Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mammalian placenta reflects exposure to stress, impacts offsprings' brains

"Most everything experienced by a woman during a pregnancy has to interact with the placenta in order to transmit to the fetus," said Tracy L. Bale, senior author on the paper and an associate professor in the Department of Animal Biology at Penn Vet. "Now we have a marker that appears to signal to the fetus that its mother has experienced stress."
Read more at:

This type of articles have fascinated me since I read about biology, evolution and genetics as a child. Intelligence, goodness and creativity were the traits I admire the most all my life. Both in friends and in romantic interests. My curious nature always led me to try and find the connection to nutrition, environment and genetics, preparing myself for when I started my family.
There is no much anyone can do about their genes, aside from selecting a suitable mate with the qualities you want more in the world of course. Once we have the mate we dreamed on, the actual actions we can take to ensure good brain health for our babies are:
  • Good nutrition for yourself before, during and after pregnancy and for all the members of the household specially babies, 
  • Provide a stable, consistent environment, 
  • Breastfeed,
  • Stimulate brain development from early on, one to one interaction seems to be better than anything else. Create a strong and safe emotional bond. 
According to science this seem the key points in creating a set of conditions that help, whatever IQ points their parents can pass into their children, to reach their maximum capacity and allow to develop the highest amount of brain power.
I tried to get pregnant for a few months even using ovulation prediction kits to accelerate the process. Patience is not my strong suit.
I was already taking prenatal vitamins when I finally got my two lines in my pregnancy test. I went to all my appointments and followed all the doctor's recommendations. My pregnancy was really uneventful the first weeks I didn't got nausea or vomited not even once.
I kind of guessed everything was going to be smooth, though. My mother never looked happier or healthier than when she was pregnant and she told me this was a family trait. I just got a bit of 'food stinks' syndrome the first three months and with that I developed an aversion to garlic. I used to love it, but for some reason the smell became too strong and to this day I still haven't gotten back to my old garlic lover self. I ate a lot of eggs, chicken, beef, fruit and salads. I delegated kitty litter cleaning duties to husband.
I got acid reflux when the baby started to grow pushing my stomach up to my neck around week 30. And given that I was carrying a huge baby, my back was killing me. The last 4 weeks aside from wanting to eat the whole fridge, and having a bad time sleeping. I could barely stand up for more than 20 minutes.
My husband and I get along pretty well so I didn't had many stressors during my pregnancy. Except for a couple of situations at work and an ill encounter with a friend. I did made an effort to avoid situations that might end up making me stressful and tried to keep myself surrounded by positive supportive persons. Is too early to know how my choices will impact Orion's development but I had always believed, is better to try and fail than to never try.
At the very least the baby is crossing his milestones a tad earlier than expected so I'm hoping I did something right. No matter what, I love him and that is probably the best gift I can give to him to ensure whatever her capacities are going to be he will be happy. That is all that matters in the end to me.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rapunzel. Astronomer

Years ago Dr. Mother Gothel became the director of the Observatory Of Tower City by predicting the appearances of the “yearly lights' with precision.  Rapunzel Towers a grad student Mother took in to mentor had an interesting hypothesis: The lights are man made and there is intelligent life in the other side of the mountain. Gothel ridiculed her in front their fellow scientists and demoted her. She told her, she loved her too much to fire her for her 'stupid mistake' and turned her into her assistant. She forbade her from ever discussing the lights again and  made sure any request for funding went trough her first. Depressed and discouraged she took solace in spending the night shifts looking at the sky with the telescope.
One night Eugene Flint and amateur astronomer  approached her with the same theory. She knew Gothel wouldn't believe him so they decided to go in a  journey to find enough proof that the lights were man made to convince the board of scientists to further fund  their research.
Gothel had been recording Rapunzel's visits, expecting the worst. She discovered years ago she made a mistake, but she didn't wanted to lose her new power and position. Her only option was to suppress any research that proved her wrong.
She followed the pair and in a moment Eugene left for supplies, she convinced Rapunzel that he was going to steal all the credit. With promises of helping her and returning her to her old position she managed to lure her back to the observatory.
But Gothel was planning on murdering her young assistant and make it look like Eugene killed her. Rapunzel back at the office discovered the proof Gothel had been hoarding: years of research kept in files to avoid anyone finding out the truth.
Gothel was ready to strike but Eugene appeared in the right moment, took Rapunzel and locked her in the room calling the police. Gothel decided that she wouldn't want to live without the glory of her position and ended her life before the police opened the door.
Rapunzel  and Eugene shared the credit for their discovery. Rapunzel substituted Gothel as director and her fiance Eugene became his assistant in the new project. Search for Other Mountains Intelligence. SOMI
And they lived Geekily Ever After.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

And Kitty makes three

Stupid Crystal Window...

