Showing posts from February, 2008

Free Day

I think February 29th should be a holiday. Leap year only happens every 4 years.

Why are we working on a special day like this??? The average person only experiences 18 February 29ths in their lifetime. As a result, I think we should do special activities on this special day. Like eat candy in front of the television--my own version of celebrating the quazi-uniqueness of the day.

What would you be doing today if you didn't have to work?

What I am actually doing today is setting up two computers I bought for some new post-docs we have in the lab and making some graphs for an article we're going to submit for publication in two weeks. Exciting day, huh?

Cardiac Hormones and Cancer

Here's an excerpt from an article on the American Physiological Society's website. It's very exciting and might indicate a huge step forward in the fight against cancer. In fact it's so impressive that I find myself having trouble believing it--but the source of the news is very credible and the researcher is a good one.

In any case, Dr Vesely will present his research at a symposium April 9 at the Experimental Biology 2008 conference in San Diego.

According to researcher David Vesely, a doctor at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa and a professor at the University of South Florida (USF), hormones produced by the heart eliminated human pancreatic cancer in more than three-quarters of the mice treated with the hormones and eliminated human breast cancer in two-thirds of the mice. Vesely is the hospital’s chief of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism and is also professor of medicine, molecular pharmacology and physiology at USF.

Using colon, ovarian, breast, p…


I've been feeling grumpy the past 3 days for reasons I'm not aware of. So instead of complaining more today I'm just going to post a picture of birdie bootie and leave it at that.

UPDATE: I ended up filling up my gas tank after work and paid $3.05. While that was the lowest price in the area around me (as determined from the gas pricing guide on MSN) it was the first time I'd paid over $3 a gallon and I didn't like it. Not one bit.

I also spent $47 on food at Wal-mart and got a haircut ($13) at a place nearby--in case anyone is interested in those details.


My car is almost out of gas--according to the handy dandy gauge there's 27 miles left to go in the tank--and the lowest price gas in the area is $3.0599.

Paying over $3 a gallon has been a sticking point for me and thus far I've been able to avoid it. But now I'm down to one last commute before my tank runs dry. Dammit. Maybe I can drain the gas can in the shed--it's probably got 2 gallons in it--and last a few more days. If I'm lucky the prices will drop 6 cents a gallon in the meantime. Yeah, right.

And my experiment on the chick embryos didn't work today --they'd not developed as far as they should have-- which means trying again tomorrow which throws off the timing which means coming into work on the weekend for 4 hours. Dammit.

I love new toys

Google acquired Grand Central recently and now they're Beta testing the service and it's free. Free! FREE! Here's what they have to say:

Google Acquires GrandCentral Communications

GrandCentral is joining Google. We're excited about this. Being part of Google will helps us make our vision of improved voice communications one step closer to reality and bring innovative communications services to millions of users around the world. This will also ensure that your GrandCentral number is here for the long run, and that no matter how often you move, change jobs or phone providers, everyone can still reach you through the same phone number.

We have put together below a quick Q&A about the acquisition, but as always, we encourage our users to leave us some feedback through the feedback button above.

Craig Walker & Vincent Paquet, GrandCentral Founders

And speaking of cost, a matter near and dear to my heart, here's what Google has to say about it:

Our current plan is to…

Carrots and Oil but not Lasagna

I was going to make another batch of lasagna this weekend but I might postpone that a few days. Having eaten a large casserole dish of lasagna over the past week, I'm a little burnt out on the stuff. Maybe next Tuesday or Wednesday I'll try out a slightly different variation on the lasagna theme. In the meantime I think I'll go for something a lot lighter. Carrots!

Brown-sugar Glazed Carrots

4 cups sliced carrots
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter

You steam the carrots for about 6 minutes using a few tablespoons of water in the microwave. In the last half minute of cooking time, melt the butter and brown sugar together in the dish. Remove from microwave and toss the cooked carrots with the butter/sugar mixture.

Carrots and dill are in the same family and make a perfect combination. I'm going to try sprinkling fresh dill leaves over carrots before steaming them. I've never done that before and I might not like it. :-(

Now onto the "oil" section of t…

Dreams do end

I know that's a strange title for a post about the stock market but that's how I feel. You see, yesterday Pfizer issued a press release about a company, Encysive Pharmaceuticals, in which I owned stock.

