wikimapia is awesome. so will be lake louise, i predict. check out those craggy mountains! i can hardly wait. t minus 9 hours until departure...


hypoxia 2007

t minus 1 day, 9 hours, and counting until we leave for lake louise, for the 2007 international hypoxia symposia. i am really excited about this trip... it should be amazing. i'll only be gone for 5 nights, but it's going to be 2 *full* days of driving, 4 days of science, scenery, and skiing, and 5 nights of debauchery and fun with my white mountain buddies. woohoo!

check out our route. google maps makes it look like it's going to be hella pretty. i have never been to the canadian rockies before, but i was looking at pictures and satellite images online and it looks like i will not be disappointed. evidently they're some pretty impressive mountains.

so i'm sure i'll be taking lots of pictures, and there's wi-fi at the hostel, so i should be able to flickr stuff on the fly. the one thing that's going to be a bit harsh is the weather forecast - one day (tuesday?) the predicted high is -12 degrees C. that's like... 10 degrees Fahrenheit. BRRRR!!!

and now, for something completely random, my hand on a plate in negative color!
Multimedia message


i didn't even notice that my last post was the 1,000th to this blog.



my friend kevin (whose couch i slept on in new york last summer) was in town for a microsoft interview, so he called me and we had dinner last night at elliot's oyster house. mmmm! oysters are tasty. we sat at the bar and chatted with the oyster guy (i'm sure he has a fancier name than that) about shellfish and seattle. he hooked us up with the last two of the ones on the bottom, the pretty round ones. they were super-tasty. but the icing on the cake was the champagne stuff in the middle. it's this icy, peppery really tasty frosty stuff made out of mumm's champagne and some other stuff. (sorry, i am so not a foodie... i should be able to describe that better.) anyway, it was yummy.

the picture was taken on my new camera phone. after the camera saltwater tragedy i figured it was as good a time as ever to upgrade my cellphone, especially since i was up for a contract renewal. so i signed my soul away to cingular for another 2 years, but i got a sweet sony ericsson w810i for just 75 bucks. it's got a 2 megapixel camera, which is the same as my old camera... slightly less zoom power, but definitely smaller. plus, it's two gadgets in one. plus, it's got video capabilities with a microphone, something my old camera was lacking, and it takes good pictures at high resolution. the downer is that it takes memory stick instead of SD (damn you and your proprietary formats sony!) so my 1gb SD card is no good, and i'm stuck with 128 mb unless i want to buy a memory stick. overall though, i have to say i am impressed. it's a great phone, and a pretty decent camera to boot. :D


sweaty basketball players

george takei is awesome. (tim hardaway is not, obviously.)

what good is half an eye? plenty!

From the Guardian's blog, an interesting tale about a bionic eye turns into an effective argument against Intelligent Design. (via Evolving Thoughts)

Part of the reason that ID is such a seductive argument is the way that adaptation is often referred to in popular culture. No natural history documentary script would be complete without a description of the polar bear as "perfectly adapted" to its habitat or a eulogy to the "exquisite camouflage" of the arctic fox.

But nature is much more interesting than the Discovery Channel would have us believe. Look closely and much of it wouldn't be winning any design awards. Rabbits, for example, have an inefficient and frankly gross way of digesting their food. Your furry pet has a side branch to its gut that is full of enzymes and bacteria. By munching on half-digested morsels from this side branch that have passed out of its backside the rabbit's stomach and intestines have a second go at extracting nutrients. It works, but from a design point of view it is crazy.

Despite looking pretty impressive, the human eye itself is put together in a way that a fairly unintelligent designer could improve on. The rod and cone cells that gather light and convert it into electrical impulses destined for the brain are wired up "back to front". So light hitting the retina has to pass through a maze of wiring before it reaches the light-gathering rods and cones. And anyone with a bad back could be forgiven for cursing our knuckle-dragging ancestors who gave us a spine that is not well designed for upright support. The point is, though, that all of these bad designs, with their echoes of ancestors long since gone, are good enough.

And as to the old creationist argument that half an eye (or half of any complex structure) would do no good, well, consider that one BUSTED. A rudimentary light-sensing patch with 4x4 resolution is far better than no light-sensing equipment whatsoever; a cochlear implant with 16 channels is better than no hearing at all. It's easy to see how just a single cell with the ability to sense where the light is conferred a huge advantage on the organism that posessed it. So too with the first animal to evolve a two-celled light sensing organ. Two becomes 4, 4 becomes 8. Add some protective extracellular material, wire up some neural networks, and add a couple hundred million years of hardcore selection for the ability to sense one's environment more and more acutely... poof! the vertebrate eye!

"Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution." T. Dobzhansky


Molecular basis of neural activity

A primer on membrane potential, ion channels, and neurotransmitters.

Part I.

As you may have learned in your introductory biology classes in high school or college, the fundamental unit of the cell membrane is the lipid bilayer. A double leaflet of phospholipids, with their charged phosphate group pointing towards the aqueous inner and outer environments, and their nonpolar, hydrophobic tail groups clustered together, protected from water, the lipid bilayer is the perfect selectively permeable membrane - if a molecule is small enough, or nonpolar enough, it can simply float through the bilayer, but if it is too large, or highly polar or charged, it cannot pass without the aid of a specialized transmembrane protein. In this way the lipid bilayer forms a selectively permeable barrier - the cell can effectively choose what gets in and out and when. It's not hard to imagine that a cell needs many different types of transmembrane proteins specialized for the translocation of some species from one side of the membrane to the other. Some of the most basic, and most important of these are the ion channels and pumps. Together, these two types of proteins form the basis for many cellular processes, from blocking the entry of more than one sperm into an egg, to neurotransmission, muscle contraction, and exocytosis of vesicles containing hormonal signals. So, what are the basics?

1. Cells expend energy to establish and maintain a gradient of several ion species across the membrane. Your brain uses around 40% of your energy - and a large proportion of this energy is consumed by the Na/K ATPase, or sodium-potassium pump. This protein couples the breakdown of a molecule of ATP (the energy currency of the cell) to the transport of a few sodium ions out of the cell and a few potassium ions in. The result of this transporter's action is that sodium ions are present in higher concentration outside the cell, and potassium ions are present in higher concentration on the inside. Calcium is also higher out than in, though cells may also sequester calcium inside membrane-bound organelles such as endoplasmic reticulum, or sarcoplasmic reticulum in muscle cells.

2. Cell membranes hold an electrical gradient as well. The interior of the cell contains a number of negatively-charged species, such as phosphate groups and organic acids. In terms of classical E&M physics, the cell membrane acts as a capacitor, storing up charge without allowing it to pass. The extracellular sodium ions are strongly attracted to the negative inner membrane surface and build up along the membrane, making the extracellular face of the membrane highly positively charged. This adds up to a potential gradient across the membrane of around -70 mV in most cells. By convention, this number is negative when the intracellular environment is more negative than the extracellular.

3. By controlling the flux of ions across the membrane, a cell can harness the drive of cations to flow into the cell. Ligand-gated and voltage-gated ion channels are the two most important classes of transmembrane transporters that allow ions to flow down an electrochemical gradient and to be harnessed for intracellular signalling. Ligand-gated ion channels, those which are opened by the binding of a particular small molecule such as dopamine, open in the presence of neurotransmitters and allow sodium and (to a smaller extent) calcium ions to flow into the cell. Voltage-gated ion channels of many different types open and close at certain membrane potentials, forming the basis of the action potential, the fundamental unit of neural activity.

In summary, the ionic basis for neurotransmission can be thought of in terms of an equation straight out of high school physics: V=IR, or I=V/R. I, or current, is the flux or net movement of charged particles; in our case, it's the flow of ions across a membrane. V, or voltage, represents the gradient across the membrane. This gradient has two components: chemical and electrical. A higher concentration of sodium ions outside than in, combined with a negatively charged intracellular environment, in effect form two forms of "motivation" for a sodium ion to cross the membrane. R, or resistance, can be thought of as the path by which a species can cross the membrane. Ions are far too big and charged to cross the membrane without the assistance of a channel; without a channel present, R is very high (if not infinite), so no matter what V is, there is no I or current. The presence or opening of channels across the membrane lowers the resistance, thus increasing the current.

OK, that's enough for today. Next time I'll try to get into the mechanics of an action potential, and the roles of voltage-gated sodium and potassium ion channels. As always, wikipedia is a great place to learn more. Here's the article on lipid bilayers, in case you want to know more.


best weekend evar.

this morning i woke up, sat up, and saw the pacific ocean. that happened yesterday morning too. yesterday afternoon i spent in full rain gear, out on the tide flats, digging up razor clams with the entire citizenry of moclips, wa. i love the ocean.

after an entirely grey, rainy day, as i dug up my 15th clam (the limit) the sun broke through the clouds with an amazing deep pink-red sunset. the entire horizon, as well as the glistening sand on the beach and the waves as far as the eye could see, absolutely burned with this beautiful fiery red. it was amazing.

