Saturday, December 17, 2005

Winding Down

Another semester draws to a close--I still have a hard time comprehending how the older I get, the faster everything hurtles by. Woosh!

I have one grade back already: a B+ in Mol. The more I think about it, with just a few more points over the course of the semester, I might've been able to reach the A- range, but I can definitely live with that letter and I'm relieved to know that the Quest for the Pointy Letter is perhaps not as impossible a dream as I'd thought. Cell I don't know about yet, since the final was on Friday, but I'm hoping to salvage that to something not horrible...we'll see how that turned out.

The lineup for next semester, as soon as I get my registration issues ironed out, is as follows:
Advanced Genetics
Advanced Development
Seminar: Lincoln and the Constitution
3rd Rotation, followed by Agonizing Choice of Thesis Lab

I'm still undecided about what to do about, you know, Life. The beginning of this graduate adventure has been a gift, both to my sanity and my heart: about this time last year I truly was --l THIS l-- close to walking out on law school, except that would have made the persistent cloud of despair for the future that much worse. Now, although there is still plenty to fret about, hope and excitement have replaced despair. It's astonishing what a year and a couple changes will do for your spirit. Therefore, provided I don't muck up the other classes this semester, the decision is now whether to continue on the Masters track, or switch into the Ph.D. I used to be pretty sure that I'd never get a Ph.D., that it just didn't seem to fit. But now that I've had time to get to know myself a little better, I see that it might actually fit quite well!* Plus, given the number of classes I'll still need to take and that I'd want to do a laboratory-based MS thesis, a Ph.D. might not be *all* that much more combined time. (What can I say, I have these delusions about doing stuff like getting married and getting my own life before I'm 30...)

Sorry...I keep blabbing on about all that...but it's not an insignificant any rate, I do have that Biochem exam on Monday, and I've been so tired today that I haven't gotten much done, so here's to a few more hours attempting to study! Followed by a marathon tomorrow!

*Which is the story of my life in a nutshell...I swore up and down I would NEVER, EVER go to an Ivy League school, and look what happened...I thought it would be a good idea to go to law school, and, well, you get the picture...Never let it be said God doesn't have a sense of humor...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hasta el fin...

This is technically still sort of the last post...for a dose of finals humor, The Unreasonable Man (a UMN Law student I don't actually know) presents the latest in his series of legal pick-up lines: Evidence.


It's that time of year again: Finals are upon us, here in the chilly North--actually, it was remarkably warm today. I find myself amazed that the semester could have passed so quickly, and despite the continual state of stress, it's held some good learning experiences, and I shall miss it.

That said, I would dearly, dearly love to skip right over Finals and head back home! (Either that or institute the Princeton Model, to get my Reading Period back, so that I could be Christmassy right now, instead of panicky.) Monday is the Mol final, Friday the Cell final (hopefully my PI will grant me a few days out of lab to study!), after which I cram for the Biochem final next Monday, and fly home next Tuesday. Hence this is likely the last post for a while.

Until then, a Merry pre-Christmas to All!...if you head out to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, you mayn't tell me until after the fact because I will be exceedingly jealous...I will try to send emails soon about working on getting together around New Year's/early January...

I leave you with these things of beauty at which to marvel in awe.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Speaking of Christmas...

I certainly hope that when the Stem Cell Institute moves into their new digs in January, they aliquot, er, allocate a few of their megabucks towards a color printer. Doesn't have to be a super sexy one--any colors other than black and white would be simply smashing. I'm just sayin', yo...

Monday, December 05, 2005

7 Down, 3 to Go

Meaning our exams, of course. This morning's was for Mol, covering RNAi, translation initiation regulation, and nonsense mediated decay. 'Twas, however, less difficult than expected (although this doesn't mean that I still couldn't have gotten things wrong), with several multiple choice questions and the rest short answer, most of which were fairly straightforward from the lectures, rather than being data interpretation or extrapolations from lecture concepts and assigned papers. This would be a welcome surprise, EXCEPT that (1) I didn't have time to finish the majority of the design-your-own-siRNA question (probably the most challenging question) and may not have gotten absolutely everything else right; and (2) the lower-than-expected difficulty level means that the margin for error for the test will be extremely small.

Why is this important? Well, the 1SD spread from the mean (the B range) is already fairly tight and high*, therefore a few points on the exam could have a large negative impact. Le just can't win...

Aren't you all so nice to let me vent! Off for that staple food, free pizza...

*Due in no small part, I'm sure of the presence of post-1st year grad students. I'd thought it was primarily 1st years and some undergrads, but found out this weekend that there are 2nd year and at least one 3rd year in the course. Oy!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

For the Record

I do solemnly swear that I DID FINALLY see chromosomes today. The GVs made it into the slide wells and under the scope could be seen four honest-to-goodness chromosomes. (Ideally there ought to be many more, but we'll ignore that for now.) To where they vanished during centrifugation and staining, I have no earthly idea. But they were there, hang it all.

By way of explanation, I've been trying since the end of October, following on the heels of the previous rotation student and the PI before that, and this is the farthest I've gotten.

The small victory, it can feel so intoxicating...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Book Bleg

Whilst I sit here reading about nonsense mediated decay (NMD), my thoughts stray to the literary prospects afforded by Christmas break--which will be ushered in by exams all to quickly. Therefore, friends, I am seeking recommendations as to a few books to read during that time, either fiction or nonfiction; I guess the reading will be apportioned along with the eating, walking on the beach, family/puppy time, and--I hope--visiting friends. Anyhoo, I'm hoping to start with The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (oh, and I see there are multiple Popper works listed...should probably read those too...), but I'd love to hear to hear opinions on other works!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Moon Battery?

Every so often, one feels a bit of neighborly concern...especially when one's neighbors come up with things like this*:

A former Canadian Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister under Pierre Trudeau has joined forces with three Non-governmental organizations to ask the Parliament of Canada to hold public hearings on Exopolitics -- relations with “ETs.”

By “ETs,” Mr. Hellyer and these organizations mean ethical, advanced extraterrestrial civilizations that may now be visiting Earth.