Now this is a troubled company, to say the least. I bought 7,000 shares of ENCY (the stock symbol for Encysive) on 6/19/2007 at an average price of $2.1157. That purchase was highly speculative and is the only holding in my Keough account. I admit it's a rather odd stock to hold in a retirement account but I like to take some risks. :-)

In the past year, ENCY has been as high as $5.02 and as low as 59 cents. The stock has been threatened with being delisted from NASDAQ and that's essentially the kiss of death. The pink sheets aren't a place where a cash burning company like a biotech can exist for long. You might say the handwriting was on the wall for Encysive--and Pfizer took advantage of this to buy out the company yesterday for $195 million. Now that's not a…

Does anyone have extra tubes?

Here's one of the things that was keeping me busy at work on Tuesday.

You probably all recognize this. It's a microscope! I spend a lot of time around microscopes.

In this case we're quantifying the formation of tubes in response to some peptides we added to the cells after first allowing them to grow for 3 days.

In the picture on the left, you can see the 96 well plate that we use to grow the cells in. While we use a lot of different type of cells, in this case we're using a murine (mouse) model.

Since the bottom of the wells in a 96 well plate are so small, it's hard to get a good image of the cells growing there. That's why we wander across campus and go to a core facility which has as its sole purpose to provide imaging assistance to troubled researchers like me.

This is a wider view of the microscope setup that I was using. It's just one of over a dozen workstations. There's a number of different types here ranging from simple dissection scopes to the m…

almost better

For anyone that is interested out there, I'm almost over my cold.

I've been to work both days this week as well as last Friday. Today was the first day that I've spent over 8 hours there though and the difference was telling.

Once I got home I laid down--just for a minute!--when I got home at 6pm and the next thing I knew the phone ringing woke me up at 7pm. 10 minutes or so on the phone, during which I fell asleep momentarily twice, and then back to sleep until 11pm! Man, that's as much sleep as I usually get in a full night and it's not even midnight yet. Damn.

As for these pictures, the one above is for people who've seen my house. Clear counter space isn't something I'm known for. This is proof that my clutter-free project is showing results!

The second picture is my breakfast from Tuesday morning. People who know me realize that "breakfast" isn't a work normally in my vocabulary. For some odd reason I woke up this morning at 6am and dec…

wordless on Monday


ENCY sells on the cheap to Pfizer

Pfizer to Acquire Encysive Pharmaceuticals

Acquisition Will Extend Presence in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension with Product Launched in Several EU Countries; Pfizer Plans Pivotal Trial to Support Registration in the U.S.
NEW YORK & HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Pfizer Inc today announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Encysive Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ENCY), a publicly held biopharmaceutical company whose product for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is commercially available in much of the European Union and is approved in other markets.
Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will make a cash tender offer for all issued and outstanding shares of Encysive for $2.35 per share, representing an equity value of approximately $195 million. Following completion of the tender offer, a subsidiary of Pfizer will merge with Encysive, with the outstanding Encysive shares not tendered pursuant to the tender offer converted into the right to receive the p…

bruchetta and a Good Year

I finished reading a book about bananas, of all things, today. I'll probably write up a review of the book tomorrow. I want to mull it over a while. It was very interesting to me, but it had a lot of flaws.

I didn't get very much done today. I did finish up clearing off the counter and dry sink in my kitchen. I also made two types of bruchetta and watched a Russell Crowe movie A Good Year. I liked the movie and both types of bruchetta. As for the lasagna yesterday, it's not bad but definitely not as good as the stuff I usually make. I'll have no problem finishing it off tho--in fact it's almost half gone already.

The movie has a lot of problems but basically I didn't care, I liked it anyway. Probably a lot of the reason I liked it was how something like 10 or 12 loose ends were cleared up near the end of the film. Or maybe it was the 20 or so loose ends that weren't cleared up! I love thinking about screw upped things in movies, y'know?

Some of the loose…

lasagna and colds

Usually it's chicken soup that's touted for curative powers. And that's probably well deserved--but I decided last night to give lasagna a try. At worst, I'll still be sick but with a happy tummy.

I hadn't planned on making lasagna but while on an emergency run at Wal-mart on Thursday--I ran out of ibuprofen--I picked up a couple of pints of ricotta cheese. Just spur of the moment.

So tonight I'm thinking with my fevered mind what can make me feel better--and of course one of the first thoughts is melted cheese. Duh.

And what is one of the best sources of melted cheese, I ask. Lasagna, of course!

So I decided to make a batch with whatever I had on hand, and since I generally have a well stocked larder, the only real concession was substituting pork sausage for hamburger. I used sweet Italian sausage since that's my favorite for using in recipes.

I didn't start this endeavor until about 10pm on Valentine's Day so I didn't finish until nearly 11:30pm. …

Saint Valentine's Day

I was talking to Julie, a girl I frequently hike with, last week about the ups and downs of romance and we both decided that unrequited love didn't deserve the bad rep it has.

