Monday, December 9, 2013

Happy Herbivore Light and Lean by Lindsay S. Nixon - Review and Q&A with Lindsay - Plus Breakfast Taco Recipe!

As I've begun to eat more and more plant-based, I've had to venture into a realm of new cookbooks and new ingredients.  Many of the vegan cookbooks I initially found made me a bit wary about how complicated eating this new way was.  That was until I found The Everyday Happy Herbivore on Amazon and bought the Kindle edition.  First of all, as a person who often works with designing ebooks and knows how difficult it can be, this book has the best design and layout of any non-novel ebook I've seen.  So thank you to the publisher who put the effort into making it a great print and digital book.  And then to the actual content!   Everything was easy, familiar, and tasty.  I started following the Happy Herbivore blog, and I was hooked!

Lindsay's newest book Happy Herbivore Light and Lean is a great addition to my cookbook library and a great resource for your everyday eating plan.  This book's low calorie density approach was inspired by the 7-Day Meal Plans offered each week by Lindsay.  I myself have used the meal plans to get inspired to eat more of a variety during the week as I can get into a food rut when just cooking for one.

The book is beautifully designed and an interesting read.  Lindsay shares her journey to health at the beginning of the book and then adds interesting tidbits before each recipe.  I sat down and read the whole thing on my recent flight to Chicago and tagged recipes that caught my eye.  So far I've made Taco Burgers and Leftovers Potpie.  On my to make list is the Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe!

Potpie in progress

Taco burgers
I was able to ask Lindsay a few questions about her experience as the Happy Herbivore and some food tips, please enjoy:

1) I really enjoy your meals plans, but I am more of a snacker and can only eat about half of the suggested portion size at a time.  Do you have any suggestions for how to make the meal plans work for those who like to graze throughout the day rather than having big meals?

-Break the meals up -- eat half at lunch, then the rest a few hours later when you’re hungry again. 

2) When I have made a dish that comes out truly horrible, it really sucks away my confidence as a cook.  How do you get over kitchen failures when you're creating new recipes?

-You win some you lose some. You learn more from your mistakes than your wins.

3) I really enjoy reading your blog posts about changing your career course and transitioning to become an entrepreneur.  As a graduate student soon to graduate in May and looking for work, what advice do you have for picking your first job?  Would you have liked to have started Happy Herbivore from the very beginning of your career?

-Check out the free video series at Exit Strategy School ( video 2 talks about this specifically.

4) I love a good crunchy snack, but buying a bag of chips leads to me eating the entire bag all at once.  I've tried to substitute carrots, but it's just not the same.  Do you have any good healthy, crunchy snack suggestions?

-The healthy potato chips in Light and Lean!

5) I have eaten a red delicious apple almost everyday of my life, I love them!  What's your favorite type of apple?

-I’m not a big apple person. I do like them from time to time but they’re almost too sweet for me. I think I lean more towards citrus fruits. I love a pink grapefruit!


Though it may be hard to get over Lindsay not being an apple person (blasphemy!), she kindly shared her recipe for breakfast tacos.  If only my food photos looked as beautiful as those in her book!  I highly recommend all the Happy Herbivore cookbooks, and if you're not sold yet, go to her website and try out one of her free recipes.  As soon as you make a recipe that's so quick, easy, tasty, and healthy you will definitely want more.  Happy cooking!

Breakfast Tacos
Makes 3
Soy-free, Gluten-free, Budget

I'm always looking for ways to slip more vegetables into my diet (particularly at breakfast) and these tacos hit the nail on the head: greens, beans, and sweet potatoes before lunch? I can feel good about that! Bonus: They are really filling and leave me satisfied for hours. I tend to make these tacos for breakfast when I have leftover cooked greens and sweet potatoes from the day before.

3 corn tortillas
1 sweet potato, cooked
½ c cooked black beans
½ c cooked greens (e.g., steamed kale or collards)
2 green onions, sliced
hot sauce
salsa (optional)
nutritional yeast (optional)
guacamole (optional)

Warm corn tortillas if they've been in your fridge. I like to heat each side over a low flame for 10–15 seconds on my gas stove, but a few seconds in the microwave covered with a damp paper towel also works. Mash sweet potato with a fork (you can mix in spices like ground cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne if you like, or even a basic fajita or taco seasoning with a splash of nondairy milk) and spread into the center of the tortilla. Top with beans, greens, and green onions, plus hot sauce, salsa, nutritional yeast, and guacamole as desired (I overflow my tacos so they are really filled). Enjoy!

