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.