I always liked cats, even though I shouldn't. My mother doesn't care for animals and my father doesn't care for cats. In fact back in Dominican Republic when I was growing up cats had all sorts of superstitions surrounding them. I remember a few neighbors had cats and my mother used to tell me “Don't touch their fur, you will get a fever!”. My dad called them “Ladrones!” (Thieves) so I never had one as a kid.

I always been a rule follower but I promised myself than when I grew up and got married I will have a cat as a pet. Sadly, the lack of felines ended up with a huge population of mice and rats at least in the capital city (Santo Domingo). Its a miracle we didn't ended up with the Black Death 2.0 or something like it.
So out of necessity, things improved for cats as time passed by and nowadays we have a lot more cats around. My husband was surprised that we don't spay cats in my country. People with a pregnant cats start to get requests for the kittens before the cat delivers them. Some people even harass the owner to make sure she will get one out of the litter. I remember one of my Facebook contacts yelling at another friend because she gave away kittens and didn't gave her one.

My best friend had a cat named Princess, she got pregnant a few months before my paper work was ready so I asked her to give me one of the kittens. Since we are both Twihards I told her “Give me the male one. I will name him Edward” and she agree.
Now, my plan was to take the kitten and leave it in the house for my parents while I would get a couple of American cats here. I assumed my parents dislike for cats, was because they never actually had one. And since we had an infestation of mice I though this will be a great solution for them. If it didn't worked out I could just return the kitten to my friend and she will find a new home for him.
I can imagine the cat owners reading this are guessing what happened next.
Princess, even though she was less than ten pounds, delivered five kittens one of them died so she had four almost healthy live ones. My friend already had six people asking for kittens. She called me one day and told me that one of the persons she denied the cat to was suspiciously visiting around a lot so she was afraid she will steal my cat. I took a small bus (guaguita) with a cartoon box and got my cat that weekend. To this day, that neighbor is still in not speaking terms with my friend.
My friend  assured me that according to her husband, who is  a "cat expert" male kittens are always one or two colors. Cat owners are laughing at this part.
Dominican Cat to the left Gringo Cat to the right.

Weeks passed and I noticed that the only one playing with the cat was me. My parents could feed her when I was at work and my sister kept an eye on her but nothing else beyond that. My plan had failed but then I already loved her too much and couldn't bear the idea of returning her to my friend.
I called my nerd prince when we got the date for the immigration office appointment "What would you think if I tell you I want to bring the cat with me when we get the paperwork done?”. I had been adopted by a cat.
Since we didn't knew for sure if the immigration department will give me the Spouse visa or not (You can get your Visa denied if the consul got out of the wrong side of the bed that day, specially if you are Dominican) the plan B was that he will take the cat with him and wait for me to get the Visa in case I didn't got it at the first go.

Hubby met Edward and found her cute since the beginning. He was a little suspicious of her lack of...manly attributes but decided to wait for the vet to tell us for sure. The vet had to make sure she was healthy and should give us a certification to allow her in the country (waste of time, in the airport they barely looked at her paperwork). We also asked him the gender he picked her up turn her around and said “Una gata”. The color thing was proven just an 'old wives' tale'.
I though on calling her Bella but hubby told me “She comes when you call her. Don't change anything!”.  The girl in Cowboy Bebop seems to de doing okay so we kept the name. Interestingly enough there is a cat in my new neighborhood named Bela and they don't get along, they will totally fall in love now of course.
Hubby noticed how smart she was. She will not only come when I called even if she was around three months old. She also will use the litter no matter where you put it right away.
Happily, I got my Visa and it took us a week to arrange our trip.  Travel with your pets in the plane,  costs almost as much as a plane seat and you put your pet under the chair like any carry on, not happy with that.Thank goodness my hubby's parents helped us with the money for that.
I pet her with my hand in the carrier all the time to make sure she will feel safe and she tolerated the two plane trips well.
She did had a small accident since she had never seen glass windows, upon getting released in the house she tried to jump outside. Ouch! She did okay but she surely learned her lesson that first day.