Personally, I'd be a smidge more worried about the *unethical* ones, not to mention how on earth we'd classify them under the Geneva Conventions and such, but whatever hovers your craft.

[...] Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."

Whoa, dude, dude, breathe...there are more than enough nasty sorts here on our own wee planet...and we know they exist, which is an awfully helpful attribute. Plus, we just assumed these other guys are "ethical" and "advanced," no?

Hellyer revealed, "The secrecy involved in all matters pertaining to the Roswell incident was unparalled. The classification was, from the outset, above top secret, so the vast majority of U.S. officials and politicians, let alone a mere allied minister of defence, were never in-the-loop."

Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

Now, my friend, I don't like to be a purveyor of monkey wrenches, but 1) I can't help but think that a military base on the moon would be kind of a tricky secret to keep; and 2) even if we assume, arguendo, the administration has made such plans, I'm having a bit of a difficult time imagining the odds of our purportedly ethical extraterrestrial visitors seeing the business end of a supercool weapon are higher than their getting an invitation to Crawford for some BBQ and maybe even getting to hold Dubya's hand.

Hellyer’s speech ended with a standing ovation. He said, "The time has come to lift the veil of secrecy, and let the truth emerge, so there can be a real and informed debate, about one of the most important problems facing our planet today."

And all this time I'd been pondering how to increase individual prosperity and opportunity around the globe; preserve the principles of free speech and limited government for posterity; improve the dismal state of American education; end human trafficking; and stop regimes who oppress those who live within their borders while their leaders amass large sums from international aid monies. I'm a silly girl, what can I say?

On October 20, 2005, the Institute for Cooperation in Space requested Canadian Senator Colin Kenny, Senator, Chair of The Senate Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, “schedule public hearings on the Canadian Exopolitics Initiative, so that witnesses such as the Hon. Paul Hellyer, and Canadian-connected high level military-intelligence, NORAD-connected, scientific, and governmental witnesses facilitated by the Disclosure Project and by the Toronto Exopolitics Symposium can present compelling evidence, testimony, and Public Policy recommendations.”

[...] The Disclosure Project, a U.S.– based organization that has assembled high level military-intelligence witnesses of a possible ET presence, is also one of the organizations seeking Canadian Parliament hearings.

Vancouver-based Institute for Cooperation in Space (ICIS), whose International Director headed a proposed 1977 Extraterrestrial Communication Study for the White House of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who himself has publicly reported a 1969 Close Encounter of the First Kind with a UFO, filed the original request for Canadian Parliament hearings.

Ahhh, Jimmy...

The proposed Decade of Contact is “a 10-year process of formal, funded public education, scientific research, educational curricula development and implementation, strategic planning, community activity, and public outreach concerning our terrestrial society’s full cultural, political, social, legal, and governmental communication and public interest diplomacy with advanced, ethical Off-Planet cultures now visiting Earth.”

You know, I'm awfully tempted to forward this to the senior scientist who harangued me the other day about lack of federal funding, &c.... (OK, it was a general harangue, but still, I think they forget what they're up against, sometimes.)

Those bits of neighborly good fun aside, I wish our friends in Ottowa well with their project in interplanetary diplomacy. Even if I do think the taxpayers' money could be better spent, I'm sure it's an admirable effort. And if the ethical extraterrestrials do exist, you will have beaten us all to the punch. Naturally, you may refer the unethical, belligerent ones to the then-President Rice. Cheers!

(h/t The Corner, of course)
*Er, Ben, is this just bitter-cold-induced Canadian humour that I don't get?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Quizzie

You Are The Stuffing

You're complicated and complex, yet all your pieces fit together. People miss you if you're gone - but they're not sure why.
(Rather fitting, given that Mom's stuffing is definitely the most important part of my family's traditional Thanksgiving foods...followed not infrequently by the pumpkin cheesecake.)
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Another Person Grade-Blogging

No, really, this is newsworthy. Or, more specifically, the fact that I may actually be doing OK in one of my classes is extremely newsworthy. The grades from our latest Mol* exam are up, and I've clocked in around what looks like a firm B on the exam. If I didn't have another exam tomorrow, I'd break out the ice cream and have a little celebration.

However, keeping the proverbial head above water is still a BIG task: the last weeks of the semester will be, starting tomorrow, a massive campaign to maintain the decent Mol standing, eke out something in Biochem, and beat the remaining Cell quizzes and final into bloody submission; all the while still showing up in lab and maybe actually accomplishing something. (Though the latter may be too much to ask for.) Thank Heaven for Thanksgiving...4 entire days all to myself to do nothing but study and offer up prayers that Minnesota will see the light and convert to the Princeton Final Exam Period Model!

Ah well, I still maintain I'm marginally better at this than at being a law student. Except that Paulsen is offering a seminar next semester on Lincoln & the Constitution, and I entered the law lottery solely because I do rather want to take it. Naturally there's a goodly bit of sadism involved: it's a senior writing seminar, which means 5 short papers (they only sound easy) and a final 25 page paper. Who wants to take that at the same time as Genetics and Development? Ooooh, pick me!!! Oh yes, and there's also an Innovation Law course being offered...quick, stop me now!

I guess the other item on the agenda is to generate and execute a million-dollar idea in order to buy The Chauffeur a faster car.

*Strangely, I don't actually know the full course name off the top of my head, although I suspect it might be "Regulation of Molecular Processes."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

One of Those Days...

...definitely. Doctor's appointment that could not be rescheduled ended up taking the entire class period for Cell. I'd emailed the prof ahead of time explaining this conflict (which I was unable to resolve) and asking for an excused absence and hadn't heard anything back from him. Still haven't. Did put the signed note in his box, so hope he'll see it and not penalize me (yes, it's back to high school). Got Cell midterm grade back--I was right--it went rather poorly. F^#%. Now must do brilliantly on the remaining quizzes and even more freaking brilliantly on the final to still end up OK. (Must also find time to get through the day-to-day work and start studying for Biochem exam on Monday, on which must also somehow do brilliantly.) This was supposed to be a low-key week with time to study. So far, that hasn't happened.

