Showing posts from October, 2008


It started a bit before 7pm. 23 kids --2 were definitely teens-- and almost 4 pounds of candy later I turned off the lights and closed out Halloween '08 at my house. And  I still have a bag of butterfingers leftover for me!Tomorrow morning brings half price candy at Wal-mart, a much needed haircut, and I'm finally turning on my heat.  It was 55.8f in here this morning.  Gotta love it. Helps the circulation, y'know?

politics and buying in

Here in the USA we have elections all the time. Seems like every few months there's something else to vote for (or against) but it's the 4 year Presidential cycle that gets the most attention. Gearing up for this election began almost as soon as that dick currently residing in the Oval Office got elected.

Personally I try to ignore politics since I see it as a lose-lose situation. No matter who we elect, we end up getting screwed because it's the people with money that get first consideration when laws are drafted, enforced and adjudicated. Politicians make public promises to the poor and middle class, where the majority of the votes reside, but it's the private promises to the well heeled that actually get kept.

Anyway, here's a joke that pretty much sums up my view of politics:

A husband and wife were having dinner at a very fine restaurant when this absolutely stunning young woman comes over to their table, gives the husband a big kiss, says she'll see him late…

A Computer Joke and some Cells

Isn't that pretty? Not much specific binding but I liked the way it looked. The cells that stained dark blue are red blood cells and they're surrounded by the blood vessel that they were flowing in at the time the tissue section was taken out and fixed.

Here's the joke:

I was having trouble with my computer. So I called Richard, the 11 year old next door whose bedroom looks like tech heaven, and asked him to come over. Richard clicked a couple of buttons and solved the problem.

As he was walking away, I called after him, "So, what was wrong?"

He replied, "It was an ID ten T error."

I didn't want to appear stupid, but nonetheless inquired, "An ID ten T error? What's that? In case I need to fix it again."

Richard grinned. "You've never heard of an ID ten T error before?''

"No," I replied.

"Write it down," he said, "and I think you'll figure it out.........."

So I wrote down: I D 1 0 T

Damn kids.


Knife Skills

I received this book from Amazon a few days ago.

It came with a DVD but I've not had a chance to look at it yet. I hope to either tonight or tomorrow. There's few things more fun than developing great knife skills but I must admit it can make others a mite nervous if they're watching. I don't know if it's fear that I might lose a finger or that I'm unstable and might come after them. Either way, a little anxiety just makes it more fun for me!

Doesn't the fellow on the cover of the book, Chef Weinstein, look very competent? The book has very good reviews on Amazon and from skimming the text and pictures, I agree with the favorable reviews.

Just look at how delicious those tomatoes look over there on the left.

As you can see on the left hand page, the book goes over quite a number of cutting techniques as well as the basics of selecting a knife, sharpening it, honing it, and keeping knives clean but not rusty. All that serious stuff, y'know?

The pictures are…

cooling off

I wanted to wait until November 1st to turn on my heat this Winter but it's looking like I'm not going to make it.
For the first time, this morning it was below 60f in my bedroom and that's usually the point at which I turn the heat on each year.
I took the picture to the left when I got home from work tonight at 7:12pm (a grant is due this week and we've been staying late every night lately).When I went to bed last night it was 61.8f inside and 38.6 outside, this morning when I woke up it was 59.4f inside and 34.2 outside. 13 hours later, when I arrived home it'd only dropped 0.6f degrees to 58.8 but I bet tonight will see that fall at least 3more degrees. It's supposed to dip down into the low 30s again tonight.   Brrr!I think I'll be turning on the heating system when I get home tomorrow night. I'd have done it today if I'd gotten home earlier. The system is stinky when you first turn it on so I want to have the windows open and me outside---so it&…

Off to bed!

