Archive for May, 2010

Memorial Day

May 31, 2010

Today is Memorial Day, the day we in the States set aside specifically to honor and remember men and women who have died in military service.  I wanted to do a post for Memorial Day and I started thinking about the current war in Iraq.  After zipping around in Wikipedia for a while, I found my way to an entry entitled “Multi-National Force – Iraq“.  In a subsection, Deaths, it listed the numbers of deaths of those serving in the Multi-National Force through January 2010 as 4,692 (this absolutely does not include Iraqi deaths).  In another Wikipedia entry “Casualties of the Iraq War” the breakdown is such:

There are quite a few exceptions and justifications provided for the numbers above, including alternate estimates from multiple reporting sources.

Regardless of your thoughts on war and the politics of war, these are a lot of people who have died in service to their countries.  Regardless of their reasons for serving, of their duties or positions in the war, of the reasons for this war, of the impacts of this war, or of any philosophical objection to or support of wars in general, or to this war in particular, these are a lot of people who have lost their lives.  Their deaths have affected our families, friends, communities and countries in uncountable ways.  On Memorial Day, I reflect on these losses.

This painting always brings a lump to my throat, and whenever I start to wax philosophical about war, this always reminds me that the consequences of war are very down-to-earth.

Biology Funs!

May 30, 2010

It’s such an icky disease.  Can somebody just make it go away, please?

A cure for a disease that can up to 90% of infected individuals?  A cure for a disease that makes people bleed out of every orifice in their body and can kill them 2-21 days after the onset of symptoms?  I mean sure, the potential Ebolavirus cure has only been demonstrated in animal models, and there’s no real market for an Ebolavirus vaccine (which doesn’t offer a lot of financial payoff for development by private companies), but…

Oh wait, I’m sorry, did you say EBOLA CURE?   That’s wicked cool biology!

From a report in the Vancouver Sun by Chad Skelton:

At a high-security military lab at Fort Detrick, Md., [Dr. Thomas] Geisbert infected several rhesus monkeys with a high dose of the Zaire strain of Ebola, one of the deadliest and fastest-replicating forms of the virus.  Then, over the next seven days, four monkeys were given a single daily injection of the drug…by Day 10 of the study, the two “control monkeys” who hadn’t been given the drug were already dead, and the four treated monkeys were perfectly fine.  Among a second test group, given only four injections, two of three monkeys survived.

Wow!  I won’t bore you with all of the molecular biology, but if you’re interested, Wikipedia has a decent mid-level explanation of Ebola’s pathogenesis, transmission, signs and symptoms, treatment, prognosis, etc.

The original article by Dr. Geisbert can be found at thelancet.com under the very user-friendly title Postexposure protection of non-human primates against a lethal Ebola virus challenge with RNA interference: a proof-of-concept study.  Or just go to thelancet.com and search for “Ebola”.  You have to sign up for a free registration, but it’s quick and they don’t ask for a lot of personal info.  It’s worth muddling through the medical-ese if you want to know about the study methods, or about the science driving the potential cure.  I mean, who doesn’t want to read about small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and stable nucleic acid-lipid particles (SNALPs).  You know you do, you big nerd!

Right now it sounds like the most important reason for having an Ebola cure would be in the case of a biological attack using the virus.  Because naturally-occuring Ebola is rare, there aren’t any immediately apparent financial incentives for a private development company to invest in the necessary R&D and clinical studies.  The funding for Geisbert’s study comes from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a “Combat Support Agency for countering weapons of mass destruction” run out of the US Department of Defense.

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On to a couple of more local and more macro biology funs:

Pretty spider web found outdoors in Chaska, MN:

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My friend found this skull in the alley behind her South Minneapolis home.  Is it a bird – crow or raven?  The bone looks porous like bird bones and the jaw portion has got to be some sort of beak, wouldn’t you think?  We do have a lot of big black birds in this area…

Friday Night Lights – in the Laundromat

May 28, 2010

Ugh, I must be turning into an adult.  Who plans to do laundry on a Friday night?  psst….It’s me!  I’ll be sorting the smelly laundry and doing washer-dryer-folding table rotations.  All.  Night.  Long.  Ohhhh yeah…

   +

= steamy hot Friday laundry night.

