Monday, January 31, 2011
If the Poetry Bus blog were open to all of us as authors, we could put the weekly theme up there and the list of participants as they gather and post the schedule, and TFE wouldn't have to coordinate when he doesn't have time to coordinate. We wouldn't have to chase around to find a link to the new theme, or even just to discover if there is one - one central location for all your Poetry Bus needs.
What say you?
Sunday, January 30, 2011
The Passage of Days.
Is it over? is the day over yet?
I'm so looking forward to falling like a sack into the armchair.
bring on the day
six no trump and 6-Nations rugby
Throw the English to the ground!
Daydreaming out the window
I notice it's snowing
no wonder it's so cold in here.
I am ready, coffee and croissants on the sideboard
fresh pen and old notebook
the meeting may begin
It will last all day.
dish soap shampoo cereal pasta milk cat litter
laundry vacuum trash out water the plants the mail
Saturday, January 29, 2011
You pick a random word and write, obviously, 100 words about it.
An interesting exercise. Thinking of the words oneself, however, is not at all random, no matter how you promise to clear your mind and say the first that pops up.
Those words are always heavily laden, or deliberately frivolous.
For future topics, I solicit words from the audience, which will be kept on a list on the sidebar. To start, I flipped though the Economist and came up with:
(safer if) drenched
Friday, January 28, 2011
Titus the Dog got the idea from CraftyGreenPoet and then I jumped on, and I hope to pass the infection on to you.
Here it is: I promise to send something I make myself to the first 5 people who leave a comment on this post and who, in turn, promise to make the same offer on their blog. The rules are that you need to make the items personally and send them to your 5 folks within 2011.
Handmade things from me tend toward spreadable sweets and things made of yarn, but could include hairballs (I did feed the fluffy thing all year long), twisted paper clips, and, er, I have no idea. I don't suppose you'd be interested in rejected manuscripts.
So who's in?
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Ummm. I hoped the results were ready for writeup, because 4 days is not enough time to start from the beginning.
Well, yes, everything was fine. Just not filed where I expected it, which was why I hadn’t been alerted when the tests were complete. A small bug to fix.
The result for colon cancer case 2, though, went down to the wire. It was a tricky one, and used a technique that we’re not always successful with. We ran the experiment five times, in duplicate, triplicate, or more, each time. In retrospect, we had it on the third try. At the end I was confident in our result and happy with the report - single exon deletions are the hardest to be sure of.
Today, our reports have not been graded yet, but the official results of what we were supposed to find have just come out. Breast cancer case 1, check; case 2, check; case 3, check. So far so good. Colon cancer case 1, check; case 2...
c.994dupA? a point mutation?
Ah, no. (heart goes faster)
How could we be so wrong? (please stay seated)
"...Please perform mutation analysis in MLH1 starting by a search for large genomic deletions and duplications in MLH1. For the purpose of this scheme participants are not required to carry out full sequence analysis of all the exons of the MLH1 gene."
That was pulled off the web site two weeks ago and is slightly but importantly different than the version I printed the day we received the samples, in which the second sentence was: "Sequencing analysis failed to detect a mutation."(my bold).
The quality control people have made an error in posting the expected results.
At least I hope so.
Otherwise it’s quite complicated, but it could happen. All sorts of very strange things happen if you just keep looking. Look at a million cases, and you’ll find plenty that are one-in-a-million.
See, our technique relies on using a short probe unique to each exon of the gene being analyzed. We hybridize the collection of probes to the DNA of the patient, and get a quantitative answer about how many copies of that exon the patient has. Two is normal. But if the duplication of a single base just happens to land in a sensitive part of our probe, it could interfere with the hybridization and give us a false result. It could tell us there’s only one copy of the exon, when in fact there are two but one of them is no longer recognized by the probe. These probes are part of a commercialized kit and are supposedly resistant to changes at a single base, but, well...
So I’ve sent a question off to the QC people, who have not yet responded. And I’m having the lab do the sequence of the exon in question, to see if this c.994dupA is there or not. If it is, we’ll have to lodge a complaint about being instructed to look for a particular kind of mutation, the techniques for which are normally insensitive to finding the mutation in question (not just our technique, but two others commonly used should also miss this).
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Winter makes it easy to take b&w photos that aren't really.
Cat prints in the snowy yard. I don't know why she thawed the snow sometimes and not others.
Have a nice shootout, everyone, and a great weekend!
The links are here.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
It’s ten years now I’ve had this pen.
A long time for a pen, for me. I bought it for a grand occasion: a permanent job, the one I still hold.
