21 January, 2009


I was digging through some of my image folders and I found these old cartoons I drew while Bush was still President (hahahaha! Past Tense, MF!). These were originally published in the school newspaper at my undergraduate alma mater.


Well, it seems that neither Blogger nor Flickr are willing to accept a 35Mb .tiff file and I don't have any conversion software on my system.

Pretty much what I was going to say anyway:
Suffice it to say that I will miss Bush for one thing: he was easy, and fun, to caricature. It may actually be better for all of you that the pictures aren't working, because one of them was a caricature of Bush in cheerleader drag and such an image may indeed scar your fragile and hope-addled minds. This is not to imply that you are feeble-minded, but that it's the kind of caricature that one needs mental bleach for. Believe me, I know, I drew the thing. It's one of the few cartoons for which I do not regret not having the original drawing.

Oh, wait...I can provide a link to the cartoon on Flickr (SFW, but still not suitable for children; also, please ignore the shit watercolors also there).

E-I-E-I-Obama Hope

Swollen with hope and national pride, I penned this entirely original little ditty for y'all.

Barack Obama has a plan
A plan for the whole United States land
With a Twitter, Tweet there
And a data data there
Here a Twitter
There a tweet
He likes information
Isn't it sweet?

Clearly I am the next Mozart.

But seriously, thank you America. I discovered politics (like discovering yourself, but dirtier) during the Bush era (double entendre!) and for the most part this led me to thinking that, although we have been a great nation before, we were also incredibly stupid and that there was no hope for us. And that we didn't deserve any. At this same time I lived in suburban Midwestern Sprawl, and each week another field or forest would be bulldozed to make way for another copy copy subdivision and Bradford pear trees (which I still despise, and not just because you can't climb them). I saw this as the paving over of our very intelligence, thrift, and resourcefulness. I saw this as a literal and figurative fattening of America (PSA: if you have dozens of hairy flab jelly rolls, please keep your shirt on when jogging||Unicorn Chaser for Bad Mental Image), we drive everywhere and even destroy the possibility of walking or bicycling by not building sidewalks. We build a library and then don't patronize it. We get the Internet but use it only for porn or paying bills. We succumb to the boy-child idiocy of Hannity, Limbaugh, and O'Reilly. And there in the suburban wastelands (intellectually), we mentally rot. A new car is bought, the neighborhood homeowner's association works itself into a self-righteous lather when someone's grass isn't combed right is 1/4" too long, the basketball hoop rusts. And we moulder into our routines. Entombed in cul-de-sacs with neighbors we think are funny-looking don't know but feel we're better than anyway, we do nothing (zombies, but less entertaining). I still feel this way about suburbia. Maybe it's partly bitterness about the sheer blinding whiteness of the neighborhoods, the assumed snobbery over lawnmowers. Perhaps it's anger that each and every forest and stream (except one, and that's only because the hills are too steep to be profitable) I spent my younger weekends climbing through was bulldozed over, filled in, dammed, or destroyed by more mindlessness.


Today there is a hope. I know that it is unfair of me to expect that President Obama will solve all of our problems. I know that it is unreasonable to think that he'll sign away my student debt or approve my PI's grants. But I still hope. This President seems to value actual data and real information. He is communicative, he is bold. And one of the things that has disgusted me for so long about politics is how everyone is so timid that they do nothing meaningful just so that they may numbly be re-elected the next term. Although he is not magical, he is certainly inspirational. If Barry can do it, then so can I. And I can look at my nieces and nephew and tell them truthfully that they can be anything in the world they want to be. If Barry can do it, so can they. And so can we. This is hope, and it feels good even amid the despair of the economy and war because it is the flickering light at the end of the storm. This is hope, and although it will not fill our bellies it can keep our spirits warm. And it is also the hope that pride and joy will replace the past eight years of petty factionalism and fear and anger. It feels good to have been proven wrong about America. We can be better than suburban mindlessness. We can dare to dream bigger than bank transactions and eye-throbbing spreadsheets. We are Americans, and we like tacos! and we can. So let's really begin the 21st century. After all, it's about time.

19 January, 2009

Aside: Perl

I am trying to learn how to code in Perl. I am doing this because I find computational biology and mathematical modeling of biology to be intensely interesting. However, writing meaningful programs is currently a bit beyond my abilities. So, I submitted a variant of this as a joke to Thinkgeek. I thought I might post this for all of your enjoyments/amusements.

print "Who is awesomer (you/me)? ";
chomp($base = );

if ($base eq you) {print "Correct, you can has cookie.\n"};
if ($base eq me) {print "Fail.\n"};
If you should wish to actually run this program (for whatever bizarre reason), then:
1) Copy-paste into Notepad or a simple text editor (not MS Word).
2) Save somewhere you'll remember it at.
3) Access the folder you stashed it in from your command line using the \cd function.
4) Type "perl filename" (filename = whatever you named it) and it will run (this'll work natively in a Unix system [Mac]{I think}, might be more difficult in a Windows environment, where you'll need a Perl module installed).
5) If you want to alter it to help boost your self-confidence or momentary feelings of awesomeness, then you can alter the pieces following in bold.

print "Who is awesomer (you/me)? ";
chomp($base = );

if ($base eq you) {print "Correct, you can has cookie.\n"};
if ($base eq me) {print "Fail.\n"};
For it to work, red has to match red and blue has to match blue, letter for letter. And the space after the question mark is important, so don't delete it.

