Showing posts from November, 2007


I was reading an article in the Dec 10 issue of Forbes on the bus coming into work. The article was titled "Tobacco-Free" and related mainly to the recent introduction of Pfizer's drug Chantix into the anti-smoking drug arena.

The article is rather interesting and begins its focus with the inventor, Jothan Coe, and his history with both smoking and chemical solutions to smoking. Apparently the scientist smoked heavily until quitting at 25, when he was a grad student at MIT.

I've never smoked but I work with several people who do--and two of those have tried Chantix without success--and it certainly seems a hard habit to break. The two people in question ran DNA microarrays 2 years ago on smokers versus nonsmokers (from a pool of stent patients) and the results were so dramatic that they both spontaneously quit smoking that very day. The number of genes that were changed by smoking was shocking. Yet the nicotine urge is so strong both took up smoking again within a few…

Cancer-Resistant Mouse

There's some exciting cancer related news coming from University of Kentucky. Yesterday they published a press release with the following lead paragraphs:

A mouse resistant to cancer, even highly-aggressive types, has been created by researchers at the University of Kentucky. The breakthrough stems from a discovery by UK College of Medicine professor of radiation medicine Vivek Rangnekar and a team of researchers who found a tumor-suppressor gene called "Par-4" in the prostate.

The researchers discovered that the Par-4 gene kills cancer cells, but not normal cells. There are very few molecules that specifically fight against cancer cells, giving it a potentially therapeutic application.

That's pretty exciting news. We currently fight cancer by applying chemicals or radiation that kill fast growing cells. While this approach does target the rapidly dividing cancer cells, there's also a lot of normal cells that are also killed as collateral damage. Using gene therap…


I'm on a diet right now that most would find... let's say "unconventional". Yes, let's describe it that way.

Basically all I do is eat Smarties. No finesse to it. Just eat Smarties day and night. I bought over 20 pounds of them on post Halloween clearance so I won't run out of them until early December.

Scary but I've already gone through over 12 pounds of the things in 4 weeks. And weirdly enough I've lost 8 pounds during that same time period--mostly off my belly. I think I might be torturing my pancreas to death--and not doing my liver any good either.

Well, time for me to go eat my lunch. You can see it up there clinging to the keyboard of my laptop. Mmmmmm. Smarties!

Aspergers Quiz

I took this quiz on Asperger's syndrome. The results follow:

Your Aspie score: 80 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 136 of 200

You are very likely neurotypical

ADD-score: 22 of 78
You might have ADD

The ADD thing isn't any surprise. I was a little surprised that I didn't score a little more towards the Aspergers side of things. I don't think I have the disorder but I've had a number of people over the years tell me that I'm borderline for it. Ha! This quiz proves them wrong. (assuming the quiz is a good measure of the symptoms)

low water

This is what happens when the water is low and you don't keep pushing your dock out further. Not pretty. The mist on the water is nice tho.

Kayaking through sickness

You know, historically they've blamed plagues like The Black Death on rats and other vermin. They might be right. But...

But I'd like to advance another theory. All disease is due to kids. I was so sick today I slept away most of the day, didn't go out kayaking this morning despite it being subfreezingly cold--that produces lovely mist and despite the nasty cold temperature is a great time to kayak, and felt all achy and tired. I don't blame rats though.

Just look to the left to see exhibit A in the case I'm making. Below is exhibit B.

Kids are the real carriers of pestilence. Rats and other rodents don't even come close. Hell, even when I tried to get away from the germ and virus ridden critters (kids) they followed me out onto the water.

Scary stuff, eh?

While I didn't get much water time today I have high hopes for tomorrow. There's supposed to be rain coming in around midnight but what with the drought going on now, I think the weather folk just say that…

Caffeine and soda

The subject of one of Wired's little sidebars in the November issue is caffeine and soda. That's not surprising when you consider how many programmers and other geek-oriented folk like to stay up all night. Caffeine definitely helps in that quest.

