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.

 


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?

Thanks, Batman

Prompt: Hero


Dear Wednesday,

Do people still have heroes? And I do not mean comic superheroes, those tiny-waisted muscle men and women who have remarkably similar histories of tragedy, misunderstanding, and injustice and similarly remarkable and predictable current obsessions and similarly pyrotechnic, technicolour battles against villainy. Sorry (not sorry), I supposed you’ve guessed by now that I’m not a fan.

Perhaps superheroes are popular because there are so few real human heroes in our midst. Remember when politicians like John F. Kennedy or Nelson Mandela or Tommy Douglas or Lester Pearson or Winston Churchill or Ghandi innovated and inspired? How about Neil Armstrong and the other astronauts, and those who devote their heart and soul to a pursuit despite tremendous obstacles, like Jackie Robinson or Jesse Owens, Terry Fox, Martin Luther King Jr., Oskar Schindler, Rosa Parks or Harriet Tubman? What happened to the kind of courage that left us breathless?

There are many unsung heroes, of course: Many of the “greatest generation” who endured the Great Depression and World War II, doing their duty with honour and without complaint even in the darkest of times. There are people who quietly and selflessly dedicate their lives to caring for the less fortunate, people who protest and even vote under dangerous circumstances, people who commit invisible yet meaningful heroic acts in their daily lives, like standing up to a bully or speaking up for the marginalized.

I think current political systems that value money, possessions, and personal power above all else create a wasteland in which it is hard for heroes to act or, when they do, to be recognized. Adversity is often a breeding ground for heroes, but the adversity most of us face today is dulled by distractions, drugs, ignorance, or hopelessness. In this atmosphere true heroes are desperately needed— who will step up?

On a lighter note and related to today’s prompt, “hero”, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons?

cartoon baby batman

cartoon superman xray

cartoon thanks batman


Peace and love,

~~FP

As Seen on TV

Prompt: Television


Hello Wednesday,

Has television become the focus of our lives? It occupies a prominent, if not the most prominent, position in our homes, we stare at it for many hours a day, use it as a source for news, gossip, education, and entertainment both inspiring and trivial, and we are likely to lose our minds if the cable goes out and we are stuck in a room with a silent yawning black hole instead of the thing that we build routines around.

When I got my first apartment my roomie and I were on a tight budget so thought we’d forego the television set— and yes, this was partly a social experiment on our part. How did we spend our evenings? I remember filling many diary volumes, working on crafty projects, going out a lot, reading, studying (when not in school I was generally taking night courses), and having friends visit. I also remember going into work every day and not participating in the ubiquitous “Did you see…?” recap about the previous night’s TV events. Most importantly, I remember not missing it! The apartment, humble as it was, was always a serene and calming refuge and not a distracting noise box. When my roommate moved on to another city, my new housemate got us a tiny old black and white TV, and thus ended the experiment.

As I examine my TV habits I can’t help but notice how remarkably distractible I am even when I am watching a program I deliberately scheduled, by my iPad mostly, catching up on mail and messages, news, following links and so on, but I also fidget, talk on the phone, do my nails, wander around, doodle, fold laundry, browse magazines, make tea, add ice to my wine, make lists. I honestly don’t know if television shows are less fascinating or whether my ability to focus on anything has eroded into near non-existence. I suspect the latter. How about you?

Related to my television pondering and today’s prompt, may I now present a few of my favourite cartoons?

cartoon tv book

cartoon as seen on tv book

cartoon cat tv


Love, peace and serene refuge,

~~FP 

Honor System

Prompt: Honor


Hello Wednesday,

It was my parents’ wedding anniversary yesterday. Were they still alive, it would have been their… 700th or so, which is not diamond or paper anniversary but I believe is celebrated by presenting one another with life-viable planets. I mean, it has to be extra-special to stay wed for so long, right?

So they would each have had possession of a planet that could conceivably be a location for, say, space vacations, providing there was a water slide or similar amenity. Either one could also act as a back-up planet for this one, for a reasonable fee. If only all anniversary symbols were so practical.

They would get to name their planets. My mother would probably call hers “Sophie” while my dad would likely go for “Omphaloskepsis” or other cool-sounding, obscure word, since he liked puzzles and dictionaries. He liked dictionaries he could hold in his hand, not Google search screens. At my parents’ home there was a shelf under the living room window stocked with several dictionaries, a three-volume encyclopedia, almanac, Book of World Records, Thesaurus, atlas, and a French-English dictionary (we’re Canadian, what can I say). These books were called Argument Stoppers.

My mother liked words too but preferred the meditative arts to crossword puzzles: she embroidered, knit, crocheted, quilted, baked, canned.. and basically excelled at all the lost arts. Planet Sophie would look nice and have great food.

If my parents were here with me now, in my humble living room, my mother would be doing handwork by the fire and my dad would be working on a cryptic crossword, surrounded by Argument Stoppers, occasionally challenging me with a clue. My mother would also be doling out advice— strangely enough, advice I likely asked for. She was good at advice.

I would be here at my laptop, missing them terribly.

Well now, in honour of honour, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons that honour the prompt’s American spelling, “honor”?

cartoon tsa honor

cartoon trump honor

cartoon alleged killer whale


Peace and love,

~~FP

I appreciate your concern

Prompt: Thank you


Dear Wednesday,

Today is the 18th anniversary of 9/11, one of those events that are monuments in our memory— we will always remember where we were and what we were doing when the planes crashed into the towers.

I was roused from my bed in Houston, Texas, with the words, “You need to see this.” We had visitors from the UK, who had passed through Newark airport at the same time as the terrorists responsible for the carnage on the television.

That day we went ahead with our plans to drive to San Antonio. Firemen stood at the side of the road as we drove in, each holding a huge rubber boot. They wanted donations for the first responders.

Like everyone, we were numbed by the experience, and today the same visitors are with us here in tiny town. There is a pall of remembrance hanging over the house.

I wish there was something that 9/11 taught us, or added to our consciousness, or which caused us to seek real answers in a troubled world. But no, it turned out to be mainly a political opportunity for the craven and greedy. Whatever our hearts tell us about that day remains deep inside, private and personal.

But it is Wednesday, and the prompt is “thank you”, and sure, I am grateful that the loss of life was less than it might have been that day, that I am back living in Canada, that the sun is shining, and that it is the day that I present a few of my favourite cartoons.

May I?

cartoon thank you email

cartoon thank you croaking

cartoon cat thank you


Peace and peace,

~~FP