James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

July 20, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — James @ 7:26 pm

Safety Note: It should be remembered that the leaves of rhubarb should not be eaten, only the stalks. (Also deadly nightshade is also not to be eaten, as it is, in fact, deadly.)

Off the top of my head, here’s a list of the species I’d most like to study:
1. Corn – couldn’t you guess?
2. Bamboo – useful, exotic, and enough like corn that my previous experience would be useful
3. Sorghum – it’s hardier than corn, and its roots produce chemicals that kill off competing plants, how cool is that?
4. Deadly nightshade – plenty of genetic resources being developed in other Solanaceous species like tomato and potato and come on it’s DEADLY NIGHTSHADE!
5. Rhubarb – What’s not to like about a species known as “the pie plant,” and nobody’s done anything with its genetics (based on google searches for rhubarb + gene and rhubarb + genome) so I’d be in “here there be dragons” territory.

Since nothing is known about the genetics of rhubarb, today’s post will instead focus on the eating of rhubarb.
Chopped rhubarb
First chop your rhubarb stalks into one inch or shorter lengths. This is best done with a big knife and a fair bit of force, otherwise you won’t cut through the bottom fiberous skin.
Combine Rhubarb and Sugar
Add sugar. Lots of sugar. Aim for 25-35% of your rhubarb volume. What you didn’t expect me to be explaining how to make something healthy did you?
Let it sit
As you let the mixture of sugar and rhubarb sit, the sugar will draw moisture out of the rhubarb, which is why you don’t have to add any water.
Stewed Rhubarb
Yeah, I know it looks like Indian food, but it’s tasty and delicious in an entirely different way from how Indian food is tasty and delicious. Eat straight, or on top of ice cream, or any other way you’d like. For an actual rhubarb pie the process is essentially the same. Remember to replace the pot I used with a pie crust!

This post was the result of the sad discovery that there are people who’ve lived their entire lives in Iowa without tasting this delicious and enigmatic species.

July 12, 2008

The New PC

Filed under: Electronics — Tags: , , , — James @ 10:49 pm

As a computer geek I need a computer that’s online 24/7. This uses a lot of electricity which A. costs money B. Makes the environmentalists in my life hate me.

Now I could choose between my computerized lifestyle and ever dating another environmentalist (GMO issue aside). Or I could cut my power usage by building a second (super efficient) PC so I can turn off the powerful, power hungry, machine I use for the computational heavy lifting whenever I don’t need it. Guess which option I chose? 😉

Now for the second challenge, my budget for my entire energy efficient computer: $150 (Note that the cheapest computer listed on the best buy website as of this writing is $280.)

  • Processor: Celeron 430L 1.8GHz – Maximum power usage of 35 watts. A standard CPU draws 90 watts, enthusiast CPUs 125 watts or more.
  • Motherboard:MSI P6NGM-FD – On-motherboard graphics save energy vs. a discrete graphics card, and I’ll barely ever even connect a monitor.
  • Memory: 1 Gig G.Skill DDR2 800 – not much to say here, it’s the right speed, it’s cheap.
  • Case: Rosewill R102-P-BK – MicroATX case, cheap, enough room for my hard drives.
  • Operating system: Ubuntu Linux – It’s free, and on this budget I need that.
  • Hard drive: I can use my current hard drives
  • Power Supply: Left over from a system upgrade. Aftermarket power supplies are more efficient. Cheap ones have conversion efficiencies as low as 60-70%

All the components arrived from new egg the middle of last week. Initially set up goes well:
Linux Box Step 2
But then problems arise. Ubuntu is on a DVD. The only DVD drive I own is already installed in my current PC and I can’t remember how to get it out. The solution? Siamese computers!
Computer Life Support
By flipping the new computer upside down and running IDE and power cables between the two I can manage the linux installation!
And now, a mere 72 hours later, I have a working computer!

Ubuntu has many positive qualities. User customization (without spending hours on google and the absolute beginners ubuntu forums) is not one of them.

Anyway the end result: The computer I used to run 24/7 drew 110-120 watts idle. The new one just under 50. For $150 I’ve reduced power consumption by 43-50 kilowatt hours a month. At an electricity rate of 12 cents a kW/h, bringing this new computer online will save 70 bucks a year in electricity and pay for itself in 25 months.

July 6, 2008

Birthday Post 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — James @ 5:59 pm

Once more I find myself mostly satisfied with the year, now past. I might actually be making a habit of this, but don’t jinx it. 

I got into a very challenging grad program, which I’m thrilled about starting in the fall. Given the local cost of living I may have to live on rice, beans, and ramen for five years. Fortunately my parents gave me a rice cooker and mini-crockpot for my birthday, which can been used to prepare the first two more easily, and it’d be hard to make the third (ramen) any easier to prepare than it already is.

I finished up at Cornell, if not with flying colors, at at least close to them. (Editor’s note: What’s close to flying colors? Gliding/hopping colors? Flying shades of grey?) The graph of my GPA by semester forms a nice U shape and a U definitely beats a \ shape.

To celebrate my suriviving another year on this planet, I had pizza and cake with family, followed by monty burgers, and the until now mythical monty-nator*, with close friends of many years. None of us got through even two burgers, and everyone was falling asleep by eleven-thirty, driving home the point that we’re not teenagers anymore.

*monty-nator: A monty burger (that is a burger prepared by a monty) wrapped in bacon, beer battered, and deep fat fried. Until recently the monty-nator existed only in theory rather like the Higgs boson.

(credit to monty for catching a typo.)

Remaining goals this summer:

1. Discover something cool (and ideally also publishable) about ultraconserved regions in monocots.

2. Assemble new energy effiecent ubuntu server and get software opperational, so I’ll be able to keep playing with the cammand line after I leave the lab this summer, and not pay huge energy bills to make my files constantly avaliable to my XBMC. <- XBMC is a great way to increase your stock with roommates. 

3. See the movies WALL-E and Hancock.

4. Do at least one thing unusual enough I’ll be able to use it as a topic of last resort when meeting people at Berkeley. (Basically what I was able to do with having gone sky diving my junior year of college.)

5. Find out what the genetic aptitude of the monty clan for producing tasty food can do when applied to baked goods.

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