Hurray for Science [Repost]

New Prompt: Hope — with a poem

Epitome database


This illustration of Epitome, a database of “structurally inferred antigenic epitopes in proteins, i.e., known antigenic residues and the antibodies that interact with them, including a detailed description of residues involved in the interaction and their sequence/structure environments”, is for me the epitome of specialized science: opaque, brilliant, obscure, necessary, esoteric, and curious. Scientists from all over the world contributed (and still do?) to this epitome.

This is not a criticism or a joke. How I would love to have a Masters in Bioinformatics with Systems Biology, for example, instead of being a good speller and able to do some crosswords in pen, can draw a little, and studied geophysics once, among other random topics that interested me at the time, logic be damned. My life is a failure, as far as specialized science goes.

I know enough to know that I hardly know anything at all. And I know that because I don’t understand this science, or parts of it might be unpleasant or scary, doesn’t mean I can dismiss it. I believe in believing the experts. (Hear that, climate-change deniers?)

 

Epitopes

Schematic representation of two antibodies interacting with linear and conformational epitopes.

Converted to a poem by me:

a.

Linear epitopes
are short and continuous
like dachshunds.
After denaturation
the linear epitopes may still
be able to
bind
the antibody.
I have hope.


b.

Conformational epitopes
are domains
of proteins
composed of specific regions of
protein chains.
Never alone.
After denaturation
the discontinuous epitope
can no longer
bind
the antibody.
Love conquers all.

 


Little Things

Prompt: Words


Dear Wednesday,

Have you ever had a dream that made perfect sense until you woke up and tried to journal it or share it with someone? There are definitely times when we simply don’t have the words to communicate what we want to express. I have dreams about elaborate games, say, or surprising ideas that simply don’t translate into verbal language. I can’t act them out either, write music to articulate them, draw diagrams or images to reveal them, or even begin to explain the premise of the game (is it even a game?) or idea.

Often these dreams involve numbers, which simultaneously frustrate and illuminate the … game or idea, which leads me to believe that mathematics is more than numbers, but might just possibly represent universal truths that go beyond scribbles on a page or blackboard. Don’t ask me how I know this; I don’t have the words to explain it.

Onward to a few of my favourite cartoons related to this topic of “words”:

cartoon charades

cartoon little words

cartoon my first boat


Love and peace,

~~FP

You Are Here

Prompt: Start here


Dear Wednesday,

You know what they say about beginnings: They have to start somewhere.

This coming Saturday marks the startling start of a new era in this house: Our adopted 8-week old puppy comes home. Cliché alert! She is a cute, cuddly, soft, plump, adorable, blob of perfection. She is also Godzilla, a big fat steamroller with brown eyes and a little red collar who will pee everywhere and deny us an uninterrupted night’s sleep for too many months. Why, WHY do this to ourselves? This is why:

fullsizeoutput_404

Such a sad little Godzilla. So melancholy while ready to wreak spirited havoc. She is a Christmas puppy so Holly seemed like a fitting name. Will she live up to her name? Will she be pretty, prickly, evergreen, and seasonal? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of today’s prompt, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons?

cartoon bigger feminist

cartoon whale interior

cartoon office start


Love and peace,

~~FP

The Power

Prompt: Disturbing

woman flying

There were a couple of illuminating aspects of an exhausting dream I had last night. (No need to read on— other people’s dreams can be paralyzingly boring— but if you have any interest in dream significance or interpretation, it might be tolerable.)

I was lost in my dream New York City, which has elements of the actual city, but like many of my dream cities is more a travel brochure version (with obscure references thrown in for good measure). Tall buildings, crowds, millions of storefronts, subways, and trains, and a main street upon which I walk in search of…

This time I was in search of the building where my sister lives, a vintage mid-rise apartment block in a neighbourhood of vintage mid-rise apartment blocks. I knew where it was, but somehow was very lost, walking miles and miles out of my way, for hours and hours, through strange neighbourhoods (like “Jamaicatown”) and the docks, sometimes on busy, crowded sidewalks, sometimes in menacingly empty industrial areas. On and on, the frustration and anxiety growing unbearably.

At one point I bought and wore a green dinosaur suit and danced along the street uncaring— Revelation number one: Sometimes we are pushed to a point past caring, where alarming unorthodox behaviour is a release, and feels good. I will look at the square pegs, the sometimes scarily weird people, differently from now on.

At another point, after a gruelling attempt to reach my destination by taking a route off the main street, I found myself further away from my sister’s flat than I could ever imagine; across an inlet, on much higher ground, with the city seemingly inaccessible now, after the interminable unsuccessful efforts to navigate it. So I said to myself, “I’ll just have to fly” and started to lift myself off the ground.

Then, as a crossed the inlet high above the water, I said to myself with exasperation, “Why didn’t I do this earlier?”

Why indeed? Flying in dreams can be difficult; often concentration is needed to keep me aloft, but it is immensely liberating, especially when, as in this dream, I will it— a dream intervention.

Revelation number two: Sometimes we have to consciously free ourselves from the things that hold us back. We forget our own power, that we have resources that can seem magical when they actually lift us out the quicksand of confusion or indecision.

