I never thought this would happen to me...” and in a few words explained how he had run out of gas and was hoping I could spare some change to help him get to St. Joseph (about 30 miles away). Without a trace of remorse I flatly told him “No – you’ve asked me this before.” The expression on his face as he withdrew, stammering that he was pretty sure he had never been in this situation before, was one of the most amusing I have seen. Yet later I wondered If I should have taken a different approach.

Several weeks ago I was leaving Wall Mart in Benton Harbor and was approached by this same individual with the exact same phrases, tone of voice, and mannerisms (except that he was going to Niles; also a 30 mile trip). I have always been leery to give money directly to beggars for fear that its use would not be a wise investment of the Lord’s money. Nonetheless, ever wanting to help, I offered to put some gas in his car figuring that, true story or not, at least he wouldn’t use it for alcohol or drugs. I was startled when he refused this offer and again asked for money using the excuse that there was no gas station right where we were. I pointed out to him that he would need to go to a gas station to get gas anyway, and that the nearest one was less than half a mile away. After a couple more excuses as to why money would be better than gasoline (each less convincing than the previous one) I left him.

How can you help someone like this? It seems like it would be much easier if a person were honest in their request. If someone is holding a sign “will work for food” and they accept food or work with grateful enthusiasm then it would be much easier to justify spending time and resources to help them out of a difficult situation... but what if, as is often (if not usually) the case, this kind of sign is not an honest representation of their goal and they merely use it to get cash handouts? Certainly they still need help – perhaps more than an “honest” beggar... but they may not want or even know what sort of help they need.

Sometimes I find myself asking God for things that I think I want and then not being as appreciative as I should of what he offers me (if indeed I recognize and appreciate it at all). Despite my ingratitude He continues to reach out to me and to instill in my heart a desire for what He knows I really need.

How can I follow this example next time an “embarrassed” man with a nasal voice asks me for change?