Chef’s Note Make a “taco bar” and serve these for brunch when you have a big crowd.
Tofu Scramble (pg. 35) is another great filling option

Per taco
Calories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
Fat. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.3g
Carbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29.1g
Fiber. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5.6g
Sugars. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3g
Protein. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5.2g
WW Points. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Creating a Crani - Craniotomy from the OR to the Computer Screen

Things I thought I would never see - surgeons arguing about logistical use of the operating rooms while performing brain surgery.  Nothing like multi-tasking while picking apart someone's brain... literally.  This project is for a website that contains educational materials for the UIC hospital.  Each student in the class was assigned a specific surgery to illustrate.  I was assigned to explain a craniotomy, a fairly common procedure in the UIC OR.

This is the first time I've had to go into the OR for a specific surgery, which made getting in much more difficult.  Because we don't get a schedule the day before, I would get an email either late the night before or very early the morning of (before 7am), so scheduling in advance was not an option.  I only have class in the morning on Wednesday so I tried to stay flexible and be patient, two challenges for me.

I was tested even more when on the day I was able to get into a craniotomy there was a delay.  I got into the OR around 7 am and surgery commenced around 10:30 am.  And I'm going to let you in on a secret, there isn't nothing to entertain yourself with in the OR.  I basically stood in the hallway getting in the way of everyone for 3 and a half hours.  I was not pleased.  But I persisted, only sending a few angry texts, and was rewarded for my patience. 

The head nurse of the room had seen me wait it out for all that time and made sure I had the best seat in the house for the surgery.  Basically, I was elbow to elbow with the surgeons.  So much so I accidentally touched one of them, ruining there sterile environment.  Luckily, they are prepared with special attachable sleeves to fix my elbow bump.  I also was standing in front of the screens they used to magnify the brain, so I did some ducking.  But that nurse was not going to let them move me from my spot.  Basically, those surgeons were going to do that surgery with me as their third wheel or the patient was going to have to keep that tumor in his head (they completed the surgery).

 My sketches came out great, I've come a long way with my abilities to sketch on the fly in the operating room.  I had around 10 steps in mind at the beginning, but I needed to reduce down to 5 or 6 key steps.  I ended up having 5 steps, though one step is three illustrations.  I did the line work in Illustrator and brought it into photoshop to paint.  What took me the longest was the full layout of the steps.  Making sure the eye reads each step in the correct order and is oriented to the where in the body the step is taking place is more challenging than I initially thought.

In the end, I'm very happy with how it turned out.  I got to see brain surgery, check out books on how to do brain surgery, and then illustrate the heck out of brain surgery.  A good days work in the life of a medical illustrator.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Business Identity: A Visual Exploration of Who You Are

I spend a lot of time in my own head, so I have a strong grasp of what makes me tick.  Exploring and representing someone else's identity was a fun way to escape and reinvent.  Working with the Integrative Physiology Lab (IPL) at UIC was a great "real world" experience.  Side note, I believe every aspect of grad school is the "real world," but there is something to be said about presenting to a client that adds an extra bit of motivation to making your design great.

Our graphic design class was asked to create a logo for IPL.  We got a tour of the facility, met people who worked there, and were given their business profile - a very tough form. I'm now filling out a business profile for my own business, so I can attest to how much labor goes into crafting a single sentence to define what you do and why.

IPL did a great job showing how enthusiastic and creative they are in their field.  The inspiration came from the same place, but the members of the class all came up with very unique and differing designs, yet they all completely encompassed IPL.  I love that about design, the "right" answer can be so many different things.  After spending hours combing through scientific literature for pharma and surgical, my brain needs a little freedom.

The progression of my design is fascinating to me, one spark of an idea gets molded to become something truly polished but with so much meaning behind it.  Every line and curve come from something, but can also be interpreted in different ways.  My initial idea came from the shape of a magnifying glass, but our client, Tracy, saw a petri dish.  I loved the duality and it pushed me to choose that as my final design from the three ideas we had initially shown Tracy.

