Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: May, 2009

Link Clearing XI

Librarian Chick’s list of links. Clearly an impressive catalog of book-related sites online.

Doctor Who Ebooks. Eight of ’em. Free and online at the BBC.

Cats in Sinks. Another bit of evidence that everything, even the weirdest niche, is present on the internet.

Superbugs. “The new generation of resistant infections is almost impossible to treat.”–because they’re resistant to antibiotics. Which leads to the thought–perhaps we need to devise novel strategies that aren’t so reliant on antibiotics.

Vintage Poison Labels. Insectodeth and bed-bug poison–unintentionally hilarious.

Link Clearing X

Women’s Rights: What’s in it for Men? An interesting essay geared more towards the economic viewpoint of equal rights. Although there are caveats (as noted by the commenters).

Project Indigo. A cool imaginary island.

The Lion and the Mouse. “The battle that reshaped children’s literature.” Libraries didn’t always have children’s sections.

Password Chart. For those of you who find it too difficult to make up your own.

Women + Blogosphere = Impact. I suppose this would appeal more to those who wish to make a difference through blogging. Me, not so much. I can think of at least a dozen other ways off the top of my head that could make a bigger impact than a bunch of electrons on the intertube that occasionally gets glanced at by visitors.

Link Clearing IX

Mental illness following The Exorcist. Nowadays, this film is probably considered pretty tame. I wonder if the same thing happens to people who view even more extreme horror films?

How to nap. Personally, I’d avoid napping because it makes me tired for the rest of the day. Unless I’m on an airplane–then it depends on who I’m sitting next to.

Killjoy Cooking with the Dungeons & Dragons Crowd. “So how come cooking gets its own TV channel and role-playing games don’t even get a show on G4?…it just might have something to do with the role-playing community. If geeks talked about cookbooks the way they talk about RPG books, the results would not be pretty.”

What Type of Asian Are You? Heh. I probably fit in the most with “Asian-American” although I do know a little bit about Cantopop stars and have far less angst about my identity than others.

The Itch. Something that no topical cream can alleviate…

Link Clearing VIII

Mystery on Fifth Avenue. The idea of a puzzle house is really cool, but I can’t help but think that knowing that the builder put all of this in just so people could have fun with it takes out some of the mystery.

Oops. This reminds me of a story I recently heard about a diehard chemist that one of the professors knows who could synthesize whatever compound you needed (or wanted). One day, the professor was using a compound that he got from Sigma-Aldrich for an experiment and he couldn’t get it to work. So he called up his chemist friend who happily made another batch for him and analyzed the Sigma compound which turned out to be something entirely different from the label. The chemist got into a row with the company and it ended up that he (the chemist) was right. So I guess the lesson here is: if you’re 100% sure you’ve got the protocol right and your experiment is still going badly–check your reagents.

On Kimchi. I don’t know much about Korean food, but I’m always up to reading about it.

Free choice and the female science divide. I have noticed that some types of sciences have higher numbers of females than others. What this means, I’m not sure. Are females naturally geared towards more social sciences or are there still some cultural expectations for females to go into those areas?

Hark! A Vagrant. I haven’t even read any Jane Austen, yet I still find this hilarious.

Link Clearing VII

Unusual Words. Hm. “Agelast” does not mean what it looks like. “Gongoozler” totally sounds like something from a Roald Dahl book. And “nudiustertian” has nothing to do with nudibranchs.

Recipe Deal Breakers: When Step 2 Is ‘Corral Pig’. This is why I don’t follow recipes.

Fast-Reproducing Microbes Provide a Window on Natural Selection. “In that time, the bacteria have changed significantly. For one thing, they are bigger — twice as big on average as their common ancestor. They are also far better at reproducing in these flasks, dividing 70 percent faster than their ancestor. These changes have emerged through spontaneous mutations and natural selection, and Dr. Lenski and his colleagues have been able to watch them unfold.” This reminds me of another link I posted earlier. Hee hee, gotta love that domain name. It’s more about science in general rather just bacteria though.

Backlinks Checker Tool. “Type URL of your website to get complete detailed information about quality and quantity of backlinks pointing to your website.” Or is this just another way to procrastinate on the web?

Thursday in Brief, After Some Sleep

*No caffeine. Darn.

*Put up poster and met up with advisor at morning session.

*First lecture: Some microbes may make secondary metabolites that influence factors implicated in aging. If only the speaker talked more about which microbes rather than just the chemicals involved.

*Second lecture: Opiods can upregulate the virulence of bad bacteria. Also, in the presence of opiods, bad bacteria secrete factors which kill off the good bacteria. Maybe we should all have second thoughts about getting that morphine at the hospital.

*Third lecture: Hm, so I guess if you stop that feedback loop between the bacteria and host, you’ll stop diarrhea?

*Fourth lecture: Stress (especially the chemicals your body makes when it is stressed) make bad bacteria happy. I wonder if things like meditation has any effect.

*Fifth lecture: Microbes are involved in a “signaling exchange”. But it sounds more like warfare than actual communication.

*Poster session! Met one guy who is big in the mother-to-infant HIV transmission field and in the process of developing something to prevent viral transmission. The only problem with testing this is that the upkeep of monkeys is extremely expensive.

