Friday, October 31, 2008


What a crazy week!
Victory for the Phillies!
Twenty eight years wait!


Parade today - no
one's at work. Party started
Wed and continues!


Haven't stopped screaming,
seeing the boys up close and
cheering with the fans!

Oh, and Happy Halloween, too! Pics to follow....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Two Cents

With the election fast approaching, I am more and more shocked at what political campaigns will do and how much they will lie in order to try to win (ever seen Election?). The McCain campaign continues to awe me in the sheer stupidity of all the things they do. The latest thing is our dear friend Sarah Palin, the (good god, does she know ANYTHING?) VP candidate for the Republican party. She was recently talking about "earmarks" which politicians tack on to bills to get their special interests taken care of. She happened to screech over into my territory (research) and she really made a misstep. She claimed that earmarks had been going to "Fruit Fly Research in Paris, France". She then said, "I kid you not, this is where money is going and it's not benefiting all Americans".
Here you go, Sarah, straight from my heart.

As scientists, we're a plucky group. We're unable to do research on human beings (that whole unethical thing) so we tend to use "model systems". These are well studied, generally genetically similar or identical animal models which we can use to model disease states, try to figure out how stuff works, etc. One of the model systems we use is the "fruit fly", otherwise known as Drosophila, and it was originally used in breeding experiments. Work on Drosophila by Thomas Hunt Morgan led to some major advancements in modern genetics as well as its use in modern labs today. Drosophila is a little powerhouse. They are really amazing creatures and we can study everything from early development to cell movement, biochemistry, adult behavior, stem cell maintenance and self renewal, aging, life extension, diabetes, alzheimers, as well as a plethora of other things. And do you wanna know a secret. Lean in close, because it's a doozy! Lots of the things the Drosophila have, you have too! Drosophila have many, many genes that are conserved right up to human. And you know what else is amazing? These gene products behave similarly too! Can you believe it? So, essentially, we can study processes that occur in a whole organism, generate many, many, many of these organisms, and try to make predictions on how things will behave in humans. We can then translate our findings in Drosophila and try them out in, say, mice. They're vertebrates, mammalian, so a little closer to what humans might be like. Because of evolution, so many things, including which genes you have and how they function are conserved from a tiny little fruit fly to human beings! Isn't that amazing? But, of course, I can't expect the VP candidate to understand this. I can't expect her to condone things that might further support evolution, can I? The funny thing is that she was talking about trying to get money for kids with disabilities and kids with special needs. She didn't even realize that perhaps some of the "Fruit fly research" could eventually lead to some treatments for diseases that kids with special needs have! Her son has Down's syndrome, which is caused by trisomy 21, meaning individuals with this have three copies of chromosome 21 (instead of 2 - usually have two from their mother and one from their father) - a genetic disease which is being studied in these "model systems" which the government's money supports.
The government supports medical based research through the National Institutes of Health, a part of the federal gov't supported with taxpayer money. If we did not support research, how would we come up with the causes and treatments for diseases or try to understand how stem cell work for therapeutic work? How would we study the causes of breast cancer (or any cancer for that matter) which involves genome instability, errant development, and (possibly) cells adopting a "stem cell-like" fate? Sadly, all of us will, at one point, be touched very closely by disease. For me, my Uncle Dennis died at a very young age from prostate cancer. This research is necessary, it is vital to the health of our country and our world. It is not something to make fun of, just because you don't understand the value of research done on model organism. I like Obama's approach best - let the scientists figure it out and base policies on their findings. Smart man.

Let's talk about "Clean Coal"

Random Snippets

  • Yes, it's still raining. And the wind chill is below freezing. It's snowing already in the Poke-her-nose. Yuck!
  • Whenever I think of the word "blustery", I think of Winnie the Pooh. And then it makes me think of my favorite poem by A. A. Milne (words to live by, fer shure):
"Now we are Six"

When I was one,
I had just begun,
When I was two,
I was nearly new,
When I was three,
I was hardly me,
When I was four,
I was not much more,
When I was five,
I was barely alive,
Now that I'm six,
I'm as clever as clever,
I think I'll stay six now
forever and ever.

