Monday, June 30, 2014


Yesterday, one of my lovely co-workers told me about the Surface to Structure origami exhibit at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan's East Village. I took the 4 train from the end of the line to Union Square, then transferred to the number 6 local to Astor Place, the stop being a couple of blocks from the building which was hosting the exhibit:

The exhibit was divided into representational pieces, topographic pieces, fashion pieces, scintific pieces and mathematical pieces. My personal preference is for the representational pieces, though a couple of the topographic pieces were wonderful:

Out of the representational pieces, my favorites were two tableaux, the first being Law of Survival by Won Seon Seo, representing a chameleon stalking a grasshopper:

The second being a representation of a horse and a dog by Dave Brill:

I'll post some other pictures in upcoming posts.

After taking in the exhibit, I walked a block to the venerable McSorley's Old Ale House, which predates the Civil War. McSorley's sells two types of beer, dark and light. It's typical to get a round of two beers per person- I always alternate between the two. Three rounds of the mugs, and I was feeling no pain- I also ordered a spartan-though-delicious lamb sandwich (medium rare on toasted rye, with no condiments and a pickle on the side- they don't want the lamb to compete with any other flavors). Fortified, but still a bit peckish, I sauntered over to the St Mark's Place location of my all-time favorite dining spot, Mamoun's Falafel Restaurant, where I had a falafel/baba ghannouj combo sandwich and a spinach pie (with a nice dollop of Mamoun's famous hot sauce). Now, that is perhaps NYC's finest meal, celebrity chefs notwithstanding.

At about 4:30, I received a call from work- the guy who was working the afternoon shift had an emergency at his other job, and the department head called to see if I could cover for him. I explained that I was in Manhattan, but could make it up to work by 6PM, an hour late. I suggested that he call one of the other guys in the department and asked him to text me his response because I'd be on the subway back to the Bronx. Luckily, my co-worker was able to cover the shift and I was able to continue my bender at The Rambling House in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx (I live a few blocks north of the Bronx-Yonkers border, but I consider my neighborhood an extension of the greater Woodlawn area (it's the "tavern district", with plenty of lively gin mills forming the backbone of the neighborhood's commercial strips). I didn't continue the bender much longer- I just had a couple of pints while watching the Germany/Algeria soccer match. I ended up heading to a friend's house after the game for a quick BBQ and a couple of more beers... it had been a while since I had had such a big beer night.

After attending the art exhibit, I was worried that the calluses on the backs of my knuckles were wearing thin...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pride Day Post

To all of my LGBT readers, a happy belated Pride Day. I typically put up a Pride Day post to show my support of LGBT rights. I've also long been a supporter of same-sex marriage- a friend of mine got married just over six months ago after thirty years in a committed relationship- he and his husband are reaching the age where they may have to make serious decisions about each others' care, and they now have the legal standing to do so.

To opponents of LGBT rights, since you have to lie about your "opposition", you can be pretty sure you're on the wrong side of the issue. Seriously, before you weigh in on a consensual relationship between two adults, you need to learn what consent means: children and dogs cannot give consent, box turtles can't give consent, police cars and DPW trucks can't give consent. Seriously, your warnings of the dire "slippery slope" consequences of same-sex marriage say a lot more about your paraphilias than they do about the lives and proclivities of LGBT people. Another thing, if you are an anti-LGBT bigot and you want to accuse LGBT people of hypocrisy, don't weasel out when they show themselves to be better people than you (even the Catholic website I linked to called out Bill Donohue). In general, you bigots have long acted like a bunch of freaks, while the innocent victims of bigotry and violence showed real moral fiber. You're losing, mainly because you're hateful and mendacious. It's time you stopped butting into other people's personal lives. Morality doesn't involve what you do with your genitals and consenting adults, and spreading dangerous lies about other people is a lot worse than buttsecks. Also, stop being so damn narcissistic- there's not plot against you, nobody's trying to "convert" you- you evangelicals do that conversion thing, stop projecting!