Then, was doing great in lab until forgot a key reagent which set me back an entire hour and somehow during the very last step ended up with ridiculously low yields. Absolutely no idea how that happened, so I get to do it again tomorrow. As I was cleaning up, checked the voicemail and found a "please call us back" message from my bank, with no details. Now, I'm sure that's probably because of some regulation barring them from mentioning your private information over the phone or something like that, but it's also an outstanding way to give a girl a minor heart attack while she immediately starts imagining every dire scenario which could leave her with an empty vault at Gringotts. Fortunately, it turns out they were just calling to let me know I won a compilation CD. Phew!!

Nevertheless, I just want to finish tonight's work as quickly as possible and hope tomorrow will bring improvements.

At least the first snow of the season is coming down outside...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Scary Moment of the AM

In Biochem lecture on protein folding:

Prof: "And if we think back to P-Chem..."
Cot's inner monologue: *panic* Wait...I was supposed to take P-Chem?!? When did that memo go around? See, Dr. ___, I didn't take it because (a) the title involves "physics" and "chemistry," neither of which I do; therefore (b) I would have promptly failed out of school. And as we all know, I adored our little Gothic country club and didn't really want to depart in ignominy. I mean, physics is very sexy (I guess chemistry is too, kind of), except when I touch it: then it's just a disaster.

Sigh. That's OK, I'm not here to be a biochemist, I'm here to play with Genes 'n Cells & Co. and will make sure not to do any hardcore biochemistry without adult supervision. ...just have to make it through!

But still, scary!

{Evening edit because I had to write on a Mac this morning}

Friday, November 11, 2005

Could You Make That a Chocolate Martini?

You scored as James Bond, Agent 007. James Bond is MI6's best agent, a suave, sophisticated super spy with charm, cunning, and a license's to kill. He doesn't care about rules or regulations and somewhat amoral. He does care about saving humanity though, as well as the beautiful women who fill his world. Bond has expensive tastes, a wide knowledge of many subjects, and his usually armed with a clever gadget and an appropriate one-liner.

James Bond, Agent 007


Batman, the Dark Knight


Neo, the "One"




Lara Croft


Captain Jack Sparrow


Indiana Jones


The Amazing Spider-Man


William Wallace


El Zorro


The Terminator


Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with

My payback for this post, I guess...
(h/t TigerHawk)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Your Honor...

It was daunting to be a mere student arguing last year in front of an experienced litigator who took seriously his duty to tear our arguments apart. It would be doubly so to argue before a federal appeals court judge (at least for Yours Truly, who cringes at the thought of the whole courtroom thing*). So one can't help but grin and feel for these Wake Forest students who will be facing...that's right, the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. One wonders if this will prove to be an effective method for reducing the probability the poor mock judges will be subjected to ridiculous arguments by nervous students shaking in their heels (or tie). H/T The Corner.

*Hence the Best Brief finalist and not Best Oralist!

Further Up and Further In

My current rotation PI is fantastic: he kindly agreed to let me have today off from lab to study! This is rather generous indeed. I didn't start studying quite as early as I'd intended today, but doing OK so far, I think--I hope! Covering RNA stuff right now (aka rekindling the old love affair)...devilishly complex. Strangely enough, I'm studying in the law library. *scary music* Or mayhap not so strange: I'm pretty sure I wrote more than one Con Law or Civ Lib paper down in dear old Fine.

Here's the really funny thing that keeps percolating among the gray cells: as I work in the lab, it feels like the right thing to be doing. All right, not 24/7, mind you, but right on the whole. A little explanation is in order: since my very first visit to campus, with a stop at LTL, I was always fairly certain I wanted to be MOL. (This was reinforced by the unfortunate realizations during high school that things like physics, engineer, and math genius didn't quite seem to be in the cards.) And apart from a momentary flirtation with the idea of Comp Lit, everything was pretty straightforward. But I was always absolutely certain the lab rat life wasn't the way to go. Fortunately my advisor coaxed me into giving it a try; the rest of the story is evident. Now, the more I see and the more I learn, I realize that the components of an organism might be tiny, but the functional "world" they organize is immense. It's not enough to know that these things exist: I want to be a part of the search for understanding.

So, what do you think, friends? How does "Dr. Cot" sound? Or is this just temporary insanity...

...In other completely unrelated happenings, I am now signed up for broomball! (Minneapolis rec league)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Cautionary Tale

We're on notice, folks: should we ever be appointed to a high office, our theses may also see the light of day. I'm only twenty-odd pages in thus far, but it's actually pretty interesting--interesting if you have a passing interest in comparative constitutionalism and governmental structures and the like, anyway.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Poor little verbs

Have my ears become more sensitive of late or is a proportion of native English-speaker biologists incapable of using correct verb tenses? Sends shivers down the spine, this does. (Er, in a bad way, as opposed to the Belgian chocolate my new PI brought back which induces good shivers.) I confess my restraints broke and I reflexively corrected someone today. It simply could not be helped; there was no other way to alleviate the agony of the poor, innocent verb!

Because maltreatment of verbs by biologists in Minneapolis is clearly news...


Ben, you must be writing away diligently whilst disconnected from the Internet, because you've nary a peep yet...

There's little or no substantive commentary I can offer--plenty of others already have and will continue to do so--, but FWIW, Alito's nomination is a welcome, nay, outstanding, rebound from the Miers Debacle: the President's temporary loss of sense seems to have come swiftly to an end and he has continued in the vein of his previous appointments. <Peanut Gallery: Alleluia! Now, how about spending issues?> While almost everyone will have had his favorite Fantasy Nominee, I hope we can all agree that today's nomination of a respected practitioner and jurist indicates the White House's recognition of 1) the depth of the candidate pool, and 2) the importance and seriousness of the position of Supreme Court Justice. Bravo. (h/t TigerHawk)

I almost* wish I were back in law school at the moment, just to watch the hissing and spitting and frothing at the mouth during one of the great American blood sports, judicial confirmation hearings. Nevertheless, I'm mercifully waking up to cells instead and the complex world of signalling waits for no woman.

*take that with a salty ice cube or two...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

You Might Be Obsessed When...