  • The more I hear about Sarah Palin, the more I just despise her. She misspeaks so much it drives me mad. Maybe I'll blog about that more sometime.
  • Wish I could just curl up with a good book today instead of working. But I do get to try out my new snow boots (which are quite snuggy, thank you very much!
  • Cod reminded me of something that happened to me a while ago. I was getting ready to leave for Philly to start my PhD. I ran into our old English teacher from high school while I was at the mall with Randi. Instead of asking how we were and what we were up to, she promptly laid into me for a paper I never turned in (which, by the was was due AFTER graduation! - who turns in a paper after grad? I had already gotten into UCSB and was headed there in the fall - why bother?). Anyways, I managed to tell her I was starting my PhD at Penn in a couple weeks. The look on her face was priceless :)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Phillies Phever

If you haven't heard, the Philadelphia Phillies are in the World Series. I've been hesitant to write about this since Randi is such a big Dodgers fan and the Phillies beat the Dodgers, but it's a subject I've just got to talk about. The Phillies are beating the Tampa Bay Rays 3 games to 1 and tonight could be the last game of the Series if the Phils win. Since the Phillies have been in the playoffs, this city has been insane. Everywhere you turn, people are wearing Phillies shirts, hats, shoes, sweatshirts, jerseys, etc. The entire city has turned red, including all the buildings downtown (which are normally pink this time of year for breast cancer awareness). Everyone's talking about it, everyone's house is displaying Phillies signs and gear. Kids have hung up "Go Phillies!" signs in their front windows (see, we don't have front yards here, just sidewalks, so you can see them everywhere). Of course, the Phillies signs are next to the "Got Hope? Obama for President" signs as well. This city is just crazy about their sports teams. And I gotta admit, I can't think of another city more desrving of a World Series win. This city exists on the eastern seaboard between NYC and Washington DC and as long as I have lived here has had an inferiority complex. We've got crime stats that will blow your mind, high unemployment, a disproportionate number of poor people, failing schools, failing infrastructure, a blue collar / union class that's seeing their jobs shipped overseas or out of the state, low retention rate of students and professionals who come here for education, corrupt government, and many, many other problems that are highlighted with some frequency on the national news. We do have wonderful things like arts and sciences and performances (which, if you've read my blog before, are generally pretty good) plus lots of history and great areas to walk, bike, hike, etc. It's a good city with a heart of gold and a pulse that beats with every game of the Phils, the Eagles, the Flyers or the Sixers. People here aren't just "sports fans". They're SPORTS FANS. Everyone knows stats, who played for whom during what season, where the old and the new stadiums were, when the last championships were and what McNabb ate for lunch yesterday. This city breathes sports, pulsates sports and watches sports fanatically. Every sport. All the time. We're notorious for boo-ing Santa Claus, for boo-ing our own teams when they're doing poorly, because we know they're so much better than that. (Hell, we scream "Eva" every time Evan Longoria comes up to bat - I think we've really got in his head lately!) And we come back every year, hoping, wishing, bearing talismans and charms, buying beers and rooting for the home team. That's the kind of city we are. This love crosses lines, crosses neighborhoods, barriers, rich and poor, black or white - it's all over the city. So, I think Philly deserves a little bit of good news, a little bit of good press, and a whole lotta love. This team has gone from our hometown favorite to the national news and we couldn't be prouder. And you can bet that rain delay, wind, cold weather - nothing- will stop the millions of fans in the area from being glued to the game tonight. Go Phils!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Parsons Dance Co.

