‘Tis a small world in biology

Today I was browsing through recent articles in Nature, looking for a potential genetics paper to present for my department’s Journal Club. ” “Somatic coding mutations in human induced pluripotent stem cells” catches my eye – I mean, come on, doesn’t that sound absolutely fascinating? I happen to glance at the name of the first author.

“Wait…Athurva Gore? …Who’s studying biomedical engineering? Hmmmm… Is that just a more common name than I think?”

After a couple seconds of Googling, I find a photo of him and some other scientists in their native habitat (awkwardly posed in front of expensive equipment) and confirm that yes, that is my ex-boyfriend’s friend that I spent a good part of undergrad hanging out with. Who I am now rediscovering while browsing genetics literature. Odd.

Congrats on the Nature paper, Athurva!

Well, if you even read this. I have no idea what the protocol is about reading friends’ ex-girlfriends’ blogs. Blogs before bros?

This makes me happy

As anyone who’s gone on a road trip with me knows, I have a penchant for Disney music. Which is why this video makes me all sorts of happy, and I command you to watch it:
That guy has talent.

Happy Saint Patricks Day!

Technically the McCreights (rhymes with “right”) are Scotch-Irish, but feel free to send kisses and green beer my way anyway. …Even though I’m actually more Greek than I am Irish or Scottish. Whatever, let me embrace my Irish-sounding surname!

Anyone celebrating today?

Dance Your PhD finalists are up!

If you’ve ever had a hard time explaining what your research is about, maybe you should consider interpretive dance. That’s what the Dance Your PhD contest at Science asks grad students to do. It’s fun, but the winner also gets a $500 dollar prize.

You can vote for whichever one you like the best here. To show I’m not inherently biased toward biology, my favorite was actually the chemistry one. I thought it did the best job at actually explaining the concept, while having the least abstract dancing. Oh, and I loved the part with Taq polymerase in the middle. Seriously, just watch it.

…Okay, it still had to do with DNA, shush.

Maybe in a couple of years I’ll be able to do this, though I kind of suck at dancing. Right now my lab rotation project wouldn’t be too interesting of a video though – not sure how to interpretively dance to coding in Python…

Blogathon 2010

It’s time for this blogger to go mad from sleep deprivation for charity! Again!

Those of you who have been here for a while (the “I read Blag Hag before boobquake” hipsters) may remember Blogathon from last year. Blogathon is just what it sounds like – a blogging marathon. Starting on Saturday, July 31st at 8am EST, I will make a new blog post every half hour until Sunday, August 1st at 8am EST. None of these posts will be made ahead of time or set to autopost at a certain time – I’ll be up blogging new material for the whole 24 hours.

But the purpose isn’t to spam your Google Reader; it’s to raise money for charity. You pledge on my behalf, just like you would for someone running a marathon. Except instead of showing my physical prowess, I’ll be sitting on my ass in front of a computer frantically typing away while consuming caffeine – an equally impressive display, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Like last year, my charity of choice is the Secular Student Alliance. I’ve gushed about them before, but let me reiterate what a fabulous organization the SSA is. The SSA aids secular, atheist, humanist, and freethinker student organizations across the US and the world. They help students start new groups at universities and high schools, provide information and event ideas to current groups, send great speakers to campuses, and encourage networking between the next generation of outspoken secular voices. If you’re reading my blog, I probably don’t have to explain why having these resources for young people is so important. For the sake of full disclosure, I am now a board member of the SSA. But that has just shown me how much hard work is going on behind the scenes at this organization.

Last year Blogathon was a great success. Not only did some of my readers have fun staying up with me during my increasing level of madness, but we raised $531.17 for the SSA! My readership has increased greatly since then, so I hope we can top that this year.

So what can you do to help?

1. Donate through this ChipIn widget, which goes to the SSA’s PayPal account. You can pledge a lump sum, or be more creative if you wish. Donate a sum of money based on my total word count, for every post you really liked, for every time you laugh, or for every time I say a particular word I overuse. Surprise me!

Oh, and $3,000 is kind of an arbitrary amount. I just think it’s fulfilling seeing that progress bar fill up, haha.

Spread the word! Post this on your blog, tweet it, tell a friend. And remind people to “tune in” on the 31st!

3. Inspire me! If I haven’t been answering your emails or questions on, it’s because I’ve been saving up (sorry!). But I can never have too many blogging prompts. Ask me a question anonymously, or email me an idea at blaghagblog(at)gmail(dot)com.

