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this is what I do instead of studying chinese

Dec. 5th, 2008 | 07:31 pm

A mimulus plant in distress
Makes pigments that help it survive:
While boo mutants die under stress,
The wild-type pinks tend to thrive.

In other news: still loving my department LIKE YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE.  Okay.  :D

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Nov. 19th, 2008 | 08:15 pm
mood: bouncybouncy

With due thanks to glaikery .

If a strain, become resistant,
Transfers to a drug-free plate
Some cells will remain consistent,
Others lose their new update.


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itty bitty bacteria

Nov. 19th, 2008 | 08:12 pm



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(no subject)

Nov. 15th, 2008 | 04:32 pm
mood: boredbored

I do not want to do work.  Somebody, distract me!

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Nov. 9th, 2008 | 12:56 pm
mood: bouncybouncy

I'm supposed to be doing my homework, but I'd rather not (c'mon, you guys, I have a Chinese midterm, give me a break :P), so instead, I'm going to write about evolution.  One of my classes this year is an upper-division biology class, Experimental Ecology & Evolution (E3, for short, and I love it more than any class ever), which is giving me uppity ideas about the scientific method and science and in fact empirical thinking in general.  Some of you may be insulted by what follows, although I hope not, and if so, I'd ask you to keep reading anyway, and to tell me about how insulted you are!

It's also giving me uppity ideas about education, though.  Namely: biology classes.  How many of [those of you in or past college] have had university-level biology classes?  How much biology do you remember?  (Could you tell me what a phenotype a genotype a base pair a transcription area Batesian mimicry mutualism allopatric speciation is?  I ask because a friend of mine - the very well-educated graduate of a very impressive school - can't.  And probably you don't need to remember these things, but do keep in mind that the vast majority of the elected members of your government - the people who decide a vast amount of our science (and relatedly, environmental) programs - haven't had any more education in science than you have: which would be fine if they were willing to listen to scientists, but a copious number of them aren't.  My point is not that we should have more scientists serving in the legislature - I think most of them would be fairly terrible, although not necessarily all - but rather that the criteria most antisicence legislators are deciding to be antiscience on, are not very strong.)

And, err, forgive me, but how many of you know someone who doesn't 'believe' in evolution?  Some of you may even 'not believe' in evolution, although I hope not.  It's not really a matter for belief, unless you also 'don't believe' in the empirical world, factual evidence, etc.  (While you are certainly allowed to refuse to believe in the empirical world, factual evidence, etc., I hope that you are still willing to support governmental and especially education and research programs which interact with the empirical world, as a) it's the reality that most of us live in, and b) the intellectually rigorous alternative seems to be rejecting all of the products of successful science, starting with, you know, antibiotics and vaccines and so forth, which is maybe fun for you and dangerous for everybody else.)

This isn't really meant to be an essay about creationism (or its wannabe cousin "Intelligent Design"), though.  This is about evolution.

And evolution itself?  Is pretty damn reasonable:

1.  There is phenotypic variation (differences in expressed traits) among the individuals of a species.  This one is pretty simple, and easy to make examples for.  Some of them have blue eyes, some have brown; some are bigger; some have a different number of CAGs on the short arm of chromosome four.

2.  At least some of this variation is heritable.  One or both of your parents having some trait - blue eyes, big feet, a crooked pinkie finger - means that you have it.  (Loosely.  It's a little more complicated than that, but let's stick with this - the even looser example would be, "you resemble your parents".)

3.  Individuals vary in fitness.  Some individuals live longer; well, more specifically, some individuals have better reproductive success: i.e. more babies.

4.  Variation in some phenotypic traits is correlated with variation in fitness.  Certain traits predispose an individual towards having greater reproductive success - which includes more probable survival allowing them to have a longer period of reproduction, etcFor instance, a finch with a bigger beak can open bigger seeds, so in a drought in which only big seeds survive, finches with bigger beaks will have a survival advantage.

These are pretty common sense; fairly hard to deny, and there's a reason for that.  [if you - very reasonably - don't feel that 'this is common sense' is a good enough reason to accept any of these postulates, comment and I can link you to pretty much endless scientifically rigorous papers on whichever postulate you're wondering about.]  However, these are so widely supported that there is really no excuse for not supporting them - unless you have another theory in mind which has superior quantities evidence; or maybe evidence which contradicts one of those fundamental tenents.  A theory, incidentally, doesn't just mean "this idea I came up with the other day," it's a testable model of interaction, capable of prediction of future occurances, supported by large bodies of empirical, observed evidence.  (Ergo, no, intelligent design is not a theory, and no, creationism is not a theory.)  Evolutionary postulates: not facts - that's not how science works - but pretty damn strong.