Though my design was not chosen by IPL, I'm still extremely proud of my logo.  I've got a lot of creative energy left from exploring business identity and am currently busy working on a logo for my own business called Visual Vitality.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

InDesign Export to EPUB: The Destroyer of Good Design

I've embarked on a journey of epublishing this semester and the journey has begun with a steep climb up a mountain of a learning curve.  I naively thought that a program such as Adobe InDesign would wish to work with me to make a well designed ebook.  That is not the case.  I give InDesign a file full of text and images placed ever so and then I click export > EPUB and, BAM, destruction.  Yes, I definitely wanted all my images at the end of the book, don't place them near the text they are related to that would be silly...  Apparently ebook design is more like ebook correcting.  You make something nice, InDesign destroys it and then you painstakingly correct it.

iBooks Author seems like the answer to these problems, it has been made solely for epublishing.  But Apple decided to make it solely for Apple publishing only to be read on an iPhone or iPad.  *****UPDATE 11/2/13:  Hooray, Apple now has an app to read ibooks on a desktop!!!!*******  Amazon?  Only a majority of ebooks are sold on Amazon, who would need to be compatible with them???

So it looks like I have some bitterness to get out of my system.  I think what upsets me the most is that there is so much potential for ebooks to help people have greater access to reading and to make reading more fun, engaging, and easier to learn from.  But instead there is so much confusion in ebook software and publishing that good ebooks are too difficult to make often.  Amazon doesn't publish EPUBs, the "global" format of ebooks.  Apple makes a great software program to make ebooks but only allows people to publish with them.  And reading ebooks on a desktop is somehow made challenging for the average computer owner.  It's an "electronic book" not a "only read on a tablet book."  

I think there is a large market out there for well-designed ebooks.  Glitchy, ugly looking flowable EPUBs give ebooks a bad name.  They aren't going to compare to the beauty of a printed book.  But ebooks could kick printed books' butts if audio, video, and other interactive features are added and allowed to be published by widely known ebook sellers.  Reading can become a video game, movie, or TV show, and self-publishing can be a viable option.  

YouTube has allowed every person to host their own TV show with their own personal channel; epublishing can allow the same access to writers to create published niche books for specific audiences because they don't have to go through a publisher.  I love reading self-published books that are way too unique to be picked up by a large publisher.  I want to see more and at a higher quality.  I think we are so close to getting there, but I hope Adobe, Apple, and Amazon can get their acts together and stop putting limitations up for their own personal profits.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cooking Up a Storm!

Chickpea tenders
 I've been in the kitchen making a lot of tasty treats lately, and I thought I'd share.  I've been working my way through Lindsay Nixon's cookbook Everyday Happy Herbivore.  I was excited to make the chickpea tenders because I've been missing chicken strips.  In my free-eating undergrad years I ate lots of spicy chicken strips at the MU, yum.  So I thought, maybe a bit too optimistically, that these would replace that need.  They weren't bad so much as really, really did not meet my expectations.  I got to use my new package of vital wheat gluten and well as nutritional yeast, so that's fun.  But unless I find it makes an epic sandwich, I'll just stick to eating chickpeas in other ways.

Banana bread
 I was too excited with my pumpkin bread (shown below) to let it rest a couple days to let the pumpkin-y flavor to really come out.  I finished the last piece the day it actually was really tasty.  So with the banana bread I'm trying to not let that happen.  I haven't actually tried it yet because I'm waiting!!!

French toast muffins
 I got to use my new garbanzo bean flour for these muffins.  I think they should be named just cinnamon muffins.  I like their texture, but I think it needs another ingredient.  I'm not sure if it needs some chocolate chips or blueberries but it needs something to make it really pop.  Maybe some kind of frosting, hmmmm.

Mexican chowder
The best thing I've made this semester!  Well, I can't be 100% in making that commitment but it's delicious.  I can't wait to eat more of it.  The nutritional yeast flavor works for me in this.  I've been craving a bit more spiciness in my diet.  I made a southwestern salad for lunch today, too.

Pumpkin bread
Deliciously moist, ate it a time short enough that it's embarrassing, haha.

Pumpkin raisin oatmeal cookies
 These were great out the oven but then it was raining and humid out.  They became soggier than I wanted them to be.  Maybe I'll leave them in the oven a bit longer next time.