To recap: We are all vulnerable sometimes, and sometimes pushed to a place beyond our control or understanding, causing us to behave uncharacteristically, impulsively, loopily, and we should maybe learn to sympathize and forgive ourselves and others when this occurs. Oppressive feelings, whether of depression, loss, confusion, doubt, or fear, drag us down, but we need to remember that we have the power within us to help lift us up and out and away, where we can feel free and find some perspective.

…Perhaps I should say “I” instead of “we”— but I found the dream to have such valuable messages that I wanted to share it. My alarm awakened me from this dream and I truly was emotionally exhausted (in the dream I was also physically spent and very hungry). Don’t you think one of the most delicious things in life is to wake from a disturbing dream and find it was all an unpleasant brain fantasy?

In Search Of

Prompt: Word of the Day*

grape scissors

Envy, in the junk shop looking for grape scissors, spotted the oddly exotic wooden candelabra and asked Chester what it was.

“It’s for Kwanzaa,” Chester told her. “You know, celebration time if you don’t do Christmas.” Chester had not yet taken down the shop holiday decorations: the flashing red and green fairy lights above the cashier, the tree decorated with white and blue baubles, and the sinister mechanical Santa that posed menacingly on the counter top.

She felt drawn to the kinara, but she’d felt drawn to inanimate objects with mysterious pasts for some time now, and with her frequent visits to his shop she and Chester had become ineluctably friendly. She knew he lived with his mother and that their relationship was amiable, he was allergic to cats, he loved modern classical music, and had an aversion to barbers.

He however, knew very little about Envy, except that she was a plain little thing, wore an engagement ring, paid full price for items he was fully willing to be bargained down on, and was constantly in search of something. She didn’t seem like the “I’ll know it when I see it” type. She was too precise, too serious. He’d seen the facade drop only once and noted that it was as fragile as the antique glass balls on his artificial Christmas tree— in danger of shattering into a million irreparable pieces with only a slight jog. In Envy’s case, when Chester told her the old joke about Santa’s reindeer when she came in just at closing on Christmas Eve. She’d laughed like a delighted toddler.

There was a strange cathexis about her, for sure. Her deportment was hesitant but eager, reserved but outward-looking, shy but not cowed. He was half-tempted to pursue his relationship with her, even as friends, but his epiphanic discovery that he cared more about objects than people steered him clear of following that irresponsible instinct.

In any case any desire to spend more time with her shattered like the aforementioned glass ball when her fiancé entered the shop.

“Envy!” Was she deaf? “I’ve been looking all over for you. It’s on, our party is on, I got the Midsomer Room and they have Chilean sea bass!”

She looked like a Chilean sea bass, caught in a net. “They have it?”

“Well, they can order it. But we have to confirm by tomorrow.” He grinned. “C’mere!” and before she could move closer he had picked her up in his broad embrace and pulled her off the floor. “Can’t wait, babe!”

Envy’s scowl dissipated somewhat as she was mercilessly adored, but the wariness around her eyes remained.

“Chester,” she said when she was released. “This is Bob.”

“I’d inferred that,” said Chester pleasantly. “So Envy, did you find what you were looking for?”

She sighed inaudibly. “No, not yet,” she said. “Keep an eye out for me, will you?”

“I surely will,” said Chester. “Nice to meet you, Bob.”

“You too,” said Bob. He suddenly pulled out a business card and scribbled something on its back. “By the way, here’s the number of my barber— a great guy! and reasonable too.”

“Thank you,” said Chester, taking the card and dropping it into the wastebasket behind the counter, out of sight of Bob and Envy.

As they opened the door and let a gust of cold wind rattle the interior of the shop, Chester could hear Envy whispering, “Yes, it’s better, but still…!”


*courtesy of a Word of the Day calendar gift that I just opened.

High Five [Repost]

Prompt: Dish

scrambled eggs

Jeremy’s bedroom was beside the kitchen, and he heard someone in there, rattling around, opening and closing the fridge, running the tap, getting dishes and cutlery. It wasn’t as if they were trying to be noisy, but Jeremy looked at the clock: it was 6:30 in the morning. This was one of the rare days when he didn’t have to be at work until four that afternoon, so he was a bit peeved. But not a lot peeved, because he knew that the person in the kitchen was Xavier, and that he was getting breakfast for Jeremy’s father.

It had only been a week since Xavier had been sleeping on their couch, but everyone’s routine had changed, and the rhythms of the household were disrupted, for better or worse. Xavier wanted to help, and did. Jeremy’s dad liked to get up early in the morning, but was slow and sullen and usually waited until he heard Jeremy was up, before arising and  joining him and settling in with his list of discomforts and displeasures. But Xavier rose early and made his father eggs, toast, and cut-up fruit every morning. It was aromatic and irresistible, and ready when Jeremy’s father emerged in his dressing gown.

Jeremy’s father didn’t exactly thank Xavier, in fact he was perfunctory in pointing out his preferences. Runny yolk. Dark toast. No citrus fruit. But he ate it all, seated at the kitchen table, then put his dish in the sink and went into the living room, where he sat in his chair and turned on the television.

