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June 27, 2006

Poke, poke, slow!

Nowadays when friends and acquaintances asked me what i'm doing this summer, I'll say 'doing research'. Upon further querry about the field of research, I'll invariably say, 'dealing with chicks'. One reason I don't feel like elaborating is because no one will understand my exemplifications, except fellow friends who are majoring in biology (even most of them gave me the i-understand-a-little-but-heck-it's-too-compartmentalized-to-ask-further-questions look). Another reason is to give the benefit of the doubt to guys who might be defining 'chicks' the other way.

On the other hand, it's politically incorrect to say I'm dealing with yellow, fluffy chicks either. I cut the embryos long before they are born, ie. while still featherless they are 'mercifully' sacrificed (what an oxymoron). That sounds cruel right? Both to me and the still-born chicks.

Today I spent 7 hours just to section an E7 (embryonic day 7) embryo. 7 freaking hours! As it is relatively large and has more tissues to section through, not to mention that the orientation today is horizontal sectioning, which is totally different from the transverse sectioning that I am more familiar with, and hence it's totally impossible to recognize the inner ear structure on the sections. I have 12 slides to fill with sections containing not partial front or partial back, but the whole inner ear organ. So I was challenged with the almost impossible task to find the lagena macula (an area of the inner ear next to basilar papilla), the part which will reach the sectioning knife first. I was told by the post-graduate researcher I was heping that the part looked like a pin-prick hole surrounded by a layer of membrane the width of 50 microns (!). Imagine each section is 0.5cm X 1cm X 10 microns; simple math will tell you that the membrane occupies only 0.001% of the volume!

It's a pain in the neck (literally) just to search the membrane to make sure that i won't miss saving any part of the inner ear. After what it seems like eternity of sectioning, searching for the membrane under the microscope and repeating the sequences again, I finally reached the membrane and saved exactly 144 sections of the inner ear on 12 slides (12 sections per slide). At least now i know that an E7 chick embryo has inner ear of about 1.44mm long. That's even less than the thinkness of a 10 sen coin OMG! E4 embryos have about 1mm long inner ears; Gauging both information and the difference in the E4 inner ear structure and E7 inner ear structure, I can surmise that the growth of chick inner ear in 3 days comprises structural morphology as well as cell specialization into auditory and vestibular areas.

But that is not the gist of my experiment (If you still can follow my writings). I am investigating the role of Slits and Robos in axon guidance of the chik inner ear (now you see why i don't like to explain what i'm researching about). The integral method I'm using to do that is through in situ hybridization (ISH), which is a lengthy 3-day procedure to bind the molecules intended for investigation (in this case, the Slits and the Robos) with RNA probes which, with BM purple treatment, show bluish color on parts of the inner ear where the Slits/Robos are expressed. I had the first run of the procedure last week with promising results. Ah, the sweetness of reaping fruits of extensive labor!

Still, I don't like sectioning embryos coz i'm slow at it. Slow as a slowpoke. S-L-O-W. Slow.

Posted by peixin at 06:59 AM | Comments (2)

June 18, 2006

Super Mario 64


I just watched an interesting video from YouTube. This guy is amazing! He completed the game just a little over 16 mins by using a Tool Assisted Speedrun video recorder! Click here for the link. (note: the link has been removed by youtube due to copyright infringment)

Posted by peixin at 01:21 PM | Comments (1)

10 things I like about the guide

This week's most random things turned out to be, somehow quite coincidentally in many ways, connected to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (To read the guide in the book, click here, then click on the word "Don't Panic"). Zain Putra arrived at Indy airport with a towel on his head lol..

Book 1: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Book 2: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Book 3: Life, the Universe, and Everything
Book 4: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
Book 5: Mostly Harmless

The book has the most random plot I have ever read in my whole entire life until now, even exceeding the randomness of the Tintin adventures and towering the unpredictability of an empress' capricious mood. And as I finished the last book this afternoon the randomness seemed to awaken something called satisfaction in my life .

Kudos to Adam Douglas! Random plot aside, you have exemplified yourself, in my humble opinion, as the most creative science fiction writer ever by throwing in mind-boggling technology, logic-defying theories, side-splitting British humours, and the WSOGMM (read 'Mostly Harmless').


10 things I like about your 'trilogy' (defined more accurately as pentalogy)

10. Arthur learned how to fly by falling and miss hitting the ground

Theory: falling is the easy part, miss hitting the ground is the hard one. At the split second during a fall, if your mind is suddenly diverted to an unsuspecting surprise which turned you into a state of consternation and occupied you enough to forget that you are going to hit the ground, you will find that gravity will most politely ignore you.

9. Agrajag erected a temple to properly maliciously channel his paroxysms of hatred towards Arthur.

Reason: apparently Arthur is invariably involved in killing Agrajag in his various reincarnations.

8. Milliways

the restaurant at the end of the universe, where time travelers can sit comfortably in posh dining hall and witness the end of the universe while diving into food that serves itself, a concept which almost turns me into vegetarian (read: talking cows comes to you and recommends parts of its body to be cooked into steaks for you). The cool part is, if you save a penny in a bank a billion years ago, you would be rich enough to enjoy everything ranging from a pan galactic gargle blaster to a nice hot steak.

7. Vogon's poem

Deemed the third worse poem in the universe, it is used by the vogons as a tool of torture. Read the worst poem in the Universe.

6. 'The most gratuitious use of the word 'Belgium' in serious sceenplays' Award

The award, which eventually turned out to be the silver bail sought after by Krikkit robots, is an accolade for profanity, not for the beautiful country in Earth.

5. Slartibartfast

His mere name cracks up my sides. One of the Magratheans (planet manufacturers) who specializes in designing fjords in Norway and won an award for it. Clever old guy.