later last night, in between rain showers, i saw the milky way.

the only bummer of the weekend was my stupidity in not listening to brock's recommendation to leave cameras in the car when digging clams. i was patting down my pocket to reassure myself that the camera was still there when i felt something drop and saw a splash, then my camera about an inch underwater. FUCK. i took the batteries out and gave it to my friend who had a pocket that fastened better... but i still haven't tried to turn it on yet. salt water is not good for electronics. i'm holding out absolutely no hope for its resurrection; i figure that way i can only be pleasantly surprised if it still works.

so i need to buy a new camera now. i think what i might do is buy a new cellphone with a 2 or 3 mp camera (my old one was just 2 mps), and then when i graduate (or maybe before, depending on financial situations) buy myself a canon rebel xt. my aunt let me play with hers over christmas, and it was awesome. it's a perfect entry-level digital slr - and with the new version (the xti i think) out now, the older model is coming down in price. i found one online the other day for somewhere in the $200 range for the body... and i can get the lens that comes with the full camera package for like $150 off of ebay. like 400 bucks for a full-featured digital slr. fuck yeah.


read this.

it's a very concise, well-written version of what we've all been thinking for the past 6 years. fuck the bush regime, fuck authoritarianism. mad props to the former republicans joining the ACLU. mad jeers to the man behind the curtain, dick "is a killer" cheney, and to several spineless senate democrats.

the 2006 elections didn't change anything about the president's willingness to ignore the rule of law. the fight has really just begun.

also: bring our damn troops home. yesterday.


so after i got all excited about my kenneth cole order, i log back onto the website and it doesn't show up in my account. i think the website lost the order. and of course none of the things i ordered are still in stock.

FUCK. if they fucked up my order, i am going to be SUPER FUCKING PISSED.

oh wait, i already am.

edit: i should have known it was too good to be true. i bet they messed up their pricing system and cancelled my order because of that. oh well... bleh.


um OMG


WTF is with all these great bands from the past deciding to reform this year? first the police, now the fucking smashing pumpkins? 2007 is the best year EVAR.

(thx jrad, o btw cn i hv my mrtni glssz bck?)


i just bought almost $500 worth of clothes from the kenneth cole website.
wide-leg slate grey high-waist pants (SO all over the runway this season). original price: $148. i paid: $17.98.

knee-length grey skirt with voluminous pleats. original price: $148. i paid: $19.79.

army green jacket. original price: $198. i paid: $16.19


total charged to my visa: $68.

i am the MASTER of bargain shopping.




awesome video.

DNA wrapping and replication animation.

(via pharyngula, my favorite scienceblog)


a new adventure

so i've been thinking about this for awhile, and i've decided it's time... to toilet-train my cat.

citi kitty makes a toilet-trainer doohickey that is highly recommended across the internets, with plenty of photos and youtube videos of cats that have been trained with the citi kitty doing their business. hey, if i never have to scoop again, i would be a happy camper.

i'll let you know how well it works. and i will post pictures of my cat using the toilet, once she gets the hang of it.



i am NOT getting sick again.... i am NOT getting sick again. i am NOT GETTING SICK AGAIN.

maybe if i keep telling myself this, the tickle in my throat and the icky in my nose will go away.

because i can't be sick! i have too much to get done this week. especially before wednesday.



after biochem lecture today, i found myself walking at the same pace and direction as the professor for the first half of my biochem class. we'd learned in class that the exam was graded, the mean was 52 and the median was 53. (out of 100.)

me: "hey dr. parson, i was wondering if you knew what the high score on the exam was."
dr. p: "oh, i think it was a 92 or a 93. very impressive."

fast-forward five minutes of walking toward health sciences, the brown spot on my nose growing by the second. i admit it, i was schmoozing. anyway, fast-forward to me, walking out of the biochem office and out of sight of my classmates picking up their graded exam. i unfold my exam and look at my score...


that's right, bitches. hate me. :D


proenza schouler? must be thursday.

it's those pants again! (style.com.) must get me a pair like this! i could wait and hope they put something like that in their FW07 line for Target (if they're doing a FW line for Target) or i could buy vintage. must go thrifting this weekend! i hit jackpot at the buffalo exchange last weekend and found a pair of shiny black trousers AND a pair of faded black jeans, both in straight/skinny leg, for a grand whopping total of $27. i was proud.

