Saturday, February 29, 2020

February 2020 Wrap Up

February is over. This month saw the third anniversary of my first date with Kevin. It was nice to have a little celebration of that, especially since he is the best guy ever.

Other than that, work got a bit more crazy with tests not working correctly and having to work and re-work schedules that will involve us doing a decent amount of weekend work some weeks over the next few months. Some of it is kind of exciting, and some of it is a bit rough. But I continue to learn and grow as a laboratory worker.

I'm trying to figure out how to get my car registered here and make a list of everything that I need to do and take care of before we go to India, including traveler's insurance and special vaccinations. That part is much more interesting than trying to take care of my car registration!

In sad news, my mom had to put our kitty down this month. She was nearly 17 years old, diabetic and hyperthyroid. But she was the best, sweetest kitty. She had a great purr and was a talker, which I love and miss the most. I can't really believe that she is gone. But she isn't suffering anymore.
Our kitty, Faithful (aka Fidge). I was her favorite person and she was a great Samara alarm.

I read a fair amount of books this month. Let's go over those!

Title: Across the Great Barrier
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi

I'm not going to give a synopsis and thoughts for this book and the next one. Only because I have reviewed them before. I love this trilogy and they are good comfort books for me. I wanted to re-read them just because I love them!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Title: The Far West
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi

See the above comment. I still love and recommend this trilogy!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Title: The Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi

Synopsis: This story takes place during the end of the 1800s in an alternate Paris. Séverin and his crew of specially selected and skilled people are on a mission to restore him to his rightful place as heir to one of the houses of the Order of Babel. Tristian, Séverin's brother in name but not blood, is talented with plants and Séverin believes his rightful fortune would benefit and protect him. Laila is a dancer with a strange and mysterious past who seeks more than what this quest will bring. Zofia is a brilliant and socially awkward engineer who wishes to free her sister from her place serving others and send her to medical school. Enrique is a half Filipino brought to France for his education; he is a historian who wants nothing more than to help the people of his homeland. They team up with Hypnos who is the head of House Nyx in the Order of Babel to track down a secret object and bite off more than they can chew.

Thoughts: This was an Owlcrate book that I got about one year ago. I don't know why I waited so long to read it as I have loved all of Roshani Chokshi's books that I have read. It is a bit of a heist book mixed with lots of great and interesting mythology. Their magic system and societal structure are different, but intriguing. I loved most of the characters and some parts made me nearly cry while some gave me chills. I am looking forward to the next book!

Rating: 4-4 1/2 stars out of 5

Title: Race to the Sun
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Narrator: Kinsale Hueston

Synopsis: Middle school student Nizhoni wants to be popular. She wants to be known and important. Also, she can see monsters. No one besides her brother, Mac, knows this about her. Who would believe her? Then her father is offered a job out of state by a wealthy man called Mr. Charles. But Mr. Charles is a monster. To get Nizhoni and Mac to cooperate, he kidnaps their father and Nizhoni and Mac, with Nizhoni's best friend Davery, must rescue him. But they will need help and all the guidance that their Navajo heritage can provide.

Thoughts: This was a Rick Riordan presents book, so of course I had to read it. Definitely geared for a younger audience, but I still enjoyed it. I loved learning about some of the Navajo stories and traditions by listening to this book. It was a good story and I look forward to reading more!

Rating: 3 1/2-4 stars out of 5

Title: The Dutch House
Author: Ann Patchett
Narrator: Tom Hanks

Synopsis: Cyril Conroy was a business man who made a series of good investments and his wealth grew and grew. To celebrate his elevated status, he purchased the Dutch House for his family. But it ended up being the undoing of them. His wife, hating the house, leaves and never returns. Eventually Cyril re-married a woman named Andrea who moves into the house with her two younger daughters. Slowly, Danny and his older sister Maeve are pushed away and out of the house by their stepmother. Danny and Maeve maintain a very close relationship and often reflect on their lives and on the Dutch House where they are no longer welcome. As time goes on, the house continues to influence them.

Thoughts: This was a book club selection for the month of February. And I was excited because it had already been on my radar as some people that I follow gave it good reviews. It was a different story than I was expecting. And I'm not really sure what to say about it. I feel like I can not properly sum up the scope of this book. I will say that I had lots of feelings and there was a time or two that I cried. And despite feeling like I didn't understand the plot, I still wanted to keep reading. I recommend it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Title: We're Going to Need More Wine
Author: Gabrielle Union
Narrator: Gabrielle Union

Synopsis: This is a collection of stories from the life of Gabrielle Union. From early childhood and finding pride in her identity as a black woman, to struggles of adolescence and relationships, to her acting career, and on.