It's almost 2am but I'm caught up with the night's viewing schedule. I watched a bit of the baseball game and it got me sidetracked. By the way, it's good to know that the Phillies didn't totally forget how to find and cross homeplate.I was really expecting the Amazing Race to have a non-elimination leg this week. As a result, I was surprised when the last team to finish was told to scoot. It's too bad 'cause they were not one of the teams I was hoping would bite the dust. However in the preview for next week, they show that the football guy finally tells off his wife. It's about time---she's very annoying!Anyway, it's time for me to go to bed 'cause I have to get up a couple of hours early. Work is going to start at 7am instead of 9am and 19 mice are seeing their last day. Sorry, mice. If it was up to me you'd have another week. I'm not going to name names here, but somebody got impatient and that means the mice and I are meeting e…


No, not the steak. The oil guy. T. Boone Pickens, I mean.I watched 60 Minutes tonight and the middle segment was on Pickens and it was aired mainly due to The Pickens Plan, a controversial plan that T Boone is pushing for the supposed goal of making the USA energy independent. His plan is to use more natural gas which we produce domestically as well as make a huge capital expenditure to create a network of wind turbine farms stretching in the midwest from the border of Mexico to the border with Canada. Some, maybe much, of that land aquired by eminent domain.I was hoping that there'd be more information on the Pickens Plan on the 60 Minutes segment but the piece focused pretty much on what T. Boone wanted to say rather than an objective critique of the plan.I personally think it's worth one hell of a lot of money for our country to become independent from Middle East oil but I just don't know if the Pickens Plan is practical or just a ruse to further line the multi-billion…

Conspicuous Consumption

I was reading the Forbes Life supplement to Forbes Magazine today while--let's just say I was sitting down--and one of the articles caught my attention. The title is What Makes them Tick and it's about a pair of fairly young custom watchmakers.

This is an industry that has all but disappeared due to the introduction of the highly accurate quartz in 1969 by Seiko. Very few new people enter the business because it's dying and to find two extremely talented people wanting to try their luck is unlikely at best. Yet that's what happened in 1985 when Stephen Forsey entered trade school to learn the craft.

Today, teamed up with Robert Gruebel, whose family has been in the small side of the business for generations, they comprise Gruebel Forsey, makers of high end watches. How high end? Well, their "cheap" model costs $250,000. Can you say Conspicuous Consumption?

The article is actually quite interesting but I just can't imagine spending between a quarter of a mill…

Are we done yet?

According to the main page of Wiki, on this day in 1844 the Millerites predicted Christ’s return to our vale of tears here on Earth.

The Millerites were, as you might know, the followers of William Miller, a well-off farmer in upstate NY who believed in the coming Second Advent of Jesus Christ in the time period of 1843-4. He based this, not too surprisingly, on information he gleaned from the Book of Daniel and also Revelations.

There's a rich tradition of using the allegorical language used in the Bible to describe current events and forecast future occurrences. While no doubt a fun hobby, it's a little silly. The prophets and apocalyptics in the Bible were describing their current political situations and social milieu. As was traditional, they'd describe their political/religious sermon in terms of a dream or vision---one which they couldn't understand---then that dream would be explained by some figure of authority. Angel, God, what have you. The symbolism would be …


David Cheresh, a well known researcher from UCSD, gave a lecture here at UNC today. In a somewhat unusual departure from my normal habit, I actually attended and took notes.

If you're curious, the title was "A Role for VEFG as a Negative Regulator of Pericyte
Function and Blood Vessel Maturation."

Both VEGF and PDGF are angiogenesis stimulators, and as you'd expect, both increase the growth rate of cancer tumors. What you might not expect is that if VEGF and PDGF are administered together, in tumors with receptors for both peptides, the blood vessels in the tumors regress. That is, the growth factors separately improve neovascularization but together, where you'd expect some synergy, instead they suppress neovascularization. Weird.

What I found interesting is the clinical application of this research. You see, tumors tend to support their rapid growth by secreting a butt load of VEGF, which increases angiogenesis; however it does so in a pell-mell fashion which lea…

Old and New

Here's both of them.

My 8 year old Dell is the off-white one in the back. Yes, the one with the mold growing on it. And the new one is in front and a shiny silver.

It's hard to believe that the old one cost nearly $2k and the new one was just $239. Of course the old one was bought with a big 19" monitor (which was quite big back then) which bumped up the price quite a bit, but still even adjusting for that the new one is only about 1/6 the price.

You just have to love the way tech prices just keep dropping while most other prices just keep on climbing. Speaking of changing prices, I'm almost out of gas so I'm filling up after work on Monday and seeing prices under $3 a gallon is quite nice for a change. Too bad they're likely to come back up eventually. :-(

Out with the old, in with the new

Around 6 weeks ago I finally bought a new computer. I wrote about it back in late August when the computer was delivered to my house.

