baratron: (Warning: Sick!)
Urgh. I feel so ill. Felt like I might be going down with something on Thursday and have progressed through the various stages of a cold ever since. Made the mistake of going out for dinner on Sunday evening, and since then have also had a raging fever and severe aching as well. Not happy.

Also, my laptop charger is now so broken that it only charges if it's in one very precise orientation. (The laptop and battery are both fine, I had them checked over by the Apple Store a couple of months ago, when this first started). Since a new one costs £60, I have emailed my university Disability Office to ask whether I can just buy it from the Apple Store (10 minutes away!) and claim the cost back, or if Student Finance England are going to be wankers and expect me to wait until one of their official Disabled Students' Allowance suppliers can get one to me. I rather suspect that the latter will be the case, and it's anyone's guess whether I will actually achieve an 85W MagSafe power supply for 15" MacBook Pro made before 2010, or whether I'll be sent one of the other wattages, or an 85W MagSafe 2 power supply, or... Who knows. (Also, I think I might need to fill in a DSA form for next academic year. I can't remember if I've done one yet).

Also also, I put in a repeat prescription yesterday with a request for 5 items, and only 4 of them were dispensed. There is no indication as to why the fifth one wasn't, it hasn't run out of repeats yet, and I even wrote in large, bright blue letters on the first page "5 items on form". It's megadose folic acid, which every so often I think I don't need, stop taking for a couple of days, and then have a horrible mood crash and end up crying my eyes out for several hours whilst wishing I was dead. I have 2 days supply left, so I need to ring the doctor's surgery and say "Oy", but I have no spoons left at all.

Also cubed, one of the Important Drugs on my repeat prescription is going to run out within the next 8 days. Therefore I need to make a doctor's appointment. Currently I am too sick to leave the house, and certainly too sick to sit in a room full of other sick people and swap germs. Urgh.

Also to the power of 4, I need to talk to my next-door neighbours about smoking right outside the front door, rather than passive-aggressively closing the window whenever smoke blows in :/ That definitely requires spoons :(

In happier news, I watched Dara O Briain's Science Club on BBC iPlayer yesterday and it's amazing. They report science news in a reasonably non-patronising way, and do lots of little experiments during the programme itself, in all areas of science. I'm mildly amused because one of the presenters is someone I knew at Imperial, a guy called Alok Jha. He looks absolutely the same as he did then, which isn't bad considering he's claiming to be 37. (I don't think he can be, since I'm sure he was a third year when I was a first year, and I don't think he would have gone to uni aged 16... But maybe I'm misremembering).

Everyone say "Happy birthday" to my dear ex-girlfriend [ profile] artremis tomorrow, because she's awesome, and I have failed to get a card to her due to the aforementioned sickness and blergh. She likes bunnies, knitting, coffee, and plushies, so if you can find pictures of knitted bunny plushies drinking coffee, that might work well.
baratron: (Skyrim)
I haven't written anything here in ages, which means I probably should, simply to let people know I'm still alive. Unfortunately I have absolutely no spoons whatsoever today, so I'm just going to drop off a few links and run.

My Blind Date... With Science! Very funny, if not hugely accurate :D

Psychatric Meds Helped Me Become A Better Person. I'm not saying this is universally true, and I certainly lost enough time to the wrong psych meds - but holy crap, is it true for me on the right meds.

From Scientific American: Chocolate consumption and Nobel Prizes: A bizarre juxtaposition if there ever was one. I presume this is a new take on the famous Pastafarian graph plotting global warming against the number of pirates, i.e. showing that correlation is not causation. Except these people seem worryingly serious. Hrm.

The Geology of Skyrim. Oh, what incredibly hot dorkery. I love this woman.

I really must find the spoons to do the Wednesday Reading Meme tomorrow. I've been telling myself I would for the last three Wednesdays in a row...
baratron: (mages guild)
Still don't have any spare brain to write commentary, and in fact today I hurt so much that even typing is an effort. So here are some links presented without comment:

Me And The Abstracted Persona of the Anti-Ism Community At Large. A couple of years old, and triggery for me by halfway through.

Certain Propositions Concerning Callout Culture, Part Three. Parts One and Two are good too, but they mostly say things that we already know. Whereas this points out a few home truths that people May Not Like.

The battle against 'sexist' sci-fi and fantasy book covers. I'm fairly sure I've linked to Jim C. Hines' website before, but it's awesome to see a big organisation like the BBC report on it.