Thoughts: I bought this audiobook a while ago after a discussion on the Owlcrate Society Facebook page about which memoirs were good to read. This one sounded interesting, so I went for it, even though I knew very little about her. Some of the stories were funny, some were sad, but they were all very real. I definitely recommend it.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Favorite book read this month: Maybe the Gilded Wolves. Since I have been trying to find any special edition releases of the sequel later this year (to match my special edition of the first book).
Least favorite book read this month: None! I didn't dislike any of them

Reading goal progress: 13 of 75 books completed
Alphabet reading goal progress: This month I crossed off D (the Dutch House), F (the Far West), and the W (We're Going to Need More Wine). I need to stop reading books that start with the same letters!

What I should have done was read more books by black authors as it was black history month. But that didn't occur to me until later in the month when I started reading We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union and then started Children of Vice and Virtue by Tomi Adeyemi. But I will try to make up for it in general this year as I have a couple books that I definitely want to get to this year that were written by black authors. I think it's important to read books by more diverse authors. I hope this is something that I can always work on.

I think that is about it for this month. I haven't started on another disease post yet, but I will think on it and see what I want to do next. I'd love to do the plague, but it's my very favorite disease and I am intimidated. I want to do it justice. I'm not sure that I am ready to tackle it yet.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Disease Post: Brucellosis

This is one of my favorite "bugs!"

Bucellosis is caused by a bacteria from the genus Brucella. There are a few different species that cause disease in animals and humans. For humans, the three species that usually cause disease are suis, abortus, and melitensis.
Brucella colonies on blood agar. Image from Pixnio.

Brucella species are small, anaerobic, gram negative coccobacilli, meaning that they do not require oxygen and do not have peptidoglycan in their cell walls and stain red/pink on a gram stain (bacteria that stain purple are gram positive). Coccobacilli describes the shape--they are between cocci (round) and baccili (rod-shaped).

They are facultative intracellular organisms, which means that they have to be inside another cell for part of their life cycle, but can also live outside of another cell. In the case of Brucella species, the cell they tend to invade is the macrophage. Macrophages are important cells in your immune system. Briefly, they usually "eat" things that are dangerous, like bacteria, and break it up into pieces. Then they take those pieces and display them on the surface of their cells using special cell receptors that will signal other immune cells to look for them. That way, the rest of your immune system can respond to the invaders. Brucella bacteria hiding in these cells, it makes it much more difficult for your body to find and fight off.

How is it spread?
Humans usually get this disease either by being in close contact with an infected animal or by eating contaminated animal products. Namely unpasteurized milk, which is contaminated with the bacteria when an animal is infected (this is why drinking unpasteurized milk is so dangerous). The bacteria can cause infection if inhaled, ingested, or through the skin. Most commonly, it infects via mucous membranes (for example: the eyes, throat, or respiratory tract).

According to the CDC, person-to-person spread is rare, but is most common if a mother is infected, she can infect her breastfeeding infant.

This disease is most worrisome in animals, both wild and agricultural. It is also found world-wide.

The bacteria are not especially hardy, they don't form spores and they can be killed with heat. However, they manage to survive in the environment for several years, if the conditions are right.

The incubation period for this bacteria is about two to four weeks, so there can be quite a delay between getting infected and showing symptoms.

Many of the symptoms are flu-like: fatigue, fever, sweating, headache, body aches, anorexia, nausea, and malaise (generally not feeling well). According to the CDC, some symptoms can be recurring or persist for a longer period of time. Most commonly these symptoms are: recurrent fever, arthritis, swelling of the heart, neurological problems, chronic fatigue, swelling of the male reproductive system (namely the testes and scrotum), and swelling of the spleen and/or liver.

The good news is that brucellosis is rarely fatal in humans, but it is still considered a potential bioweapon because it can be easily spread and incapacitate people.

The chronic symptoms that are so common with this microbe are due to a couple things: incomplete antibiotic treatment, which causes relapses, and persistent infection by the bacteria in tissues (like bone, spleen, liver, et cetera). It can be difficult to get rid of.