4. Keep me company on the 31st. It helps knowing people are actually reading the posts I’m pumping out. And I try to keep them the same quality of my normal posts – I won’t throw up stupid filler just to meet my quota. It should be entertaining for everyone involved, especially since you can literally watch me get more delirious as the night goes on. And hey, it can get lonely at 5am. It’s good to know there’s another night owl out there.

So, help out a good cause and (hopefully) be entertained for a day!

I found a silly hat while cleaning my room

That is all.

Awesome godless party in Indianapolis!

Us godless heathens in Indiana have to stick together, and what better way to do so than with drinks and music? I won a VIP party at Howl at the Moon Indianapolis on June 11, and I figured I’d share the fun with my blog readers (man, what’s up with atheist bloggers winning VIP parties to Howl at the Moon?). Between 5pm and 8pm, we have:

– Free cover
– Free dinner buffet
– ½ price drinks

All you have to do is show up between that time and give my name at the door (Jennifer McCreight, pronounced McCRITE). I’ll probably get there between 5 and 6 to maximize my half priced drinks – Howl is tasty but kind of overpriced normally, so I suggest you do the same. Also, you have to be over 21. Sorry young people D:

If you’re coming, RSVP at the facebook event so I know who to expect. And don’t forget to say hello!

(Holy crap, I used the tags “Indiana” and “fun” in the same post! Never thought that would happen…)

What do you want to delete from your brain?

Sometimes I wish I could delete useless information that has slowly accumulated in my brain to make room for stuff that really matters. It makes me sad that I can still sing the whole Pokerap and every other song from the Pokemon CD, but memorizing stuff for biochemistry was nearly impossible. 150 Pokemon? No problem? 22 Amino acids and their structures? Gaaahhh! If only we made silly child jingles about biochemistry…

Though I do have one useful song I learned – a little ditty that sings every state in the US alphabetically! I’m amazed that I still remember it from 5th grade.

What useless knowledge would you delete from your brain if you could?

In the name of science, I offer my boobs

This little bit of supernatural thinking has been floating around the blogosphere today:

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader.

I have a modest proposal.

Sedighi claims that not dressing modestly causes earthquakes. If so, we should be able to test this claim scientifically. You all remember the homeopathy overdose?

Time for a Boobquake.

On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that’s your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake. If not, I’m sure Sedighi can come up with a rational explanation for why the ground didn’t rumble. And if we really get through to him, maybe it’ll be one involving plate tectonics.

So, who’s with me? I may be a D cup, but that will probably only produce a slight tremor on its own. If you’ll be joining me on twitter, use the tag #boobquake! Or join the facebook event!

(Confused? Angry? Think my science is crap? Read a serious explanation of boobquake here)

Is it summer yet?

All I’ve been able to do lately is fantasize about the summer. I have three more weeks of class, then a week of final exams. The weather has officially turned beautiful, and there are lovely flowers everywhere. I won’t be taking classes or doing research, and I have an extra month of summer since UW starts much later than Purdue. Long story short, I’m afflicted with horrible senioritis and I’m ready to go frolic outside, travel, and play video games until my brain oozes out.

Since I cannot yet do any of these things, I’m doing the next best thing: blogging about what I’m goign to do. Here are my summer plans so far:

  • May 7, 5:00 pm: Finish last final exam.
  • May 7, 5:01 pm: Senior week! Aka, constant state of partying, drunkeness, and debauchery until the 15th
  • May 16: Graduation! I’ll be all grown up! *sentimental tears*
  • Late May: Trip to DISNEY WORLD, YEEEAAAHHHH! Seriously, I’m way too excited about this. The only time I’ve been to Disney World was in 5th grade, which was the perfect age to not really enjoy it – too old to love the people in suits, too young to love the rides. I’m psyched to go with my close friends and not just my parents. We really wanted to go to the Harry Potter theme park, but it’s not going to be open in time. So disappointed.
  • June 5: Friend’s wedding!
  • June 25 – 29: Evolution Conference in Portland, Oregon! I’ll be (hopefully, not official yet) presenting a talk on my most recent research project. Which means I’ll be shitting my pants, since it’s a huge conference. My whole lab is going, along with other grad students we know from other labs, so it should be a ton of fun.
  • July 13: Play “How Can I Fit All My Belongings into My Car” Tetris (aka, moving out of West Lafayette).
  • July 23 – 25: Secular Student Alliance Conference in Columbus, Ohio! This was a blast last year. I hope I can take the new set of officers along with me. And even better, I hope I’ll be a new SSA board member by then, but that depends on how the elections go (vote for me!).
  • July 31: BLOGATHON! Oh hell yes I’m doing this again. Except this time I’ll be living in my parents’ house, and they’ll witness my insane displays of sleep deprivation. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if they told me that I should look for something similar to this los angeles weed delivery service to see if their cannabis-related products can help make a difference to my sleep deprivation during this time. Of course, they’ve probably heard that cannabis can have a positive effect on areas like this and want to help me as best they can. I just hope my sleep deprivation doesn’t get too bad during my stay. Hopefully I can break the $500 mark this time.
  • August: Uh, have fun. I have nothing planned, weeee.
  • Early to mid September: Make the 34 hour drive across the country to Seattle, Washington. This…will be interesting.