It has been interesting to live with her. Hubby always commented how tiny our cats are when I found them normal size. Now that I live here: the land of fifteen and twenty pounds cats I see what he means. We guess it might be due to Insular dwarfism
Another funny thing is that Edward doesn't like catnip, she runs away from it. We call her Straight Edge cat.
Also it seems that technically she is fourth feral since Dominicans didn't breed house cats. They mostly get in and out of the house and Princess mate seems to part of a glaring. That manifested when we took her to the vet the first time. She was crying, screaming and biting everything within sight. My eight pounds of cat needed four people to get her to take a pill. To this day she has a red label in her medical record that says "Will bite". My husband nicknamed it "The little blender in the shape of a cat"
"Please little monkey don't eat me"

She is actually very sweet to us and the people she sees often enough. She is warming up to the baby but when I brought him home she didn't entered our room for almost a whole week. Of course the baby was almost two pounds bigger than her so she probably wanted to make sure he won't eat her. She is kind of a coward. One day we heard a strong noise and she disappeared for almost an hour.

I'm really thankful for Edward. I would had been sad to be alone at home while hubby worked if it wasn't for her keeping me company and life would be a lot duller without her trying to steal his bacon when he has breakfast.
I love you Edward (both Cullen and Bastow)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

TBBT.130.619. The Closet Reconfiguration

Leonard was telling the truth.

One will think his wife might be the one telling him the truth, except that would be too obvious. Also Bernadette just saw Howard looking at the pics of his father before he left. It will be too much of a coincidence that the letter also had a pic. She was lying too.

From the girls we got Amy left, unlikely since she is new in the group and Penny who has never be close to Howard. Her also version sounds a lot like a movie and she is an actress.

We know Sheldon was lying. They purposely took away the only one who actually read the letter out of the race in an obvious way.

Raj was obviously lying both because of the last bit of comment and because Howard is Jewish. If this was a you-had-become-a-man letter he would had gotten it at 13 not 18.

That leaves Leonard.
In  other episodes he shared the common bond of father issues with both Howard and Raj and in this one he was talking about how much he has grown. Makes sense he will ask to be the one to tell him the truth.

With the mystery out of the way let's talk about the episode minor details.

Raj needs to get married. Seriously, the guy is pouring husband skills everywhere and has no one that needs them and appreciate them.Since we are in the subject.
I was sad there was no mention of Lucy. I do think they could be a good pair of someone like her. Bonding over their quirks and he can take care of the social duties he likes so much while she can make new friends and take small risks on her time.

For a moment there I though Leonard was going to propose again when he was talking about the dinner party with Penny. He is also ready to get married he talked about Howard step in adulthood with pride and a hint of envy. And the dinner party was a clear indication of his strong desire to change status. He promised Penny not to propose again but then will he wait around forever? I can see Alex being a danger if she shows signs of being ready for commitment too. It would be interesting if there is another crisis coming on for Lenny.

Amy is still very much into Sheldon and still finds his weirdness endearing. Sheldon is also very much into "don't touch me!". So adorable. Progress has been made!

Lovely episode again. Fun, charming and full of heart. 5 bazingas out of 5.

Monday, March 11, 2013

TBBT.129.618. The Contractual Obligation Implementation

First things first. STEM majors dressed as Disney princesses? Copycats! Sort of...
Is there is such a thing as a Show Soulmate TBBT is mine.

Yeah I'm crazy...Moving on.

This was a very sweet episode. Leonard trying to encourage more young women to join the hard science and almost twisting the arms of his colleagues was kind of him. We need more of that in real life.

I really can't fault the guys for not wanting to help I mean this guys are willing to forsake sex and food in order to play video games helping their fellow humans? Same category: not the sightless chance.