And you know what else?  They're awesome.  This is how we got from squiggly ancestral single-cellular things in deep-sea vents or in the bubbly bits of the ocean, proceeded through eukaryote cells (with a nucleus!), promenaded into multicellularity and waltzed around vertebrae and animal structures and ended up with silly hairless apes with the most fantastic ideas about life and laughter and law; this is how we got 30 million species of insects, and flowering plants everywhere, and fungi, you guys.  Fungi are awesome, they have hyphae and make community sacrifices (altruism!) and can infect everything.  We are absolutely intrinsically connected - literally, related - to every single living thing on this planet (probably!), and not by some big fuzzy hand-waving act of creation: we grew, organically, slowly, incrementally, and awesomely.  And this is what we got: a world full of awesome bits that all work together and compete and eat each other and poison each other - until something big changes, and then they have to figure out how to change to make it work all over again.

I think I'm going to leave this here; it's turned into more of a paen to the awesomeness of the universe than I really intended, but you know what?  Some days the universe needs a paen to its awesomeness.  So it stands.

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what should I read?

Nov. 8th, 2008 | 02:09 pm

Having just got back from the library with another bagful of books, I realize that I should probably pick one and finish, or at least pick a few and finish one.  Accordingly, HELP!

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John Le Carré (British spy novel set during the Cold War, of the paperwork and tension kind rather than the explosions and improbable villains kind; I'm about halfway through)

Dark Lord of Derkholm, Diana Wynne Jones (parodic-and-hilarious-yet-serious fantasy, reread, about 1/3 of the way through)

Deep Secret, Diana Wynne Jones (reread, 1/3 through)

Noughts and Crosses, Malorie Blackman (dystopian YA I've been promising Lauren I'd read for ages)

The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, Lloyd Alexander (I have no idea, but it's Lloyd Alexander!)

Archer's Goon, Diana Wynne Jones (unread DWJ, what can I say?)

Maddigan's Fantasia, Margaret Mahy (YA or children's fantasy, supposedly ala DWJ but I dunno)

Midnight Never Come, Marie Brennan (Elizabethan faerie spy novel, whut)

...that other book which I got today.  Oh, right:  Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, Pamela Dean.

So: which should I read?  There are also a couple other library books hanging out somewhere, but I can't be bothered to go find them, so we'll have to go off these.  Help help, the dogs do yelp!  /13 Clocks (Has anyone reading this not read The 13 Clocks, by James Thurbur?  If you haven't, you should!  It is fantastic.  I cannot emphasize enough how fantastic it is.  It is whimsy and I adore it, I who hate all whimsy in all its forms, nearly.  It is gorgeous.  It is short.  There is no excuse to not read it.  Read it!)


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Nov. 6th, 2008 | 12:18 am
mood: hopefuljoy

I got up at 6ish, so that I could vote before my lab; I'd've skipped it with the rest of my classes, but it's the lab we've been working on out of class for the past month (Cassie and other interested parties: bacterial resistance to antibiotics), so it didn't seem quite kosher. My adorable professor bounced around a bit, told us all to vote, and made Sarah Palin jokes with some of the other lab groups (it was an evolution class in Seattle, I somehow do not think anyone was voting Republican!), and then due to awesomeness we got out early, at around 10, at which point I called my friend Daniya and we hightailed it for the Ave to meet up with the local Obama organizer.

Just as we were getting to the meeting spot, she gave me a call and told me to hurry up if we wanted a ride to Fremont Abbey (the staging ground for the north half of our district - 43rd LD, bitches!), so we did; caught a ride with a guy named David who I'd worked with some weeks earlier. On the way there, all four of us in the car were fiendishly jittery with nervous energy; when we passed a guy in the median holding up a huge Obama sign, the driver hit the horn hard and all of us waved like mad. It was a short drive, though - about half the time it would've taken us by bus.

Fremont Abbey itself is this big old drafty building which looks like it maybe used to be a church; outside there was a gigantic poster of Obama with a little handwritten sign underneath it reading "Fremont Abbey does not endorse any candidate." I laughed, and I think one of my friends got a picture.

