After the Dragon War: Shratalanda

Shratalanda was a mystery to the people of Cimmeria. No one knew how old Shratalanda was at the end of the Dragon War. She had emerged from nowhere to orchestrate the rebellion against the dragons’ rule. She was part of no community and had no family. Many suspected she was a god, one of the Fates, sent to walk the Earth and ensure that the proper events occurred. Others thought her simply an elf with the natural talent needed for psionic magic. Continue reading

Advertisements

Thesis Proposal and Homework

Some of you may be asking, “Where, oh where, has GoCorral gone? Where is the weekly update of his blog? There hasn’t even been a picture of his toenails to tell us he’s still alive!”

Well, I am still alive, I’ve just been rather busy with school these last few days.

Among my many responsibilities I have had:
1. A massive final project on homologous genes to the C. elegans myosin gene, unc-54, that is rapidly approaching 50 pages in length.
2. A final paper on intron retention being the first sign of speciation.
3. Scheduling and preparing my thesis proposal presentation.
4. Grading essays for the basic biology class I am teaching this semester.
5. All the usual stuff I have to do.

I’m keeping a good handle on #1 and #5. #4 is a slow truck that keeps on going.

Due to all the other stuff I’ve been doing #2 did not turn out as good as I would’ve liked. I loved the thesis of that paper, but I wish I’d used more time to find additional supporting evidence and described the supporting evidence in a better fashion.

#3 is the most exciting one! My thesis proposal presentation happened on Friday and was probably the most important moment in my career up to this point.

I got super nervous before giving the presentation and made a few mistakes in the preparation and delivery, but it still went quite well.

Every presentation should have at least one picture of a confused panda.
Every presentation should have at least one picture of a confused panda.

I passed the proposal which means I can continue on with my project! Woohoo! I do have to update my abstract to reflect my definite research goals which were outlined in the meeting.

That’s what I’ve been up to. There’s still more to do! I predict I’ll be done with most of it by the end of next week. After that, regular blog updates will resume.

-GoCorral

Home Wish List

All the majesty of note paper made for teachers.
All the majesty of note paper made for teachers.

While cleaning out one of the moving boxes I found an old list of stuff my wife and I made.

The list is of things we wanted in our house and the list was made before we started looking for our house.

So here it is!

1. Two stories Check!
We got this one! Bedrooms and office on the second story. Everything else on the bottom floor.
2. A block or more away from a main road Check!
The reason for this one was to let the cats go outside unsupervised without worrying about them being run over on a main road.
3. A two car garage Check!
We won’t necessarily park both our cars in it (once we get another car), but its nice to have the option.
4. A big kitchen with a counter Check!
Our old place had a tiny kitchen without an island counter. Getting a big place to make meals feels great!
5. A dining room Check!
The old apartment had a tiny little section for the dining table that wasn’t really its own room. Our new house doesn’t have a dining room either, but it has two large places where the table can go (we’re using one of them).
6. Laundry Check! 
We’ve got a washing machine and a dryer! No more lugging clothes 300 feet to the laundry building in our complex or hoarding quarters like they’re more valuable than gold.
7. A backyard Check!
Yep! Got a real nice backyard that’s good for playing in with kids or for having meals during the summer.
8. A front yard Sort of.
We have landscaping in the front but I wouldn’t really call it a yard. Too many bushes and things. We could change it to have a yard though!
9. Solar panels Check!
The solar panels are sort of leased through a company. We don’t own the solar panels. A company does and they sell us the electricity they produce for about the same amount that PG&E charges. We then get reimbursed from PG&E for any excess electricity the panels produce. Odd way of doing it, but we are contributing to renewable energy with the panels!
10. Hardwood floors Sort of.
I’m allergic to dust which crops up in carpeted floors. Hardwood doesn’t collect dust the same way. We’ve got carpet on the second floor, but the bottom floor is tiled. That’s good enough for me.
11. Dance studio Sort of.
Not really present in the house. Instead we have a big mirror in the entrance hallway to the house that serves pretty much the same purpose. There’s plenty of space to dance there with a mirror to look at yourself even if it isn’t an official dance studio.
12. An office Check!
Yep! Writing this post in the office right now.
13. A big bath tub attached to the master bathroom No. 
Can’t have everything.
14. A pool No.
We didn’t get this one either, but that was a conscious choice. We looked at a house with a pool and it took up most of the backyard which we also wanted. Plus, the maintenance on a pool is pretty expensive.
15. Painted blue with white trim No.
We like the colors, but it isn’t blue with white trim. We could still repaint the house in the future.
16. A big tree for a swing or a tree house Check! 
The treehouse is actually a playhouse, but its basically what I wanted. All good!
17. A better HVAC system than our apartment Check!
Our old apartment had wall AC units and a heater that didn’t work (heater wasn’t that big an issue in Davis). One of the rooms never got AC. The new house has central heating and AC that both work great. We’ve also got a whole house fan which is a much more energy efficient method for cooling the house at night.
18. A fireplace Check!
Got a fireplace in the back living room. We haven’t used it yet but we probably will sometime next winter.
19. Big bedroom closets Check!
The closets aren’t as big as the walk-in one at the old apartment, but they’re still big enough for us.
20. Close to where my wife works Sort of. 
The house is about a mile and a half from the school where my wife works, so not as close as we originally wanted. This ended up being a good thing as my wife wanted to avoid seeing her students outside of school. Just a little tough to always have to be “on” as a teacher at the grocery store. We live in a different neighborhood than the school so none of the kids are around here.
21. Space for a garden Check!
There aren’t any planter boxes yet, but we’ll get some.

