20 December 2009

Existential Video Game Poll

So I tried to come up with something deep about video games for my next poll, and I ended up with one about video games affecting your life.

Personally, I think I'm going to choose Tetris because how often when packing the trunk of a car, do you think about tetris? I could also say Mario Kart, but that doesn't really reflect well on my driving, does it?

You can respond with your ideas as well.

Nothing interesting to say...

Except that science sucks.

I'm going to Germany in 7 days.

I'm not done with my Christmas presents yet, one involves a resin that you're supposed to have lots of ventilation for because of fumes, and I think I inhaled too much of it because my lungs feel sort of weird, but maybe thats just all in my head.

I figured out that I shouldnt drink coffee when under stress, it just makes things worse.

We are having a Christmas party tonight, I made a jingle horse costume that is pretty sweet. I hotglued on the bells instead of sewing them and it saved tons of time and they still jingle, so who cares?! I'm supposed to bring egg nog and brandy. Just realized that I don't know if anyone's bringing Christmas cookies!!

Having someone on the instrument I need isnt really that upsetting because I have no time to hang around here in lab anyway, and this purification I'm working on has probably already failed, so it would just be a waste. I managed to run my samples all off the gel I was running yesterday; either that, or they leaked out a crack in the glass somehow...? In any case, if I were a good scientist, I would probably be running another gel right now, but that takes up too much time.

I need to figure out which train pass to get in Germany, I'm going to the Czech Republic and Austria also, at least thats the plan... It seems that getting a two country pass and then a separate country pass costs the same as a three country pass, except that you get more days. I don't even know how much train travel I will be doing in any of these countries!!! Or say, I have a pass in Czech Republic, but not in Germany, and I'm going from Munich to Prague... Would the Czech pass count?!?!!? Probably not...

And that, my friends, is a small sampling of the mental noise in my head on this Sunday morning.

20 November 2009

Extraterrestrial FISHES?!?!?

Apparently, people are thinking that Europa, the icy moon of Jupiter, could possibly support macroorganisms like fishes! The story is that there is likely liquid water underneath the ice-shell, and because life on earth can live to about -50 C, why couldn't there be life there? The water may also be warmed because it is thought that the gravitational force of Jupiter could cause enough flux to keep the core of Europa molten. The ice patterns on the surface indicate great tidal forces, and besides the cracking, the surface being so smooth and crater-less, scientists also figure that the ice is constantly turning over and able to introduce oxygen into the liquid water underneath. And if the core of Europa is molten, you could imagine there being structures like the midatlantic oceanic ridge, with black smokers and whatnot spewing out all sorts of chemicals from the mantle. And we all know that life eats that shit up (literally! har har).

I would also like to point out, though, that oxygen is toxic to most forms of life, and maybe you could get a macroorganism that would subsist on "breathing" something else. Oxygen just serves as an electron acceptor and microorganisms on our planet can "breathe" other things like Fe(III), and SO4 or CO2, which I guess also involve oxygen, but whatever...

Apparently the folks at NASA were so excited at the idea of liquid water on Europa that they purposefully crashed their Galileo probe into Jupiter, rather than potentially contaminate Europa. Unfortunately, though, the next probe that heads in that direction might be a ways off because of the technological challenges, like needing its own power source.

18 November 2009

One of the most truly horrible things I have ever seen

Honey > Sugar

I recently learned in the class I am taking on microbial diversity, by the great microbiologist Norm Pace, about the superiority of honey over sugar as a sweetener in regard to your Teeth! Tooth plaque results from biofilms formed by a common mouth microbe, Streptococcus mutans. This microbe produces a polysaccharide as part of the biofilm and can't use honey as a substrate in the transesterification reaction because it contains the monosaccharides frusctose and glucose, as opposed to the disaccharide in sugar, sucrose. Sucrose is the only known substrate of the polysaccharide-producing enzyme, dextransucrase. S. mutans is considered to be the largest threat to dental health because of this plaque formation, in addition to the lactic acid it forms as a metabolic product.

There was also a study that showed that people that chewed on a study-formulated manuka honey chew had lower levels of plaque and gingivitis than people who chewed sugarless gum. So honey not only can prevent plaque formation, but it appears it can reduce it! However, the study was done specifically with Manuka honey, which is honey produced by bees who collect nectar from Manuka (Tea Tree) bushes in New Zealand, the antimicrobial properties of which are measured with a seemingly meaningless unit called "Unique Manuka Factor." I could spin off into a Tea Tree oil tangent, but I won't.

Honey has long been used as an anti-microbial, however, with the advent of clinical antibiotics, its use has decreased. One study (Pubmed link) I found that showed that 30-100% honey solutions inhibited the growth of various kinds of bacteria. New honey works better than old honey. AND honey is as effective on wounds as clinical antibiotics. It appears as though its antimicrobial properties stem primarily from the presence of glucose oxidase(GOD), which catalyzes the oxidation of beta-D-glucose into D-glucono-1,5-lactone, a side product of which is hydrogen peroxide. (You would think that having an enzyme that acted upon glucose would reduce the sweetness of sugar, and oxidized product is apparently a little sour)

In addition, it appears that microbes and fungi can't grow in honey because of it's low (0.5-0.7) water activity. This low water activity just means that the water in the honey has a lower vapor pressure than that of pure water, and apparently many bacteria need a water of activity of around 0.9 and fungi, 0.7. I guess this is also why people salt meat, as it lowers the water activity of the meat to around .95.

I presume that these organisms need a certain water activity for osmotic reasons, and this "water activity" variable is something that food scientists made up, even though there are already purer measurements that could be used to explain this phenomenon instead. This seems like something that happens in science, different divisions have their own units of measurement that they like to talk about. I think a standardization in terms of units would be helpful for getting other scientists to understand, because the divisions in science are becoming more blurry and everything makes more sense anyway if you think about it in a multidisciplinary way.

So, anyway, eat honey!

11 November 2009

And now, the Center of the Galaxy!!!