The sidebar starts with the disclaimer that no soda comes close to coffee, the gold standard, with on average over 120 mg per 12 ounces. However Vault Zero does approach that with 74 mg--quite a bit for soda--and after that the pack trails quite a bit. In the 50's are Pepsi One (57.1), Diet Mountain Dew (55.2) and Mountain Dew (54.8).

I wonder why the diet version has more caffeine? Of those the only one I drink is Mountain Dew though I've switched to Sierra Mist of late--and that has no caffeine in it. Still, my favorite sodas are Dr Pepper, which clocks in at 42.6 mg, and Pepsi which has 38.9 mg of caffeine.

The soda lowest on the list is Barq's Root Beer at 22.4 mg. I like Root Beer but rarely drink it. I guess that's…

Thanksgiving and television

Here in the States, the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us once more. I'll be taking off for my parents' place in SC around 3am on Thursday to avoid traffic. That departure time allows me to arrive just when they're getting up at 7am. I'll probably be staying until Sunday so there should be plenty of rubbing elbows with relatives, eating horrid amounts of food, and hopefully a good amount of paddling too.

I'm almost finished up with my assays here at work so I hope to leave around 2pm. That'll give me a little bit of time to read and maybe eat in front of the tele before getting a few hours sleep for that early departure.

Speaking of television, what do you think of Heroes? That show got off to a slow and rocky start after that wonderful first season. Now it appears they're going to wrap up the season early though at least they've had several good episodes here at the tail end of the season. Too bad they didn't start off with their better episodes to set…

Hearts like nitrates?

According to a press release on the Albert Einstein College of Medicine website, eating your leafy greens could be life-saving if a heart attack strikes you.

As news goes, that's not all that earth shattering. Nutrition folk are always trying to shove that green crap down our throats. When are they going to decide that we should eat sausage or maybe ribs? Well... the chemicals in the leafy greens that the research team at Albert Einstein College of Medicine found for this heart protection are nitrites and nitrates. This is a bizarre twist 'cause for decades we've been told that nitrates are horrible for our hearts as well as potentially carcinogenic.

"Recent studies show that administering nitrite to animals, either intravenously or orally, can greatly limit the damage caused by a heart attack and the stress to tissue that follows due to reperfusion—the return of blood to oxygen-starved heart muscle," says Dr. David Lefer, the study’s senior author and professor of…

Eggs, not just for breakfast

The current project that I'm working on is a chicken based model for angiogenesis called CAM (Chorioallantoic Membrane).

It's pretty simple. You buy fertilized eggs, place them in an incubator for a few days, then crack the eggs and add the contents to petri dishes. At this point they've been warm for 3 days and you can start to see some chick development but it's only a wee small thing. Several days later we add drug to some of the petri dishes--right on the yolk--and don't add the drug to the rest so as to have controls. Several days later you compare the controls to the drug added yolks and use that information to determine if the drug affects angiogenesis.

It's a great system because the affect is easily visible and it's fast. Chicks take 21 days to develop from initial fertilization to hatching and we use the eggs for the 3 day to around the 10 day part of that cycle.

I started writing this at 3pm and now it's after midnight. This working for a living…

Writer's Strike

I saw this YouTube clip over on Nina's blog Reader. The clip is funny though I've often wondered why Nina's blog isn't named Climber. The clip is about the writer's strike and is done by one of the writers of the Daily Show.

It's a cook book

I received a book I ordered last week from Amazon on Friday. It's titled "The Cook's Book" as you can see in the picture down below. Jill Norman is the editor but the writing is done by top chefs, each writing about their own specialty.

I read a review of the book on a cooking blog a month or so ago, probably Ariela's lovely site, Baking and Books. In any case, I had the book on my ordering queue for a while and finally decided to buy it. It's not cheap. The book lists at $50 but discounted down it's around $30-35.

