Friday, October 29, 2004

Days Turn Into a Week

Already it seems Thursday has arrived and I haven't written an update
since the iPod crash. It's still running happily, albeit with a lot
fewer songs on it. I've begun the process now of transferring all the
mp3's I've burned on CDs because I didn't have hard drive room and
transferring them to the new hard drive I bought. Got quite a deal,
after rebate of course. Best Buy was selling Western Digital 80Gb hard
drives for $90 with $60 in mail-in rebates. I've been waiting for
about a year to see a hard drive that was at least double the capacity
of what I had with a cost below $40. A few times I've almost jumped
for one at $50, but finally I found the deal I'd be patiently waiting

The result is I've finally got enough space to move all the mp3 files
I've got to a place where I can move conveniently listen to them. I've
also grown a little leary about just having them on CD. I've seen some
questions raised as to how permeant the storage afforded by a burned
CD really is, though I've yet to have any trouble with them. At least
with the hard drive I can more easily transfer them to a newer, bigger
storage location when one comes available.

Ellie and I, or should I say mostly I, am still working on the
birthday cake she got AJ and I this past weekend. I like it, but I'm
thinking soon it's going to have to go out in the trash. AJ & Jaime
came to visit us from Grand Haven last weekend, we had a nice time
talking and then going out to a Japanese steakhouse for dinner. Sunday
we all paid a visit to St John's Student Parish in East Lansing. The
homily was never-ending. I was quite frustrated with the experience by
the end. There must have been 6 times I thought it was about to end
and it didn't, then it ended so abruptly I was thinking "Hunh? Was
that a complete sentence?"

I've started to produce some data on my new lab rotation. It's been 3
weeks and I finally produced some data. The funny thing is I've been
much busier than I was in the last 3 weeks that I was in my other lab.
It had been about a year since I'd done any involved assays for
things, and so I'd forgotten how involved it was to take all the steps
that went into isolating gene messages (RNA) and proteins. I'm
crossing my fingers for this project to go well. It'd be a pretty
exciting thing to be working on if we can get through this point of
background work prior to asking questions that interest us, but I've
learned that one must take care of the background work before the true
probing can begin. If we spent weeks doing the experiment to get the
results we were interested in and then discovered that we didn't find
them because our method wasn't working we would have just wasted a
bunch of time and resources. Better to take the steps so that we can
speak with confidence on the results than to get negative results and
say "This might be the case, but the truth may be obscured by our

As a final thought for this post I was listening to NPR the other day
and the Libertarian canidate for President (Micheal Badnarik) said
something that really stuck in my mind. I don't remember the exact
words, but it was something to the effect of "The only wasted vote is
one that is cast for a canidate you don't really believe in." How I
wish we had a system where parties outside of Repubs and Dems actually
got a voice. Personally, I think things are so polarized that we're
ripe for a change in the landscape of politics, such that we no longer
have two parties that don't truly reflect the views of Americans.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

iPod Seizure

Saturday past I noticed something odd. I plugged my trusty iPod into it's
dock to transfer over some new tunes I bought, and iTunes told me it
couldn't communicate with the iPod. Hmm, that's odd I thought. It's been
working flawlessly for some time now. I look down at where it's sitting and
it is in it's connection mode, tell me "Do Not Disconnect." I figure iTunes
can't find it anyway, and even if I turn off the computer the iPod will
still think it shouldn't be disconnected (this I know from experience), so I
give it a "manual undocking," that is I pull it out despite the stern
warning to no disconnect.

I restart it, and this is where I notice trouble. It begins an endless cycle
of restarts. Ack! Hard drives aren't supposed to like being constantly res
tarted, so I immediately try to put it into sleep mode... and it continues
to restart. Now I'm concerned. I don't want it doing this until the battery
runs out, and I certainly want it back to playing music. I lay it on the
desk, it continues to seize, an d I start to try to find a solution.

First thing I discover is there is a way to put the iPod in "Disk Mode". I
restart it, and just as it begins to boot I hold down FWD and REV on the
controls. Bingo, it's out of the restart cycle. I won't play music th ough
in disk mode, it will only function as I hard drive. I plug it back into the
dock and iTunes is still not recognizing it. I know I can try a factory
restore, returning the software to the original state. In the process all
the data on the drive would be lost too, so this isn't an attractive idea to
me (it took me months to fill it, and while I've got my tracks on CDs, I
don't want to go through the time consuming process of reloading them from
CDs to the iPod).