Herbal coffee
I didn't cook this, but I'm very happy with this purchase.  I rarely drink caffeine and am pretty sensitive to it.  My apartment has free coffee every morning, and I was tempted too many time in the summer.  I would cave, drink a bunch of it, feel like I was invincible for an hour, and then crash and get sick.  I love tea, but sometimes I want a stronger flavor in my morning beverage.  This has no caffeine and tastes like coffee to me.  No more temptation by the free coffee!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Poster of Science / Cooking Plant-Based but a Restaurant Omnivore

Back in undergrad classes involving terms such as "molecular" and "chemistry" did not appeal.  I wanted to learn about things I could see and understand, not some mumbo-jumbo concepts that seemed quite un-relateable to me and my field.  And like many of the things that I said I did not like in undergrad, I now am beginning to have an appreciation and even a growing fondness for molecular level science.  Not that I'm going to become a chemist or research scientist, but reading and understanding scientific papers regarding those topics is an interesting puzzle.

The scientific poster above, I designed for an article regarding PKM2's role in cancer and how siRNAs may be able to combat tumor growth.  A systematic approach was necessary to break down the article into understandable chunks.  It's like learning a different language, both reading it and writing it.  Both the purpose statements and summary section I composed.  My first drafts were a little too "creative."  I was actually making it harder on myself than necessary because it should be short, sweet, and directly to the point.  It needs to be as accurate as possible and extraneous information is like lying in this context.

Our next assignment is creating a PowerPoint on the article for a business audience.  It is again, learning a new language.  Yes, we have to make sure to tell the truth in the business context but the audience is going to have less of a scientific background.  The PowerPoint needs to lead to a certain conclusion (like how this could be a drug that makes lots of money and is very safe) but still stay scientifically accurate.  I have yet to crack this code, but I'm working on it!


Now to totally change up topics: how I eat and how I feel about it.  Over spring semester 2013, I slowly transitioned to a plant-based diet at home.  (I would define plant-based as a "almost vegan" who eats lots of fruits and veggies, avoids processed foods, and who doesn't freak out if some animal-based product is consumed.)  I emphasize "at home" because I am not vegan or even vegetarian and at this point I have no desire to become completely vegan or vegetarian.  I simply like to prepare plant-based food in my own kitchen.

Here's why:
-Easy to keep things low calorie
-I like fruits and vegetables
-Cheaper than buying meat
-I don't have to worry about undercooking meat
-It makes me feel healthy and happy
-I end up trying a lot of new foods

This seems all hunky-dory, no problems at all.  A girl can cook plant-based and still order a steak at a restaurant with no drama, right?  Or if she feels like staying vegetarian that day she can order the meatless entree and not have to explain herself.  Seems reasonable - but because food is such a social event and part of our culture, there are a lot of people demanding answers to the crazy idea of being part-time vegan.

For some reason vegan seems to be an all-or-nothing category.  Though there are a lot of quiet vegans in existence, the ones the average person knows about is the vegan who is fanatical.  Preaches it like a religion and makes people feel uncomfortable about the topic in general because they make it a matter of ethics.  All I see is a chance to eat more fruits in vegetables!  It doesn't need to be scary and weird, it is so un-scary and un-weird it makes me laugh that people think it's so strange.  Soup, salads, stir-frys, burritos/tacos are all easily vegan.  Have you had a peanut butter sandwich?  Vegan.

Pumpkin-raisin oatmeal cookies - vegan

But on the other side, when I go to a restaurant - especially a nice restaurant - I'm not going to order a baked potato and steamed veggies just so I can stay plant-based when they have trained chefs who make delicious omnivore-tastic food.  My project research involves teaching a vegan diet, I have read, watched, and listened to a plentiful amount of scientifically-based data about the health benefits of eating vegan and the detriments of eating animal-products.  So ordering chicken or steak at a restaurant has given me a second of pause, "Am I killing myself with this entree???"