Happy pride day, and boo to the haters. Now, here's an irreverent bit of snark- be sure to watch to the end, because it has a happy ending:

Say no to hate, people!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Think I'll Keep My Hands Down

Yesterday was a busy, busy day. I had to work the overnight from Wednesday into Thursday's dawn hours, and was able to get four hours of sleep before getting up to meet my brother Sweetums' neighbor in the Zurich metropolitan area, who was visiting New York with an old college friend from Vicenza, Italy. I decided to take them to my workplace- I take a lot of visitors there because it's so pretty. I spent the day taking them to other tourist attractions and had a late lunch with them before getting them to the Metro-North station. I was a good day, and they got a couple of behind-the-scenes peaks which aren't part of the usual tour. We were accompanied by a lovely woman from Puerto Rico and her hilariously divalicious twelve year-old daughter... needless to say, we hit it off with them very well.

After this whirlwind tour, I got a call from a friend of mine who was going to a regular happy hour event at a local municipal golf course. Twenty bucks for a BBQ buffet and a live band? Yeah, sign me up! The food was good, the drinks reasonable, and the band a reliable cover band with "WEDDING BAND" virtually tattooed on their faces. They played a typical soup-to-nuts blend of mid-to-late 20th century and current music. Note to all cover bands- while playing Bizarre Love Triangle is an inappropriate move at all but the most countercultural weddings, it's one of the best dance songs ever written, and should be in any non-wedding repertoire.

I am a dancing fool- I just love to get my ass on the dance floor and go nuts. My old mentor Radomir used to love to quote Lao Tsu's aphorism: "Never give a sword to a man who can't dance." Yeah, the bastard loves to shake his proverbial booty. Last night, one of my part-time co-workers was at this happy hour with some of her co-workers from her other job. Soon after I got to the event, she asked me to hit the dance floor with her and I told her, "I just got here, I'll come dancing two gin-and-tonics from now."

I'm not an expert on current popular music (though the band hilariously played the ubiquitous Gangnam Style, their dedication to phonetically learning the lyrics was impressive), and was struck by the number of songs which include an injunction to put one's hands in the air. Me? I don't put my hands in the air between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bye Bye Eli

This morning, I was genuinely bummed by the news of Eli Wallach's death. While his storied stage career took place before my time, I was a huge fan of his due to his incredible performances in two of the greatest Westerns ever made.

For a man who was known as an all-around good guy, Wallach was able to muster a genuine aura of menace playing it straight as Calvera, the bandit leader in John Surges' The Magnificent Seven. In this scene, he tries to run off big bad bald bastard Yul Brynner then, failing that, tries to suborn him:

In the subversive spaghetti western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Wallach stole the movie with his performance as the Tuco Benedicto Pacífico Juan María Ramírez, the amoral, comical-but-scary desperado who has a great scene in which he makes a very convincing case against monologuing:

Words for a dealer of death to live by, indeed!

It is reported that Eli and Sergio Leone got along famously, and Tuco's character certainly develops more of a personality than Clint Eastwood's "Blondie" or Lee Van Cleef's "Angel Eyes". Mr Wallach could manage to elicit depth and pathos in even a buffonish monster such as Tuco, with the scene in which he confronts his brother, a friar, about the choices that the two of them made to survive:

He could also be very entertaining while playing himself- in this clip, he discusses a couple of near-death experiences he had while filming The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

Here's footage of Mr Wallach at the 2010 Governors Awards, cracking wise, and talking about how the screen bandit and thug is really a guy who likes to collect antiques and engage in gentle amusements:

Here's Eli appearing with his wife Anne Jackson on What's My Line? in 1965:

Perhaps the greatest testament to Mr Wallach's talent is that he, a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, became the most famous movie Mexican (which is weirdly appropriate, because a Mexican actor become the most famous movie Greek). It also has to be noted that he starred in the two movies with the greatest ever soundtracks.