As an aside: Does anyone else LOVE the smell of the laundry detergent aisle?  I love me some meadow fresh-baby powder-arctic breeze combinations as I walk by all of the different brands in the grocery store.  You call them All, Cheer, Arm-and-Hammer, Tide, Seventh Generation, Clorox, Surf, but I call them heaven.  Usually dryer sheets have the most potent smells, but I am seeing a disturbing rise in the number of “no-scent” detergents and softeners on the shelves in recent months.  What is this world coming to when a man can’t hold his head high and say “That’s right, I’m rockin’ the Lilac Whisper today.”  I bet Barry’s man enough to own the Ocean Mist.  That’s right. 

Barry White photo source.
Laundry photo
source.

Just one of those things…

May 27, 2010

I don’t know why I love this video so much.  But I really, really love this video.  Maybe it’s that the guy is so excited about the fish (= excited about nature = excited by biology —> I’m a biodork), or maybe it’s that he swears like a sailor (biodork —> tendency to swear like a sailor).  Maybe it’s the neat graphics he throws in between video of the effin flying fish.  Ah well, I guess it’s just one of those things.

via Cafe Witteveen - thanks for the video post!

Waterwalking Sport Video

May 26, 2010

This video is mindblowing!

And sadly, totally fake.

Rebecca Watson over at Skepchick does a great job of explaining why this is a nothing more than a superbly-produced shoe ad, and points out some clues that the video may not be on the up-and-up:

  • All men are wearing the same brand (Hi-Tec) head to toe. Why?
  • There’s a close-up of the Hi-Tec running shoe with a description of its waterproof abilities. Since when does being waterproof=flotation?
  • They are all mega-hot. Why?
  • The filming is beautiful and uses licensed music. Who paid for this?
  • THEY ARE FULL-GROWN MEN WALKING ON FRESH WATER; THIS IS PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE
  • At one point, they use jet skis to increase their land speed before hitting the water. This makes no sense. Would holding onto a truck’s back bumper make you run faster?
  • NO SERIOUSLY THEY ARE MEN WALKING ON WATER

She devotes the majority of her article to edu-ma-cating people on how to use google skeptically.  Googling “liquid mountaineering” only brings up videos of the water-walking.  “Liquid mountaineering fake” or “true” or “hoax” bring up many hits explaining the awesome, but fake, nature of this advertainment.

I was totally looking forward to violating some laws of physics today, but it appears it is not (yet) meant to be.

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Thank you, WordPress!

Thank you, WordPress, for posting me yesterday on Freshly Pressed, the front page of wordpress.com  I had a heck of a lot of fun watching my stats page freaking explode all day long.  Flatlining usually isn’t a good thing, but I went from an average 15-20 views to over 1350 views yesterday.  That makes my day-to-day graph look like this:

I could have sworn there was more up-and-down on that thing yesterday…  See that little bump on May 7th?  That was previously the most exciting, traffic-filled day of my blog’s history at a whopping 86 views.  Wow.  I had 44 comments, replies and trackbacks on “Happy Nerd/Geek Day and Towel Day” compared to my usual 0-3 per entry.  Again, all very exciting.  Thank you to everyone who visited, and to WordPress for the visibility.

Happy Nerd/Geek Day and Towel Day

May 25, 2010

Do you have your towel at hand?  Today is both Nerd/Geek Day and Towel Day!  So lay back and relax!  Wrap yourself in your towel and sleep under the stars of Kakrafoon, or for those of your looking for a bit more adventure – engage in hand-to-hand combat with your towel or use it to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.  Whatever you like, you big nerd – this is our day!

10 Nerdy/Geeky things I have done in the past 48 hours:

1.  Yesterday I saved confused, lost caterpillars from the hot tennis court by scooping them up with a leaf and put them back on their trees.  To be fair, we were at the tennis courts to play tennis, not just to save caterpillars.

