Saturday, August 28, 2004

I Can't Get No (Music Satisfaction in the USA)

I noticed something today as I was driving around and running errands. A lot of the music I find myself listening to is no longer from the USA. At first I figured I just had a thing for Brit-Rock (Beatles, The Who, Oasis, and so on). Then I realized I had more Euro music on the iPod than I first thought.

I was listening to Franz Ferdinand steadily for two weeks, and I’ve been digging on Zero 7 for some time now. I downloaded a few of the free iTunes offers, and found the ones that I liked best were a French band (Phoenix) and a Swedish band (The Rasmus). I pride myself in my diverse choices in music, and The Streets (a British rapper) has caught my attention too. The only bright spot in my current playlist that belongs to a US group is The Roots. I bought the album Phrenology (by The Roots) when Peer (Karmaus) recommended them to me. Thanks Peer, that was a good recommendation (even if he said Phrenology was not his favorite).

Why is this though? I think the US music industry is stagnant. Boy bands and the celebration of pop stars has turned me off to the radio (with the exception of my beloved WDBM, the college station here at Michigan State). Mostly I listen to NPR when I listen to the radio now. I used to watch MTV every day. Now I avoid it like the plague (and reality television, ECK!). The only bright spot I see right now is in what I think of as Neo-Classic Rock (now that’s an oxymoron), bands like Jet (who put out the rocking album Get Born), The Strokes, and The Vines. Jeff Buckley’s been a great discovery for me, unfortunately he’s dead, the same sad situation I experienced when I was introduced to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Having written this, I question now if the US truly isn’t putting out good music like Europe. Maybe I just need to dig a little more. There are probably a few jems here domestically (Jason Mraz or Ben Kweller anyone?), but in the mean time I’m off to go listen to some Royskopp.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Dennis Hall had a wicked headlock!

Yesterday when we got home from work I had a nice suprise waiting for me. Tivo had taken the time to record some of the Greco-Roman wrestling. I like watching freestyle more, but I'll watch a good Greco match too over rowing or synchronized diving.

First I got to watch a couple of Americans get beat. Oscar Wood had the beatdown put on him, but he did have an impressive front headlock. That's been his modus operandi for some time though. Brad Vering hung a little tougher but still lost (he wrestled a guy named Mohamed Mohamed from Egypt, who had an outstanding lift on Vering). Next they showed Dennis Hall, who was quite the stud in the late 90's but hasn't performed nearly so well lately. I was rather suprised he was wrestling, since he's into his 30's now and most wrestlers don't make it much past then.

Hall's match was the first time I'd actually seen anyone in "the clinch." It's pathetic that a wrestling fan hasn't seen this, since it's been around since at least the 2000 Olympics, but what can I say. I don't get to watch much Greco wrestling. If a match is scoreless going into the second (final) period both wrestlers start by wrapping arms around each other (the one who wins the coin toss gets to lock first, a definite advantage) and then they start the period like that. If the coin toss winner doesn't score in the first minute of the period they are penalized 1 point and cautioned (allowing the other wrestler can put the cautioned in down (par terre) position and try to score some more points on the mat). Hall won the toss, made the clinch, and then he and his opponent just kind of froze. Neither one wanted to give up anything. About 15 seconds before Hall would have been penalized he executed a textbook sag headlock. It wasn't spectacular like a throw over the hip, but it was very effective and exactly what he needed. He got 3 points for it, but in the scramble got reverse for 1 point to the other wrestler.

Next came the rather nerve wracking point. He made his throw at about 3:40 (with 6:00 minutes being the whole match unless they go into overtime) into the match, and by the time they went out of bounds and needed to restart it was about 4:15 into the match. Since Hall went out of bounds with his head leading, he came back to the mat center and got put down in par terre, a disadvantage. No problem, Hall has excellent bottom defense. His opponent did turn him with a gut wrech, but only got 1 point because Hall's back wasn't close to the mat (he went hand-to-hand as we say). This made the score 3-2 in favor of Hall, quite close!