Pumpkin bread - vegan
The answer I've come to is NO - I'm shortening my life no more then getting into a car, walking outside, or even being in the city of Chicago.  Because being alive is a risk of being dead.  Who knows what could happen tomorrow, if I want that steak sandwich at a restaurant (I rarely eat out by the way) I'm going to order it and enjoy it. And the next morning I'll make myself oatmeal for breakfast, pack a salad for lunch, and have a veggie stir-fry with rice for dinner.  To me being plant-based and a meat-eater can happen simultaneously.  There are a bunch of people out there who will strongly disagree with me, but I also see a more relaxed view of plant-based rules making it so much more accessible to the general public.  Plant-based/vegan shouldn't be a secret club for the food elite.  Everyone should know how truly delicious a salad can be.  But Blue Bunny Premium Chunky Chocolate Chip Ice Cream should not be blacklisted because it is delicious.

Ice cream - not vegan but worth it!

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Surgery of Illustration: Healing the Mistakes Via Photoshop

So this is a story of trying and not really going anywhere for a long time and getting a tad frustrated and then taking that frustrated energy to try to pull it out in the end.  It was very much a learning experience, many things that I did this time, I will be doing differently for my next illustration.

I have to say that my experience in the OR was the most positive so far.  Everyone was very kind to the patient coming in to get an umbilical hernia repair.  The OR staff was actually interested in what I was doing there holding a giant sketch book and they liked seeing what I was working on during the course of the procedure.  The vendor for the hernia repair mesh showed me some of their marketing materials which served as a great reference for my sketches and fully rendered illustrations.

So I was on a roll of positive energy after the OR and enjoyed developing my sketches.  The problems came when I opened Photoshop, plugged in my Wacom tablet and put stylus to tablet.  It has been awhile since I've done Photoshop painting, especially in gray scale.  I wanted to incorporate my scanned sketches into the illustration which in theory sounds like a time-saver, but I really hadn't tried the method out before.  There were a lot of tricks I was unaware existed.  Luckily, Karen was a very patient teacher as I sent her many an email with my slowly developing paintings.  Putting the sketch layer on the top layer was something that makes a lot of sense when you see it done, but I naturally had had it on the bottom like it would be in a traditional drawing.

"Texture, texture, texture" is now my mantra.  It is replacing "form, form, form," not that form is not really important but my first attempt made the hand and intestines all resemble hot dogs.  They had nice shadow cores and highlights but lacked anything to differentiate them.  I didn't even really notice until it was pointed out to me, next time I'll know to check for "the hot dog phenomenon."

Other things I learned:
-Add layer masks in the beginning, not 3/4s of the way through
-Have reference of what surgical gloves look like in reality, not just other illustrations
-Don't use the same Photoshop brush for everything, there's a reason they are adjustable
-Shadows make things look better with minimal effort
-Keep trying, keep pushing, and try not to freak out as deadlines approach, you can get it done!

Things I actually did successfully:
-The mesh texture on the patch was actually a low opacity image of mesh that was put on a multiply layer, didn't have to spend my time painting it in
-I really like the views that I chose.  They add depth that a surgeon can't see with their eyes, but are thinking about during the surgery
-I only worked until 10pm the night before it was due and was well rested for critique

Next up for surgical illustration: craniotomy!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Process: Getting From the Beginning to the End Without Losing my Mind

Final Design

The first round of projects being due is upon us (aka me).  Graphic Design was the first in the list.  I always love the graphic projects because they are so methodical.  I enjoy being creative but I also like knowing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing and when.  You should see all the stuff I write in my planner!

Creating an icon for a branch of medicine began with picking a branch of medicine of course.  I thought about nutrition, but I felt that Preventive Medicine was more all-encompassing.  I think that though nutrition is great, overall health is so much more.  It's important to take care of your body with exercise, flu shots, vaccines, hand washing, etc. and also your mental health.  Preventive Medicine is about keeping balance in all aspects of health and trying to avoid sickness as much as possible but also healthfully dealing with the sicknesses that do happen.  Also, it's "Preventive Medicine" not "Preventative Medicine" which is what I always said.  An interesting factoid I learned in this project.

Starting Point: Realistic Images

I went with an apple motif to create three different icon ideas.  I was really drawn to the center design.  The calm color scheme and the square shape gave me a feeling of safety and stability.  Though the back brown triangle is supposed to be a fence, it didn't read like a fence.  I still loved the fence idea, keeping you safe in your home.  The family was also too still.  Taking out the fence slats and making the family more active fixed these issues, but it still kept the square shape and color scheme.  I am happy with the end result and look forward to creating a logo for the Integrative Physiology Lab at UIC.  We took a tour of the lab last Wednesday and I'm excited to start coming up with some unique ideas.  It's a bit intimidating to come up with something that's not cheesy or trite. 

