Sorry for the Inconvenience

Life, the Universe, Everything

More landlord drama

For those of you that don’t know, our landlord is a complete douchebag, and he has managed to demonstrate that more fully this month. Just for a quick backstory, my roommates and I had to hire a lawyer within the first week of moving in because he was trying to claim that our lease was invalid and wanted to make us pay more for rent etc etc.

Last month we were informed that he would be selling this property, so we wouldn’t be able to renew our lease. Despite the problems we had with him, we like the house and the location (and moving in general is a hassle). But whatever, if he’s selling there’s not really much we can do about it. Then 3 things happened all at once: we noticed that our house was posted for rent on craigslist, we got a letter in the mail that said we were delinquent on rent and that if we didn’t pay soon, they would start eviction proceedings and screw up our credit, and a Realtor came by to show our place to a bunch of college kids (clearly not interested in buying a multi-million dollar home).

First of all, we double checked our bank accounts and all of our rent checks had been cashed 2 weeks prior, and added up to the right amount. Second, we’re pretty sure that this guy just has a racket to re-rent the house every year to get someone a realtor fee and to stiff kids out of their security deposit (we’re fairly certain that we’ll have to go to our lawyer to get that back). So in the mean-time, we’re looking for new appartments and chances are I won’t be living with the same people again (finding a house this large is terribly difficult in Cambridge).


4 March, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , | Leave a comment

Short update

I’m terrible at keeping this thing updated, I’m aware, but to be honest, not that much has happened recently.

I finally finished up my 1st rotation on micro-RNA’s. It went pretty well in terms of getting to know the lab and the environment, but my experiments weren’t particularly successful. Then again, the point of lab rotations really doesn’t seem to be getting stuff accomplished. I was supposed to start my next rotation today, but space isn’t going to open up until next week, so instead I’ll just give a brief explanation of what I’ll be studying: Toll-like receptors (TLR’s).

TLR’s are proteins on the surface of the cell that detect bad-guys and tell the immune system to react. These are different than the receptors on B-cells and T-cells, which can be randomly generated to recognize almost any molecular pattern (so when the flu and cold viruses mutate ever year, you can make a new response to them). Instead, TLR’s are hard-wired by evolution to detect things that the pathogens have a hard time changing, and are present on almost every cell type. That way, if you get infected by a bug that you’re B- and T-cells have never seen before, the TLR’s can still tell the rest of the boddy, “Hey, something’s not right here,” and mount up a preliminary response to give the B- and T-cells time to get in the act.

My project will be to work on the evolution of these receptors. The first one was discovered in fruit flies (and is simply called “Toll”), where it is important in the response to fungal infections. The immune system of insects is dramatically different from that of vertebrates, but nevertheless, the original Toll gene was clearly duplicated and mutated to recognize a variety of different signals (humans have at least 10, mice have 13). I don’t have details yet about what exactly I’ll be studying about the evolution of these TLR’s, but I’ll let you know when I do.

Beyond that, not much to report. Classes are going fine but there’s a lot of reading to get done. I’ve also been climbing a bunch (I knocked out my first 5.10b today). Hopefully when the weather gets warmer I’ll be up for some out-door stuff. Keep checking back, I’m really going to try to keep this current.

2 March, 2009 Posted by | Personal, Science | , , | Leave a comment

Fun with accronyms and other oddities

The new semester has started, and I’m already neck-deep in scientific literature. Before classes even started I had 8 papers to read (it takes me between 30min and 2 hours to get through one), and now that I’ve had 2 classes I have several more. I’m also sick (for like the 4th time this winter), and in my fever-induced delerium I found myself fixating on a few oddities in biological writing. One is an incredibly high reliance on compund accronyms. Here’s an example from the paper I’m currently reading:

IL-1 = Interleukin 1.TIR = Toll/IL-1 Receptor.TIRAP = TIR-domain-containing Adaptor Protein. TRIF = TIRAP inducing Interferon-beta. TRAM = TRIF Related Adaptor Molecule

So in other words, “TRIF” stands for “Toll/Interleukin-1 receptor domain containing adaptor protein inducing interferon-beta related adaptor molecule.” Impressive eh?

Another strange bit of biological-science related language (BSRL) is the use of impressive-sounding words that have rather simple synonyms. The 2 examples that come readily to mind are “Stochastic” (random), which as a euphimism for “something we have absolutely no explanation for,” and “abrogate” (stop).

Edit: I thought of a couple others: Paucity (lack of) and Ellucidate (figure out). As in, “it is impossible to ellucidate the reasons behind the seemingly stochastic use of vocabulary among biologists and there seems to be a paucity of methods to abrogate this behavior.”

30 January, 2009 Posted by | Personal, Science | , , | Leave a comment

Last 2 weeks

Last week, I went to Marseilles for a conference on visualizing the immune system at le Centre d’Immunologie Marseilles-Luminy. It was more or less entirely paid for by my program, which was cool, but we basically spent the entire week sitting in a lecture hall, which was not. We did get to spend a little time in the city center and were able to walk out to the coast where I did a little bouldering.

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On the way back, we had a 7 hour layover in Amsterdam, so we caught a train into the city and wandered around. It’s a beautiful city, but in order to experience it fully, I think I have to go back when it’s not Sunday morning. When we got back, I was picked up from the airport by my roommate and we drove directly to Washington D.C. for Obama’s inauguration: a grand total of 28 hours of straight traveling (with 2 hours sleep in that time). We woke up Tuesday morning around 6am and walked into the city from Virginia to get a spot near the Washington monument. We could see the capitol building from where we were, but had to watch the actual events on the jumbotrons.

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Now it’s back to work. Classes start on Wednesday, but I already have like 8 papers assigned. This semester is gonna be rough…

25 January, 2009 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment