Saturday, April 25, 2009

Npr = cows

NPR is full of cows!

Firstly, there was this report on the completion of the sequencing of the bovine genome. L1 Dominette 01449, an eight year old Hereford cow has been the subject of intense scrutiny for six years as a team of scientists from around the world have sequenced her DNA. The resulting information gathered from L1 Dominette gives us valuable information into "the essence of bovinity", as well as the differences and similarities between cows and other mammals. One difference that makes a lot of intrinsic sense is that cows have a larger portion of their genome devoted to milk production than humans do. Another logical discovery is that cows lack the genome areas relating to certain digestive enzymes. As cows let commensal bacteria digest their grass for them, they no longer needed to keep those genes around. For an even more in depth discussion of the information gained from the cow genome, check out Science Daily.

Secondly, NPR's quiz show "Wait wait, don't tell me" alerted me to even more cow related news this week. Apparently, a conservationist in England has imported 13 rare Heck cattle to his farm. Cattle importation is not normally newsworthy, but Heck cattle are special. Heck cattle are the result of a breeding project sponsored by Herman Goering, and were produced in Nazi Germany in an attempt to back breed existing cattle to recreate the extinct aurochs. While they did not manage a complete recreation, Heck cows are fairly impressive looking, and are basically wild. As the limerick listener challenge put it (an audio recording is here): "A specter is haunting Europe, namely giant Nazi cows." As amusing as that sounds to us in America, the Brits appear to be taking the matter more seriously. Here is a BBC video in which the reporter asks the conservationist Mr. Gow if he is "a collaborator".

And if all this cow-ish goodness was not quite enough, I present to you a recent story by NPR about how cows align themselves with power lines.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Cat Blogging

Well folks, the sun is shining, it is 80 degrees, and the bugs are abundant; thus summer must be nearly upon us here in New Orleans. The cats have begun celebrating the seasonal change by forming cat like puddles at midday, and by being particularly feisty during the relatively cool morning hours. Below we have a photo of Hodag taken this morning as he attacked my feet while I was getting ready to go to my internship.

Delicious Mommy foot!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Just a quick note to let you all know that I have been accepted into Tulane School of Public Health's PHD program in epidemiology. I will start classes in fall of 2oo9. I will hopefully be fully funded (!) , and be able to receive a tuition waver as well as a living stipend. There may even be money for me to travel and conduct research overseas. All of this money would come from a grant that Tulane has applied for from NIH. Unfortunately, we will not know if we have gotten the grant until August 1st, although we are hoping we will based on high initial scores. The grant would be for global maternal and child health work, and I would get to work on issues associated with dengue fever in pregnant mothers. I am really excited by this area of work, because dengue is pretty interesting and has all sorts of challenges associated with it. Other bonuses include that dengue fever is transmitted by my very favorite type of mosquito, the Aedes aegypti and is endemic in Southeast Asia, my favorite part of the world.

A female A. aegypti mosquito

Map of dengue virus transmission as of 2005.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yay! New Computer

This is a long story. It is meant as amusing, rather than complaining. Near the end of last summer, my labmate Tomasz gave me his old computer, as my work computer was not-so-slowly dying. Tomasz just graduated a few weeks ago. Back in January, he warned me that the friend he had gotten the computer from was going to want it back when Tomasz left the country. So at the beginning of the month, they came in to retrieve it. By then I had recovered everything I needed from it, so it's not that big a deal. Except then that I was computer-less. I had been meaning to purchase a laptop to both use at work and replace the (old) computer I got from Jena in 2005 (and which she had gotten in 2001). Unfortunately, due to a medium-sized (but now fixed) SNAFU, I was without funds to purchase a computer until just a few days ago. At the same time, my labmate Mike started digging up computer pieces to assemble a computer for me. That computer got up and running today. So now I have a work computer. Yes, I still plan to get myself a new laptop. But that can wait another week or two.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday cat blogging

This week we feature a cat we met while purchasing a piece of furniture in River Ridge. Colin and I finally bought ourselves a china cabinet, a furniture piece that we have needed ever since we moved into the new house. We found a lovely two piece set on craigslist and had arranged with the owner to drive over and pick it up at his home in River Ridge. When we arrived at the seller's house, we saw an adolescent male cat in the bushes. The cat ran out of said bushes as soon as he saw us, and was very friendly and snugly. When the seller answered the door, we asked him if this was his cat. He replied, "Who, Lagniappe? He kinda belongs to the whole neighborhood." Colin and I thought this was particularly apt, because of the meaning of the word Lagniappe. The term is thrown around quite a lot in New Orleans; for instance, the Times-Picayune calls its Friday extra section Lagniappe.

Colin's leg gets a little "something extra."

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Cat Blogging

This week, we present both cats being catly, each in their own way.

Nora finally caught Annie sitting on the bed and actually posing regally for a photo:

Earlier in the week, I was mean to Hodag. I put him 5 feet up on a ladder in the office (the ladder is there because I need to fix the ceiling fan). He was unable to get down until I grabbed him to carry him to safety. But at least he got to be tall for a few minutes.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Zombie Ants

I just heard a great story on NPR about how ants know when an another ant is dead. Turns out that ants don't recognize one of their own as dead until it begins to smell. Apparently ants produce a unique odor during decomposition that alerts members of their community to the fact that the dead ant needs to be removed to the midden. Basically, ants require other ants to rot before they figure out that they are dead. This is kind of odd, when you consider that a dead ant looks pretty different from a living ant, I mean, you think they would notice that the dead ant is upside down and not moving. E.O. Wilson proved that it doesn't matter how lively an ant looks, or even if it moves, in the determination of death, all that matters is the scent. Professor Wilson showed this by creating a zombie ant, a live ant that for all intents and purposes appeared dead to its companions, simply by putting a drop of dead ant smell on it.

Read, or listen to the story here.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday, as most of you know. Nora got me two awesome gifts, which arrived earlier this week:

1. This wind-up rechargeable radio. Or at the very least, something very similar. It came about because I have had a boom box for several years (my stepmother bought it for me when I left for college). I loaned the boom box to Scav Hunt a couple of years ago, and misplaced the power cord. Because that power cord was a little weird, I've been unable to replace it. Since a little before we moved to New Orleans, Nora and I have liked to listen to the radio while we make dinner. When we moved into the new house, the boom box was the only radio we could listen to in the kitchen. But without a power cord, it's battery powered. And it take 6 batteries. After replacing the batteries twice, we gave up on it. This radio replaces it, and also acts as an emergency radio. It's fantastic. We've used it every day since I opened it.

2. This sunlight detector. We haven't used it yet because it's been cloudy/raining all week. We plan to start a garden (both flowers and vegetable), and need to check for proper sunlight. So it will be useful eventually. Little does Nora suspect that the first use will be to locate the best spot for the rose bush I'm getting her for our 2nd anniversary (the traditional gift is cotton; I say rose are close enough).