Over the summer, Alex and I visited his Aunt and Uncle in western MA. We hade the chance to attend a performance by the Ballet Boyz at the historic Jacob's Pillow, a dance retreat where gifted individuals come to retreat and learn dance by a myriad of artists who visit the Pillow over the summer. The artists perform at the festival, a wonderful small theatre that looks like a barn on the inside and seats a very small number of people. Alex's Aunt and Uncle are members, and his Aunt described her experience over the years at the Pillow as enriching and feeding her soul. She was right, the performances (as well as the atmosphere) was amazing. Kind of like summer camp because of the setting in the Berkshires, but then also serious, because of the many many professional and talented dancers and performers walking around. It was a wonderful experience - one I'd like to repeat! So, occasionally, Alex and I try to take advantage of the discounts and free stuff associated with being a student here at Penn. A few weeks ago, I saw a promotion for $5 tickets for the Dance Celebration happening at the Annenberg Center here on campus. We rushed to the box office and bought a series of tickets for upcoming dance performaces ($5!! can you believe it??). Our first one was last night, the Parsons Dance Co. The performance was amazingly beautiful, with simple costumes that showed off the dancer's movements and the amazing abilities they have. The music was uplifting and energy-filled and the dancing was breathtaking. I wish I could move that way! I have no idea what it is about dance that really inspires me and lifts my soul. I love everything about it, the athletic ability, the amazing flexibility, the feats of movement, the gymnastics, even the running about on stage, puts a stupid grin across my face every time! They are best known for the performance of "Caught", a dance somewhat highlighted in the Youtube post below this one. The house lights go to completely dark, and the only thing you see is a dancer in the spotlight on the stage. When she begins to move around, the spotlight goes out and a strobe light comes on. At each strobe, she was in a different position on the stage, usually jumping in the air, making it look like she was literally flying around the stage - it was amazing! All of the performances were interesting and provocative. I loved every minute of it and did not want it to end! While I am no dance expert (and perhaps this is only one of the first dance shows I have been to) this company was wonderful. Their mission as a company is to "deliver positive, affirming and life-enriching experiences to audiences worldwide, through the medium of dance/movement". Well, they certainly accomplished that for this viewer! If they are coming to your area, or if you are in NYC, stop by to see them. I promise you won't be disappointed!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

When did it get to be OCTOBER?

Seriously, where has the time gone? I have no idea when and how it got to be October. All of a sudden I'm thinking about buying tickets home (which, BTW are ATROCIOUSLY priced) for the holidays and all the shit I should buy for people. And realistically? I'd just like to stay here. I have been to CA a total of 3 times this year and I feel it's a bit much. I'd much rather stay here and get to kinda relax and hang out at my house than travel all the way across the country in the craptastic holiday season. Jaded, much? Perhaps I just traveled too much this year. The weather is slowly starting to change around here and the leaves on the trees are almost at peak color right now. The weather has been gloriously warm and inviting, but will soon change to a high of 55 this weekend. I like fall and all, but, man, do I hate winter. Apparently, this has turned into a bitching blog all of a sudden. (Ha! like I don't bitch, like, every day!). Oh well, so here's some bullets about stuff I'm thinking about...

  • one of my friends works at an architecture firm here in Philly. He just had to lay off 2 workers because of the downturn in the economy. Scary, eh?
  • My labmate is gone to Europe for two more glorious days. I love it! I can listen to whatever crackheaded music I want!
  • More and more, I wish I had a car to get out of the city and check out the surroundings. I think I'm missing out on a lot of stuff by not being able to leave the city. But then parking's a bitch and I can't afford it...blech.
  • Jeez, my birthday's coming up! Can't believe I'm gonna be a year older! And wiser, too, right?
All right, that's all I got (not much). Have a lover-ly day!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a symposium on evolution. Penn is putting together a year -long celebration of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, and this symposium was part of that celebration. I was able to hear talks by incredibly famous scientists from all over the country on topics such as the Big Bang, Darwin's finches on the Galapagos Islands and baboon behavior in the wild. It was a really great day. The last talk, however, was the one that really got me thinking. It was given by Judge John E. Jones III who is the Federal Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. He ruled in a landmark case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in late 2005 on the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) in public classrooms. He found that ID is thinly veiled New Earth Creationism and that teaching that alongside the well tested and widely accepted scientific theory of evolution would be violating the First Amendment of the Constitution. Judge Jones gave a really intriguing and thought-provoking speech that got me thinking about our society as a whole and what on earth we're trying to do with it. His speech mainly focused on education, both in civics and science, and that we are really doing a disservice to our children by not emphasizing these subjects in schools. He noted that only 15% of people polled could name on judge on the Supreme Court, but most could readily name the judges on American Idol. I find this really sad and completely unacceptable. And I just wonder if I'm in the minority, having a natural curiousity for the world around me and what's going on in it? When I didn't understand how the Electoral College works, I looked it up. When the Judge talked about the "Establishment Clause" and I wasn't sure what that was about, I looked it up. I have so much curiousity about the elections coming up, I can't stop myself reading the NYTimes every day (especially the Opinion section, I eat that UP!). I listen to NPR most afternoons and sometimes in the mornings. I realize that perhaps I am somewhat of an extremist, and there are sometimes when the election and the rhetoric and the slinging of lies gets to me and I just have to shut it down. But, I must admit, I am fascinated by how our government works. And I'm so unbelievably thankful for some of the rights that the Constitution is afforded me. The right to vote? Thank you very much! Separation of church and state? Thank you very much! Freedom of the press? Yes, please. Abolish Slavery? Yeah, that's a good idea. When Sarah Palin could not name one Supreme Court decision other than Roe v. Wade - that really gets to me! I think that our elected officials should be experts at government. I think they should know the Constitution and the rights afforded us in this way. For a governor of a state to not know this stuff is ridiculous. But I think what irks me the most is that people in the US want to shove their values on me. They want my kids to learn their fucked up religion based idea of how the world came about, they want my friends to not be able to marry each other, they want women to be unable to choose what they do with their bodies....and on and on and on. I'm all for beliefs, religion, what ever you like. Have at it. Wear a burka, for all I care. But don't try to pass off your fucked up religious "values" as law. And just so my little history lesson doesn't stop a reminder, the preamble to the constitution states:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

