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

October 10, 2008

Iowa State Made The News

Filed under: Uncategorized — James @ 11:39 am

I don’t have access to the chronicle of higher education, but this story cites them as a source.

Iowa State is getting rid of land lines in dorms starting next year, as pretty much every college student has a cell phone. Personally the last time I had a land line was my sophomore year of college (the last year I lived in dorms). Besides the occasional form which still assumes everyone should have a home phone number, I don’t notice the absence.

October 8, 2008

Why I Shouldn’t Buy Organic

Filed under: Uncategorized — James @ 10:30 pm

My 1.1 pound peaches never got ripe. And when I checked on them today they were already going to rot. What I’d give for some chemical preservatives and synthetic ethylene gas right now.

October 6, 2008

Giant Peach!

Filed under: Plants — James @ 9:51 pm

They sell giant (1.1 lb) peaches at the Berkeley farmer’s market! It’s not enough for me to forgive them for taking glee in being GE free though.

Giant Peach

And yes. My name is James. That’s a Giant Peach. And this blog is called James and the Giant … Corn.

Potential Upgrade

Filed under: Electronics — James @ 9:36 pm

As I recorded here, this past summer I constructed an energy efficient PC for 24/7 use.

This $150 dollar computer has succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. As the result of an unfortunate BCK error my venerable modded xbox was rendered non-functional shortly after my arrival in Berkeley. (BCK stands for between chair and keyboard, it means I did something stupid.) Fortunately at the same time I was bricking my xbox, the people who wrote XBMC were porting to program to run elsewhere: windows, mac, and ubuntu linux computers.

So now it sits under the TV in the living room, doing the job formerly done by the xbox, at the same time serving video (some of it in high-def) to any-and-every other computer in the apartment since they are all capable of running XBMC (although for macs I recommend Plex, a fork XBMC maintained by apple enthusiasts.)

The end result of all this being that between pretending to be an xbox, file serving, and other processes I have running in the background, my poor $150 computer is buckling under the strain of keeping up. On top of that I’m contemplating installing a BLAST server to help with my research/show off to my fellow students.

Which brings me to the contemplation of a system upgrade less than three months into the twenty-five it’ll take for electricity savings to pay off. (Although the experience I’ve gained with Linux and the command like have already been more than worth the expense.) 


Current: 1.8 Ghz single core. 35W maximum power draw. 

Proposed: 2.5 Ghz Dual Core. A lot more horsepower, but also a higher maximum power draw (65 watts). This may be somewhat offset by higher efficiency since the processor is manufactured on the new 45nm process and the smaller processors are, the less energy they take to run.


Current: 1 Gig

Proposed: 3 Gigs, the current 1, plus a 2 gig chip. I’m not sure if my current set up is RAM limited to begin with, but an extra two gigs isn’t going to substantially impact electrical usage.

I’m going to take a while to think on this (and save) before I place any orders so I’d be interested in any suggestions on more efficient/effective upgrades I could make to improve performance on what is rapidly becoming the nerve center of my apartments electronic ecosystem.

October 4, 2008

It was raining last night

Filed under: Uncategorized — James @ 10:02 am

First time since I came to California!

October 3, 2008

Weekend Update

Filed under: Campus Life,research stories — James @ 8:24 pm

It’s been a long week. I’ve been doing a lot more lab work this week (which has been great!) as I’ve learned more about the lab, and am able to work longer without having to ask questions. Coursework has also gotten more intense this week. We finished up our module on Genetics and Development on Tuesday, and started Computational Biology on Thursday.

So now I’m relaxing on the futon watching the Discovery Channel documentary on the frozen baby mammoth. They’ve got a big machine that takes the tissue down to -140 and grinds it automatically. I’m envious. But they’re using the same PCR machine I was using this week! Now on to 454 sequencing of the mammoth genome! It’s a hokey documentary (they keep having CGI mammoths wander into their interviews with scientists), but I’m enjoying it.

Hope to return to the Berkeley farmers market tomorrow. Maybe there will be a new mystery vegetable tomorrow.

October 1, 2008

Who Knew

Filed under: Campus Life — James @ 8:38 am

Apparently the year before I applied, the ENTIRE Stanford Biology department received over 400 applicants for six grad student slots.

Seems like it would be kind of lonely to be a plant person there. I’m glad I’m at Berkeley. There were eight grad students admitted in the plant program alone, and between PMB (Plant and Microbial Biology), MCB (Molecular and Cellular Biology), ESPM (Enviromental Science, Policy, and Management), IB (Integrated Biology), BioEngineering and any other departments I’ve forgotten there must be over two hundred new bio grad students this year.

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