Thursday, December 31, 2009

They Might Be Giants

Apparently TMBG have put out four kids albums now, and I think they're great! Here's a sample:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A gentle reminder of English spelling and grammar

In case you've ever been confused, or would like to forward this on to someone who could use an hand with their English.


I admit, I am devoured the four twilight books, and then the partial pdf of midnight sun in a matter of days. I have so many thoughts about them though, and being the nerd I am, some are off-the-chart silly. I'm hoping to have some time to think about them a bit more and write down my thoughts, but beware, there will be some spoilers coming soon - I'll let you know so you can look away if you like.

Still uncertain about seeing the movies though, especially with my disappointment over the last Harry Potter (and the Half-Blood Prince). Scott and I rented it the other day and it was all I could do to keep from yelling at the screen. I did make him pause it on several occasions to explain vital bits the movie left out, or where it went horribly wrong. I understand that a movie needs to make money, and appeal to a broad audience, but to miss the essence of the book so completely is (nearly?) unforgivable. Sigh, just curious how the next two turn out.

More to come about Twilight soon. I'm so compelled to write about them because I feel the need to think through the "science" of the books. Okay, they're vampires, and werewolves(ish) - I can appreciate the fantasy, but when an author starts trying to explain the fantastical parts of a story, instead of just letting them be imaginary, I have the challenge their explanations/assumptions, especially when they just don't make sense. I'm contemplating writing a book on fantasy genetics. Wonder if there is anything like that already. Probably...

Of course google wouldn't let me down. Here are some quick reference, while you wait for my assessment:

This one has the potential to be very good: Twilight Vampire Evolution

Here is a potential explanation for sensitivity to UV: Vampire Genetics1

This one is a bit silly, but at least thinking about it: Vampire Genetics2


Uh, did I mention that I'm a nerd?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cookie exchange!

Unfortunately, we won't be around for a cookie exchange this year, otherwise I would try some of these.

Who knows, maybe we'll have a January cookie exchange!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Life Sciences Salary Survey, 2009 - Charts

"Gender: Many experts note that, at lower levels, women appear roughly on par with men (see our January 2008 article, "Fixing the leaky pipeline"). There was no exception here, where there was little difference between salaries for men and women with junior job titles and with few years of professional experience. However, at higher job titles, the gap widens. Female professors, for example, have a starting median salary of $126,000 at 15-19 years experience, while men with the same experience start at a median of $164,000, or 23% higher."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Early Thanksgiving!

In case you were wondering what to do, how about checking out this letter to the editor about a pretty shocking paper in PNAS this week. You can get to the original publication, causing such an outcry here.

To entice you to read, here are some quotations (in italics) with my commentary - the first three are from the letter to the editor and the last is from the abstract of the paper itself - enjoy.

1. It has happened before, and I'm sure will happen again, but that doesn't excuse the lapse in judgement:

"This paper has fallen through the cracks of the review process of one of the most prestigious scientific journals, and this has not passed unnoticed."

2. Something that separates true scientists from hacks is the ability to admit when the evidence does not support one's hypothesis - can you guess which category this guy falls into?

"Why did the author ignore the weight of phylogenetic evidence that utterly falsifies his claim?"

3. Or maybe, he is just a complete lunatic.

Perhaps the most amazing thing from this article is not the bold proposal, but the fact that the author believes that there is a research program behind his claims: “As an initial trial, it should be possible to attach an onychophoran spermatophore to the genital pore of a female cockroach and see if fertilized eggs are laid” (1). I am not sure this can be taken seriously.

4. I'm going to go out on a limb and say, he is, at the very least, combative, as evidence by the first line of his abstract:

I reject the Darwinian assumption that larvae and their adults evolved from a single common ancestor.

How about a nice top ten:

Edited from this post.

A dozen Ten reasons to celebrate Darwin
By Deborah Heiligman

This is Darwin's year. We celebrated his 200th birthday in February and this month is the 150th anniversary of publication of "The Origin of the Species". Sadly there are still misconceptions about Charles Darwin and his science, falsehoods that are spread, making people scared to teach children about him. But we most certainly should teach our children about Darwin. Here is a primer I hope will convince:

1. Charles Darwin was a loving, caring father and a very kind man. Not a meanie, as someone one said to me ("survival of the fittest and all that."), but a softie. His children ran in and out of his study looking for rulers and scissors and tape. He hugged his children, bathed them when they were babies, and let them jump on the sofa, even though it was against the rules.

2. Charles Darwin was a genius. He had a great idea--evolution by natural selection-- that has withstood the test of time. He did not get that idea in a Eureka moment in the Galapagos. It was only after he left, on his way home that he started to think about the finches and mockingbirds and their beaks.

3. Charles Darwin was a hard worker. When he was interested in something he gave it his all (as a child he wasn't that interested in school). He was extremely organized and methodical. He took years and years to perfect his theory so that it would be as airtight as possible. He anticipated the objections and addressed them in his book in a chapter called "Difficulties with the Theory."

4. The word THEORY in science does not mean "just a theory." It means the analysis of a set of facts.

5. Darwin hated to offend and he hated controversy. In "The Origin of Species" you will see that in his voice. It pained him to think that he might cause anyone discomfort or hurt. That's why he sat on his theory for decades.

6. Darwin never said that humans evolved from apes. This is a basic misunderstanding of evolution. Humans and apes have a common ancestor. Recently scientists found an early human ancestor. In the tradition of Darwin they worked for years to put together the pieces.

7. Charles and Emma Darwin had a long and close marriage even though they disagreed about religion. The marriage survived the deaths of three children. When their 10-year-old daughter Annie died, in 1851, their hearts broke, but not their marriage. Why? They talked to each other, working hard to see each other's point of view.

8. Charles Darwin had champions among his religious colleagues and friends. Here in America Asa Gray, the botanist, championed Darwin's theory, leaving room for God in the process. And at home Emma was his first reader and best editor. She did not seek to dilute his argument in The Origin. In fact, she cleaned up his language (and his spelling and punctuation) to make the prose stronger.

9. Charles Darwin was one of the real Good Guys in history. It's true that he published the Origin after he found out that Alfred Russell Wallace also had the same idea. It was the thing that pushed him to finally publish, after decades of sitting on his work (because he did not want to rock the boat). But first he had his paper and Wallace's published together. Then he wrote his book.

10. Charles Darwin is a great role model. He was a genius who worked hard. He was a loving father and husband. His kids adored him. So did his friends. He was honored by his country when he died.

We should teach our children about Charles Darwin.

Enough of the truth to make it worth re-posting, not to mention the great visuals!