If you don't know what your rights are, then you are going to lose them. Vote No on Prop 8. Oh, and for good measure, vote Yes on Prop 2. Animals need protection, too.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wild Week Haiku Friday

Gotta admit that
game was good. Both teams should be
very proud. So glad.


Stress at home. Moue the
dictator has a sicky face.
At the vet all day.


Trying to salvage
what's left of the week. Gotta
get some stuff done, dude!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Book Review Thursday

I just had the pleasure of completing a book recommended several months ago by Cod. She recommended Personal History by Katherine Graham, an autobiography written by the Washington Post publisher near the end of her life. I checked this book out of the library right before my trip to Germany. At over 600 pages, I figured I couldn't go wrong by taking it with me for the long flight. The truth is that I've been reading it ever since (shows you how much time I have to read for pleasure, eh?). This book was really phenomenal and something that, towards the end, I just could not put down. As one of the first women in business during the 60s (not really by choice, either), Kay Graham made a way for herself and her family to still own and manage the Washington Post Company and all that it entails. She is very modest and honest in her book, even though she was able to essentially break that glass ceiling that women were unable to do back then (oh, yeah, and she knew all the presidents personally!). She was involved in Watergate, publishing of the Pentagon Papers as well as a pressmen's strike that led to some very interesting stories about a business I am not very familiar with. It was a touching and lovely story of a life well lived and a very interesting read, especially for women trying to crack that glass ceiling or trying to move up in a man's world. I second Cod's recommendation!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Favorite Quote

from tonight's debate?
"The Straight Talk Express lost a wheel on that one..." when referring to McCain's description of Obama's economic plans.

Politics as usual Tuesday

Dudes, I don't even know where to start today. It seems like overnight all the problems of the world are coming to a head and nobody seems to know what's going on or where to go. The economy is in a shambles and more and more people keep thinking that this will not only be a recession (which I have lived through), but a depression (which I have not lived through, but I've heard enough about that I don't want to!). The global nature of our economy had led to the tanking of banks around the globe, especially in Europe, where they have a centralized monetary system, but not yet a centralized banking system, leading to questions of where money will come from to back up failing banks and investments. This situation calls for obvious leadership, small goals, baby steps, if you will, at getting our economy to recover. I have not yet found a satisfying answer as to what the bailout plan is and why it's needed (they tell me I need it, but nobody can explain it!) and even WITH the bailout plan, Wall St is still tanking and more and more people are claiming that there will be more bank failures and more investment funds failures. I really thought that Bear Stearns failure was the culmination of laziness, lax investments, poor choices and then the running up of the rumor mill, but it's become obvious that it was merely the tip of the iceberg. And what about "Joe Sixpack"? What about the rest of us who make middle class incomes who live on "Main St" and who are taking a hit every which way for things we have no control over? What about the rest of us, who have been resposible with our money, who carry student loans, but not home loans? Who can barely afford food and clothes for the upcoming winter? What about our parents who are retired and on a fixed income?What about my cousin who's a new mother and a teacher who's now considering taking a SECOND job because her and her husband can't afford the basic needs for their kid? I know that a lot of us have parents or siblings or friends who might be able to help us out in a rough patch when we need a hand. I know that I am far better off than a lot of other Americans. But I am really hoping the polls are right going into this election. We can't have more of the same. We can't have more republican failed economic policies!
PS: Yes, we can.
PPS: if you want to watch an interesting documentary on the types of failed economic policies John McCain supports and would presumably enact during his presidency, go here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

