Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: April, 2003

Currently Listening

Albéric Magnard, a French composer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, wrote only four symphonies and a handful of other pieces during his short life. It is interesting to note that although he despised the symphonic poem, these four symphonies don’t show the rigorous form that would be the opposite. Instead, they were written simply for the music–not for a story or for a purpose–but, as clichéd as it might seem, art for art’s sake.

Magnard was the son of a wealthy executive at the famous newspaper, Le Figaro. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps, and he did for a while, long enough to finish law school. After that, he struck out on his own and fell in with the music crowd. It is his death, though, that is a bit of a mystery. People don’t agree exactly how he died. Some say he died defending his home from the Germans during World War I, hands still clutched to his weapons, a bullet through his body. Others say that when the Germans torched his home, he perished in the fire along with several of his newly finished operas and compositions.

Tuesday Too?

Some questions:

Of course it’s Tuesday; are you mad?

No. I’m enjoying the nice weather.

Wonder what?

See today’s previous post.

Where is my next cup of coffee?

Tomorrow morning, hopefully.

What is my project for today?

Your project or mine? If it’s mine, I’m sort of dreading tomorrow. I have tons of things to do.

What would I really like to be doing?

I don’t know about you, but I like sleeping. A lot. (Not that I get much anyway.)

What should I be doing?

There’s some papers on my desk calling to me. Currently I’m trying to avoid them.

How come I’m doing what I’d like to be doing?


Why don’t I have 118 games in a row?

If I had 118 games in a row (or even one game) I would seriously be bored.

Do you really care about freecell?

It’s on my computer (which is really old) and in all this time I haven’t touched it. I swear. I haven’t touched solitaire either. I like playing with the word processing programs instead.

What do you really care about then?

Myself. (What? Did you think I’d lie and be altruistic?)

Are you going to spend your whole life trying to figure out what’s important?

Yes, generally. But this will not involve every moment of my life.

Thinking Aloud

“I think it would be good to know if I would get Alzheimer’s in ten years. Then I could go on a vacation before I forgot about it,” he said.

She smirked. “Don’t forget to bring a video camera.”

* * *
I find it interesting that Alzheimer’s and cholesterol uptake is governed by the same mechanism: regulated intramembrane proteolysis. This involves an enzyme cleaving a transmembrane protein so that the clipped off cytosolic portion can enter the nucleus to influence gene transcription.

But signaling mechanisms aside, I question the current models that are being used for the disease. Alzheimer’s is mostly a disease of the aged. In papers, scientists have characterized genetic mutations that cause early onset of the disease and have used mouse models that are admittedly short-lived. A vaccine that had been developed worked on the mouse model, but human trials were abruptly halted because of complications (primarily meningeoencephalitis). Maybe they should start working on proteolytic inhibitors instead.

Perhaps Alzheimer’s is a consequence of living so long. Maybe we should seriously consider a monkey model instead of a mouse model. Somebody should do a study analyzing Ab levels over time in humans. Since our brain cells don’t divide and turn over constantly like skin cells, maybe the cellular machinery wears down during aging so it can’t process the precursor to A b as efficiently. Whatever the case, I don’t think testing things out on a mouse model with the Swedish mutation of Alzheimer’s is going to have any relavence for most human patients. Not everyone has the Swedish mutation.

* * *
Talking about excess deposition, it reminds me of two strange diseases, one called scleroderma which is the production of excess collagen. The other disease causes the body to become entirely ossified (osteopetrosis?) or turned into bone. I think I read a story about it several years ago in a magazine (Time? Newsweek? The New Yorker? Harper’s?)

This morning I wondered what I would be doing instead of going to class if I was not who I am. If I had been less ambitious or more ambitious or had been interested in something completely different. If I had been given a different name. If I had been born a week earlier or a week later. If I had been born male.

I wondered what my life would have been like if I opted to do something more menial, simple. Would I be a cashier at a fast food restaurant? Would I be a secretary? Would I be a bum living off my parents? If I had opted for something more (or less) challenging, would I be happy or miserable? Would I appreciate the details of life more or would I go through each day oblivious to everything around me? Would I simply not know any better?

Do I know any better in the situation I am in now?

* * *
Several months ago, I gave up waiting for Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits (by Robin McKinley and her husband Peter Dickinson, both mainly young adult fiction writers) to come out on paperback so I started prowling the bookstores for a hardcopy. Unfortunately, the bookstores around here don’t even stock it in hardcopy. However I did finally manage to snag a copy that the library recently acquired. I’ve read three of the stories and have felt rather let down. They’re nice for young kids, perhaps, as they might overlook the weak plotlines and descriptions. I didn’t get into Peter Dickinson’s writing at all and Robin McKinley’s stories seemed forced. If she is trying to appease her fans or writing out of a sense of obligation, it shows. I would rather read really good books coming out every ten years rather than mediocre stories more frequently.

