prolost

vivere est cogitare

in time

After submitting a lengthy question on the internets, and then promptly forgetting about it entirely, it has been broughten to my attention that I have a cameo in a rather prominent publication. Unfortunately nobody will ever care, but it’s kind of awesome.

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ohgod

This is why we’re all screwed.

cruel necessity

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Lawrence Brownlee is one of the best singers I’ve ever heard. With his marvelous bel canto as Arturo, he was definitely the most impressive voice in last night’s Seattle Opera production of Bellini’s I puritani, despite only being present in two of the three acts. It’s hard to find a tenor these days with such a beautiful voice.

Also, I have to agree with those who say that the libretto is rather absurd. The ending is a total cop-out, and the story is basically trite nonsense. But the music is beautiful so meh.

This Friday (a very hot one, as was Saturday) I presented a poster at the UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, and was approached by a gentleman with a really curious offer to help with some sort of “new paradigm” in biomedical research. It was extremely thin on details, and a little questionable, but I figured there might be something to it so I gave him my email address.

And while 90°F is pushing it, I really like it when the weather is in the 70s or even hovering around 80. It makes me miss being (however briefly) in Southern California.

long time no see

It’s been a busy month. Presented a talk in lab and at the UW Honors Research Colloquium, and bringing a poster to the UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, had 2 papers and 2 midterms. All in the first 10 days of May.

I Puritani is next week; it will be the last opera of the season, and I don’t yet know for sure whether I will renew my subscription. Opera is a magnificent thing, but it costs a lot of money. It can be a difficult expense to justify.

Art itself, in fact, begs for justification. As long as it remains quiet, unoffensive, cute and trite, art draws no criticism, and indeed hardly any attention at all. Putting aside constraining definitions of art itself, what is its purpose? And more to the point, does expression have limits?

Wafaa Bilal’s minor modification of Night of Bush Capturing, in turn a modification by the Global Islamic Media Front (likely a media arm for Al-Qaeda) of Quest for Saddam, a game created by Jesse Petrilla, a conservative American citizen, drew great ire from conservatives in Troy, NY where Bilal was exhibiting his work (sorry for the complex arrangement of subordinate clauses). The ignorance and failure of reason here is staggering. The original American-made game perpetuates negative stereotypes and ignorant hatred of its targets; the Global Islamic Media Front modification simply turns it on its head, and reflects back upon us how inaccurate and harmful such portrayals can be. And Bilal, in placing his own likeness into the game, is expressing how easily the attitude of those orchestrating and supporting the Iraq War can contribute to the disillusionment and even defection of people who previously had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda. Such perspective ought to be valued, not vilified.

And what of Burma/Myanmar (it doesn’t matter which name is more “correct;” the politics of language is always problematic)? Does coercive humanitarian aid (a rather awkward and loaded construction) constitute a perpetuation of Western Imperialism? Many Colonial and Imperialist endeavors have been attached to ostensibly noble goals.

If nothing else, the hesitation of the United States to even undertake supply airdrops without the permission of the Burmese government highlights the utter hypocrisy and ruthlessness of the Iraq War.

On a lighter note, Nate finished building his computer. But Linux drivers… :effort:

peasants tell tales

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Great Cat Massacre by Robert Darnton. It is his rendering of a tale “more or less as it was told around firesides in peasant cottages during long winter evenings in eighteenth-century France.”

Once a little girl was told by her mother to bring some bread and milk to her grandmother. As the girl was walking through the forest, a wolf came up to her and asked where she was going.

“To grandmother’s house,” she replied.
“Which path are you taking, the path of the pins or the path of the needles?”
“The path of the needles.”

So the wolf took the path of the pins and arrived first at the house. He killed grandmother, poured her blood into a bottle, sliced her flesh onto a platter. Then he got into her nightclothes and waited in bed.

“Knock, knock.”
“Come in, my dear.”
“Hello, grandmother. I”ve brought you some bread and milk.”
“Have something yourself, my dear. There is meat and wine in the pantry.”

So the little girl ate what was offered; and as she did, a little cat said, “Slut! To eat the flesh and drink the blood of your grandmother!”

Then the wolf said, “Undress and get into bed with me.”

“Where shall I put my apron?”
“Throw it in the fire; you won’t need it any more.”

For each garment – bodice, skirt, petticoat, stockings – the girl asked the same question; and each time the wolf answered, “Throw it on the fire; you won’t need it any more.”

When the girl got in bed, she said, “Oh, grandmother! How hairy you are!”

“It’s to keep me warmer, my dear.”
“Oh, grandmother! What big shoulders you have!”
“It’s for better carrying firewood, my dear.”
“Oh, grandmother! What long nails you have!”
“It’s for scratching myself better, my dear.”
“Oh, grandmother! What big teeth you have!”
“It’s for eating you better, my dear.”

And he ate her.