Studies Raise Questions About Safety Of Personal Lubricants. I take it that everyone reading this already knows that nonoxynol-9 Is Evil, but there are a few alarming surprises in the article.

Five organisms with real super powers that rival their comic book counterparts.

Crime Against Nature: an inclusive children's book. Digital version available free.
baratron: (wolfy)
Pink Science, '50s-Style. Interesting comparison of a "Lab Technician Set For Girls" to the hideously gendered "Chemistry" kits of today.

What Milgram’s Shock Experiments Really Mean: Replicating Milgram's shock experiments reveals not blind obedience but deep moral conflict, from Scientific American.

Maps of the 2012 US presidential election results, organised in a number of ways. Interesting but slightly freaky.

Positive pregnancy test diagnoses man's cancer. From Reddit, apparently.

BEST VIDEO OF THE ENTIRE YEAR!!! Two very good dogs teach you chemistry. This is beyond amazing. If you have ANY interest in chemistry or dogs, or even if you don't but you don't actively dislike dogs, WATCH THIS VIDEO.
baratron: (test tube)
NASA finds Cookie Monster on surface of Mercury. Awesome :)

Parody of anti-gay pamphlets offers detailed, behind-the-scenes view of how liars misuse real citations. Very interesting, and Relevant To Our Interests.

Sexist bastardJames Watson on The Double Helix and his changing view of Rosalind Franklin. I still want to spit at him, but I suppose he comes across as slightly less objectionable when all the evidence is considered. Bah.

More than you maybe needed to know about the echidna. Warning: Contains echidna penis. Once seen, can never be un-seen!

Protein art. This is also Relevant to My Interests.

OMG, baby octopodes! *hyperventilates with Teh Cute!*
baratron: (willpower)
You know what I've been really missing since people started spinning off to other types of social media? Awesome links that people found. I only have a couple of people left on my friends list who post cool links, and it tends to be one or two at a time rather than massive linkspams. I miss them!

I myself am terrible at getting round to posting linkspams (indeed, I usually have 20 or more tabs open waiting until I have spoons to write coherent English), but here are some of the links that have been sitting around waiting:

Science Links:
Photos: Bear researcher Lynn Rogers keeps making tracks. This is the guy who's been on a couple of BBC TV programmes, and whose bear research I follow every day. Lovely photos of Ursus americanus. Bears!

So, we all know that people who think that people who think that cilantro is pleasantly astringent are normal, and people who think it tastes soapy are normal, and people who like it because it tastes soapy are complete weirdos. And we've known for a while that whether it tastes pleasantly bitter or soapy to you is because of genetics. Here are the actual genetics.

Carnivores pick meats over sweets. Apparently, lots of carnivores can't actually taste sweet things. I presume that bears are not among them.

Awesome animations. Unfortunately, the version of The Cambrian Sea shown here does not include the Opabinia. ([ profile] stellarwind's favourite prehistoric creature).

[ profile] otterylexa informs me that 8th-12th October are Cephalopod Awareness Days. All hail our future overlords!

Ada Lovelace Day is on Tuesday 16th October. Rather tempted to go to this event in London, anyone interested?

Cute Things:
Liz Climo's Tumblr. Adorable drawings of bears, bunnies, dinosaurs, foxes, and more.

Queer Things:
Illustrated Kinsey Scale. NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Now I want someone to do a female version, please. And a bi version with all genders of people.

Disability Links:
Found by accident: Sign language that African Americans use is different from that of whites. Very interesting.

Linked from that, and on a similar note: Gallaudet University’s new dorm designed with deaf students in mind. Will be generally interesting to anyone who cares about access issues.

How Things Work When Your Lover Is Also Your Caregiver. This is great.
baratron: (science genius girl)
At some point I should write up my weekend, but given that I've been in bed for two days, who knows when that'll be? It was good, anyway. My back is less good, but this is partly my own fault for neglecting to do my physiotherapy exercises for months on end.

This Friday I'm planning to go to this event from 4-11pm - would anyone like to join me?


Jul. 7th, 2012 05:01 pm
baratron: (science genius girl)
If you're a certain kind of geek, this is awesome: the new, 2011 definition of the hydrogen bond. Turns out all those school definitions involving a hydrogen covalently bonded to an oxygen, nitrogen or fluorine atom forming a second, weak bond with the lone pair of electrons on another oxygen, nitrogen or fluorine don't go anywhere near far enough...
baratron: (flasks)
Wow. I am so flaky. It is nearly 7 am, and I am still awake because I haven't done anything useful today.