The center of the galaxy is a giant black hole that is hiding inside of "Sagittarius A," which is this glowy spot in infrared and radio waves because of the heat emitted from matter "accreting" into the black hole. Accreting means growing bigger, which I don't really get, I guess things get bigger when they heat up? Maybe matter is accelerating towards the black hole, heating up and expanding before disappearing? No clue there. Well anyway, this picture is pretty awesome, I got it from the Sweet Astronomy Picture of the Day. While we are on the subject, I would also like to point out that the center of the galaxy is in the constellation of my astrological sign, Sagittarius, which we COULD say, if we were being sassy, either explains my massive ego OR that my heart is actually a black hole. Or that astrology is silly.

There is also this cool video that was on the APOD site:

I can't really watch videos very well on my computer anymore because all browsers on the Mac hate me, BUT what I can tell you is that it has this cool part where it shows the orbits of the closest stars around the black hole, including this star which gets 17 light-hours away from it!!! (Recall here that earth is 8 light-minutes from the sun) Well, anyway, I think the whole thing is pretty mind-expanding.

10 November 2009

A big day in Europe

Although I was alive when it happened, I do not really remember the Fall of the Berlin Wall. But there are some pretty nice pictures of the event and the celebration that happened today and for the past few days in Berlin. People in Europe seem pretty excited to celebrate this event, and I suppose it is for good reason. The only connection I feel for it though is that my family had a hamster named Gorby around that time. He was a plain brown hamster. It does make me think that maybe I should visit Berlin when I am in Germany over Christmas break.

04 November 2009

Remember the Time

Reminiscing about my last year of undergrad and the founding of an American Great, VG&B. Honestly, it mostly consisted of me, Kavi, Chris and Burney playing Star Wars Battlefront II and me getting my ass handed to me while taking over the galaxy (oh yeah, and beer too, hence the 'B'), but you know, I couldn't have been that bad seeing as how I did get the Wookie upgrade sometimes. When you have the Wookie, you can be really reckless because he has more defensive power, but he was SLOW. In any case, sometimes things got more exciting, such as the memorable time Petey and I made it to the pleasure dome in Smash TV, which is a classic arcade game that Kavi had on his hacked up Xbox. I have it on the SNES and its not that great to play, because I think the two joysticks on the Xbox are KEY. Anyway, the pleasure dome was a mythical place that we weren't sure existed, but there it was, at the end of the game. You go to a psychedelic temple and instead of collecting sweet prizes like cars and big screen tvs, you collect LADIES. And then you get to the final boss and its all over. Anyway, Kavi was big on making video blogs at the time, and he posted it on his blog back in the day. Click for SWEET VICTORY.

In addition to the great fun inherent in that video, you can see poor Georgie when she was a kitten and known as Dioge (D.O.G.). Sad little girl was shitting all over the place at that time, and they found out later that it was because she was drinking out of the toilet that had a bleach insert in it because they were bad about keeping her water bowl full (or feeding her for that matter). Honestly, I'm surprised she turned out as big as she is, or as healthy, and was able to grow into a semi-well-adjusted cat.

And now! We will play the game where you can hear all the songs from my work computer with the word 'remember' in them!!! And by 'work computer,' I mean the computer I sit in front of when I should be working. Yeah...
Remember the Time
I've Got Dreams to Remember
I'll Remember April
And now if my blog gets shut down, we know why.

02 November 2009

The Oceans, they are a-changin'

A gross sea slime produced by algae blooms is bogging down sad sea birds, forcing them onto the beaches where they die of predation or hypothermia. Such algae blooms are produced when there are unusually high local levels of nutrients; basically when things are out of whack. SO, what is up? There have always been algae blooms in the ocean, part of the cyclical nature of life, however this appears to be different. That's all. And THEN, a giant algae monster raises from the sea and consumes the plastic continent!!!

This reminds me... People talk about metabolic engineering of bacteria, I specifically talk about making organisms that eat plastic and oil and whatnot (& turn them into diamonds, but thats not really very practical (although it would make for an attractive beach!)). But of course theres the whole question of introduction of engineered organisms into the environment, and gene transfer between bacteria and archaea is really rather easy, so is something like this REALLY ok?! I don't know...

29 October 2009

Painfully Adorable Sea Dragons

BBC has filmed Sea Dragons, which are basically like seahorses, during their courting dance and subsequent babies' births offshore of Australia.

The dance is only so strange because of the way the sea dragons look; we have all seen schools of fish mirroring each others movements, so it doesnt seem like too rare of an occurrence. Probably involves sensing water movements with their lateral line. ANYWAY, the baby sea dragons are where it's actually at, super cute, with their little eyes in the eggs and then after they're born... Reminds me of when my dad's fish were breeding and there were all these little babies that were basically a pair of giant eyes with a little tail attached, hanging out in the plants and miraculously not getting eaten. I'm just glad my fish don't breed, because anything that fits in a goldfish's mouth will not last very long.

All that said, I guess I didnt really realize that seahorses were fish, since they sort of look like a cross between a starfish and a fish, maybe, even though that makes absolutely no sense. I guess the seahorses don't need much in the way of a fuller more fish-like body as they have adapted to sort of hang out instead of swimming around and don't need all those extra muscles.

27 August 2009

Pictures of Atomic Bonds Using Atomic Force Microscopy

Awesome. I'm depressed and I still think its awesome.

Science article for those who have access.

Gizmodo article.

As a side note: Grad school is depressing.

29 June 2009

Eat Them Eggs

This post is mostly for my father, who has been depriving himself of eggs for the past few years for cholesterol reasons. Turns out, dietary cholesterol has nothing to do with how your body stores cholesterol in your blood (HDL or LDL, etc), and this makes total sense. I've already heard whispers of this, but here it is in words for you.

THAT SAID... Factory farm chickens are sad, and so it would be best to find a local farmer to get eggs from. Or get your own!

