Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rocks on Chests

It's getting to the point where lack of sleep really affects me. Ever since I've moved, it's been a lot easier to not leave work until late. This tend to end up with trying to get in early anyways, just to give off an air of relatively responsibility. This usually ends up with no productive work done before lunch. This stems from not being in before 9 any more. Before 9, there is a reasonable shot at getting one thing done right before lunch. This depends heavily on how much goofing off time that occurs right before. I don't know if it's because of jadedness, or because the short stint I've had at a 9-5. I don't think I've ever pulled off a week of a solid work 9 to 5, but I've made good attempts. Ever since, there's definitely more unproductive time than productive. 

On top of just a regular habit of being lazy, there's also the compounding lack of sleep. The move itself cost some sleep, especially since I was sick for the duration. After the move, the location made the habit of not trying to get out of work at a certain time. Huge lack of sleep around the time I've went on my trip, followed by the incident with the drunk boy. I don't know why I thought leaving work at 2:30am was a good idea. On top of that, running into a boy who looked way too drunk to be able to get home by himself, and instead of trying to gather the money to taxi him back home, I decided to let him stay. This led to one of the biggest clean up I've had to perform, both in terms of actual amount of work, as well as the magnitude of tasks that I've never really had to. The closest cleaning of that extreme is taking care of an underaged student who was in a similar level of drunkenness. 

I guess I've had a relatively good times with not having to deal with my friends being that drunk. If anything, I've had been that drunk more than my friends have (which, to be frank, means once). I mean, I do enjoy the fact that he was a relatively cute boy, with a great body (he does kung fu, and it looks like a little bit of parkour as well). I was very conflicted that night. Whether or not I should actually approach him, whether I should've veered off at my place, whether I should've actually let him stay. Whether I should've enjoyed holding him steady so much. I made sure not to touch him except for when necessary to keep him upright and going in the right directions. But I was still quite conflicted the whole time I had to do it. The guilt did explode a bit when I enjoyed how nice he looked when he took his shirt off. Overall it was still fine, because besides the vomits everywhere, he eventually did just left the couch, and took a piss on the rug. The one I specifically rolled up and put away so that he doesn't puke off the couch onto the rug. I was quite upset, because this was now around 6am, when I was just trying to sleep for a little bit of time now that it looks like he won't asphyxiate on his own vomit. And while he stirred, I woke a little bit, and had a shot of him taking a piss on my rug. I would like to think it's just because I was so sleep deprived that I couldn't actually do anything. To be honest though, even if I had ~6 more hours of sleep, I don't think I would've got the moxie to get up and... well, even now I don't even know exactly what I should've done. Once the stream started going from a drunk guy, is there anything you can do to stop the flow? There's not a whole lot I could've done. Tried to run for the pot that's too heavy for him to hold and puke in, and try to catch the urine stream? If I thought holding him steady was already too abusive, I don't know how out of line it would be to actually see his penis, or even to have to direct it. 

The boy came at a time when I really needed either some help, or some attention. I think the help is probably a much more needed thing. Honestly, I can't believe how screwed up as a person I have been in the last few years. Seriously, mental health, physical health, friendships and other relationships, work, the list goes on. I really needed to start putting some of these pillars back up, so that the pressure is off while I work on some other aspect of my life.

The biggest deadline per se, would be November. I push to do a brilliant review. Unfortunately it's gotten to the point where I can't just do a decent one, or a good one. For me, it really needs to be brilliant to the point that they need to ask me why I'm only doing a  Masters. I don't think it will pan out that way. I think I should be able to do just good enough that they'll pass me, but probably no more than that. I've been working towards this for so long, that I don't really know when I stopped having the motivation. I really wish I can go talk to the 2nd year me, because he seemed to have it going for him. Motivation despite all the failures, a pretty damn good attitude if I do say so myself, and definitely a lot less of pining for boys. I don't even know what kind of boyfriend I could be, much less to what kind of boy. 

There are times where it's figuratively hard to breathe because of the amount of weight on my chest, but the fact that at times, they manifest into physically weights scare me. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


A couple of times recently I've been feeling sad about things that don't necessarily involve me. I don't know if it's about empathy, or if I'm just trying to piggy back on an emotion.

My heart does go out to Jesse, for Patrick's gone too soon. Although I don't know what to do with this guilt that's attached. For no good reason really.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Female Scientists

Not a full discussion, but a quick line about female scientists, or as I'd like to think of them, scientists.

