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Schwah Blog

More Micro Photography

I've been spending some free time on my microscopes lately and thought I'd share some recent photos with the few of you who actually read my blog. :)

Here's two photos I took of some coagulated blood. Don't worry, the blood is mine. They look like weird alien landscapes, eh?

I was really bored one evening and decided to tape my eyebrows to see if I could catch anything interesting. No such luck, though I guess that's probably a good thing. I did manage to get an interesting photo showing the structure of my eyebrow hair. The 2nd photo here is the edge of the packing tape I used, right where the little metal teeth sever the tape. You can see how the tape is actually made from several fine layers.

I took my dog to a local lake for a swim and decided to fill a jar with lake water for study. I manged to find a few interesting things. I *think* this is a cyclopoid copepod, distant cousin to the shrimp and lobster. I took some video of this guy and it was pretty interesting watching his organs in motion. Link to vid at the end of this blog.

I have no clue what this thing (group of things) is, but this structure was pretty small even by microscopic standards and I almost missed it entirely.

I consider this shot proof that even micro-organisms like to party.

Love the colors on the diatomes on the left hand side here.

This is a shot of evaporating lake water on a slide between two coverslips. I used a toluidine blue dye which accounts for the color. There's absolutely nothing of interest to be found in this photo, but I thought the visual was pretty cool.

Last but not least, here are some videos. Hope you enjoyed the pics.

http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/551260/Microscopy/microv2.m1v

http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/551260/Microscopy/MicroV3.m1v

Moth "Feathers" ... and some goo

A little moth decided to shuffle off his mortal coil right where I could find him on my windowsill, so I'm going to assume he wanted to donate his body to science. :)

My camera is hooked up to the compound scope at the moment so only high magnification shots today. I did a scraping of the moth wing with some tweezers so that I could examine some of the wing scales. While doing so I inadvertently ruptured something and a wee bit of goo made it onto the slide.

Here's a pic taken at 400x magnification showing one (and a partial) moth scale. Don't they look a lot like feathers?

Here's a 100x magnification image of the "moth goo." You can see some of the scales mixed in there as well.

Here's another goo shot at 400x. My first though was moth blood or something like that, but it looks like there's a lot more going on in this mess than blood.

I'm still trying to figure out what these are. There were quite a few of them in my little scraping. It looks like an antenna but it's far too small -not much larger than a two wing scales on average. Some let attachments perhaps?

And now to combine the whole mess together, here's a scale, a couple of segmented "things" and some goo!

Thanks Mr. Moth, rest in peace.

Blood Slide (almost religion)

Oh how it boggles my mind!

Tonight I prepared another unstained microscope slide consisting of a single drop of my blood, and I subsequently dove into a vast crimson sea and the scarcely observed reality of our constant companions.

I'd post pics but it wouldn't do the life of these cells any justice. Just for the record, there are hundreds of thousands of cells in a single drop of blood, and I don't think this fact can be fully appreciated without the aid of a microscope. When you examine a clumsily prepared unstained blood slide you'll see a vast ocean of moving cells stacked like coins being hurried this way and that by microscopic currents and vibrations that we can't even begin to perceive. You'll witness the slow death of what was very recently part of the living community known as *insert your name here*. You'll at once feel just as small as you feel large, and if you're lucky, you'll perceive something even closer to the truth of your existence... whether that be truth itself, gods, or the lack thereof.

It's hard for me to set each used slide in a pile of glass destined for the local landfill, but that in itself becomes an amazing proposition.

So vast, but such a small part of me. What the hell am I?

A New Toy! (w/pics)

Hey friends, (open blog for full pic view)

I ordered a new lens for my camera last week and it arrived yesterday evening. It's a macro lens for small subject / close-up photography. I brought it with me to work today and took some practice shots in our garden. Some local fauna was kind enough to pose for me as well, lol. I wish I could post these images in RAW format, but oh well. I settled for crops, resizes and converting to Jpeg but you can still get the general idea.

My dog was confused when I took this photograph of her eye this morning. She was subsequently rewarded with a treat and all was well. :) I like this pic because if you look really closely at her eye you can see a distorted image of me taking the picture.

There I am.*waves* hello!

I noticed there was a lot of complexity in the center of this wildflower and thought it might make for a good "detail" test subject. Terrible shot, but the clarity of detail looks promising.

While I was taking pictures of moths this Tigerswallow Butterfly (Papilio glaucas) dropped in on the scene as if to say, "Moths? WTF man, have some standards." This also happens to be the state butterfly of Virgina. I like this image because you can see it going for nectar with it's proboscis.

I thought this dude was very cool. He looks like a cross between a shrimp, humming bird, and mosquito. Turns out he's a Clearwing Humming Bird Moth.

Here's another variety of moth taking a drink. I'm not even going to bother trying to identify this one. Looks like too many other moths I've seen.

Oh well, not too shabby for a 5 minute shoot I guess. Can't wait to take this lens on my next day trip. Thanks for reading.

Expensive Hobbies / Existential Bliss

When I was 8 years old the world was a mysterious place, and I managed to keep myself entertained for hours upon hours just sitting in the midst of blackberry bushes playing with toads and snails. With the exception of candy, ice cream and Coca Cola my primary interests were completely free.

These days my primary interests come with hefty price tags and lots of personal budgeting, but I'm happy to say that I can still keep myself entertained for hours on end and the world is still a mysterious place in which to live.

