Sunday, August 17, 2014

This blog is no longer active.

Dear anyone who used to read this blog, or who has randomly stumbled upon it,

I plan on leaving "Existence is Wonderful" up as an archive for the time being, but I don't plan on adding new content here.

I may eventually start writing regularly in public again, but trying to post here makes me feel...claustrophobic, somehow, like I'm stuck having the same conversations I was having in 2007-2008, etc. Nothing is wrong, it's just time to move on. Despite all the awful things in the news, ultimately I do still think existence is wonderful, and I hope everyone reading this manages to keep finding those little pockets of "this is why I am glad to be alive."

- Anne

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Existence is Wonderful is officially on hiatus.



Technically I suppose it's been on hiatus for a while now, in the sense that regular updates have not been forthcoming since, um, 2009ish? But I wanted to put up an "official" announcement in case anyone coming across this page was expecting it to be current.

Sometimes I encounter people (through work, etc.) who've been introduced to me on the basis of my having this blog, and I've gotten to the point of feeling a little weird about that, given the paucity of recently-posted new content.

All that said, I'm keeping the existenceiswonderful.com domain and at some point I may come back and re-establish something resembling an actual presence here. It'll just likely be different from what it looked like in the past, with a lot more in the way of hands-on DIY project descriptions and less in the way of "here is my opinion on X! All 5,000 words of it!". I'm liking the appearance of my template for now so I don't plan on changing that unless blogger forces me to, but I also really need to deal with the mess that is my sidebar linkage, and make sure new cool stuff-I-actually-read gets added while dead links are removed, etc.

So...in closing, thanks to everyone who has read and commented here over the years. It's been a very interesting journey and I really do feel like part of me has "grown up on the internet". I'm glad to have gotten to know the few of you who've kept in touch in other ways as a result of finding and reading my writing here, and I certainly plan on continuing to post on my cat blog and elsewhere as it strikes my fancy. With any luck at some point I'll figure out what I can possibly do with EIW on a regular basis again, but I can't predict when that'll be.

PS: I've gone and turned off the "allow anonymous comments" option for this blog as I've been getting endless cascades of repetitive, unrelenting spam flowing in lately on a ton of old posts. If I come back and start posting regularly again I'll re-enable anon comments for accessibility reasons, but while the blog is "inactive" I don't see the point of letting it turn into open season for spambot parties around here.


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Fluorescence microscopy is awesome

One of the things I've been doing recently (yes, lots of life happens even when I'm not blogging about it) is optimizing an older Zeiss microscope for fluorescence imaging at the lab where I work. A picture of the microscope appears below:





It's an Axiovert S 100 inverted scope with trinocular head. I didn't even know what an inverted microscope was before I started working with this one, but it's pretty obvious when you see it in person: it's called "inverted" because the objectives point up from the base of the scope. This is very useful when looking at, say, liquid contents of Petri dishes.

That aside, the main reason we got this scope (I mean other than it being a very reasonably-priced Zeiss inverted model) was to do fluorescence imaging. And as the resident wrench wench here, the task fell to me to get things functioning in that department.

The main challenge I faced was the fact that the 75 watt xenon arc lamp (vital for fluorescence) the scope had come with did not include a power supply. Initially I tried to make use of the first cheap Zeiss supply I found on ebay, but that one turned out to be, shall we say, a bit of a dud. On the plus side, I got some nice refresher experience tracing out circuitry:



...but on the minus side, even after determining the connector pinout (with the much-appreciated advice of various members of the Yahoo microscopes mailing list, in particular one Mr. Forster), the darn thing still wouldn't light the lamp.

I'd like to at some point go into greater technical detail about the ins and outs of arc-lamp power supplies, as it really is fascinating, but for the moment hopefully the reader can forgive my making a long story short(er). That is, after a fair bit more research and experimentation, what ended up getting the lamp lit was a power supply we already had in the lab!

It had come with another (cheap) scope that nobody really liked, and was not the ideal thing for the 75 W xenon lamp (being geared toward 100 W mercury bulbs!), but it did at least work. Mind you, I ended up having to put a giant-ass power resistor in series with it in order to get the current to the required 5.4 amps demanded by the bulb we were actually using, and modify the connector to observe proper polarity, and the whole setup is still a bit persnickety, but it's been good enough until now to at least turn the xenon lamp on and start getting some decent imaging data.

[Needless to say, I am VERY pleased to have finally found the "proper" power supply for this lamp (an EBX 75 unit) and with any luck will get to try it out tomorrow (it just arrived this evening!).]

Ultimately we're going to be using this scope to look at cells and parts of animal cells, with the fluorescence being used to identify the presence/absence of particular Items of Import (proteins, etc.) within said cells. But for the purposes of testing out our imaging capabilities, I've ended up collecting a whole bunch of random interesting samples of various things that exhibit autofluorescence (which tends to persist longer than the illumination of fluorophores, making it easier to test photography techniques on).

For instance, below is a cross-section of some sort of flowering plant (found growing near the lab parking lot):


You can clearly see the cell wall structure along the outside, and there also seem to be some little particles inside the plant that fluoresce more than the surrounding cells. I am not sure what they are but I am thinking possibly chlorophyll (though any visiting plant biologists can feel free to speak up if they have a better idea!).

As for how the picture was taken, basically I built an adapter thing out of a camera lens cover and mounted my DSLR (a Canon Rebel T3i) onto the phototube (the third protrusion on the binocular head). Again, I'd like to get into more details about this at some point but for now I am just going to post this because I am terribly rusty at blogging and have found that if I insist on making every post into a novel-length textbook thing I never post anything at all.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Under (Re)construction

I'm alive, just haven't updated in ages. If anyone is still reading, template updates are in process and updates to links, lists, etc. should follow. EDIT: No, the colors won't all be this dark when I'm finished. I also expect to be mucking around with templates / formatting a fair bit. Don't freak out.