27 June 2009

Sprint Training FTW

There was an article in the NYTimes that claims through studies with rats (mices?) that intense sprint training results in the same molecular/cellular changes as endurance training. We all know that interval training pretty much rocks, but this shows that INTENSE interval training (like 20 sec. of intense effort at a time) is really the way to go for fitness. NOW... My question is, does this just improve "fitness" or will this improve your performance, in say, a sprint tri? Because I signed up for one like 5 weeks from now and I am not enjoying the swimming training especially, and if I could flop around in the water for a few minutes and get the same results as if I had actually done a half or full mile of swimming - I mean, that sounds pretty great to me. I think that you would still have to do the long swims to get your pace down, maybe.

ANYWAY, this is all great for me, because I generally prefer to put in a lot of effort anyway. I bike hard, and I actually swim hard too, (which is no good for trying to maintain effort over time) so sprint training would come pretty natural for me. In addition, I used to be a sprinter back in JH and HS, sooooooo. I will admit that I actually did some sprint repeats like a month ago, and I was really sore afterwards, even though I had been running/jogging regularily, so it seems accurate to me that you get a similar sort of work out after a shorter amount of time.

ANYWAY, I'm sold. Let's hope I don't drown the first lap I try to do all-out in the pool, and the other people don't look at me funny.

16 June 2009

Less is More?

MANY of you may have seen the opinion piece in NYTimes recently, "The Joy of Less." I had wanted to comment on it when I first read it, and was reminded of it today when I was on this other site Three At Sea. (They actually call it Three@Sea, but I refuse to support that because the @ is WAY too tacky, and the people used to be in computers and stuff and well... Not hip, guys.) Anyway, its about a family who used to live in Boulder, but sold their house and most of their stuff and bought a boat and are planning on traveling around the world during their daughter's middle school years. THE POINT BEING: That these people have bucked the status quo and are living their own way somehow, with the lack of many material possessions (although they remain entirely wired to the rest of the world).

All of this sort of jives with the whole grad student lifestyle. I am poor, live in a small apt, no longer watch tv, and because of my whole environmentalist leanings, am also disdainful of the consumerist society we live in. That said... I have a lot of stuff. But I figure I may need some of it some day, so I have to keep it, because otherwise I would be feeding the consumerist beast, right? My life is less about the pursuit of things and more about the nurturing of the BRAIN. This is true with what I actually do for money, and for what I do in my spare time. Also, the pursuit of the body is in there somewhere, cuz I live in Boulder, and we are all fit and beautiful here. You could say this is also a mind-pursuit of sorts, as theres all sorts of thinking and refreshing you can do while youre working out, if youre not plugged in, which I rarely am.

Anyway, I am not so sure about the pursuit of happiness part being entrenched in these drastic lifestyle changes. It is true that hectic lives make people crazy. And that a more moment-to-moment life, like that achieved on a boat (OR being a forager/hunter/gatherer, my personal favorite escapist fantasy), where you have to be paying attention to your surroundings in order to live, seems more fulfilling than doing some drivel that you find meaningless. However, I am unsure about the necessity to buck the yolk of society in order to obtain happiness. I agree it is probably not found in things. Maybe too often people associate the obtainment of things with a typical American life, but maybe you can do the normal things like have a regular job and not be obsessed with the pursuit of things, and whatever happiness can be obtained that way. There are just a lot of people who seem to think something drastic needs to be done with their actual life situation in order to be happy, but maybe it is just the internal adjustment, which often accompanies that outward change, that is truly the key.


Is this how people talk themselves into settling down for a common life?

11 June 2009

The Lion-Cut

Yes, the lion-cut for meowers. Look, this gorgeous animal can pull it off. I had previously thought that people gave their cats the lion-cut themselves, and I had been thinking that that sounds very difficult, and I don't have shavers anyway. But then I learned that they get it done! You go to a doggie cut place or wherever, and they can do it... The issue here mostly is that my cats are very furry and their fur gets everywhere, and the summer is coming anyway, so why not? This would cut down on the extreme amounts of fur, and then the kitties would be happier. This is partially for my boyfriend's sake, because I feel sorry for him when he gets all covered in fur when he is used to his non-furry existence, and it gets stuck to his face, and it all really rather pathetically adorable. Apparently there is even a movement of fur from my house to his house, that travels by way of our clothes. Presumably mine more than his, but you know.

ANYWAY. I am seriously considering this. In the past, I have been opposed because I thought that their fur is very sensitive and so cutting it might hurt them or something, but I think maybe it would be just more of an annoyance, not some ongoing horror. I mean, we can feel when things land on our heads, so maybe their follicles aren't incredibly sensitive, like I thought. The only issue is they might be extremely upset by the whole thing. Maybe I can take them to the vet and get it done, since they are only like 3 blocks away and then Georgie wouldn't freak out. I read something recently about training cats to tolerate car rides, maybe I should go find that again...

09 June 2009

Life in Contemplation of Recently Viewed Movies

I would like to discuss the last three movies I've seen within the past week. Girlfriend Experience, Up and Revolutionary Road. I am reminded of a story I read about Natalie Portman, and how each time she read 'Diary of Anne Frank,' she was struck by something different in the story. So currently, I seem to be taking life purpose and relationship messages from everything I see/read, which means that I am continuing and maybe making some headway on this quarter-life crisis business. This post is probably going to be a spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen the movies, so proceed with caution.

The Girlfriend Experience is about a girl who is a highend callgirl who basically provides a sort of "girlfriend experience" to her callers. She goes on dates with them, listens to them talk, pretends to care, remembers their names, jobs, problems, etc. They don't even always have sex with her, she is sort of a paid companion. The point of the movie in my mind is that her life is empty; she is paid to be whatever these men want her to be, and as a result, has become sort of an empty shell of a person. Her opinions and tastes are those of her callers. She has become this empty companion that they want her to be. She lets her guard down to one of her callers and mistakes their exchange for something meaningful, but he was playing the game as much as she was, and it means nothing in the end. What I am taking away from this movie is that you cannot just be whomever another person wants or requires of you; you lose yourself if you do that. You have to be your own person, have your own interests, etc, otherwise you become meaningless, pointless, useless as a person, beyond any physical worth you may possess. She just became a body, a doll for these men to play with in the end. They wanted to play date with her. A robot could just as easily serve this purpose.

