Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Weirdness Around Us, Volume I

It should come as no surprise (given my title line thingy up there ^^^) that biology is a big part of my life. I've always been fascinated by how stuff works, from simple things like staplers to complex genetics stuff. The latter is keeping me quite busy and will hopefully some day soon land me a job (#please).

Anyways, with a fairly serious emphasis toward those pesky gene thingys, I'm set to finish up my M.S. in Biology this semester. IF I can pass my oral examination and thesis defense in, oh, a terrifyingly looming 6 weeks.

Grad school has caused me to develop some serious test anxiety, probably due to me overloading my schedules in order to get done quicker. It goes without saying I've been doing A LOT of studying here lately. Especially because I jokingly asked my main advisor what I needed to know, and he unjokingly replied 'everything'.

Cue fits of panic. Often before I go to sleep at night. It's lovely.

Deciding to devour a few textbooks in only a few short weeks has had its challenges. Namely, if I've got to know it all, where the eff do I start?!? (Imagine a panic attack here--Go.)

Given that my first ever college biology class was plant-oriented (snore), and it met MWF at 8am, and I kind of thought socializing was important (ehmm)...yeah. You can imagine how well that worked out. So I have begun my quest to modestly know 'everything' in the next six weeks starting with a lovely, wonderful, freshman-level general biology book. Most of the big picture things I already know. But now, wised up by the years and perspective (and panic), I've started to re-realize why I freaking love this discipline so much in the first place: it's awesome*.

It's fascinating. And frustrating. And it tells me how cool, real life stuff works.

I am Lee, and I'm a biology nerd.

As I was reading this general biology book, I came across a term that I've heard often enough, but never really thought about. It's called cryptobiosis.

Basically, cryptobiosis is when an organism under stress (from drying out, freezing, running out of oxygen, etc) enters an ametabolic state that it can stay in (without change) almost indefinitely. There's several other flavors of stimuli, like chemical changes, solute concentration changes, that can also cause an organism to enter cryptobiosis. Once the environmental conditions get back to ideal, the organism can essentially reanimate itself back to a fully functioning, metabolizing state.

How sweet is that?

Tardigrades, or water bears, whatever you want to call them, are able to enter cryptobiosis. It's been reported that water bears can remain suspended for up to 60 years. Here's a picture of one:

While they are microscopic and not exactly as cuddly looking as other bears, they're still pretty amazing. (Tell me that doesn't look like a monster straight out of a sci-fi flick?)

And they say science fiction's cool**.

Currently Listening to: Hans Zimmer everything, FTW.

*Com'on, you know it is.
**For what it's worth, this is not a dig at Sci-Fi writers. At all. I love science fiction. I just also happen to love science fact :).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Struggle.

Currently listening to Jason Isabell--The Devil Is My Running Mate.

Today it took me two hours to write 600 words.

For the record, I'm a pretty speedy typer, so it wasn't the mechanics holding me back. Nope, it was the unflexed writing muscle. Unfortunately I've been on a bit of a self-inflicted writing hiatus ever since the new year rolled around. I've got this pesky thing called a thesis that REALLY needs some attention. Like, if it's not done in the next six weeks, I don't graduate in May. *cue panic here*

Given options, I'd much rather write from-my-head fiction than thesis fact. (Yeah, hybrid zones, I hate you.) Rather inconveniently, my fiction writing isn't looking to pay my bills any time soon, so thesis it is. (Why I'm in a science master's program is anyone's guess. 'Cuz I've got absolutely no friggin' clue.)

Anyway. I made myself a deal--No novel until the dreaded thesis is done.

I've already broken that contract, of course.

Citing good behavior (I've been studying and generally being super--and unnaturally--productive), I gave myself a little reprieve today.

Too bad it sucked.

The 600 words today were a struggle of epic proportions. Were they epic words?--oh hell no. But perhaps they were functional. I'm afraid to reread them, so I can't tell. I'm not the type of writer who can go for extended periods of no writing without it showing. It's painful, really. But hopefully it'll be over soon and I can get back into the groove.

Only six more weeks to go.

How's your writing going?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Writing Perks.

I don't tell many people that I write.

Firstly, I'm a pretty private person. (Odd, maybe, for a blogger. Clarification: I enjoy the anonymity of the Internet, but try not to hide behind or abuse it.)

Secondly, I can often do without  people's odd/ignorant/stupid comments. (only one of those type comments is a bad thing. still, I'd rather avoid all of them.)

I'll probably tell curious people I'm a writer when/if I'm published. Until then, I won't say much about it. But inevitably you've probably got to tell someone what you're doing, if only to justify why you're spending X number of hours locked away with only the computer for company.

Eventually your significant other/grandma/etc. isn't going to believe that you're actually watching porn*. (Though, depending on your relationship with said person, you may only have to use this answer once...but I digress.) So, when they get too curious for their own good, you've got to fess up.

In my particular instance, the people who know I actively write in hopes of publication include one of my sisters and the loverman/fiance thing. Both are wonderful, nonjudgmental people. One found out because she has the nosey Czech gene from our grandmother. The other knows because he hoped it was actually porn (<--joke.)

Given that I see the latter every day, it's often that he's around while I'm writing.

Then, on days when I'm a little out of sorts with him (like today) and he pokes his head in my office to ask what I'm doing, I get to answer with delicious honesty.

Plotting, I'll say.
Add smile.
Turn back to computer.
Then let him wonder.

*Speaker discretion advised.

Currently listening to Nothing Else Matters/Despedida Medley--Shakira

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Can You Hear That?

Listen closely.


There! Hear that high, keening, ear-splitting shriek, probably from somewhere in Texas?

Yep. That's me, wading my way through the first few chapters of The Painted Queen. Wading is probably the wrong word.

Straight up drowning?

But that's what happens when you change ideas midstream (ha. bad joke. laugh with me people. it's better than crying. *Maybe*)

Just when I think I'm about to drown, I take a quick break and find this on the book of face:

I don't think what I'm doing is quite as good for my gluteus (muy) maximus.

Damn you, uplifting encouraging message, damn you!

And now back to the slog.
(I think slog is the best word for this.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Why I lack productivity.

 I have a good reason--I swear.
(Double swears!)


Get something done with these guys yipping and squirming around?


Puppy Jumble. :)

Since this photo, all their little noses have turned black.
In Rhodesian Ridgebacks, liver/brown noses are resultant of
a homozygous recessive pigment gene. The sire of this litter has a
brown nose, meaning he is homozygous recessive for that particular gene.
The dam has a black nose--meaning she could either* be homozygous
 dominant or a heterozygote (one 'brown copy' of the gene and one 'black copy').
However, given that all the puppies wound up having black noses, it's highly
likely that the dam is homozygous dominant (and therefore the puppies are heterozygotes).

She may seem content, but in reality she was growling at me the whole
time I was snapping these photos. Basically, the ideal momma dog.

Alas, even playing the puppy card has its limits. So now I'm back to work in this area.
(Is it any wonder I don't get much done?)

Hope everyone had a fantastic holiday!


*given that I don't remember what her parents were--otherwise the alleles would have been pretty easy to figure out, once you do all the probability stuff.