Sunday, August 23, 2009


Sorry I haven't posted in a week. I was off on an Alaskan cruise with my family. By that I mean with just my parents, since I am an only child and none of our family friends could make it.

We went with Norwegian Cruise Lines though, so the crowd was a lot younger than I expected (only about 50% elderly citizens rather than 95%). Quite a few teens, but most were under 17, and therefore met up in the teen club that I was not eligible for. Also, since I was alone, I was more timid about approaching people that were already in groups or sibling/cousin/friend pairs. It's tough for me, I don't feel comfortable inserting myself into a social situation like that, though I know many people who do it with ease.

It's okay though. I enjoyed it very much. I still made some friends, but I used the majority of the cruise to just relax and go to all the events I wanted to go to (having a group of people partly denies you that freedom, as I experienced on my high school marching band's Mexico cruise).

Anyways, I have a couple stories and pieces of writing that came out that trip, so I'll post them in the next couple days, once I type them up.

P.S. I'm back on solid ground now but I still feel like the ship is rocking under me. How long is my brain's motion overcompensation going to last?


I can almost never turn off my mind. My brain is always thinking. It's part of the reason I wasn't very good at things like Guitar Hero or DDR (or DsDsR, the handheld homebrew Nintendo DS version).

It's the unconscious brain that's faster. When master athletes and singers and dancers are doing their thing, they aren't thinking anything - their minds really are a blank. In fact, thinking about it inhibits their ability to do what they're good at. The same is not true for beginners, which is perhaps why I am quick to pick up new things but slow to master them.

In any case, I have trouble not thinking. Once I realized that was part of the problem, I worked on it, and I got slightly better with the video games, but there's still thoughts hanging around in there that I'm trying to ignore. There are only a few things, then, that can clear my mind effectively. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fighting HIV: It's What's Inside That Counts (Really)

So researchers are finding another approach to battling HIV that makes use of genes we already have? Cool. Here's an excerpt from the paper that came out a few months ago:
A group of scientists led by Nitya Venkataraman and Alexander Colewhether wanted to try a new approach to fighting HIV - one that worked with the body's own immune system. They knew Old World monkeys had a built-in immunity to HIV: a protein called retrocyclin, which can prevent HIV from entering cell walls and starting an infection. So they began poring over the human genome, looking to see if humans had a latent gene that could manufacture retrocyclin too. It turned out that we did, but a "nonsense mutation" in the gene had turned it off at some point in our evolutionary history.
The team found a way to use a compound called aminoglycosides, which itself can cause errors when RNA transcribes information from DNA to make proteins. But this time, the aminoglycoside error would work in their favor: It would cause that RNA to ignore the nonsense mutation in the junk gene, and therefore start making retrocyclin again. In preliminary tests, their scheme worked. The human cells made retrocyclin, fended off HIV, and effectively became AIDS-resistant.
Wow. Seriously, that's amazing. Unfortunately, judging by some of the comments on the article, I think a few people might interpret this the wrong way. I'm taking a look at the paper, and I want to make a few points:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Sighing with frustration, he stepped through the dead leaves on the forest floor. The quiet was unsettling, but preoccupied as he was with everything else, he barely noticed. His mind was drowning in all his problems, scrambling for air and a breath and a chance to think about something else before the next wave swept over. He neared a fallen log, and wondered once again why on earth he had listened to his brother. The woods would hardly make him calm, he detested dirt and bugs and brown dead things.

Sighing with disgust, he inspected the fallen log for any signs of insect habitation. Satisfied, though still doubtful that his naturally carved sofa was really critter-free, he eased himself down. Surprisingly, his focus on ensuring the cleanliness of the log had cleared his mind somewhat. He crossed one leg over the other and leaned back, listening to the intermittent snatches of birdsong, the swirling rush of the stream in a desperate neck-and-neck race with the man-made trail, the reluctant crinkle of a leaf caused by a hare tentatively stepping out of a nearby bush. Apparently the forest wasn't so quiet after all. He wondered what else he had missed hearing lately.

Sighing with pleasure, he finally allowed himself to lose the worries that had been burdening him for the past months. The cucumber greens and dark ceramic maroons of the redwoods were rather soothing. Moving leaves up above made Shakespearean shadow plays on the fallen needles. He reflected for a moment on how the intricacy of the patterns mirrored life. Deciding not to dwell on that complexity lest he fall back into the dark navy ocean, he instead turned his attention to the roof of swaying branches and stared at the sky, surrendering himself to the pale, calm lapis sky.

Sighing with reluctance, he trudged back to his car. He had felt peaceful here, but it was time to return to work. Now, though, his mind was clear and he felt he could handle it. He supposed his brother must've been right. Maybe nature really did have some healing power.

I originally posted this as the first part of a short story, but soon decided it was getting rather bulky and unwieldy. So I got rid of that and just wrote the vignette that had been rolling around in my head every now and then these last few months. One of the perks of not having any readers, I suppose - until I get one, I can change things around as much as I want. ^_^