California Election 2016

The Presidential Election for the United States of America is tomorrow so it’s about time I do some sort of post about it.

I usually don’t like talking about politics with people who aren’t my friends. It’s pretty much guaranteed to be divisive, but I suppose I should use my teeny soapbox of the GoCorral website for what it’s worth.

I’ve got two categories I want to go over for the election, who should be President and California’s propositions. I’ll start with the propositions. Continue reading

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Inside Out Movie Review

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My wife agreed to go to see Inside Out with me after I begged (she usually doesn’t like animated movies).

As far as plot, there isn’t much to tell that isn’t in the trailers. The main character, a preteen girl named Riley, moves to a San Francisco with her parents and misses her old life in Minnesota.

Inside Riley’s head are five emotions that guide her life, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust.

The emotions guide what Riley does using a control panel in the headquarters of her brain. They try to align Riley’s actions with her core memories which define Riley’s interests, Friendship, Family, Hockey, Goofiness, and Honesty.

The move to a new state stresses Riley out which is symbolized by Joy, Sadness, and the five core memories being locked out of headquarters for a few days.

Riley is left without the parts of her personality that define her and she can’t feel happiness or sadness. Sounds an awful lot like how some people describe chronic depression, doesn’t it?

Inside Riley’s head Joy has to deal with how depressing Sadness is while finding their way back to headquarters.

The two of them experience a lot of fun explanations for why the human brain works the way it does.

Why do stupid commercial jingles stay stuck in your head? Because the janitors who manage memories send them to your headquarters as a prank.

Why do you remember some things, but not others? Because your emotions leave the memory.

That last one is actually true. It’s represented in the movie by the memories losing the color of the emotion that defines them.

The movie has a ton of cool visualizations of things. Riley’s mother has a set of five emotions running her head as well, but they clearly have Sadness as their leader. Riley’s dad is run by Anger.

The emotions have a control panel to interact with the world. Riley’s control panel is switched out for a larger one by the end of the movie with new buttons for puberty stuff. Her parents have even larger control panels with seats for the five emotions, emphasizing that the adults are set in the way the react to things.

Abstract thought is represented by a sort of abstract art gallery. Dreams are made by a cast of little creatures in the brain with scripts inspired by events from Riley’s day.

The end of the movie has a good moral, that all emotions are important, not just Joy; and that change isn’t always bad.

I’d recommend the movie to anyone who knows a little bit about how the human brain works. The description of emotions handling memories is visualized and explained in a pretty accurate manner and is enough fun on its own to warrant seeing the movie.

The story itself isn’t half bad either. It’s a kid’s story, but it’s Pixar! The always know how to pull at your emotions, espeically in a movie about emotions.

There’s also a good short before the movie called Lava. You could go for that or you could watch it on YouTube. It’s a nice little Hawaiian folk tale-esque love story.

So check Inside Out out if you like Pixar movies or the human brain (or love stories about volcanoes).

-GoCorral

Graduated Student Tour

While letting myself into my lab a woman approached me and said, “Hi!”

She had just graduated UC Davis and was looking around all the buildings she hadn’t been in much.

She was a Landscape Architecture major (didn’t even know you could major in that). My building is for biological sciences, so its understandable that she had probably never set foot in it before.

My lab’s building, Briggs Hall, is interesting from an architecture perspective (but maybe not landscape architecture).

The building was built in 1971 when there were a lot of campus demonstrations (still are! Pepper Spray Cop was at UC Davis).

A method of cutting down on demonstrations was giving students no places to gather indoors. Thus Briggs Hall’s layout is amazing confusing and even I get lost in it after working in the building for several years.

Briggs also doesn’t have any staircases inside. All of the stairs are on the exterior of the building. Don’t ask me what lunatic decided that was a good idea for a four story building.

Anyways, the recently graduated student asked if there was anything interesting in Briggs.

I showed her my lab. She glanced around in it, but not being a biologist she didn’t really understand anything in the lab.

I showed her the -80°C (-112°F) freezer which she did like as summer is starting in Davis.
I also showed her my favorite part of Briggs, the back exit by the police station.
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The back exit is where all the old equipment is put that no one wants anymore. These are the pieces that are too big to just throw in the trash.
There’s old computers, old centrifuges, old heating blocks, old incubators. Tons of cool science equipment.
It’s this sort of industrial wasteland and NO ONE EVER GOES THERE.
My lab is super peaceful, but if something ever got too stressful and I needed to go outside, this is where I’d go.
Why does industrial junk calm me down? I had an air filter going in my room constantly when I was a kid. That constant hum while I slept made me associate industrial hums and old appliances with peaceful rest.
So now places like this always calm me down.
Course, the graduated student didn’t get any of that business. Shook her hand and congratulated her on graduating after I showed her the junk pile before going back inside to my lab.
-GoCorral

Fixing the Camera Printer

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Ancient technology from the long long ago. The printer is the thing on top of the computer tower. The camera is the giant cabinet looking thing to the right of the monitor.