My brain isn't in a very good place. My "new" GP (well, okay, I've been seeing her for 9 months, but that's still new, especially as I don't go to the doctor every single month) suggested I should come off trazodone, since it has a sedating effect which could be making my chronic fatigue worse. Normally I leave medication changes until holidays or other times when I don't have work to do, but I agreed to do it right away because I didn't think trazodone was doing anything for me*. MORE FOOL ME.

So I've spent the week getting increasingly tearful and unable to cope. I've stopped crashing out and being comatose for 12 hours on end, or having incredibly weird, vivid dreams that make me wake up exhausted from tossing and turning - but I can't stay asleep for more than 2 hours at a time either. And I feel slightly as though my head is about to fall off, all my skin is uncomfortable, and every so often I drift a few inches out of my body. Not as badly as proper, depressive depersonalisation episodes - but still not exactly pleasant.

I'm going to continue with my current trazodone dose for another couple of weeks, until either the discontinuation syndrome goes away, or I entirely lose the ability to cope. I'm not sure which will happen first. (I wish it was easier to titrate drug doses - chopping a dose from 100 mg to 50 mg is quite a big jump. Would've been easier if a smaller decrease was possible).

Also, my vitamin D level was 41 nmol/L in my most recent test. (It was 57 nmol/L in the summer, and that was still bad - 75 nmol/L or more is generally considered as the bottom end of "normal", and lately some doctors have started recommending 100 nmol/L as the minimum). The doctor started quizzing me about compliance with the 800 i.u. per day of vitamin D that she told me to take - she honestly thought I was missing it out. I pointed out that I've been taking 1250 i.u. per day because of the amount that was already in my multivitamin, and she suggested 2000 i.u. per day for the next 6 months. Blah!

Fortunately, I finally found a source for vegan vitamin D3. The different forms of vitamin D are closely-related steroid compounds, and there's some controversy about whether D2 (ergocalciferol, derived from plants) is as good as D3 (cholecalciferol) made in animal skin. Obviously, it's D3 that our bodies actually use. On the basis that everything I eat is fortified with vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and yet I was still horribly deficient, I've been taking D3 derived from lanolin in sheep's wool for the past few months year, since there weren't any vegan forms of D3 on the market. But apparently it can be produced by lichens. GO LICHENS!

* I haven't been on a single antidepressant in years - my old GP was a great believer in taking several different drugs on lower doses to get the best balance between positive useful effects and bad side-effects.
baratron: (baratron again)
This story is hilarious: How (not) to communicate new scientific information: a memoir of the famous Brindley lecture. Technically work-safe, since it describes a public lecture at a scientific conference; but the lecture was about erectile dysfunction and given by a scientist who was, er, eccentric. You'll see when you read the story.

Related to this is Discovery that a melanocortin regulates sexual functions in male and female humans, which is a fairly normal journal paper, until you get to the accidental side-effect...
baratron: (octopus!)
Yesterday my Mac suddenly lost the ability to connect to the internet. I thought this meant that our ADSL was down, or the router had crashed (we've been having fairly lousy connectivity the past few days), but rebooting the router didn't help. It later transpired that I had perfectly fine connectivity from the eeePC. After trying various sensible things myself, I waited for Richard to get home - and it turned out the Mac's keychain had randomly corrupted itself. People who know about Macs say this is a Bad Thing.

The thing is, I'm sure that usually when users go to tech support people and say "I haven't done anything to the computer, it just stopped working", usually they have changed something and forgotten about it. In this case, I hadn't done anything at all. Half an hour previously, it worked. Then suddenly, it didn't. Huh.

I really need to clear out some of the tabs that are sitting around in my browser waiting for me to write about them. But I still don't have a lot of energy, so anything I say will be brief.

Topless Robot: I Would Not Like to Fight 300 Naked Orcs, Personally. A load of level 1 characters in World of Warcraft teamed up to attack one of the toughest bosses in the game. The video is hilarious even if you don't know anything about WoW (as long as you're vaguely aware of video games in general, I suppose).

Sparkfun: Yarn Monster. Richard found this on Sparkfun's site and told me I should link it for all my knitting friends. It's a robot that turns messy yarn into neat balls. Awesome!

Storycorps: Q & A. Animation drawn over a real-life soundtrack of a 12 year-old boy with Asperger's syndrome interviewing his mother. May require tissues, may be triggery (e.g. if you are on the autistic spectrum and do not have such a loving, accepting parent).

Top Five Panda Cheese commercials. Very odd TV adverts for an Egyptian cheese, featuring an utterly adorable panda. Or is he?