I love writing with fountain pens, love the glide of the way a good one writes. Love the way you can buy inks in a dozen colors, and how changing colors in the middle of a letter takes half a page or more to be just the new color. I change colors just for this effect, sometimes.
That was when I used to actually write letters and my journal by hand, before the days of blogging. I’m cheating even now. The pen is sitting next to my computer. My fingers are on the keyboard.
The pen spent a year or more (the time since I bought my netbook, light enough to travel with, and started leaving the journals blank at home) in a drawer, in the depths of a backpack. The ink would get dry and crusted in the nib between uses, and I’d have to wash it and wash it before it would work again. It was sad there in the drawer. A beautiful lapis blue pen, with gold ends. Heavy, serious. Delicious in the hand.Today it’s found a new use, which means it never travels at all any more. It lives in my office desk drawer now, and comes out to sign reports. 2185 last year. Somehow it should have something more fun to do.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
The canal now just ends here. A little water seeps over the edge, just at that iron passageway. Looking down, it's just a damp mess of debris.
By 5 on Saturday I've been to the Museums (not going to the regional museum; two is my limit for one weekend), gone back across town by bus to the section of riverside I hadn't seen yet, discovered it's just as dull as the morning's stretch (less the interesting wrecks), and find myself wandering the shopping district. Anny Blatt yarns has four gorgeous balls of purple cotton-silk for half price. No idea what I'll make of it, but it's mine now.
For dinner, in a tiny family-run place, only five tables occupied this Saturday night but with an interesting menu and pleasant decor, I have a nice, regional meal. I learn tourte Lorraine is not the same as quiche Lorraine, but it's ok. I notice a family seated in the corner. The daughter, about 10, is absorbed by her electonic gadget. The dishes are cleared away, Mom and Dad are on their coffee, and two untouched glasses of champagne send their bubbles skyward. The couple doesn't talk. They barely look at each other, or at anything. They look like they're just marking time until they can decently leave. Why the champagne? Why order it and just leave it there?
Monday, January 17, 2011
Then I went on, and discovered that this is the back yard of an art school, the front of which looks like this: Ah, so that explains that.
When I write a poem, it’s always all at once. I might think about it for a few days, just a ghost of an idea kicking around in the back of my mind, and I often take a note of the next P-bus assignment. Get it into the notebook. Get it into the brain differently, because writing uses a different bit than reading, because of the mechanical, drive-the-hand stage. But when it comes to getting the poem onto paper or a screen, it’s always a one-shot thing. Perhaps minimal editing later, but I’m not a person to write a poem and then go back and work on it and change it around and delete half and add another chapter later. Not like an article or an essay at all.
There’s something about the mood of a poem. I can never get back to just that state of mind. If I start changing things in a new state of brain, it’ll all get changed, and there’s no point in that; it’s another poem.
So I wanted to drive the bus twice in a row in order to do something different. This is not the assignment for Jan 24! It is for the 31st: I want poems built up over time. A couplet a day or however you want to do it, but I want the different attitudes of different days and lights and temperatures to be in there. No one-shot wonders. A collection of shots, okay. It’s more of a structure than a subject. If you’d like a subject too, write about time, change, or evolution.
For the 24th, let’s hear about something you like that other people don’t like. Or you’re afraid they don’t like it. Or you think they think you’re strange for liking it.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
A typical residential street from the early 20th century.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Arriving in Nancy, it's begun to rain. Not pouring, but enough to make a look around on foot with all my stuff for a place to stay just Out. Fortunately, Nancy is one of those modern cities with a tramway going right through all the most important bits of town. Including the train station (Clermont, get a clue!), of course. A 24hour pass will be just the ticket for me.
Alas, it is so crowded and foggy on the tram that I can't see much of anything at all aside from the elbows and faces next to me. We pass a couple of small hotels that I can look into on the return trip, all take-your-chances places. I'm more in the mood for boring but reliable, rather than Mom & Pop but gross and/or noisy.
This end of the tram is at the University Hospital complex, and lo & behold, what is there across the street but one - two - three mid-range chain hotels. The first is booked up tonight, but the second has nonsmoking space for me. Forget the third.
After dropping off my stuff and using the bathroom (at last! don't even think of using train toilets unless you're seriously ill) it's off to see just a bit of Nancy. By now it's 5, still raining on & off, and getting dark. It is also the first week of the winter sale season. So. A bit of browsing is in order. Nothing too radical: I've got to haul my luggage from train to train and across Paris and Clermont with my own two hands. In fact, I end up getting nothing, but it's fun to try stuff on.
