Monday, 7 February 2011

Some small fraction of me and India

Hello everyone (... both of you).
This is a small bit of my life. I sent it to a friend of mine originally, but I just use it here as a scucinct description of what's going on in my life now.

Things are looking up for my February- I think I am focusing more on work, but also finding time for seeing people and getting some creative stuff done. It's amazing what I can do when I get out of bed... Although perhaps I haven't been sleeping enough. If I got into an actual manic phase I think it'd be quite bad for me and embarrasing....
As for inspiration... It comes when it comes, I think mainly it's due to the stress and pressure of having to get stuff done and needing a release- I find my tunes relaxing too (maybe it's a bit sad but I listen to them all the time). Also, that's why I'm never very creative when I actually have time to make things- sod's law really...
And now for some beautiful pictures of India, a slightly haphazard selection. I was in India for 17 days over Christmas, it was good fun and fantastical imagery was everywhere. Incredible India is really a perfect slogan for the country. And I really liked taking pictures.

Beautiful temple in Pune, part of the Parvati group on the hill above town

Lovely lizard in the coolourful temple. Strangely for an Indian lizard, his name was George.

A statue of a multiheaded god. Krishna I think...

A temple of the Parvati site in Pune

A sligthly saucy statue, with J in the reflection

Lots and lots of Indians wanted their pictures taken with us

Goats were very common, and cows, and dogs and cats. We didn't see one elephant though.

Our driver in Pune showing the way to the Parvati temples on top of the hill

A nice old art deco hotel in Pune

The central marketplace in Pune

A statue of a Maharshtran hero

There were also many dragonflies

There was loads of traffic everywhere, and it honled constantly

These lovely looking birds were everywhere

The beautiful countryside from the train

The train in Mumbai; new and old buildings

The train in Mumbai at a lovely station
This is Brugges from the air
I've always wanted to see a rainbow from the sky

Look closely and you can see a famous London landmark
 There's more but you'll have to go on facebook to find them...

Made a new song the other night too... things are looking up

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

SORTED and a dog house

The building on the left is Glaxosmithkline, shown in the actual place it would be relative to my building, which is in Boston Manor, West London.
I am a supergeek, I spent ages on this. Also shown on the top are the motorway exits and car parks. Super. The dog house is more fun...

Saturday Summary 3

It's not Saturday again and I have many months to summarise.
I've had mostly a very nice time this summer, I am really a very lucky guy. I had the time and money to go on three holidays, to Malta, Holland and France, on top of my trip to Budapest in Easter and my upcoming adventure in India at Christmas.
In very few words;
Malta is lovely, sunny, friendly and full of ornate and beautiful catholic churches. There is so much to see on this tiny island, and we never even got to the ancient (really ancient; before the pyramids.) at Ggantija and Tarxien. We tried but Ggantija wasn't open on a Sunday. I'll have to head back sometime. Maybe when I'm middle aged like most of the other thousands of tourists.
Holland is always fun and we were blessed with perfect weather for a week. I went with my brother and a good friend and our bikes. We played lots of ping-pong and saw an art museum in Utrecht, walked around Amsterdam, had some heinekens in nice bars, went to a pre-season friendly at ajax, smoked a few spliffs and met some cool Finns and Americans.
France was very lovely, staying with my girlfriends family and seeing their many friends and her very cute guadaloupien cousins. Listening to French and occasionally trying to speak it kept my mind very active too. I do appreciate that nice language. Another decade of this every summer and I'll be fluent! Well, hopefully before that. I might be swayed to moving there with my lady at some point...
Budapest seems long ago now, a long weekend in a really wonderful city. It's got amazing old buildings everywhere, a massive palace come art museum, great views over the danube to the enormous parliament building. Nice food too and cheap accomodation in a cool hostel (the maverick hostel, if you're thinking of going), where we got tasty home-made liqueur and met a friendly German. On top of all this is the profusion of fantastic spas, some many hundreds of years old. Rudas is the best I think, although I've not visited the many small ones around, it is really remarkable, so old and solid and beautiful.
Also I went to bestival, which wasn't too great, but I was volunteering, so at least I didn't pay for tickets. I enjoyed the world cup despite England and won a few squid on it too... And I got a car! She's called Valerie Mabel Yersinia, and she's a lovely green skoda fabia. It's so nice to drive and so liberating...
Much other funness happened over the summer, but I also took an exam. I got 60% in it, so that was pretty cool. I didn't think I'd do that well, and I should have prepared more, although in the three hours I had enough to write that I couldn't finish in time. Anyway, 60 is OK. If I get a good mark in the project (more about that soon) and courseworks then 60 at the end of this year may well be enough... but of course I can do better than that, if I do my job of learning much better this year.
Fortunately my modules appear to be much more interesting. One of the example questions for the exam in Infectious Diseases and Their Control is "Discuss the global importance of infectious diseases". That is just perfect for me, I was thinking of possibly doing a masters in something like that... And this year we have a whole half of a module devoted to virology (viruses and all that), which I really want to get more into. I'm gonna post on here the work I did on a poster about virology last year; it was about the only piece of work I was quite proud of, and hopefully someone might find it interesting. Hopefully I didn't lose it on the memory stick that's escaped my pocket with my keys...