I should say that this conveys at least some meaning regarding the condition of peasant life in 18th century France. At any rate, I hereby endorse HIST 395 as a cool class.

requiescat in pace

40 years ago on this day, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state, sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

Even the majority of Americans recognize that his dream has not been realized. Requiescat in pace.

we call them npcs

The continued occupation of Iraq costs this nation at least $16m every hour.

Dayer AG et al. Recruiting new neurons from the subventricular zone to the rat postnatal cortex: an organotypic slice culture model. Eur J Neurosci (2008) vol. 27 pp. 1051-1060

The above is a cool article because it suggests that adult neurogenesis has the potential for clinical application. Not that it hasn’t been suggested elsewhere, but this is one of the more promising approaches.

Curtis et al. Human neuroblasts migrate to the olfactory bulb via a lateral ventricular extension. Science (2007) vol. 315 (5816) pp. 1243-9

It’s kind of surprising that it was only demonstrated in 2007 that humans have an RMS (i.e. we generate new olfactory neurons). Adult neurogenesis in both the SVZ (destined for the olfactory bulb) and the SGZ (destined for the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus), though especially the latter, has been linked in numerous studies to memory and learning.

you are too arrogant

While for the world I lament, some residents of this nation never cease to infuriate me. Theirs is the ignorance which plagues America.

Today the sixth year of the Iraq War begins (it has been five full years). According to Mr. Bush, the threat if the US withdraws is nearly the same as when we began – some fear-mongering about القاعدة. In effect, by his own admission, we have not appreciably reduced the threat to our “national security.”

nineteen days

This is one of my favorite quotations.

Don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine messianic force to be – a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, “you are too arrogant! And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name. Be still and know that I’m God. Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and nations will not rise up against nations, neither shall they study war anymore. I don’t know about you, I ain’t going to study war no more.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
30 April 1967
Ebenezer Baptist Church

The National Radio Project has the audio of this excerpt.

va, tosca

Two weeks ago I saw Seattle Opera’s production of Tosca. It is quite an amazing opera, and this production was marvelous, if not especially distinct. Greer Grimsley made an amazing Scarpia, and I definitely want that cloak from the Te Deum scene (of which no pictures can be found on the internet, sadly).

The United States House of Representatives has managed to maintain a strong stand against the lies and fear-mongering of the Republican party and the Bush Administration on the issue of retroactive immunity for telecommunications corporations. Of this I am glad, though often it seems as though not enough is being done. In this and many issues, it is exceedingly clear that ignorance plagues Americans. The case against retroactive immunity is so blatantly compelling that no informed citizen with a functional brain should support immunity; yet somehow it does not draw sufficiently widespread and scathing criticism as to kill the idea entirely.

Ich bin ein Berliner

As a matter of principle I believe it is important to evaluate all information from primary sources when making decisions of significance (e.g. the presidential election, the question of whether the event is actually significant notwithstanding, i.e. accepting the assumption that it is). This is the only way to avoid being misled by deliberate or accidental misinformation. Examples of the former include basically anything from Faux News, anything out of the Bush administration regarding FISA/PAA, and so on. Of the latter, a general example would be inaccurate popular science, such as the “Equal Transit theory.”

But a tremendous hindrance exists, making this principle difficult to put into practice: we (as a people) are not well educated. To be sure, many of us will come to be proficient in a particular discipline, while some will never be very knowledgeable about anything at all. But we are called upon to make decisions that would ideally require extensive knowledge in practically every discipline. This makes it incredibly difficult to evaluate all issues with which we will be faced, unless we manage to confine ourselves to a world in which all we have to decide is whether Britney Spears should ever have more children.

For instance, who actually understands global warming? In attempting to weigh the consensus view against dissenting ones, I realized that I don’t know the first thing about how to analyze or approach the data. And I would be highly skeptical of anyone who claims to understand the scientific bases of the global warming issue, unless they are able to support such a claim by explaining the mathematics behind the models.

gaydolf titler

Work finally begins on the Tbr2 project, focusing for now on the SVZ. Since this is really no longer my project it’s become considerably less exciting, but the pursuit of knowledge and other vague concepts remain intact.

Today’s youth in America suffer from a tremendous lack of proper education in history and the arts. I think this is not only a sign of the epic failure of our education system, but more significantly a reflection of the undervaluation of history and knowledge itself in our society. Ignorance is why so many Americans are fooled by the half-truths and outright lies fed to us by the institutions of power and repeated by the media ad nauseam. It is impossible to make an informed decision (e.g. when deciding who will best govern us at all levels) without having a thorough knowledge and understanding of the facts and the consequences of proposed actions.

A better understanding and awareness of history (and particularly the ability to think critically about such things) on the part of Americans would all but eliminate the possibility of a tragedy like the Bush Administration ever recurring. But that is nothing but a distant fantasy that will likely never be realized in this world.

