tanarill: (Science!)
Okay there's another one! I didn't know about it until today but I am attending the interesting presentations. They include: beta-barrel folding and insertion into the membrane, (restriction of) water as a means to do even more cool things, nanogels, and self-assembly of viral capsids.

Also, I went to the Chabad port-a-Sukkah for lunch today, both to eat and to finally perform the shaking of the lulav. Mission accomplished.

So Monday was originally the day I planned to be with the Boy, but that plan got nixed because my parents decided, without telling me, that we were going to spend Monday cleaning the house in our old neighborhood. Because bad renters not performing maintenance, and we'd like it to be rentable. Also some of our furniture, which did not fit in California, will fit in Erie. So we put them in a Uhaul to go to Erie.

There was black mold in the basement, and then guys roto-rooting the storm pipe. There was dust. There was humidity. There were lights out all over the place. It was not a fun day.

Also, I ordered a cake.

Aunt E, with whom I was staying, made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and Uncle S and Aunt L showed up for desert and conversation! It was a pretty good end to an uncomfortably gross day.


Sep. 21st, 2013 08:08 pm
tanarill: (Science!)
In the original Greek, a symposium was rather like a Roman orgy - that is, you and some of your friends got together to eat a nice meal and drink some drinks and debate philosophy; in modern times, it would be called a "dinner party." But in Science!, symposiums means "when a bunch of scientists get together and tell each other about the cool things that they are doing." At my school, we have one each year, just before school starts, to welcome the incoming grad students. It was yesterday.

I will not bore you with the details, but here are some highlights:
1. Using embryonic stem cells to grow retinal cells, which are then implanted into the eyes of people suffering age-related macular degeneration. If it is done early enough, there is no degeneration.
2. Molecular motors that pump DNA into viral capsids. These are not the most efficient motors we have found, but they are among the strongest, exerting forces of of up to 70 pN. (For comparison, the motors that drive muscle cells can exert between 3 and 5 pN.) Also, they make things spin.
3. A 10-minute drug test that will enable police with the device to determine if someone has been doing meth (and in the future, other narcotics) from 20 uL of saliva. There are 1000 uL in each milliliter, so we are talking less than the volume of saliva that is in your mouth right now. Least invasive, fastest test.
4. A growing mass of cells is under both tension (at the edges) and compression (in the middle). When the forces balance, the cell mass stops growing. Unless it's cancer.

Today, for no good reason that I can tell, half the power in this house is out. I mean, half the circuits are not working, but which ones are not working seems kind of random and arbitrary. I can't find the fuse box, so I will have to wait until the landlady returns.

[flashbacky effects]
Sunday! The wedding! Yaakov and Caryn got married! I do not have much to say, aside from the fact that Yaakov was crying with joy as he walked to the Khuppa*. They are pretty much for each other, and everyone has known this forever. He did not propose until he finished his degree, which is a good and responsible thing to do.

The MC was Orthodox but not crazily so, as evidenced by his first statement, to whit: "Mawwige. Mawwige is what bwings us togevow today." The whole wedding was like that, which various people reading the Seven Blessings, and the drinking of the wine, and the smashing of the glass, and the (not-necessary in a functional sense) exchange of rings, and toasting.

Then we partied, and partied, and did the terrifying chair dance, and partied, and ate some food, and partied. It was pretty great.

Yes, the wedding is why I went to Michigan during Hell Month. But if your close good friend, your best-friend while you were in middle school, gets married . . . you go to the wedding :)
[flashbacky wavy effects]

*Marriage tent. Think altar, though, if you are Christian, functionally it works the same way.
tanarill: (Default)
Although, in my defense, the great and holy festival of Sukkot, blessed be it, has begun.

Sukkot it one of those week-long holidays that were, in the days before atomic clocks and instantaneous communication, lengthened to eight days. The reason was that the official calendar-keepers in the capitol would send out runners to announce the holiday, which works in a tiny country like Israel. Once you have a Diaspora going, you might not get your runner until the second day of the holiday, so you'd do the whole thing a day off unless you were given an extra day of leeway. Of course a two-year-old can spot the flaw in this plan, to whit: people are not stupid, and can keep calendars and just start the holiday on their own on the correct day. Nevertheless, in modern times the seven-day holidays are eight days long.