Why America is Fat
Created by

Monday, November 23, 2009

Life is good with with your feet on the ground

From Good Reason:

Imagine that you're hanging on to a rope, suspended over an abyss. All around you are other people, all clinging to their ropes. You shout encouragement to each other, telling each other not to let go of the rope or else you'll fall. Hang on to the rope! they say. They even have a song: "Hold On to the Rope". They sing it to each other on Sundays.

You've been hanging on to the rope for a very long time, and your arms are tired. All this rope-holding doesn't seem to make any sense sometimes. The rope burn is terrible. But you don't dare let go of the rope because of all the awful things that will happen to you if you do.

At last, you become so tired of holding on to the rope that you let go, and fall.

Six inches. That's how far away the ground has been all this time.

This is a great surprise. So you tell the others, "There's no danger! You're almost touching the ground as it is!" But they won't listen. They just cling to their ropes all the harder.

And now you have choices. You can walk around. You can run, or even dance if you want to. Or you can talk to other people that have also let go. Strange how you never noticed them before. You also have two free hands that you can use to build things, examine things in this new world, or hold hands with someone nice, instead of just holding on to the rope all the time.

Life is good with your feet on the ground.

Friday, November 20, 2009

vaccines take two

I had the misfortune of sitting next to one of those people yesterday, one of those people who think their phone conversation is so important that they should speak loudly enough for everyone on the bus to suffer though it. Not only was this person rude and inconsiderate, she was kind enough to let us all know what a big fat hypocrite she is. I didn't want to know about her life story, her struggles, or her personal beliefs, but apparently she felt the need to broadcast them to the entire bus, so now, I do not feel like I am invading her privacy by sharing my thoughts on what I was forced to sit through.

She got pregnant two years ago, at which time she was, in her words, "very pro-choice", and then, at age 20, pregnant and unwed, she chose to let the zygote develop to full term. It was, she says, a very difficult decision. Subsequently, she was recently featured in a Collegian article at a candle-light vigil along with her son and a group of pro-life activists.

Let me pause to note that I respect her choice to have a child, and I admire any student mother - heck, I admire all mothers! I also have nothing against people who want to hold a peaceful, and non-intrusive, demonstration of their views. Good for her - good for them. If she had hung up the phone right then, I would not have felt the need to share her otherwise innocuous rudeness publicly. But she didn't.

Said girl proceeded to complain about the doctor's visit she had with her son earlier that day, and how the doctor was recommending that her son be vaccinated against Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR). She was outraged at this suggestion - she has, after all, heard many stories about children who developed autism after getting vaccines...WHAT?!?! Hold the bus, literally! At this point, my husband can see that I am about to blow a gasket on this girl...even now, remembering it, my heart is pounding out of my chest. Said girl continues to go on, and on, about how she doesn't trust doctors or science, and that stories from her personal encounters give her the background she needs to determine that her son is NOT going to be vaccinated. The icing on the cake, though, was when she worked herself into a huff on the phone as she recalled how the doctor wrote a note to the daycare her son was attending, recommending that he not be allowed back until he received his MMR vaccination. The gall of some medical professionals! I encourage every parent, every person, in fact, to do their own research before making decisions about their health, or the health of their children, but to ignore peer-reviewed, validated studies in favor of regurgitated scare-mongering, that is negligent and destructive to individuals and to society as a whole.

As someone who hopes to become a parent, I would definitely NOT want to send my child to any daycare where he or she would be exposed to non-immunized children. Why should my child be exposed to preventable, potentially life-threatening diseases because said girl lives her life off of hearsay and misinformation? I would be disappointed had the doctor NOT made that recommendation.

In case you're wondering, there is absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause autism. There is also no evidence that driving while pregnant, or eating tomatoes, or breast-feeding cause autism, so please spare me the argument that lack of support does not indicate a negative result. When it comes to autism, there is such a wealth of papers that show a lack of support, that together they do indicate a negative result. Autism is actually a spectrum of disorders and can have a profound effect on families with autistic children, siblings, parents. Work by reporters for the Sunday Times ( exposed that the one (and only) research to ever show any link between autism and vaccines, published in 1998, falsified and altered its data to produce the desired results - most of the children had already been showing signs of autism prior to their vaccination, and their symptoms span the wide range of autism spectrum disorder. Basically, the one study on which all of this hysteria is based, is a bold-faced lie. However, it is a lie that people want to believe, so they grasp onto it with every fiber of their being; people would rather blame a scapegoat, however innocent it may be, than live without knowing the truth.

So, after 15 minutes of this incessant dribbling of whatever brain matter said girl has left, I cannot stand it anymore and politely excuse myself from the bus to endure a walk in the November rainstorm, rather than risking the chance that I'll lose my cool with the mass of uninformed and completely irrational excuses sitting next to me.

Sitting down in our car, soaked from the rain, it dawned on me:

Why bring a child into this world just to let him die of a preventable disease?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thinking about vaccines...

Something to keep in mind regarding vaccines:"One dose from a multiuse vial contains about 25 micrograms of mercury. By comparison, a tuna fish sandwich contains about 28 micrograms of mercury."

A friend of mine, who is a child psychiatrist, helped me understand that although the symptoms of autism usually show up within the first year, they are often not diagnosed until years 2 and onward, and this is what led some people to speculate that perhaps something in vaccines was causing autism. Unfortunately, for these parents, there is no evidence that vaccines, specifically thermisol, is related to the development of autism. I say unfortunately, because I know that parents of children with autism spectrum disorders want an easy explanation for why their child behaves the way he or she does, and unfortunately, science hasn't yet found that easy explanation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Germ cells!

This is an introduction to part of what I study: cells in the germline!

CreatureCast Episode 2 from Casey Dunn on Vimeo.

Because nothing is a good substitute for physical interaction

There is a looming class action lawsuit against Disney for the Baby Einstein videos. However, as much as I have always thought these videos are big pile of horse hockey, as are all the little electronic gadgets we set kids up with to melt their minds before the age of four, I don't know whether I would support a lawsuit against Disney. This is where self-accountability comes in. It seems fairly obvious to me that, as research shows:

"there is a link between early television exposure and later problems with attention span"

That being said, we live in a technological age; one can't eliminate technology out of a child's life completely. However, one also shouldn't rely on it as a crutch for parenting. I don't think there is any replacement for playing at the park, learning to read and write at home, going fishing, having picnics and tea parties. It is a lot of work to be a parent, and whether the work is put in up front with interactive activities, or later, dealing with inattentive, uncooperative children, the work is still there. It is a choice of when and what kind of effort one wants to put in.

Technology isn't bad, but it is a tool, like any other, to complement our lives, not to take it over.