We have something called a “gel doc printer” at my work. It’s purpose is self-evident. It prints documents of our gel pictures.

Gel doc printers are used infrequently and often labs share them. Ours is shared between… probably five different labs? Maybe more.

Taking pictures of gels is important in science. Gels are how we visualize DNA and proteins.

A digital copy is good enough for your own records, but you need a printed copy in case someone claims your digital copy is edited. The gel doc printer provides that physical copy.

Our printer is shared and an issue comes up that when the printer breaks we don’t know whose responsibility it is to fix it.

Usually the breaks are fixed easily. A reboot of the printer or the computer will suffice. Not this time!

This time the printer has refused to print any and all images despite the computer recognizing it as a printer that is plugged in and printing test pages.

Awful looking test pages, but test pages none the less.
Awful looking test pages, but test pages none the less.

I delved into it and realized the printer’s driver’s were outdated. Normally this would be an easy problem to fix. Not so!

You see, the computer the printer is attached to runs Windows XP which is no longer supported by Microsoft.

An unsupported operating system can easily be hacked which means this computer can no longer be connected to the internet. If it was, hackers would have an easy access point to UC Davis’s systems.

What that means is I couldn’t just download an update to the drivers like usual. I had to download the update on my laptop and then move it over to the printer computer with my USB drive.

So I downloaded the drivers and moved them over to the computer. “But wait! You need the driver install program.”

Okay. I get that and move it over. “But wait! You need .Net Framework 4 to use the driver install program!”

Okay… I get that and move it over. “BUT WAIT! You need Windows Service Pack 3 to install .Net Framework 4!”

Okaayyyy… Move that on over. And that one finally installs!

Moving backwards, the .Net Framework 4 installed as well. Along with the patch I got for that.

Then the driver install program laughed at me and said it needed access to the internet after all. I tried installing the drivers on my own, but no luck there.

I researched more on the problem. The printer is able to print out the very first part of all the images. Then it disconnects from the computer, reconnects, and decides the print job is complete.

I found absolutely nothing on how to fix that problem. There were some suggestions that it was a problem with the connection to the computer, but switching the USB port used by the printer changed nothing.

Maybe a new USB cable would do the trick, but I’m unsure if those are available for printers this old or whether it would fix the problem.

For now, all the images are put on USB sticks and printed on different computers.

-GoCorral

Education Graduation

I attended my wife’s graduation ceremony or her completion of her Masters of Arts in Education.

Her mom, dad, and grandma all came to Davis to join in the celebration.

And during the speech given by the university chancellor, the fire alarm went off!

We all had to slowly file out of the building while my mother-in-law helped my grandmother-in-law down the stairs.

We caught up to my wife, her friend, and her friend’s family and hung out with them, taking some “mid-graduation” photos.

After heading back inside we found the seats had shuffled around a little bit and another family was sitting where we’d been sitting before.

I got to sit next to a very well-dressed woman who quietly disapproved of me coming to a graduation ceremony in the same clothes I’d worn to work. Tight scheduling had forced me to do that, but she didn’t know that. Just a little frown out of her though. It was actually kind of funny.

My wife had decorated her graduation hat and we got to see her march on stage and get her apron draped over her or whatever it is.

Bedazzled with tons of stickers, tape, and paint adhesive to keep it all on.
Bedazzled with tons of stickers, tape, and paint adhesive to keep it all on.

There were a few more speeches besides the chancellor’s as well. All the usual stuff about moving forward and making the world a better place. The recipient of the faculty award had some interesting stuff to say about the necessity of being bilingual in California that I liked, but everything else was fairly typical for a graduation ceremony for teachers.

After leaving they gave us one of those little cards if you ever want to grab the official photographer’s photos of the events (Never done it. Way too expensive when we have our own photos).

See! My camera is just fine...
See! My camera is just fine…

After the ceremony we went back to our house for pizza and cake. My wife loved the cake that I picked out!

-GoCorral

San Andreas Movie Review

San Andreas Movie Poster

Saw another movie with my wife! This time it was San Andreas, the earthquake disaster movie.

The movie was excellent, if predictable. I’ve seen a decent amount of disaster movies and this one did not break the mold. It’s just very good within that genre.

The plot of the movie is pretty simple. A series of earthquakes rock the West Coast. Ray, a rescue worker played by Dwayne Johnson, must rescue his daughter and separated wife and get them to safety.

The characters are admittedly stereotypes but they’re stereotypes with depth. Ray is “the rescue worker who could save everyone except for his own daughter.”

We’ve all heard that before but the movie introduces it so well.

After an action scene at the start of the movie, Ray goes home and calls his daughter.

He invites her out to dinner while opening some mail. She declines dinner saying that she already has plans with “Mom and Daniel.” Ray looks disappointed but doesn’t let it come out in his voice as he finishes the phone call and the camera pans down to the divorce papers that he opened.