This is the ID plate on the inside of my old computer.

As you can see, it was "born" on October 2nd (which, oddly enough, is also my brother's birthday) back in 2000. The thing is over 8 years old now and still working pretty well. But you gotta figure it's running on borrowed time.

For any of you neat-freaks out there, I did vacuum the thing out once I'd opened it up. Talk about nasty! I had the computer between a wall and my desk and it was hard to get to so I'd not opened up the case in over 2 years! There was even some kind of fungus growing near one of the air vents and in the floppy disk slot. Yes, it is that old. In fact the computer doesn't have an Ethernet connection and the USB slots ---all two of them!--- are of the 1.1 variety and so incredibly slow. The poor thing takes nearly a half hour to rip or burn one CD.


Life on Mars

Tonight saw the second episodes of Eleventh Hour, which I recorded just-in-case despite hating the first episode that aired last Thursday, and Life on Mars being aired. I watched both episodes of Life on Mars, a remake of the critically acclaimed BBC series from a few years ago, last night and was quite surprised at how good the production values were. I'm not sure if I'm going to bother watching the second Eleventh Hour episode.

I never saw the British series so I don't know how well the translation from London to New York City went, but on its own, the USA version of Life on Mars is well worth watching. I do have a few problems with it tho--no surprise there. Personally I think it works as a police procedural but the "time travel" aspect isn't such a good thing.

Let me back up a step for those not familiar with the show. Life on Mars is an ABC drama about Sam Tyler, a cop from 2008 who screws up while distracted by the kidnapping of his girlfriend (and fello…

Soul Deadening

There is something in my building that kills souls. Working here over the weekend got me sick--I was all dizzy and nauseous yesterday--and for the second time in a weeks time a phone battery died on me. I don't know about my being sick, but the battery issue seems to be related to the lack of signal here in the lab. It's like the phone really, really wants to get signal and strains too much. I just have to remember to keep the damn thing turned off when I'm at work or simply leave it at home.

The two post-docs that work with me have a theory on getting sick here. You see, we just moved to this lab a month ago and it's the only "interior" lab here---which means that it doesn't have any windows and probably wasn't originally designed to be a lab. The air circulation is really weird and so fumes from our chemicals and equipment can build up a bit and the temperature regulation is quite odd too. They both think the lab kills souls but they've never ven…


I used to have to work every weekend. Tissue culture work--a regular component in biological research-- demands it. Cells need to be fed regardless of what day it is on the calendar. Fortunately there's post-docs to do that menial stuff for me now. Except when the critters are all off at conferences or vacation at the same time. Which is the case this weekend so I find myself injecting mice, feeding cells, and changing buffer solutions this weekend. :-(

And yesterday's home football game against Notre Dame really interfered with parking. I had to walk from way, way far away. At least UNC was able to pull off the win though it was a very close game.

Eleventh Hour

Did anybody else watch that new show Eleventh Hour? It's a new CBS show that had it's premier on Thursday October 11th. This is a Jerry Bruckheimer show and apparently he's lost his magic. This show sucked.

The premise, as borrowed from Wiki's discussion of the show, is that:
Dr. Jacob Hood (Rufus Sewell), is a biophysicist and Special Science Advisor to the FBI who is brought in to investigate scientific crimes. Hood is the government's last line of defense, and it is his mission to keep scientific advances out of the hands of those with nefarious intentions. Special Agent Rachel Young (Marley Shelton), of the FBI's executive protection detail, is assigned to protect Hood.

Rufus Sewell is rather boring and Marley Shelton is totally out of her depth here. She can't act worth a damn and pouts and flirts her way through scenes in which she's supposedly laying down the law as a serious by-the-book FBI agent. Her tendency to draw her gun every time anyone so m…


A little synergy here. It's a case of one plus one equals more than two.

The noodles, while edible wouldn't be very tasty, but add a meat sauce--a little too rich all on its own---and things get very tasty. Anyway, it'll feed me for the weekend.