This may seem like a lot to a sane human being, but as someone who’s stressed out when she’s not overbooked, it’s a relaxing summer. I also have a lot of unscheduled things I’d like to accomplish. And for these, I am probably going to be bound to my room for long hours. I should probably get my AC fixed before all the research gets my brain fried! I heard HVAC experts like the ones at can fix without any time delay. Anyway, these are the unscheduled research works I plan to do this summer:

  • Finish up my current research projects and get them submitted to nice journals. I’d preferably like to do this before I give my advisor a heart attack.
  • Lose at least ten pounds, maybe fifteen. Before anyone yells at me about how I shouldn’t care about my weight and that I look fine, know that I’m doing this for me. I’ve gained weight throughout undergrad, and I’d like to thin back down. I want to be able to look at photos of me without lamenting over how fat my face looks. More importantly, trying to lose weight will encourage me to start exercising and eating better, which are definitely good habits to have. I guess I see it that if I don’t get healthy at this point in my life, I’m doomed for the future. Of course, with my luck, I’ll probably lose all the weight from my boobs first (let’s hope not).
  • Read a lot. I still have books I bought two years ago that I haven’t touched.
  • Frantically catch up on modern research in human population genetics so I don’t feel like a complete dumbass when I go to grad school. Feeling like somewhat of dumbass is unavoidable.
  • Finish writing a book. I have three books in progress: one is a quarter done, one needs seriously revamping but I don’t want to throw it away, and one is just an idea but a timely one. I’m notoriously bad for starting a writing project and not finishing it, mainly because I used to feel no one would want to read it. Now that I’ve been blogging and realize people do like what I write, I’ve been finding a lot more motivation. I will get a book published, goddamnit!
  • Play video games I’ve been neglecting. Hey, I need to enjoy the simple things in life too.

Alright, after writing that up, I just wish it was summer even more! Four more weeks…must…survive…

Wooo, atheism!

A couple of days ago I was walking with a friend to dinner. As I was crossing a busy intersection, a guy pops his head out of the passenger seat of his truck and happily screams “Woooo, atheism!” at me. I waved back, but didn’t get a good look at who it was since I was trying not to get hit by cars – I assume it was a club member.

This sort of random thing happens more and more the longer I’ve been president of the Non-Theists, and let me tell you: It totally makes my day. More often than not, when I go to a bar or club I’ll have at least someone give me a “Woooo, atheism!” high five. It’s usually a club member I don’t know as well (my friends don’t typically greet me this way, though that would be neat), or someone who never really comes to meetings but is happy that we exist.

And it’s another reason why I like having my occasional atheist t-shirt or button. I’ve struck up random, cool conversations waiting in lines, getting food, at the airport… It’s cool having that atheist secret hand shake!

Anyone else have any little, positive atheist experiences like that? If not, get a button or something!

My first atheist wedding art commission!

My friends Julie and Don are getting married this summer, and instead of including a dorky photograph with their wedding invitation, they asked me to draw a cartoon of them! (Click image for higher quality)
If you can’t tell, all of my friends are a bit nerdy. Julie is working towards vet school and takes care of shelter animals, especially exotics – hence the snake. And apparently Don is just a big super hero dork on the inside, because he requested the Spiderman outfit.

They’re also both active atheists and skeptics, which is why they’re getting a little plug here. Julie is a frequent member of the Society of Non-Theists and often comments here at the blog. And some of you may actually know Don – he blogs over at Action Skeptics and gave a talk at TAM 2009 on Kids Thinking Critically, a “strategy to bring critical thinking skills to at-risk and underprivileged youth.” He’s also working his butt of organizing speakers for the upcoming Skepchicamp in Chicago, which Julie and I are speaking at.

An early congratulations to you to! Who says us godless heathens aren’t capable of love?