I went to Chabad, and also drove J. I do not like J much, because he is wrong on practically every issue is there is, but he has no other way to get to Chabad. In order to not argue, we have agreed that he is only allowed to talk about whatever book he has been reading lately while in my car. This works, if only because we have the same taste in sci-fi/fantasy novels.

Baby Israel (pronounced: Yees-raw-el) is officially a toddler now. He has figured out this walking thing and is toddling around on his own two legs.

[flashback wavy screen effects]

The Saturday next, which was August 10, my family and I went to the Aufruf (pronounced: oof-roof). We Jews have broken up the Torah in such a way that if you read a bit of it every week for a year, you get to the end and then rewind the whole thing and start again. Obviously this plan only works if you read the designated portion each week, and in general, that is what happens at Jewish services. There are certain blessings said in regards to reading the Torah, and then other optional blessings: the blessing for a woman who has just given birth, the blessing for a sick person, and of course, the blessing for people who are about to get married. This last is said only rarely, because, well, people do not get married that much. So the Aufruf refers to reading the Torah and then saying the blessing for people who are about to get married. And then throwing candy at the couple.

(There was this one kid, who was maybe four, and could not throw the candy. He waited until Yaakov was conveniently sitting down hold the Torah, which is a good thirty pounds worth of scroll, before walking up to him and beaning him in the head with a candy. It was cute.)

As an unexpected bonus, it turns out that my cousin A and his wife J go to that particular Shul, so we were able to see/talk to them at the bruncheon. It was nice.

Then I walked over to the house of the Boy, and spent basically all day there, or at least until after sunset at 9:30, when we went out for ice-cream at this place that makes delicious ice cream.

[flashback wavy screen effects

I will continue to report things that happened, and things that are happening.
tanarill: (Default)
I'm going to try marathon posting, posting every single day. If you see me and I have not posted yet that day, poke me to do so.

H'okay, so, we're doing this in chronological order until we catch up, but only once I have remarked upon the fact that Saturday was Yom Kippur, and this Wednesday night is the beginning of Sukkot*.

Also, I must first wish my brother JJ a very happy birthday, because it is his birthday and this year is the very special birthday which means he can legally buy alcohol and consume it in public places. Happy birthday, JJ!

So, after my aunt took me out for sushi, and we had a great time, it was time to fly to MI. I got up at ungodly early o'clock to be at the bus place at 8:00 so they could drive us to LAX for flyings. Due to traffic patterns, we did not take the 101 to I-405 and I-405 into the city. Instead, we drove south along the coast, through Malibu. Teeny tiny little million dollar closet-houses. (And Tony Stark's mansion, except it doesn't actually exist.) We got the airport ~11:30, and I got through security quickly before sitting down for an hour and a half waiting for my flight. Which was late, and got out of LAX late, but which got to Detroit half an hour early. Then Rags picked me up and we went over to my great-aunt's house, where I promptly fell into bed and went to sleep.

Basically, the whole day was travelling.

Okay, that's all for today.

*Jewish Thanksgiving.
tanarill: (Jewish)
I was just at the hair-cutting ceremony of the local rabbi's second-youngest son. (The youngest hasn't figured out walking yet, although he is pretty solid on crawling.) I had never been to one of these before, and it was, to my not-entirely-religious eye, bizarre. But I shall record the logic behind it for purposes of cross-cultural talking.

Weird Jewish Thing )
tanarill: (Default)
This one is mostly because I KEEP LOSING THIS RECIPE. So I am putting it online where I know I can find it whenever I need to.

No Insects Were Involved in the Making of This Cheesecake )

And it is cheesecake holiday today. Fantastic!
tanarill: (Jewish)
Today is the forty-seventh day of the Omer, which is six weeks and five days into the Omer. And two days until Cheesecake Holiday. Also, JJ came up this weekend. Since he doesn't have an electric blender-mixer, we made some cheesecake bars for him to take back and eat on the appropriate days.