The shocking part was that he didn't manage to get out of par terre until about 5:30 into the match! He spent over 45 seconds on the bottom, and eternity in international wrestling. Fortunately he managed to avoid allowing any more points and won 3-2.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

My Infatuation

Since I’ve changed the title of my blog from it’s original I’ve written very little about science, instead focusing mostly on my personal life. I’d like to try to share more of what I read and study, even if the audience is very small. At times I’m sure I get caught up in jargon, and may assume too much background, but I want the practice writing. So below is my first post where I really consider some science. I’ll try to make a science related post periodically.

I have an infatuation. It’s a rather nerdy, scientific one. I am fascinated by proteomics (the study of proteins) technique abbreviated as SELDI-TOF (Surface-Enhanced Laser Desorption-Ionsiation Time-of-Flight for those that are curious or hate acronyms). I was first introduced to it in the summer of 2002, when a researcher (Joe Paulauskis) from Pfizer came to talk to our class about drug discovery.

At first he talked about how drug companies are working at ways to understand what small genetic differences occur in the proteins that metabolize and dispose of drugs in our bodies. The differences are called SNPS (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms), and they can affect how one person responds to a drug compared to another person. This was all compelling stuff, but what really raised my interest was when he started talking about applications of mass spectrometry in characterizing people’s response to drugs.

In the basics of SELDI-TOF are that one puts a compound to be analyzed on a small chip that has a surface that will bind more strongly to compounds that have a particular characteristic (for example a specific shape or the ability to bind to copper). A laser is used energize the compound and it’s surrounding materials to a point where they float into the air, and because they’ve acquired a magnetic charge in the process, they can then be pushed/pulled down a tube that measures the amount of time it takes for a particle to reach the end of the tube (hence the designation Time-of-Flight). The larger a particle in the compound is, the slower it flies, the longer the time of flight. Knowing this allows scientists to determine the makeup of a compound.

What truly excites me about the application of this tool is in the prediction of disease. Some authors (Petricoin and Liotta) think that by using blood samples from the people with or without certain types of cancer they can predict who has a tumor based on the particle sizes detected in SELDI-TOF. Since tumors secrete proteins and other small molecules into the blood, and the body responds by producing proteins and small molecules of its own, it may be possible to detect these proteins (or a pattern of expression among several) that offers a high sensitivity method for screening people.

In what I consider to be a very promising paper the published in the Lancet (Petricoin et al 2002 ), a method similar to what I described predicted ovarian cancer with a sensitivity of ~100% (it correctly predicted every incidence of ovarian cancer in the test set they used). Other current, accepted methods have a sensitivity of ~35%! The implication of such a powerful screening tool is that we could detect cancer at an earlier, possibly more treatable, stage.

The paper has it’s flaws. It’s statistical methods were weak, almost inappropriate. The paper was widely criticized for that. A paper by E. Diamandis (2004) astutely criticizes some of the features of SELDI-TOF applications to cancer prediction. I’m not entirely persuaded by Diamandis’ arguments against SELDI-TOF though. Some of his strongest statements aren’t necessarily backed by evidence. This is an emerging technology, still very young. We need time to describe it better, but it’s promise is great enough that I think it warrants further study.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Belated Announcement on Baby

We had our ultrasound on Tuesday for the baby check it's status, and
learn it's gender as well (Ellie really wanted to know, I didn't mind
either way). The great news was that the baby looked healthy and had all
the parts that babies should have at about 20 weeks. I recorded the
event with the camcorder, mostly to get the sounds, and we got a VHS
tape of the recorded ultrasound. Ellie got her wish in finding out what
the baby was to be: it's a girl!

I noticed this weekend that as I walked around I noticed the little
girls and thought to myself I'll have one of those. I'm very happy to
know that we'll be having a girl. I wasn't pegging my hopes on one or
the other. My perspective was either way I'll bring it along as best I
can manage, treating her or him no different with regard to encouraging
a particular activity. Ellie asked me if we had a boy if it could play
with dolls, thinking she would get me flustered and out me as a sexist
(actually I doubt those were her motivations). When I said of course he
can play with dolls, since I recall having one or two, I think I
suprised her.

I have a feeling she'll want Alexandra (the name we've chosen) to be as
stereotypically girlie as possible. I think I'll do my best to offer her
lots of choices and decide what she likes, as long as it's not something
like coloring on the walls. Of course I realize in the end, some walls
will probably suffer the toddler touch along the way, but I can deal
with that.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Dinner with Dad

My dad was in town last night, so Ellie and I got to go out for a nice meal at Sahara's (I had hummus with Sojob, or at least that's how I think it was spelled).  Ellie suffered through dinner with an aching back. I love being able to sit down and talk with Dad. We talked a lot about trying to sell his house, Susan moving in with him, and how different family members were doing.