All I wanted was a Gryffindor Quidditch bumper sticker...and then I started thinking: have I completely missed something or does Wizarding Britain have only one branch of government? (In which case it wouldn't be a branch, now would it.) Seriously. Unless there is more than has been mentioned, the only recognizable arm of government I can recall is the Ministry of Magic, which appears to be an Executive of sorts plus a bureaucracy with legislative, regulatory, and judicial functions. I'm not even sure of the legislative powers bit, as most of what we see are variious types of regulations and agency/departmental rule-making. Wouldn't this type of organization create an expansive, essentially regulatory "state"? (Certainly seems to, anyway.) I find it all the more surprising that this state of affairs should occur in Britain, home of the Magna Carta, Parliament, etc.: no matter how separate a population, I would have expected more aspects of representative government to be present. Hmmm. Most peculiar. Hmmm...this could definitely have contributed to the mishandling of the pre-war/Vold War II crisis.

Right-o, off to bed to dream about electron pushing.

But before I do...for all the violinists out there: MPR just featured Itzhak Perlman playing the Seitz #2 Concerto. Brings back the memories, doesn't it :) The disc is Concertos From My Childhood; I've played the Accolay, Seitz 2, and Viotti, but neither de Beriot or Reiding.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Excellent Adventures in Science, cont'd.

Your Very Own Cuddly Microbe

To the best of my knowledge, it's been years since I've asked for anything for Christmas, but this year I may have to make an exception. May I present to you...ta-daaa... Giant Microbes! Another incredibly cool link that was pointed out to me a few days ago is the KEGG Pathway Database, which was such an exciting find that I ventured to call it "hot" (c-hot, even). To which The Chauffeur replied that my view of "hot" is clearly not normal. Not much I can do about that, I'm afraid!

In the same vein, it's been so good to be back (despite the stress and not having enough time to actually do all the studying work that needs to be done), that I've started to knock around the idea of switching from the M.S. track to the Ph.D. track...nothing definite right now, though.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My Fantasy Pick

Yes, I'm procrastinating whilst supposed to be drafting a presentation for Thursday (draft due tomorrow) and puzzling over metabolic mechanisms, but...PowerLine informs us that Michael Stokes Paulsen and John Yoo have an op-ed in the LA Times on how GOP senators ought to handle the Miers confirmation hearings.

Professor Paulsen, incidentally, is probably the best law professor* I've had so far (in a tie with Professor Matheson) and one of my all-time favorite professors in general, up there with Robbie George (the incomparable, and the source of my now-compulsive use of parentheticals**), Hadley Arkes, Lynn Enquist, William Jordan, and Theodore Ziolkowski.

Sadly, I did not have him for Con Law, but was able to take "War, National Security, and the Constitution" with him last Fall. He was intending to write a book on the subject, although I have no idea whether that project is still underway. I would recommend perusing his articles, even if the mere idea of reading law articles lulls you to sleep. Paulsen is actually on my SCOTUS Fantasy Short List (although his also holding a Divinity degree likely disqualifies him--so much for no religious tests...). The benefits of such an appointment would include, but not be limited to:

- a sharp, sophisticated legal mind willing to consider somewhat unorthodox positions in "sacred" areas (not attributes all Justices always display)
- questions from the bench that could push both counsel down their slippery slopes (I realize this is merely being a good jurist, but I just don't get the vibe that Miers would really do that)
- an interesting balance of both conservative and libertarian instincts
- age: he would be on the Court forever
- a real understanding of the principle Robbie George tried to impart to us in his classes: "consitutionalism and policy are not the same thing." Actually, he said it much better than that, but he's the brilliant and well-spoken one
- thoughtful opinions handed down on Starbucks napkins (perhaps up to three or four napkins, but rarely more than that)

*I should note, in case any Powers That Be of Mondale Hall ever stumble across this humble public diary of unsolicited opinion, that this reflects more the disconnect between myself and law school than it does on the actual school. My IP professor was also good, and our Civ Pro prof, Adam Samaha who unfortunately left for the U of C, was outstanding. That said, I will never actually get excited about law school; a highly limited assortment of legal subjects, maybe possibly perhaps.

** The rough guide to reading George: 1) Read it twice, 2) Check between the parentheses, the key points might well be hiding there... :)

Monday, October 17, 2005

A "Skewed Sense of Priorities"?

I would hope that this news item (reprinted in full below) would be a significant nail in the coffin of UN worship. I am not, however, holding my breath. You see, the Telegraph reports that the UN has flown Robert Mugabe, yes, that Mugabe, to Rome to address a conference hunger!

A "skewed sense of priorities"? Perhaps if one were actively seeking the "Understatement of the Year" award.

Mugabe to speak at hunger debate as he defies EU travel ban

President Robert Mugabe flew to Rome in defiance of a European Union travel ban after the United Nations caused outrage by inviting him to address a conference on world hunger today.
Zimbabwe, once the bread basket of southern Africa and a major exporter of food, now depends on western aid to avoid starvation.

Four million Zimbabweans, a third of the population, need supplies from the World Food Programme.

Critics of the Harare regime are appalled that the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), whose mission statement is "helping to build a world without hunger", invited Mr Mugabe to address a conference in Rome marking its 60th anniversary.

Tony Hall, the US ambassador to the UN food organisations in Rome, said: "My government is excited about the FAO event which is organised to remind people about hunger.

"However my feeling is we shouldn't be inviting someone who has absolutely turned his back on the poor in his own country. He has made a mockery about the hungry and everyone should be upset about this."

Mr Hall said that since 2002 the US had donated almost $300 million [£169 million] in food aid to Zimbabwe.

He visited the country when the regime was engaged in bulldozing large areas of the poorest black townships.

This campaign, personally ordered by Mr Mugabe, destroyed the homes or livelihoods of 700,000 people and harmed another 2.4 million, according to a UN report.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "Going to Rome to celebrate World Food Day whilst millions of ordinary Zimbabweans face food shortages as a direct result of his flawed policies simply emphasise Mugabe's skewed sense of priorities."

Zimbabwe's transformation from self-sufficiency to dependency coincided with Mr Mugabe's seizure of white-owned farms.

He blames food shortages on drought. But critics say hunger is the direct and predictable result of his policies.