My room has a treat for me: a bathtub. Not much interested in going out on the town tonight, I spend instead an eternity in blissful bathing. My house in Aubière has only a shower, so I can only relax in a hot bath when travelling. And most of these cheaper hotels I stay in prefer to maximize profits by keeping the rooms and bathrooms as small as possible. Not so this particular Ibis. Not only am I bathing, but I can walk around without smacking anything with my knees. And my bathroom is grand. Not huge, just normal. But so much bigger than at the house!
So I laze about in the tub. I can sit and rub the callouses on my feet (a trick in the shower). I can lie back with my head on a towel and feel the air bubbles on my back tickle their way to freedom. I can scrunch down until my ears are under water, and listen. The world of sound is so peaceful in the bath. Just the sound of my own breathing, hear from the inside, and my pulse going back and forth in my ears.
In the morning it's off to discover Nancy. There's a river, and some canals. Shopping. Big official buildings, and Art Nouveau. Nancy is home to one of the major schools of Art Nouveau, and remains a center for painting, so the art museums are of interest, both the Museum of Fine Arts on the grand Place Stanislaus, and the Museum of the Nancy School, on bus route 123 or somesuch.
This morning it isn't raining, so I decide to check out the waterfront first. A very pleasant stroll is available along both banks of the Meurthe, where space is given in case of flooding. Good move, since it floods all the time. Some of these other cities on rivers, where they've shoehorned it into one concrete channel, you have to wonder what they were thinking.
There are swans and geese and cormorants and coots ("waterchickens" here). Joggers and old men reading newspapers and parents with toddlers. A rower in a 1-man shell is pursued by two men in a motorboat, who shout advice. Another rower goes peacefully up and down the river, unharassed. The only downside is the sad accumulation of trash in the reeds along the banks.
In spots of urban renewal, apartment blocks with huge river-view terrasses are going up. In other spots a river-industrial life is fading away. No longer a significant way of transport or power (and why? renewable power is so popular these days!), factories with docks or mills stand vacant or nearly so. Once the largest flour mill in the country, the Moulin de Paris straddles a canal, five stories of broken windows. Getting closer reveals a thrumming noise from the buildings farthest from the water, however, showing the mill is not dead, just not river-driven. The 21st century activity fits into a fifth of its former space.
Wandering back to the Place Stanislaus, with its grand gilded gates, it's far past noon and time for lunch. I end up having Italian, in spite of being in the heart of Lorraine, but it's what looked best at the moment. My favorite cuisine, Italian...
The Museum of Fine Arts is full of students. People of 15 to 25 line the steps, are scattered around the floor, require stepping over, with their sketch tablets on their knees, working away. Groups of children are being led around and lectured. A young man enthousiastically explains to 20 of them how Picasso is not in fact breaking the rules of perspective with his double portrait, but is taking them to new heights.
Whatever Picasso did or didn't to the rules, I just think his work is ugly. Move on.
Leaving the Fine Arts, I discover I missed the whole Art Nouveau section. It's in the basement! I just thought there wasn't any Nouveau aside from a few paintings, simply because there's a whole museum dedicated to the period elsewhere in town. Well. I'll see that tomorrow.
After all that walking about, only seated for lunch - I didn't get to sit at all in the museum, all available surfaces being occupied with France's artsy youth - and passing in front of the n-ieme hairdresser's, I decide to sit for a haircut. At last. I've been meaning to get a cut for a month now. The stylist barely understands my accented french (I hardly ever have that problem any more) and is alarmed that I want my bangs out of my eyes (and in fact short enough to not be in my eyes next week, either), but I am the customer. I am foreign and I am queen. I have a scissors at home, if need be.
Really, it's a nice cut. I'm very pleased.
Friday, January 14, 2011
The tiny restaurant on the little street that goes along the north side of Gare de l'Est, not the big one place on the corner or the one next to it, but the one down the block half lost in the industrial zone, does couscous on Thursdays. Could be interesting, but I really wanted the onion soup. You hardly ever see onion soup on the menu in my part of France. I don't see why; we've plenty of onions, and cold weather begging for a rustic warm-up. Simple eateries in Paris are the best bet for onion soup that I've found.
So I ordered the soup, and the table on eight colleagues next to me all had the couscous. What a layout. Platter after platter: huge bowls of pale yellow couscous, platters of sausages and chicken and mutton chunks piled high, swimming bowls of vegetables in sauce. There was a flurry of passing around, some taking extra merguez, some passing on the mutton, and calls of Maurice! to bring carafes of wine. More wine.
It definitely looked good. I don't have work lunches like that. It looked like the crowd knew exactly what they were coming for, like it was a Thursday Thing.