Fire and Ice on a Platter. I can't remember quite how I found this, but it's an article about the science behind the dessert Baked Alaska. It's very interesting for cooks and science-types alike.

Autism's First Child. Article about/interview with the first person ever to be diagnosed as autistic.

BBC News: A Real Good Samaritan and Your Good Samaritan stories. It made me cry.

Bad Science: Putting a number in its context. The rebuttal to the rather scary recent news story that 600 women had become pregnant despite the contraceptive implant. On a similar note, A new and interesting form of wrong. What's wrong with the recent Stonewall report that “the average coming out age has fallen by over 20 years”.

WALRUS ALLERGIES ARE A SERIOUS ISSUE. From [ profile] sherlockbbc_fic.
baratron: (science genius girl)
Do any of my friends want to go to the massive nerd tour featuring Robin Ince, Dr Ben Goldacre of Bad Science, the very pretty Prof Brian Cox, and ex-Imperialite Simon Singh? I'd want to go to the London date.

And yes, I know this clashes rather with my last post where I'm complaining about a total lack of spare energy to do anything social, but I'm rather hoping my chronic fatigue will have f'ed off again by May.
baratron: (rainbow chemistry geek)
Bacteria first species observed to use arsenic-laced DNA backbone

Evolutionary geochemist Felisa Wolfe-Simon, the lead author, and her colleagues found a strain of bacterium (GFAJ-1 of the Halomonadaceae family) that can grow in a medium abundant in arsenic and lacking phosphorus. The GFAJ-1 bacterium naturally resides in the arsenic-rich waters (200 uM) of Mono Lake located in California's Eastern Sierra, and it belongs to a family of proteobacteria that is known to accumulate arsenic. It's not remarkable that GFAJ-1 survives in high concentrations of arsenic, but what is startling is that it potentially integrates arsenic into its DNA and proteins.

baratron: (science genius girl)
I'm going mad trying to find a citation. Wikipedia says that 96% of neurons in the neostriatum (part of the brain) are medium spiny neurons (they are medium-sized, and look spiny or hairy). This is relevant because that type of neuron is destroyed preferentially by Huntington's disease.

So far, I've found references claiming numbers from 95% to 98.8%, but for the density of medium spiny neurons in the neostriatum of MICE or RATS. I'm not sure that numbers applicable to rodents would necessarily apply to humans. Certainly, our brains are much more complicated!

After about 2 hours of searching, I've found references for "over 95% in rats and mice, and 75-80% in primates" (in a textbook, published 2007) and "90–95% in rats and over 85% in humans" in a paper published in 2008. But nowhere have I seen a value of over 90% for humans, let alone 96%.

So I've posted on the relevant Wikipedia Talk pages asking people with more time than me to look over the numbers. I don't have time to try editing Wikipedia myself, not when it's more than a very minor edit and I don't know all the codes, and I have a literature report to write. I think this will be my new thing to do whenever I find mistakes on Wikipedia and don't have time to correct them myself. It's not as useful as making the correction, but at least it points people who have time to the data.
baratron: (goggles)
I am pissed off. I am now, for the first time, reading a paper which contradicts around ten other papers that I've already read, written about, and referenced. And contradicts them in such a way as to make it obvious that this paper is correct and the others are wrong. Damnit! How DARE science change when new discoveries are made? ;)

Frivolous post, but I'm really very stressed. I'm sorta stuck with my thesis, until such time as I can get the books that I need. (Discovered late last night that I hadn't photocopied everything that I thought I had - because for copyright reasons photocopies in the British Library are 24p per A4 sheet and you're only allowed to do one page per sheet for book preservation reasons. So I try not to photocopy stuff unless it's essential, and don't always guess right). Didn't get to the library today because my back hurt. So I'm working on one of the bits that I don't understand instead of getting on with the stuff that I DO understand, and it's stressing me out.

Also, I'm also premenstrual ("again?!" says Richard), which isn't a good state to be trying to do anything difficult in.

[ profile] rowan_leigh shared an excellent New Yorker article about procrastination, which may explain why I'm now struggling to write this wretched literature report in a couple of weeks instead of over a couple of months. Apparently, "Lack of confidence, sometimes alternating with unrealistic dreams of heroic success, often leads to procrastination" - you think?! The most amusing part of it is that, apparently, "Victor Hugo would write naked and tell his valet to hide his clothes so he would be unable to go outside when he was supposed to be writing"!! If only it were warm enough for that! I'm wearing three or four layers with the heating going full blast!