Up is about a man who lives a fulfilling, but outwardly unadventurous, life. He was happily married, but when his wife dies, he begins to regret that they never did the exciting things they had planned and dreamed about, so he sets about to do them in her memory. He is entrenched in the memory of her and things that remind him of her, and so is not really living any longer. On his travels, he learns that there is still living to be done, and that living relationships are more important than things. He also realizes that his wife would have wanted him to keep living and that she did not regret the course of their life, but thought of it as an adventure in itself. So this movie is about the importance of relationships with people (and animals) and not living in regret or in memories, but about living in the present. And that the accumulation of stuff will not replace these things or lead to any lasting happiness. That is not to say that memories are bad and should be forgotten, or that we should throw out all of our things, just that they shouldn't be everything. We should pursue our dreams/goals when we can, but not be bogged down with unhappiness if we cannot obtain what we think we want, and instead relish experiences we are having now.

Revolutionary Road is the most depressing of these movies, as you might guess. It is about a couple that meets and falls in love when they are young and full of ideals. The ideals are exciting and they are excited to have met each other because they share in these ideals when they think others don't understand. This is probably the basis for a lot of relationships, this mutual understanding. Life proceeds and things that initially did not bother them: moving to the suburbs, having kids :begins to wear on them and they are driven to adultery, fights, etc. They are living the dull lives that they had dreaded when they were younger. Kate Winslet's character becomes particularly unhappy and depending on which side of the issue you're on, 1) decides she wants to pursue her ideals, or 2) tries to relive the past. She takes up the mantra, "Why not?," nothing is stopping us, and wants to pick up and move to Paris, where they will live a wholly atypical lifestyle for the times, and be something special again. Stop selling out and pursue "life." Leo's character gets on board and they have a few happy months dreaming and planning and nearly carry out their plan, but Leo is becomes reengaged in the dull lifestyle they have started and is tempted back into the rat-race by recognition from the higher ups and promise of more money. Kate Winslet is deeply disillusioned by this turn of events and develops a hatred for the man that Leo has become. Her vision of him as a true, free-thinking man is lost forever. She ultimately decides that she must also play this game and acts as he wants her to, but she appears to die inside and attempts an abortion on herself, which ultimately leads to her actual death. So this movie is about youthful ideals and ambitions selling out (or growing up?), ultimately leading to acceptance and self-delusion (maturing?) about meaningless (realistic?) life circumstances. There is a dichotomy between a "crazy" mathematics PhD thinking their pursuit of ideals is noble and brave, and coworkers and neighbors who think they are immature and whimsical. There is a scene at the end that tells us that the creators of the movie are on the side of the ideals, as an older man who has sold out long ago expresses fond remembrance of the couple, even as his wife chastises them for being unrealistic. You can imagine that most people in the movie industry would support pursuing their dreams because they all did and made it!

There is a difference in Up and Revolutionary Road in how youthful dreams are dealt with. In Up, the characters live happy lives, even though they are not as exciting as they imagined when they are young. In Revolutionary Road, however, the characters fight against the current circumstances and are ultimately unhappy when they do not pursue their dreams. And to reconcile this difference, I will suggest that... the characters in Up were not lying to themselves about how to be happy, and the Leo character was. The Up couple was true to themselves in their circumstance, whereas Leo and Kate were trying to lie about being happy. So stop with the self-denial, I guess, and discover a way to be happy with your circumstance and make it work for you.

So, to recap, these movies all express, in different ways, the importance of being yourself and pursuing your interests in order to be content now. That solely trying to please others is ultimately self-destructive and requires a large amount of self-denial. That true human relationships can only be had through true communication of things that matter, as opposed to trite daily occurrences. That allowing yourself to dream, and to care, is important in life, although the actual pursuit of dreams is not necessarily the path to happiness. And that there are always adventures out there, if you look for them.

Or something. ;)

05 June 2009

There is a God. The Last Guardian.

And he has granted us with an unbelievable looking sequel to Shadow of the Colossus. Praise whomever (Dormin? Wow, I'm dorky.).

The point is, now I have to save money to buy a stupid PS3. But it will be worth it, I'm sure. SIGH.

03 June 2009

A sort of aggressive extension on the abortion issue

There are a couple more examples I would like to equate to the irresponsibility of getting pregnant and aborting it, that everyone agrees is irresponsible, albeit maybe not as serious.
- The previously mentioned spending of money you do not have. Irresponsible.
- Say your dog has a litter of puppies because you fail to have her fixed. You can't take care of them, and having them put down or otherwise disposing of them is equitable to abortion, as opposed to trying to adopt them out. Or keeping them and not raising them healthily.
- Binging and purging. Ok, so you eat a whole pizza and realize that maybe you shouldn't have. So you throw it up. There is something wrong with this situation. Obviously you shouldn't have eaten the whole damn thing in the first place. Impulse control.

Unprotected sex is similarly related to impulse control and laziness and responsibility, in my opinion. Most of the time, everything is fine, so people continue to do it and assume everything will be fine. This is how unwanted pregnancies happen. (This is also sort of related to procrastinating in general. Procrastinating oftentimes turns out fine, so procrastinators don't bother to change their study/work habits) Somehow in the liberal mindset, it has become pejorative to not support abortion completely, that you are somehow switching sides and a traitor and against social justice. So people think it is ok just to get rid of "it", it is too much work to think about, etc. Maybe you should have thought about that in the first place.

Sorry, I'm being a little aggressive here...

That said, it is more allowable if the girl is younger and other circumstances would make it nearly impossible for her to correctly raise a child. But it is still undesirable. At a certain age and maturity level, it should be inexcusable (besides, you know, the extreme circumstances: rape, incest, mother health, etc).

ANYWAY, be responsible and get some goddamn birth control. It really is such an easy thing to do. And if you do have unprotected sex, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT and get the morning after pill. I learned recently that if you get an IUD implanted within 6 days of unprotected sex, that also acts to prevent pregnancy, presumably by preventing implantation or promoting the rejection of the cell clump. AND THEN, you will be clear for all the sex you want for 5 years. Amazing technology.