Ellie's aching back was quite the story. She started to complain on Tuesday night about how it was bothering her, and then by Wednesday morning she was crying on the floor about how bad it hurt. I've been around Ellie for a long time, and at first I thought she was being dramatic. I asked her if the crying made the pain better, she said no, and so I followed up with "Then stop crying, because it's not helping anything."

Have I ever been chagrined following that. We ended up going to the physician's office to get Ellie checked out, and they suggested it may be a kidney stone or a herniated disk. The following morning (Thursday), Ellie passed the stone. From I've heard of everyone's experience with passing a stone, it can be excruciating. Sorry Ellie! It's improving now though.

I made an audioblog post on the baby on Tuesday, but apparently it didn't go through. I'll do some writing on it this weekend and post some pictures.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I almost forgot to post a picture of the freshly painted nursery. I agreed to a light green after some coaxing from Ellie. Posted by Hello

This pic is a little closer look at our dogwood I posted on a while back. It's actually been looking better! Posted by Hello

This photo illustrates the redness of our front yard. Posted by Hello

For the First Time in Years

I mowed a lawn. I haven't mowed the lawn of the place where I live EVER. It did improve the appearance of our struggling yard, which has a large proportion of red fescue growing in it (making the yard look quite reddish). I'll try to post a picture later.

Our lawn seeder stopped by yesterday to have a look at the yard, following our insistant requests. He agreed that it looked unusual (the amount of red fescue), though it had happened to him once before in the previous 5 years. He recommeneded that a little fertilizer would be good for the yard, so we'll probably go out and buy some tonight or tommorow.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Uncle Billie's Competition

I made reference to writing some posts previously that got lost when I tried to email them from the iPaq (I don't know that it was the iPaq's fault, I suspect it was Blogger didn't play nicely). One of the posts was about Ellie and I going out to dinner with our friends Janette and Neil (Or Janeil as I nicknamed them on a lark).
We had eaten a good meal at the Blue Gill Grill and we chatting afterward while we finished our drinks. Neil went off to the men's room, and when he came back he asked me if I had noticed the game in the men's room. Since I hadn't, he described what basically sounded like an adult tinkle-target that measured the volume of urine produced by the individual. A kind of competition.
Since I hadn't noticed it, I thought I'd go check it out. Indeed, it was as Neil had described, much like a mini-urinal inside the urinal. On the coin-operated part of the machine was a depiction of a character that looked like a stereotypical redneck. I dropped in a quarter, and "Uncle Billie" challenged me to a pissing contest. Having already gone once that evening I immediate felt under the gun. What if I got "stage fright" and couldn't produce? I finally managed to compete. In the end Uncle Billie informed me a "hamster could piss more than that." I thought, geez you filthy-mouthed redneck, you're just some kind of self-loathing urinal peeker, but then I remembered it was only a machine. I don't know what disturbed mind produced this device, but it was definitely the first time I'd ever seen anything like it.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Where O' Where Did the Posts Go?

Yesterday I spent about 45 minutes writing blog posts, two in all. One about the iPaq that I received as a gift from my father-in-law and have found quite useful, one about going out to dinner last night.

I wrote them on the iPaq as an email, sent them off to the address I normally do, where they've always in the past been posted quickly. I got a reply email that they didn't post properly because of "XML-RPC Error or Publishing Problem." I thought no big deal, I'll go back to my Sent mail, find the posts, and them put them up the old fashion way. No luck there. For some reason what I wrote did not appear in any of my Sent mail folders (not on my university email, nor on the iPaq).

You'll just have to take my word that they were brilliant, humorous, and heart felt. I jest. They might have been fun to read, but I don't think they were any of the above three. Anyway, if they ever magically appear I'll be sure to post them, because "Uncle Billie's Pissing Contest" is a post that deserves to be written and read!

Sunday, August 01, 2004

No shirt in the way now... Posted by Hello

Here's the newest pictures of our baby growing in Ellie's tummy! Posted by Hello