Dear Red States: We're ticked off at the way you've treated California, and we've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the
Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.
To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches.
We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay.
We get the Statue of Liberty. You get OpryLand.
We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.
We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss.
We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama.
We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share.
Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms.
Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti- war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in
Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.
With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92
percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners) 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.
With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.
We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.
Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals than we lefties.
By the way, we're taking the good pot, too. You can have that dirt weed they grow in Mexico.
All the Best,
Posted by Cameron at 2:06 PM
Fermentation of foods has enjoyed a long history, nearly as long as the history of human civilization. In fact, it would be several thousand years before microbes were identified as the source of fermentation (Shurtleff & Aoyagi 2004). The earliest traces of fermentation are found in
Over the next eight millennium, many food types would be fermented. The Egyptians discovered how to use yeast to leaven bread and brew beer (~6000 BP). The Sumerians fermented barley to make beer. In
While I will not be focusing this review on fermented beverages, it is worth noting their impact on early societies. The Egyptians praised Osiris for the brewing of beer and the Greeks invented Bacchus, god of wine. Early Japanese miso and shoyu breweries had shrines for patrons to venerate before (Shurtleff & Aoyagi 2004). The word fermentation is derived from the Latin ‘to boil’, due to the bubbling and foaming of the beverages. Fermentation was a considerable achievement and played (and continues to play) a significant role in human health and happiness.
Fermentation is the anaerobic catabolism of organic compounds, usually carbohydrates, in the absence of an external electron acceptor (Madigan & Martinko 2006). This chemical process was first described in the late 18th century by Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier, when he experimented by transforming sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide (Donovan 1993). In 1810, J.L. Guy-Lussac summarized the process with the equation C6H12O6 ® 2 CO2 + 2 C2H6O. Louis Pasteur was the first to identify living organisms as the initiators of fermentation. In 1857, he demonstrated that lactic acid fermentation was caused by bacteria. Four years later he again showed that bacteria soured milk, leading to the ubiquitous practice of pasteurization (Shurtleff & Aoyagi 2004).
Modern fermentation practices have developed exponentially from those early times. With improved technology and molecular techniques, fermentation plays a crucial role in human society. Steinkraus (1995) has identified five major purposes of modern fermentation:
1. Enrichment of the diet through development of a diversity of flavors, aromas, and textures in food substrates.
2. Preservation of substantial amounts of food through lactic acid, alcoholic, acetic acid, and alkaline fermentations.
3. Enrichment of food substrates biologically with protein, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, and vitamins.
4. Detoxification during food fermentation processing.
5. A decrease in cooking times and fuel requirements.
The microbes involved with fermentation come from a relatively small number of genera: eight genera of molds, five genera of yeasts, and six genera of bacteria (Ross et al. 2002). The bacteria are characterized by lactic acid bacteria (LAB), acetic acid bacteria, and propionic bacteria. The most common yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Madigan & Martinko 2006). LAB are the most important fermenting microbe and the primary focus will be on them.
Food fermentation can be broken into three groups: dairy (e.g. milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream), meat (e.g. dry and semidry sausages), and vegetable (e.g. sauerkraut, pickles, olives, onions, peppers). LAB are the most significant microbe group and are often introduced as starters in a mixed culture. Secondary inoculation is not uncommon. For example, secondary inoculums of Lactobacillus and Penicillium roqueforti are responsible for the blue veins, taste, and aroma of blue cheese. Secondary fermentation also catabolizes lactic acid to propionic acid, acetic acid, and carbon dioxide (Madigan & Martinko). Enterococci are also introduced as a component of some mixed starters but this is still widely debated, as many species of this genus are known human pathogens and are thought to contribute to antimicrobial resistance (Ross et al. 2002).
Although the most common metabolic pathways in LAB use sugars (hexoses and pentoses) as the primary substrates for lactate and pyruvate formation, there are other uncommon pathways as well. These include polyols (e.g. pentitols, hexitols), organic acids (e.g. citrate, aspartate), and amino acids (e.g. alanine, serine) (Liu 2003). With respect to the primary metabolic pathways, LAB can be grouped into two separate classes based upon their carbohydrate metabolism. Group 1 is the homofermenters, which includes Lactococcus, Pediococcus, Enterococcus, and Streptococcus. This group converts one mol of glucose into two mol of lactate. Heterofermentive bacteria, group 2, produce equimolar amounts of lactate, ethanol, and carbon dioxide using the pentose pathway (Liu 2003; Ross et al. 2002). Only half as much energy is generated this way. Bacteria included in this group are the Leuconostoc, Wessella, and some lactobacilli.