.... I was also recently presented with that argument that the fetus is not really a life because it can't live on its own. That is interesting. That would put it in the category with, like, viruses, which I like to say are undead... I mean, I'm sure I've heard this argument before, but I've never really thought about it, soooo... I will have to think on it.

02 June 2009

The most sensible view on abortion I've ever heard.

William Saletan wrote an opinion piece on Slate.com discussing the recent murder of late-term abortion doctor George Tiller. What his argument amounts to is that people on both sides of the abortion issue are not actually true believers. Only people like George Tiller, who carried out some pretty horrific abortions, and his murderer, who believed he had to kill George Tiller to save unborn babies' lives, are the real believers. He also says that the reaction of pro-life groups, decrying the murder and suggesting education and legal action be taken to stop abortion, is against their statements about equally protecting the unborn, disabled, elderly, etc. You can imagine that a man who murdered disabled people would be widely condemned and action be sought against him. Whereas the much more limited reaction against women who pursue abortions and their doctors suggest that something lesser is occurring, unequal to the murders of born babies. So that is all pretty pro-choice of him to say, but he ends suggesting that it is still a tragedy, albeit not equal to the murder of a born person.

AND THEN. He also wrote an opinion piece in the NY Times calling for people from both sides to be practical about the issue, and that the stale arguments we are making are not preventing abortions, which most people would prefer. He suggests that education of people before these unwanted pregnancies is the key here and that we should see our abortion statistics as negative, like infant mortality, and everyone needs to take responsibility. In addition, birth control needs to be seen as a responsible and respectful option for everyone, as to negate the stigma surrounding its use. He also throws in a little bit about same-sex marriage and how it should be treated respectfully because it embodies the same commitment that heterosexual couples seek to achieve through their marriages. AND he also throws in some good words for Obama and how he is a very sensible man, and hopefully can help to adjust our societal consciousness.

So, all in all, this man is very sensible and has thought long and hard about an issue that most people would rather not have to consider. I agree with him, because although I consider myself pro-choice, I would rather abortions didn't need to happen, and especially as some sort of last resort birth control. That suggests irresponsibility to me. It is the sort of mentality that seems to permeate our society, that you will always get a second chance and that someone will be around to save you if you mess up. Sort of related to the whole credit problem, with people accumulating massive debt because they cannot resist their impulses. I myself am guilty of this, but I still think it is a fault.

Personal responsibility, people, come on now.

26 May 2009

A quote for the day

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
- Krishnamurti

Brought to you by igoogle daily quotes.

Some may argue that it is necessary to adjust because you are stuck in that society, sorry. But it does seem like an unfortunate state to be in. It seems better to just be able to function and move within the society without being changed or altered by it from some ultimate TRUE SELF FORM. Or something.

This Krishnamurti person seems pretty interesting. He was born in colonial India, to give you some perspective, and looks like Aladdin. From glancing at the article, it seems he talks about stillness of the mind and change in any circumstance coming from within.

An extended quote:

"How is the mind which functions on knowledge – how is the brain which is recording all the time – to end, to see the importance of recording and not let it move in any other direction? Very simply: you insult me, you hurt me, by word, gesture, by an actual act; that leaves a mark on the brain which is memory. That memory is knowledge, that knowledge is going to interfere in my meeting you next time – obviously. ... Knowledge is necessary to act in the sense of my going home from here to the place I live; I must have knowledge for this; I must have knowledge to speak English; I must have knowledge to write a letter and so on. Knowledge as function, mechanical function, is necessary. Now if I use that knowledge in my relationship with you, another human being, I am bringing about a barrier, a division between you and me, namely the observer. That is, knowledge, in relationship, in human relationship, is destructive. That is knowledge which is the tradition, the memory, the image, which the mind has built about you, that knowledge is separative and therefore creates conflict in our relationship."

YES. This is, in fact, exactly what I have been thinking about recently. Krishamurti is now my favorite person. I will argue that knowledge about him is perfectly fine, seeing as how he is dead ;)

Eckhart Tolle says some similar things, except Eckhart also has all these other silly things he talks about, the pain-body in particular, that I do not agree with because it is too abstract and ridiculous. Sorry, Mom.

25 May 2009

Boldest Boulder-er-er....er...

HEEEY I ran the Bolder Boulder!!! I started out strong and ended sort of strong, but I admit I wasn't taking the race seriously and took a pee break in mile 2.... Hence the crappy time. If I had just SKIPPED the pee break, I would have come in under the 62 minute mark to qualify for a heat next year.

It was a fun race, and there are all sorts of bands and singers set up along the course and people sitting out, cheering you on, and a couple of people were cooking bacon and handing out beer. I did take a cup of beer in the last mile. It was sort of one of my goals. Half of it ended up being poured down my face and shirt, but oh well. I've been to parties like that too, Ha. My favorite part was definitely all the crowds, and running around cheering and "Woo!"-ing with them. Some of them were tired of cheering and I tried to get them excited, which may have been a selfish thing because I just wanted them to cheer for me. ANYWAY, it was fun, I'm glad I did it!!!

And then we got free beer and massages and it was all pretty great. :)

Pictures to be posted later maybe if I remember.

12 May 2009

Trilobites are awesome!

They found thousands of gigantic trilobites! They were swarming in shallow waters, maybe to shed or mate. They're like 3 ft long each!

10 May 2009

Happy Mother's Day Mom!

In light of this day, here is a video where a baby gorilla gets a new mommy! YAY!

Also, I love my mom. She is pretty great and understanding and is always around to talk, which I appreciate :)

08 May 2009

A silly thingy I got in an email

It is said that engineers take 3 minutes to resolve this, architects 3
hours and doctors 6 hours. If you guess the 6th number, you can open the
excel file by using the number as the password. Once you discover it, put
your name into the spreadsheet, save it and send the saved copy on. There's
no prize here, and no jokes. Just a little bit of self satisfaction.
If your tumor starts to thud because you can't get the answer, just ask.
I will be more than obliged to help.

What is the 6th number?

