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Rare Piebald Deer on Orcas Island (Washington State) September 4, 2007

Posted by Sacha in Genetics, News, Science.
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I had the good furtune to see a piebald deer while visiting the Spring Bay Inn on Orcas Island in Washington state a few weeks ago.  Isn’t it pretty?


My father-in-law, a geneticist, says it is not a result of inbreeding, as one fellow inn guest had told me, but simply a genetic difference.  I am having trouble finding reliable information on this variation.  Does anyone have a scientifically sound source of information about it?


Ignite Seattle! III April 6, 2007

Posted by Sacha in News, Science, Technology.
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Last night I went to my first meeting of Ignite Seattle, which was the third meeting ever of this “night for geeks, techies, and makers.”  Much thanks to Nancy for inviting me, because I had a great time.  The highlight of the night was a group airplane making contest, which I thought was a very cleaver ice breaker as well.  Much better than the usual geek meetings where before the talks start you have to roam around the room making small talk with strangers.  Other things I liked:

The format of the talks was cool.  Five minutes from each person (enforced), so the pace was quick.  I had assumed when I saw the list of speakers that we’d have to choose and go off in groups, but was pleasantly surprised that I’d get to hear from each speaker.

The venue was very old-school Seattle/Cap Hill, which, for a native, is nice to see.  CHAC has a bar, music, lights, stage – the whole shebang.  I mistakenly brought my laptop, assuming there’d be power and wireless and opportunity to use it (it was as geek meet-up after all).  But no, it was much more casual, people interactive and we spent a good deal of the night moving around, so it was really just a hassle to keep an eye on.

What I found interesting was the balance between education and marketing.  Since most of the speakers are from some company, many of which are the owners, sometimes I wondered if their intent was more to educate the audience or compel them to use their products.  Other bloggers I know are happy to sit there and be advertised to, because they enjoy keeping up on the latest gadgets, but I’m more interested in learning the technology and techniques behind the scenes.

I’m trying to choose a favorite speaker…  Although I don’t have much interest in beekeeping, Jordan Schwartz gave a great talk on beekeeping and the hive mind.  He is such an energetic speaker, I think I’d go hear any talk he gives.  I wonder how much public speaking experience he has.  As a side note, I would have liked to hear more about his theories on colony collapse disorder, as I’ve heard a lot about it on NPR lately.  The most interesting talk content wise for me was Alex Hopmann’s talk on maximizing performance in aircraft engines.  I always enjoy learning more about how engines work and I had no idea how much you could vary the fuel economy by controlling the gas/air mixture while having minimal effect on speed. 

All in all, fabulous time was had by me.  Looking forward to Ignite IV!    



Straight from the Nucleus: miR-29b January 13, 2007

Posted by Sacha in Genetics, microRNA, News, Research, Science.
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Another paper on microRNA.  This one is about miR-29 was published in Science‘s Jan. 5, 2007 edition.  It’s titled “A Hexanucleotide Element Directs MicroRNA Nuclear Import.” 

This is basically a note to myself to read it later.  

2 miRs and Cancer January 13, 2007

Posted by Sacha in Genetics, microRNA, News, Research, Science.
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During all this kurfuffle of winter storms and sick kitties I failed to update you on an important microRNA breakthrough.  At Ohio State University, Yuri Pekarsky’s team has found two microRNA (miRs) that regulate the most common human leukemia:  B-cell chronic lymphocytic, or just B-CLL for short.  These two microRNA are miR-29 and miR-181. 

microRNA can function as reverse regulators of disease.  So, when certain microRNA have low levels of expression, their targets genes are not surpressed and aggressive cancer can result.  What the researchers found was that there was an inverse relationship between expression levels of miR-29 and miR-181 and Tcl1, the ocncogene associated with B-CLL. 

The Ohio State team’s paper was titled “Tcl1 Expression in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Is Regulated by miR-29 and miR-181″ and published in the December 15, 2006 edition of Cancer Research.  According to the paper, “Because miR-29 and miR-181 are natural Tcl1 inhibitors, these miRs may be candidates for therapeutic agents in B-CLL-overexpressing Tcl1. ” 

To read the original paper click here.  To read an excellent, non-technical summary from the American Association for Cancer Research click here

Another Storm for Seattle January 13, 2007

Posted by Sacha in News.
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Seattle was hit on Wednesday with another massive storm.  This one poured a few inches of snow in under an hour and has topped it off with days of freezing temperatures not expected to lift until next Tuesday.  The bad news:  University of Washington Seattle decided to keep classes open on Thursday when the roads were all ice and snow.  The good news:  The power stayed on!  

