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

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

TAing at Sac State

One of the lab benches of the room I teach in.
One of the lab benches of the room I teach in.

For the past few months I have been assisting in teaching a introductory biology lab at Sac State.

I TA Bio 15L which is a general education course for non-science majors. The course uses interactive labs to go over all the basics of biology, like ecology, speciation, DNA, genes, and that good stuff.

The class has been a lot of fun for me for a lot of different reasons.

I like helping out the students. Its nice to see some of them so interested in biology even if it is nowhere near what their major is. One of them is even considering switching her major.

It’s nice to go over all the material again. I learned it all years ago and everything is easy for me now. Obviously I should know the material in a class that I teach, but its still fun to know that I could get any of the questions in the class right if the teacher called on me, even when I am the teacher.

The experience of being on the other side of a class is also interesting. I have to deal with making quizzes, grading, student absences, and preventing cheating.

Student absences is probably the hardest part. This is a college level class, so they’re free to not show up if they don’t want to. Its just inevitable that the ones who don’t show up do poorly on the quizzes that cover the material they missed or they miss the quizzes entirely. And this is college so there are no makeup quizzes.

There’s nothing I can really do about absences, but I’d like to be able to tech the students that do come to class so that they can all understand the material and use it in their own lives later on.

Learning biology is important for a number of reasons. How can you be an informed voter on GMO issues if you don’t properly understand what GMOs are? How can you vote on global warming initiatives without knowing more about that? And wouldn’t you like to know how genetics work when you start planning a family to see what genetic risks your potential child could have?

I try to teach the students that sort of stuff. I feel like I’m just learning how the labs work this semester. I know I’ll do way better next semester when I can focus more on directing what we are trying to learn with the labs and giving the students more specific strategies for learning.

Also, I can hopefully be more enthusiastic when I give lectures. The mid-semester student evaluations indicated that the only place I really needed to improve was in how enthusiastic my voice sounded when I was presenting the material.

-Mister Ed

First Day of Graduate School

Woo! Yesterday I had my first day of graduate school and it was amazing!

For awhile I’d been worried that I wouldn’t like going back to school once the semester started. All of those worries went away once I stepped out of my car onto campus.

I unfortunately arrived late to my first class. I live in Davis and driving to Sacramento has never taken this long in the past.

I thought I’d budgeted enough for rush hour traffic. I guessed the time accurately except for the time to leave the freeway.

Everyone and their mother wanted to get off the freeway at the Howe Ave exit right by Sacramento State.

Next time I go in the morning I’ll get off at an earlier exit and dodge all that traffic. Hopefully that will get me to school with time to spare.

Anyways! I got approved to be a TA in a lab course which meets Tuesday mornings. This semester I’m in training, but in the future I’ll be paid.

The lab class is a GE fulfilling course, so its filled with students who are not biology majors.

The course is also taught by my graduate adviser, which is a huge plus. We’ll get to know more about each through teaching together which will help a lot later in the graduate school process.

I assisted the students with a simple discussion lab which tried to define what life is.

After the discussion each student took a sterile swabbed and rubbed it on something before rubbing it on a petri dish. Whatever they rubbed onto it will grow over the week and we can take a look at it next Tuesday.

When the lab finished I walked around campus. I found the bookstore, the activities fair (no I don’t want to join a fraternity), the student union, and the library. I at my lunch on the quad and then went to read in the library til my next class.

I have two other classes on Tuesday. The first was about how to be a better TA. I met the other students and the teacher told us a little bit about herself, her teaching style, and some resources we could use to improve ourselves as teachers.

My last class, Molecular Biology, was in the same room as the class on how to be a TA. I was surprised when the teacher walked in because I recognized him!

The teacher for my Molecular Biology class is also the post-doc who works in the same worm lab as me at Davis!

It was a pretty cool coincidence. Apparently he had already known for awhile, but hadn’t told me yet.

I was unfortunately the only person who consistently raised my hand to answer questions in his class. I’m hoping that will change in the future. Maybe everyone else was just shy because they hadn’t met the instructor yet.

At the end of the day the instructor and I discussed carpooling together.

Turns out that won’t work because he lives in Sacramento and I live in Davis. At the end of the day we want to be in different places.

Altogether it was a great day. I loved being back on campus as a student and as a teacher. I love learning and helping other people learn. I’m looking forward to the next two or three years at Sac State!

-Mister Ed

Privacy vs. Public Life

Who is this man?!?
Who is this man?!?

When I started GoCorral I intended to reveal almost no information about myself.

My plan was that if the site took off and people were trying to hunt me down in person for autographs or something I’d have the option of retreating into anonymity.

I’ve slowly revealed more and more about myself.

My initial posts talked about “the town I went to college” and now its just Davis, California.

I still haven’t identified myself or anybody within my life by name, but I’m sure a dedicated detective could put the pieces together and figure out who I am.

I’ve started posting videos of myself on my Twitch and Youtube channels. Realistically, I don’t think I care much about privacy at this point.

I don’t know many professional bloggers that maintain anonymity either. Notable blogs like the Happiness Project, Perez Hilton, and 538 all use the author’s real names (Perez Hilton is a pseudonym, but the author has revealed his real name as well).

Even the smaller blogs that I read like Squidi and Twenty Sided have the authors’ real names attached to the work.

Another worry I have is that if I revel my own personal information, inevitably some information about my family and friends will leak out too.

While I might be comfortable with a public persona, I shouldn’t be making that decision for them as well.

This is all conditional on the blog or video channels taking off though. There’s no reason to be concerned about privacy if no one is listening!

My current plan is to contact a few established bloggers and see how they juggle the invasive personal commitment that a blog requires with their private lives.

I can make a decision after that.

Until then I will remain The Talking Horse.

-Mister Ed