1. Photography: I don't even remember how I caught the bug, but I do remember being glued to my computer screen for weeks on end trying to learn and understand a whole new language. Apertures, focal lengths, saturation, depth of field, white balance, etc. Two starter cameras later and I purchased a Nikon D700 (my precious), and since that time I have been able to purchase a couple of lenses worthy of such a fine piece of equipment - lenses that totaled more than the camera itself! Still, it was money well spent. I don't even sell my photographs. I share them with family and friends (and sometimes gamespoters), but my experience with photography has allowed me the opportunity to look at city streets, overgrown yards, and my fellow human beings in remarkably different ways. Even ugly people are no longer ugly... they're just more interesting. That's worth more that cost of any camera or lens I can assure you.

2. Microscopy: This is another one of those hobbies where I caught the bug and couldn't let go. Unfortunately for my savings account, I learned that amateur microscopy is significantly more expensive to break into than photography, especially if you plan to photo-document your work. I researched various microscopes and microscopy methods for well over a year before I finally broke down and purchased a Nikon E200 compound microscope with a dedicated microscopy camera. I later purchased a Unitron Z850 stereo microscope to compliment the Nikon. I could have purchased two bad-ass motorcycles for the same amount of cash (that will be my next expensive hobby).

It was worth it. In my experience microscopes are just short of being fricken magical. I know that sounds hokey but let me put this in perspective for you, because that's really what it's all about... perspective! As human beings we're doomed to life of limited perspective. Be it our literal perspective, cultural perspective, religious, ideological, political, or geographical perspective... any way you look it we're highly limited. Sure, you can travel the world but it takes a lifetime or more to understand a single cultural perspective, and our biases usually limit us from seeing the world beyond our field of vision.

But wait there's even more going on in our world. As it turns out (relatively speaking) you and I are galactic monstrosities slowly making our way through the universe breathing multitudes of life into existence with every inhale and causing untold destruction with every exhale... or something like that. There's an entire world of living beings under our fingernails that macro-scopic beings have been totally unaware of for millions and millions of years! For me it comes down to this... there's nothing that a year's worth of 1000 TV channels can do that will fascinate me more than a single drop of pond water. This is a hobby worth looking into.

3. PC Gaming: Compared to photography and microscopy, PC gaming almost seems silly in comparison, but there's something to be said for scoring a headshot in California from a desk in Virginia at less than 40fps in beautiful jungle environments. I'll leave it at that.

Thanks for reading. Please share your own free, inexpensive, or account-draining hobbies. But nothing too expensive please. If I catch that bug again I'm not sure where I'll be able to find the supporting funds!

An extended leave of absense...

Forgive me Gamespoters for I have sinned. It's been one year and eleven months since my last blog post.

I took some time off from work to hike through the Himalayas last November, but I subsequently fell in love with a small Nepalese village known as Balubari and decided to spend the better part of a year and a half there learning the language, the culture, and the arts of ceramics and woodcraft. It was a deeply moving experience; one that I'll always cherish and never forget.

Uh, but really though... I've mostly been sitting on my ass at work or at home these past 23 months watching my favorite TV shows, reading books, cycling through terrible relationships and eating perogies. But wouldn't it be sweet if that other stuff were true?

The past two years haven't been a total wash. I've learned a lot along way, I've met some interesting people, I've picked up a few new hobbies, and I've become a more relaxed and tolerant human being. I've even been trying to learn Spanish with Rosetta Stone, lol

I think I'm going to stick around GS for awhile. At least until I get that "bashing my head against a brick wall"
feeling again. Let the satisfactory times roll! Woot!

My work days are always crazy, pun intended.

Life is grand when you love your work, and I certainly love mine.

After getting my Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling I turned down a more lucrative position to follow my real passion, mental health. I really couldn't be happier about that decision.

I just signed on with a local Community Services Board working on a newly formed Intensive Community Treatment (ICT) team. The short description of job would be that I work closely with individuals in our city who are suffering from severe mental illness and need constant professional support.

Every work day thus far has been ridiculously fascinating. Every time I enter someone's home I run the risk of being punched in the face, having a whole cake thrown at me, having to stop someone from killing themselves, being insulted to extreme degrees, or having someone answer the door in their birthday suit. These are all things that happened in my first month on the job by the way. What could the future possibly bring? LOL!

I'm sure this probably doesn't fit the profile of your average dream job but I would much rather be excited, interested and engaged throughout my work days than find myself watching the clock.

So for those of you who are employed, do you love your jobs?

Countdown to the End of Woe

I can't recall having a more stressful academic month in my life. And why the hell would the Commission on Certified Rehabilitation Counseling schedule the certification exam right in the middle of when most graduate students are having their final exams and projects?! Bah

Well, I will be sitting down to take the 6 hour certification exam in approximately 2 hours. I doubt anyone will read this within that time but wish me luck anyway. I hope they have comfortable chairs.

Sadly, the official End of Woe isn't until the third of May, next week, when the rest of my papers and projects are due. At which point I will let out a giant sigh of relief and tell myself not to ever think of going for my doctorate. I'm almost 30, enough school already!!!!!!!

The Month of Woe

I am really not looking forward to this month. For starters I take the CRC (certified rehabilitation counselor) exam on the 28th. Three hours in the morning and three in the afternoon, yuck.

But as if that weren't enough I also have 10 case studies due along with one mega research paper on childhood development. This really isn't gelling with my tendency to procrastinate!

New Internship!

Great news on two fronts!

First of all I'm entering my last semester of graduate school. I'm earning a Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from VCU's School of Allied Health, one of the best medical programs in the country. After which I’ll likely work for a few more years in the industry before going back to school to earn my doctorate in counseling or psychology.

On top of that I just landed the internship that I was really hoping for. I'll be working at a day clinic for individuals with severe mental illness. I find that particular client population fascinating and I look forward to being an advocate for their rehabilitation and community inclusion. I start this Monday. Woot!

Here's a bit of advice, you can take it or leave it. When it comes to your career don't follow the money, follow what you love. That is of course unless all you love in money, in which case you should probably just keep chasing that cash. lol

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