I think this qualifies me as a script kiddie. Which I don't think is too bad, considering that I'm trained as a molecular biologist and all.

05 January, 2009

Zombies #2

I drew a zombie.

Let's start with some claymation fun:

There have been several fictional interpretations of what a zombie is, how scary they are, and how they can be killed. These interpretations range from normal people unwittingly compelled to do evil at the behest of some kind of evil magic to shambling monsters with intact consumer instincts. I am not going to lie and claim that I have seen all the zombie films or media ever made, but I have seen several of them (I do still want to see this one). Therefore I am absolutely unqualified (although I assert that I don't need qualification to speculate upon fiction) to offer my commentary.


OK, I just started poking around the Internet and suddenly realized that I need to do more research before I can offer anything worthwhile for zombie biology. Meanwhile, I offer you my favorite short zombie comic story (the premise basically revolves around a bad-ass dentist who feels he is responsible for eradicating the undead hordes because zombies naturally rose every 100 years and dentists were the ones who made sure that most everyone in the last several decades died with intact teeth). It should be noted that the rest of the anthology is also quite good, especially "Daddy Smells Different". My favorite long zombie comic story depends on whether or not one would consider a sentient corpse-possessing squid-fighting worm to be a zombie. Actually, I guess one couldn't consider that as such because Wormwood lives on beer and not human flesh. So my favorite long zombie comic story is definitely Chris Ryall and Ashley Woods' Zombies vs. Robots (I will soon purchase Zombies vs. Robots vs. Amazons).

I don't know exactly why I shared any of that. Maybe I'm subconsciously trying to improve my geek street cred?

Anyway, for your safety I urge that you check out Max Brook's Zombie Survival Guide.

I will soon probably post more about zombie biology. To PubMed!

02 January, 2009

ZOMBIES kick Vampire ass!

Pro-feminist metaphor for daughters assuming own adult identity despite their fathers' inherent protectiveness and also about how fathers' dreams for their daughters are inherently subsumed by their daughters' own identities. From Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968).

Once upon a time ago I think I posted something about vampires. This was a mistake only in that I did not respond to posting about vampires by also posting about zombies in proportion to the coolness that I find in each. Therefore there should have been at least 37 zombie posts to balance out that 1 vampire post. However, now I am deciding that I will assign each post now extra points for Hindsight so there should be about 3 posts total dealing with zombies until I forget about it. At the rate I post, you can expect the next post in about 4 months (I will, however, try to do better with posting more regularly).

Before I start, let's have levity with this parody of Kelly's YouTube "Shoes" meme by the Living Dead Girlz (I want to know if they do birthdays):

1) Zombies are much cooler than vampires. Sure, vampires have fancy castles and tight vinyl bodysuits. And more recently they have annoying tween franchises and sexy HBO shows (warning: annoying Flash on both those last links). However, vampires are less fascinating than zombies because vampires are us, just with fangs and sun intolerance. Vampires still have families (covens?), vampires still have political struggles and human desires. Vampires also have very specific weaknesses (sun, wooden stakes, silver) just as humans have very specific weaknesses (water, bullets, piano flurries). Therefore, I posit that vampires represent a cerebral extrapolation of the human condition whereas zombies represent a base reduction of the animal instinct extant and inherent in human culture.

Zombies are walking hunger. And they're not just walking hunger, but they are exclusively hunger. Animals need water, food, sleep, and shelter from the elements. Zombies don't need food, and they do not even pursue water, sleep, or shelter unless there happens to be food (us!) inside. And zombies are terrifying, in part, because they consume and are motivated solely by the pursuit to consume human flesh. In effect, the zombies are not just consuming human flesh (cannibals can do so as well) but, because they themselves were once human, they are consuming humanity itself.

Vampires feed off of humans, zombies feed on humanity.

Zombies are pointless. They have no desires except for consuming human flesh. They have no organization (excepting Land of the Dead). They have no communication and we are left to infer from this that they have no emotion. They are the shells of humans devoid of everything that we feel makes us different from animals and therefore they hold a mirror to ourselves and our civilization, and this is largely the source of their accompanying terror. We envision ourselves as being purposeful, as being sentient and rationally separate from our base needs. We envision our civilization as being a progression from the animal state and an improvement thereupon. But zombies show us just how fragile those sentiments are and expose the deeply uncomfortable truth about just how tenuous our society is from day to day.

Furthermore, zombies are practically indestructible. In all the zombie lore, the only way to destroy a zombie is to crush its brain (tasteful Flash). Vampires can recover from such injuries if they are returned to the coffin of their original grave, but they'll also curdle if left out in the sun. Vampires are almost as fragile as humans, but zombies are much tougher. Humans do a lot to forget about or hedge their bets against their own corporal fragility. We wear seat belts and helmets and use oven mitts, etc. Zombies need none of it and perhaps this is viscerally felt by us humans as not just the consumption of humanity, but the willing abandonment thereof. And if that is so easy (just get bitten!), then what point is there to humanity?

Humankind is much more terrified by an black abyss than by a dark forest.

I was originally intending to discuss zombie biology but have gotten sidetracked. This post is already long, so I will wait for another post. I will try to get it up sooner than 3 months from now.