It is most definitely worth the money. Just as eye candy for your coffee table it's worth the moola but when you consider actually using it... the possibilities are astounding. The book has mouth watering illustrations of food--the photography is amazing--but even more important to us amateurs, it's well illustrated with basic and advanced cooking techniques. It's a mid-level book that gracefully allows beginners to join in. Nice!



I bought a small turkey on my way home from work tonight. The "generic" frozen ones were on sale this week for 49 cents a pound. It's a good price, a decent sale but I got so spoiled 3 years ago. They had turkeys on sale that year for 19 cents a pound. You could get a 20 pound bird for less than the cost of a sandwich!

This time around I bought a 14 pounder. I'll pick up another one after T-day if they go on sale. Usually they just put the prices back up to normal tho--in this case $1.19 a pound. Turkey's so easy to fix that it's fun to make but that's a lot of turkey for just me to eat so I tend to only buy it on a really good sale. That way if I end up feeding a lot of turkey to neighborhood critters I don't feel bad. On sale, the turkey costs less than pet food. I wonder if the birds would consider eating their distant cousin?

I won't be eating that turkey for a while, it's in the bottom niche in my freezer, but a bottom round I picked up on …

Red Thursday

It's been a busy week at work but not a lot else going on.

This little maple seems to be the highlight of my yard. For the most part the autumn colors have been weak and uninteresting in this section of NC but this little maple didn't hear the news and made a nice display for me to enjoy.

It's not truly red, for that you need to look lower to see the cardinal pictured below. I took that picture a few days ago and the picture of the maple was taken just a few minutes ago.

It seems strange to have Thanksgiving already knocking at our door. Having Turkey Day on the 22nd just seems too early. Next year it'll be on the 27th and that seems more "right" to me. That's what comes of having the first day of November on a Thursday, I guess.

I was hoping to take Wednesday off and head out of town a day early but now it appears I'll be doing a lot of Westerns next week and I'll need all 3 days to get in a bunch of gels. Maybe if I get lucky and the antibody conce…


Here's a quiz off of the okCupid website that I took a few days ago:

Your Score: Epicurean
Congrats, you seem to be more Epicurean than not. You believe in at least some of these:

Empiricism: Trusting the evidence of the senses

Atomism: Everything is made up of atoms

Materialism: Everything is either matter or void

Atheism/Agnosticism: God either doesn't exist or else probably doesn't care

Epicurean Hedonism: The goal of life should be pleasure. However, Epicureans are more interested in intellectual pleasures and the happiness to be had through friendship than in sensual pleasures like eating, drinking, or sex.

Epicureans defined pleasure as being a combination of "aponia" (lack of pain) and "ataraxia" (freedom from fear). Because of this, they concentrated intensely on overcoming the fear of death. Without the judgment of God or the fires of hell to worry about, this is actually a fairly simple matter. As Epicurus said:

"Death is nothing to us."

Tuesday Meme

Sassy tagged me with this meme. She got it in turn from Tiffany at Trivial Affairs.

A. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning.

B. Each player list 6 facts/habits/secrets about themselves.

C. At the end of the post, the player then tags people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

My 6 facts/habits/secrets:

1. I grew up in a very remote area of New York state where the deer and bear vastly outnumbered the people. You could go to the town dump at night and shine spotlights on the black bears rooting amongst the garbage piles. You didn't want to get too close tho.

2. While I've had a number of jobs over the years I always seem to return to research biology. I've been working at UNC on breast cancer for the past 6+ years. Right now the research focus is angiogenesis but you never know where the next set of experiments will take us.

3. My worst habit is wanti…

Fairy Tale Generator

Brown University has an interesting little web application up on their server. It's based on some research done in the 1930s by a Russian scholar, Vladimir Propp, who studied the basic plot components of his country's folk tales and came up with a list of the mythic stories' functions.

The Web App has a number--32 in case you're curious--of check boxes that you can toggle and then you generate the story. There's a number of possibilities contained within the database so you can toggle the same boxes and get different stories. The more boxes checked, generally the longer the story since more components need to be contained within.