I'm going to finish up with an appropriate scene from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, in which Eli Wallach runs through a cemetery as the Ennio Morricone's transcendent The Ecstasy of Gold accompanies him:

Thank you for hours of entertainment, Mr Wallach.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Television Fan

I'm not a big fan of television, but I do like Television, one of the bands which comprised the mid-to-late 70's NYC music scene. Unlike some of the bands which anchored the scene (cough, Ramones*, cough), Television had a sophisticated musical style, centered on sonic tapestry woven by the interplay of the two guitarists. While the band released two critically lauded albums in the 70s, Marquee Moon and Adventure, they didn't crack open the American record charts (hey, they blasted out the disco on the radio those days). Television's influence does seem apparent in some of the more melodic alternative rock that hits the college radio airwaves, though. Here's a 1985 performance of Marquee Moon's title track by Television co-founder Tom Verlaine:

While the critics loved the band, the feeling was not universal, as this funny number from The Damned amply displays.

*I've noted before that the Ramones, while musically unsophisticated, were conceptually sophisticated- there was an ironclad discipline behind their look and sound, which only seemed primitive, or as the Ramones would put it, D-U-M-B.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Loads and Loads of Tiny Toads

As I have noted before, I have a fondness for toads, but not like that. At this time of year, newly metamorphosed little toads emerge from a pond on site (in some communities, traffic is redirected when the toadlings put their tadpolish ways behind them and take to the land. The site I typically work at is toad heaven- there is plenty of green space for my batrachian buddies to live their toadly lives.

Last night, I found a half dozen little toads in the stairwell to one of our buildings. While the area is a perfect place for a toad to establish itself, being cool and shady, and full of delicious bugs, it's a dead end for a small toad- they can get down the stairway but they can't get up. I was able to coax the little fellers onto my hand with a gentle finger nudge, and I relocated them to a pachysandra patch. Here's one of my little transportees:

This is not the first time I've had to do a stairwell intervention, and it probably won't be the last.

The post title is the first line of a couplet that I wrote, when I was writing short bits of doggerel in alarming profusion:

Loads and loads of tiny toads,
Live by the sides of country roads.

The same period of bizarre creative ferment also produced the following:

Crepuscular critters give the jitters,
But creatures of night fill me with fright.

It was a passing phase... thankfully!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Met a Moonie

Today, as I was closing the site when the last of the tourists left, I met a gentleman in our parking lot. Being a loquacious sort, I engaged the fellow in conversation. I like to point out features on the site and to talk up the local tourist attractions (the better we do, the greater my job security- plus, I like to steer visitors towards my favorite places to guarantee their continuing success). This gentleman was extremely knowledgeable about the area, and he spoke with authority about the storied career of journalist and adventurer Caspar Whitney, who established the Belvedere estate in Tarrytown, NY (the best information on Belvedere can be found at the website of Hudson Valley history expert and all-around good guy Rob Yasinsac). We then spoke about Dr. Philip Gillette Cole, the former owner of Tarrytown's Zeeview estate, who amassed a huge collection of Western art which now resides at Tulsa's Gilcrease Museum. We passed a good while talking about art history- he mentioned that Monet's La Japonaise is one of his favorites, and that his wife was from Osaka.

Noting his eclectic background, I asked him about his travels, and he mentioned that he had had a typical upbringing in Cincinnati, but had traveled extensively as a member of the Unification Church. I play a big, bad, bald bastard on the internet, and "the bastard" is a slight exaggeration of the real me. My meatspace public persona is characterized by a studied imperturbability- you tell me you're going to kick my ass, I reply asking calmly if you have decent medical coverage, you tell me that someone on the property has passed out, I call 911 and make sure that the way is clear for the EMTs. If I actually cared to study the rules, I'd probably make a good poker player, because I have a good face for it. When I heard that this nice gentleman was a moonie, my reaction was pretty much "oh, that's nice" and I asked him if he had been married in the mass wedding at Madison Square Garden (he hadn't).

I'm on record not being a fan of Reverend Moon, largely for his right-wing political activism in the U.S. and his regressive views on sexuality, but I didn't make an issue of this to my new moonie acquaintance. We had had a nice conversation, and I actually learned a lot about the history of the Belvedere Estate, which is next to the beautiful neo-gothic Lyndhurst, now a museum. No need to be mean to the moonie- he was a genuinely nice guy and he told a tale of being an introverted kid with a poor sense of self-worth. He found his peace with an organization that I find unfathomable and slightly sinister in a somewhat ridiculous fashion- basically the Skeletor of religions. He ended up a decent guy.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Filled with the Spirit(s)

My "Rumproast" womb mate Bette Noir has covered the possible fall of Minnesota GOP judicial hope Michelle McDonald. McDonald has that kinda MILF-y Palinesque vibe and, as Bette relates, knows how to thump a Bible.