Initial Designs
On a different note, this semester has been completely different for me then anything I've experienced before.  I only have class on Wednesday and Friday, so I've got a lot of "free time."  If only it were relaxing; it has given me a new respect for those who are self-employed.  I have to keep a rigorously planned schedule, yet also leave room for flexibility.  Previously, I've scheduled out exactly what I was going to do every hour of the day.  I almost always got 2 or 3 hours behind and never accomplished all that I had dealt out for the day.  Now I schedule my working hours, usually 8 to 4 or 9 to 5.  I then assign classwork to the morning and the afternoon.  My goal is to keep in motion for the 8 hour work day and more often than not, I get what I need to get done, done.  I'm already a month into school, which shows how fast time can fly by and how important it is to get stuff done each day.  But also, I have permission to take guilt free time off.  When I'm done with my 8 hours, I can just be done.  Except for overtime for projects like my surgical illustration piece that will be available in a future post.  I prefer not having overtime, but you gotta do what you gotta do to meet a deadline.  And now I can take a break!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How I Eat, How I Work, How I Start Over

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie
So here I am at the beginning of my last year of Biomedical Visualization.  It really hasn't been that long since I started, but boy of boy, I feel a lot different than I did a year ago.  Brand new to Chicago, unaware of the effort anatomy would take, naive to what the challenges this graduate program would bring.  Now I'm much more aware what is difficult for me here.  Here being both living in Chicago and in the Biomedical Visualization program.  This year is the first year that I don't have the comfort of knowing that I'll be in school again in a year.  I actually have to work!  In the "real world!"

So going into this semester, I am armed with a different philosophy.  One of the changes that I've made to better conquer year 2 is cooking differently.  I was very repetitive last spring, which was effective then but in the summer I just ended up snacking a lot and not making meals.  To change it up I purchased a meal plan from Happy Herbivore .  I have one of her cookbooks, she's a vegan food blogger who has built a brand from her blog.  I've put up a ton of photos of all the food I made.  It definitely lasted me longer than a week and I got to have a bunch of different meals instead of the same thing 5 days in a row.

Making Southwestern Burger Patties
I got a "new" blender from my grandma.  She had a blender in here basement that I assumed was used since it had been in her basement for awhile.  Turns out it was a brand new blender, packaged in the box but had sat around for awhile.  It works great!  I'm excited to try new green smoothies.  Getting some spinach in disguise to start the morning is innately fun to me.

None of the food was particularly complicated to make but it allowed me an easy way to try new things.  The two things I didn't particularly care for were the Spinach & Orange Salad and the Avocado Yogurt Dip.  I do not like raw red onion, and to people who can eat it, wow.  It is way to strong.  In the salad all I could taste was red onion.  Yuck.  Luckily, I've got a lot of salad making experience and don't really need a specific recipe.  The Avocado Yogurt Dip didn't feel like a lunch to me and the spices in the dip just didn't appeal to me.  It was the one thing that I did throw out, though I was able to eat half.

Everything else was very good.  My very favorite was the Southwestern Burger.  It was delicious and filling.  I'm sure there are still some beef burgers in my future, but the bean patty didn't feel lacking.  I'd say it actually had more flavor than a beef patty so needed less toppings.

Spicy Peanut Noodles
 I've purchased another week's meal plan and am excited to try more new recipes.  After that I am going to work on creating my own meal plans from cookbooks I have.  The meal plans have helped me better gauge what kind of produce I can get through in a week or two without going bad.  I'm pleasantly surprised how much variety a single person can have and not be wasteful.

Spinach & Orange Salad
It's not just my food habits I've begun adjusting.  I'm beginning to change how I manage my time and how I get my schoolwork done.  I've had issues in the past with keeping a balance of work life versus personal life.  During the school semester it feels like all my energy should be put into school and whenever I'm not working on school I'm failing.  Obviously, this does not work if you want to stay a sane person.  I'm trying to set up this semester like a "normal" job, where I work a 40 hour week and everything else is considered overtime.  When I come home after a work day I can let myself relax without feeling guilty.  So far it's working well, though I need to build up some endurance.