The lawsuit, however, claims to be over deceptive advertising. Hmm...where does the line get drawn? Perhaps it depends on the expertise of the person doing the advertising? But maybe that isn't even it. Where has our critical thinking gone? Why should we take anything on face value? We should be skeptical of anything or anyone claiming to be/have a one-stop cure-all solution. Even further, we should be skeptical of any claim until it has enough evidence that we are confident in accepting the claim.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Work and love

In any relationship, I think there is some good advice here for finding a balance between the two.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Because it made me laugh out loud in my office today


I am not sure how, in a state with such a small population, this could possibly be allowed under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

I'm appalled by the restrictions to abortion in the state of Oklahoma.

I don't know how they could propose, a "law (that) required that the ultrasound be carried out vaginally if the pregnancy was in its early stages in order to get a clear picture. Rape victims were not exempted" and the only reason it was struck down was because they were trying to address more than one subject at a time (both forcing a vaginal ultrasound where the woman would have to listen to a description of the fetus AND restricting the use of the morning after pill).

Apparently women aren't worth two spits in Oklahoma - they're only good for popping out babies, whether they want to or not.

Monday, October 19, 2009

If anything made me want to recycle and cut down my waste,

it is these pictures of dead birds, filled with plastic waste.

arbitrary rules

I very much relate to this comic in so many aspects of life (especially check out the last line of the description when you mouse over the image).

Sometimes I wonder if it is better to just be quiet...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nearly 100,000 strong

Wow, looks like Penn State is a force to be reckoned with:

"Penn State's latest enrollment figures show moderate growth for a University-wide total of 94,301 students.
This figure includes all undergraduate, graduate, online, law and medical students."

The increase is mainly due to increasing diversity (international and minority students). Good job Penn State.

Why is Noah's ark so popular among children...

especially if they are bright enough to realize what a destructive monster that makes the Old Testament god out to be?

Remind me to never have a Noah's Ark in my house.

All you need is love?

And to be opposite gendered and the same ethnic background.

Not only are gay couples fighting for the right to get married, but apparently there are still interracial couples who are being denied this right.

I'm at a loss for words with this can you deny a marriage license to two people who, legally, have the right to marry? I honestly don't understand why there needs to be any government involvement in marriage in the first place - other than we've now intertwined marriage with a lot of tax policies.

What does it matter if Joe Shmo wants to marry three different women? Does it affect my life is Sue Somebody wants to marry Jane Doe? Will my children, my friends, my family be mis-treated because Dick and Jane both want to marry Spot? No. No. No.

I suppose it boils down to what legal rights and responsibilities, and tax credits, we give to people who are legally married. First of all, I don't understand why there should be a difference between the taxes paid by two married people and two single people.

The rights and responsibilities, however, those are important. If one is legally bound to another person, then one should have the right to make decisions for him or her when that spouse is unable to respond (but not infringe on any living will that has already been set forth), and the responsibility to care for that person when he or she is in need of it. Why can anyone, gay, strait, with whatever skin pigmentation, be my legal guardian, but when it comes to being a life partner, and making a conscious choice to commit to the responsibility of caring for one another as adults, suddenly, there are now barriers?

Maybe I was being a little far-reaching saying that humans should be able to marry non-human animals. I think that there should be a level of cognitive and communicative ability necessary in both parties in order for them to be married. But this is now opening another can or worms.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Poor short doggies

funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures

HPV vaccine safety

I really like the flow chart here and how the author makes it very easy, visually, to see the relative proportion changes. Clearly Gardisil is right on par with other vaccines (or even a little safer).

Musical Stairs? The fun theory

The question is: how do you get more people to choose taking the stairs over the escalator?
The hypothesis is: More people will choose to take the stairs if it is fun to take the stairs.

The results: In a one-day experiment, 66% more people choose to take the stairs than the escalator when a new stimulus was added to taking the stairs.

I wonder how well this would work in the long run - probably not very well, but as a novelty, it is great!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

You cannot live on hope alone

We watched "Milk" last weekend, and it was truly moving; the story is inspiring and it was extremely well-written:

Friday, October 9, 2009

and the Nobel Peace Prize goes to.....(deep breath)

President Obama (confused expression while reading the card).

Don't get me wrong, I like the president, but I was as confused as anyone when I woke up this morning and saw that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

However, a few things to keep in mind:
1. I do not understand the nomination process and rarely understand the rationale behind the awards
2. There are always deserving people, and so don't really buy the "someone more deserving should have gotten it" argument
3. Winning this award will not sway anyone's opinion of him as a president or as a person

I was reading another blog post about this, and one of the comments (from tmaxPA) really resounded with me, so I thought I would share it here:

"I know this award is heavily politicized,"
Actually, this award is entirely political. It is the reaction that is politicized. Nobody ever contended that giving out prizes for the promotion of world peace is not a lefty/socialist endeavor. There isn't anything non-political about peace in these modern times.
And as commenters from Mark G. to shonny and beyond have pointed out, there isn't anything non-controversial about this award. Nelson Mendella's "accomplishments" at the time he was honored was, I believe, to have been in jail.
All those who want to scoff that Obama had been nominated after only two weeks in office are conveniently ignoring the longest political campaign in global history, just ended, during which the future President provided an outstanding, even astounding, example of poise, integrity, and statesmanship. We may have been unaware that the impact of the candidate's historical Speech on Race was not limited to a domestic audience, but it is beyond doubt that his inauguration as the first person of African descent to be elected President of the United States of America was something the entire world paid a great deal of attention to.
Having done more in his three months as President Elect than any other President Elect has, both in the immediacy of his attention to international diplomacy and the enthusiastic reserve with which he handled the kind of conflicts which that approach can cause, his being President isn't even essential for him to deserve this honor.
Is it unexpected? Sure. Is it an anti-Bush award? Sure. Is it too premature to satisfy the concern trolls? Undoubtedly. Is it undeserved? Hell no.

So, guess what - tomorrow we'll wake up and it won't really have mattered who won anyway.

gender inequity affects gay women also...

Women in the military are disproportionately dismissed based on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Considering the paucity of women in the military, the skew is even more shocking - the numbers I found (from 2003) show that in the Air Force there are 368,000 members, 71,000 of whom are women. Now, if 56 women and 34 men were dismissed based on sexual orientation, for a rough figure, that is 0.0789% of women dismissed and 0.0114% of men dismissed; quite a difference.

I wonder what the proportion of gay to strait soldiers is, but we cannot really get that number, could we, because they'd all be dismissed. Ridiculous. It is utterly absurd that the US military, still, will not allow soldiers to be open about their sexuality without fear of dismissal.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

no good reason

for not doing your job...