Brucella colonies on serum dextrose. Credit: Royal Veterinary College and Wellcome Collection

Prevention and Treatment:
One way to prevent human infection is by pasteurizing milk and other dairy products. Eating under-cooked meat is not recommended as it could be contaminated with Brucella. There is also a vaccine for herd animals to B. abortus.

People who work with animals like cattle, pigs, goats, and sheep should wear protective clothing, like gloves and goggles.

Because the bacteria hides inside cells, antibiotic treatments can last a long time (often 6 weeks) and often more than one antibiotic is needed. Doxycycline with with rifampicin can be used, or doxycycline with gentamicin. Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole can be used for women who are pregnant or for young children.

Miscellaneous Information:
What I find super interesting about this bacteria is that it causes abortion (and infertility), which can lead to further infections in animals. It almost plays off of the maternal instinct. For example, if a cow is infected and it causes the cow to have an abortion, the cow may survive. However, the aborted fetus is infectious. Other cows may come into contact with the aborted fetus as they inspect it and then the bacteria can infect the new animal. A bit evil and fascinating.

Brucellosis is known by many other names, including: Malta fever, Mediterranean fever, Cyprus fever, goat fever, Gibralter fever, to name a few.

The Centers for Disease Control: Brucellosis
Microorganisms and Bioterrorism edited by Burt Anderson, Herman Friedman, and Mauro Bendinelli
Emerging Infectious Diseases by Lisa A. Beltz
Medical Microbiology 6th edition by Patrick R. Murray, Ken S. Rosenthal, and Michael A Pfaller

Saturday, February 1, 2020

January 2020 Wrap Up

Well the first month of 2020 is over.

My January had several ups and downs. I've been missing my friends and family back home and probably not dealing with it as well as I normally would because, well, my support system is back in Colorado.

I did attend my first meeting at a local book club at the beginning of the month. It seems like a good group and I managed to meet a couple of ladies who are also scientists. I plan to keep going as long as my work schedule allows. They give a choice of two books each month and are very laid back and nonjudgmental. So you can read one book, or both books, or neither! For January the books were The Paper Magician or Feast Your Eyes. I re-listened to the Paper Magician, but did not read the other one. For the February meeting, the options are the Book Thief (which I re-read) or Red at the Bone, which I tried to get to and didn't. Even though I probably can't go to the February meeting due to tutoring...

This month, Kevin and I went to a museum exhibit all about Jim Henson, which was wonderful. And it was fun to see the puppets and read the stories. Of course, the Labyrinth section was my very favorite. I was so excited to see the ballroom outfits! Here are a few of my favorites from the exhibit:

In other exciting news, Kevin surprised me (late Christmas gift) with a trip to India later this year! I am still working out the details with my work place to make sure that I can work it in since I don't really have that much vacation time. But I was very surprised and I think it will be amazing.

On top of that, he usually works nearly all of the time, which leaves me alone the majority of the time. This doesn't bother me really, since I like alone time, but can be hard because I don't have friends here. So one night a week, he will come home on time and we will have a date night. We put together a bunch of different date ideas so that we won't ever be scrambling for things to do or places to go. We have been doing this for the last few weeks and its been lovely. I am glad that he suggested it.

And now for the books I read in January:

Title: The Autobiography of Santa Claus
Author: Jeff Guinn

Synopsis: This is just what the title implies: the true story of how Santa became the figure we all know and love. From his early days as a local gift-giver to his adventures around the world and his famous helpers.

Thoughts: I liked the history parts and some of the ideas were cute, but I did not love this book. I remember Kevin asked me about it and I said that I liked parts of it, but I hoped it would get better. It wasn't bad, it just didn't knock my socks off. I don't really know how to describe it.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Title: The Paper Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Narrator: Amy McFadden

Synopsis: After Ceony finishes her year as a student of magic, she enters her apprenticeship to a paper magician. Her dream was to be a Smelter (magician that enchants metal), but she has been forced into being a Folder against her will. To her surprise, her mentor, Magician Thane, is a young, eccentric, good man and she begins to enjoy Folding. Until a dangerous Excisioner (those who practice illegal magic on people) appears and steals Magician Thane's heart. It is up to Ceony to rescue him.