I imagine Ms. McDonald's favorite passage in the gospels is the tale of the wedding feast at Cana, because it appears that she is no stranger to the grape. In typical GOP fashion, she tried to brazen her way out of a field sobriety test, then claimed that a blood test conducted the next day, long after the testing window was over, was evidence of her innocence.

She claims that she's going to go to trial. I think she should claim that her speeding was due to an excess of religious zeal- she was filled with the Spirit(s).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wave as They Go By

Tonight, there was a special treat in the skies- a flyover by the International Space Station. I took an opportunity to watch it hurtle overhead- it appeared as a bright white dot moving at a decent clip from the northwest to the southeast, where, unlike an airplane, it gradually faded from view rather than disappearing over the horizon.

At least, I think I saw the ISS, though it could have been swamp gas. On a serious note, besides a beautiful sight in the night sky, visible even in the suburbs of the earth-bound constellation that is New York City, the ISS is a symbol of the heights humanity can attain at its best- one of the pinnacles of human ingenuity and international cooperation (CERN being another). There is a lot of horrible stuff happening on the surface of the planet, but a simple glance upwards can be sufficient to rekindle hope in our species.

The DJ on the local radio station played David Bowie's Space Oddity at 9:36, the song ending shortly before the station popped into view. Well played, Mr Arrow, well played. I think I'll embed the video for Astronaut Chris Hadfield's version, with its beautiful views of and from the station:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Très Pouty

Pity token congressional morlock (just look at the weirdly-shaped head on the guy!) Trey Gowdy has to be in a bit of a tizzy with the capture of BENGHAZI!!!! suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala. The Benghazi "scandal" is nothing more than a quibble over the semantics used to describe the attack on the consular office- now the Republicans look like a bunch of fools arguing over bullshit while the president was actually working quietly to capture one of the ringleaders. Soon, the president will probably have a mug made out of Khattala's cranium to match the bong he made out of Bin Laden's skull.

In his statement regarding the capture, former car thief Darryl Issa tellingly omitted giving credit for the capture to the administration and demanded that the president share information gained from the suspect:

“The arrest of Ahmed Abu Khatallah is long overdue and our military deserves credit for conducting a successful operation. There is evidence that he is one of dozens, if not hundreds of individuals, involved in the murder of four Americans in Benghazi. The Obama Administration has an obligation to share whatever information he offers with Chairman Gowdy and the Select Committee about events before and during the Benghazi attacks.”

Lindsey Graham's response was a whine about the need for the suspect to be tried at Gitmo:

Really, Lindsey, your party has no expertise whatsoever in fighting terrorism, and the guy in the White House has had more success in pursuing terrorists as if they were criminals than his predecessor had by treating terrorists as enemy combatants.

With the suspected ringleader of the attack in custody, the right-wing obsession with the consular attacks should go the way of the dodo, but the wingnuts have invested too much effort in creating and maintaining the scandal, so they are now spinning conspiracy theories about the circumstances of the capture. They failed to ride the scandal to electoral victory in 2012, but they are calling for a Benghazi mulligan in the runup to the 2014 midterm elections. It remains to be see whether or not Trey Gowdy continues with his farcical Benghazi inquisition, but in the immediate future, I imagine he'll be très pouty.

As a postscript, blogroll member Oregon Beer Snob did a perfect job of expressing Gowdy's inner qualities- I have seen no better representation of this particular congresscreep.

Cross-posted at Rumproast.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Sweet Season

Needing a break from the torrent of bad news coming from the Middle East and Eastern Africa (not to mention the U.S.), I decided to take a long walk on this beautiful day. As is my routine, I made sure to check out the mulberry situation. I was able to find a couple of ripe berries (which I immediately popped into my mouth), but the bulk of the mulberries are about a week away from ripeness. Seeing as I live in a neighborhood that once featured a failed silkworm "ranch", there are plenty of mulberries to be had. In the coming weeks, I'll consume gallons of them in various forms.