Several essential variables exist that determine fermentation productivity. The type and amount of carbohydrates is important. If it is a milk product, the degree of hydrolysis of milk proteins is taken into consideration, as this determines the availability of essential amino acids. Also, the composition and degree of hydrolysis of milk lipids is taken into account. Lastly, temperature of the raw product, pH (under a pH of 4, LAB won’t ferment), moisture content, and presence of any microbes obstructive of the fermentation process, must all be adjusted appropriately (Heller 2001; Steinkraus 1995).
Due to their small genomes and considerable importance in industrial fermentation, LAB have been the subject of intensive genetic research (de Vos 2005; Liu 2003). Genetic modification has been used to address a number of pertinent issues, including: reduction in food spoilage, avoidance of food borne diseases, preservation/development of attractive flavors, tastes, and appearance (Hansen 2002); improving their use in food technology/manufacturing, improving product safety, production of therapeutic molecules, and creating bacteriophage resistant strains (Renault 2002; Konings et al. 2000). Most modification is done by introducing new genes or by altering their metabolic functions. Any introduced genetic elements are screened so as to be as safe as the host organism, and have a long history in food technology. The majority of genetic elements are derived from plasmids and genes from bacteria of the same species. Increased research in LAB has led to the development of cloning systems, chromosome modification systems, and gene expression systems (Renault 2002). LAB continue to be the subject of many studies in genetic and metabolic engineering.
In recent years there has been an increasing recognition of the health benefits associated with consuming fermented products. These microbes are referred to as probiotics, or microorganisms that when consumed in adequate numbers confer a health benefic to the host (Stanton et al. 2005; Soomro et al. 2002). Preliminary research has shown probiotics to provide relief from lactose intolerance, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, depressed immune function, and even cancer (Saxelin et al. 2005; Stanton et al. 2005; Wollowski et al. 2001). In addition, some LAB produce as secondary metabolites beneficial vitamins (like B vitamins) and bioactive peptides (Stanton et al. 2005).
Fermenting microbes have had a significant role in human history, from food preservation to modern day medicine. Continued research is sure to yield even more interesting insights and developments.
de Vos, W.M. 2005. Frontiers in food biotechnology-fermentations and functionality. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 16: 187-189.
Donovan, A. 1993. Antoine Lavoisier: Science, Administration, and Revolution.
Hansen, E.B. 2002. Commercial bacterial starter cultures for fermented foods of the future. International Journal of Food Microbiology 78: 119-131.
Heller, K.J. 2001. Probiotic bacteria in fermented foods: product characteristics and starter organisms. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 73 (suppl): 374S-379S.
Koning, W.N., Kok, J., Kuipers, O.P. and B. Poolman. 2000. Lactic acid bacteria: the bugs of the new millennium. Current Opinion in Microbiology 3: 276-282.
Liu, S.Q. 2003. Practical implications of lactate and pyruvate metabolism by lactic acid bacteria in food and beverage fermentations. International Journal of Food Microbiology 83: 115-131.
Madigan, M.T. and J.M. Martinko. 2006. Brock Biology of Microorganisms, 11th Ed. Pearson Prentice Hall,
Renault, P. 2002. Genetically modified lactic acid bacteria: applications to food or health and risk assessment. Biochimie 84: 1073-1087.
Ross, R.P., Morgan, S. and C. Hill. 2002. Preservation and fermentation: past, present, and future. International Journal of Food Microbiology 79: 3-16.
Saxelin, M., Tynkkynen, S., Mattila-Sandholm, T. and W.M. de Vos. 2005. Probiotic and functional microbes: from markets to mechanisms. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 16: 204-211.
Shurtleff, W. and A. Aoyagi. 2004. A Brief History of Fermentation, East and West.
http://www.thesoydailyclub.com/SFC/Fsoyfoods39.asp. Retrieved on:
Soomro, A.H., Masud, T. and K. Anwaar. 2002. Role of Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) in Food Preservation and Human Health – A Review.
Steinkraus, K.H. 1995. Handbook of Indigenous Fermented Foods. Marcel Dekker, Inc.
Posted by Cameron at 8:11 PM
Star Trek: the pledge
I got a call from the elementary school administrative assistant this morning.Hey kid. I'll boldly go with you on this one.
"Mrs. Jaworski?" I could hear her tapping a pencil against the desk.
"Uh yes, and it's Ms., please."
"Your son, 8, has been suspended for the day. Come here and pick him up."
She didn't give me time to answer, to ask questions, her voice disappeared as if someone cut the line. I stood in the kitchen, my bare feet aching from yesterday's marathon, and I took a deep breath. My son can be a nut at times, but he's never done the kinds of things that troubled kids do. He doesn't talk back, he doesn't pick fights, and he's never destroyed property. I couldn't picture him doing anything scholastically evil. Maybe he stripped and ran around the school naked, I thought. I grabbed my keys and headed out the door.