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Slob:: Pig
  2. 60:: Miles per hour
  3. Personals:: Newspaper
  4. Famous:: People
  5. Cancer:: ous growth
  6. Internet:: Broke down
  7. Previously:: Said
  8. Moonshine:: Liquor
  9. Ants:: Picnic
  10. Check:: Up

On Food

When people ask me what kind of food I like, I usually hem and haw before I say something innocuous. “I don’t have a preference. I’m not really a picky eater.” But perhaps that is only out of politeness, because if I just think a little, I really am picky if the choice is left entirely up to me.

I like bland things. If I have to cook my vegetables they should be boiled or steamed or baked. I like tofu without any seasoning. I like plain or vanilla yogurt. I like oatmeal (but not oatmeal cookies). I dislike most seasoning–hot sauce, fish sauce, gravy–because when other people cook, they drown the rest of the food in that stuff. I find fried and greasy food disgusting, but I will eat it if there’s nothing else offered. These preferences were developed very early. When I was much younger and my parents took me over to other people’s houses for dinner, I would be offered sauces and seasonings. I would refuse and in return I would get strange looks.

Come to think of it, there are a lot of things I don’t like–and I have a suspicion that it may be due in part to growing up westernized. I don’t like ginseng. The durian, even forgetting its off-putting smell, is much too sweet. I despise ramen noodles. Those tin cans of pickled vegetables found in oriental food stores are a little too weird for me. I would rather eat foo gwa (which literally means “bitter gourd” in Chinese, and believe me, it’s really bitter) by the bucket load.

The Popularity Problem, Again
(Playing Devil’s Advocate)

The lone genius weblogger, a thought experiment. Gulker proposes the problem: how can we beat the power curve so that the smarter people, the geniuses specifically, gain more exposure? His human-moderated idea is not entirely fool-proof as there is a chance that the blogger version of Britney Spears might escape detection. Besides, determining a genius blogger seems like an extremely difficult task. It’s not like distinguishing between your average Joe and a rocket scientist working for NASA or even something seemingly more subjective like Garth Brooks and Mozart. What we’re looking for here is a skillful and thoughtful manipulation of words that provoke a reaction (be it emotional or intellectual) in readers.

Personally, I would love for all the top bloggers to be geniuses, but I don’t think the point of the web is to turn the average blog-reading experience into looking into an ivory tower. The popularity or non-popularity of particular sites may not be deserved, but it only reflects how the real world works and how like admires like. The genius may be well-known and respected, but people will still be fascinated by the empty-headed pop star since it represents the possibility that an average person can make it.

Because wouldn’t it be depressing to think that the only way to get noticed is through genius?

* * *
What’s clingy-er than saran wrap and kinkier than latex?


I wish they sold it in supermarkets.


It’s the 50th anniversary that Watson and Crick’s paper came out on elucidating the structure of DNA. Although today passed unremarked by, well, everyone–it’s understandable. The weather was summer-like and many people were out taking walks and lying on the grass soaking up sun. Yesterday, there had been snow.

More links on DNA discovery found here.

Damn That Spam

Those spam people are getting trickier every day. I usually chuck any e-mails that don’t pertain to this site, that I haven’t been expecting, or from people I have never heard of before. Yesterday, I got e-mail from some Who’s Who Historical Society–but that wasn’t the real organization that puts out the real Who’s Who in America that gets shelved in the library. (Besides, if you look at the fine print on the bottom of the e-mail, you’ll find out that they got your e-mail address from some spam distributor.) And you know how some spam is from people with plausible names like John Smith or whoever? I suppose they figure if they send out enough combinations of common names, people will think someone they know sent them an e-mail. That happened to me today. I thought one of my professors e-mailed me! (What have I done? Did I fail a class?!) But no, it was some stupid porn site masquerading as a legitimate person!

The Thursday Threesome: View From Afar

Onesome: View- What is your favorite scenic site, either around your place, where you’ve traveled, or just that one special picture (like that Ansel Adams

“Half Dome” shot)?

When I was in grade school, everyone in the class was assigned a state and each of us had to write to the travel bureau to get information. I got Utah. Utah? What the heck is out there besides salty water and hordes of Mormons? Well, I got a travel brochure back and there were pictures of sandstone arches and standing stones. These gravity-defying natural monuments fascinated me. Unfortunately, I so far have not had the chance to visit.

Twosome: From- How far is it from home to work? Are you a long distance commuter or do you just schlep on into the dining room/office?

I am within walking distance. But like drivers who have to drive past construction, I have to walk past construction.

Threesome: Afar- for the travelers out there, just how far have you gone? I mean, is the trip to Grandma’s about it? …or have you made it farther abroad?

Not unless a trip to Grandma’s is actually halfway around the world!

I believe I’ve mentioned all of this before, but I am too lazy to look it up. One of my grandmothers lives in Vietnam. I’ve visited her once some years back. I use this site to calculate distances and Vietnam is about a thousand miles further than Hong Kong (which I’ve been to several times) and twice as far as Germany and Switzerland (the countries I’ve been to in the other direction). These are not the only places I have been to, but I will not list them all since it will probably make your eyes glaze over.

However, I have not been to places south of the equator.