1, 2, 6, 42, 1806, ______?

It came along with a message: Chemists can do it under a minute. Well, that was true in my case :)

05 May 2009

Eh heh.

Sorry I am so lazy. :-/

I read "Into the Wild." If I ever get the ambition, I will write about it. Talk about escapist fantasies, man.

In the sciencey bits, I am reading about CML, which is some sort of leukemia, and I can't remember what the other letters stand for, but it results from a chromosomal translocation that fuses two genes together (called the Philadelphia Chromosome, I remember that much). This sort of thing usually happens from RADIATION EXPOSURE. Anyway, this particular fusion results in a constitutively active kinase, which basically means that the gene has been truncated by the fusion, and it used to be self-inhibited, and now it is active all the time, turning all sorts of shit on, like a naughty toddler or something.

And suddenly, I am distracted by The Beatles "Something" that is playing right now, because I am all sentimental lately. Something of an honest confusing love song. (I do not suggest watching the video, it takes away from the lyrics, I think)

ANYWAYS. Um, so theres this kinase running amuck, that is normally involved in regulating the cell cycle and inhibiting the apoptotic pathway (which leads to CELL DEATH) upon DNA damage (that might occur upon radiation exposure). So you see, the kinase normally is involved in killing off sick cells that have DNA damage and may turn cancerous. When it is doing things wrongly, the cells don't die, and they proliferate uncontrollably, and in this case, you get all sorts of crazy unnecessary blood cells being made in the bone marrow, and I'm not really sure of the mechanism, but it eventually leads to death.

SOOOOOO, this is a success story, because someone figured, Dude, let's just inhibit the kinase. And they were able to develop/find a specific enough inhibitor that you are just inhibiting this particular kinase and not all the other ones that have to do other normal things. BTW, kinases are responsible for putting a phosphate group on particular amino acids on proteins. (I really am so out of touch with what terms laymen know, so this probably makes no sense to anyone outside the field. But oh well, thats what Wikipedia is for.) So, they actually have a super awesome, specific drug for this form of cancer. Honestly, if you were to get a cancer, I would choose this one. Cancers are a**-scary, but its nice that this one makes so much sense.

IN ANY CASE, one of the people involved in this whole saga, Jean Wang, is coming to give a talk next week and that is why I'm learning about sh*t, because I have to, because I'm on a training grant and this is what is expected of me. But it's pretty cool.

In other news, my car developed a nasty brake fluid leak and I think I am getting ripped off by the car mechanic man, but there is not much I can do about that now.

In some even more remote news, that is related to escapist fantasies, I am daydreaming about flying away to Munich, because it is less than $400 to get there, see. But this whole paying for expensive car repairs thing is not very conducive to that sort of thing. Ah well.

I might also mention that citing so many wikipedia articles is bad form for a scientist, but honestly, we all look at wikipedia. YOU MUST TRUST IN YOUR FELLOW MAN.

16 April 2009

And a heart-warming animal story...

If you haven't seen it yet...

I have to admit, I was tearing up with happiness while watching it. It is SOOOO happy!

06 April 2009

Hooray for Pretty Pictures

Here is the March's Best Photography from National Geographic. Very Nice.

Another Reason to Go Organic

That is, if you have to eat meat, or other animal products. Here is a synopsis of a Scientific American podcast about how flies are transferring antibiotic-resistant microbes from factory farms to US. Apparently 70% of antibiotics used in our country are applied to livestock. So, really, this antibiotic resistance problem is more about factory farms, which totally makes sense, because they are unnecessarily giving antibiotics to animals before they get sick, just so they can grow more of them in a small area. Duh.

This is interesting to me, because I am working on a project that may lead to the development of new antibiotics - but I assumed they were only for people, because they would prevent disease associated with certain bugs, not actually kill them. You would think this sort of antibiotic would be less useful for factory farmers. You can imagine at some point all our traditional antibiotics failing, and you would have bug-specific antibiotics that would be used for preventing disease in humans. This could potentially be a good thing, because then the farmers would be unable to overcrowd. Maybe.

I just think its weird how people have to deal with the consequences of farming practices with their health. Doesn't seem as worth it anymore, does it?

23 March 2009

And Now... You are Reading the Blog of a Shiny PhD Candidate! BAM!

That's right. I have been out of commission for the past several weeks because I was studying for my oral comprehensive exam, which is something that all second year grad students have to do. Basically, you write a proposal for your research, and then you get locked in a room with three professors and you tell them about your research. And they proceed to ask you WHATEVER THEY WANT about your project or about biochemistry or chemistry in general (in my case... Presumably not if you were an English major, har har). So NOWWWW I am all fancy and am feeling pretty smart because the whole thing really went very well and I was done in an hour, which is pretty fricking quick if you ask me. ANYWAY. It was awesome. I kicked its ass. And it is such a huge relief and I am so happy that it is finally over. The morning after, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about kinetics, dP/dt = ... and I realized, I don't have to care about kinetics anymore. HA! Take that Kinetics! And now I can go back to doing things I used to like to do, there is such a feeling of freedom, and I am excited about my research as well, so Everything is all Really quite great right now!!!! HOORAY!!

I will say that the entire orals experience was really quite horrible, weeks and weeks of dread and counting down, and I got sick and had a headache for like 5 days, and THEN I got strep throat, and then Phillippe got sick and died (thats for another post), and everything was all sucky in the world and I wasn't sure if I was going to make it, I couldn't even consider how I was going to do, and I was SOOO sick of studying, but I had to, just because I don't even know what I would do if I failed. But now I did it and it is GREAT.

17 March 2009

Homemade Mayo

Making your own mayo is officially not hard and is yummy. Besides, you actually know what is in there.

I followed this recipe, generally, except I didn't measure anything out. I'm not sure what the hot water does besides water it down, but then again, mine doesn't taste exactly like mayo, but it is pretty close. I used olive and canola oil with lemon juice and beat it with a fork. Success!