Cheesecake )
tanarill: (Science!)
Also, I kind of fell down on my official Omer-counting duties, so I will get those out of the way first. Today is the thirty-eighth day of the Omer which is five weeks and three days into the Omer.

The thing is, I am really not a hypochondriac. I don't got looking up things for 'light fever, mild headache, scratchy throat' to mean because to me that means common cold. I just . . . I am a biochem grad student. If I think there is something seriously wrong I will go online and look up those symptoms, and if they are symptoms of a bad enough thing I'll go ask a doctor.

The last time I did this, I turned out to have Crohn's disease.

This time, I have pneumonia.

Don't worry! The doctor said my blood-oxygen level is fine, and I am otherwise healthy and not in pain. I have antibiotics (to which I am not allergic) which should be clearing it right up. But still. If I go into the ER and say things like "I think I have pneumonia, my lung is gurgling," I'd really rather be wrong about it!
tanarill: (Jewish)
Today is the ninth day of the Omer, which is one week and two days into the Omer.

I really need to get MW to send me the recipe for Grasshopper Cheesecake*.

*No actual grasshoppers are used in the making of this cheesecake. Because that would be Gross.
tanarill: (Jewish)
Today is the sixth day of the Omer.

Also, I just read an egg-dyeing fic. I have never done that, in the same way I never decorated a tree, but now I find a previously unknown burning curiosity. So the question is: what do you do with the edible part of the egg? If you just leave it there, you must hard boil the eggs first; and even then, they do not last forever. If you drain it through a little hole, then I guess the eggs would last, but that seems to be a lot of work to keep an eggshell. Explain it to me, world at large!
tanarill: (Jewish)
Woo, it is This Damned Holiday, and were are past the second night, when we begin counting the Omer. So now it is Omer-counting days:

Today is the fourth day of the Omer.

Also we have switched over from the rain prayer to the dew prayer. Of course, we would still love rain, but since Israel rarely gets summer rain, we pray for something there's an actual chance of getting.

Me, I'm waiting for weather control. :D
tanarill: (Jewish)
I am Inspired. So here is how to make latkes, which are a food eaten on Khannukah. They are not particularly religious or even Jewsih - Panda has been to Germany and reports that it is a general winter-time food there. But in the same way you drink egg-nog at Christmas, Khannukah is for latkes.

Recipe Under Here )

And now you know latkes, which are like French fries in the same way a restaurant-quality mint cheesecake with vanilla snap crust and dark chocolate ganash topping is like a stale, store-bought mini-cupcake. Just so you know.

So, enjoy the seasonal fare!
tanarill: (Jewish)
So first it was Sukkot! That is Jewish Thanksgiving, a harvest festival. The Chabad here puts up a massive Sukkah. It has the superstructure of a party pavilion-tent, only instead of a tent up top it is palm fronds. It is quite large enough to seat 60+ people, as I know because that many showed up on the first night. It was madness.

Then it was my birthday! That happens on October 6! I am now one year closer to having to get my own health insurance :/ This year, it happened to fall on Saturday, which is Shabbat, the day of rest. The Boy got me a vidya game which I luff. :D

Then it was Hoshana Rabbah, the last day of Sukkot! Part of the service on this day involves walking around the synagogue seven times, and then beating the lulav to bits. Why? It's Tradition!

Then it was Simchat Torah, the holy day where we celebrate finishing reading the Torah, and start again at the beginning. Once again, I went to the Chabad. They were still boozing up in preparation for the actual dancing when I left, but man, I am tired.

Thank goodness the holidays are over now until Khannukah (which is itself not actually very important, and only known because the Christmas marketers wanted to be multicultural), and the holy days over until Passover in the spring.

tanarill: (Jewish)
Things that have Happened:
1. Yom Kippur
2. Fall term started
3. WoW, Panda-version, is out

Of these, fall term is by far the most me-affecting. Buuuut, since we are going in chronological order of affecting me, we will start with Yom Kippur, also known as "that one Jewish holy day where nobody eats anything."