The principal met me in her office. She closed the door tightly behind me and invited me to sit in a stuffed orange vinyl chair.
"Mrs. Jaworski, 8 has been suspended from school for one day." She wore an arctic blue power jacket over black slacks, and I self-consciously tried to pull my hooded sweatshirt further over my pink pajamas.
"It's Ms., please. And sorry for my attire, but I ran a marathon yesterday and I'm too sore to change this morning." I tried to infect her with my smile, but she wore a tight-lipped expression as frosty as her jacket. "So, anyway. What did he do?" I picked at the hem of my sweatshirt, looked just to the right of her face. I couldn't meet her eyes. I felt nervous. I felt underdressed. I wondered where 8 was.
So she told me what he did. And as she told me, I started to laugh. I didn't laugh a little, either, but I belly-laughed and grabbed my stomach. My son stood with his class this morning, put small right hand over heart, faced the American flag, and recited his own personal pledge of allegiance:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Federation of Planets, and to the galaxy for which it stands, one universe, under everybody, with liberty and justice for all species."
"Mrs. Jaworski. This isn't humorous. The Pledge is an extremely important and patriotic moment each morning in the classroom. I am ashamed of your son's behavior, and I hope you are, too."
I wanted to say, Hey Lady, it's a big universe. Why should we pledge allegiance to a mixed-up country? Why shouldn't my son embrace the potential of stardust? But I stood, extended my hand, apologized for my laughter, slung my purse over my shoulder, opened her door to find my son, 8, red-eyed sitting on the wooden bench bordering the World Map wall.
I'm sitting here, working on computer things, and Mr. 8 sits in the living room. He has to write the "real" pledge of allegiance fifty times before he can return to school. But first he's watching Star Trek. Damn straight.
Posted by Cameron at 10:42 AM
I like this exasperated rant from Steven Dutch.
"I'm sick and tired of self-appointed so-called experts and their know-it-all, arrogant attitude. Why don't you people stay out of things you know nothing about? To hear you tell it, you know everything and the rest of us are stupid."
I've seen this script before. At this point I'm supposed to get all humble and apologetic and say "There, there. We didn't mean to make you feel bad. You're really a good person and a valuable human being and your opinions do count."
I'm tired of playing that game.
- We're not "self-appointed" or "so-called" experts. We are real experts. We're not "authority figures." We are real authorities.
- It's not arrogance to say what you know professionally. It is arrogance to reject expert opinion without having expertise of your own.
- If hearing the experts say you're wrong makes you feel bad or stupid, that is your problem, not ours. See a therapist and work on your self-esteem. If you think this is rough on the ego, try getting a paper or grant proposal you've worked on for months rejected, something real experts face all the time.
- We don't know everything, but we do know more on our subjects of expertise than other people, especially people with no training at all.
- Unless you have real evidence to back up your opinions, they don't count.
- If you hear something that conflicts with what you think you know, and you don't bother to check it out, you shouldn't feel stupid. You are stupid.
- If you want to take on the experts but won't spend the time, effort and money to become an expert yourself, you're not just stupid. You're lazy, too.
- If you think I'm disrespecting you, you're right. I have no respect for people who are uninformed, get angry when someone contradicts them, but are too lazy to get informed and too cowardly to face failure, criticism, and the possibility they might have to change their minds. You're not a good person. Nobody who is lazy and cowardly can be called "good."
- Where did you get the idea you're so valuable? There are six billion of us. You're not all that unique. How exactly did you get the notion that you stand so high in the cosmic scheme of things that you have the right to make real experts treat you as an equal without bothering to acquire any knowledge yourself?
Posted by Cameron at 12:40 PM
Dr. David Baltimore’s (DB) (b. 1938- ) career has spanned nearly four decades and rightly distinguished him as one of the preeminent biologists of his generation. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1975 at the remarkable age of 37 (1), and since then has been a leading force in molecular biology, virology, immunology (2), and science policy (3). His later work on viral oncology and immunology has led to speculation that another Nobel Prize is in his future (4). Dr. Baltimore has over 600 peer-reviewed papers to his credit, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, recipient of the National Medal of Science (1999), and is currently President of the California Institute of Technology (5).
DB’s early scientific research focused on the molecular processes that underlay the ability of poliovirus to infect cells (5). This naturally led him to work on other RNA viruses. He was particularly interested how RNA viruses caused cancer. In 1969, DB and Howard Temin published the discovery of retroviruses and reverse transcriptase (9). They would later share the Nobel Prize (along with Renato Dulbecco for related research) for their work (7).