Inside, it was PACKED: tons of folding tables all over the room with people crouched over them with call lists and cell phones, posters on the wall for each precinct in the district, big Obama signs over by a map of where people were waving them (David went and held one for a while; he said everyone hit the horns HARD for that). A sweet middle-aged lady named Laura told us how to use a calling program they'd set up, because apparently all their walk lists were out being canvassed and all their call lists were in use; we went over and grabbed the nearest unoccupied table (next to a lady who told us how proud she was of her daughter, who'd taken a year and a half off college to work as an Obama organizer all across the country) and started calling.

Jen - the district Obama coordinator - told us that the second round of canvassing would go out at around four - in time to catch people as they came back from work, and looked very pleased when we told her we'd love to do it. (Apparently, canvassing is really hard for a lot of people, who have big mental blocks about knocking on other peoples' doors; my dad told me about one of his volunteers, a shy and exceedingly polite woman who just couldn't bring herself to at first - then forced herself to do it, and came back every weekened to help canvass. Today, she apparently volunteered to go to downtown Detroit - which can be dodgy at the best of times - and came back telling people that she was cheered in the streets because she was working for the Obama campaign.)

At around 1, we came to a full pause: so many people were volunteering in our district that they had run out of work for us to do. "So eat LUNCH!" said Laura fiercely, and went off to organize the walk lists for the afternoon. In the lull, I had a long conversation with a woman married to a Pakistani man, who'd just got back from Pakistan on Monday; she had a lot to say about what they thought about the election, all of it really interesting. And then they started assigning walk lists, and we went to get some.

Because none of us had a car, we were going to take a nearby precinct we could just walk to, but a guy nearby said he could take one of us in a car - this ended up being me, for various reasons. (The guy himself was kind of like a caricature of the layabout liberal character in Doonesbury, but never mind that). We walked the whole precinct the first time - all not homes or already voteds - and then, as we started to do the second time to catch people just getting home from work, black clouds descended upon the city and it started HAILING - so hard that it looked like the ground was covered in snow. The poor walk list got soaked, and we had to duck into the nearest store to figure out what to do - fortunately a Starbucks, so we could get our free I-Voted coffee! (About time, too - I'd only had about 10 hours of sleep in the past couple days, and was starting to crash a bit).

When we went back to return the walk lists, Jen rushed up to us. "Are you guys willing to walk a precinct in Capitol Hill?" she demanded, grinning, and of course we said yes. (Capitol Hill, for those who don't know, is very liberal, very young - mostly 20s-30s - and very gay. It is FANTASTIC. More on this theme later.) So we drove over to the campaign headquarters for the south half of our district (in a bar!), grabbed a walk packet, and ran off to that precinct. In the car on the way back, NPR called Pennsylvania for Obama and the North Carolina Senate race for Kay Hagan, and as we walked into the bar, MSNBC called Ohio. I called my parents nearly in tears; I can do the electoral calculations as well as the next person, but MSNBC wasn't calling it yet, because polls hadn't closed on the west coast, and the mountains were still too close to call.

Then we sat around and waited at the office with all the other volunteers: watching. I was on the phone with my parents, not really saying much although sort of talking, and my dad told me when CNN called Virginia; about five minutes later, so did MSNBC, and the room errupted into cheers. As the results kept coming in, we were all a bit hysterical - and then the west coast polls closed at 8pm, and the vote count leapt from 203 to 276 as California, Washington, and Oregon came in. I leapt to my feet; Daniya burst into tears; everyone was screaming and shouting and crying and laughing. My friends got a ride home with Doonesbury!caricature, although I hung around. At one point a man behind me started singing "We shall overcome," very quietly, and the rest of the room joined until the television announced McCain's concession speech (polite applause) and the rest of the elections returns (more cheers, especially when they projected a win for Governor Gregoire over Republican slimebag Dino Rossi), and then finally Obama's victory speech. (WATCH IT, if you haven't; it is fantastic!) When he got to the bit about the puppy for his daughters, the organizer in front of me turned around, bawling. "HOW CAN ANYONE NOT LOVE THIS MAN, HOW CAN ANYONE NOT VOTE FOR HIM?" she demanded, beaming through her tears, and I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Eventually the bar started to go back to being a bar, and we spilled out onto the street, taking campaign signs with us, and there were people everywhere: honking and shouting and cheering, waving signs and banners and high-fiving random people on the street. I walked past one bus stop just because I was enjoying it so much, and waited for a long time at the next one, waving my purloined sign at everyone who went by - they all honked and cheered and waved. Eventually, the bus came, and we all piled onto it, but it only went a couple stops before the bus driver came onto the intercom at Broadway.