Actually, there is a trick. The trick is that the day before, you aim to drink about four gallons of water. Then, just before candle-lighting time, you eat meat. Don't go for lean cuts, either - you want your lymph system to be full of difficult-to-absorb fats. They make you feel full, for a long time. And, oh yeah, drink more water. You will have to pee a lot, but all that water slows food absorption even more. Basically, you knock out hours one through eighteen of your fast if you do this right. You only get really distractingly hungry in the last two or so.

So! Then I went off to Kol Nidre, which is both the name of the first prayer and the name of the first service. It is actually a legal statement that any promises that are made between this Yom Kippur and the next one are null and void. This was instituted during the Spanish Inquisition, because Jews might be forced to make vows which they had no intention of keeping, and this was a way of assuaging hurt consciences. Of course, it has no modern legal meaning. But it is Tradition.

Actual Yom Kippur, was not bad. I went to Chabad house, where the have a guy in the background reading the prayers so quickly you can't pick out individual words. In the foreground, we were praying interspersed with Torah discussion and anecdotes of wisdom. At no point was there any of the moaning, groaning, drawn-out long chanting known as Chazzanut. And that made me happy.

So then there was Ne'ila, the closing ceremony, during which you stand. If your cantor is doing chazzanut, this is physically painful and takes two hours. If he's not, as I found, this takes forty minutes from beginning to end, including the standard Ma'ariv prayers (which take five minutes anyway). Then, boom, Shofar blast and Rachel brought out the break fast. Not like the first meal of the day, but rather food you use to end a fast. Because we are Jewish, this was bagels.

That was Yom Kippur.

On Thursday, classes started. Now my bike paths are full of people who don't know how to ride a bike. Also, I will be TAing again, but I did this class last year as well so it should be a bit easier :D

Still. Undergrads.

Finally, JJ has begun to play a Panda. He will not shut up about it. It led to the following conversation:

JJ: So then he paired us up and send three mini-bosses that we had to beat.
Me: . . . were they hard?
JJ: No. With that many pandas running around, it was easy.
Me: You just said that. With that many pandas running around, it was easy.
JJ: :P

I love my awesome family.

Also, [personal profile] everbright come back! I did not mean to drive you away!
tanarill: (Default)
The thing about this wedding was that weather is unpredictable. I am sure that neither of my cousins planned to be married on the hottest day, but that was what ended up happening. As a result, it was the fastest wedding.

It was also quite amusing, for a silly reason. There was a little platform under the khuppa, which is a Jewish word for the tent-thing under which the couple stands during a wedding ceremony. As part of the ceremony, the bride has to walk around the groom seven times. There was not enough room on the platform for more than two people in any direction, so Alan had to keep moving to make this possible. I think it is kind of poetic - instead of the bride's life revolving around her husband, they revolve about each other like a binary star.

Anyway, then various readers did a fantastic job reading the Seven Blessings. Because this is Judaism, the first blessing is the blessing over the wine, of which the happy couple partake.

Then Alan stepped on the glass, and everyone quickly rushed back inside to the AC. And food. (They had blueberrytinis. I was so happy!)

Alan had the derpiest smile on the whole time. It was so cute. And now I am related to more people.

I had a chance to talk to my relatives, both new and old. Being in California is hard for keeping up with the family. Aunt E is doing all right. I was worried because her husband died earlier this year, but the only thing about her is that she is old. I saw many of my other cousins as well, and talked a little to each of them. My mother's side of the family, which this was on, kind of sprawls out sideways, so there are lots of cousins.

tanarill: (Science!)
Today is the forty-fifth day of the Omer, which is six weeks and three days into the Omer. Cheesecake holiday begins Saturday night :D

A conversation I had.
Brett and I: [talking]
Me: [notices] Oh, my aglet is gone.
Brett: [ . . . ] Your what?
Me: The little plastic part at the end of shoelaces.
Brett: I only believe this is a word because it is you telling me.
Me: As it should be. [continued conversation as I begin digging through my backpack]
Brett: [disturbed] What are you looking for?
Me: Ah-hah! [hauls out a couple of shoelaces I'd put in one of the many, many backpack-pockets] I thought I had some shoelaces in here somewhere!
Brett: [ . . . ] Yes, along with your can opener.

