Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A new blog feature: Lisa does the experiment

I figured I could put my screwups in the lab to good use with a new feature, "Lisa does the experiment". All you non-lab people out there, don't worry. My screwups typically extend beyond the lab world, and they will also be included.

We'll start with a double-whammy today!

A. Western blotting mayhem
You know how you're suppossed to soak your membrane in methanol before you try to transfer proteins onto it? Did you ever wonder what would happen if you... say... forgot? Well, I did the experiment, so I can tell you! The proteins do not transfer! Hurrah.
In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't actually COMPLETE this experiment. I realized after I had assembled 4 blot sandwiches (yes I know non-science people, that sounds dumb. blot sandwiches.) that I hadn't done the methanol thing and I had the foresight to ask my PI what would happen. It turns out that he did the experiment in the past, all the way through to its sad finish.

B. Password-typing crazy
This morning I was sitting here and my screen saver came on. We have to have our screen savers password protected, so I had to input my password to get back into my computer. But it wasn't working. In fact, about 2/3 of my keyboard wasn't working. I thought I had broken my poor old powerbook and I very nearly called my wonderful mac support guy. But no! I had done the following experiment: What happens when you accidentally turn on 'number lock'? I'll tell you! only the keys that have numbers on them work!

Monday, October 24, 2005


My paper finally came out!! Hurrah. So much for the "September" issue, which comes out at the end of October. Hee.
Well, at least it now looks to the rest of the world like i did something in grad school. Now if I could just get my PhD advisor to get those other THREE papers off his desk, we'd be cooking with gas.

Also, Brian had one come out today. So tonight? We're going out for dinner!! Woohoo! Party!


An exciting weekend of excitingness:
1. On Friday we went to an institutional postdoc happy hour (that was off campus). And there were hm... 10 people there? Not the most social bunch, the fellows here. Also that night Stephanie came up from Fayetteville to take her pharmacy admittance exam at UNC the next day. We entertained ourselves by asking each other questions from her practice tests. Did I ever mention that I am a bit nerdy? I know, its a shock.

2. On Saturday we went to a big Halloween party at friends of friends house. 1/2 of the hosts were Aussies, who JUST LOST TO ENGLAND IN THE ASHES!!! The Ashes is an annual cricket match between England and Australia, which the Aussies usually win. Brian had the opportunity to bet on England against this guy and didn't because he didn't think the odds were that great. However! Would have been a good bet after all. So of course we dressed as English cricketers. Brian made a cricket bat and wickets out of wood. He was very proud of his work. I'm sure they were very accurate but you know, what do I know. I've been to one cricket match ever. Also, do you know how hard it is to find white pants in late October? Impossible.

3. Last night I went to see the Bravery with a friend from the new lab. They were playing at Cats Cradle in Carrboro. Every time I go to Carrboro I have major trouble, and last night was no different. I take I-85 to 15-501 to get there.

For as long as I cam remember, the exit from 85 has been TO THE LEFT. This is also the way that I go to work every morning (Except that I get on 147 instead) so... pretty sure I know what I am doing. However, last night? 15-501 exited to THE RIGHT. Huh??? They're doing a lot of construction here, so okay. But some warning that this was happening would have been helpful. I didn't figure it out until I was right on top of it and thus I missed the exit. Of course the next exit is seemingly 80 miles down the road. It took me a while to turn around, only to find that there WAS NO EXIT for 15-501 coming from the other direction. So, great. I was only ~15-20 minutes late because I had left myself some extra time, figuring that something would go wrong.
Anyhow, it didn't matter because the first band didn't even start until probably close to 9 pm. They were okay. Nothing that great. Then the next band came out and were great. And the funny thing was that I totally thought that it was the Bravery. Its not like I'm their biggest fan or anything, I only got to know them via the Musical Taste Project this summer. And the singer sounded Cure-esque, which I think the Bravery does - a more upbeat version of the Cure perhaps. But I kept thinking, I can't believe that they haven't played a single song that I've heard before! Well, duh. There were two opening bands. This one was VHS or Beta, and they were really great. So, a new fan has been minted.
The only problem with this scenario was that now it was 10pm, the Bravery hasn't come on yet, and I have to give lab meeting first thing the next morning. I have never felt so old and boring in my life. We stayed as long as we could, but they didn't come on until 10:45. Come on! We stayed for 4 songs and left. As it was, I didn't get home until 11:30, which is too late considering that we get up at 6 am. Blah. Also? Standing all night in heels is not good for the calves. Ow.