A little later on Xavier would fetch the newspaper from the hall, and set it on the side table beside his chair. No thank you’s, but no searing, vitriolic, unprovoked take-downs, either. Those were still reserved for Jeremy.

It was Xavier who now prepared Jeremy’s father’s dinner, covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to be microwaved later, when both Xavier and Jeremy were at work. Xavier did the laundry on Monday, and ironed and folded the shirts, including Jeremy’s white airline shirts.

Jeremy had to boot Xavier out— just for the day— on Tuesday, because he was working too much. He looked pale. He’d become too quiet. He hadn’t seen any of his friends. Jeremy ordered him to go out and have some fun. Xavier seemed reluctant. “The couch will be here when you get back,” Jeremy said. He gave Xavier twenty dollars, which he tried to refuse.

On this morning, Jeremy sighed, dragged himself out of bed and padded into the kitchen. Xavier was scrambling eggs in a cast iron pan. “Plain,” Jeremy said. “He doesn’t like cheese or tomato in it.”

“Ok,” said Xavier.

His father appeared in the doorway, in his plaid flannel dressing gown, his thinning hair uncombed. He glanced at Jeremy, who wore only cotton pajama bottoms and no slippers. “Put some goddamn clothes on,” he said.

“Some apple juice, Mr Connor?” asked Xavier. “Jeremy, you are wanting some juice and breakfast?”

“No, thanks,” said Jeremy. “I’m going back to bed in a minute.”

“Oh! Sorry!” said Xavier. “I forgot.”

“No problem, just remember next Thursday.”

Xavier blinked, slightly smiled, and said nothing, but Jeremy could read his mind as if his thoughts appears on sign above his head. Next Thursday? I will still be here next Thursday! Thank you God! And Jeremy! Where was a very young, illegal immigrant going to live, on the wages Xavier earned as a busboy?

“I was wondering,” said Jeremy, “what you–” he turned to his father– “and Xavier would think about having him stay here full-time.”

“Wow,” said Xavier.

“What for?” said his father.

“To partly take care of you, and this place,” said Jeremy.

“Impossible,” said his father. “I can’t pay him, you certainly can’t, and there is no room. Forget it. Go back to bed.”

“I could clean out the den. We don’t use it, it’s just full of boxes that haven’t been opened in years.”

“It’s too small,” snarled Mr Connor.

“It’s fine,” said Jeremy. “Xavier, it’s true I couldn’t afford to pay you much, but you would have room and board, and lots of free time.”

His father poked at the plate of scrambled eggs Xavier had just placed before him, and said, “Salt.”

“Of course a lot depends on if you can abide my father’s rudeness, bad manners, bigotry, and evil temper,” said Jeremy.

“Watch your disgusting mouth,” said his father.

“Sorry,” said Jeremy, and smiled secretly at Xavier, who smiled back. There was something about sharing the pain of his relationship with his father that somehow made it more bearable.

“I would say, yes,” said Xavier. “To the question. I can do more. I can take your father out.”

“I am sitting right here,” Mr Connor said. “And I’m not a dog. And who says I want to be seen with a wetback in public anyway?”

“Nice try, dad, but that’s only about a 4 on a scale of 10.”

“Fuck you.”

“Are you sure, Xavier?”

“I am sure.”

“Dad?”

“I have no say, do what you want, don’t expect me to pay for it,” said his father. “Or like it.”

“It would be nice if you gave your notice at the restaurant in person,” said Jeremy. “They may want you to work a week or so yet, but maybe not. It would be better if you don’t, since those freaks know where to find you.”

“What freaks?” said Mr Connor.

“Your favourite kind,” said Jeremy. “Religious bigots.”

Mr Connor pushed his chair back from the kitchen table and stood up. “Better a religious bigot than a hypocrite faggot,” he said. He shuffled into the living room and turned on the television.

Xavier and Jeremy high-fived, in silence, then Jeremy went back to bed.


  • Original Prompt: Clock, July 24, 2016.

Might I Suggest

Prompt: Tab


Dear Wednesday,

When we run a tab we expect others to honour promises unfulfilled, whether it’s drinks at a bar or those times when we’ve been distracted, distressed, or ill and unable to take responsibility. I suspect we all do it at some points in our lives. I know that for the past year, I’ve been running a tab— withdrawing from once-important aspects of my life, from friends and family, feeling sad and unable to cope, and somehow firmly expecting others to stand with me and be there when I was able raise my head again.  I was also running a tab with myself— existing on the promise that things would get better.

And they did. I’m not sure exactly what turned it all around and sincerely wish I could bottle it up and present it to those who also suffer. Much of it had to do with regaining my physical health, without which gaining perspective (in my case) would have been impossible.

So if you are struggling, be kind to yourself, be patient, get enough sleep, get checked out by your family doctor. Don’t be afraid to say you are depressed or overwhelmed. We all need to run a tab sometimes.

May I now present a few of my favourite cartoons, which may or may not be relevant to today’s prompt, “tab”?

cartoon run a tab

cartoon suggest

cartoon olives table


Love and peace,

~~FP