It’s Election Day……

Well folks, it’s election day. We finally get an end to all of the annoying political TV ads. Hubby and I are both Democrats, so I’ll give you one guess who got our vote for president. I hope you take the time today to vote, regardless of who you decide to vote for.

The main point of this post is to encourage you as an American to help stop the hate and vitriol seen in our politics. This country is great because it is composed of a wonderful variety of people. I really didn’t understand this until I moved out of the South. Ever since living in Maryland, I’ve come to hold many people near and dear to my heart who are and aren’t like me–African American, Indian, Muslim, Caucasian, Jewish, Christian, Pakistani, Atheist, Homosexual, Hispanic, Agnostic, Asian, Secular Humanist–and I’m sure I can continue to add to this list.

While these folks may be different from me, and I may not necessarily agree with them on everything, the one thing I have for them is respect. And I think we as Americans have lost a lot of that for each other, especially when it comes to elections and politics. It is really upsetting to see people name call and belittle someone just because they do not hold the same political beliefs as them. What is amazing about our country is that we have the freedom to hold democratic elections. We are allowed to vote for who we want to. But every election when I look around on Facebook, I see what boils down to just plain bullying.

How can we as Americans expect our lawmakers to act civilly towards each other when all we do is feed their hatred of the other party through our own actions? Each party blames the other for the lack of progress in Washington D.C., but both parties are to blame. We will never move forward in this country if we ourselves and our politicians can’t see past the extreme ideologies of our two political parties and learn to find some middle ground.

So please, on this election day, take the time to be respectful of all your fellow Americans, regardless of their political beliefs. And if you engage in conversation, do so in a manner that is not demeaning.

I visited Mount Vernon this past weekend and paid my respects to our dear first president, George Washington. I can only imagine that he and the other founding fathers would be extremely disappointed in the behavior exhibited today during elections. They fought so that we could be a free country. And while they disagreed on topics such as the strength of the federal government, they still came together to found this great nation of ours, that welcomes all regardless of race or religion. Early in our history as a country, the person who got the most votes was president, and the second most was vice president, regardless of political party. I wish that we could revert back to this system so that we would be forced to collaborate and work together instead of remaining ever divided.

Before they were classics….

I came across this today while on the interwebs. It’s 15 scathing early reviews for books that are considered classics today, including Lolita, Brave New World, and The Catcher in the Rye. Check them out here: http://www.flavorwire.com/335428/15-scathing-early-reviews-of-classic-novels?all=1

Also, just want to mention that I recently read Lolita and it was amazing. Nabokov draws you in and almost makes you feel sorry for Humbert Humbert. If you haven’t read it, you should.

Book Review: Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life

Hubby and I have been busy little bees thanks to both of us having to  present at our lab meetings last week and with my students having an upcoming exam. We apologize for the lack of blog activity. Here is a book review for you.

Today, I review Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life by Marcus Wohlsen. I was initially drawn to this book because science in a research lab at a university can be quite the expensive endeavor. I mean thousands and thousands of dollars to run a lab. You just can’t do science because you enjoy it. You end up having to beg for money from the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health in hopes that you will have the money to pay for lab materials, care for research animals, and possibly employ a post-doctoral scientist in you lab. It’s a daunting task. So, I wanted to read about how scientists were doing the sort of science I do every day, but in their garage.

The book starts out with a story of Kay Aull, a woman whose father was diagnosed with the disease of hemochromatosis. It is a common hereditary disease, but is often tricky to diagnose because its symptoms resemble many other health problems. Genetic testing for this disease is expensive, and insurance companies often won’t pay for the test until other disease possibilities have been ruled out. Aull wanted to see if she could develop a genetic test for the disease at home. Aull had the know how since she attended MIT and worked for a DNA synthesis company. She constructed a lab in the closet of her small apartment. She was able to determine that she carried the mutation for the disease, allowing her knowledge that could be valuable if future health issues arose.

This ingenuity and desire to make science more accessible is at the heart of this book. The above story is one of many about biopunks who want biology to be something anyone has the ability to do at home, from guys who want to develop field tests for infectious diseases in developing countries, to a woman who wants to have an at home test for melamine contamination. The book also shares stories about some of history’s earliest biopunks, including Lady Montagu, who played around with early inoculations for smallpox.

The risk of being a biopunk is also discussed. This poorly understood sect of individuals become closely watched due to the threat of bioterrorism. People are afraid of what these folks could be cooking up in their homes. In fact, the FBI has a liaison that attends biopunk conferences in order to build relationships with the community.

Overall, this book is an interesting read. It’s nice that there are people out there who want to make science accessible and affordable. Who knows what types of innovations are being cooked up in someone’s garage?

Getting serious about science

There is a great opinion article from Sunday’s Washington Post by Congressman Jim Cooper and the chief executive of AAAS, Alan Leshner. It basically says the United States needs to get serious about science. We are investing a smaller share of our economy in our research efforts than seven other countries, including Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.  We also have several Congressman who are ready to mock research projects that have an odd name. However, several important discoveries have resulted from research projects with funny names. Also, many people do not realize that by increasing funding to research agencies such as the NSF and NIH, not only are you the taxpayer funding good research that goes through a scrutinizing round of reviews, but you are also helping give post-docs and grad students jobs. You are also helping Primary Investigators buy equipment for their lab, which more often than not comes from U.S. companies, thus in turn helping the U.S. economy. So, tell your congress person that you think funding research is important!!!

Read the full Washington Post article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/its-time-to-get-serious-about-science/2012/09/09/5b5c1472-f129-11e1-892d-bc92fee603a7_story.html