This is a model of a Sattelite Tobbaco Mosaic Virus virion.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Saturday summary 2

So what's been happening is exams mainly. Skip the next bit if you don't want to hear that whole sorry saga.
I haven't really studied much. Even the day before my pharmacology exam, I didn't get started until after 6pm, and after that I only concentrated on it inconstantly.
This is strange and disconcerting; leaving it until the last few days to do revision is pretty bad, but leaving it until the last few hours is really bad, and quite unexpected. Where's the rush of adrenaline? Or cortisol or whatever should be bathing my brain in order to give me focus and impetus. Some dopamine maybe? I don't know, but seriously I even surprised myself in the way I avoided looking at what I needed to learn. I could've done better in that exam; it didn't go very well. I'm about 70% sure I passed.
Yesterday the same compulsion to avoid the necessary action happened again; I'm a bit hideously unprepared for tomorrow. I'm writing this with the knowledge that I will come back to read it next year.
Next year counts for three times as much as this year, so even if I have to do retakes, I should still be able to achieve about 63 next year to ensure a 2/1. This is going to be hard though, I will clearly need to have a different mindset; I will have to actually study over the whole course of the year, as well as work hard on my project. I'm actually still confident about this happening though. Why not? It'll all be brand new; I've got a great house lined up, I'll have a car, everyone else in my year will be working harder...
I will be having fun once these exams are over, in a few days, and I'll try to forget about my marks until they are released. After that though, I will attempt to start the year before it even begins, doing some researches. I will actually post stuff on here too. If anyone's still reading now, you're going to be in for a treat, I promise.


OK here are my titbits of my recent life.
  • I've eaten jackfruit, from a can. It's pretty horrible, really stringy, and not very pleasant tasting, although not disgusting, just fruity in an oddly bland way.
  • I've also eaten blueberry and strawberry chocolate. Which is marvellous.
  • I've bashed my knee again, slipping on the step in my flat, which was extremely angering. Although it wasn't better anyway, I probably have set back the recovery. Still yet to see the doctor. Must go on Tuesday.
  • I've actually made some songs, and they're OK sounding. This was many weeks ago, but now I will put them up on here too.
  • I've designed a building, that looks really nice, to house the university I would one day build in an ideal world. The Schifferes Open Research Trust for Education and Discovery. SORTED. I will post pics...
  • I've read many interesting things, some that I've forgotten, that now I sorta wish I had of written down to put on here. Some I can remember, like penrose tiles, probably the nerdiest thing I've ever been interested in.
  • I've planted a spider plant, in a nuttela jar. Another set of clones is on the way soon, from the battered old mother plant, but no sign of any flowers as yet.
  • I've walked around in a big thunderstorm, getting absolutely soaked. This was most excellent.
  • I've thought way too much about the world cup, before it's yet begun. 
Something cool...