After a little more web research I discover there is a "Diagnostic Mode" for
iPods. I restart the iPod, and simultaneously hold down FWD, REV, and
SELECT. The screen flashes a backwards apple and makes a chortling noise...
and bingo, a new menu I've never seen before! There many options, but none
of them have to do with playing music. Fearing the worst, I select the
option "HD Scan" and let it begin the process of scanning its drive. At
first I think nothing is happening, so I leave it on the desk and go to the
other room to chat with Neal. T he instructions on the web said it may take
15-20 minutes for the drive to scan, so I'm not going to stare an nothing
for 20 minutes, after all there's college football on TV.

After some time I return to peek at the iPod... bad news. "HARD DRIVE FAIL
0x000400x" is what the iPod is telling me. NO! I don't want my iPod dead
already... we've only been together a short time, but it's been great. This
is a relationship that needs to be salvaged. Understanding the inevitable,
that I'll have to try the factory restore, I begin the process of
downloading the most current iPod software version. Better to have a blank
iPod to fill which works that one that is full but doesn't play music,
obstinately hiccuping every 30 seconds. It doesn't take long to update the
so ftware back to factory settings, and wonder of wonders, the iPod has
stopped seizing and has booted to its simple menu. Knowing it will take me
days to reload the songs, I put it to bed and resolve to begin the process
sometime this week (which I did, a couple CDs at a time in the morning
before work).¿

Friday, October 15, 2004

New Season, New Lab

So I’ve taken my sweet time in writing another update. I suppose the newest news is that I started a new lab rotation, this in the lab of Dr Norbert Kaminski. I’m working on a project that is exploring the way that dioxin (an environmental contaminant that can persist for a long time in nature; Agent Orange, the herbicide, was contaminated with dioxin) depresses immune system function. I’m learning a new treatment method that can help reduce the level of specific proteins in the cell. Hopefully by knocking down the expression of some of the proteins that interact with the signaling cascade associated with dioxin we can learn more about its mechanism of toxicity.

That was a mouthful! In other news, my Mom put on a baby shower for Alexandra this past weekend. It went great, Ellie and I were very impressed with how well my Mom handled everything. Alexa got lots of cute little outfits that are now hanging in her closet, and some other useful items like a hamper and a kind of mobile-thing that goes on a blanket. Ellie and I are both looking forward to her arrival.

Fall has definitely arrived here in East Lansing. Many of the trees have changed colors, and leaves are starting to accumulate in the back yard. I may need to buy a rake. I really don’t want to do that! Thus far the lawn mower has worked great for picking up all the leaves, but of course they keep falling.

At school we’ve started midterms. I get the Biochemistry exam I took last week back on Monday, so we’ll see then how it got graded. I did OK in my pharmacology class test, but I did somewhat poorly on the section of the exam that was graded by Dr Kaminski. I was pretty embarrassed. I totally missed a question where one designed an experiment, though I still think the way I described the experiment it would have worked. I did pretty well on the rest of the test.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Note on OneNote

Microsoft Office Online: OneNote 2003 Home Page

So I was reading a copy of the State News during my lunch today and read a quick blurb that a group had been on campus yesterday (did that make it yesterday's news?) giving away free copies of Microsoft OneNote. I'm always interested in better ways of doing things, and the article described the software as being useful for students.

So I went to the MS website for OneNote to check it out, thought it might be a bit useful, and downloaded a 60-day trial to see what I thought of it.

Thus far I've only been fooling around with it a little, but I can see it being a great tool for students like myself. Many times I've wished I could make notes, drawings, images, and reference with web sites or link. Or make a voice note for a record and connect that with a project I was working on. Looks like MS already produced some software that can do all that. I've been fiddling around with it for an hour or two, and I think it would be perfect for use in research and publication of scientific results.

I read it described as a "pre-writing" type of application, allowing for one to put things together and then polish it all up in Word or whatever other Office application one uses. I probably wouldn't be so impressed if I hadn't read a short article in the NY Times about a program where students were given Tablet PCs and used those for taking notes. The students and teachers seemed very positive about the results, and commented that it wasn't more difficult than using old style notes on paper, but made organization much easier. Pull that together with my learning to use the handwriting recognizer on the PocketPC, and I'm starting to realize that the idea of electronic paper is getting closer to reality.