Tendai Biti, from the leadership of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, also criticised the UN invitation.

"It's a tragedy," he said. "Inviting Mugabe sends exactly the wrong signal. He has completely destroyed the economic and agricultural fabric of this country.

"The UN shouldn't play ping-pong with the suffering of the Zimbabwean people." An FAO spokesman said that as a member "in good standing" with the agency Mr Mugabe was invited to attend.

"The UN does things sometimes," said Mr Hall. "They roll over backwards to try to be fair but someone like this really makes a mockery of what we are about."

Mugabe, a Roman Catholic, last travelled to Rome for Pope John Paul II's funeral when he embarrassed the Prince of Wales, reaching across to shake the royal hand during the service.

Mr Mugabe accepted the FAO's invitation on Friday and will speak at the organisation's headquarters.

He seizes any opportunity to visit the western world and defy a travel ban imposed on him by the EU.

This measure, introduced in 2002, supposedly prevents Mr Mugabe and 94 other members of his regime from visiting any member state. A similar ban is in force in America.

Yet Mr Mugabe repeatedly exploits a significant loophole.
The travel ban does not apply to UN functions because these are held to be above the jurisdiction of any individual state. So Mr Mugabe has frequently visited New York to address UN summits.

He uses these occasions to denounce his western critics and blame them for Zimbabwe's food shortage.

In June, Zimbabwe's state press blamed Britain for Africa's dry weather and claimed that Tony Blair was using "chemical weapons" to cause droughts and famines across the continent.

Today he can be expected to seize the opportunity to make another attack on the Prime Minister and the "western imperialists" who are, apparently, obsessed with overthrowing his bankrupt regime.

And this is the organization that I'm supposed to want to take over the internet, the US, and the Constitution? Right, I'm sure Kim Jong Il & Co. will give simply smashing conferences on free speech and human rights.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Oh, James...

This if true, would be a bit of a blow to the Bond persona:

Not only is the new 007 to be kept away from the cigarettes, but one reader tells me, there’s this:

“From what I've seen of the early press releases he cannot hold a gun very well, Mr. Stuttaford (the cup and saucer 2-handed grip is taught to shooters with very small hands, and even males with short fingers refuse to employ it because of the "stigma" of shooting like a girl)…”

James Bond, effeminate? James Bond, small-handed?

SMERSH is laughing.

Ouch, baby, very ouch... Being a medium-sized female with not overly large paws, I do in fact shoot two-handed, whereas Dad & the Little Bro shoot with one. Dad's always encouraged me to try a single-handed grip, but no luck so far. I wasn't aware there was a "shooting like a girl" issue, as I've always thought this was due in large part to arm strength: my complete lack thereof allows the muzzle to wander and wobble all over the place without the stabilization of both arms. (I'd have to check, but I think competitive women may shoot with one also. Correct me if I'm wrong.) Maybe James just needs to put down the martinis for a bit, leave the ladies to their own devices, and hit the gym.

Based on the couple of Bond films I've seen and the one or two I've read, I still maintain they're a bit on the ridiculous side. The invisibility cloak car in the last one, though, was supremely cool. However, The Chauffeur really wants to see Casino Royale, so maybe I'll be a good sport and see it too.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"A remarkable man melds faith and reason"

The STrib says something nice...
From the rest of the article, "remarkable" would seem to be something of an understatement:

...Aris is a scientist of dazzling brilliance -- a chemical engineer whose mathematical models revolutionized his field -- and a deeply devout Christian. From 1958 to 1996, when he retired, he was one of the University of Minnesota's brightest stars, a primary reason that its chemical engineering graduate program is ranked No. 1 in the nation by the National Research Council.

"Aris thought in a dimension that none of us ordinary folks were capable of," says colleague Lanny Schmidt, himself an eminent scientist. A mathematical wizard, Aris went straight into industry at 16 after graduating from high school in his home country of England. He never formally attended college -- getting his degree in mathematics with highest honors by correspondence -- and wrote his Ph.D. thesis in six weeks. As a young man, his groundbreaking papers made waves internationally. [Dios mio! -Ed.]

Remarkably, Aris held a joint appointment at the university in the Department of Classics and Near Eastern Studies. An avid lover of medieval manuscripts, he scoured French and Italian monasteries for his work on Latin scripts. Aris is a prolific poet, author of 16 books and author or coauthor of 300 technical papers.

Right, then, going to go meekly back to hydrolysis now....

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ah, Vanity

I've been hesitant to put this up, nor have I announced it widely, but since the print version will be out in a day or two, I might as well. Moreover, a girl's first publication opportunity is bound to be exciting--and an affirmation that in some very small way (lots of PCR, lots of gels) I've been fortunate enough to have helped in making a contribution to science, to understanding how the world works.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Goodbye, little guy

Every tail wag was a gift. Goodbye, Driver...we loved you so very much.

"Dear friend, always remember, we don't come here to stay. We come here to go." (Shanghai Diary) As do our faithful four-legged companions.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Doleful Ghost's Guide to...

This is one of the funniest things I've read recently...and it's probably absolutely hilarious if you know your English ballads.
(Hat tip The Resplendent Mango)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Political Philosophy--An Approximation with Axes

You are a
Social Moderate
(41% permissive)
and an...
Economic Conservative
(73% permissive)
You are best described as a:

Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating

Weelllll...I don't know if that's entirely accurate, but you can't make questions out of broadly-worded statements better suited to essays or short answers (or long papers), not include an "it depends" option, and expect finely-tuned results :)

Personally, I'd probably be inclined towards "Sowellian."

(Thanks to The Tiger in Exile)

On a completely unrelated note, I really think that the Ravel orchestration of Mussorskgy's Pictures at an Exhibition may in fact surpass the original piece. Not that it's not a good piano piece to begin with, but the orchestration is simply brilliant.

At least the name is catchy

The "Warrior Diet"... but they seem to have neglected the prey-chasing strenuous exercise bit in order for the stylish cavewoman (or caveman) to stay fit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Pulling the Plug?