I'd like to think that I used to be a lot more fun than I am now, but I know that is probably not true. After all, even in college in the height of my fun-ness, I still turned into a pumpkin at midnight, generally leaving Amee stuck at BW3 with Marc and Krishna. Not that she minded.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Yesterday my dad came though on his bi-annual trip down to Florida. I picked him up in Chapel Hill yesterday after a long flight - the strong headwind had added almost 2 hours to the trip! In past years, he's flown down with Kola (the parrot) and Captain (the dog)

This year Wynton and Olly got to make the trip.

This was their first time in the plane, and neither are particularly fond of traveling in general. Olly has a really funny low-pitched meow, and apparently he was doing that continuously for a large part of the trip. Hee.

We went out to dinner to my favorite place, Pops. I got the shitaake mushroom pizza, although its not my favorite. It needs to be saltier than it is. But I cannot turn down the TRUFFLE OIL. I love truffle oil. I would marry truffle oil. I put some parmesan on it, and that helped.

(a truffle oil-related aside: We were playing taboo with Denise/Jim/Chris/Leo one night, and Brian was on my team. The word I was trying to get them to say was 'popcorn'. I said something like 'I put truffle oil on it!' because I thought Brian would know what I was talking about. Of course, he blanked, and the rest of the people playing just thought I was wierd. But really. Try it! Truffle oil drizzled over airpopped popcorn and salted. Its the BEST)

Also I had a martini, because I had had the Worst. Day. Ever (for this week anyhow). It was good. Mmmm gin.

This morning I took my dad to the airport for the return trip. That was an exciting trip in itself. First, my dad (who had Kola's carrier on his lap in the front seat) decided to open the cage and let Kola sit on his hand. Which was fine, until something freaked him out and he flapped his wings like crazy. Of course, then the bird-dust flies all over the place, and also the shredded newspaper lining the bottom of the carrier. So, that was nice. In my new car!! I'm sorry car.
Then, Wynton, who was not thrilled with being in the cat carrier in the first place, decided that he needed to puke. We were not too far from the airport, and I was hoping he could hold it, but apparently he was not interested in that. When we got to the airport, we tried to clean out the carrier - my dad cleaned up the puke with paper towels while I held the cat. The cat, who of course had puke all over his little kitty feet. Which were on my white shirt. Which now has cat-puke stains on it. Hurrah! I tried to wash it off as best I could, but I swear that I can still smell cat puke. The stains were all up on my left shoulder, so kind of close to my nose. Ew.

The cats will like it once they get down there though. The house opens up into the pool cage, which is essentially a screened-in backyard of sorts, so they can hang out outside.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

This place is a prison, and these people aren't your friends

Well, in a crappy travel-related development: I just got a phone call from my mother, who is stranded in Charlotte for the next 4.5 hours on her way down to Florida. She is (unsurprisingly) flying on My Favorite Airline, USAirways (Please see my July 2005 archives) (and Karl's most recent post) (and all the posts he linked to) (Ok, those weren't specifically USAir related) (Hm.. How many parenthetical thoughts can make up one blog entry?).

She is stranded in Charlotte (which, and I know - another parenthetical thought, is a very nice airport) (especially when compared to DETROIT, aka the WORST AIRPORT IN THE WORLD) because when she was leaving Manch-vegas, someone who was servicing the aircraft forgot to close some panel or other. I know, a comforting thought, which they were informed of 20 min. after taking off (I always like that when they tell you that there is something wrong so that you can sit there in the cabin FREAKING out while you wait to land, thinking that you might die at any moment). So they had to turn back, close the panel, and fill out some paperwork, all of which took about an hour. So she missed her connection and there are no more flights until later this evening.

(I just realized that I'm flying on USAir for my next planned travel, because I am dumb and I do not learn from my mistakes.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I am a scientist.

For all you science dorks out there, here's another blog I have been reading. Its very funny. Ah. I remember back when I was premed. Good times, good times.

I liked the hall of fame post entitled 'hypertalkers'. I knew some of those in grad school. One in particular. And those of you who went to school with me know who I am talking about. And that his initials are MM. You probably also remember that landmark 'news and views'-type article, containing the still famous phrase: "intra-individual-specific proclivities".

I kept that paper. I still have it, how many years later? Wow. I am sort of pathetic.

Monday, October 10, 2005

I hate your way, a little more every day.

Neighbors. You can't live with them, you can't shoot them.

When we lived in Cleveland we had good neighbors who we loved, who moved away and left us with this Indian medical resident and his entire family (extended family too). Residents have a bad reputation (among me) as neighbors because they are too busy to give a crap about their home. In the n = 3 residents I've known in the neighborhoods I've lived in, 100% of them have not taken care of their homes or yards. I know you're busy, but so are we. Give me a break. I felt guilty this year because we didn't plant any flowers in the front yard (very busy what with the whole thesis thing, and besides. Gardening = bugs + dirt, so I hate it). These people don't mow their lawns until the grass is a foot tall. Anyhow, Cleveland resident neighbor backed into the decorative lightpost next to his driveway and left it there (until we moved, so who knows whats going on with it now) seriously cockeyed and with the broken light on top covered with a plastic bag. Nice. Also, the yellow tent-like roof on their playset had blown off and was just left hanging for months (again, until we moved). There were weeds in their grass that would kill you. I actually cut my ankle on the prickers of one of these weeds once when I was getting in the car. However, in that neighborhood there really were no enforcable rules to deal with this kind of thing, so we just griped to ourselves.

