On the Catwalk

Monday, February 27, 2012

Popular culture has made me think that I know a whole lot more about fashion than I actually do. Some of my favourite pastimes include relentlessly judging the creations on Project Runway with my brother and making scoffing noises with my mother during America’s Next Top Model marathons. While I can judge all I want in the comforts of my living room, experiencing an actual fashion show is a whole new ballgame.

My ever-resourceful coursemate found us a deal on tickets to a catwalk show for London Fashion Weekend, and I couldn’t wait to take her up on the offer. After searching for the perfect not-trying-too-hard-but-still-classy outfit, we headed to Somerset House for our first catwalk experience. We got excellent seats in the second row, so we had a perfect view of the clothing (worn by tinier than imaginable models) as it came down the runway. I really enjoyed the way the show was set up, they showed 3 designer collections, interspersed with two “trend” collections that were made up of pieces by many different stores and designers. The trend collections gave a nice break to the more serious designer shows, while also giving us a taste of what might be in store for those of us who can’t quite afford designer labels.

So, of course, I can now share my insider tips into the trends for this spring season: turquoise, pastels, short pants for men, and sparkly collars (not too sure about that one). And now for a few washed out pictures of the event…


1st Grade Olympic Dreams Come True

Wednesday, Februrary 22, 2012

I wish I could find a picture of the 1st Grade Olympics at Harman Elementary School to accompany this post, but unfortunately they’re in a box somewhere between Kansas and Ohio. Since that first introduction to the Olympics (although I think our events were things like hula hooping…why isn’t that a real Olympic event?), I’ve loved watching Olympic events with my family. The Reveal household is especially fond of track & field, gymnastics, and anything that involves moving quickly downhill in the snow.

As the Summer Games are held in London this year, it’s only natural that I take full advantage while at the same time trying desperately to avoid anything that has to do with large crowds and the jam-packed tube. When my flatmate found tickets to London Prepares, I knew I’d found the perfect way to enjoy an Olympic-type experience while paying a fraction of the cost and losing a fraction of my sanity as compared to the Olympics in July/August.

Today we attended the 2012 Diving World Cup in the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park as part of the events held before the Olympics as a kind of dress rehearsal for the big event in a few months. We watched the women’s 10m platform synchronised diving preliminaries, and it was such a nice afternoon. It’s amazing how much you don’t see when you’re watching events like these on TV–such as throwing their sham towels down from the highest platform so they can pick the shams back up after getting out of the water. That happened to my favourite part. Other than the actual diving, of course.

Synchronised diving began to be included in the Olympic games in 2000, so it’s really quite a young sport. Before the event, we learned some of the history of the sport of diving. It began in the 1800s (called “fancy diving” at the time) as summer training for gymnasts. In fact, one of the Australian divers today had a gold medal in gymnastics (Alexandra Croak–the first Australian to win gold in two different events).

It was extremely exciting to see the Olympic venues and to get a feel for what it will be like come July. They seem to be working out the kinks of putting on such a large event, and we were impressed with London’s efficiency. Let’s pray it stays that way when half a million spectators descend upon the city.

The Rewards of Stress and Excessive Flyer Making

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Despite my well-honed ability of organisation, I’ve found myself somewhat overwhelmed by the process of recruiting and scheduling participants for my thesis project. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been calling in favours (and promising some in return) as I try to find 50 people willing to participate in my EEG study.

The willingness to reach out to people for help has never been a trait on my list of “words that describe you”, but I’d say that’s definitely a life-skill this thesis has taught me thus far. I’m realising that people are much more receptive than I expect and often willing to go above and beyond what I ask of them. Isn’t it lovely.

Even though I’m always jockeying for available lab space, basically surgically attached to my red moleskin calendar, and continually checking my email and Facebook to see if people are responding to my advert for participants, I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

After testing a few participants, I’ve finally found my footing in the lab and am feeling more and more at home there. I have my little routine, and I whittled my sessions down from a painful 3.5 hours (the first one in which everything went wrong) to a nice, cozy, consistent 3 hours. Complete with tea breaks and calm questionnaire-filling-out-time.

Wanna see my flyer?


What is your brain telling me?

Friday, February 3, 2012

On this day in 1821, Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States, was born (thank you, this link). On this day in 2012, I test my first participant for my master’s dissertation. Today begins a very (very very) long relationship between myself and the EEG lab at Goldmsmiths’ College.

Referring back to this post about my thesis, I’ll be using EEG recordings to compare musicians’ and non-musicians’ melodic pitch expectations. We’re also using some auxiliary physiological signals like skin conductance, heart rate, and muscle activity, to see what we find.

I’m actually quite nervous for my first recording–there are so many things to remember when doing EEG recordings, and although I’ve been trained and I’ll have the always helpful postdoc at my side, I hope everything runs smoothly. Luckily, I’ve chosen one of my friends to be the guinea pig, so she won’t mind if things don’t go quite as planned.

To ease my nerves, let’s discuss electroencephalography (EEG). In an EEG recording, you’re using electrodes to record the brain’s electrical signals from the scalp. The participant wears a cap with lots of holes in it, and we fill those holes with conductive gel, and then snap the electrodes into place.

We also place electrodes above and below the eye, on each temple, and on the earlobes. These serve as references and help us identify any eye movements or muscle tension that can cause crazy looking artefacts on the recordings.

We’ll also be recording heart rate from an electrode placed on near the sternum, muscle activity from the forearm, and skin conductance from fingertips. There are a few papers that show relationships between these physiological responses and expectancy in music. All in all, it’s a whole lot of signals to record! Plus, the entire process of paperwork, preparing the cap and electrodes, the actual experiment, and clean-up takes about 3 hours. Hence my incredibly devoted relationship with the lab.

Regardless of all the time that goes into a single recording, it’s really amazing to see a brain working right there on the computer screen. You can tell when people start to get sleepy, or when they clench their jaws, and hopefully we’ll be able to see when they’re surprised about a pitch in a melody.

I need 50 participants, so if you’re planning on being in London in the next few months, I can plan a lovely afternoon for you!