At loggerheads

Dude, now what am I supposed to do? My two favorite teams are playing each other FOR THE CHANCE TO GO TO THE WORLD SERIES? I can't choose. And I can't get involved in why one or another should win. Because I want them both to win. I grew up with the Dodgers, loving the games, memorizing the players, listening to Doug scream and yell. It's great. But I love this city and I love what good sports does for this city - I love the positive attention, the good press, the coming together of all parts, all sides of the city that are normally at odds. I love that it's the top story on the news, that the ball players are all over the news, promoting their causes and going to the local schools and hospitals. I think I love it because I am witnessing it firsthand, and while I grew up close to LA, I was never in the neighborhood of the stadium. I've been to Phillies games this year, whereas my last Dodgers game was last year (when they played the Phils!). Oh, in conflict, I have no idea where to go with this. I suppose the upside is that one of my favorite teams will go to the World Series. That's gotta mean something. (And I have to say, it's still a little weird to see Manny and Nomar and Joe Torre in Dodgers uniforms!)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Haiku What a Mess Friday

Seriously could
not get through it without booze.
Paying the price now.


Economy in
a rut and getting deeper
Wars, aid, policies.


Never have I watched
so intently the polls
and the election.

Man, I hope Obama wins....

Just a Reminder...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Busy Week

Man, you guys! Has this week been crazy. Let's review.
  • how about that debate, eh? I thought Obama did well, but McCain can be such a pain sometimes. We think he's coming down with dementia because he keeps saying the same things over and over again.
  • Dear people who drive, Hi, I;m a pedestrian. We walk on these things called "sidewalks" which are generally exclusively for pedestrians. You should look for us when you drive through them. Thanks.....
  • Seen those interviews with Sarah Palin? Scary, eh? I can't believe she can't name any other Supreme Court decisions other than Roe v. Wade. I also can't believe she has no idea what the Bush Doctrine is.
  • Dear Sarah Palin, golly gee, gosh darn it, I am AN INTELLIGENT WOMAN WHO IS LOOKING FOR SOMEONE WHO IS INTELLIGENT TO LEAD THE COUNTRY. Not you. You know what, you don't have to talk down to me, or wink at me, or act all cutesy at me during your debate. You can actually just tell me how you feel about the issues you are concerned with. You don't have to use your sex as a tool to get people to listen to you.
  • Ummm...hello? Both the Phillies and the Dodgers in the playoffs? OMG...I am in heaven! Unless they play each other....oh, that's gonna be a tough one....
  • I kid you not, I went to a seminar today. The boss introduced his student as having recently practiced "reproductive biology" because she just had a kid in July. Are you kidding me? Can you say "sexism" in front of 50 people? When is this OK? NEVER.
  • This is the first time in my 30 years of being alive that I am actually considering living outside of the US. Really, is it that bad? Yes, it is. Funding for professors is the lowest it's been in years. The gov't no longer wants to fund basic science research and if McCain is elected then this trend will continue. And no jobs will be found for me and my boyfriend leading me to leave the country. Nice, right?
  • BTW, in case you are wondering, DRILLING OFFSHORE WILL RUIN OUR ECOLOGY AND OUR COASTLINE. Just in case you were wondering.
  • Sorry this post is so schitzo, but I've been drinking in order to deal with the whole debate and the election coming up. Anxiety much? Yes, absolutely.