"There's a lot of people in the street," he said, "you guys wanna get off?" And of course we all said something like FUCK YEAH, and piled off the bus into the street. He wasn't kidding, either - there were hundreds of people, filling the block: waving signs and posters and flags, chanting "OBAMA" and "YES WE CAN," random people dragging each other around in delight and climbing onto each others' shoulders to wave more flags and banners, girls jumping on top of the few cars being let through really slowly and dancing on top of them in sheer delight, a couple of fabulous young gay guys leaning out the window of their apartment, one holding their baby and one playing drums - shortly joined by an improvised band.

Eventually someone shouted that there was a bigger rally down at Pike Street, so we all marched down the street, singing and chanting and laughing, led by a guy with a giant American flag and a guy in a lion costume. When we got to Pike Street, it was overflowing with people - thousands and thousands of people, all jumping and screaming and cheering themselves.
(courtesy of the Seattle Times)

This doesn't really convey the size of it - there were people stretched out across five blocks, all packed that tightly (and I found out later that there was another rally at Pike Place itself, of similar size); there were people with tubas and horns and drums, there were fireworks, there were balloons, there were signs and American flags - one guy climbed up on top of the signs with the street names in the picture, started waving his flag from up there and was quickly joined by half a dozen others. People shouting, "America's back!", people chanting "OBAMA" and "YES WE CAN" and "YES WE DID" - and "USA! USA!", which is not something I ever though I'd see from disaffected Seattle liberals, or even from myself. People hugged complete strangers, high-fived everyone, spun in circles in giddy delight, danced in place.

(likewise, the Seattle Times)

The building to the left of the photo had a night club in the basement, and the DJ - a fabulous black man in drag - lugged the hardcore speakers all the way up to the top. He sang and played music and cheered everybody on. This is where I was when he got the speaker on to begin with:

(not my video, but that's literally where I was)

I kept thinking about leaving, slipping up the hill towards the police cordon (all of them beaming) that had eventually showed up to keep the traffic out, and then pausing and staring back at everything, and, grinning like a lunatic, going skipping back down the hill, waving my sign and screaming (my throat is literally sore today from it). One of the times this happened, I was nearly to the traffic blockage when someone started singing the national anthem - and everyone in the crowd joined in.

(this video is not ideal, partly because the guy taking it was clearly on the wrong side of the block to be at the center of the action, but it's the best I can find; if anyone else has a better one I'd love to see it!)

"I fucking love this city!" an awesomely butch lady near me shouted.  "This is fantastic!"  (She was so right.)

Eventually, I ran into a guy in my biology class, who'd seen the news of the celebration on the internet and driven down to see; when he finally decided to leave, at about 1:30 in the morning, I went with him, as much because I wasn't sure what the bus situation would be as anything else (aside from the diffculty of taking a bus through streets full of cheering people, they don't always run late).

And then I went to bed.  And today Obama has still won, by a veritable landslide, and Dino Rossi has conceded, and Peter Goldmark (my badass cowboy microbiologist land commissioner candidate) is ahead, and four Senate races are still too close to call.  Prop 8 may have passed - for now; it will not last - but today, Obama is the President-Elect, and the world is celebrating with us.

Fuck, yeah. 


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Nov. 5th, 2008 | 03:56 am
mood: ecstaticecstatic


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no, I don't really have time to be doing this, why do you ask?

Nov. 1st, 2008 | 09:24 pm
mood: sillyridiculous

A flagellum is a nice device:
It makes your movements more precise,
And if you grow in Petri dishes
It helps you to fulfill your wishes.
But if you are a test tube cell,
Without one you will do quite well!

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Nov. 1st, 2008 | 12:38 am
mood: angryfurious

No, really.

"The residents of Broward County, Florida have recently received misleading robocalls telling them that they can vote by phone on Election Day, according to a report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Friday.


Another unknown group is distributing flyers (see the flyer after the jump) with official-looking letterhead around the area of Hampton Roads, Virgina that erroneously inform  recipients that because of the crowds at the polls, the Virginia State Board of Elections is scheduling Republicans to vote on November 4th, and Democrats on the 5th."



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