Retroviruses are RNA animal viruses that replicate through a DNA intermediate (7). They were the first viruses shown to cause cancer, and include the well known virus HIV, as well as avian leucosis, murine leukemia, chimpanzee foamy virus, as well as many others. The genome of a mature virus contains only three genes that encode proteins. Gag (group-specific antigen) codes for core and structural proteins. Pol (polymerase) codes for reverse transcriptase, protease, and integrase. Env (envelope) codes for the retroviral coat (7). A shared feature of all retroviruses is a lipid coating that surrounds their capsid. It should be noted that the reverse transcription that copies the RNA back into DNA is not unique to retroviruses. Hepatitis B and cauliflower mosaic virus (in plants) also utilize reverse transcriptase.
There are seven steps in retrovirus replication:
2) Uncoating of the virion
3) Reverse transcription
6) Assembly and encapsidation
7) Budding (7)
By elucidating the role of reverse transcription,
In addition to his contributions to understanding retroviruses, DB developed the Baltimore Classification Scheme for viruses, based on the relationship of the viral genome to its mRNA (7). It is listed as follows:
Class I – double-stranded DNA genome
Class II – single-stranded DNA genome
Class III – double-stranded RNA genome
Class IV – single-stranded RNA genome of plus sense
Class V – single-stranded RNA genome of minus sense
Class VI – single-stranded RNA genome of plus sense that replicates with a DNA intermediate
Class VII – double-stranded DNA genome that replicates with a RNA intermediate
The above classification is very effective and covers most viral possibilities, however, there are exceptions. An example is the ambiviruses, which contain a single-stranded RNA genome, half of which is plus, the other half minus (7).
In 1974, DB was one of a group of scientists who published a letter urging caution with regards to recombinant DNA (10). In the letter, they recommended that scientists defer from creating microorganisms with novel genes, and also from inserting cancer causing genes from viruses into bacterial cells. They called on the
Although DB’s career as a biologist is quite distinguished, it is not free of controversy. A colleague and co-author of a paper that had been published in the journal Cell was accused of scientific misconduct. Although Dr. Baltimore was never implicated, his handling of the matter was seen by many as arrogant to the extreme, and eventually cost him the position of President of Rockefeller University (12).
Many scientists disagreed, in particular, Paul Doty of
Dr. David Baltimore is still an active scientist, a vigorous proponent of improved federal science policy, AIDS vaccine research, and head of a major university.
1. Vella, F. 2002. Ahead of the Curve: David Baltimore’s Life in Science. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education 30(5): 336-337.
2. Klausner, R.D., Fauci, A.S., et al. 2003. The Need for a Global HIV Vaccine
4. Roizman, B. 2002. Ahead of the Curve: David Baltimore’s Life in Science. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 45(2): 294-296.
5. California Institute of Technology. 2002. Dr. David Baltimore. http://president.caltech.edu/bio.html. Retrieved on:
6. Culliton, B. 2003. Book Reviews. Bull. Hist. Med. 77: 474-475.
7. Madigan, M.T. and J.M. Martinko. 2006. Brock Biology of Microorganisms, 11th Ed. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River,NJ.
8. Crick, F. 1958. Central Dogma of Molecular Biology. Nature 227: 561- 563.
10. Berg, P., et. al. 1974. Potential biohazards of recombinant DNA. Science 185: 303.
11. Wade, N. 1975. Genetics: Conference Sets Strict Rules to Replace Moratorium. Science 187: 931.
12. Hall, S.S. 1991. David Baltimore’s Final Days. Science 254: 1576-1579.
13. Watson, J.D. 2001. No campaign to strip
Posted by Cameron at 9:41 PM
Congress thought it was worth investigating, and attempting to impeach, President Clinton over his sexual habits, and yet we have heard not a peep (including from the media) about the British intelligence memo that says Blair and Bush were discussing Iraqi invasion plans a year before it happened. This despite Bush's repeated claims it was not being planned. The Brits (Blair, Straw, Brown) have admitted to the veracity of the document. Why isn't this being scrutinized? Bush lied not only to the American people but Congress as well. Certainly worse than a little Oval Office fun, don't you think?
p.s. Doesn't something seem wrong when a former sitting president (Clinton) is doing more to raise America's profile worldwide than the current sitting president. His efforts on behalf of tsunami victims, AIDS education and elimination, raising economic awareness of third world countries, discussion with European leaders about the constitution, etc... are all more than the current administration has done. But then again, I guess it is a full time job ignoring the scientific consensus on climate change and evolution, misleading the public on stem cells, wracking up the debt, mismanaging the war on terror, and trying to convert every man, woman, and child to Christianity.
p.s.s. Been a long day. I'm taking it out on the politicians.
Posted by Cameron at 5:37 PM
I mentioned an editorial a couple of months ago about the misconceptions and outright falsities being used by those who would like to get rid of the estate tax. Another article has been written, over at Fact Check, that addresses the same issue and sheds some light on the truth of the matter. It is definitely worth the read.
To read the article, click here.
Posted by Cameron at 5:34 PM