I love this time of year- I don't like the heat, but the season is sweet.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Keep Your Feet on the Ground

Now this is a bummer- famous famous radio personality and voice actor Casey Kasem has left for that big studio in the sky. As a child, I used to listen to Casey's American Top 40 until the fateful day that I found the famous WLIR and never looked back. I bid Casey's radio show goodbye and started listening to stuff like this:

That's an old number by the Cure with their mailman on lead vocals (the band would eventually break into the, you got it, American Top 40).

While I stopped listening to Top 40 radio, I would have to note that radio was a less balkanized medium back in the day- a radio station could play synth-pop, funky-pop, and country-pop without a programming manager blowing a gasket. Casey's production team packaged it all together, and he'd lend his familiar voice to the countdown, being America's weekly companion unobtrusive and articulator of emotions over long distances. At the risk of losing my cynic's card, I'd have to say that Casey was able to convey a care for his listeners. Of course, every so often, he'd get a little flustered, as this NSFW outtake hilariously demonstrates:

Tonight, on DJ Rich Russo's great weekly radio show, Mr Russo played an edited version of that clip and followed it up with a eulogy about Casey Kasem's professionalism, and how he was such a perfectionist that a blunder like following an up-tempo number with a dead-dog story was enough to throw him off his game for a brief spell. It's a funny clip precisely because it's so unexpected.

While I quickly left "Top 40" radio behind, I remained a big fan of Mr Kasem because of his great voice performance as Shaggy, the unintentionally(?) counterculture member of the Scooby Doo cast (he always has the munchies, never changes his clothes, talks to a dog, and sees phantoms- you make the call). Hmmmm... Boombastic charted high- if Shaggy played Shaggy, would that be a meta-Shaggy experience? Here's a classic comic/musical interlude featuring Shaggy and his constant cartoon canine companion:

On a more poignant note, here's Casey performing live as Shaggy at the MDA telethon:

It's sad to see that Mr Kasem signed off for one last time. He was a familiar, comforting voice in countless households.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


I like my satire like I like my coffee- black, bitter, and scalding. Disqus commenter "Ted Nugget", the proprietor of the gloriously juvenalian website USA Holiday Planner brought to my attention his brilliant satire of both NRA culture and the Civil Defense paranoia of the Cold War era. Riffing on the mind-melting "Duck and Cover" children's films of the fifties (in an aside, my 7th grade history teacher mentioned these and told us that instead of "duck and cover", the only appropriate response to a nuclear bomb strike is "bend w-a-a-a-y over and kiss your ass goodbye"), Mr Nugget has produced a public service announcement (sans guitars) for a modern age. Here is the righteously mad Duck and Return Fire:

Mr LaPierre would approve, missing the point entirely.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Working Comfort Eagle

I just read about the bizarre case of a Long Island company pressuring employees to participate in quasi-religious practices of an organization called Harnessing Happiness. As part of the "Harnessing Happiness" regimen, the employees were exhorted to join prayer circles, thank God for their jobs and greet co-workers by saying, "I love you."

Upon reading that the central figure in "Harnessing Happiness" is a figure called "Onionhead", it finally hit me... this workplace was modeled on Cake's song Comfort Eagle.

We are building a religion
We are building it bigger
We are widening the corridors
And adding more lanes

We are building a religion
A limited edition
We are now accepting callers
For these pendant key chains

The final piece of the puzzle that fell into place was this verse:

Doesn't matter if you're skinny
Doesn't matter if you're fat
You can dress up like a sultan
In your onion head hat.

Tragically, the "Cake based" workplace seems like it sucked, when it should have ROCKED HARD!!!

If my employers told me that I had to engage in any particular relgious practices, I would have told them to stuff it. Only two of my co-workers can demand worship. If I'm going to work in a Cake-based workplace, it had better be based on Short Skirt/Long Jacket:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Another Local Legend Gone

While listening to the radio today, I learned of the passing of Ruby Dee, another towering 20th century polymath. Besides her achievements as an actress, writer, and activist on the national stage, Ms Dee and her husband Ossie Davis were pillars of the City of New Rochelle community. As a former resident of New Rochelle, this small-yet-diverse city is dear to my heart. Ossie Davis and Ruby Lee were central to the cultural life of the city, to the extent that the public library has a theater named after Ossie Davis.