I still need to decide what I'm going to do with my weekends.  I want to avoid going into the BVIS computer lab because I spend so much time there already.  But how much schoolwork, if any, should I do or feel compelled to do?  I've got some time to figure it out, particularly this weekend, ha.  I will put some contemplation in and let you all know how it goes.

Assembled Southwestern Burger

Breakfast Potato Rancheros

Peach Cobbler Oatmeal

Avocado-Yogurt Dip

Brand New Retro Blender from Grandma!

Blended Applejack Smoothie

Vegetarian Delight

Apple Crisp Muffins

Breakfast Banana Split

Bombay Breakfast
Black Beans & Sweet Potato

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

G-Protein Coupled Receptor Illustration - Can I get over my dislike of big pharma?

Final Illustration

As someone who supports preventative medicine through nutrition, pharmaceutical companies are not my favorite.  I never imagined myself working in any aspect of pharma, but I may be reneging that after the G-Protein Coupled Receptor (GPCR) illustration experience.  Through my project research, I've gotten much better at reading scientific journal articles, in a way finding some enjoyment from them.

I started my topic search looking for GPCR pathways that related to digestion, hoping to find some tie-in to nutrition.  I came across a review article on ghrelin and its effect on appetite.  Seemed simple enough at first glance: more gherlin, more hunger.  My first draft of my illustration was made under the impression that the pathway was on the simpler side.  I used some illustrations I found online as journal articles.  Turns out, the illustrations that are easily found on a Google search aren't all that accurate!  Shocking.
First Draft - Many Imperfections...

With excellent help from Evelyn, the guest lecturer, I was able to dig deeper into the intricacies of the gherlin pathway.  In most illustrations you will see GABA going through a GPCR when it is truly an ion channel.  For a pharmaceutical company hoping to create an anti-obesity drug effecting the ghrelin pathway, a GPCR verus an ion channel is a big difference.  I learned a number of things during this assignment, but the biggest message was don't trust the illustration work that is out there.  Always verify with peer-reviewed journal articles and it doesn't hurt to have at least a second set of eyes look over an illustration for you.  It's easy to start trusting the accuracy of something you've stared at for hours.  Second opinions show your work in a new light.

So, have I gotten over my dislike of big pharma?  I wouldn't say I'm ready to jump on the pill-making train, but I do see where my skills as a medical illustrator can help push pharmaceutical companies in a direction I'm more comfortable with.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sketching in the Operating Room Take-Aways: Don't Need Surgery

Currently, I am in a Surgical Orientation class, and unlike previous years we have gotten access to the OR right away.  It has been an eye-opening experience, much different than medical drama TV show portrayals.  Though, overall it has been a positive stage in my medical illustration education, it has been extremely shocking to me.  Not because of the bloodiness, I was surprised to find that I never felt one ounce of queasiness.  I think being neck deep in a cadaver for a semester cures you of that.  At least this person is alive and not smelly!  No, the shocking part has been how unmagical and average the whole process and people involved are.

BVIS students all scrubbed up!
When I think of the people that have cut open my body as well as family and friends, I imagine these people as semi-gods.  Focused, extremely intelligent, unable to make mistakes, non-emotional.  Let me tell you, these are not the people that I have met in the operating room.  The amount of normal, average drama going on when a 8 inch long, 5 inch deep gash is being cut into a patient blows my mind.  I have gone to three surgeries, I'm going to show a few sketches as well as stories from each.

1) Hip replacement

I was pretty intimidated going into my first surgery.  With only a short tour of explanation, I was feeling a little shaky in my scrubs, booties, and hair net.  All the surgeries I've seen were early in the morning, I get there around 7 am, because they are most likely to start on time.  This day, I was there for the morning "pep talk."  This pretty much consisted of a nurse yelling at everyone about losing things, breaking things, and doing things wrong.  Whoa, people seriously lose medical stuff?  And they apparently wind expensive robotic parts too tight and break them.  The vibe was very negative, I was glad I was not the one being operated on with all of the negative energy around.