I do, in fact, carry around a can opener. This has proven useful in the past.

A different ting was last week's Thursday Seminar, which was about a bacteria called Wolbachia (Wob). Wob is symbiotic with insects, but in a weird way: if a female has Wob symbionts, they will be in her eggs and her babies will also have Wob, but a male will not have Wob in his sperm. From the point of view of a Wob, it is a good thing to make sure your female hosts have wide, egg-bearing thoraxes, but your male hosts you don't care about. So Wob actively helps females, whereas in males it only doesn't hurt them.

Wob helps by killing any harmful bacteria living in the insect host, and also some viruses. (For reasons not discussed here, viruses that infect bacteria are Very Different from viruses that infect insects, and therefore the Wob are not in danger from the viruses they are killing.) What this means in practical terms is that if a mosquito that is carrying, say, dengue fever, becomes infected with Wob, it is no longer a carrier of dengue. This does not work for blood-born worms, like malaria, but there is a trial in Australia going with Wob mosquitoes and mosquitoes with a bacteria that is the surrogate "disease" and they are tracking the "disease" mosquito die-off.

So, in summary: more bacteria, fewer deadly disease. Weird how Science! works out, isn't it?


May. 14th, 2012 05:22 pm
tanarill: (Default)
Today is the thirty-seventh day of the Omer, which is five weeks and two days into the Omer.

My roommates are such enablers. To whit:

Me: And then I will use Lulu's toaster to toast the bread, and I will steal some butter, and I will have buttered toast.
Liz: Here's the butter! [passing it over]

Such. Enablers.

In other news, Science! is hard. This was the message at seminar last week; and although I had not thought about it before, it is very true. Evolution has made us into beings that can unconsciously observe, make incredibly fast decisions based on those observations, and most of the time, not get eaten by the tiger. Science requires that we wait until we have all the data to make decisions - which in turn, requires that we know what 'all the data' even means. Scientific thought is difficult, counter-intuitive, not easily within the realm of human understanding.

And so teachers do students who object to, say, Newton's First Law a huge disservice when they act like it ought to be easy. Anyone can see that if you throw a ball it falls down and then it stops; but the First says that in fact it ought to keep moving in the same direction and at the same speed - except that on earth we have things like gravity and friction to deal with. It took a genius (certifiable, but still a genius) to realize that the natural state is not lazy stillness, but inertia. Because Science! is hard.

The rest of the seminar was about how to teach children science! despite the fact that to our common-sense world, the idea of things like relativity and atoms and even germs are really, really weird. It was a good seminar.

tanarill: (Jewish)
Today is the twenty-third day of the Omer, which is three weeks and two days into the Omer.

So, last Thursday was Israeli Independence Day, when Jews all over the place celebrate Israel. That it exists, I mean; that we Jews living in the Diaspora have a place to go the moment something like the Holocaust tries to happen again. So, this being the weekend closest to the actual day, we had small festivals at synagogues all over the place, at which there was food, dancing, raffles, silent auctions, speeches, and other such things.

In my congregation, the main speaker was Sandy F., who spoke of his service during WWII in the 42nd Infantry Division, known as the 42nd Rainbow Division. During the war, Sandy was a scout; he and three other men would range ahead of the main body, sometimes as many as ten miles, and radio back what to expect. They rode around in an "army car," which was basically a heavily armored Jeep, and over the course of the fighting he actually had three of them shot out from beneath him.

They were fighting north through Germany when they came upon a large walled compound. They did not know what it was, and thought it might be a POW camp. Sandy got out to go see, and the Nazi soldiers immediately opened fire. He got back in the car, and told the driver to, "Ram the gates!" Once inside, the four of them were able to return fire with the machine-gun mounts, and in this way drove the Nazis back into the fortified guard towers about the camp. They then did some reconnoitering about, and radioed back that they needed a huge infantry body and a lot of medical supplies.

