Saturday, February 27, 2010

Falling Short

In the plant world, is it survival of the fittest, of survival of those whose life/death best serves the purposes of other organisms?  Think of nightshades versus apples.  Nightshades may be excellent at fending off predators, but there's a whole lot of apples, and variants of apples, in the world.

In the human world, how can evolution explain why we put designs on our gloves?  Does it enhance our survival?  Gloves are just as warm when they don't have a design.  Does it increase our chance of mating?  The girl who owns them is already married.  Is it just possible that we put designs on gloves because we like designs on gloves?  Because we like beauty?

Friday, February 26, 2010


I had a funny realization yesterday.  The Biblical spelling of "Barak" is hard-wired into my head.  I thought that was pretty cool!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Funnies

It's much better to get "the funnies" than "the willies."  If you get the willies, everything is scary.  If you get the funnies, everything is funny.  Today, some of the funny things that happened included a guy from lab decking out a newly-installed weirdo shelf as if it was an ironing board, and three of us talking over lunch about the food we've been eating for lunch for several days straight.  One guy's been eating pizza the last couple days, and another girl's been eating burittos the last couple days.  Hey -- this week was a good one for me: I was eating bringing something other than a can of refried beans and a bag of tortillas to work!  Happy days!


Smiley grew a nose:  : >)

Doubts Float

A gal I know put "Doubts why must you resurface" as her status message. It just made me realize that doubt floats. (Which makes me wonder: do dopes float?)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ask 'em

It's extremely important to ask questions.  Ask enough questions, and you'll get to the point where people haven't been indoctrinated with the "correct" answer, and have to dig deeply into their worldview to find the answer.  They may or may not like what they find.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Open-Hood Surgery

My car came through its open-hood surgery just fine. Condition: stable. Fortunately it wasn't on the battery transplant wait-list long.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

All of us

We are, all of us, institutionalized

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard

Just had a good memory about the Three Stooges. :)

Hail to the Chief

Amazing, isn't it?
A friend recently invited me to join a Facebook group called "I Deserve Better."  A link from this page shows that what you don't know can hurt you.  Upper administrators (including Renee Romano, vice chancellor for student affairs, and Richard Herman, former chancellor) here at the University of Illinois did their best to block the registered student organization Students for Chief Illiniwek (SFCI) from sponsoring a "Next Dance" event featuring the former UIUC mascot.  (You can read the details here). 

I know that the Chief himself has been a divisive issue on campus, but for a minute, think about the generalities of this case, and not its specifics.  While projecting the image of an "inclusive" campus, administrators clearly showed that they do not value freedom of speech when they disagree with the message.  And that, my friends, is a sad state of affairs. 

You may or may not care beans about the mascot issue.  But let me ask you this: have you seen the banners proclaiming "Student Affairs is Everywhere You Are?"  Yeah, well, if that is true, and you have a message that student affairs doesn't particularly want broadcasted, you may face the type of censorship that was narrowly avoided in this case.

I, for one, have seen how administrator bias affects run-of-the mill operations.  A friend and I work are starting a student group, and though we have provided a lower-level administrator with our group information multiple times, they fail to post them on the website provided to advertise this group to other students in our field.  Meanwhile, they personally send out information from a student group diametrically opposed to our student group.

Kudos to those who filed a freedom-of-information act in the Chief case to see exactly what was going on behind the scenes.

Chancellor's Colloquium on Evolution: Illuminating the Microbial World

Which Chancellor?  Oh yeah -- the disgraced chancellor!  I guess even disgrace has lost its meaning.  They haven't even bothered to change the name of this lecture series.

Subject: [Everyone] Chancellor's Colloquium on Evolution: Illuminating the Microbial World ...

The first in this semester's series of the Chancellor's Colloquium on Evolution takes place tomorrow, Wed Feb 17 2010 in 1320 DCL at 4pm.  This talk, by Professor Ed DeLong from MIT, describes the exciting perspective on evolution that has arisen from genomic studies of the microbial world.  I look forward to seeing you there.