2.  Last night I caught myself singing “Oh Doggy Dog” to the sound of Shenandoah.  To the dog.  More than once.

3.  The Hubby flies his pirate geek flag in Michael’s on Sunday:

4.  I wrote a blog post about Geek/Nerd Day and Towel Day.  And a facebook status update.

5.  I staged this photo specifically for Towel Day.  With my leather-esque bound omnibus of The HGTG.

6.  I’m a gal who knows where her towel is.

7.  I know that CONvergence is less than five weeks away.  I either lose geek points for not having a costume in mind, or win points for being anxious about it.

8.  This morning I whistled “Hi Ho, Hi Ho it’s off to work we go!” as I walked to my car *and* I didn’t get embarrassed when my neighbor caught me doing it. 

9.  I played Anatomy Quiz and checked out the NASA app on my iPod Touch this morning.  Before 8am. 

10.  I changed all four of my desk calendars when I got to work this morning (Dilbert, Bunny Suicides, Sudoku, and Words of Wisdom for Women). 

Fess up!  What are you geeking out about lately?

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May 27th, 2010 – Update.

One of my commenters let me know that saving tent caterpillars was perhaps not the most ecologically-smart thing I could be doing with my day.  Then I read this: Thanks, MPR.  Now my guilt is complete!

Biblical Armageddon or Global Warming?

May 24, 2010

Religion vs. Science, the shouting continues…

Christian Groups: Biblical Armageddon Must Be Taught Alongside Global Warming

And frustration, actually. For some reason, I cannot get the embed code to work right. What up with that? Video Source is from the Onion.

Gone Fishin’

May 24, 2010

Saturday was a lot of fun.  I slept through my alarm…and by “slept through my alarm” I mean I turned the obnoxious thing off at 7am and went back to sleep.  So, I woke up four minutes before my 9am meetup time with friends for breakfast and fishing.  Luckily, breakfast and fishing means no makeup or fancy schmancy clothes, so I ended up being only about 15 minutes late.  Breakfast was good, but by 10am it had started raining.  Darn!  First fishing trip of the year cancelled.

Ah well.  We headed over to my friends’ house and played YouTube.  You know…when you all crowd around a computer and take turns sharing your favorite YouTube clips.  I shared a couple of Tim Minchin videos, which were received quite well, but the winner of YouTube was my buddy Q, who introduced me to a absolutely fabulous artist, Janelle Monae:

It looks like she has two full CDs out: Metropolis and ArchAndroid.  I’m psyched to do some reading about the albums because each album is composed of suites, which are made up of songs that are like chapters in a book.  From Wikipedia:

Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase: This EP introduces Monáe’s Metropolis conceptual series, following a fictional tale of female android Cindi Mayweather who is mass produced in the year 2719 for a market filled with severe social stratification.

ArchAndroid: Incorporating conceptual elements of Afrofuturism and science fiction, The ArchAndroid continues the series’s fictional tale of a messianic android and features lyrical themes of love, identity, and self-realization.

Fun!  Geeky!  Sci-Fi!  And she’s got great dance moves, kick-ass style, and a voice that blows me away.  I heart Janelle Monae.

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And then the rain stopped!  We decided to brave the cloudy skies to go fishing.  I like fishing because my Dad taught me how to fish.  He took my sister and me to different lakes and parks near our house when I was growing up, and we also went fishing in my grandparent’s pond in southern Illinois, which was always stocked with well-fed (i.e., gigantic!) catfish.

But I’m kind of impatient when it comes to fishing – there’s not a lot of zen in it for me.  I practice catch-and-release because I don’t like killing things, but then I feel guilty because I’m just playing with the poor thing instead catching it to eat.  Soooo not logical.

We wanted to go fishing in Fort Snelling State Park because you don’t need an angling license for MN state parks.  I had heard of Fort Snelling State Park, but in the five or six years that I’ve been in the Twin Cities, I’d never actually found my way over there and I wasn’t positive of the location.  First we headed to Fort Snelling…like, the actual Fort.  Turns out Fort Snelling and Fort Snelling State Park are in completely different locations.  We eventually found the right area using my new phone’s internet and google maps features.  Fun – it was kind of like Midnight Madness!