Both Julie and I been married once and are dubious about engaging in future relationships 'cause they're so much bother and often provide very little payoff. Lee (my girlfriend) and I have a long stormy history and that only buttresses the point.

"So," you might ask, "What is your point?"

Well, it's this: "real" relationships are rarely completely happy because they involve two or more people who have different needs and desires. Unrequited love, on the other hand, is all about YOU. What could be better?

My first love was a girl I met in 4th grade. I admired her from afar for several years until her family moved away and never returned. I've never forgotten her. Or, to be more accurate, I've never forgotten my very biased view of her. And that's the point. …

I'm Friggin' Dying

In sensitivity to those who really ARE dying, I have to admit here I'm just being a weenie about a cold. I started my symptoms yesterday around noon but thought it was just my normal sinus problems. Around 3am I was awakened, literally, to the possibility it was more serious by 4+ hours of fever that had me shivering even under all my blankets and down comforter. I like to be warm, what's it to you?!

This next section is from the The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas' website:

As temperatures dip, cold season starts. What do you do to fight the fever, sneezing and runny nose?

Because there’s still no comprehensive cure for the common cold, we still just have to treat the symptoms. Over-the-counter medications can help you deal with the congestion, sneezing and fever that come with colds.

One thing you shouldn’t do, according to doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, is rely on an old piece of folklore. “Feed a cold, starve a fever” has be…

The Honeymoon is Over

A few years back I had satellite television for 2 years and almost never had a problem but this time apparently things are going to be different.

I've only had my DirecTV service for a week plus and already there's issues. I have no local HD channels at all. See the picture below for details:

I went to my troubleshooting guide and lo and behold, two of my transponders are out of commission. The pictures of the individual analysis are below as well as a picture of a correctly functioning transponder.

Sure, some would say that I should be happy that 30 out of 32 transponders are working fine and dandy. Those folk are the glass is half full sort. To be quite frank, I hate their everloving guts.

I don't want only some of my service working, I want it all to work. I'm paying for everything so it should all work, dammit.

When I called the customer service line I was given the long runaround by the automated computer service.
In one sense it's amazing how good those things are …

Lighting and cooking

I spent most of this weekend rearranging my living room and bedroom along with a little tele watching. Can't resist that high def screen for long, y'know? I really like the changes in my bedroom, while they're minor it really feels a lot different, and the changes in my living room have worked out well also. I'm not quite finished with the living room yet tho.

Doesn't that picture above look arty?

I was finding that normal lighting was really hurting my "viewing experience" with the new television but I need some small amount of light so I can use the remote control plus gather snacks and soda.

What I came up with was to use a light rope which I wound around the banister of my staircase, as you can see to the left.

The staircase is directly behind the chair I watch television from--when I'm not being really lazy and just laying on the couch--and so even though the light isn't very bright, it's perfect for allowing me to see the buttons on my remot…


My new high def television has provided me with an excuse to rearrange my living room. It's been about 2 years since the last time I moved everything around. It's a bit of an undertaking, largely due to all my books.

I used the moving around as a good time to treat the wood to some polish and wax. It's a lot easier to do that when the bookcase is totally unloaded.

I temporarily am storing much of my living room stuff in my kitchen so I can vacuum the rug a couple of times. I won't finish it up until tomorrow but that'll give me a chance to air the place out as well. It's supposed to be in the high 50s tomorrow and that'll feel great since moving furniture and books around tends to get me overheated.

Here's the books that were in the bookcase pictured above. It's amazing how many books fit in one small bookcase--and how bloody heavy they are!

I like to keep them in alphabetical order but in the past few years that plan had broken down a bit. This is my …

Valentine's Day

Here's a touching St Valentine's Day story. It's about how love--at least the invertebrate version thereof--can find a way to surmount distance and odds in the cold uncaring sea.

Here's the story that I found on Science Daily. The news item is excerpted from the University of Alberta research story that can be found here.

Compelled to mate, yet firmly attached to the rock, barnacles have evolved the longest penis of any animal for their size - up to 8 times their body length - so they can find and fertilize distant neighbours.

Graduate student Christopher Neufeld and Dr. Richard Palmer from the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta have shown that barnacles appear to have acquired the capacity to change the size and shape of their penises to closely match local wave conditions.

The research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggests that when wave action is light, a longer (thinner) penis can reach more mates, but at times of higher…

Candy Hearts Tell All

Candy is the Answer

Ain't that the truth?

(of course I must admit that candy hearts would be biased on that subject)

Too much of a good thing?

Food, that is. Most of us love to eat--and it shows.