My first exposure to Ms Dee's body of work was her performance in the 1961 film production of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. After reading the play in 7th grade English class, our teacher showed us the powerful film:

Perhaps Ms Dee's most important role was as an MC at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom:

While the nation mourns Ruby Dee, her loss is felt especially keenly in New Rochelle, a city in which she and her husband attended PTA meetings and spoke at assemblies at the local public schools. Thank you, Ms Dee, for your dedication to the people who make up this remarkable community- rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Secret Science Club Post Lecture Recap: Targeting Tumors

Last night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn for this month's Secret Science Club lecture. Last night's lecture, a collaboration between the Secret Science Club and Lasker Foundation, featured Dr Charles Sawyers, whose C.V. is most prestigious... cutting and pasting from the SSC blog post, he's "chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and professor in the Cell and Developmental Biology Program and Department of Medicine at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences". Wow, the man is affiliated with some incredible institutions... poking around the t00bz, I also discovered that he is president of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The topic of the lecture was cancer treatment using "targeted" medicines. Dr Sawyers began the talk with a rueful mention of the inadequacy of funding for medical research. He followed this clarion call for better funding with a basic definition of cancer- cancer involves the development of tumors, which are abnormal growths of tissue. A benign tumor is a non-invasive mass, while a malignant tumor "invades" surrounding tissue. Metastatic tumors have infiltrated numerous tissues throughout the body. Traditionally, tumors were treated using surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of the three. Dr Sawyers stated that a new approach was needed to treat cancer, a targeted approach.

Cancer is caused by mutations in the host's DNA- these mutations can be inherited or due to environmental conditions (such as carcinogens present in tobacco smoke or overexposure to the sun's UV rays). Oncogenes are genes which can potentially result in cancer, while suppressive genes act against tumor formation. Proto-oncogenes are involved in normal development, but can mutate to form an oncogene, which will result in cancerous growth. Suppressive genes stop cell growth, but can malfunction- a lack of suppressors will cause tumor growth.

As an example of the role of genes in cancer, Dr Sawyers cited the example of chronic myeloid leukemia, a blood cancer which causes an overproduction of white blood cells. Chronic myeloid leukemia involves a genetic transposition called the Philadelphia chromosome- researchers noticed that chromosome 22 in CML patients was stubby, while chromosome 9 was elongated- in the tumor cells there was a reciprocal translocation of genetic material between chromosome 22 and chromosome 9, shortening 22 and lengthening 9. The particular gene translocated is the Abl gene, which becomes fused with the BCR gene on the 22nd chromosome. The BCR-ABL fusion results in a kinase which binds ATP with a substrate, causing a chain reaction that results in abnormal growth. Dr Sawyer not only had a sweet animation of ATP engaging with the kinase, but had two models of the kinase that ended up on the bar by the end of the lecture (they were eventually returned to him, along with a nice IPA). A drug, marketed as Gleevec, was formulated to "jam" the active loop between the ATP and the kinase in order to stop abnormal white blood cell growth- the drug mimics ATP, but lacks the phosphate group that binds with the kinase, resulting in a reduced white blood cell count within thirty days.

Tumor cells can develop a resistance to drugs such as Gleevec, resulting in a relapse. A one nucleotide difference in a gene can prevent the ATP binding which stops the abnormal cell growth. The binding problem is solvable using new drugs that will work when the cancerous cells evolve resistance. There are over 500 kinases which bind ATP, and Gleevec can bind three of them- specific drugs are needed to bind specific kinases. As gene sequencing becomes more rapid, and less expensive, targeted therapy has improved, and implementation is more rapid. Since cancer is caused by mutation, efforts are underway to sequence the genetics of all cancers- new technology has reduced the cost of genetic sequencing to about $3,000, so tumors are now sequenced routinely. Once sequencing takes place, the DNA of cancerous cells is compared to that of healthy cells and "silent mutations" are filtered out. Once a database is created, the number of mutations in a tumor can be determined. There is a vast difference between the number of mutations in pediatric tumors, which can have a nucleotide "mistake" rate as low as one in a billion, and adult tumors, which average 50-100 mutations.

