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Christmas Sudoku Solution January 13, 2007

Posted by Sacha in Puzzles.
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Here’s the solution to the sudoku puzzle I posted last month: 

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

Now I’m off to find a new puzzle for January.  Any suggestions for places to find interesting puzzles?


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

New Paper: Human microRNAs transcribed by polymerase III November 14, 2006

Posted by Sacha in Evolution, Genetics, microRNA, Research, Science.
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A new paper out this week in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology presents evidence that Polymerase III is associated with miRNA genomic sequence and sufficient for transcription.  This is as opposed to the privious view that Pol II was required in mammals for expression.  The miRNAs they analyzed (miR-515-1, 517a, 517c, 519a-1) were interspersed among the Alu repeats, which are transcribed through Pol III recruitment.

Now, I had to ask myself after I read the abstract for this article, “What are Alu repeats?” and “Why do I care if they hang out on the chain with miRs?”  If Wikipedia is accurate, and I hope it is, the Alu family is a family of polymorphisms in the human genome, about 300 bp long.  Their repetitive sequences are the most abundant mobile units on the human genome and have been implemented in diseases, such as cancer.  As for the second question, this connection suggests that repetitive elements play an important role in human miRNA origin and expression, according to this new paper.

Two Puzzle Month November 13, 2006

Posted by Sacha in Mathematics, Puzzles.
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As I mentioned in my last post, I went to a puzzle challenge last weekend.  They had some great puzzles, so I’ve chosen two to be my puzzles of the month. 

The first one is time consuming, but even if you don’t solve the whole thing, the steps along the way are fun to do.  You use pictures and ASL letters to spell out words, then use those words to solve the puzzle.  I can’t link directly to the file because it’s a large .pdf, but go to the puzzle page hereand right click on “Local Wildlife” and choose the save file option.  Maybe your browser will just open the file, but I tried Firefox and IE and neither could do it.  Does anyone know what this type of puzzle is called?  I looked on Wikipedia in the puzzle type list and couldn’t find it. 

The second puzzle I recommend is called Equation Expedition.   This one is quicker and more mathy.   Make sure to read the handwriting on this one.

All the answers are here.

Have fun!

UW Puzzle Challenge November 12, 2006

Posted by Sacha in Puzzles, Technology and/or Microsoft.
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I just finished the College Puzzle Challenge.  It was a blast!  I won’t tell you our team name, because we didn’t place so well.  But that’s okay because we learned a ton, got some schwag, and had fun.  This was the first go for us, so we’ll kick butt next time.  I’ve been at school from 8am.  It’s now 9:30pm and we’re wrapping up.  I’ll post post a couple of my favorite puzzles for the puzzle(s) of the month tomorrow, once I’ve recovered. 

Thanks so much to all the hardworking Microsoft employees who put on a great event!     

Tech or Treat! November 1, 2006

Posted by Sacha in Humor.
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Raymond had this great post today about celebrating Halloween at Microsoft with the kids:

 I remember a colleague of mine who brought his young daughter to work for Hallowe’en. A conversation with “Cathy” some days later went like this:

“Hi, Cathy.”


“Do you know where your daddy works?”

“He works at Microsoft.”

“Do you know what your daddy does at work?”

“He walks around and gets candy.”

Hope you all had a frightfully fun Halloween!