I believe it was poor judgment to keep classes going during the storm.  More on this later…

Pictures from Storm Damage December 22, 2006

Posted by Sacha in News.
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As promised, here are some pictures taken in Redmond during the blackout.  I think this is day four, December 18th.  These pictures are by far not the worst damage in Redmond, but they were what I saw driving around one day.  All pictures were taken from the warmth of my car, so they’re not the best angles, but you get the idea.  The first two are of a large tree that fell across an intersection.  The first is the top of the tree and the second the bottom.  Being a few days after the storm, there is not much left of the tree.  People needing wood have already taken most of it for their fireplaces. 



This next pictures is of an intersection.  In Redmond the intersections marked with stop signs, but just a few miles up the road in Woodinville there weren’t even stop signs and the road was extremely dark and curvey.   


Life is returning to normal slowly for me, although many of my friends are still without power.  As of last night, Woodinville-Duvall road was still closed between 182nd and Avondale.  After this post I should return to our regularly scheduled science blogging.   

Power, Heat, and All Things Civilized December 19, 2006

Posted by Sacha in News.
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When I woke up this morning I was still cuddled under my down comforter and loads of blankets when I started scheming places to take a shower.  A local gym?  A friend’s house?  I hadn’t yet decided when I braved the cold to use the toilet.  I walked into the bathroom and something wasn’t right.  There was light – and I don’t mean a flashlight or fire.  It took me a second in my sleepy state to realize the ramifications of this.  Power.  Heat.  Hot Water.  It was like ten Christmases rolled into one.  What was the first thing I did?  Took a long, hot shower, safe in the knowledge I would be able to dry my hair with a hair dryer when I got out. 

So there it is:  showers rate over blogging.  And I call myself a geek.  Shameful. 

Next weekend my husband and I will be putting together a disaster preparedness kit.  I have learned many lessons in disaster preparedness throughout this time that I will take into consideration:

Geeks need to fuel their minds as well as their bodies.  Disaster kits should include book lights, books, puzzle books, handheld gaming devices, and laptop batteries. 

  1. Have a backup water supply for your backup water supply.  I figured I’d be fine with water in an emergency, but I had just run out of bottled water when the storm hit.  We were lucky the water mains didn’t break.
  2. Even in an emergency we’re still food snobs.  Food needs to be balanced nutritionally, tasty, and not needing prep.  I have food in the house to keep us for a few weeks, but it’s dry grains, granola bars, and such.  The more you can keep regular activities and feel normal, the better you can handle these situations mentally.  Proper nutrition is key to keeping you sane.  I have also been meaning to pick up a single gas burner for cutting cheesecake and cooking bananas foster at the table.  That would have come in handy this week for survival cooking. 
  3. Batteries suck.  Rechargeable batteries suck even more.  I learned on the radio this week about wind-up flashlights.  I’ll be getting two of those. 
  4. Candles are reliable.  This is one area where I did very well.  We had a huge stockpile of tea lights, 2 lighters, and some matches.  It was nice not to have to worry about this.  [Note to self:  buy more lighters and matches to replace those used.]
  5. Include a small battery powered radio and TV in your kit.  It’s hard to know what’s going on out there without one.

That’s all I can think of now.  I’m sure more will come to mind over the next few days.  Now it’s off to take care of the damage.  The freezer leaked and damaged the floorboards.  We have to finish cleaning the rotten food out of the refrigerator (we did the freezer already).  There are tons of dishes and dirty clothes to do.  The list goes on. 

I’ll post pictures of the damage in my neighborhood later.  Before I go I would like to mention the resources that were there for us in the storm.  The great folks at KIRO 710 AM Radio kept constant updates and interviews with energy company spokespeople and local leaders.  Whole Foods in
Bellevue was one of the only grocery stores open on the Eastside for days.  They kept us well-fed and were friendly faces in the midst of disaster.   

