Saturday, March 2, 2013

What's in a Name?

In 1997, my good friend and indie music loving partner in crime (hi Reagan!) up and left me to go live with a boy (hi Caz!) in Montana.  Feeling lonely and needing a friend--preferably a cute boy--who shared my taste in music, I turned to the Chicago Reader personals.  (Sorry, kids.  Nobody was hitting internet dating sites with their 1990s dial-up AOL.)  I may or may not have been drinking at the time.  In any event, I ended up replying to a Superchunk-loving grad student's ad, and somehow impressed him with a rambling drunken voicemail in which I'm told I spoke primarily about Star Wars PEZ dispensers. 

And two years later, we got married.

The Mr's field of study was neurobiology.  He completed his PhD in Chicago, followed it with a post-doc at Duke (I miss you, Durham food!), and now holds a neuroscience faculty position at a research institution.  He studies, "the neural circuitry of social communication and decisions… in behaving mice."  (From his website.  Please don't make me describe what he does without assistance.)  In short, he runs a lab and they study brains. 

My father is an attorney and, when I was young, routinely wore ties to work.  So all of those necktie-based art project Dad-gifts we made in elementary school seemed very appropriate for my situation.  For MY kids?  Not so much.  As a lab-running academic scientist, the Mr dresses only slightly better than your average 16-year old boy on a daily basis.  Necktie gifts are definitely out.  But BRAINS are in!!!

The first brain gift, which we affectionately refer to as simply, "The Head," was something I scored at an antique show in the late 90s for a crazy small amount of money.  It came shoddily mounted on a piece of barnwood.  Tragic.  I had it professionally remounted by an archivist and worked with a local frame shop to build a frame that would open and close to allow for examination of the head's layers.   The hinges are from an architectural salvage shop.  I probably shouldn't even be touching it like this with my grubby paws, but you have to see how cool these layers are:

I may have set the bar a little high with The Head, though.  Nowadays, I go for brains that I can obtain with significantly less legwork.  I blame the kids.  For the Mr's first Christmas in the new lab, I purchased and framed this lovely sentiment from Travis Pitts, and it only required a few clicks:

You'd be surprised how much great "brain art" is out there.  Or not.  Here are some of my other current favorites:

1.  Quilled brain poster by Sarah Yakawonis of Yakawonis Quilling.  How incredible is that?  And, per the Mr, it's quite realistic too.

2. Mr. Brain print by Heather Goodwind.  It's hard for me to find straight up brain prints that I enjoy--but this one really appeals to my aesthetic.  Did I just say that?  Yes, I DID just finish watching an episode of Project Runway on DVR, how did you know?  AESTHETIC.

3. Knitted neuroscience by Emily Stoneking of aKNITomy.  This was actually the Mr's Christmas gift from me last year, but with a teal background.  It is AWESOME in person, and aKNITomy's other work is equally as fantastic.  If our Secret Santa budget had been a bit higher, my SIL would own a knit alien autopsy right now.

4. Hand embroidered brain by Knitty MD.  Hoop art AND brains.  Just stop.

The word "lab" immediately sprang to mind when I started thinking about names for my new endeavor, quite possibly because I hear it said 100,000,000 times a day in the context of the Mr and his work.  I like it because the word connotes experimentation, and that's exactly what I'm doing here--experimenting with a new work schedule, a new blog, and a whole new set of life goals.  On a simpler level, I also dig that this household now runs not just one, but TWO Shea labs.  Or maybe I just want to steal a little bit of his thunder :)  though I'm pretty sure MY lab won't make me late for dinner or have to work weekends--not unless I want it to, at least. 

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