Science Reporting

I read the following short article in the paper today:

Protein shown to relieve pain better than morphine

Molecular and cell physiology professor Mark Zylka led a study on the role of prostatic acid phosphatase protein in chronic pain relief.

The study discovered that the PAP protein converts adenosine triphosphate, the neurons which cause pain, into adenosine, eliminating pain.

Zylka and researchers from UNC and the University of Helsinki are the first to conduct a study on the protein’s involvement in pain-sensing neurons.

PAP proved eight times as effective as morphine in pain relief, and can be effective for up to three days.

PAP, like morphine, can be injected into the body, but the study hopes to formulate the protein into a pill.

It was obviously incorrect since ATP (adenosine triphosphate) isn't a type of neuron. So I looked into the research of Mark Zylka, a professor here at UNC, to see what the article should have said. Over on Science Daily there was a more complete summation…

more mice

More mice pictures today.

This rather trusting fellow is sleeping. See the Z's?

Apparently he doesn't know what's in store for him. Actually he was in no danger on this particular day--I took the picture yesterday--because he hasn't exhibited any tumors yet. This line of mice is prone to tumors, and at a young age, and since we're testing a drug that shrinks the size of tumors--or so we hope--we need to use mice that already have tumors. Since this peacefully sleeping fellow is free of tumors we can't use him in the study. At least not yet.

The other picture is of the fellow that is running this study. He went to medical school in India and did his internship there also. He wanted me to take this picture of him so he could send it back to some of his friends from med school. He wanted his classmates to see that in the USA we took more precautions with the animals than we do with human patients in surgery. Funny but true. Just look at all the protective clothing---…

It sucked

For the first time in its two seasons I didn't like an episode of Life. It still had its moments but on the whole, it sucked.
The episode last night revolved around the death of a prominent cancer researcher at a private pharmaceutical institute. Since I work in research I saw a dozen stupid dumb ass mistakes in the first two minutes of the show--and it only got worse from there. Now I see why cops don't watch police procedurals. Those shows much drive them nuts.
The researcher was killed by a measured, and inadvertently self-administered, dose of liquid nitrogen. He was expecting oxygen gas to come out and instead liquid nitrogen did and he froze solid and remained that way for many hours and then broke up into small chunks.
The subplot revolved around animal rights protesters and to remind us of the problem, the lovely lab had one wall adorned with a plethora of rat cages. Cages with no food, no litter, that were very clean and pretty. And permanently in a lab. And a lab in whi…


I watched The Amazing Race last night and I wasn't impressed. Whoever is picking the teams seems to be spending too much time making them "interesting" and not enough time finding ones that are likable.

My favorite team is still the Mom/Son team and there's a few more that I like somewhat. The two computer guys, the long-distance dating team and maybe the Frat guys. There's a lot of folk I can't stand. Like that Football Wife. No wonder the guy was fooling around behind her back---she's a bitch. Actually there was a c-word I would have used but some folk find it objectionable. Go figure.

And that dating couple where the guy is a freakin' basketcase and the woman is just out of her mind: "..and they didn't even say "hi" to me." Get over it!!!!! And those Southern Belles digging in the sand while several teams run right by them on the beach. Nothing clicked, eh? Oy!

And at least this week the team that lost wasn't very interes…

New shows

Today I watched Sanctuary, that new show on the SF Network. They had a two hour premiere on Friday night and they're playing it a bunch of times for the next week.
It was very pretty with a pretty cast and pretty special effects. I'm not watching it again. Slow, pedantic and boring. I suspect it'll develop a good following though 'cause it was very pretty.
I also watched the first two shows of the second season of Life. I really liked the very short but interesting first season and so far the second season is just as good. And last week and this coming week they'll be showing two shows per week. Sweet!

lines of significance

I spent too much time on this today not to show it to a wider audience.

Please forgive me for not including the line legends. Until we publish, my boss is rather guarded about things like that.

Essentially each graph is plotting one or more bioactive peptides against control (no drug) in a cell line. We're measuring how effective the peptides are at discouraging the growth of cancer cells in the 3 cell lines (ME, HCAE, and 2H11).

The more difference between the two lines, the happier it makes us 'cause the peptide is differentially affecting the cancer cells.

...and they pay me to do this stuff. Cool, eh?