When I hear bandied about such breathless accolades as "a bold, courageous voice for reform" or "staunch advocate for reform" or sundry other descriptions, one of the names who leaps to mind (we can all tally our long lists and squabble over them later) is Claudia Rosett. Her most recent Opinion Journal piece "U.N.-Plugged?" focuses on the Sisyphean task of UN reform without a tangible, meaningful re-formation of the institution in its entirety. As she makes clear, such a labor cannot be successful without radical changes in its structure, its accountability, and its internal logic.

Power has since been restored. But Monday's blackout was about as close as anything's come to Ambassador John Bolton's much-quoted line that the U.N. could lose its top 10 stories and nothing would be different. The General Assembly session, continued without interruption in another part of the U.N. complex. The global economy ticked along. The world turned on its axis. On schedule, the sun set. All of which led to a taboo line of thought: What if we simply left the U.N. unplugged?

[...]But in the fleeting twilight moment this past Monday of contemplating a U.N. without power, I did wonder what a new world council would look like, if instead of restitching the creation animated by our forefathers in 1945, we created an institution tailored to our own era--not the 20th century, but the 21st.

The upside of an entirely new U.N. could go well beyond better electrical circuits at headquarters, or more agile computer backup (for a while, the U.N. Web site went out along with the lights). The current U.N. dates back to a time when the frontier of information technology was the vacuum tube, the ascendant philosophy in the developing world was communist central planning, and the kind of war the U.N.'s founders sought to prevent was chiefly the domain of uniformed armies clashing under the flags of sovereign states.

The U.N. founders wrote a charter at the end of World War II filled with wonderful words about reaffirming faith in "human rights" and "the dignity of human beings." They then contradicted themselves in practice from day one by respecting thug regimes enough to provide Stalin's Soviet Union a permanent seat on the Security Council and two extra seats in the General Assembly. They set up a U.N. system that not only failed to prevent a long series of wars but today fails to curb terrorism, or even adequately define it. In other words, to create an inclusive gathering of nations in 1945, our forefathers made some big practical compromises with their lofty ideals. In making those tradeoffs, their priorities did not reflect a world in which Osama bin Laden could surf the Internet.

How is it the notion persists that we're against Progress? Extreme Makeover: UN Edition sounds pretty darn Progressive to me. (Incidentally, having walked through the Taj Mahal in AC, the Home Edition crew will be doing the remodeling, not Donald.) I'm not up on all the details of my news, so correct me if I'm behind the times, but why the resounding silence from the evolving constitution folks? A couple more shenanigans from the UN and we might just own this issue--meaning you'd lose not only a consensus-building opportunity, but a chance to, well, play with some nonjudicial directed evolution.

Notice has been served...On to the progressing part! Or rather, to the drawing board...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Spectacular, spectacular

I'm clearly not procrastinating, since this is utterly biological...Those of us who don't get the National Geographic Channel won't have to wait much longer: their In the Womb program will be available on DVD shortly! I don't know if I could be more ecstatic: I've been longing to see this since finding out about it last year, and heard it get rave reviews the other day from a grad student in a neighboring lab who's seen it at least five times.

Hmmm, apparently tonight's theme is development...

Monday, September 19, 2005

When in doubt, look it up...

Amazon, may its days in the cyberhaze be long and prosperous, informs me that help is on the way. The relevant exam is next Monday, but this should come in handy later as well: since the final is inclusive, the spectre of kinetics shall haunt us until December. A far more pleasing event is also scheduled for next Monday--Chromatin and Chromosomes in Development. Now that is hot.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Uh oh...

You know you're in trouble when (as if you weren't already before)...the reaction kinetics schematic for the general model of "enzyme reactions with interaction between a substrate and a (metal) modifier" is three-dimensional.

Woe! Alack! *sob*

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Classic Dame?

Carole Lombard
You scored 14% grit, 14% wit, 47% flair, and 35% class!
You're a little bit of a fruitcake, but you always act out in style. You have a good sense of humor, are game for almost anything, but you like to have nice things about you and are attracted to the high life. You're stylish and modern, but you've got a few rough edges that keep you from attaining true sophistication. Your leading men include William Powell, Fredric March, and Clark Gable. Watch out for small planes.

Complemented by The Classic Leading Man Test

(hat tip Expat Yank)

Monday, September 12, 2005


I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank my little brother the Econ major--who is therefore an Excel Grand Poobah-in-training--for helping me with a graph so I can finish my problem set and go to bed. We don't know where in the family this Econ interest came from, but it apparently comes in handy! I was most concerned that the problem set would be tricky, but it does not appear to be overly difficult. Of course, I could have it utterly and completely wrong, which is not unheard of. Nevertheless, if you might have or know of a job opening for an Econ major (in his senior year at a very well-regarded school)...let us know, eh?

I would also like to document his statement that when he has a Flat-coat of his own, he will consider naming it "Stata." :-D Personally, I thought it would be adorable to have a pair: say, "Adenine" and "Thymine"...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

In Memoriam...

...for the innocents and the heroes this tragic day, only four years ago.

It is up to us, the living, to
remember and to stand firm, so that they shall not have died in vain.

"If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, so that my children may have peace." --Thomas Paine.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

On the Inside

Megan Cox Gurdon, one of my favorite columnists, has her customary Friday NRO column up--she focuses not on politics or blame and responsibility, but rather on the most fundamental question: searching for the truth of who we are as a people. This is no easy question...I urge everyone to read it. An excerpt:
I can remember, only four years ago, how wonderfully secure it was possible to feel as an American. We seemed to be loved and feared by foreigners in roughly desirable proportions. At home, we were a bean supper kind of populace; a covered-dish-delivering people who smiled at our neighbors. We were, it is true, no longer a nation that bowled together, and it’s not like children in most towns and cities could safely play on the street after school any more, and there were sharks in the ocean and Congressional interns going missing, but still —

Sitting on the sofa, blinking and sniffling, I realize that what I have been feeling, beneath the jolly toy-gathering, cheque-writing do-goodery, and the Dr. John-playing, and the tender preparations for a new baby, is cold fear.

September 11th ripped away any shreds of childlike belief that our government —
our Government — made us safe from foreign baddies. Worse, for me, is what this
last week has shown: That Americans really are not different from other peoples;
that we are not protected from the Hobbesian beast within; that in the worst
circumstances, we would, many of us, be spoon-stealers.