Yet another area in which the United States of America leads the world. Americans sure do like being #1. I would write a paragraph or two on how terrible the system of “justice” is in the United States but I feel that this subject would more appropriately fall under Nate‘s “jurisdiction,” if you will.

In closing, I would appreciate any insight as to why the water in Drumheller Fountain was brown today.

The right of the people…against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is wonderful.

I’m glad the Democrats in the House of Representatives refused to pass Bush’s bullshit wiretapping bill. Unlike the Senate. Though Obama, Murray and Cantwell all voted to strike the retroactive immunity provision (o/), the motion to do so failed.

It’s almost surprising that the White House and even those Republicans in Congress would be so stubborn about something that is so blatantly ludicrous. But politicking prevails, and the rights and interests of the American people are swept under the rug in favor of corporate interests and government power. These pieces highlight how completely full of shit this bill – and especially the Republicans’ insistence on passing it – really is.

Once again, the unrelenting idiocy/evilness of the right-wing politicians delivers what would be top-notch entertainment – if we weren’t living in it. Even more depressing is that there are people who agree with them.

Sometimes the batshit-crazy right-wingers invoke the ever-popular argument that the “Liberals” are not thankful for these rights that our soldiers are so valiantly “defending.” The truth is, we are thankful enough for these precious rights that we bother to use them. Only someone without a functioning brain could conclude that the only appropriate way to express gratitude for our rights is to give them all up.

how is ron paul still running?

My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.

Apparently we are collaborating with a lab in Germany on the Tbr2 OB project, something which is entirely news to me, and Rebecca is also now onboard with the project. So this very quickly went from a little inconsequential project of mine into a much more substantial piece of research in which I will play an appropriately small part. Nice.

Everyone in WA should go caucus tomorrow. Even though (or because?) it sounds a little naughty. And in spite of the ludicrosity (though my dictionary doth protest, this should be a word) of the way elections work in Great Nation of America.

After/while listening to Mitt Romney deliver his spiel before announcing that he would suspend his bid give up, I decided that I really just don’t “get” those millions of conservatives in America. I mean seriously, are they delusional? Have they never actually encountered the real world? The platforms that these conservatives run on are constructed entirely out of fantasies and ridiculous claims. For instance, Romney said something about American “culture” being attacked. I wonder if any of his supporters can even tell us what American culture is. There are some really ignorant people in this country.

FBLEND looks like it’s about to rock your world. Well actually it won’t, but it will rock some sociologist’s world (and with any luck, more than one) and that’s really all that matters, right?

denaturing, annealing and extending

I’ve been trying to get around to a new post but I just haven’t had the time.

There’s an interesting thread on xkcd discussing the relative merits of welfare, which I found to be a pretty good read. A really fundamental assumption that is always made when talking about whether welfare is good, will work, etc. is the assumption that people will behave as you think they will. This is not always as simple as one might be inclined to believe.

Mythbusters recently ran an episode focusing on the internet’s beloved airplane on a conveyor belt question. Having read a few very long threads on this question, I have come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of people who, having been presented with the reasons why the plane definitely does take off, still believe that the plane does not take off:

1. Stupid people.
2. People who have misunderstood the problem.

The first kind are often beyond remedy. Some simply lack a fundamental understanding of physics; those can be taught. However the second kind are evidence that this particular question is vulnerable to confusion or lack of specificity/clarity. Often, constraints are assumed despite not being stated explicitly (that the plane must be stationary relative to the ground is one such assumption; it is never stated in any version of this problem that this must be the case – many simply fail to consider the problem carefully and leap to this assumption). Other times, the question is simply stated poorly (saying that the conveyor belt matches the speed of the wheels is a recipe for disaster, unless you subscribe to a universe which allows infinite speed and acceleration).

Edit: I will also leave a space for the people who understand the problem and simply state that it is possible to construct a system in which the plane does not take off; however the result of such an arrangement does not represent any reasonably designed airplane and thus such a case need not be considered. Essentially it must have incredibly high friction at the bearings where the axle meets the wheel. Disregarding momentarily the ludicrousness of the problem itself, it only makes sense to consider airplanes designed reasonably – one likewise would not consider, for instance, an airplane without engines or wings, etc.

Also, BioRad is the best.

Lately EVE has been getting more attention from my computer. The politics and history thereof in this game are really interesting. Film at ‘leven.

atlas farted

The staggering amounts of money thrown around by corporations are simply beyond comprehension. Can you even conceive of $1 billion? Estimating the world’s population to be very roughly 6.6 billion (source: U.S. Census Bureau estimate), and the number of billionaires in the world to be 946 (source: Forbes), it is safe to say that 99.999986% of the world’s living persons have no sense of what it means to have $1 billion USD. Alternatively, we can say that 0.0000143% of the world’s population has at least $1 billion in assets.