I'm not digging into disparity between professional women and men, as that has been studied and proven to the point that if you do not believe in them, you are being delusional. It is a scientist's "worth" that concerns me.

Being ignorant and slightly sexist, I don't think I realized there was something different about female scientists until more recently. I have notice that proportion-wise, men far outnumber women in STEM, and as stated before, their pays usually do too. What I did not realize, was how many competent women think of themselves as incompetent. Even in school, I've been told that my friends have felt inadequate in the field. I always felt school to be about learning, and about grading, which although is compared to others, does not necessarily pit one against each other in direct competition. I've had friends tell me that they feel like they are out-competed, even though they are in the upper percentile of students, and they do attribute a lot of it on their sex.

I like to discuss the progress of a friend in grad school with her. Objectively, she can list her achievements and enumerate how she's better than her cohort in papers about to be published, number of working projects, and so forth. Subjectively she still doesn't believe that she is doing well. There is such a big disconnect and I cannot understand the source (in that, typically, I delude myself into thinking I'm much better than the facts, not the other way around).

Even once they become established in their fields, some professors still have to fight to "prove themselves" as scientists. To me, this attitude is off-putting. I'd like to think at that point, research should be done to solve the research problem that you thought up, not to prove one's worth (although, of course, there's the issue of proving yourself as worthy of tenure). As I was interviewing for a potential supervisor, I was a little weary that that professor might also have the same attitude. Luckily, she was all about the Science, and although her approaches might not work, I appreciated it. So much so that if everything works out in the end, she'd be my supervisor in a month's time at McGill.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Post #100, or 78

There are a handful of draft posts (22 of them) that are up, causing the number of posts on this blog to balloon to 99.

I have not been able to write anything recently; part of it was being afraid to write what I was really feeling, while the other part was not having enough feeling to write.

I've recently completed my honours thesis and graduated. The thesis was not at all like how I imagined it, and it brought out both a bad version of me that I hated, as well as a surprisingly amount of apathy. I wasn't motivated to do any of the writing, and I couldn't even procrastinate productively. This past year has definitely been one of the least productive year for me.

Unfortunately, this year was one of the more important years of my life, and my lack of diligence is definitely coming back to bite me right now. It scares me a little - if I had a good year, I would still be trucking along on my path without much care. Right now though, panic is setting in, and I'm still having trouble to do anything about it. Ideally I can figure out what's going to happen with school or work, ideally within the next few weeks. That would at least give me an idea of where I'll be living. That also leads to how I deal with some of the troubles I have at home.

I think part of the scariness is if securing a purpose for next September is so key for the rest of my life, why am I so not willing to work towards it? I've definitely spent a lot more hours in bed without sleeping than ever before (in fact, I also think the amount of sleep I've got was lower than before). I've also gotten my body into some very bad states. Being dehydrated enough to cause sleeplessness and some hallucinations, being sleep deprived enough to be unable to separate those hallucinations from reality, and pretty much shutting my body down due to a champagne hangover. Also, in the unlikely event that I end up getting married, I'll need to remember that I'm only allowed 1 glass of champagne.

This past month I've had "off", mostly to just recover. I'm not quite ready to push myself again, but I think it's about time I start hitting the reset buttons so I'll at least slow down my descent, and in the future start reversing it.

Monday, July 16, 2012


After going to Prague surrounded by great great people, I left early to go to work. Not only do I not get to have the night that'll probably end up being the best of the bunch, but now I'm slumping into a sad bubble again.

The trip even made me question becoming a scientist...

Monday, June 18, 2012


Apfel. So that's the German word I decided to learn for today. Tune in in 7 months and I might be able to give you a full sentence.

So what is it about this fruit? 
  • A lot of fruit "juices" contain apple juice
  • The seeds of apples contain very detectable amounts of arsenic
  • The forbidden fruit from genesis tends to be depicted as an apple
  • Snow white. 
I feel that between apple juice and grape juice, you have the basis of most fruit dranks out there. Which leads to the occasional problem of detectable amounts of arsenic in your drank. Now that I've started work in inorganic chemistry, carbons usually found bonded to carbon, and not hydrogen, and the top 2 rows basically don't exist for me, life based off of arsenic is not actually too hard to believe. I mean, especially with things like this. It might be weird to be thinking about something that is a toxin being the basis of life, but I feel like we're just missing the big picture. I mean, we take breathing for granted; oxygen is one of the best example of life-sustaining toxins.

Of course, the inspirational toxin behind this post was not arsenic, but cyanide, but that can wait. 