so, am i officially a geek yet, or am i going to have to pre-order this? that's right, joss whedon is writing a new comic book series that takes place after season 7 left off. the slayer epic continues! issue #1 hits the shelves on march 7, and he says he's shooting for a 25 to 30 issue series, with monthly issues. sweet! and then, there's this: a compendium, a veritable series of tomes of the buffyverse comics. That doesn't come out until july... actually, just 3 days before Deathly Hallows*. Plus, it starts out with a *faithful* comic-book adaptation of joss's original screenplay, the one that was produced as the B horror movie starring kristy swanson. i'm anxious to find out what joss really intended the story to be like. eeee! it's going to be an awesome summer.

hoom de hoom, don't be hasty. i'm trying to savor Season 7 of Buffy, since i know it's all the great live-action Buffy we'll have, at least for a good long while. but it's so hard, when the show is just so awesome. and what with my midterms over for the moment and me thoroughly ahead of the curve in all my classes, i have time for a little s&s (staking and slayage).

*I've been reconsidering my position on the does-Harry-die issue. I saw a quote by JK Rowling the other day that said something to the effect of, "I knew Harry's story would come to an end after 7 books." hmmmmmmmmmmm. maybe he does die. but probably not really DIE-die... or does he? *squeal* can't wait!



so i actually got this a few weeks ago, but i just thought i'd post it because it's damn cool. it's a 4GB iPod nano, product[red] edition.
i'm not exactly sure why i decided to go for the red one, but something about the combination of the color, the vague social conscience connotations, and the fact that it was exactly the same price as the other 4GB nanos, but knowing that a whopping $10 from my purchase went to fighting aids in africa makes me feel... not good, but better, about my privleged place in the world.
if you can read that, you're overeducated*.

*ok, i'll tell you what it says. in the genetic code, in which DNA base sequence codes for amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), this sequence of bases codes for Lysine-Alanine-Threonine, or, using standard 1-letter codes, K-A-T. that's right, bitches, this is my iPod.

one more

ooh! michael kors.

seriously, what is not to love about this dress?
and what's with giving the hottest model on the catwalk the weirdest outfits? i guess just because she's the only one that can pull them off?

(from new york magazine this time)

on another note, i'm thinking about doing my hair like aygness. i've been considering going blonde again for awhile.. out of a box this time, instead of in the chair, cause i'm cheap...

just came across this one. be still, my heart!

(from hermes, spring 2007, via style.com)

in which i continue the superficial trend from the past three days

Narciso Rodriguez and Betsey Johnson had just about the only looks that caught my eye from yesterday's shows.
from Narciso: I loved the simple lines on this one...

and i'm not quite sure what agyness has here on her front, but it's definitely... interesting.

Betsey Johnson had a few cute looks, especially when she deviated from her trademark little dresses...

but, for the LOVE of GOD, what is this???

and i've seen a variation on these pants on several different runways this year. i might have to find me some (for $20 at buffalo exchange, not $1000 at a boutique)

and, one more trend i am NOT in favor of: onesies.

that is all for today. (once again, all images are from style.com.)


spring is the new fall

...according to isaac mizrahi.

in the last 24 hours: marc jacobs, isaac, carolina herrera, and jovovitch-hawk, to name a few.

marc jacobs seemed pretty boring to me, though i did like this one:

the rest of the collection looked like something my grandma would wear... plus a few weird dresses and some godawful sequined blouses. agh! no!

carolina herrera had some cute looks, but i kept being baffled by these skirts:

is it just me, or does it look like pajama pants?

see the rest at style.com.



february is upon us, and that can only mean one thing: new york fashion week. hell yes!

i don't exactly have time to flip through all the style.com slide shows, but i took a quick glance through Tuleh and DKNY - labels that I've loved in the past - and have to say, loving the fall 2007 looks so far. There was a lot of black and grey all around, especially in DKNY... but there were also splashes of color. And thank god fashion has gottten over the frilly victorian bent they've been off on for the past few years. (All images that follow are from DKNY.)

i love the lines on the top part of this outfit... the skirt is cute, too, but not something i'd ever wear. if i could just get the shirt, i would be happy.

love this one:

and agyness deyn is the hotness, so i had to include this one, even though it's not my favorite look of the show:


128 days.

128 days until i get to put on a goofy outfit, sit through 4 hours of speechifying, and walk across a stage and shake someone's hand, then get a piece of paper congratulating me for working my ass off for the past few years. it's hard to believe i'm getting so close, after having been in and out of college for the last 6 years. i'm hoping i can finish my Ph.D. in less time than it took me to finish my damn undergrad.

not likely, but i can hope, right?