Past talks in the series may be viewed at the Colloquium's website:

Place: 1320 DCL
Time: 4pm
Date: Wed Feb 17, 2010

Illuminating the microbial world: the key to understanding the evolution and ecology of the living Earth system

Ed DeLong (MIT)

Despite the central importance of the microbial world to the biosphere, its complexity and evolution remain shrouded in mystery.  However, with major advances in genome technology and theoretical  modeling, our understanding and appreciation of the biosphere is undergoing an exciting revolution.  This lecture will give a
broadly accessible overview of these developments.  In particular, I will describe how genetic inventories of whole communities, single-cell genomics and mathematical modeling of the simultaneous interplay between all levels of biological organization --- from genomes to ecosystems --- are beginning to provide a clear picture of the microbial collectives that maintain global cycles of energy and material. Together these new advances, experimental and theoretical, paint a compelling picture of the emergent properties of microbial communities that dominate the evolutionary and ecological processes of our living planet Earth.

About the speaker

Dr. DeLong received his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and completed postdoctoral training at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he did some of the first molecular studies of marine picoplankton. Dr. DeLong developed the first of the rRNA-based fluorescent hybridization probes, "phylogenetic stains," which identify by microscopy single cells phylogenetically. His work opened a new window for the identification and characterization of bacteria in nature.  Dr. DeLong subsequently worked on the use of 16s RNA gene cloning and sequencing as a way of analyzing complex microbial communities in nature. He discovered marine archaea, planktonic and symbiotic. This work completely changed our image of the role of archaea in the biosphere. Using culture-independent molecular techniques, Dr. DeLong showed that archaea are very widespread and abundant in the world oceans. Another significant contribution has been Dr. DeLong's identification of anaerobic methane oxidizing bacteria. This work is showing that individual groups of microbes are metabolically versatile but in teams they can do almost anything that is thermodynamically possible.

Robert Boyle, Christian Chemist

Check out a short or long bio of Christian chemist Robert Boyle.  Sure, he invented Boyle's Law.  But he also began what would later be known as the Royal Society of London, and advanced the cause of atoms everywhere with his book The Sceptical Chymist.  His writings show that he resolutely believed in Christ, and even endowed a series of Boyle Lectures to fund apologetics after his death.  He sponsored the translation of the Bible into languages including Gaelic and several American Indian tongues.  In his book The Christian Virtuoso he put forward his view that Genesis 1:28 is God's command to us to study and subdue nature.  Of Christianity he wrote, "The Christian Religion brings mankind diverse positive Benefits, such as are, more cleare and extensive knowledg of God, and divine things; the Remission of Sins; the Favour of God; severall graces and vertues suitable to mens respective needs and conditions; and above all, a happy Immortality in the Life to come. (Boyle Papers [BP] 5:73-4; BOA §3.7.4, p 301; referenced online here.)"  Bob Boyle: great Christian, great chemist.

Friday, February 12, 2010

G.K. Cheese

"Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese." --G. K.Chesterton

Monday, February 08, 2010


Charm is like a glued-on cactus flower.

Why Does Lincoln Infuriate So Many?

Lincoln.  What was he?  A consumate statesman, or a posturing hypocrite?  Here's some thoughts from Dinesh D'Souza.  If anything, this article shows me that there is much, much more to understand about this man.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Wrong Man

I just watched Hitchcock's The Wrong Man. Boy, is it good! I browsed the reviews on, and was amazed to see that no one mentioned the strong faith of the main character. If you want to see an excellent movie that shows a stalwart Christian, watch this movie. Great stuff.

Connective Tissue

Growing up, one of my brother's and my favorite movies was The Phantom Tollbooth. The hero of the story, a little boy named Milo, receives a surprise delivery -- a package. The thing's huge and labeled "One Genuine Turnpike Tollbooth..." and has directions: "Easily assembled at home, and for use by those who have never traveled to lands beyond..." Putting the thing together, and driving his little electric car through the portal, Milo stumbles upon a singularly well-labeled world. Sometimes his inability to read or comprehend the labels is where his adventures came in.