We instantly know almost everything about that family dynamic. Daniel is the mom’s new boyfriend and Ray is trying to not let it bother him.

Ray then goes upstairs and looks through some old photos and gets really sad when he comes to a photo of him his wife and two daughters.

Two daughters? But we’ve only seen one in the movie! Ah… that’s because the other one is dead.

You get all this information very quickly in the movie and it’s all given to you organically. No one had to mention the dead daughter. No one had to mention the divorce. Those are just things that the audience knows now, just as the characters know them.

That flawless characterization continues through the rest of the movie along with a bunch of awesome earthquake rescue stuff.

Ray pilots a helicopter, drives a truck, stops looters, flies a plane, parachutes, sails a boat through a tsunami, and looks amazing doing it. His wife, Em, played by Carla Gugino, manages to keep her hair looking fabulous while helping (seriously, her hair never lost its curls or got dirt in it).

The rise and fall of action is fairly predictable. “Wow! That was intense! Are they safe? NO!” repeats over and over.

Alexandra Daddario plays the daughter, Blake, who takes care of two English brothers she finds in San Francisco before the quake hits.

Blake also slowly gets sexier as the movie goes on. She loses her outer shirt first, then she gets sopping wet, followed by a few down the shirt shots.

Despite all the awesome stuff in the movie there are two glaring errors I have to mention.

First, the movie says that Bakersfield is 90 minutes from San Francisco by helicopter. This is only true at max speed for helicopters. The helicopter in the movie would’ve run out of gas before they made it to SF. Ray and Em should’ve known this and planned for it.

Second, one of the English brothers gets a large shard of glass stuck in his leg. Blake decides they need to remove it so they can keep moving, which is about the stupidest thing you can do in this situation.

They do a dirty job of bandaging his leg, but he probably needed a tournequit, not a bandage.

He continues to remain active through the rest of the movie. Even giving his younger brother a piggyback ride and swimming. All while mysteriously not bleeding out due to his untreated injury.

Em is also injured during the movie and that cut on her head conveniently disappears by the end.

Still, great movie I’d recommend it especially to Californians. This movie has everything that we’re scared of about the big quake that’s overdue. And you get to see the Golden Gate destroyed which was awesome and heartwrenching at the same time.

Go see San Andreas!

-GoCorral

Institute of Regenerative Cures

My class got to go on a field trip last week.

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All the joys of barely being able to see the tour guide when you’re at the back of the group.

I know! Field trips in a Master’s of Science program? How ridiculous!

It was awesome. We went to the Institute of Regenerative Cures in Sacramento.

I arrived early and waited out front with some classmates. Our tour guide arrived and we waited out front a little longer til everyone showed up.

While waiting the tour guide, who had designed the building we were about to go into, told us about his hobby, early television history!

After the primer on early television we entered the building and got a tour of one of the best facilities for practicing biology in existence right now.

The building itself was actually built a long time ago for the California state fair. It was the “women’s building.”

The brick exterior and columnaic entrance have stayed the same since the building was constructed to maintain the historical site. The interior has been heavily modified.

The building had no roof back in the day and was just an enclosure for a bunch of different events that you usually see at state fairs.

The building was sold to the University of California system. They slapped a roof on it, and used it to store records.

Our tour guide said that he was called in to turn it into a biology facility later on. Half the building is used for bio research while the other half is rented out to other companies.

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The entrance hallway with pictures of the cooler discoveries at the Institute.

The researchers in the Institute are working on a number of things. They researched a treatment for the “bubble boy disease” there. They’re working on using umbilical cords to create bone marrow for transplants, using Tal proteins to treat Huntington’s, creating HIV resistant cells, and helping people who can’t swallow to swallow are just a few of the things they work on there.

Where all the research is done!
Where all the research is done!

The tour guide also showed us the section that he was most proud of as he had designed it. A set of rooms for making the actual drugs and proteins to export to hospitals. Making the drugs requires extremely sterile technique to prevent giving someone who is already sick something that will make them worse. The rooms are designed to be extremely sterile.

To enter the rooms you pass through an airlock where you are required to cover every inch of your body in a disposable gown.

The airlock goes to a hallway with access to three separate clean rooms.

There is “negative pressure” in the rooms. That means that air is constantly entering the room from the top and going out the bottom. This is so that if any cells that are worked with in the rooms get into the air, they will be redirected to teh ground and sucked out through a grate in the wall instead of ending up in someone’s medicine.

The air is cleaned excessively to about 3000 times more clean than average air before entering the facility.

There is a lot of electrical equipment in the rooms that will require replacing eventually. To prevent electricians from having to gown up just to replace a lightbulb, all the eletricals are accessible from panels on the second story of the building.

It was pretty cool for a scientist like me to see the best possible place to do research in. The tour guide mentioned that he does tours of the interior of the super clean rooms for smaller groups. I might take him up on that at a later time!

-GoCorral