The single greatest lesson I will take away from all of this is to take more candlelight showers.  There’s nothing like them.  Especially with hot water. 

Power Outage 2006 December 18, 2006

Posted by Sacha in News.
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This post was written at noon Pacific Time on December 18, 2006.




We’ve now had four nights without power in Redmond.  This is my first time on the computer since early last Thursday.  Right now I’m at the Redmond library.  They’re supposed to have free wireless internet, but it’s down right now, so I’m typing and will go search around town for some internet to use to post this.  This is by far the longest I’ve been without power so here are my thoughts:


I feel extremely lucky that this is rare.  I recognize that I am at least lucky to have a gas fireplace, indoor plumbing, food, a dry home, and a husband to care for me and my cats.  Many people go without these necessities for years on end.  I am certainly still blessed. 


It seems that much of this disaster is preventable using new technology (like putting the power lines underground).  I hope some progress is made on this in the future, but I doubt it.  I’m surprised my home doesn’t have power yet, because we live on a main road close to downtown.

Most of my friends are without power too.  I’ve been trying to get through, but most of the phones are out as well.  I hope you’re all doing well.  It must be especially difficult with young children.    I thought it was fun as a kid, but the power only ever went out for a day or so.  This must be much more challenging. 


At the top of the post is a picture of my altar of warmth and food.  I took the photo without flash and altered the light in MS Office Picture manager to try to give a more realistic view.  This is from 8am, so it is just starting to get light out.  Below the mantle is our single heat source, a natural gas fireplace.  It normally keeps the entire lower floor warm, but with two nights below freezing, it is only marginally helping.  We now have to stand within a few feet to keep warm.  On the mantle to the left is my breakfast:  baguette, salami, and a banana.   I kept the salami very cold outside on the patio overnight.  On the mantle to the right is my fondue pot, full of apple juice and mulling spices.  Warmed by a single tea candle, it took one hour to heat up, but no reason not to drink in style in the middle of a crisis! 


Here’s a typical day for me without electricity at home:


Wake up early, before 8am (yes, that is extremely early for us)

Have cold breakfast

Take mostly cold shower (calling it lukewarm might be too generous)

Do crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or read

Go out around 10am to run errands

Go to Whole Foods for lunch and to buy afternoon snacks

After lunch, visit a friend or family member or go window shopping at a warm mall

Eat dinner out – usually sushi

Go to a book store

Go home around 8pm

Watch a movie until the laptop runs out of battery charge

More puzzles



I was also making my own Christmas Sudoku-type puzzle to entertain myself.  It is a Christmas present for my father-in-law.  I don’t think he reads my blog, so hopefully I’m not spoiling it by posting it here!  I’d rate it as easy.  It’s the same concept as Sudoku, only instead of numbers it uses letters from the word “Christmas” spelled “C-H-R-I-*-T-M-A-S.”  Each column and row must contain the letters from Chri*tmas as well as each 3×3 box (9 3x3s total).  I couldn’t make the 3×3 boxes darker or format the boxes in similar size.  My computer time today was limited.  Maybe I can fix that later.  I’ll post the solution after Christmas. 


H R I * T M A S
      C   S      
S   T       C * H
H     S   R     A
    A       H    
  M           C  
I A C       T R *
  T   A I *      
M S   T R C   H I

IT Goddesses Heat up the Tech World July 18, 2006

Posted by Sacha in News, Technology.
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Australian techie Sonja Bernhardt has put out a smoking hot calendar, Screen Goddess.  It features female IT professionals posing as popular and classic movie stars.  Sonja stars in the controversial American Beauty shot.  The calendar’s website held up against an attack to take it down over the weekend (Sydney Morning Herald article about attack here).  I think the calendar looks great.  Well done ladies!  All proceeds are going to support organizations promoting careers in IT for women and girls. 

Excerpt from their website:

We’re doing this to:

  • Smash through the perception of the geeky technologist
  • Generate media sensation to put a spotlight in the industry and increase national interest and awareness
  • Raise awareness of the diversity of Women in IT
  • Raise money for non profit groups that run initiatives to encourage females to take up technology studies and to enter technology careers
  • Promote organisations and companies involved in and supporting IT, through sponsorship/promotional opportunities on each page of the calendar.