After some convincing Howard used his 'connections' to help out and there was no 'creepiness in high school' jokes. I think Howard is past that at this point so I was thankful for not going there.

This characters is in spite of their many issues they still try to do their best as citizens and in their personal lives I admire this trait in our geeky gang. Leonard is still not over a lot of her family issues and be constantly compared with his siblings. Howard has more issues than Spiderman, Raj also tries to overcome his uber shyness and Sheldon...Well his problems are biological, a different type of challenge. Yet they all try to rise above their circumstances and find happiness. Is a great example for everyone.

Sheldon as usual was his brilliant annoying self. Is funny, for all the belittling he does and all the mistakes he makes, the guys still respect him, help him and are willing to listen to him even though more belittling comes with the territory. Loved the mention of Marie Curie, although he overplayed the bad part.

His idea of contacting their female counterparts was brilliant and I love the whole "We are encouraged to be pretty but we can be pretty in order to be happy, but we can be pretty and smart too and be happy" part of the argument. Particularly coming from Amy that is going through a second puberty of sorts with the girls and Sheldon.
Raj was really sweet trying to find a way to make Lucy comfortable in their date and it was smart to work around both issues with a texting date in a library. I like that whatever small gestures of encouragement Lucy allows herself to express. Is met with enthusiasm and accomplishment by him. Very understanding of him I'm glad he is giving her the space she needs and I can see this making him grow in her eyes. Although I think he should confess his issues about talking to women so they can bond over their awkwardness.
Is it me or every time a male in this show comes to the women for advice he comes out empty handed?
I will give this episode 5 Bazingas. It was funny, it was cute, it was nice, it was uplifting and it had a lot of heart and princesses! LOVED IT! :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Geek Mom of the month. Marie Curie

I'm going to start honoring mothers geeks from around the world in a monthly basis. I decided to start in March because is the month I was born so call it a little treat to myself.

I'm using the broad pop culture definition of geek. This section would be about mothers that one way or another had found time between breastfeeding and changing diapers to contribute to the interests most geeks cherish, science, technology, literature, video games... Bonus points if their children ended up inheriting their passion for our pursuits.

Although a bit predictable, my all time favorite is Marie Curie. She was the first woman that won a Nobel prize along with her husband Pierre, in 1903. She also continued her research after he died and won another in 1911.

So far she is the only woman to win the Nobel in two fields, and the only scientist to have won it in different sciences. Since, aside from physicist, she was also a chemist. To make her even more outstanding she was the first female professor at La Sorbonne in Paris.

Madam Curie managed to find time between her research and homemaking  to give birth and raise two daughters. One of them became an award winning scientist. Irène Joliot-Curie won the Nobel with her husband Jean Frédéric Joliot-Curie for Chemistry in 1935.Her brother Pierre Joliot-Curie is a biologist. Irene's children continued the Curie tradition.  Hélène Langevin-Joliot is a nuclear physicist and her son, Yves is an astrophysicist.

A whole dynasty dedicated to the sciences. Some of the memories of their descendants show Marie encouraging science, not by appealing to intelligence but to hard work and dedication. One of the biggest barriers for many people to pursue STEM fields is to think that you need to be a genius to be able to become a researcher. In reality what is more important is patience, dedication and a huge amount of curiosity than a high IQ.

I can only dream my child will inherit a love for discovery from me and their dad. Regardless, if he become a scientist, a comic book artist or an accountant. I will do my best to teach him to respect the legacy of women like Marie Curie.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Early Childhood Mental Health

The science of child development shows that the foundation for sound mental health is built early in life, as early experiences—which include children’s relationships with parents, caregivers, relatives, teachers, and peers—shape the architecture of the developing brain. Disruptions in this developmental process can impair a child’s capacities for learning and relating to others, with lifelong implications. This two-page summary—part of the InBrief series—explains why, many costly problems for society, ranging from the failure to complete high school to incarceration to homelessness, could be dramatically reduced if attention were paid to improving children’s environments of relationships and experiences early in life. The brief provides an overview of Establishing a Level Foundation for Life: Mental Health Begins in Early Childhood, a Working Paper by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child.
You can download and print the PDF  here:
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