Thoughts: I read this series several years ago and remember thinking it was OK. I re-read this one for my book club. It isn't great. I think some of the magic system is creative and interesting, but mostly the story seemed contrived or strange. It might go over better with a younger audience.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars out of 5

Title: Red, White, and Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston

Synopsis: First Son of the United States is a well-loved public figure. His mother is the first woman president and her family is incredibly supportive and active in politics. In fact, Alex's dream is to be a great politician on day, much like his mom. However, following a confrontation with his self-proclaimed nemesis, Prince Henry at Henry's brother's wedding, he has to embark on a damage control mission to pretend that he and Henry are actually best friends. This means photo sessions, joint charity work, and spending time together. But as Alex gets to know Henry better, he finds that he actually likes him. And Henry likes him back. Now they have to keep their real relationship a secret. And Alex's mom is up for re-election. What could go wrong?

Thoughts: This book has popped up everywhere, it seems. Everyone was raving about it on Instagram and in a book community I follow on Facebook. So when it came up in a Kindle sale, I just had to try it out. And I thought it was cute! I'm not sure what else to say. I enjoyed it, but I can see why some people wouldn't. It was a nice, easy book to read. Parts were definitely funny and charming. I thought the characters were well-written and I felt satisfied with the ending.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Title: The Glass Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Narrator: Amy McFadden

Synopsis: Ceony's apprenticeship continues. She likes being a Folder now and she hopes that her growing feelings for Magician Thane are not one-sided. And things would be easier if she weren't being targeted by a couple of evil Excisioners who are threatening her, her friends, and her family if she will not help them.

Thoughts: I wanted to read this after I finished the Paper Magician because I couldn't properly remember the story lines from several years ago. And it was OK overall, but I kind of couldn't wait for it to be over so that I could read something else. I guess that isn't a glowing review...

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan

Synopsis: Lei lives in a small village in a kingdom that treats its lowest citizens (the paper class who have no demon in them) like dirt. Except for the eight most beautiful girls who are sent to the palace every year to serve the king--the Paper Girls. Lei is snatched from her home and family (as her mother was years before) and taken to the palace as a Paper Girl. She is forced into training with the other selected girls, but then she falls in love with someone who she should not love. And there might be a secret plot to help free papers from the evil grasp of the demons.

Thoughts:  I really liked the premise of this book, but I did not enjoy the book as much as I had hoped. To be honest, I really think I wasn't in the mood for this type of book and that affected my feelings towards it. And I nearly stopped reading right at the beginning because of one scene (no spoilers) that really, really bothered me. I am a little interested to follow the characters and see what happens next, even if I didn't love this one.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Narrator: Allan Corduner

Synopsis: This is the story of a young German girl living in Nazi Germany. On the way to her new foster family, her brother dies and she steals her first book.  As Liesel adjusts to her new life, her foster father shows her great kindness and gentleness. And he teaches her to read. Liesel loves words and so begins her unusual ways of collecting books. And her world changes again when her foster parents take in a Jewish man and hide him in their basement.

Thoughts: This was a re-read for me. I loved it the first time I read it and I loved it this time, too. I'm not sure I even have the words to say how beautiful this book is. The style and narration were unique. And it is interesting to see the world from the point of view of a "normal" German girl. And watch her develop into the Word Shaker. There is so much heart and compassion (and some heartbreak) in this book, I highly recommend it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Title: Thirteenth Child
Author: Patricia Wrede
Narrator: Amanda Ronconni

Synopsis: Set in an alternative early America, this book follows the journey of a girl named Eff, who is an unlucky thirteenth child (so they say). Her twin brother, however, is the seventh son of a seventh son and blessed with luck and strong magic. Due to her fear of her magic and of being an unlucky thirteenth, the development of her own magical abilities is difficult, but she finds some of her own unique strength in the end.

Thoughts: This is a re-read. I have read this trilogy many times. I just love it. And I love it as an audiobook (I'm not sure I would have liked it as much if I read the actual book). But this trilogy is a comfort read for me and I just felt like re-reading them.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Favorite book read this month: The Book Thief. Or Thirteenth Child.

Least favorite book read this month: The Autobiography of Santa Claus

In other literary news, I decided to try participating in a little reading challenge. It is the alphabet challenge. The goal is to read one book that starts with each letter of the alphabet. "The" does not count for any title, including for T. And for X and Z, there needs to be an X or Z somewhere in the title, even if it isn't the first letter.

So this month, I have covered A, B, G, P, R, and T! And I have read seven books towards my annual goal of 75.

I have part of a new disease post written. It is about one of my favorite diseases! But I have had a difficult time finding any good pictures. I will keep trying.

That's about it for January! I hope everyone else had a good month!