Might try that method in the summer. Um, when I'm in my study at home, that is. I might scare people if I did that at college.
baratron: (dino)
This is cool: Snake gives 'virgin birth' to extraordinary babies. The offspring are not clones, yet have no father. They also have a combination of sex chromosomes that was previously considered non-viable. Normally in snakes ZZ is male and ZW is female, but these snakes are WW.

The very awesome thing is that To celebrate Open Access Week and the 350th Anniversary of the Royal Society we are making our entire digital archive free to access from 18 October to 30 November 2010, so you can go to the Biology Letters website to read the actual journal article for free, regardless of whether you have access to an academic library. I have to say I understand about half of it - and there are NO PICTURES (boo! I want to see the unusual "caramel" colour of the babies!), but the DNA sequencing bits are cool.

I have also discovered that there is a snake called the Brahminy blind snake, or Ramphotyphlops brahminus, that is TRIPLOID! But it simply reproduces asexually, having only female snakes and producing up to 8 clones at a time. It would be awesome beyond words if it needed three snakes for sexual reproduction, like in the book Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre!

There are also two species of rodents called the Plains Viscacha-Rat (Tympanoctomys barrerae) and the Golden Vizcacha Rat (Pipanacoctomys aureus) which are tetraploid. But they appear to have male and female "rats" (they're not really rats but closer to guinea pigs, apparently) and reproduce sexually.

Life is amazing.


Sep. 26th, 2010 01:32 am
baratron: (goggles)
This evening, I am a refugee from my own study. Our neighbours are having a loud music + bonfire party, so I can't actually BREATHE in my study, let alone concentrate to work. Bah.

Some friends from PokeCharms have found that there is a me sprite in Pokemon Black & White! I am quite amused. Her shoes are wrong, but otherwise, that's me.

Congratulations to Ed Miliband on being elected new Labour leader. Commiserations to the friend of mine, who for obvious reasons will remain anonymous here, who lives in the same road as him! That's going to make your life a whole lot more interesting, eh?
baratron: (rainbow chemistry geek)
Here are my results:

Appalling pun of the day: Modeling age-related diseases in Drosophila: Can this fly? *groan*

Weird description of the day: solenoid-like proteins
When I think "solenoid", I think of a coil of wire with current passing through it. I don't think of a helical protein!

Awesome journal titles of the day: Brain Research Bulletin and International Journal of Hyperthermia

Misleadingly simple research paper title of the day: Beyond the Qs in the polyglutamine diseases
The only difficult word in that is "polyglutamine", which is really quite something considering that the next paper on the list is Effect of the disulfide bridge and the C-terminal extension on the oligomerization of the amyloid peptide ABri implicated in familial British dementia. To me the title rather implies that you're looking at polyglutamine diseases with names starting with R and onwards... ?

Unpleasant-sounding disease of the day: hand-foot-genital syndrome

"I didn't know they had one of those" award of the day: A drastic reduction in the basal level of heat-shock protein 90 in the brain of goldfish (Carassius auratus) after administration of geldanamycin.
The abstract for this paper features delights such as intra-cerebral treatment of goldfish and These results suggest that in the brain of goldfish, Hsp90 may not be involved as a key factor [...] and support the idea that GA can be used in fish brain as a tool in elucidating the role of Hsp90. Wow.

Also, I'm wondering why anyone would ever rave about the wonders of EndNote Web when there's nothing whatsoever in it to stop you adding the same reference multiple times! It was rather annoying when I went into it and discovered that 31 of my 79 entries were duplicates because I forgot to delete the marked list from Web of Science after sending them there.
baratron: (octopus!)
From today's innocent newsletter: Green sea slug makes chlorophyll like a plant. Apparently once the super green sea slug, Elysia chlorotica, has eaten its favorite algae, Vaucheria litorea, it never needs to eat again as long as it has access to light, water and carbon dioxide! It has acquired the genes for the chemical pathway to manufacture chlorophyll A, and these genes have shown up even in unhatched slugs that have (obviously) never eaten algae.

THIS IS AWESOME! Behold our new guru and spiritual leader!
baratron: (science genius girl)
For those of you who were wondering about the woman with the Science Genius Girl tattoo, I have a message from [ profile] lizenthusiasm:
Actually, Sean tracked her down on Facebook! He wanted to get a better-quality photo from her since the one online was all blurry. And no, she didn't know about us, she just saw one of our pins somewhere. Which is still kinda awesome.


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