In the following story, I toggled "reconnaissance", "trickery", "struggle", and "victory" and that generated the following little story:

"Tell me what it is you have come here seeking," he growled through clenched teeth.

One man stumbled towards me as if under a drunken afternoon spell. His m…

Bad ole Weekend

This was a bad weekend.

I was invited to lunch and dinner on Saturday and wasn't able to do either 'cause I was just feeling too sick. And I also didn't want to go--I tend to be antisocial, you see--but the point here is my being sick. So stop getting me sidetracked, people.

I was also supposed to go hiking on Sunday and didn't do that either. In fact I never even got my mail this weekend and that's just at the end of my driveway. The furthest afield I went all weekend was my back deck to feed the birds. They rely on me, y'know?

See this guy? He's got no wings. If it wasn't for me he'd just be skin and bones. And feathers, I guess. Poor waif would be starving to death...

Actually.... he's got wings. As you can see in this picture, it was just the angle the first picture was taken at. He looked wingless.

And the feeding thing? I think they actually like eating bugs more. It's just that the seed I put out is really easy to get. I guess it's li…

Blog Readibility Test

I found this little test over at Liz's Tavern. Her blog rated a "genius level" but all I got was "junior high". I guess she must use longer words...

Hannaford and the Guiding Stars

There's an article in the Periscope section of the November 12 Newsweek that interested me. The topic is the Guiding Stars program that is being rolled out at Hannaford Brothers, a 161 store supermarket chain in New England.

Using experts from institutions like Harvard and Tufts, Hannaford devised a system of stars to designate the nutritional value of all the foods in their stores. Most food has no stars--which is a serious indictment of our food system!--but the better stuff is rated one (good), two (better) or three star (best).

For the most part I'm quite willing to wallow in bad food, like the 72% of items that receive no stars in the Hannaford system, but it's nice to know that should I want to eat healthier there's a system being worked on to make the decision easier. Hannaford is owned by the Delhaize Group which is a Belgium based international food retailer. This system of rating food value by stars is being implemented by other chains in the Delhaize Group--n…

Still around

I've not posted in a couple of days. I've just not felt very inspired. It's probably the whole "back to work" thing. Those three weeks I took off were so enjoyable that being back at work is sapping my will to live. Not to mention my will to blog.

Work has been interesting this week. I've been getting all my cultures back up to speed again but most of my work this week has been in support of other lab members as well as creating graphics for my boss. I tend to like playing with Photoshop so that part of the week's labor was enjoyable.

On the other hand, unfortunately our CAM assay isn't working yet and there's been a lot of frustrating troubleshooting trying to correct that situation. We're hoping that the problem lies in excessive CO2 levels since that's easily fixable. As is, we only have enough time before the Thanksgiving holiday to get in one more run on that... and maybe one after that before the Xmas holidays. At least the cell cult…

The Amazing Race

It's now in its 12th season with seven Emmies under it's belt and The Amazing Race is still going strong. This past Sunday the season started with 11 new teams embarking on what could be up to 30,000 miles of travel---assuming that team makes it to the end.

The show airs about twice a year having first started in 2001. This season is starting a little early due to the sudden and dramatic demise of CBS's show Viva Laughlin . It only lasted two episodes. That hadda cost some people a bundle. But I'm not disappointed 'cause I didn't want to have to wait until February to see TAR.

Wiki has a good breakdown on the show in case you've never watched it. It's the only reality show I watch. Well, I guess I have to include Hell's Kitchen too.

So far my favorite teams on TAR are the brother/sister engineers (Azaria & Hendekea) and the hippie like couple from California (Rachel & TK). What team(s) do you prefer?

breasts in the news

Since cute little Sassy is talking about boobs, I figure I might as well contribute to the discussion. While she was able to show hers, to great effect, I, due to physical limitations in that area, will just discuss the breasts of others.