One ongoing project is determining where mutations occur, and compiling a "data map" of cancer genes. Currently, there are 140 "mapped" cancer genes, with 200 being the projected number of cancer genes. Out of the 140 known cancer genes, 60 are dominant and 80 are recessive. These genes regulate cell growth, cell fate and cell death (for example, malfunctions of the epidermal growth factor can result in unregulated cell division- Dr Sawyer illustrated this with an animation of out-of control cell growth among intestinal villi). In normal growth, undifferentiated stem cells can differentiate into progenitor cells, which can only differentiate further into a specific "final cell". In the course of the normal cell cycle, cell death eventually occurs.

In the case of cancers involving a malfunction of the Epithelial Growth Factor, the drug Erlotinib, another kinase inhibitor, was developed to block the growth signalling pathway. Targeted therapy has grown rapidly in the past decade and a half, with thirty-seven drugs being developed between 2001 and 2013. The therapeutic goal is to have three drugs per tumor gene, in order to counteract the development of drug resistance.

The key to developing targeted therapies is better cancer taxonomy. Put simply, knowledge makes treatment more successful. Dr Sawyer indicated that immunotherapy- harnessing the body's immune system to fight tumor cells, is a promising area of future inquiry.

In the Q&A session, some so-and-so asked the question that the Bastard was planning on asking, concerning the role of viruses in human cancers. Dr Sawyer implicated three viruses in cancers- the human papillomaviruses, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. While formulating another question, the Bastard received a job-related phone call and had to go to his field office (the men's loo, natch) to answer the call.

Here is a video of Dr Sawyer giving a similar lecture on CML and targeted therapy (note the sweet ABL-BCR animation at around 3:15):

He looks kinda thirsty in that video... he didn't have that problem at the Bell House.

Once again, the Secret Science Club has delivered a top-notch lecture. In this case, the SSC and the Lasker Foundation were able to combine in a synergistic effect, powerful enough to overcome even the most resistant ignorance.
Special thanks to Dorian, Margaret, Dr Sawyer, and the staff of the beautiful Bell House... again!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pumpkin and Honey Bundy

Reading up on the couple who shot two cops and a civilian before killing themselves in a Las Vegas Walmart, I am getting less of a "revolutionary" vibe than a "Pumpkin and Honey Bunny" vibe:

Oops, the male shooter did a stint at the Bundy Ranch, make that Pumpkin (Pumpaction?) and Honey Bundy.

Meanwhile, conspiracy diva Alex Jones wants to make the shootings all about him... damn, what a narcissist! If the government wanted to silence the guy, they could have whisked him away to a FEMA camp with an enforced vegan dietary regime faster than he could have said "false flag". When the Wendy's triple bacon cheeseburgers finally make him go the way of still-dead Breitbart, his audience will claim that the government did him in... did you know that the CIA has poison darts that can mimic the effects of years of arteriosclerosis?

The whole damn country needs a chill pill at this point.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

About the Mothership

In a comment to my last post, long-time reader Butch Pansy asked about the status of the mothership:

Forgive the non sequitur, but I can no longer find Sadly, No! This is distressing me. Neither Chrome nor Safari has been able to find the server for days,now. You are not my only hope, just my best one. I miss lurking there. Thanks for your own interesting posts, by the way. I lurk around here a lot, as well.

The "Sadly, No!" server was moved about a week ago, and there are still technical problems. There has been a lot of back-and-forth behind the scenes, but the boffins are working on the problem. Fear not, "Snark Central" should be up and running soon. I hope so... while I have all of my "womb-mates" linked in my blogroll, there are some (GASP!!!) blogless sadlynauts out there.

Seriously, people, start blogging... until then, we'll all be waiting for the mothership to get back in working order.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

More Voynich than Voynich?

From the "How the hell did I miss this?" file, I just learned about The Codex Seraphinianus, an art book from the late 70s by Italian polymath Luigi Serafini. The book is an "encyclopedia" from another world, a very Borgesian concept. The book also seems reminiscent of the enigmatic Voynich Manuscript, which can be downloaded from the Beinecke Library website. Note to self... visit Beinecke while dressed as Wilbur Whateley, demand to see Necronomicon. Hilarity sure to ensue.