Of course, as with September 11th, Hurricane Katrina has produced countless acts of goodness and generosity, but I have been scarcely able to hear them. For me they have been crowded out by the horrible stories of child rape in the Superdome, of savage murders, slit throats, shots fired at helicopters, of looters shooting rescuers out of their boats. In wartime accounts, one reads of parents hiding their daughters, but surely not here — yet if barbarism can erupt in one American city, can it erupt in others?

Any manifestation of barbarism is serious. Nor will "desperation" suffice as an answer or an excuse: those are not acts of survival or defense or anything like. Mrs. Gurdon's "barbarism" is far more appropriate: those are deliberate acts of aggressors against civilization--cruel, vicious, destructive. Harsh words are for harsh acts. And yet--civil order did not fail everywhere, Biloxi being a notable example, and the nasty and brutish have not won, not just yet.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Adventures in Cooking

My family and some of my friends probably know that my attitude toward cooking has changed drastically in the past two years: despite my mother's attempts, I steadfastly refused to learn to cook during my early years (well, I could boil water). She wisely decided not to press the point and, knowing that I like food too much to starve, declared that "you'll learn when you have to." And so it was. But unfortunately, all good things must come to a close, and the day came when I not only could no longer frequent the beloved Tower Club, but also had to move halfway across the continent. Hence the summer of 2003 involved grudgingly learning a few basics and having to touch and slice raw meat. (All right, the latter I'll never enjoy.)

But somewhere amid the dreariness of 1L year (perhaps when I became convinced my professors were trying to wring out of me any creativity Princeton had tried to cultivate), there came an awakening: cooking was fun! It was creative! Most of all, cooking was liberating! Although I may not yet be earning the money to feed myself, I am in a small way providing for myself. (I'm not trying to be facetious or disrespectful, just pointing out that this is an area in which others had taken good care of me; now it's my turn to take over that area.) Plus, despite the fact that the vast majority of my cooking is highly experimental, it's pretty hard to fail entirely :) ...Baking from scratch is a different story, I suppose: there it is possible to fall flat...

The creation of which I continue to be most proud is last year's Chipotle and White Chocolate Liqueur Chocolate Sauce--equally good on white meat and brownies. Tonight's entry, though was inspired by a) procrastination (can't say I'm not honest) and b) a simple but tasty lemon pepper mango veggie 'n noodle dish. Briefly stir fry pieces of carrots and sugar snap peas, seasoning with a bit of olive oil, dash of lemon pepper seasoning, and mango dressing. Combine with whole wheat or other healthy-ish noodles & peas; reseason if necessary; and sprinkle a variety of cheese if you wish--tomato basil feta worked surprisingly well. Would also work well with chicken, if you remember to defrost it.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Things One Discovers When Channel Surfing While Cleaning One's Apartment

For instance, VH1 now* has a reality show called "Hogan Knows Best." I initially met it with great skepticism, suspecting it was just more bad "reality" TV. However, after watching for a few minutes, it might not actually be that bad: at first glance, the family doesn't seem overly disfunctional (one never knows, however). For instance, in this particular episode, his wife and two kids are concerned that he is bored with retirement and has nothing to do, so they dedicate themselves to occupying him by challenging him to golf, then tennis, then Pilates...the final scene is him taking an old wrestling buddy to Pilates :P So, there you go. Kind of sweet, really!

*Since this is the first I've seen of VH1 in months and months, it might not actually be new, I dunno. As you can see, pop culture and I aren't very well acquainted.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Goodbye, Mr. Chief Justice

Chief Justice Rhenquist passed away tonight.

Rest in peace.

Processing Hindsight/Aftermath

A pretty sensible WaPo editorial regarding planning for evacuating those for whom escapting an impending natural disaster is difficult, prohibitively expensive, or simply not possible to do on their own is up today. As the editorial points out, this includes a variety of people: "[those who] for reasons of poverty, infirmity, distrust of officialdom, lack of transportation or lack of information -- cannot be counted on to leave their homes after an evacuation order."

[Personally, I'm now glad that the Folks were able to reason me into a car. I realize that's on a purely personal and somewhat selfish note, but there you have it. If something did happen up here and I a) knew about it, b) took it seriously, and c) were able to get to the car, not only would I be helping out in general by getting the heck out but I could also take other people with me if they needed it.]

Zacht Ei reports that the Dutch have dispatched a ship without being asked and their water management expertise has been requested. I know we have our differences, but to our friends in the Netherlands--Thank You!

The Quizzie Habit Returns

What? You thought I'd given up and gone cold-turkey? No such luck.

You Are Likely a First Born

At your darkest moments, you feel guilty.
At work and school, you do best when you're researching.
When you love someone, you tend to agree with them often.

In friendship, you are considerate and compromising.
Your ideal careers are: business, research, counseling, promotion, and speaking.
You will leave your mark on the world with discoveries, new information, and teaching people to dream.

Hmm...every so often, a quizzie predicts correctly on the first try.

Tentative Steps...

...along a path both new and old. The Armchair Nomad is back to the Middle from her summer in DC (wonderful in so many ways) and end-of-summer travels home and to California for a beloved friend's incredibly fantastic wedding. Both the beautiful bride and dashing groom are fellow '03s!

Despite my concerns that everything would be filled, I have been able to find a lab in which to do the first rotation, and will be coordinating with at least one other lab for one of the later rotations. (PhD students do 3 rotations, MS students have the option of doing 2 or 3--since I'm working on dredging up the memories of all the biology that was theoretically crammed in my gray cells once upon a time and am relearning most lab things from the ground up, I think it's probably best to do 3 rotations.) Anyway, the first rotation will be through a fly lab that works on, among other things, Proteoglycans' roles in development and morphogen gradient formation.

Ideally at the end of all these rotations, I shall finally be able to do dilutions correctly...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ready, Set...