Round grater instrument to make new hip socket.
By the time I got to the room with the surgery I was going to view, I assumed someone would ask me who I am when I entered.  No, apparently you can walk into an operating room, stand in a corner and no one really cares.  Then surgery prep is not a hurried process.  I stood around til 8:30 before the patient made an appearance, where she was thrown around like a piece of meat after she was put under anesthesia.  The group the doctors and nurses then proceeded to bad mouth her, not believing her story of falling down stairs and hurting her hip.  I felt very uncomfortable.

Once the surgery began, me on my tip toes on two stools to try to see over the surgeons, I could concentrate on drawing.  Because of the bloodiness aspect, all the surgeons were wearing what a fellow student referred to as "hazmat suits."  Basically they come in washed up with helmet looking things on and a giant hood/jacket with a clear face area is put over the helmet.  They are good at not getting blood in your eye and also blocking me from seeing anything.

After the first cut, "gentleness" in treatment is thrown out the window.  Shove your whole hand in, no problem.  It's a difficult, bloody process, made even more exciting since a student is doing it.  These students are basically me, full of academic knowledge, very nervous, and definitely not completely qualified to be doing this.  Though I know they must learn someone, I would rather it not be my body in the first place.  When hammering into the bone socket could lead to total bone shatter, I want someone doing it not for their first time.

In the end, my sketches were very rough.  It was much more about getting to know the process versus making anything of quality.  I slipped out during the closing process and went to decompress for a couple hours.  It was a tough introduction to how the medical process truly works.  I want to see a much more positive, healing approach taken.  More respect given to the patient.  But the bottom line is, the doctors and nurses are just there for another day of work.  They chat about what they did last weekend, they play Pandora stations on the computer during surgery, and they gossip and fight amongst themselves.  Not semi-gods, just average humans who happen to have the power to slice into other humans' bodies for medical purposes.

Cutting open the hip.
2) Prostatectomy

Number one take away: I'm glad I don't have a prostate.  This surgery, a nurse actually introduced me to the people in the OR.  I was much more comfortable and everyone was happier than in the hip replacement.  It didn't take long for the male patient to be rolled in.  It was 80% women in the room and I think that the patient was a bit embarrassed that we were all about to become acquainted with his penis, bladder, and prostate.  The atmosphere was light and the patient was joking around, I felt much better about his treatment.

When the surgery began, I was sharing space with two medical students to get a good view.  They were both very nice and pointed out different processes that were going on and why.  The surgeon wasn't as nice.  At least once a minute he would say, "This is the slowest nurse team I've ever had," in a way where it could maybe, possibly be a joke, but most likely he was just being an ass.  It was uncomfortable the first time he said it, the other 30 times were just weird.  Luckily, the nurses didn't let it bother them and everything went smoothly.  I got much better sketches, feeling more comfortable with the process as well as having a better view.

First incision to layer of fat.

Open area of surgery, shows retraction of skin and fat.

3) Total knee replacement

The last surgery I saw was part of a total knee replacement.  Because the knee is bent upwards for most of the surgery I had an amazing view, but it takes a long, long time to get things right.  The person who makes/sells (I'm not sure which) the equipment introduced himself to me before the surgery and was the most excited about what I was doing.  He had met other BVIS students before and liked them.  Unlike other BVIS students, I never got much interest in my sketches or why I was doing them.  That is fine with me because I didn't need any pressure to make works of art!

The process of a total knee replacement involves screwing in many pre-made metal guides that all precision cutting of the bone.  This was not a measure twice, cut once process, there was a lot of recutting done.  I don't think that's the normal situation, another surgeon had to scrub in mid-surgery to assist.  I don't think anyone was doing a bad job, it was actually the pursuit of giving the patient the best possible knee.  Every knee shape is different and they only have so many sizes of parts, things were lining up perfectly.

The room is kept cold during surgery, but this one was kept particularly freezing.  Once they were going in to cut the same place for the 5th time, I was shivering and not getting any new drawings done. I decided to leave and let the surgeons have their space.  My sketches had come a long way from the first surgery.  I am looking forward to taking Surgical Illustration next semester.  The class size will be smaller, so splitting up surgery time between 20 people will not be a problem.  Also, I will know what surgery I will be going into view.  This time, I didn't know until I got to the OR what I would see; it was just a fun surprise.

Slicing off part of femur bone using a metal guide.

Retraction of knee (above); Drilling into femur (below)