Why would a nurse not use new, disposable, equipment with each patient?

No answer is given, and hundreds of people are potentially affected by this woman's... negligence? maliciousness? idiocy? Who knows what it is, but it is unethical, unsanitary and unacceptable. I hope that her abuse has not adversely affected as many people as it seems.

She is also tarnishing nursing as a whole; by being such an incompetent, untrustworty half-rate, she opens the door for patients to mis-trust all their future nurses. I'm appalled.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Not a dinosaur!?

So, I feel a little deceived to discover that Brontosaurus, ONE HUNDRED AND SIX YEARS AGO, was determined to actually be an Apatosaurus. It wasn't a new species - so basically it is just a nickname for another species.

But, kids LOVE Bronotauruses. I LOVE BRONTOSAURUSES! Well, I guess now I love the Apatosaurus.

But, to parapharse Gould, there really are more important things to get outraged about.

Abstinence-only was an experiment

"and it failed"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On our way

There's evidence that a new breakthrough in preventing HIV infections may be on the horizon. The work is not yet published, but will be presented at a global AIDS conference in France in a month. I'm curious to see how their study was run, specifically, and how they designed the vaccine.

Also, I wonder if an AIDS vaccine would need to be similar to the vaccine for influenza. Because both evolve so rapidly, must they continue to re-design the vaccine to keep up with the virus' wily evolutionary rate?

Not because there are worse things,

but because there are more constructive ways to spend my time.

For some reason over the past few days I let myself get a little stressed out about silly things (planning for the wedding, research, whatnot), and it took reading this article about the despicable treatment of women of all ages in Afghanistan to remind me how silly I was being.

I don't like the argument that, "there is always someone in a worse/harder/more difficult position than you," so don't worry so much. That will always stand true, unless one is dead, or one is really in one of those rock-bottom situations. It shouldn't make me feel better to think that someone else is worse. But I do think that that it can help to remind oneself that life is short and the way one approached the challenges in one's own life really can make a tremendous difference in how that life is perceived.

I think it is true that some lives are more difficult than others, but we all have the ability to cope, to move forward and to, when it is warranted, get over ourselves. For some that may take longer than others. And sometimes we make our own mountains. Certainly the women in the story above have not built their own mountains, but they can choose how to climb them.

In my own life, I need to remember to recognize a pebble for a pebble, and not get tripped up over it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Abortion (or something I should probably never blog about, but will anyway)

It is a very personal choice that many people face; whether to terminate a pregnancy or not. But, it is a choice. Regardless of whether it is legal or not, people still make that choice. When it is illegal, women may choose risky and unsafe conditions that ultimately lead to their own untimely deaths. When it is legal, women, their partners and families can spend more time focusing on how their emotional health will be affected by their decisions.

Thank goodness that there are people in Nebraska who recognize the difficulty of such a decision and have the strength to allow women a safe and supportive environment to make such a decision.

I've driven past this clinic several times, and I hope that Dr. Carhart and all of his staff remain safe this weekend during the protests.

What would I do...what would I choose? I think the answer is illuminating: I haven't had to make the choice. I was taught early and with candor about sex and contraception, from both sides of my family. I understood how babies were made at a very young age (it helps when you have a doctor and a nurse as grandparents). When I was older, but still young, I think around 10 or 11, I remember watching some trashy talk show with my mom about very young girls 11-14 who were pregnant or just had babies alongside their parents. My mom told me that if I were ever in that situation she would be disappointed...but she would still love me, and we talked about what situations these girls must have been in. A year or two later, she told me that if I was not yet able to talk to a doctor about contraception and sex, and I was too embarrassed to buy condoms at the grocery store in town, then I wasn't ready to have sex.

She was right.

I am a full supporter of comprehensive sex education, including both contraception as well as the consequences of getting pregnant at a young age (physically, emotionally, mentally). From my personal experience, I think that knowing about the sexual organs of both genders, about sex and making sex a personal choice, rather than simply declaring it off limits, helps teens and even younger children realize what a big responsibility it is. By demystifying the reproductive biology of both sexes, illuminating the consequences of unprotected sex, and what one must do to engage in responsible sex, children and teens feel empowered, not rebellious.

Then, the question of choice is (for a large portion of the population) moot. If unwanted pregnancies can be avoided, then so can emotional and potentially physical trauma.

I always wonder why the same people who fight for the anti-choice position are also anti-education. If all the money poured into advertisements and all the time from demonstrators were put to good use educating the public about ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy, I wonder how much distress, medical expense, and counseling could be avoided.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

every little bit counts

It is a funny coincidence that yesterday I received the compostable cups and plates we'd picked out for the wedding, and today there's an article about a couple who is attempting to live trashless for a year (with some exceptions).

We're really trying to embrace the local, eco-friendly movement. All of our vendors are either local, or recyclable. The wedding favors are from the local chocolatier, and the favor boxes are made of recycled paper. Our invitations are probably the least eco-friendly, but we've cut them down to one small card in one small envelope, requesting that people RSVP online. Instead of cake, we're having cookies, baked by a local woman in town, and ice cream made by Meyer's dairy (also local).

Our photographer lives just over the hill from the reception hall and so will only have to drive a half a mile, and instead of getting all printed proofs, our photographs will be uploaded online and we'll have a master-disc with all the pictures.

No programs, limited decorations (the barn is really beautiful, so I don't think we need any at all), no flowers.

Our plates, cups and cutlery are all compostable, and the guy we are renting from has bins for recyclables, so we should have a very minimum of waste!

Monday, August 17, 2009

No one is safe from ignorant persecution...

even if that person was a computing genius ahead of his time who helped break the Nazi Enigma code. Just because he was gay, his genius was discredited, he was brutally sterilized and driven to commit suicide by the age of 41 by disgusting individuals within the British government. The British gov't is now thinking of apologizing...

Bumper stickers I would like to get...

if I didn't think they'd be scraped off my car like the previous two (one was my Obama magnet, which was just swiped, and the other was my "Kansas: Where evolution is banned and the monkeys are in charge", which was literally scraped off my back bumper).

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Or else I won't come back at all...

I wonder if chicken soup would help?

My tomato plants are sick. They seem to have early blight, which is at least treatable (unlike late blight, which just kills the plant systematically).

I'm attempting an organic solution treatment of one part milk to nine parts water.

The leaves look just like this guy's, and I've seen quite a few references to the water/milk mixture, so I'll keep you updated on how it works!!


More than 35 years after the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is a little disappointing that there needs to be a study to declare that a person's sexual orientation cannot be changed, and attempting to do so often causes mental and emotional damage.