Basically, I just beat up my egg yolk, added a squirt of lemon juice, beat, add a grape size blob of oil, beat, more oil, beat, more oil beat... squirt of lemon juice, beat, oil.. etc etc until it gets to some consistency you like, and you can add salt and sugar and mustard powder if you'd like. I added a little bit of water, but I'm not sure why. It's a little runny, but maybe it'll solidify up in the fridge.

24 February 2009

Clear Domed Fish

This is just about the craziest fish I have ever seen. It has retracted its eyes into its head, which is now clear. Just watch the video.

17 February 2009

The Desperate Lead the Swarm

This just in: computer modeling of herds, schools, flocks, etc. has revealed that one desperate, weak individual can lead the entire swarm towards a new destination. Feel free to let your mind wander towards whatever human circumstances you feel you can apply that model to.

15 February 2009

Explosions in Space; The Sky is Falling!!!

Sweetness! A US satellite collided with a defunct Russian satellite in space over Siberia! The charred wreckage of the Russian satellite crashed into Canada!!! They were each traveling at SIX MILES PER SECOND when they collided! AND apparently in 1996, a piece of SPACE JUNK dissected a frickin' antenna off another satellite!!! And NOW, there are even more chunks of shit floating around orbiting Earth. Sweet.

11 February 2009

The moon, icy roads, and me at dawn

There is something about waking up early. I've heard people who stay up late say that they like it because it is peaceful, not many people are awake. I feel like it is more true in the early morning. The only other people (voluntarily) awake are feeling peaceful and introspective, as well. The colors are all soft, as the sun rises. Today, it had snowed the day before and gotten icy, and everything was soft blues, grays, and purples. The moon was off to the west, nearly full, in a cerulean sky. The ice was very crunchy, and as I crossed a road that went east-west, I saw a shock of vivid pinks and oranges down the road to the east, peeking under the icy canopies of trees and houses.

I think that the ability to happily wake up early is in part genetic. In the very least, the ability to wake up and be truly awake, although not necessarily early, is genetic. And this can lead people with this ability to wake up earlier and earlier as they desire, without any snooze button issues. Maybe the ability to fall asleep easily also helps. Perhaps people who stay up late have trouble initially falling asleep and so they just stay up until they feel ridiculously tired. In any case, there was no reason for me to wake up at 4:30 and be wide awake. It just happened.

Of course, I probably should have tried to go back to sleep, since I only got 5 hours and will probably crash at some point. I'm going to try to put off caffeine intake as long as possible.

31 January 2009

.... Crucifixion is kind of a gross word

AND it gets even grosser when you read about it and the various ways you can nails the hands/arms up. Different locations for the insertions of nails and angles, etc. And the we turn to the actual way people die when they are fucking nailed or tied to a pole, which could take hours to days, apparently. Gross. And EW, sometimes they broke the legs to hasten death, especially if the arms were tied directly overhead. And then the remains were usually left to decay on the cross, although there has been ONE archaeological finding of a crucified body. The nail found in his heel bone had olive wood fragments on it, which means that he was crucified AT EYE LEVEL because olive trees are not very tall!!!! GROSS. Oh god, there are other gross parts about how there was a piece of wood holding the nail on his foot, so he couldn't SLIDE HIS FOOT OFF THE HEAD OF THE NAIL.

The wikipedia article also says there is crucifixion imagery in Final Fantasys 7, 8 & 10, but I don't remember anything like that in 7, the only one I actually finished.

AND.... The reason why I am even thinking about this in the first place is that I have been listening to the Jesus Christ Superstar movie soundtrack for the past couple days. Of course, I should be reading journal articles about Type 3 Secretion in gram-negative bacteria, but...

My two favorite songs are "Heaven on their Minds" and "Gethsemane," like, by far, but I figure JC Superstar is a classic. Dude, those ladies know how to dance. AND I love Judas' voice. Man, Andrew Lloyd Webber was a freaking genius. Also, here is a strange 2000 version of "Heaven on Their Minds" that sort of reminds me of daytime soap operas.

AND THEN!!!! Ted Neely is touring in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR in a city near you, RIGHT NOW!!!! GO! Ted Neeley has been playing Jesus Christ longer than Jesus was alive.

30 January 2009

This is a good FU Penguin post, IMO. You should read it. Just look at the lamb!!!

Hamster Birthday Party!!!!

This is unbearably CUTE. They made the hamster a CAKE out of bread, cream cheese and a carrot piece and THEN there was also a sweet cardboard house that had cheerios and carrots and apples stuck to it that the hamster could EXPLORE and find YUMMIES.


HOLY FREAKING HELL. Some crazy MFers have decided to make a little magnet-controlled gripper guy that closes its FIST of DEATH on cells or other things when the temp or other chemical conditions change. Be sure to watch the video on the above linked site where the gripper MERCILESSLY RIPS a chunk of some suspiciously-BLOODY-looking substance off. GRUESOME.

Crazy Silica Crystals

In keeping with my theme of posting National Geographic News, which you could easily read yourself on National Geographic, thus rendering my blog entirely obsolete, here are some cool Silica crystals that are all super curvy and "organic." This is tricksey, because it means that when people find curvy looking fossils on rocks (like from Mars), it could just be mineral crystals after all, and not life. Curtains! In addition, I am in a crystallography lab, and so crystals are kind of cool, yes?

Creepy Mummified Dead Girl

This mummy of a little girl who died in 1920 freaks me out. Her dad was a taxidermist and embalmer and was apparently "an artist" at the job, and used zinc salts, in addition to other normal embalming things, which account for the insane state of preservation. From National Geographic, "Formalin, now widely used by embalmers, is a mixture of formaldehyde and water that kills bacteria. Salafia was one of the first to use this for embalming bodies. Alcohol, along with the arid conditions in the catacombs, would have dried Rosalia's body and allowed it to mummify. Glycerin would have kept her body from drying out too much, and salicylic acid would have prevented the growth of fungi." Makes sense to me!

On another note, I used to say that I wanted to be petrified when I died and then shot off into space all Han Solo like, encased in my stone. But I guess this is a pretty good way to be preserved. Or, whatever, I'll just go back into the circle of life and be immortal that way. Some day, you may EAT one of my molecules!

