The [Ninja Turtles] henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady have hijacked the musical genres for us just like the Lone Ranger hijacked the William Tell Overture for our parents.

- xkcd

Friday, April 29, 2005

Stanford Biology short list

Here is a first pass through the Stanford graduate program. I probably need to try and re-examine the Medical side again but here goes (in alphabetical order):

Aldrich Lab: ion channels in all of their various forms

Bohannon Lab: microbiological ecosystems

Boxer Lab: understanding photosythesis (in terms of the photon) and how to make bi-lipid bilayers (terrificly important to the formation/preservation of all life as we know it)

Denny Lab*: biomechanics and coastal populations --> for some reason this lab has me all excited although it also sems the most random. But the kinds of things they are doing (examining how life survives pressures such as pressure, salt, dryness, etc.) seems to connect back to understanding life on other planets and all the challenges they face

Kool Lab*: besides the name, they synthesize and play with alternate DNA molecules (xDNA) and looks to connect well to alternate biology.

Kopiti Lab: Cellular QA and protein aggregation. Not quite as closely related it still looks at biological systems and dynamics in a broad way

Petrov Lab*: DNA repeats and maintenence. Connects to some work I did at UCSD and a better understanding of general cell function

Vitousek Lab: Hawai'i --> I obviously need a graduate program where I get regularly scheduled visits to Hawai'i, right? On a more serious note, lava and sea, localized communities and many other "extreme" conditions to think about.


Not too bad, I guess, to whittle down Stanford to eight labs. I starred my top three choices and hopefully I'll make contact with a few of these labs in a few weeks to get a little knowledge and such.

Two posts in one day! Huzzah. Maybe I'll make this stick after all

A little rock'n'roll

I went to see The Fiery Furnaces last night. It was a good show. The Fiery Furnaces are one of Pichfork's darlings and they even get a little radio play here on Live 105. Their live set is pretty intense. That's maybe an understatement, the live set is one gigantic song where they occasionally slow down to one instrument but there is about 45 minutes of continuous music. It was pretty impressive. Any excuse to use the phrase "rock opera" is a good one and they definitely provide that. My only complaint was I couldn't quite follow lead singer Eleanor Friedberger through some of her vocal phrasings. She would patter off a lot of things and just plow through in an almost spoken word style but somehow between the fuzz of the sound effect machine and the screaming guitar riffs her brother was providing they would get lost. Well, my other complaint is that I went by myself because the crowd was slow to get into the show (although the band waded right into the thick of things) and I really wanted some others to dance/jump around with during the show.

Plus, the drummer is like a graceful bird. Seriously, he spent at least 10 minutes drumming in what I can only approximate as "crane-style." Let me try to explain it this way -- we all know martial arts and when they go into one of the animal styles, right. Well, he would drum like that where he was making these exaggerated movements and really constraining his hands and it just gave me the same idea. On top of that, he would do some "air drumming" when you're in one of those moments where the drums drops out for 10-15 seconds to accentuate something and he would mimic the drum beat he could be playing and just otherwise ham it up. Hi-freaking-larious.

The other band I saw, Dios Malos (perhaps changing the name again), was alright but didn't blow me away. They do provide a decent dose of music and they played fairly interesting rock/pop but I think they've lost one of their original lineup and the new frontman was alright but didn't terribly impress me. Dunno. Anyways, they did fine as an opening act and it was nice to hear some live rock and they got the evening off to a decent start. (I missed The Herms who opened the show)

So that is my story from last night.

Monday, April 25, 2005

more promises I'll probably fail

Alright, I updated my list of some other blogs and I'm just posting aq quick list of things that end up on my mind for the moment (...and a bit about my weekend).

1) China and censorship. Over at Peking Duck, they had an article and linked to danwei, a blog/website focused on Chinese media. There they were talking about how compartamentalized Chinese censorship is. For instance, we're allowed to talk about corruption and the problems the government has deciding what to do about the environment but you're not allowed to talk about censorship and human rights. Good points and always something to keep in mind when you read about China.

2) Bolton nomination. Now, obviously, I know very little about the subject firsthand but between The Washington Note and War and Piece I've managed to learn just how scary that moustache really is.

3) Grad School. I need to get on that horse so that I don't rush around at the last minute like I have the last two years. Plan: each month check out two grad schools in detail and contact 2 professors and read their papers. This might have extra blog benefits and will hopefully get me contacts and more informed graduate choices. May: Stanford and University of Washington. I know those programs have people doing stuff I like. Let's get in contact.

4) My weekend: I randomly ended up at this coffee shop, Maxfield's, by my girlfriend's place and they had a Sunday Jazzjam. It was fun and new people are welcome and they didn't have any trombones or trumpets. So maybe I should try and do some playing...and really maybe I should get one of those jazz blanks so that I can practice improvising to chords and rythym.

I know, I know, there is rarely any actual information. I'm going to try and let a few other people know about this again and maybe somebody else will talk.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Slight format change

Since I'm still doing this by my lonesome and it's hard to keep "intellectual" when you're talking to thin air I'll try and personalize it a little more and probably talk mroe about the science I'm doing at my day job (cervical cancer / screening). We'll see if this can let me keep up with everything a little better.

I'm still hoping to make this a success and I'm still hoping maybe Ben, Andrew, Eli, Schaub, or somebody would want to join in in somehow.

I'm not really a socialist but I love the dialectic!

Alright, enough whining for now.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Quick Riff

Just to make sure I don't let myself start neglecting this again.

I watched the NCAA Championship last night and saw Illinois lose. It was a painful loss as they had three good shots at the basket and, had any of them dropped, they might have won. Oh well, they played a good game and came back to keep it close and make UNC work. Hopefully they can continue to keep the program growing and, between them and Mich St., we can keep the Big 10 basketball program strong.

On a slightly more intellectual note, I have been reading a few papers about heterochrony in embryo development. Heterochrony is pretty much what it sounds like, the changing order of developmental points in the embryo. For instance, whether the limbs or internal organs start to develop first. This also touches on an older biological idea, "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," the Biogenetic Law developed by Haeckel.

I am guessing it is fairly unusual but this notion was actually explored in my high school freshman honors biology course. We had to "synthesize" (that is in quotes because it was part of this moderately bizarre project that was supposed to explore six levels of cognition; bonus points to anyone who can tell me what they are) the meaning of the statement and some evidence to support it. I think that was the first assignment where I just looked blankly at the piece of paper because I'd never even heard of those words before.

Leaving the personal narrative for some science, the idea is, roughly, that you can deduce phylogenetic information about your ancestors by watching the embryonic progresion. For example, human embryos have, at an early stage, features that seem to be precursors to gills. The original idea was that you could look back at the embryo development and see how it progresses from one celled organism to 2, to 64, through some aquatic ancestor, right past dogs, apes, and on to humans. That idea has pretty much been shot to hell. As organisms evolve, thedevelopmental process is still subject to selective pressures just like every other aspect of life. Some key evolutionary differences are attributed to the rearranging of developmental stages (humans and neotany). However, like most ideas, there are parts that can be salvaged from it. The relative sequence of different events can be used to compare organisms to understand how they diverged. Additionally, the evidence can be part of a suite of evidence to argue for the relative evolutionary placement of two organisms.

This is longer than what I intended (and also somewhat plagaristic since I haven't cited anyone -- I'll do that this afternoon) but the gist is that ontogeny (the individula organism's development) does have some value in understanding phylogeny. Understanding the limitations and details will follow later today or tomorrow.