Jan 21 2008
As one might expect, it's been a busy couple of days (a week, really), which has kept me from being able to post anything. I got back from Philly around 1700 EST5EDT last Friday, and I've been offline pretty much the entire weekend because I've been too tired to do much of anything. After I got back, Lyssa made a wonderful hot dinner (all the more special because temperatures in the tri-state area have been averaging in the mid-twenties Fahrenheit), and then we decided to get together with some friendly faces to hang out for the evening. To that end, we rang up J- and headed to Tyson's Corner mall to wander around a bit and take in a movie, namely, I Am Legend. I have to admit, I'm very impressed with the movie: The soundtrack is minimal to nonexistent, the CG effects are excellent, and the sets are nothing short of amazing. The depiction of New York City after the entire population of the country (and possibly the world) has gone the way of Windows v3.1 is a testament to both movie engineering and digital graphics. I liked some of the more subtle references in the movie, from the fact that gasoline was well over $6us per gallon during the period of time depicted to the fact that the movie takes place in 2012 (thanks, Terrence).
If you've a yen for some post-apocalyptic media these days, give I Am Legend a watch. On the big screen, if you can.
In other news, I've been averaging about twelve hours of sleep every night since I got back to DC whether I wanted it or not. Once my head hits the pillow, that's all she wrote. That's not to say that I'm actually sleeping all the way through - I keep waking up every two hours or so for various and sundry reasons, but I still manage to get some REM sleep.
And now, the news that I've been meaning to post about for a while but have been either too busy (or too busy fighting with the hotel's network) to get around to. In the field of biotechnology, cellular biologists how to harvest embryonic stem cells without harming the fetus. The trick is to biopsy a couple of cells from a two day old fetus (not as difficult as it sounds, this is routinely done for genetic analysis) and coax them into de-evolving into embryonic stem cells in the lab. The process isn't reliable yet, but it's working far better than the previous method of de-differentiating fully differentiated and functional cells back into stem cells. Again, the process is in its infancy, but keep an eye on it until the controversy arises (which it will) and buries the news.
Meanwhile, at the University of Minnesota cellular biologists were able to grow a new rat heart by using the superstructure of one rat's heart and biopsied heart cells from another rat. The process is seemingly simple: A detergent of some sort (techncially a surfactant) was used to dissolve the bonds between the 'old' heart cells and wash them way, leaving only the protein matrix that the cells were bonded to. They then dripped a solution of saline and heart cells biopsied from baby rats through the protein superstructure, where they bonded to the structural matrix and began to grow and replicate. An artificial pacemaker was used to train the cells in beating in the proper rhythm. The next step in the tests is to try it with a pig's heart, with the hope of eventually applying the method to human physiology.
Mike McConnell, National Intelligence Director of the United States is working out plans for the largest net.wiretapping scheme yet seen in the world, predictably under the guise of national security. The cyber-security plan he's laying out would give the US government the authority to examine the content of any website viewed, any web search, any data transfer, and any e-mail transmitted over the grid in the United States for anything they think is shady for any reason at all.
Remember when the Net was supposed to bring people from around the world together to communicate? Paranoia, it seems, can be neither created nor destroyed, only transferred from entity to entity on the Net.
In slightly happier news, the band Abney Park will release their latest album, entitled Lost Horizons next month. On the first of March they'll be holding a CD release party at the Bar Sinister in Hollywood, California.
Chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, famous not only for chess but for honking off the United States government with his remarks as well as playing in chess matches held in sanctioned countries is dead at the age of 64 of kidney failure. Fischer was a citizen of Iceland after narrowly being arrested in Japan after making a number of rabidly anti-American and anti-semitic remarks to the global media. Love him or hate him, the world is diminished somewhat with his passing.