When we moved to Durham, we were excited about our new neighborhood because we had restrictive covenants and architectural guidelines. Finally, some control!! Hurrah. We were the 2nd people to move into the neighborhood so we didn't really know how it was going to turn out.

Our next-door neighbors seemed good on paper (he's a realtor, apparently) but in real life? They totally suck. They have 5 or 6 trashy cars parked out in their driveway at all times, plus 1 or 2 (lately its only been the one, thank god) parked in the circle. They have a two car garage, just like the rest of us, but none of these cars have ever been parked in the garage because they use it as a rec room. They have a front porch where they store a bunch of crap. Like, I don't know. Inflatable pool toys. Toolboxes. Other crap. Since their garage is not useful for storage of garage-type things, these are stored in the backyard. When we are sitting on our deck enjoying an evening meal, or entertaining, or whatever, we get to look at their lawnmower, their fertilizer spreader, a random piece of white vinyl lattice, their grill, a broken picnic table. All stored in their wooded area. Which is nice. They have huge parties on what seems like a weekly basis, where they blast the music until the early morning hours, and have their friends (all of whom seem to own HUGE SUVs) park wherever they feel like.

I'm on the architectural review board, which is made up of what sometimes seems to be the only people who give a crap about the neighborhood. We end up being the ones who enforce the covenants (or at least bring violations to the attention of the homeowners association guy who sends out the letters). I've actually been slightly too lazy to do much about this, I generally complain to the other people on the board and find that they've already contacted the guy about these things. With our neighbors, I think we've only complained about the car in the street. We've done it more than once, and the car is still there. I haven't even said anything about all the junk, although that too is a violation. The other weekend they also bought a portable basketball hoop - also a violation (permanent ones are okay, but portable are not because they can be brought into the street). I don't understand these people who move in but seem to have never read the covenants. It seems to be about half of the neighborhood.

So this weekend, my dad was in town and we went out to lunch in the newly renovated American Tobacco Historic District (which by the way is WONDERFUL and I love. And if you come to visit us I'll take you there and you will love it too). When we got back, one of the huge parties were going on, and some classic stupid parking had been done by two of their guests. See, we live in a cul-de-sac. For some reason these MORONS think that when the driveway is full you just keep parking out into the culdesac. Not true. Here's an illustration of what the parking was like when we got home:

We are the green car. The two blue cars are the offending moron cars. The red car is that stupid red car that they ALWAYS park there. It didn't directly impact the situation, but I included it because I hate it.

So obviously, we can't get into our driveway. Brian (who was driving) initially decided that the way to deal with this was to lay on the horn. Which he did. I got annoyed because I thought I could handle it better, so I made him stop and I got out of the car. I should really know myself better, because I... how best to put this... totally lost my shit. I was yelling at them about how they were not the only people who lived on the street, although they obviously think they are, and how they're obviously quite skilled at parking cars on the curb (because of the stupid red car, which I pointed out) and how did this skill seem to fail them all the time? Etc. etc. All the pent up hostility towards them came flying out at these two stupid cars.

The cars got moved and we parked in the garage. Then we went for a walk. My dad said that he was slightly concerned when Brian's approach was to lay on the horn, so he was relived that I had decided to go handle it. However, then kind of thinking that maybe he should have done the handling. Not that this is not precisely what my father expects of me, because I mean, he's known me for 30 years. I didn't just get like this.

Brian says that I have an 'aggressive' personality. I think that word has a negative connotation. I definately have an 'assertive' personality. Aggressive means like, picking fights. I don't do that. But, I do not suffer fools gladly, as my mom says. I think that I just do not take peoples crap. In this case I agree that I did cross the line from 'assertive' into 'aggressive'. Oh well.

I lost my girl to the Rolling Stones

Well, the Rolling Stones concert was on Saturday! How crazy was THAT? So crazy. I mean, beer was $7!!

No really, it was good. Here's a review from the News and Observer, which I must make sure to link to because I stole these pictures from their website. Its important to have visual aids to illustrate my points, and cameras were not allowed.

Ok, so stage? Very big. And people are sitting on it as well. I don't have photoshop yet so I cannot illustrate to you where they are, but you're going to have to trust me. See the purple stripes that are going out on either side of the big screen? They're sitting in those.