I have recently listened to a podcast (insert plug for radiolab here) regarding Alan Turing. Mathematician, Computer Scientist, War Hero, Gay. A bright mind who has been called the father of computer science, who likely led the British to ending the war by about 2 years earlier than they would have otherwise, who was then convicted of gross indecency (by having implicated himself for having gay sex).

It's hard for me to understand, growing up as I have, just exactly what intolerance really means. Here is a guy who should be heralded as a hero of the nation, who probably had more claim to fame and glory than any gunslinging soldier, but instead was stripped of his manhood (by chemical castration with estrogen). This isn't being bullied and abused; this is having the law saying you can't practice being who you are. That scares me a bit.

The next two year of his life was filled with depression, until he was found dead of cyanide poisoning, with a bitten apple lying nearby, similar to his favourite scene in Snow White where the witch dipped the apple in the poison brew. This scares me a lot.

I would like to think it was a mistake (as laboratory chemicals are notorious for being unlabeled and lying around for no good reason), but I think that is a bit of a far stretch for someone like Mr. Turing (Here I am not ignoring the title granted to him by his PhD, but rather honouring the title granted to him by being a man).  Then there is the possibility of a framed murder. This is also a little unlikely, but it is a much easier to swallow situation than the actual thought of someone who has contributed so much to humanity, and who has the potential to do so much more, deciding that life is no longer worth living. That the rules inflicted on him by society are ones that contradicted with his rules of self. Who is John Galt indeed.

Our world was, and still is, a scary place.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Heritability of Cancer

Last year, one of my professors made the statement that "You cannot inherit cancer". This seems very contradictory to what I grew up with; most cancer patients I've met have a family history of cancer, which is also why I am pretty sure I'll get it one day, between the prevalence on either side of my family and the frequent exposure to carcinogens.

The truth of the statement tends to be easier to grasp once you go down into developmental biology. Cancer at its root is the unregulated growth of cells. This is a stark contrast to development, which is the process of a highly specific differentiation of cells. Starting from a relatively spherical egg, a human being begins to form "front-sides" and "back-sides", ending up with different organs, which contin highly specialized cells types: nerve cells, skin cells, muscle cells, etc. Without regulation, not only will there be too many cells, the functions that is needed for survival of a human would no arise. If an individual can proceed through development without trouble, then there must have been changes that occurred after the germ cells left the two parents.

So why are descendent of people with cancer are more likely get cancer themselves? It is because of the high amount of genetic mutations that need to occur before a cell becomes cancerous. Without a whole slew of these mutations, cells are not cancerous. So someone can pass on a lot of these mutations, but until the individuals obtain more mutations, s/he will not have cancer.

This entry, and I'm suspecting the next, will be describing some of the mutations necessary.

First off, comes telomeres. Telomeres are a bunch of repeating nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA, at the end of strands of DNA. At first it seems that they are relatively useless, as they do not code for any functions - TTAGGG, TTAGGG, TTAGGG, so on and so on. They can't be read to make proteins, which provide most of the functions of a cell. It turns out, when DNA is replicated, in one direction, the cell machinery can read all the way through, but in the other, the machinery needs to start and stop all the time. Everytime it starts, it needs some preformed short fragments of nucleic acids, RNAs, from which the additional DNAs can attach to. After replication, the machinery goes along and replace all the RNA fragments with DNA. One downfall of this technology is that it needs DNA pieces of the other side of the fragment in order to replace the RNA. The last bits of RNA will be by themselves, and will not be able to replace to DNA, before they are just chewed up and destroyed. So everytime new cells are formed, their DNA becomes just a bit shorter. At some point, the "useless" DNAs are gone, and every time a cell replicates, it starts losing bits of genetic information that are necessary for the functions of the cell. These changes can be to imoprtant for the survivals of the cell, or in some cases, gives just enough damage that it'll push the cell towards being cancerous. One thing that a potential cancer cell will need to do is somehow stop this limit (See Hayflick limit) on the amount of replications a cell can undergo before it stops being able to survive. To accomplish this, they need to borrow technology from one of the few cell types that are constantly dividing - germ line cells.

With the Hayflick limit, each cell can usually undergo 40~60 divisions before stopping division, but humans definitely had more than 60 generations. It is because germ lines, embryonic stem cells, immune cells, and a few rare others have an enzyme called telomerase that would reverse the effect of the shortening DNA by adding more TTAGGG sequences back into the code. The gene that encodes for this enzyme is in all cells, but it is only active in a few rare ones. Without being able to reactivate this gene, even the most potent mutations, the mutated cells will eventually die off.