It is great to have such a comprehensive study of the past 40 years of research about sexual orientation, but that it is on the main page of CNN's website frustrates me a little. It frustrates me even more to realize that there are people who still won't accept the findings.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

You want to put your hands where?

Blind women are being trained by medical specialists to detect lumps during routine breast exams.

A study at the Essen University's women's clinic, Germany, concluded that MTUs found more and smaller tumors than doctors in 450 cases.

Although they don't mention the total number of cases, or the number of cases where doctors found more and smaller tumors than the MTUs, the number is still striking.

When is it racism?

Growing up, I had never heard a person of African origin (African American or otherwise) referred to as a "monkey". To me, calling someone a monkey meant that they were fooling-around or being silly. Or, one might refer to oneself or others as a monkey because, evolutionarily speaking, we are primates.

It not only shocked me to learn that monkey is used as on offensive term for people within a certain geographical origin, but flabbergasted that those who use it think it is a negative thing. In fact, being a human being, I'm a little offended that I someone wouldn't think to call me a monkey (which I am, both in the monkeying-around sense, and the evolutionary sense!).

I understand that there is a lot of emotional baggage attached to the word, monkey, when it is used in a derogatory way. I know that I can't understand the kind of hurt and anger it must bring to someone when such a slur is flung at them. I also know that I am now self-conscious that I will accidentally offend someone when talking about evolution.

Stupid racists.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

So, maybe it isn't better to have loved and lost...

This study suggests that the emotional and physical trauma of divorce lasts a lifetime (in general). However, I wonder what the effects are in other countries, where people don't marry so young as we do here in the US, or even at all. Nor do they take into account long-term partnerships. Also, they don't provide a breakdown of the length of marriage before divorce - I think that could bias the sample.

I went to the original article, found here, and they do reference some previous work that looks at the effects of the longevity of marriage on health:

"Dupre and Meadows (2007) examine the relationship between marital histories and the incidence of chronic disease. Their results suggest the importance of time spent married; age related increases in disease are slowed by longer marital durations. Brockmann and Klein (2004) examine the effects of time in marital states on risk of death. They find that the health benefits of marriage accumulate, while the negative health consequences of being single, divorced, or widowed attenuate over time. They find no evidence that these effects differ by marriage order. Zhang and Hayward (2006) assess the relationship between the marital life course and the prevalence and incidence of cardiovascular diseases at older ages. They find that both men and women who have experienced a marital loss have a higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease and that ever-divorced or widowed women, but not men, show a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease. Duration of marriage is positively related to incidence of cardiovascular disease for both genders, a result that is largely explained by health behaviors and co-morbidities. And Barrett (2000) examines the link between marital histories and mental health in a local sample. She finds that currently married persons who were ever divorced or widowed report worse mental health than continuously married persons; persons who are currently divorced or widowed for the second time show worse mental health than those disrupted for the first time."

The blue ones taste better

For anyone who ever claimed they could taste the different colored M&M's, maybe there's some truth to it. Okay, so maybe it isn't about taste, but the blue ones can help heal injuries to the spine.

There I go again - it isn't the M&M, it is the blue dye - and why, by the way, did they think that blue dye would help in spinal injuries? Oh, here's how:

"Back in 2004, Nedergaard's team discovered that the spinal cord was rich in a molecule called P2X7, which is also known as "the death receptor" for its ability to allow ATP to latch onto motor neurons and send the signals which eventually kill them."

Oh, death receptor doesn't sound good...

"Nedergaard knew that BBG could thwart the function of P2X7, and its similarity to a blue food dye approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1982 gave her the confidence to test it intravenously."

Neato! So, it seems the only bad side effect so far is that it turns the mice blue for a short period of time - do you think this'll become a new recreational drug, something to bring out at parties?

Oh yeah, and thanks to the close evolutionary relationship between humans and mice (as compared to humans and, say, fishes, or toads), we can be reasonably sure that since there were no negative side effects in the mice (other than turning into Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for a few days), we can move ahead with the assumption that the drug is safe enough to continue into human trials. Yay evolution!

criminals and drug addicts?

Too much self-confidence?

As a reminder when we get a little too cocky, maybe we should take a step back.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I always get into discussions about how biased, and in which direction, different news outlets are. I have to make a point today, though, that I am quite happy with the Christian Science Monitor for their piece on the growing numbers of atheists in America. It isn't rude, or skewed, but presents comparisons, statistics and personal stories, all while being respectful. I like it.

I think they might be my new favorite news coverage site. Although, it would be nice if they had a Science or Science and Health tab across the top. I noticed most of the science-y articles can be found under "Environment", or "Innovation", but those titles are a bit specific.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dance dance revolution

Because it makes me happy that one of the most viewed videos on the web is both funny, and emphasizes dance!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wild Blueberries

Yesterday Scott, Chip and I hiked up the mountain at Shingletown Gap and picked about a cup of tiny, ripe, wild blueberries.

Today they were transformed into delicious blueberry muffins. I followed this recipe, but traded the oil for no sugar added applesauce, and omitted the crumb topping. I'm tempted to go back out there tomorrow and pick some more!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

thinking out loud

I find it a little odd that so many articles have been published on our paper without actually reading the paper. It seems like most journalists read the press release and altered it even more. Seriously? No wonder I see professors get riled up when people don't read, but only reference their papers. Also, for all the comments that are on blogs so far, not a single person has taken the time to go to the website, read the paper, and make an intelligent comment on the peer-reviewed site.

The point of having articles open access is to encourage public discourse. But, it seems like the public doesn't want discourse, they don't want to read, or even think. Let's just spoon feed everyone some nonsense about the Y chromosome disappearing, forget the cool research in the paper and sell a few papers (or, as the case may be, get a few more hits).

The coverage is nice, don't get me wrong, but it would be even better if it were worth the electricity used to power the monitors it is being read on.

Friday, July 17, 2009

my five minutes of fame

Here are some sites that have already written about our paper (because I'm a narcissist...):

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

ABC News Health

Science Daily

In italian at L'Espresso

We even made a women (and science and politics and etc..) site, Jezebel, which is actually one of the most solid reviews (and least speculative!). Congrats Jezebel :)

Phillipine Times

The Hindu


Science Codex

e! Science News



Biology and Genetics Blog

Breaking News 24/7 Blog

Yahoo India


Here it is, for your viewing pleasure: my first published research article.

And, because this is sure to happen to some degree (and has already started: How it will be interpreted.

p.s. The Y chromosome is not going to disappear anytime soon (i.e. in your lifetime, or your children's lifetimes or in your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grand child's lifetime, nor are males going to disappear. Period.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Drawing the line between art and just plain creepy

What is up with the Danes?

I have to wonder why some structures/pictures/statues/whathaveyou are considered art.

I heart Richard Feynman

Let me count the ways:

"Everything is possibly wrong."

"I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing, than to have answers that might be wrong."

"I don't feel frightened by not knowing."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

don't ask, don't listen

It is strange to me that the military expects courage, honesty and integrity from its soldiers, but does not always uphold those values itself. Why one's sexual orientation should matter when risking one's life to defend and protect a nation is beyond my imagination. Homosexuality is not a mental illness. It is not a depravity, a fetish or an obscenity. Gay men and women are no more likely to act inappropriately towards their peers than their heterosexual counterparts. In fact, from personal experiences, I've found it is quite the opposite.

So why, why, why, is it that even after,

"the Guard's Federal Recognition Board heard from members of Choi's unit, his commanding officer and fellow soldiers who served in Iraq, and reviewed more than 150 letters of support for Choi, a 2003 West Point graduate and an Arab linguist.

'At the end of the day, they did not consider any of that material [to] whether he was a good soldier," she said. "It was solely about whether he said he was gay.'"

I don't buy it that the military is going solely on protocol - there is a unique protocol in the military, different from civilians, and it frustrates me to no end that they're being so ass-backwards about this. Apparently it's better to fire a highly qualified, Arabic speaking, honored and respected soldier and keep the incompetent, ill-mannered punk who just wants to fire his gun in the air to prove he's the alpha dog.

And, I'm not letting Obama off the hook. He did promise to work to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and although he is working on it, I agree that:

"'while Obama can't change the law himself, he could sign an executive order halting discharges while the policy is under review.'"

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I'm attempting to see how embedding a video from facebook onto my blog works. So, here's the test run:

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's my party

This one is a tear-jerker; I almost started crying watching the preview, but perhaps that is because the first time I watched it I got too involved with the characters. It seems to me like AIDS used to be front and center in the public media, and while I understand that fear-mongering isn't useful, I do think it is smart to be aware of all illnesses that are highly communicable, and easily preventable.

I just wish there were some way to keep the public educated, to keep people cautious without making them fearful. The trend seems to be the same each time there is a new disease (virus, bacteria, fungus, whatever) discovered. First, people panic (Ah! We're all going to die of West Nile Virus), then they forget all about it, as if it were never a problem even though for something such as West Nile, the incidence has NOT vanished! Granted, like any virus, in each year it cycles, but, the incidence in certain ecological niches remains high.

Even now, with HIV/AIDS, the CDC reports that many AIDS patients are diagnosed too late, and strikingly (to me at least), is that they estimate "that 56,300 new HIV infections occurred in the United States in 2006"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sex Positive

Richard Berkowitz wrote, How to have sex in an epidemic, during the 1980's, when HIV/AIDS started spreading rampantly throughout the gay population. He was initially vilified for his position, which today is praised. Below is the prevue for a documentary about his life.

To me, not having been an adult during the 70's and 80's, I am very intrigued to learn about the social mores of the time, and how he was treated for his dissenting views, especially among the population he was supporting.

Another documentary, about a seemingly opposite subject, The Education of Shelby Knox, chronicles one girl's transition to a fact-based comprehensive sexual education advocate in Lubbock, Texas.

"Lubbock County’s sky-high sexually transmitted disease (STD) and teen pregnancy rates inspired Shelby to question her state’s decision to be one of only three states to enforce a stringent Abstinence Only sex education policy. Not surprisingly, Texas was also ranked as one of the three states with the highest teen birth rates in the nation in 2002. In Shelby’s home town of Lubbock, teen pregnancy and STD rates are alarming: according to the Texas Department of Health’s statistics, 3.64 percent of Lubbock’s teens were pregnant in 2002, and in 2003, Lubbock had 1,725 STD cases. Lubbock tops the charts for teenage gonorrhea rates, which are twice the national average."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I don't understand why, as people, we are so willing to accept a zany explanation when perfectly good scientific explanations are available - and have been available for many years. On the top of my frustration list right now is autism. Back in 1995 (nearly 15 years ago), it was identified that there is a very strong genetic component to developing autism and autism spectrum disorders. From this paper by Bailey and colleagues:

SYNOPSIS Two previous epidemiological studies of autistic twins suggested that autism was predominantly genetically determined, although the findings with regard to a broader phenotype of cognitive, and possibly social, abnormalities were contradictory.Obstetric and perinatal hazards were also invoked as environmentally determined aetiological factors. The first British twin sample has been re-examined and a second total population sample of autistic twins recruited. In the combined sample 60% of monozygotic (MZ) pairs were concordant for autism versus no dizygotic (DZ) pairs; 92% of MZ pairs were concordant for a broader spectrum of related cognitive or social abnormalities versus 10% of DZ pairs. The findings indicate that autism is under a high degree of genetic control and suggest the involvement of multiple genetic loci. Obstetric hazards usually appear to be consequences of genetically influenced abnormal development, rather than independent aetiological factors. Few new cases had possible medical aetiologies, refuting claims that recognized disorders are common aetiological influences.

Furthermore, although we know that autism is highly heritable, it is not the product of a single gene - which is likely why we observe a spectrum of autism-like affects. And, no matter how often mindless drones like to repeat it, over 200 studies show that there is absolutely no link between autism and thimerosol-containing vaccinations.

There is still much debate as to whether there is an autism epidemic, or whether our definition and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders has increased. For example, both because of stigma, and because of the lack of a formal definition, clinical depression is not identified in many cultures.

I wanna go to the late night, double feature, picture show

Ever wondered about all the references in the title song to the Rocky Horror Picture Show? Here's a fantastic video and description of the lyrics.

I've always wanted to dress up as characters from the musical. I just need to live somewhere where it is warm enough to avoid frostbite.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Album Art


save yourself, but not your kids

Today on NPR there was an interview with a woman who decided, because she was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene and had a dramatically increased risk for developing breast cancer, to have a double mastectomy. This story broke on 2008, and she is being interviewed again because, along with the increased risk for breast cancer is an increased risk for ovarian cancer, but this woman decided to wait to have her ovaries removed until after she had a child.



She are so committed to not having breast cancer that she is willing to have all of her breast tissue removed, yet she apparently has no regard for whether her child may have to make that same decision. I don't have polite words to describe how infuriated I was this morning. Knowing that there is a 50% probability that her child (given that we know that it will be a girl) could inherit this destructive allele, she was so committed to having a biological child (with a sperm donor she's never met, and, incidentally, has not been tested as to whether his genome contains one or two copies of the BRCA1 cancer-causing variant), that she's willing to gamble with that child's future.