Super Cool Old Lizard Gets It On

A 110-year old Tuatara, which are lizards from New Zealand, had a cancerous tumor removed from his genitals that was making him grumpy, and subsequently mated successfully, producing 11 eggs. His name is Henry and look how cute they are! They can live to be 250 years old, and they look pretty frickin awesome, if you ask me. Look how their tails and legs are all intertwined in the scaly throes of lizard passions. Of course, there are not very many of them alive now, which is true of most things we do not eat (and also for some that we do).

22 January 2009

Mr. President

Our new President, Barack Obama, signing the order to close Guantanamo Bay. It's still pretty unreal that he is ACTUALLY OUR PRESIDENT!!!! I'm excited. Look how Presidental he looks!

Also, it looks like he's got a hook right-hand, which means that he is leaning right brained? You could say this is why he is so sensitive to the toils of others and the feelings in the country because he is more "intuitive," although it is obvious that he is also very analytical.

Oh crap, my mom pointed out he's a lefty. A hook lefty. That means he's left brained after all, nevermind everything I said up there.

Real Life Lumas!

There were hundreds of species discovered off the coast of Tasmania, Australia using a deep sea submersible vehicle. This is a picture some Marginaster sea stars. I think they are cute and look kind of like Lumas from Super Mario Galaxy. These ones look significantly harder than the ones in Mario Galaxy, although they look just as magical.

20 January 2009


I read an article about Oaxaca and now I want to go there. Chocolate and archaeology?! Huevos oaxaqueños and adorable Mexicans making adorable crafts, living a lifestyle that I desire in my purest escapist fantasies?! Oh yeah, and theres a city, or something. Mostly the huevos oaxaquenos though. Holy hell, am I hungry.

Clouds are Gross

SOOOOO. What we thought were nice fluffy, pure clouds of delicious, clean water vapor are actually full of disgusting bacteria. Not that there is anything really wrong with bacteria, and it is everywhere, just that I never expected it to be in clouds. APPARENTLY, the bacteria have taken to the skies and use clouds to travel and colonize other places on earth. AND, say in a region with a lot of plants, the bacteria go up into the clouds and may have an effect in nucleating rain drops and causing rain. SO, all your rain dancing bull shit won't help one bit if you kill all the plants. This can lead to a sort of vicious cycle in deforested or over-chemicaled fields, where the bacterial load is decreased, so there are not as many airborne bacteria, so there is no rain, etc etc etc. I mean, its all pretty cool, but still, when I went skydiving, I went through a cloud, and maybe someone should have told me about this first so I could have least kept my mouth shut while going through it. It felt cool and misty, but I didn't know that was because of all the billions of little mushy bacteria that were running into me, and not just water droplets. Oh well.

Also, life has been difficult and busy lately and I don't have time to peruse the internets like I used to. Maybe I never really had the time in the first place.

13 January 2009

Aural Induction of Ovulation in CHEETAHS

We always knew that they say females are more aural than males when it comes to sexual arousal, BUT it has just been discovered that ovulation in female cheetahs is induced by a certain "stuttering bark" made by male cheetahs. This is super exciting because female cheetahs do not have regular reproductive cycles and this is a problem in captive breeding programs. With this new, super-exciting news, now we can hopefully get those lady cheetahs pumping out the eggs and gettin' new BABIES!

Apparently this sort of sex-linked vocalization is very rare in mammals, and is sometimes observed in birds. Go to the National Geographic page to hear the male cheetah stutter-bark. Its very froggy sounding to me. Strange. But kind of cute.

10 January 2009

A Word of Warning from Endangered Species

This article from the National Geographic Magazine is definitely worth the read. It is a sad (to me) story about the Endangered Species Act, the challenges it has faced in the past and must overcome in the future.

And definitely make sure to check out the stunning photo gallery that accompanies the article, which includes pictures of the ocelot, the extinct dusky seaside sparrow, and the yellowfin madtom, among others. I don't say 'stunning' lightly, and maybe you might not experience the same feeling, but the diversity on earth is mind-blowing to me (and sad when threatened, which is all the time now).

I would also like to mention that the article says that the building of the Kennedy Space Center overtook critical habitat of the now-extinct dusky seaside sparrow. For shame, Science.

06 January 2009

Asiatic Cheetahs

Previously unbeknownst to me, there are cheetahs living in Iran. It is approximated that about 60 adults live on the centra plateau. In this picture, there is a female and her FOUR cubs, which is a pretty damn high number for such old looking cubs. Hopefully, since Iran has placed protection on them, they can grow in numbers. I can't imagine that there is much competition with other large carnivores for food in this region. This does, however, make me more uneasy about potential nuclears being used in the region.

05 January 2009

Civilizing my Cats

Before the holidays, I started toilet training my cats after hearing someone mention it. I guess the only point of this post is to report that they are now going in a bowl of litter in the toilet. I think George usually has both back legs in the bowl and I'm not sure what Simon does, but I think I saw him with ALL four legs in the bowl and once with just the back feet in the bowl. One site says that I'm supposed to train them to keep their feet out of the bowl by physically moving their paws and praising them if they keep the paw up. I tried it once with Simon and he did not like it one bit, so I gave up. I saw another site that said to use some sort of disposable aluminum pan that you can cut a hole in the middle of and increase the diameter and apparently the cats will move their feet onto the seat on their own. I don't know. With the current trajectory, I am supposed to decrease the amount of litter and eventually add water to the bowl, before taking the bowl away entirely. Right now, I am just letting natural atrophy of the litter level by removal of the pee clumps, but I think they are used to it by now and so maybe I should move more aggressively. I don't know.... I'm not around enough and they are too sneaky for me to catch them going to the bathroom very often, for me to even attempt to move their paws onto the seat. Maybe I should decrease the litter and hope that they won't want their feet down there where they do their business. Ah well. At least I'm half way there, right?

02 January 2009

A Quote for the Day

We are bits of stellar matter that got cold by accident, bits of a star gone wrong.
- Sir Arthur Eddington