My small bowl of soup was served molten hot and smelling heavenly, with a side of bread and a knife and fork. For my steak & fries to follow. No spoon?
Um, a spoon?
No matter; it was so full of onions and chunk of bread topped with melted cheese that there wasn't much liquid soup there, and that was all very well taken care of with bits of sourdough bread. A delight.
Which is how I spent 90 minutes waiting for my train to Nancy.
Other passengers didn't have so much time for lunch before our 2:12 departure, and the train car was filled with the sound and odor of a hundred bag lunches. Like the deep fried nuggets and stinky sauce of the guy sitting next to me. Not nearly as appetizing as the table a comfortable distance away at the restaurant!
After the smells die down, the journey becomes more ordinary. The old man in the row ahead dismantles the plastic trash container between his seat and the next, perhaps looking for more space for his copious lunch trash. The next quarter hour is filled with the plasticky noises of his trying to get the thing back together.
As we glide through the northeastern suburbs of Paris, the bright graffiti along the right of way is a welcome relief to the drab sky, drab winter landscape, dull depressed projects. I know a lot of people are against graffiti, but along the tracks it doesn't get erased quickly, and the artists have time to really get into it.
First stop: Champagne Ardennes.
Middle of nowhere! Even the smallest of stops on the lines around Clermont have towns (villages at least), but this is a park & ride amid potato fields. Two minutes later we come to the "Champagne" part, with acres and acres of vineyards on the hillsides, crisscrossed by dirt roads and decorated with dozens of small white vans or trucks. Working the vines even in January.
Mostly the train runs through a long ditch, and we don't get to see the countryside at all. Just as quickly as it came upon us, the wine country is gone, leaving a wide, flat land of industrial crops and dull, low sky.
Meuse: another stop with nothing but a parking lot. Bus to Verdun waiting in the yard. Hilltops with thick forest, bottomlands empty, waiting sodden for spring.
This train is air conditioned. I wish I hadn't packed my sweater in my backpack, but it was so warm in Clermont and Paris that for a time I regretted bringing it at all. Such are the vestimentary trials of travel in winter.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
2. Serious, serious chocolate.
3. Fresh food at the farmers market. Not cheaper, but far better quality than at the supermarket, and more of what you spend goes to the producers. At least I think so; there are certainly fewer middlemen. And there’s a market somewhere in town every single day of the week.
4. 5 weeks vacation (8 if you add all the holidays and time off in recompense for working 39 hours a week instead of 35) that you’re expected to take.
6. From here, it’s just a few hours drive to Spain, Italy, and Switzerland. A bit farther to Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, but they’re still right next door. Or you can take the train there, to spend some of that vacation time. In California you’ve got to go for hours just to get out of the state.
7. Rugby. I adore rugby and my town has a good team with affordable tickets. Allez l’ASM!
8. Raw stuff. Raw-milk cheese, carpaccio, smoked salmon, tartare - delicious, all of it.
9. People travel, a lot, and they don’t have that frequent American attitude that other countries or cultures are not worth bothering about. They participate in the global village instead of trying to dictate how it should be.
10. Galette des Rois. Three Kings cake for the Epiphany, available from mid-December to the end of January. A delight of flaky pastry and frangipane, often served with cider or champagne. I wish they made it all year!
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
With this Cat of the Month published, it’s the end of the line. Caught up with the present time. In February, there will be no Cat of the Month. I just don’t have any more.
The Frumious Bandersnatch. Aka Bandercat, aka Kittybit, aka The Blob.
She’s so black!
She’s so fluffy! She doesn’t make noise, she sleeps peacefully at the foot of the bed, she doesn’t get into stuff.
Bandersnatch does rush for the catfood, elbowing all rivals out of the way. Even for milk, which she doesn’t particularly like. Normally Bandersnatch is a sweetheart who would never raise a paw, but get between her and the food bowls: watch out.
Although a frequent guest star on Pink Rabbit Abroad, where two ravenous dinosaurs dream of devouring the Mountain of Steak, there aren’t many stories about Bandersnatch. She’s just so passive. Such a blob.
And there you have it, folks, 25 Cats of the Month.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Sometimes I wonder that too.
I just find old wrecked stuff to be beautiful. Weathered wood and rusted equipment. Ghosts.
About half is done in geometric designs, and the other half recounts the bible and the lives of saints (just as the carved capitals and stained glass windows do - every person there is a particular person doing a particular thing, and you didn't have to be literate to know the liturgy).
Nothing is open. Nothing. I would like to sit down and have a coffee, but no luck. Not even next to the station is there a bar open.