Why not adopt? Why not at least serve as a surrogate, getting both egg and sperm from BRCA1 negative individuals? What is so compelling about the need to reproduce that we humans will jump over every barrier in the way, even if it means condemning our children to a series of near-certain genetic ailments, emotional distress and premature death?

Certainly there are many other genetic abnormalities that can occur - other mutationst, non-disjunction, what have you - so perhaps she's hoping to win the coin toss.

world's smallest (soon to be) man

I saw this article and at first I was fascinated by how small this nearly 18 year old male is. Then, I wondered how his life would be different had he not been in rural Nepal, but in a hospital that recognized the supposed pituitary disorder that severely stunted his growth.

How difficult must it be to be nearly 18, yet look like a young child, or even be mistaken for a baby?

Let's paint the town red tonight...or better yet, let's paint it leopard!

The practicality of this type of artwork escapes me, but art doesn't have to be practical, now does it? Regardless, it rocks.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy (belated) Father's Day

Here are some good examples of caring dads in nature.

And, because I can, here are some poor examples of animal moms.

And, if you're not too squeamish, here are two very different varieties of seahorses. The first appears to invest a lot of time in rearing young, because there are only a few, larger babies, while the second gives birth to many, many offspring, likely meaning that there is not as much parental care:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Oh yes they call him the cheat

We woke up at 4:00am this morning to drive to West Virginia to ride the Cheat river. It was a ton of fun, with class II and III rapids. We were hoping to ride the duckies (inflatable kayaks), but the river rose from 1 foot to 2.5 feet over the past four days due to extensive rain, and the tour we went with wouldn't allow them, so we were in a rubber raft. Our tour guides were named Ken and Moondog - Ken was in our raft. We were fortunate enough to have only two rafts on our tour, so everything was very personalized. We had a tasty lunch, got splashed quite a bit, and had great conversations with our guide.

More details may be coming soon...

Friday, June 19, 2009

plus or minus?

My dad and I were talking to my grandma (his mom) today about strange pets that she had when growing up, and she mentioned a frog they had, that had been discarded after being used for pregnancy tests. Oh, yeah, of course we use frogs for pregnancy tests...wait, what?! I had to look it up.

Here's a relatively recent article, it describes both the procedure for using frogs to test for pregnancy,

In the 1930s and 40s, live female Xenopus frogs were used widely in Europe, Australasia and north America in pregnancy testing.
More than 1,800 amphibian species are now judged to be at risk of extinction
A sample of the woman's urine was injected under the frog's skin; if the woman was pregnant, a hormone in her urine caused the frog to ovulate.
Alternative tests involved male frogs and toads, which produced sperm in response to the human hormone gonadotrophin.

as well as some deleterious effects of importing these frogs.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hello Dolly

Because I can't resist, here are two more songs, I've always liked.

The first is from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, one of my favorite musicals - one of the reasons I have such fuzzy feelings for Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton!

The other is a song I remember hearing growing up, as much as some people dislike country today, I really have an affinity for "classic" country/folk music. And, for all of her artificial additions, Dolly Parton is an extremely talented songwriter and singer, and her fame is well-earned.

Dream lover

I have always loved Bobby Darin's voice and lyrics, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I put a name to the music. So, here's a song to hopefully get you hooked too!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Living in the moment

I think that food is the ultimate way to live in the present. We can taste and smell and touch and hear our food. The experience of eating is so fleeting, but so wonderful. In high school, when I got to travel to Europe (to sing), I made up my mind to spend all my extra money on food, instead of tangible souvenirs, because I thought of what would happen if I died on the plane ride home. None of the trinkets I had bought would mean anything, but I would have thoroughly enjoyed the time I was there. It was completely worth it; I might have gained 10 pounds while there, but I still remember the sweet and puffy chocolate filled croissants, the flaky crust and tender meat in the steak and kidney pie, American flavored chips, and my first taste of nutella from a jar shared between friends.

Granted, sometimes we love small things to remind us of specific events in time, but overall, I think food wins.

Pine or redwood?

I saw Randy Olsen speak at the Evolution 2006 conference, and participated in a discussion after a showing of his movie, Flock of Dodos. I highly recommend the movie:

Randy is a terrific example of a scientist who is genuinely concerned with the public perception of science. He may not always hit the nail on the head, as far as pure scientists are concerned, but he brings up the important issue that scientists need to incorporate style into their substance. Science should be approachable to the general public. The disconnect between what people can understand and what they think they can understand is huge.

I think every university should be required to have a week-long open house, where the public is welcome to "lay" lectures. Scientists should have to learn how to present their work to those with no familiarity to it. Yes, I understand that it isn't easy, and that one will not be able to go into exact detail, and that sometimes the specific details will have to be sacrificed for the whole picture. Oftentimes, in science, we don't see the forest for the trees, but we need to learn to present the forest, in all of its glory, to the public. Because without a basic understanding of the general focus, and methods, of different research fields, how can we hope to foster inquiry, and encourage all people to address new problems with patience, diligence and critical thinking.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Scientists think they're so funny

My friend shared this story about gene discovery in Drosophila (fruit flies):

Researchers discovered a gene in Drosophila that, when mutated, makes the flies less influenced by alcohol. They than called it the "happy hour" gene.

The research was just published in Cell, but for those of you without a subscription, you can read the abstract here. It is surprising to me that, the same people who deny evolution, rely on it to help identify medical breakthroughs though research done in those silly fruit flies (can you believe it?!).

Not only can we use fruit flies to study alcohol use disorders, but also autism, birth defects, and a whole host of human medical ailments, not to mention all of the fundamental research that is neither ethical, nor practical to conduct in humans, or even in non-human primates, such as preliminary screenings medications to treat diabetes and cancer.

By the way - it is somewhat tempting to switch from bioinformatics to bench research, just for the possibility of getting to name a cool new gene something witty that people will be forced to use for the foreseeable future (ever heard of the SHH gene: the Sonic the Hedgehog gene, no joke).

Chip's forefathers...kind of

Ooh, I didn't know we actually adopted a baby Thylacine:

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Meet Chip "the ladies man" Wilson:

He's from the local area PAWS shelter. Currently we're a foster family for him, but hopefully Sunday we'll be able to adopt him! He's just about the best dog in the world (minus his love for the ladies, which I like to think of as an evolutionary advantage, however embarrassing that advantage might be). He has completely stolen my heart.