Yeah, baby, the Minnesota State Fair is just around the corner! This year, I'm making every attempt to drag Mom along too. (Which makes it us and the entire rest of the state's population converging on the fairgrounds & creates traffic insanity.) Oh, and if you thought I was kidding last year about the food, Fairborne's Fabulous Fair Food Finder lists all the food that will be available at this year's Fair.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Begin the Beguine

And so it goes...I await my September return to my One True Love, aka Mol Bio, with both exhilaration and trepidation. The program director informed me this afternoon that "[t]he usual first year of curriculum includes Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Cell Biology in the first semester, and then Genetics and Developmental Biology in the second semester." (In response to my query of what out of my old materials I should be reviewing starting next week.) No escape from Biochem, it would appear. Essentially, this will be like Junior year, except more intense: in addition to the core courses, the fall semester also includes a literature analysis course, a student research seminar (which I'm guessing involves presenting what you're doing in lab), a lab rotation, and a Joint Degree Proseminar; the spring includes another lab rotation and research seminar.

But, there will be pretty pictures in my textbooks and all kinds of Really Cool Stuff...!

The Impossible Dream?

Double entendre for this post I suppose: not only have I fallen far short in my exercise and weight loss quest, but now this article yesterday on MSN doubts whether I (and "my kind" as some people call us--you know who you are if you ever read this, my dear) can have real success in our quest for an integrated future that would not try to force us to choose between Career and Family (or at least ease the burdens).

First things first, though. I confess I promptly forgot that I was, in fact, supposed to be keeping an exercise log. This mental slippage was aided and abetted in part by an injury incurred during my brief trip back to Princeton: apparently walking along a curb with construction on one side and traffic on the other while carrying one's suitcase is actually a recipe for losing one's balance, tripping, and falling into the rubble. True brilliance, no? However, vast experience being the Paragon of grace and beauty inures one to such occurrences and provides one with the composure to take such things in stride, albeit a mildly interrupted stride. Incidentally, kindly passersby will offer napkins and bandaids to a young lady walking down Nassau St. with blood running down her leg. I suppose the bloody leg is a bit of an unusual contrast to the professional dress. (Favorite black work skirt is 2-0 for the summer in escaping near-certain disaster brought on by the ever-graceful wearer.) But I digress. The resulting scraped knee was very minor once cleaned up except for one small but fairly deep gash which I was pretty sure would not close unless more or less immobilized for the weekend. So, no gym :( But it was vastly improved by Monday and I have dutifully exercised since...with the highlight being scraping a full 20 seconds off my 1500m rowing time! Also now posting regular readings of spm's (I assume this is one's stroke rating?) of high 30s up to 40. Minimum goal for this evening is to keep those 20 seconds off...wish me luck.

Commentary about the women & work article coming later...I have work to do and a lunch appointment. Recess is beautiful...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

By the Way

Before I forget, sometime in the not so far distant future (ie probably sometime between August and September), I'm going to be switching to a new AIM screen name. So, if you chat with me (regularly or occasionally or hardly ever), drop me a line or whatever and I'll give you the new one.


Sitting in the Starbucks on Connecticut Ave., trying to make myself work on something due tomorrow. Yes, I realize, it's Sunday evening. Aside from being generally lazy today, I do have legitimate excuses: The majority of my workday Friday was spent not reading documents but making phone calls to figure out how to get a car loan and then attempting to relay that info to the Folks. (Who had finally talked me into agreeing to buying a car--that right there may be a first in recorded history, or at least a rare event.)

So, here I go...and don't get me started on how ridiculous the FDA (or any agency) can be...Suffice it to say that a few weeks on the Hill attempting to extract any kernel of information, no matter how small, from a regulatory agency ought to be more than sufficient to convince even the most reluctant soul that giving more power and scope to the federal government is not the best of ideas. In fact, I have even developed a sympathetic ear for consumer groups and the like who are also dealing with drug safety issues. I know, who woulda thunk? Given that I will be retaking StatInterp at some point, I eagerly anticipate making a heated exposition whenever someone raises the agency expertise argument as a justification for deference to regulatory agencies. Expertise? Good luck, odds are pretty good they don't even know what's on their own damn website!! Should we reach the point at which it becomes necessary to issue subpoenas, I want to walk down the street and hand deliver them, baby. With pictures.

Anyway, the real reason for this otherwise unprofound and pointless post is that Ben, ever helpful, has spurred me to accountability on the exercise front. I joined a gym this summer, but have had a less-than-perfect track record of attendance and success. Given that the goal is to lose 6 lbs by August 5th, for my own reasons, and 4 more by August 24th, it would appear a little accountability is in order. Ergo, the creation of a public record...Today: Rowed 1500m (8:30something); hip flexors and abductors, 30 & 40 lbs each; hamstrings 6 reps each; leg raises 12 reps each; biceps 8lbs; chest press 8lbs; triceps 5lbs; abs, can't remember; ball squats with weights until legs jellied; walk to gym and back, 2 mi. Anticipated workouts for this week...Monday, Tuesday, possibly Thursday if I can get into Dillon, Friday.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Crystal Ball

My wishes are granted! My grandfather turns 91 this month & I have long hoped to be as fortunate. Happily, this website predicts that I will live to see 91...barring any unforseen circumstances between now and then, of course.

Makes you wonder about what the future could hold, no?

However, the present holds papers that need to be read and testimony that needs to be written...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Link of the Day

Salutations from the National Swamp! I've confess I've been working here in DC since May 31st and have, as usual, been an abominably poor correspondent. Many apologies! But they've kept me fairly busy around here--life as an intern is rarely dull--and my host's internet connectivity is somewhat limited for the time being. I will remedy the lack of posting eventually, really...

Today's link is to the
HER Foundation, the Hyperemesis Education & Research Foundation. I only just found out about it today, but since this is something that just came to our attention and that we'd like to help out, I thought it couldn't hurt to give it a little publicity! If you have a moment to click around, please do, and share it with the women & expectant parents that you know or who may have been affected by this disease.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

By Any Other Name...

It ocurred to me the other night, when I couldn't sleep due to the caffeinated sugar high, that I will need to retitle this puppy (and the Xanga) for next year, since I will not be a 3L. Unfortunately, caffeinated sugar highs are not conducive to witty titles. Suggestions?

(Cross-posted at Xanga, because I think that one actually gets read.)