Fort Snelling State Park…wow.  All I can say is that I can’t believe I’ve never been here before.  It’s fantastic.  I don’t know if you know this…but it’s kind of a big deal (I love you, Ron Burgundy).    There are areas where the river rushes alongside smaller, quieter lakes, and different branches of the Minnesota river converge in places throughout the park.  We saw people biking, fishing, hiking and canoeing, and Q swears he saw two beavers!

We found this awesome fishing spot – see the large sunken branches in the photo below?  That’s where the fish like to take shelter (mwah ha ha – we’re on to you, fishies!).  There were gigantic bass swimming around this area and plenty of sunfish.  It isn’t quite bass season yet, so we were using smaller bait intended for the sunfish, but it didn’t really matter because nobody was biting.  In the background you can sort of make out the turtles sunning themselves on the farthest log.

We didn’t catch anything, which was great for me because my buddies like to eat the fish they catch, and I promised that I’d let them keep anything I caught.  I like tying on lures with the special “fisherman’s knot” that Dad taught me, so when I got bored of not catching fish I amused myself by changing out various ridiculously huge lures just for the fun of casting and reeling them through the water.

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Saturday evening the Hubby and I went to the Vali Hi Drive In in Lake Elmo with our friend Courtney.  The screen is a large, flat, white billboard-like sign and the film is projected onto it.  The first show starts at dusk (~9pm this time of year), and if you don’t get to the theater early (7-8pm), you get stuck in the waaaaay back and to the sides – like we did below.  To be fair, we were on-track to get to the theater around 8pm, but then we got sidetracked by a crazy search for Noodles in Woodbury and then we got all  turned around in the construction on 494/694.  We finally rolled into the theater at ~8:45pm.

The shows for Saturday night were Shrek 4, Ironman 2 and Nightmare on Elm Street – three new release movies for $8/person!  Of course, the Hubby and I never make it through the third movie, so we really only look at what’s playing for the first two shows.

Vali Hi is neat because people get to the theater early to claim a spot and set up “camp” – you can grill out, play frisbee or toss a football around, and sit around in big ol’ camping chairs shooting the breeze until the show starts.  Below is a picture of the Hubby and Courtney in our set-up.  We line the bed of the truck with all of the cushions from our couches, and we grab two or three blankets, the snack food and beverages.  Some people get *really* elaborate.  In the picture above, you can see the guy in front of us getting ready to spread a blanket out on the top of his SUV.  We saw one couple in an Ford F250 who had set up a small loveseat and coffee table in the bed of their truck!

Shrek was eh…Ironman 2 was decent, and we rolled out of the theater after that.  That put us back in Minneapolis at about 1pm, with a full day left of the weekend.  I’d call this another successful Saturday.

Who needs sleep?

May 19, 2010

Last weekend was incredible – I’m just starting to recover!  Let me tell you what I did…

On Friday night, I went to the first classroom session of my SCUBA class!  The class took place in a teensy, tiny 9-chair classroom in the basement of the Minneapolis Scuba Center.  The lessons were brief.  They were very much a high level review of the textbook, so it’s a good thing I actually did all of the assigned reading and in-book quizzes and tests. 

After I got back from class at 10pm, the Hubby and I went walking through LynLake and Uptown.  It was an excellent spring evening, and the crowds were out!  The yuppies were dolled up and standing on the sidewalks, waiting to get into Chino Latino and Stella’s.  The slightly hipper yuppies were sitting outside at the Bryant Lake Bowl and Sauce.  We took a ride on an almost-completely-built bike taxi - which was fun and a little scary - and we discovered a new comic store in Uptown, which always makes me happy.   The shop was closed when we walked by, but I snapped a picture of the store and an awesome decal on the front window.

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Bright and early on Saturday morning I rode the motorcycle out to Eagan for the last scuba classroom session, the final test and our first water lessons.  I aced the final, which came with the dubious honor of having a minute trimmed off of my 10-minute tread (the water was 88°F – I would have rather stayed in than stood shivering on the pool deck!).  After a 200-meter swim, we set up our equipment for the first time.  We put the BCD on the tank, attached the regulator to all of the right places, turned on the air (important skill, that one) and lowered the whole mess into the water.  Then we all hopped in and helped each other shrug into our gear. 