This morning he was awful sick - vomiting, bloody stool, lethargic. Took him to the vet, who just prescribed some antibiotic twice a day, but didn't really explain why. Chip is doing much better tonight, but only time will tell - I'm hoping tomorrow morning will be much better than this morning. It's hard, I think, as a scientist, to not know why things are the way they are. I'm generally dissatisfied with modern medicine for this reason: all of the uncertainty.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Orders of magnitude

If I love person A infinitely more than I love person B, I don't think it should matter that I love person B infinitely - there are orders of magnitude of infinity, you know. Although, I guess one could think that I only love person A twice as much as person B, but if the starting value is infinity, then twice as much is significantly more. Much more, say, than if I loved person A twice as much as person C, whom I may only love one tenth as much as I could. :)

Further, there is no upper limit to the amount we can love. I've never really given any credence the argument that there isn't enough room in one's "heart" to love only one person. How, then, do parents love their children equally? One could suggest that there is there a negative correlation between the number of children and the amount of love one has to give to each, or to a partner, but I don't buy it.

By the way, I certainly consider animals to be people (Thanks to my "God and Persons" class at Creighton University), although the lines between different classes of people are quite fuzzy and situation dependent.

Finally, it's best not to worry about it at all:

"Georg Cantor, who's responsible for much of the formal set theory that underlies these questions, went mad late in life and died in an asylum, as have some other people who have looked at them!"

Monday, June 8, 2009


The song, in concert with the visual aesthetics in the video, strike a chord with me. The lyrics describe real love - not star-struck, doe-eyed love - but taking life one day at a time, recognizing that we do silly things for love, and they don't always work out, but we keep trying. Most important is that we keep trying. The video emphasizes that we can feel fulfilled by not only loving a partner, but we can be enveloped by love for our children, our friends, even our pets.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I'm not a cynic...

I thought it appropriate that I found this video on the last day of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution 2009 conference. I usually can hold the laughter in, but when he starts one refrain with monkey sounds, I couldn't help but laugh out loud.

I have become a huge fan of Roy Zimmerman since I first learned of him a few months ago, and think I will have to make it official soon and support him (by buying a cd or some iTunes of course). I hope you enjoy his particular brand of humor as well:


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Today during a lecture on how to teach molecular evolution, one of the speakers showed a video from the Creature Comforts series. The series puts a face, so to say, to people who have been interviewed. Some are ordinary people (from America or England), and some are popular figures, such as politicians. They're really quite funny, and exemplify how important body language is.

I went to look up more about this series and came across this move about the US presidential candidates in 2008. It excels in its effort to pick up certain characteristics in a person's voice quality and manner of speaking and portray them visually:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Isn't evolution beautiful?

Here are a few rocktastic species discovered this year.

Of course, I think the teeny-tiny sea horse and snake are pretty cool. Also, I am super-interested in the caffeine-free coffee plant that was discovered: the essence of being naturally decaffeinated, never having been caffeinated in the first place!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Speaking of dogs...

Scott and I have been looking at dogs pretty intently lately, and so I thought it relevant to point out that Pit Bulls ( American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers) are not inherently bad dogs; they are quite loving with their people, even after being subjected to horrible abuse, as is evident from these pictures of dogs that were abused by Michael Vick and associates, and later taken in by patient, loving families.


whatever happened to the hysteria over H5N1?

In case you are still psyched out about the flu, here's a pretty cool resource from the CDC to put things into (a little bit of a) perspective:

I would really rather see the table also include numbers for the confirmed cases of other types of flu (e.g. H5N1), and the deaths from those. But, given that the general public doesn't realize that something like 36,000 people die each year from "traditional" influenza infections in the US alone, it might cause more panic than it should - information overload and whatnot.

Monday, May 18, 2009

How I got into science:

Hmmm, I seem to remember it being something like this, but I can't recall for sure.

Friday, May 8, 2009


So, as you may or may not know, I've been on a dog kick the past few months (okay years). I am just waiting until I meet the right one that I can't live without. While Scott will like having a dog, I think he'll be more relieved to have me stop sending him pictures of every puppy-dog eyed mutt I come across.

Well, maybe I could convince him to let us get a pig (one not infected with the H1N1 flu, of course). And, not any piggy, but a pygmy piggy!

Look how cute the baby is! (Picture courtesy of the BBC) I think I could make a valid case that I'm saving him from extinction - ooh! ooh! We could raise a whole herd of pgymy piggies! I could convince the NSF to give me funding for that, right?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

animal research is necessary

There have been a few articles on the radio and in the news lately about people protesting for and against the use of animals in scientific research.

Certainly there are ethical considerations when using any live organism in research, and experiments that should never be undertaken because they subject animals to extreme and cruel situations that do nothing to further essential scientific research that will, in the end, advance in some significant way scientific knowledge. This research must, for example, improve understanding of the spread, prevention or treatment diseases, advance medical technology and treatment of traumatic injuries, or further basic science principles upon which other discoveries will be based, in ways that could otherwise not be achieved.

This recent article about how mouse adult stem cells are able to repair muscle damage in mice, is perfect example of necessary animal research. This research could not be conducted in silico (that is, on a computer), because researchers would only be hypothesizing how it might work and could never know for sure whether the adult stem cells did or did not regenerate the muscle tissue.

On a side note - how cool is it that the scientists were able to track these cells by making them glow under ultraviolet light! (I can just envision that the next wave of body modification may be to implant fluorescent cells into ones body.)

I admit, my personality is such that I would find it immensely difficult to injure the mice, and eventually, sacrifice them. But my personal feelings do not cloud my judgement that this type of research is necessary to help people with debilitating muscle trauma.

Monday, May 4, 2009

why evolution is true

Sorry I've been sketchy about posting, I'll do better about being more consistent, but the next few weeks will be especially busy while I finish researching and prepare a talk and a poster for back to back conferences in late may/early june - both in Iowa City!

In the meantime, here is a response to and in Forbes magazine for giving creationism the credence it doesn't deserve.

By the way, I nearly misspelled "credence" because of CCR. What a coincidence that I saw this video at the gym last week.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Smaller and Bigger

Who would have thought that there would be a storage device, the size of a DVD, that can hold 500Gb. Wow.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cherry Blossoms!

I forgot to post pictures from our trip to visit DC! We drove up Friday night, stayed with our friend Nicole (thank-you Nicole!!), spent all day Saturday walking and walking and walking, then drove back to State College to run in a 5K race on Sunday. Whew! While in DC we enjoyed the blossoms, saw tons of dogs, and of course, stopped at the Natural History Museum (a requirement!). I was super-excited about all of the evolution exhibits - I think every city needs a museum like this! How can I convince someone to fund this? By showing them how cool evolution is!

If you want to see more pictures, check them out on facebook.