*And, to the airport. Got back around 2:30 AM.

Conference et al.: Wednesday in Brief

*Discovered that a wall below one of the escalators in the convention center is plastered with porcelain bowls and soup spoons. Not a hallucination.

*Morning caffeine!

*Listened to post-docs complaining about Philly cheesestakes. “That’s all they have here! Except maybe pizza.” Decided not to interrupt the ranting with the Afghani place I ate at yesterday.

*First lecture: “What questions? You can’t question history!”

*Second and third lectures: Lots of interesting stuff about bacterial growth and gene regulation. Both talks from the same lab.

*Fourth lecture: Geez. Someone’s still studying the lac operon?

*Fifth lecture: Speaker says he is embroiled in a controversy with everyone else in his field. In the middle of the lecture, he accuses the audience for getting tired.

*Wandered around, filled out a survey, got a free Giant Microbe!

*Sixth lecture: Learned about some (relatively obscure?) certification for medical microbiologists. Apparently less than thirty percent who take the test pass. And in reality, most employers don’t even know the certification exists.


*Seventh lecture: Scribbled like mad since speaker went a little too fast.

*Eighth, ninth, and tenth lectures: These were structured like a hybrid multiple choice test/game show where the audience got to guess the microorganisms causing weird and wacky diseases. It was hilarious and probably the highlight of the conference.

*Met up with advisor and a research scientist in another lab. Wandered around the old town and the waterfront.

*Dinner was at the City Tavern Restaurant. Yes, the waitstaff was in colonial costume. But the food was good, so who cares about the costumes?

*Taxi driver: “What are you smiling for?” Well, sooorrry. I was just trying to be nice.

Conference Stuff and Other Things: Tuesday in Brief

*Morning caffeine!

*Met a grad student whose airline lost her luggage and was somewhat smarting from the fact that her advisor sent her to Philly instead of Argentina.

*First lecture: well-known scientist from UCSD, place was packed.

*Rushed across the convention center having absolutely no idea where I was going. ASM needs more signs to the rooms in the Marriott.

*Second lecture: by a prof I had during my undergrad. If you look into the really old archives of this blog, I called him toupee prof. Nowadays, he has dispensed with the toupee and shaved what was left of his hair.

*Third lecture: Found out something new–some people use turkeys as a model system.

*Fourth lecture: You know all those TV documentaries about ecosystems at underwater hot vents? Some of the stuff they’re blabbering about is hot air.

*Played phone tag with advisor.

*Wandered around the vendors. Got lots of free swag (mostly pens).

*Wandered over to the poster area. Found advisor.


*Wandered around the ASM bookstore. Saw some old guy deliberately looking for all the books that he wrote chapters in.

*Fifth lecture: The first slide said “SEX” in really big letters. But the lecture wasn’t really about any sort of sex (bacterial or otherwise) at all. I think some people left disappointed shortly after the talk began.

*Sixth lecture: I was totally not expecting a particular topic. Nothing inherently wrong about the subject–but the topic has a tranquilizing effect on my brain. Left soon afterwards.

*Seventh, eighth, and ninth lectures: all about multi-drug resistance in bacteria. Cool stuff. Tangentially gave me ideas about my own project.

*Tenth lecture: The speaker got several kooky questions from an obvious fanatic of organics. Excellent comeback, “In the interest of time, I can’t answer all of your questions…”

*Eleventh lecture: The speaker completely ignores the commercial implications of BSE-free cows in favor of scientific applications.

*Twelfth lecture: Wow. I couldn’t believe that those human volunteers volunteered to be infected, again.


*Advisor told me a story about his first encounter with a certain well-known scientist. This well-known scientist, apparently, was buck naked at the time.

In the City of Brotherly Love

After sitting in airplanes all day, next to chic ladies chewing strong-smelling fruit gum that made me want to hurl, I arrived in Philadelphia. Tired and hungry, I find out that the nearest eating establishment to the hotel is a bar. I am not a bar sort of person, but I’m hungry–so I go and order a cheeseburger to go. While I’m waiting for the food, a middle-aged guy takes a seat next to me, orders a drink (at least his second or third according to the perky blonde bartender), and proceeds to talk it up with a pair of dudes at the corner of the bar.

The two dudes look confused as they sip their beers and listen to the middle-aged guy rant about airplane toilets. “So are you a pilot?” one of them asks.

The ranter pauses awkwardly. “Uh nooo…I’m a professor.”

Then I get an earful about swine flu, viral reassortment, the mechanisms of antiviral drugs, and how the prof wants to take his family to the mountains and shoot anyone on sight–who happen to be sneezing. Meanwhile, I get my food and head off, feeling a little sorry for the two dudes who look like two deer caught in the headlights.

So, yep. That’s my introduction to Philly.

Link Clearing VI: The Horror Edition

Creepypasta. A repository of short horror stories in the vein of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Warehouse 23 Manifest. It’s as if you’ve been let loose in that warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The SCP Foundation. A wiki of made-up, vaguely sci-fi-ish and terrifying objects. Awesome.

Minions of basement cat is BSOD ur dissertashun. A grad student’s worst nightmare? I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have any pets.

1,000 Beasts. A “series of one thousand illustrations depicting various fantastic creatures.”