Regardless of the exact value, the basic idea is clear: very few people have a lot of money. Yet corporations deal every day in sums that simply boggle the mind.

Exxon Mobil broke its own record by posting a $40.6 billion net income in the last fiscal year. This is the largest profit ever posted by any company. Ever. The last sentence of the second paragraph of the New York Times article is truly extraordinary (not in a good way).

The company’s sales, more than $404 billion, exceeded the gross domestic product of 120 countries.

This is utterly ridiculous. An alternative comparison: Microsoft today made some pretty big news by offering to acquire Yahoo! for $44.6 billion. The company that runs the second most popular search engine on the internet (after the juggernaut that is Google) is valued at only 10% more than the annual profit of an oil company.

I am not a fan of the basic concept behind World of Warcraft – make tons of money on an MMO that is super easy to play and really little more than a glorified RPG that happens to have some online functionality. But you can’t argue that Blizzard didn’t succeed in the “make tons of money” department.

As an aside, at the risk of sounding like a certain internet personality, why don’t people leave Britney Spears the fuck alone. Some people really have nothing better to do than be obsessed with someone’s very personal, very real psychological problems.

the truth

At around 0720 GMT, a bomb was detonated in Baghdad’s al-Ghazl animal market. 20 minutes later, a bomb was set off in another crowded market in the al-Jadida district, southeast of Baghdad. The figures below are accurate as of the posting of this entry.

The BBC reports that the first explosion killed at least 46 and injured another 80, and that the second explosion killed at least 27 and injuring 67. That adds up to at least 73 dead, 147 wounded.

CNN reports that the first killed 69 and injured more than 140, and that the second killed 29 and injured 67. The sum is 98 dead, and at least 207 wounded.

Al Jazeera English reports that the first bomb killed 38 and the second at least 27. They estimate about 149 injured total. That is at least 65 dead, 149 wounded.

The New York Times gives the same figures as Al Jazeera.

U.S. officials, according to CNN, reported a dramatically lower death toll: 27 dead and 53 wounded.

This is all very interesting, but whatever. The most interesting difference between the reports is that the BBC and CNN stories refer to Qassem Ata al-Moussawi (and any number of alternate spellings), “a spokesman for Baghdad’s security plan,” (what does that mean, anyway?) stating that the bombers, both women, were likely mentally disabled and the bombs detonated remotely. Both of them incorporated this prominently into their stories and headlines.

However, neither the Al Jazeera story nor the U.S. military make any mentions of the women’s mental states. The NY Times article vaguely mentions Iraqi officials’ comments about the women potentially being mentally disabled, but essentially disregards it, noting that “…Iraqi officials have made similar claims in the past….”

Also, Keith Olbermann gets very angry-like and then finishes up by pretending he’s Edward R. Murrow. Sort of. He happens to be right, though. Also, in case you ever wondered what constitutes Fair Use. Because not knowing the exact wording of that law is the sort of thing you lose sleep over.

we fly high, no lie, you know this

Apparently this blog is ballin. Thanks.

The new microscope should be showing up sometime (along with the Zeiss Axio Imager and our regular and dissection scopes). The Olympus is very fancy, and from what I’ve gathered, rather expensive.

it’s spelled ‘homicide’

Here are some interesting statistics, formatted into attractive Excel charts for ease of digestion. I chose the 15-24 age group because it encompasses typical high school and college students – those youths who are arguably in the prime of their lives. Incidentally, it is also the age group into which I fall. The chart titles are self-explanatory. I only included males of three races; this was mostly because these groups exhibit some pretty interesting trends. Perhaps more significantly, it is rather late and I am pressed for time.


All data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS).

stopping by woods on a snowy evening

The lack of awareness or respect for the arts amongst youth of our day is rather staggering and terribly depressing. Last night, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall was nearly full of mostly affluent, mostly white, and mostly middle-aged or older patrons of Seattle Opera. Yet while Nuccia Focile and Antonello Palombi related Leoncavallo’s tragic tale of Canio and Nedda (and her lover Silvio), thousands of young Seattleites sat no more than a few hundred yards away, packed into Key Arena to watch a terrible basketball team (owned by a terrible businessman from Oklahoma) lose another terrible game.

And even in Vermont’s Middlebury, home to one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges and a tremendously prestigious writers’ conference, and a region inexorably tied to the poet Robert Frost, things like this happen.

Finally, through the state police barracks, where Sergeant Hodsden had more than two dozen young people photographed, fingerprinted and cited for unlawful trespass, with a few also cited for unlawful mischief. He cannot shake the indifference of one youth in particular, who asked whether he could use his mug shot on his Facebook page.

In conveying his disgust over this communal breach, the police sergeant employed the Frostian technique of repetition.

“They should have known,” he said. “They should have known.”

That’s pretty sick. Seriously, kids these days….