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Some RNAs are bigger than others

Using this blog for revision hasn't been my way of doing things, because I don't want to put loads of stuff on here that's kind of unaccesible, but the majority of what I need to know is a bit unaccesible, therefore hard to write about too. I'm just reading stuff and not taking much notes at all.
Anyway I made this picture a day or two ago to illustrate the roles of RNA. Everyone's heard of DNA, but really, it's the very similar but much more dynamic RNA that actually get some stuff done. OK last time I said that proteins were where the action is, and that's true, mostly. But you're not gonna get any proteins without RNA first. RNA is both the messenger and the constructor of proteins.
In fact, RNA was quite likely the first molecule of life, since it can catalyse reactions on it's own. Protein formation would've been the next step, creating more efficient enzymes, before evolution then settled on DNA as the most stable carrier of information. Which puts a different perspective on things I think. I won't get into the wonder that is the origin of life for a good while yet though, it' just really mind boggling.
Anyways, I'm sure no-one's really reading but here's the picture. All those RNAs have different role's and are different shapes and sizes. We're still learning a lot about what they all do and how they might be used. For example, RNA interference (RNAi; the effect of short, double stranded RNA effecting genes after transcription) was only discovered in the early 90's and was a complete surprise.
Fun fact: small nuclear RNAs form complexes with proteins to form snRNPs. My textbook tells me these are pronounced 'snurps'.

These are the essential processes in turning biological information into action, and that's why  they've been called the Central Dogma. Although I don't like the word dogma used in science, it's clear that this stuff needed an important sounding name.

All that metabolism shit will be covered soon. That's what my second exam is about. Joy.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Number 3

A few months ago when I started this blog I wanted to write a bit about why certain things interest me, to establish the purpose of this place. It seems a good time, what with all this parliamentary palaver to post something I wrote last year about politics, that I wanted to get in the Uni magazine. They didn't respond, and then this year I went off the idea of publishing in it when it went out of print. It's wholly online now. I never thought it was very good anyway, to be honest. There were loads of typos. If I come up with something good I probably should try get it on there though, it'll look good on a CV. Oh god, that's a dreadful reason for doing things...

A little bit about little things that do stuff

What is protein? Well, most people think of meat, and maybe milk and cheese, or baked beans. Foods that are rich in protein, that we need to live. In fact the vast majority of people in the western world over consume protein, but we can talk about that another day. Anyways, really we should say, what are proteins? 
The whole of biology is concerned in some way or another with what proteins do. If a living thing is like a car, proteins are the engine, and the hydraulics, and the wheels and the headlights. They are the doers in the situation, the moving parts. I guess the DNA would be the driver, and everything else would be the frame... 
OK so it's hard to make analogies with something as complex as a living thing, but basically proteins are a remarkably diverse collection of molecular machines. And yet the elegant thing is that they are really fairly simple. They're composed of 22 possible basic ingredients (Amino acids), which are put together in chains, which then fold up around themselves. These are then sometimes garnished with a few extra bits, called aesthetic groups. And then they can all play together and with pretty much any other kind of molecule and make stuff happen. Let the whole thing go for a few billion years and abra-cadabra, you have life as we know it. 
OK evolution is a bit more complicated, and yeah DNA is what carries the instructions, but really, the double helix can bugger off out of the limelight. The science guys on TV seem to be very impressed about the whole code-of-life story, but I think that misses the point a bit; it's proteins that are the actual prose of life, DNA is more like the alphabet. I think it's more exciting that we're now figuring out what the words actually mean, rather than the fact that we managed to get what the letters sounded like. How's that for analogy? At least now I'm slightly more excited about the funny things life is made of.
So my first exam is just all about these tiny little buggers, how they do business with their co-conspiritors the nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and how we study them. It's really important, fundamental stuff, and there's alot of it. So I need to get down to the details today, hardcore. But it's doable... it's the other exams I 'm more worried about.

This odd shape is the structure of my favourite protein of the moment, luciferase. It's what makes the light in a firefly. It's name is just a name for the devil plus -ase, which means a protein that makes a reaction happen. In this case, a pretty cool reaction, which I can talk about more when I go into pyrosequencing; using flashes of light to read a strip of DNA... 
Yeah, this revision thing'll get done, no problem...

Here is the best acronym I have ever found, which I came across during my brief time I actually did, sorta, revise. If you want to know what that unexpected protein was in that sample, you can just check if it's cRAP. Science is for people who like cool names.

P.S. This post counts as yesterday, because I haven't been to bed yet. So I'm not due a facial poke. This counts as revision, doesn't it? No?