That was Dachau, sixty-seven years ago today.

Sandy was twenty then. He's is eighty-seven now, but possesses all of his faculties. He told, with perfect clarity, of the prisoners so brainwashed that, as they carried gassed corpses to the crematorium, they saluted a "Hail!" to the uniformed men. That one of the bodies in the pile was moving an arm, just a little. That he spend two hours waiting for someone higher up the chain of command to arrive so they could accept a surrender.

Two years ago, for the sixty-fifth anniversary of the liberation, he was invited back by the curator of the museum/memorial that remains today. Three of the surviving 42nd Rainbow Division were able to be there, and several dozens of survivors. Sandy told of a man who, on the bus there, recognized his military unit and was so overcome that he was unable to speak; he had instead to write out that he was one of those survivors, and his thanks for their doing that, sixty-five years after the fact. He had the note in the scrapbook of that trip, which we were encouraged to read.

That was what happened, and some small number of deaths that did not happen, because of people like Sandy.

Am Israel chai.

New Term

Apr. 17th, 2012 10:56 pm
tanarill: (Default)
I have sadly neglected you, the people who follow my journal. This is bad, because wonderful Things have happened.

1. It is no longer That Holiday. It is, in fact, the eleventh day of the Omer, which is one week and four days into the Omer.

2. My schedule has worked out such that I get to go home on all the weekends. Last weekend, it was kind of drizzly Friday like we get only rarely in California, and then it cleared up a little, and I saw a rainbow. :D

3. Today, I was given a plant. The internets told me that the greenhouses (which apparently we have) were doing an open-house. So I went, and got a tour of their rare orchids, and on the way out they gave me a plant. I was going to refuse, being as I kill plants, but the options were cacti, which survive without water, and milkweed, which has weed in the name. I took the milkweed, because butterflies.

4. I went to a seminar. I shall not explain, save to say that it's a new approach to drug design. A wild and crazy wacko approach, but one which seems to get previously-impossible results. So there is that.

5. The one about the AIDS. I'll explain later.

6. Bees! On lupins!

. . . And many other interesting biogeek Things.

tanarill: (Bitchin')
Another thing about This Fucking Holiday is that not only are you not allowed to eat any bread, you are not allowed to have any bread in your house, not even a crumb. The rabbis, in their infinite and utterly pedantic wisdom, argued about this for some time and came up with a definition of "crumb" as follows: if you can sweep it up with a feather, it is big enough to be a crumb.

Which means, in practical terms, that we clean the entire house, top to bottom. We do have a house rule that goes "you don't eat where you shit," but on the other hand, every so often it is time to clean the dust off the shelves behind the mirrors in the bathroom, and so on. We clean the glass with Windex, the walls with soft-scrub, the floors with a mop, and everything else with a wet rage. Then we vacuum. Then, if it's a hard floor, we mop. It is an utterly disgusting amount of work, and it is worse than regular spring cleaning. It is religious spring cleaning, so I can't just not do it.

Anyway, as it has been officially a year since I moved to this blighted state and I still had two boxes left, I unpacked them, and come to a decision: I need to organize my binders. See, I'm a pack rat, which means I still have my notes all the way back to sixth grade. I've made the decision to toss everything from before high school, but that's still eight year's worth of binders. Most of these live in spider-filled, falling-over piles under my bed. They need better storage.

So I went to the warehouse store. They were selling garden supplies, since it is that time. I was looking for milk-crate storage, which they did not have. But they had under-bed storage, so I bought one of those. I would have bought more, but they didn't have any more in the back. Only, this being a warehouse store, there was no "back." Instead, there was an "up."

I still need to reorganize the damned things, and I have realized that the dimensions of an underbed storage box and of a binder are not anywhere close to similar, which I think means that less will fit if I use them. Damn. I was not looking forward to annihilating the dust-bunny civilization down there, but it would be nice to be able to get at, for example, my notes on G-coupled protein receptors when I need to. Anyone have any ideas, keeping in mind that large boxes are out because a large box of binders quickly becomes far too heavy to move?