Reading the book of Proverbs, I'd never taken the time to notice the labels. And these labels weren't even meant to confuse!
"The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion of the young -- let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance -- for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise."

Boy! How many times have I prayed, asking for wisdom, and expecting a "bing" moment when I'd magically be wise! And all this time, these verses have been here, waiting for me to read them, and understand them. Whoo-wee!!!

Chapter 4 has some incredible links to other passages that I've been looking at or hearing about!

"I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths." (Proverbs 4:11)
"While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me." (John 17:12a)

"When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble." (Proverbs 4:12)
"I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free." (Psalm 119:32)

"Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm." (Proverbs 4:26)
"'Make levels paths for your feet,' so the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed." (Hebrews 12:13)

Consistency? Oh yeah, baby. This is one package that needs to be opened!

Notes on my desk

These are the stickie notes that have been tattooing my desk:

option 1: make stupid options impossible
option 2: learn to recognize and choose wise options (12/9/09)

cast spells, not gels

"What have you been doing? Get it, get it better, or get it worse. No middle ground of compromise." -- Thomas Eakins to Henry Ossawa Tanner.

"...[L]ike a tree planted by the waters..."

*is the day of salvation

turn your worries into experiments (1/15/10)

should --> am --> have
changed mind

(don't let the "shoulds" build up)

vigilant patience

"Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it." -- Rene Descartes

"It is a shameful thing to be weary of inquiry when what we search for is excellent." -- Cicero (as quoted on the ISI website, 5/13/09)

the blessed now

"My soul finds rest in God alone... He alone is my rock, and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will never be shaken." (Psalm 62:1-2)

"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." -- Ben Franklin

good is stronger than evil (4/15/09)

the basic idea: use what's known to predict, then test, characteristics of a system/process/molecule (3/28/09)

"What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lost his own soul?" -- God
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." -- Jim Eliot

French mice no eat Velveeta

"Aim at nothing and you are sure to hit it." -- Michael Jordan

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)

"Seek and ye shall find; knock and the door shall be opened."

pico = 10^-12
femto = 10^-15
atto = 10^-18
zepto = 10^-21
yocto = 10^-24

Research activities:
* conducting experiments
* organizing or analyzing data
* presenting findings in a publication or dissertation
* collaborating with faculty: preparing publications
* overseeing the work of other research assistants
* other research activities

interferent* or interferant
fluorimeter or fluorometer*
(* = Skoog)

NO3^2- most are soluble (nitrate)
Li+, Na+, K+, Cs+, Rb+, NH4+ most are soluble (alkali metal ions and ammonia)
Cl-, Br-, I- most are soluble (exceptions: salts with Ag+, Pb2+, Hg2^2+)
SO4^2- most are soluble (exceptions: salts with Ba2+, Pb2+, Hg2^2+, Ca2+)

OH- are only slightly soluble (exceptions: NaOH & KOH are soluble; Ba(OH)2, Sr(OH)2, Ca(OH)2 are marginally soluble)
S2-, CO3^2-, CrO4^2-, PO4^3- most are only slightly soluble
(Zumdahl, Chemistry, (2000), p. 150).

* Give estimate of # of rounds and stick to SMART goals
* Read at home and write down what experiments to do
* Work here
* Prioritizing is key
(work on other stuff only during down time during selection)
* First thing every day: Fe3+ selection
* Be at the bench all the time
* Make decisions quickly
* If have questions, ask Dr. Lu directly
* Begin the Fe2+ selection, too
* Need results for the grant: I'm the only one on it

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy." -- Psalm 126:5

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

I believe

I believe in bullets: in powerpoint, and in free men's firearms.

Dust Gorillas

"At home you have dust bunnies.  Here you have dust gorillas."  -- Janitorial staff

Monday, February 01, 2010


...the vents... they bring us evidence... of an outside world...! [Found scrawled inside a fume hood.  jk]


If memory serves, it always spills the beans.