Back to the Codex Seraphinianus, the images manage to be beautiful and slightly disturbing at the same time. The work is reminiscent of Del Toro at his best or Kliban at his most outré. Sadly, the book is very expensive... purchasing it would seriously cut into the booze fund. I checked the county library system, but the book is not available.

Note to self, get Wilbur Whateley costume out of storage, don't travel by train...

Friday, June 6, 2014

Slamming Private Ryan

On this, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, I am perplexed by the right-wing outrage over the release of POW Bowe Bergdahl. Perhaps the best characterization about the faux Bowe scandal is Jim Wright's piece at "Stonekettle Station", the gist of which can be summed up with the following excerpt:

There is no crime so great that leaving him in the hands of our enemies is the indicated punishment.

He was, he is, one of ours. Period.

For better or for worse, he’s one of ours, and we don’t leave our people behind – not even the deserters.

We Americans sent him into the meat grinder and it is our sacred obligation to get him home, no matter what.

Even if he was dead.

To me, the most disgraceful conduct in this ugly incident is that of John McCain, a former POW- he has infamously flip-flopped on the Bergdahl release.

Besides the stated-principle of bringing our soldiers home, negotiating the release of Sgt Bergdahl is useful from an intelligence-gathering perspective. Having been in the "enemy's" custody for years must have given Bergdahl an insight into how they tick. The conduct of the "War on Terror" has been characterized by oversimplifications and a clumsy application of power. If we continue the fight, we have to fight smarter, we have to pursue worthwhile security goals rather than slavishly devote ourselves to an unrealistic, ill-defined goal of "victory".

The cable networks will probably be playing Saving Private Ryan on a continuous loop today... would today's conservatives consider FDR to be the villain of the movie? Uhhh... no need to answer that! The way they are talking about the Bergdahl release, it seems the right-wingers would change the motto on the POW/MIA flag from "You Are Not Forgotten" to "Let Them Rot, if That Serves our Political Purpose".

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Slacking Off?

It's been a couple of days since I posted... Work has been busy, and I have been "suffering" from a bit of spring fever. This afternoon was a particularly gorgeous one, after a rainy, blustery night. There are a lot of topics I could post about, but I figured I'd put up a quick "placeholder" post. As I usually do when I'm overwhelmed by a plethora of topics with too little time to cover a single one adequately, I think I'll post a video. Last week, I heard the song Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors by Editors on the radi-adi-o, and I was struck by the title, and the image that it conjures in my mind. Here's a video of a live performance from 2007:

I can't believe I missed this one for so long.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Redbud Keeps on Giving

I am going to open this post with a tip of the hat and a thank-you to Thunder, who clued me in to the edibility of redbud flowers. The pretty flowers have a hint of sweetness and make a dramatic addition to a salad:

Today, I tried the young, green seed pods for the first time, stir frying them much as I would stir fry snow pea pods, which the redbud pods resemble somewhat:

The trees are fairly prolific, and there are enough of them so that I could gather a fair amount of pods without overharvesting. They have a nice, tangy flavor and are more "substantial" than snow pea pods- they are pleasantly chewy.

The fully developed seeds are also edible, the Native Americans used to roast and eat them. In a couple of weeks, I should be able to put them to culinary use. At any rate, the redbud is pretty much the giving tree described by Shel Silverstein- it is not only a beautiful element of the landscape, but it provides a diverse edible bounty for the entire spring.

Thanks, Thunder! Thanks, redbud!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Happy Birthday, Sister Mine!

As is usual, I take an opportunity on this day to wish a happy birthday to my Irish twin sister. When we were kids, we'd be impossible to be around for the period when we were the same age, but the acrimony would end instantly on my birthday. Thankfully, we outgrew this odious habit a couple of years ago.

My sister's husband is being transferred by the military to a post in California this summer, so I hope to be able to make a triumphant return to the West Coast (it's been a while since my two epic cross-country road trips). In the event I make a family visit, I'll get the word out... it'd be nice to have some "inside information" about the City of Angels.

Happy birthday, little sis!