Saturday, August 29, 2009

New Orleans, Katrina +4

Today is an important date in the city of New Orleans. Four years ago today Katrina made landfall in New Orleans . The effects of that storm, combined with the structural failures that accompanied it, are sadly familiar to most news watching Americans. Colin and I were not here for Katrina, we were still living in Chicago at the time. This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that we were not forced to evacuate, did not have our lives turned upside down and did not have to go through the many hardships that others were forced to endure. A curse in that we can never truly understand how hard that time was for this city and its residents, and that we were not witnesses to the destruction, the federal and local government failures, and the suffering that was experienced at this time four short years ago.

For me, the Katrina anniversary provides me with another chance to be grateful that I have been able to come to this amazing city. That New Orleans was still here for me to live in and to love. That in some small way my arrival here was helpful in allowing the preservation of a great American city.

Rabbi Cohn, the rabbi of our synogouge said it best when he noted that the residents of New Orleans post Katrina must be “the rebuilders of the ruins, the restorers of paths to dwell in.” (Isaiah 58:12) I like the King James version of this line even better, and think that New Orleanians are "... The repairer(s) of the breach..." or the ones who will fix our broken levee system and our ruined wetlands. This translation is particularly apt because most of the commentaries on this verse understand "breach" to be a breach of the covenant. To apply this to New Orleans, we (both the city and the rest of the country) have broken our promises to ourselves and each other to maintain a livable and safe city.

A visitor that came through the city this summer and stayed with us noted that New Orleans seemed to still be referencing the storm, or the flood, in every conversation. I think that the magnitude of destruction left a permanent watermark on this city, and that it will take many more years before Katrina does not hold a place of attention in our city's consciousness. However we see progress every day. In just the last two years, a huge number of stores and homes have been built where before there were only abandoned buildings. Colin and I constantly marvel at how much has been accomplished in the time we have been here. This is not to say that we have not also seen negligence and squandered chances. This city will never be the same as it was before Katrina, and we still have a long, long way to go before we are fully functional. But, I can see the promised land. If we are lucky, New Orleans will continue not just to exist, but to thrive.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Start of the school year

Hey all, I just thought I would let you know how my first week of classes has been going, and what my life has been like as a newly minted PHD student. First of all here are is my class schedule for this semester:

Epidemiology Department Seminar 12:00-1:00

Tuesday / Thursday:
Categorical Data Analysis 9:00-10:15

Field Methods, Project Monitoring and Evaluation 10:00- 12:00
Observational Epidemiology 1:00-3:45
Healthcare of Women 4:00-5:40

Field Methods, Project Monitoring and Evaluation 10:00- 12:00

As a PHD student I also have other official duties besides taking classes. This semester I will be TA-ing for Introduction to Epidemiology. This means I will be grading homework and quizzes and holding office hours from 5:00-6:00 on Monday evenings. My studies are being funded through a brand new grant given to Tulane called Training in Global Reproductive Epidemiology (TIGRE) grant. You can investigate what that entails here. My specific area of research under TIGRE is to examine the effect of Dengue virus infection in pregnant women and children. So, starting this semester, and continuing through-out my PHD program, I will be conducting research looking at the health impact of Dengue on these groups.

Most excitingly, I also get my very own corner in the Epidemiology fellows office. This is my first official office, and I plan on sprucing it up with a houseplant and other swag. I will post a picture next week of my official work area once I finish decorating it.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Biodiversity in South East Asia

As many of you know, I love South East Asia. To me it is the coolest place on earth. I love the people, the cultures, the food, and of course the beautiful scenery. Part of that scenery is composed of the amazing plants, animals and insects that make this tropical part of the world their home. I came across a nice little discovery news video which describes some of new species that have been discovered along the Mekong delta region in the last decade. It is a nice little educational sail down the Mekong river, which makes clear why we need to protect this amazing area today and in the future. Enjoy!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday cat blogging

We are pleased to announce that Tony is well on his way to becoming a Friedman-McFaul. He has gone from refusing to leave the office closet, to freely wandering the house (albeit with some trepidation) and trying to play with Hodag. He is also willing to let near-strangers (guests and friends of ours) pet him as long as he is in a safe location. Tony's safe places include the office closet, and the space beneath our bed. He will also sit out in the open pretty much anywhere on the second floor.

Hodag seems to be adjusting to the addition of Tony to the family pretty well. Although he has not yet let Tony touch or play with him, they have slowly gotten more comfortable around each other. All in all, we are quite pleased with the progress that Tony has made in fitting into our home, and we anticipate that he and Hodag will become friends.

Tony allowing our friend Erin (the hand) to snuggle him.

Tony and Hodag investigating each other closely.

Tony hanging out in our bedroom.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Waiting for October

Ah, the doldrums of the end of summer. It's been a busy summer (not that I've been reporting on my activity), and classes are starting next Monday (not that I've noticed, seeing as how I am done with classes). The next big thing up on my schedule is the qualifying exam in October.

So what have I been doing all summer? I've been working in the lab. My big news for the summer is that my lab is applying for the MRI-R2 grant program that NSF is funding as part of the stimulus package. We are submitting Tulane's instrumentation development proposal. My project for the last year or so has been to develop a new instrument for our lab, so it was very convienient for us that this instrumentation development grant came along when it did. NSF grants are always very competitive, so it's impossible to get too optimistic, but we are about as hopeful as we can be. My advisor's suspicion is that a lot of the submissions will be wish-lists, and thus of lower quality than usual. In addition, we suspect that most of the grants in this competition will be for instrumentation acquisition, rather than for instrumentation development. So there's likely to be less competition development grants like ours. That's the hope anyway.

What makes this all really exciting is that this grant would fund me fully for three years, and that I will be the only full-time person on the grant. And there will be a lot of interesting things for me to work on.

I will say more about the actual content of this project in a few days.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I no longer trust weather underground

This is Weather Underground's current status for 70118. The sky outside my window is completely clouded over, raining hard, and lightning-ing. It's not just wrong, it's the completely opposite of right. I don't understand what's going on.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Cat Blogging: Tony Edition

Tomorrow we are welcoming a new member of our family. This is Tony, one of the cats I met at ARNO. I fell in love with him despite the fact that he is extraordinarily shy, and hides from most people. However, it turns out he can be lured out of his hammock or box with Temptation Cat Treats. We plan on picking him up first thing tomorrow morning, and bringing him home after we swing by our vet for a final ringworm treatment. It is our hope that Tony and Hodag will become friends and keep each other entertained during the day, especially since Colin and I will soon be busy with school and work respectively. Tony will most likely spend the first few weeks he is with us sequestered in the office, learning how not to be afraid of us and the house. Then we will introduce him to Hodag and hope that all goes well. Stay tuned for updates!

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