And that’s it! We got most of the stuff that we wanted and it feels pretty good.

-GoCorral

Institute of Regenerative Cures

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

150508_002
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.

150508_001
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

I Used to Square Dance

Here's what I looked like when this story was taking place. Yeah...
Here’s what I looked like when this story was taking place. Yeah…

When I was about ten years old I took square dancing lessons.

I was homeschooled for most of elementary school and one of the other home school kid’s parents started a square dancing class.

I went to the first few lessons for free with a few other homeschool friends. Once we knew the basics we performed at a mall to try and attract other students.

I continued taking lessons after that, but my other friends stopped going. There weren’t a lot of replacements either. The mall performance ended up not panning out.

Often the lessons wouldn’t have enough people to form an eight person square. Even when we had enough people the girls always had to occasionally dance the men’s part (not that unusual for dance classes actually).

My mom kept taking me to the square dancing lessons for awhile. Thinking back on it now, part of the reason might’ve been because of the square dance teacher’s daughter.

We were about the same age and I can be fairly certain that she had a crush on me.

I think I would’ve felt the same way if I was into girls at that age, but I wasn’t yet.

I eventually told my mom that I wanted to stop going to the lessons. One of the other kids taking lessons there had really dry scaley skin and I didn’t like touching her skin when we danced because I thought I would catch leprosy from her or something.

Course I didn’t tell my mom that. I just told her that the time it took to drive to the lessons and back was about as long as the lessons took and I wasn’t really enjoying them.

My mom seemed a little bummed and I think it was because she’d wanted me to go on a date with the teacher’s daughter.

It’s probably for the best. The teacher’s daughter had curly hair and I’ve never liked curly hair. That relationship would’ve been even shorter than most middle school relationships (half a week instead of the usual week).

-Mister Ed

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

Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 11

Previous: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 10

This update details the Dwarven invasion of Najar. Since this section was so dry, I hardly needed to update the language at all.

I also attempted to continue my Spore inspired strategy for converting enemy cities. It still failed. We reasoned that the missionary schools were likely unable to compete with the established pedagogy tradition in Najar or the established demon worshipping religion. The Dwarven religion of The Books is for Dwarves. They can teach the tenets of the religion, but the Humans they teach it to will always be viewed as inferiors because they are not Dwarves.

299 NA:First, the Dwarves touched down at Cynelle. The city’s walls were strong, but nothing bests a Dwarven catapult. The walls fell and the citizen militia defending the city surrendered.

300 NA:The Elven fleet sailed on through the Maw. The Elvish craftsmen built a supply center between the hills and the forest. They traded with Merfolk merchants for food, water, weapons, armor, and munitions. The Elves packaged the goods up and shipped them on to the Dwarves. A Dwarven army marched from Cynelle to guard the new Elven town of Cyflenwi from attack.

301 NA:The remaining Dwarven legions split. Three went to the mountain fortress of Syluk. The three other armies marched on to Alixria, Alrdia, and Farpoint, to take each town in turn.

302 NA: The Dwarves took Alixria.

303 NA: The Siege of Syluk ended after two years. Many Dwarves died in the assault, but eventually the Najaran army gave out and the city was occupied.

304 NA: The Dwarves conquered Alrdia.

306 NA: Farpoint fell to the Dwarven invasion.

308 NA: The Dwarven conquerors established missionary schools in each of the occupied cities to better help the humans in their transition to rule without the vile machinations of Navillus. The invasion stalled as the Dwarves struggled to manage their new empire.

315 NA: It becomes abundantly clear that the Humans will not quickly accept Dwarven leadership. The traditional Najaran schools are favored over the parochial Dwarevn schools. The traditional schools are outlawed, but they only move into hiding to avoid detection. The Dwarves fight a constant battle to keep the subject population under control.

-Mister Ed

Next: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 12