According to a study released on November first at University of Kentucky, breastfeeding does not adversely affect breast shape. Now all my life I've heard that nursing causes breasts to sag so hearing the conclusion of this report seems suspicious. The news release follows so judge for yourself:

Nursing mothers needn't worry. A new study shows that breastfeeding does not increase breast sagging. University of Kentucky plastic surgeon Dr. Brian Rinker and his colleagues conducted the study with patients at UK HealthCare Cosmetic Surgery Associates. The study found that breastfeeding does not adversely affect breast shape.

"A lot of times, if a woman comes in for a breast lift or a breast augmentation, she'll say 'I want to fix what …

bird trouble

Sometime between when I last loaded my bird feeders on Saturday afternoon and today at 4:30pm the bird below got into some serious trouble in one of my bird feeders.

I was just putting out some seed before watching the Patriots / Colts game and I noticed an odd movement at the end of the feeder.

Somehow this bird had gotten into the end feeder--which I don't stock with anything-- upside down. Maybe it was escaping from a hawk and dove in there. In any case, trying to escape from the metal grid the poor bird had hurt one leg and dug up it's belly a bit.

It took a while but I was able to pull the grid off the bird feeder without further injuring the bird and then I slowly snipped apart the wires that were impinging on the birds wings and neck. Before I released it, I gave a cursory exam and one leg wasn't looking good but the bird was otherwise fine. One wing might have been wrenched a bit but seemed to be moving okay.

Upon release the bird rapidly, but not very gracefully, flew…

Michael Clayton

I went to see the movie Michael Clayton tonight. That's the new movie with George Clooney and Sydney Pollack. It got a 91% rating with the critics over at Rotten Tomatoes and 86% with users. That seems about right. It's an interesting movie with superb acting.

I question how interesting the actual storyline is--but given the constraints of a minimum of action, the crafting of the movie is excellent. And Hell, there is one explosion --shown twice!-- so all is not lost. But would it have killed them to include at least one car chase? Or maybe some gratuitous nudity?

Clooney's role in this movie reminds me somewhat of Syriano, particularly since he's adopted a similar appearance for Michael Clayton. A little heavy, worn down, and tired but he still radiates that special star quality that he has. The personality he adopts is also the same. In both films, Clooney is the guy that makes things work even if he has to bend rules, cheat, lie or worse to get his job done.

As for the…

magazine shopping

When I go shopping price is usually the component of the experience that I find most important.

That's actually how I first found Saveur Magazine.

(The pic to the left is a screen shot of what the magazine currently costs to subscribe to)

You see I wanted to get a magazine about food and cooking about two years ago and at that time Saveur was doing a push for more subscribers. At a site I used to frequent for good online deals,, there was an offer for a year subscription for 5 bucks. I'd never heard of Saveur but I jumped at the offer. I'm very glad I did too--it's a wonderful magazine.

However after my initial subscription ended, the best price I could find on resubscribing was something like $30 a year and I was far too cheap at the time to pay that kinda money. But I've missed reading it and so we come to my magazine shopping trip.

After doing a Google search on the magazine name, and coming up with a few sites like that one above, that all had Saveur at…

Of beauty contests and big numbers

I was over at Scott's blog Scott-o-Rama earlier and he was having a contest. Of course I entered, and was fortunate enough to win one of the prizes. Lucky for me, it was the best one--at least I think it was.

The prize was Trantasia, a DVD documentary of a beauty contest out in Las Vegas. The documentary follows the 6 finalists through the rigmarole of the contest using interviews and profiles to flesh out the personalities of each contestant. I suspect it'll be quite... eye opening for me.

In other news my blog finally moved over 100,000 visitors, as measured by unique daily visits.

That's about an average of 100 people a day over the 30 months that I've had my blog. The first few months I had the blog it was rare to have more than 5 visitors a day. My average these days is around 60 but for a while I was indexed highly by Google and as a result I was getting over 500 visits a day. That only lasted a few months but it really amped up my stats.

Oddly enough, it turned out…