In my case, of late, Extra Cheese Tombstone frozen pizza is my version of "too much." I often eat a whole one when I get home from work. Since my IBS is a little touchy at times, I usually don't eat anything until I get home from work and a little 25 ounce pizza is just the thing to ease those hunger pangs.

LOL I'm lucky I'm not as big as a house! There's almost 1,500 Kcals in that pizza I use as a big after-work snack.

The same issue of the British Medical Journal that contained the back study that I mentioned yesterday also had a discussion of obesity and how the public health community might--or might not--be intentionlly misinterpreting how much obesity exists and how much impact that extra weight has on our collective health.

*whew* That was one long sentence!

I doubt anyone questions the intentions of the public officials in question. Their motivation in encouraging people to lose weight is no doubt pure h…

Back Pain

I came into work yesterday an hour late due to a sore back. I felt okay the night before but when I woke up in the morning I was shocked at the pain I felt when I tried to pop out of bed to take a shower. So instead I took 3 ibuprofen and laid down on a heating pad for 40 minutes then took that shower. It all helped. A little.

Today I feel much better and bring this all up due to a study that came out in the Januay 31 issue of theBritish Medical Journal. According to an accompanying editorial:

"The review by Martimo and colleagues confirms how little we know about how to prevent and treat back pain. This may be because back pain is a symptom and not a disease.Or perhaps the disorder cannot be reversed once it becomes established, so that no treatment could be effective.

None of the randomised controlled trials or cohort studies included in the reviewfound a positive effect of advice or training in working techniques—with or without lifting equipment—for preventing back pain or cons…

Chickens and research

Or maybe I should title this post eggs and software. When I do a CAM (Chorioallantoic Membrane) assay, which is an in vivo angiogenesis model, getting the results is a 3-step process.

First of all, of course you have to do the experiment, which isn't trivial since there's so many damn things that can go wrong. Some eggs aren't fertilized, lots of eggs develop problems when you break them, and there's some eggs that, for no apparent reason, don't develop properly after being added to a petri dish.

Yet, eventually we end up with eggs that look like the picture above. Around 30% will develop all the way and we have 3 - 5 discs per egg which adds up to a faily significant number--statistically speaking. So step two is taking the picture.

But getting the picture up on top is just the first step in the analysis. Each disc (these are filters that have drug added to them--or saline in the case of controls--so we can see what affect there is on angiogenesis) gets photographed …

Congratulations New York

I was definitely in the NY camp for the 42nd Super Bowl but never really thought the Giants stood much of a chance. The Patriots were just so strong. But the NY defense was up to the challenge and held New England to only one touchdown for most of the game. And while a mostly defensive game isn't the most interesting game to watch, it did allow for New York to hold on and then make an amazing finish with Plaxico Burress catching Eli Manning's final pass with less than a minute left in the game. While I was really hoping that NY would win the game, I was sure that final drive would end in failure. I was very happy to be wrong!

Now that we've finished the obligatory chit-chat about the game, what about the commercials? For the third year in a row I was very disappointed. There were only 4 that I liked and one was solely due to the special effects: the Sobe lifewater one with the dancing lizards was stunning in high def. I don't know if it worked as well on regular tv but …

Lights out

...and even more importantly my alarm clock. I had intended on going to the NC Zoo today but I didn't wake up in time. I like to get there when it opens so there's no crowds around the enclosures. Crowds make for bad pictures, y'know?

I went to bed fairly early last night so you'd think waking up early would have been no problem. Unfortunately Duke Power was up to its old tricks and sometime between 4am and 7am the power went out in my neighborhood and it wasn't restored until a little before noon. For some odd reason I have frequent power outages here, usually several a month, however it's rare for the power to be out for more than a few minutes. People who live just a few miles away don't seem to suffer these frequent outages tho. Odd.

Normally with a short power interruptions I just have to set the clocks again but when the power is out this long I have to do some reprogramming. And this time I had the additional duty of setting up my high def television …

February is here

In like a lion, out like a bloody sheep; or maybe January showers bring February flowers? How do those pithy sayings go? Well, if nothing else, having February start with a rainy day is actually a good thing here in drought stricken North Carolina. We need the water!

For me the noteworthy aspect of February is that it brings to a close my Xmas induced shopping frenzy. I usually try to close down that bad impulse of mine before this, but for me Feb One always means no more spending profligately. *whew* I need the break and so does my beleaguered bank account.

It's too bad though. There's this really pretty fireplace on sale at the Big O, Overstock dot com. Isn't that thing a beaut?

Lee and I saw one of these up in Asheville back in October but it was around a $thousand. This one is only $199 but the consumables would get you. The fireplace here uses 1 - 3 gel cans at a time and those things are almost $4 each and supposedly last 3 hours. Assuming the real number is more lik…