Mick Jagger was all over the place. The guy is 62. Holy crap. I mean, he was dancing like a crazy man. From far away you would not know he was an old man. Er.. an older man (I get in trouble if I call 60 old because my dad is now 60. And so's my Aunt Ruth! Hi Ruth! Happy Birthday!). However, from close up? No argument:

In this picture I think you could mistake him for a televangelist. An old one. I mean OLDER.

He did take a little break during the show where Keith Richards sang two songs. You think ol' Mick looks old? Oh my GOD. I think Keith Richards might actually already be dead:

But they were rocking out anyhow. They played some the faves (Brown Sugar! Honky Tonk Woman! Sympathy for the Devil!) and some new stuff, and some crap (She's So Cold. That song was CRAP). None of my absolute faves, Mother's Little Helper, Paint it Black and Under My Thumb, but I'll forgive that. After all, they are old and forgetful.

It rained a bit during the show but that was okay, because my hair looked like crap anyhow. Hee. And you know, I was with my dad. And I don't think he cared.

Took us an hour just to get out of the Duke campus, so didn't get home until midnight. We were both totally awake, so dad and I stayed up and had a drink and didn't go to bed until 1am (yes, you read that right. Dad was up until 1 am!!!).

Friday, October 07, 2005

I kind of rule.

Since I started my postdoc, I have been doing all kinds of new experiments. New to me anyhow, as my grad school science life centered pretty much around ensuring the good sex lives of my mice, doing PCR, and bugging Karl to analyze my data. My postdoc science life on the other hand involves all these new kinds of experiments. Like plasmid preps! Real-time PCR! Western blots!! Cell culture!!!!

What I've been trying to do since I started is knock down gene expression in cultured cells using a technology called RNA interference. So non-science people, I'm trying to turn off genes by putting this very small piece of RNA into the cell. Sort of. Anyhow. I am of course working with the most difficult to transfect cell line in the entire universe. That means that I can't get my very small piece of RNA into the cell so that it can do its job. However today??? I have done it. I rule.

I can't get the genes to turn off to the same degree as I can in a cell line that is easily transfected - where I can get the small RNA into the cells with little or no problem. I can get about 50-60% knockdown in gene expression, rather than 80-90%. But still, its a start!

Of course, I did this experiment in cells that also happened to be contaminated with bacteria. Well done on my part. This might affect the results, so I may either get better knockdown or worse knockdown when I do the experiment again with clean cells. However, for a start? I am thrilled.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


I almost forgot all of the exciting hollywood news that I need to catch you up on!

- Linsday Lohan can't drive!

- Nick and Jessica finally broke up! Oh, no they didn't!
(Seriously, how long is this going to go on? I'm guessing until they fulfill their 'Nick & Jessica' show contract with ABC!)

- Katie Holmes is carrying the spawn of the devil!
(Wow. That was SOME contract!)

- Rachael Ray will NEVER leave you alone!


So. Last night? I'm driving home, like I do every night. I drive home on Hwy 147 which, although it is not technically an interstate, is set up like one. An interstate-like driving experience without all the states. Anyhow, suddenly a spontaneous traffic jam occurred. I couldn't tell what the hell was going on. I finally crawled past right after the fire/ambulance/police had shown up. At this point now I can see things but still, no clue what happened. There was a guy sprawled out on the road. It didn't appear that he had been thrown from any car or anything, as I didn't see a wrecked car or motorcycle. This morning I found out what happened. The guy decided to CROSS THE HIGHWAY on foot. During RUSH HOUR. Some poor woman hit him and now he is dead. It doesn't say that in the article here, but I saw it on the news this morning. I feel so badly for this woman, because seriously? Ten seconds later and it could have been me who hit him. You just don't expect some moron to run across the interstate. She's probably feeling horribly guilty and it is totally not her fault. Moron.

I also missed Lost last night which, I'm dying. Dying. Because it looked like it was going to be good in the preview. It has taken all of my strength to not read the recaplet on TWoP, but I've managed to keep it up all day! So hurrah. We were at a friends house last night entertaining a postdoc candidate, and because I was late getting home, I forgot to set the VCR before I left. Another party attendee did tape it, but she forgot to bring it to me today. So now I have to wait until TOMORROW. And what if she forgets it again? Death.

Also happening tomorrow: my dad is coming to town for his 60th birthday present. It struck me that I have not yet told you what that is, even though I was so excited about it when I bought it. I'm taking him to see the Rolling Stones on Saturday at Duke. That will be fun. Unfortunately I am not also going to the World Beer Festival that day, because it is SOLD OUT. We went last year and it was the Best. Day. EVER. Here is a picture of Lisa P. and I at the beer festival:

Oh well. We can't all drink beer all day for $25 I guess.