PADI Certification | Beginning Scuba Diving Lessons | PADI Open Water Diver Certificatioin Class enjoying the heated indoor pool at Scuba Center in Eagan, Minnesota. | PADI Open Water Diver Certification classes are small, limited to a maximum of eight to ten students per PADI Instructor during pool (Confined Water) training, to assure personal attention and fun while learning to Scuba dive. | Certification classes offered in Eagan, Minnesota and Minneapolis, Minnesota

photo source

We mostly stayed in the shallow end on day 1.  We followed a PADI skills list and learned how to communicate and stay with our dive buddy underwater, how to clear water from our masks and regulators, how to detach and re-attach our low-pressure inflator from the BCD, how to breathe from a free-flowing regulator, how to equalize our ears and masks, how to haul our buddy in a “tired swimmer” tank pull and body push, how to ease a leg cramp underwater, and all sorts of other skills. 

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Saturday evening, the Hubby and I went to a party at a friend’s house.  There were probably about 30 people who came and went on that night, and we got to meet some new people – always fun!  We went home relatively early because I was exhausted from messing around in a pool for three hours :)

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I had Sunday morning free, so I decided to head over to Valleyfair.  This was the 2010 season’s opening weekend for the amusement park, and I love me some roller coasters and thrill rides.  See?  I even know that there’s a difference between roller coasters and thrill rides!  The weather was perfect and was kind enough to give me a brilliant blue sky – perfect for pictures!

      

      

There are my two favorite photos from the park:

  

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Cut to early afternoon:  Back to Eagan for the last day of pool scuba lessons.  The instructor made us put our equipment together and take it apart four times in a row.  Damn, that’s a lot of equipment!  But I’m glad he made us do it – I should be able to remember how to set up for the Open Water dive class next month.  At one point we were sitting at the bottom of the 12-foot pool for 45-minutes straight!  We did a few buoyancy exercises, but that’s a skill I know I’ll need to work on.  It’s really hard to sit in one place in the water and not float to the surface or sink to the bottom!  Swimming or moving at a certain depth – no problem.  Hovering was a little harder.  But in the end we all passed the pool portion of the scuba lessons!

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Back in Minneapolis, later that afternoon, the Hubby and I went down to the LynLake block party.  The shops between 31st and Lake Street were open, a few Art Cars were parked in the center of the block, and a stage was set up by the intersection of 31st and Lyndale. 

This dude thought maybe one more cup would fit….some people’s kids, I tell ya.  I watched this garbage can for about three minutes, and people just kept tossing garbage in the general direction of the overflowing trash bin.  Either that, or they’d shove something in from one direction, and three pieces would fall out another side.  Seriously?

We walked a block up from the block party to Pizza Luce!  Yummy gluten-free appetizers and pizza.  Thank you Pizza Luce in South Minneapolis for finally adopting the full-time gluten-free menu!

   

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Phew.  And then I collapsed for a few hours!

Meet Dr. Hawa Abdi

May 13, 2010

The Daily Beast via Skepchick:

Terrorists Kidnapp a Hero: Militants are holding the Mother Teresa of Somalia hostage, and as a result, dozens of children have already died. Eliza Griswold talks to Dr. Hawa Abdi from the home where she is being held captive.

This story has it all – subjugation of women, religious extremism, needless deaths of innocents, and one bad-ass female doctor.  For pete’s sake!  If you need your daily dose of indignation, I highly recommend this article.

Dr. Abdi is awesome: She’s a 60 year-old Somali gynecologist who built up a one-room clinic into a 400-bed hospital, she shelters refugees on the hospital grounds, and she gives everything she has to feeding the hungry and to obtain staff and medicine from international aid groups.  And now she’s back-sassing the militant extremists who are holding her and her staff under house arrest.

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photo source

Somalia Online has more information on Dr. Hawa Abdi and her accomplishments in Somalia.


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