4. Mice and dolphins

The first and second most intelligent lifeform on Earth (yes, we ranked third). The mice are hyperintelligent pan-dimentional beings who built the Earth and humans in it to form a biological matrix of supercomputers to calculate the Ultimate Question to the Ultimate Answer. The dolphins are just trying their very best to warn humans about the mice's plans, and sang 'so long and thanks for all the fish' when they failed.

3. Heart of Gold and the Improbability Drive

I like the doors, which produce sighs of satisfaction whenever they are opened or closed. The ship is powered by the Improbability Drive, the weirdest way to propel spacecrafts aside from the bistromathics as well as bad news (note: bad news literally travel faster than the speed of light, but they leave the spaceship unwelcomed). The drive has been known to cause the death of an unsuspecting sperm whale and the nonchalant end of a bowl of petunias.

2. Marvin aka the paranoid android and his brain the size of a planet.

Life? Don't talk to him about life. Otherwise a most loyal andriod who gets everyone out of tight situations.

1. "The Ultimate Answer to life, the Universe and everything is... 42," said Deep Thought.

The Ultimate Question? What do you get if you multiply six by nine? Obviously that's logically wrong (or you can argue it's logically correct if you do the math in base 13), but that saves the universe from turning into a more bizarre place than what we know now.

Posted by peixin at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2006

Intern Day 1

okay, i'm quite tired actually after working from 9am to 7pm.. plus neck pain from trying to squint too hard on the E6 sections on the cutting tray... ah nevermind.. here's the conversation between my brother, who is happily at home in Malaysia now (some good quality photos of Italy here in his photoblog), and I, who is sulkily grumping about the amount of work to be done. Oh, the conversation is about my bro's trip to Italy, and my first day as an intern in the department of developmental biology in my university.

me: you saw the pope?!? in vatican city?

Big: yeap. got a picture of him. will be posting it soon

me: wow that's cool!

Big: yea... it is... lucky I went on a wednesday... he comes out every wednesday to give his blessing

me: oooo... so blessed ar you. did you tour around vatican city?

Big: he spoke in italian though. yea..did the touristy tour... went into st. peter's basillica and visited sistine chapel

me: ooo....how about the... i forgot the name.. there's a museum there also right

Big: yea... vatican museum too

me: the one featured in angels and demons

Big: that's where the sistine chapel is

me: oic... did you really see the stones with wave patterns? i can't remember much but it's featured in A&D also

Big: hmm... not really as there were people seated at the square... but the design of the st. peter's square is unique in the sense that you get an elevated view of the squere the further away you are from the center

me: oooo... like a... colloseum?

Big: not quite... your eyes won't really notice the elevation.. the coliseum was a bit of a dissapointment... it's not as grand as expected

me: oh... i guess i have to be there to know eh.. really? colloseum is in rome right?

Big: a lot of structures in rome are reduced to ruins now... to imagine the grandeur they had once, you need good imagination

me: oic... but all the structures are still preserved right? like last time when we watched the amazing race i remembered there's still a sort of great stone corridor.. something like a great arc.. did you see that?

Big: yea... you get to see the famous roman columns, cobble stones, arcs... but that's about it... we have arcs in london too so it wasn't that exciting

me: haha

Big: rome is still a must visit though

me: i would like to see arches.. oo.. what attracts you most?

Big: in rome? vatican city definitely and the catacombs

me: whose catacombs? sound sooo interesting

Big: the catacombs are underground burial ground for the christians before christianity was accepted as the main religion.. yea... it is interesting... it's like a maze down there... and they have 4 stories worth of tunnels.. too bad no photography was allowed... even if it was, it would be hard to do the catacombs justice

me: oh why? too dark? so you went underground underground?

Big: it would be really hard to capture the essence of the catacombs on photos... can't really show much through photos... it's one of those places that you have to visit.. yea... underground.. hey... can you borrow books from your local library?

me: yeah.. i just borrowed the whole series og the guide
*hitchhiker;s guide
can borrow dvd also
where else did you visit? france? spain?

Big: went to italy only.. visited touristy places like florence, pisa and venice

me: did you pick up some italian? haha.. amios amigo! mamamia! haha

Big: yea... sort of... parla inglese means do you speak english... non italiano... no italian... adios amigo is spanish.. mi chiamo... my name is...

me: haha.. remember russel peters?

Big: yea.. they really do that

me: really ar!?! lots of sign languages?

Big: nah... that's not true.. not really that true... at least they don't do that while speaking.. they use wtf sign language... that's the only bit that's true]

me: LOL serious!!? haha that's funny! how did you know it's true? you saw one?

Big: yea... saw the gondola man did it... he looked pretty pissed off at the busy canal traffic

me: LOL that must be funny

Big: yea... since I know what it meant

me: did he ask you why are you laughing?!? haha

Big: nah... the gondola man was on another gondola... not the one I was on

me: oh..imagine what he would do if he saw you laughing.. "do you want to eat?"

Big: haha... yea.. when's your internship starting?

me: this morning's the first day..that's why neck pain...work from 9am till 7pm.. siao gila

Big: what does your work involve?

me: so...
i was about to write it down in my blog anyway
so in the morning i filled up nitrogen tanks which keeps some very impt embryos which need to be kept frozen whole day
so i played with liquid mitrogen for a while

Big: er... played?

me: meaning.. i watched the dance on the floor as the tanks got filled to the brim coz you know la, liquid N2 are compressed, highly compressed.. so when i filled them up from a big reservatory tank, white clouds came out and some of the L N2 danced out.. quite cold actually

Big: wah... sounds so cool.. you did that for the whole morning? how many of you?

me: i did that for 20 mins.. 2 in the lab, under the howard hughes internship.. after that i did some dish baking

Big: nothing to do with cakes, right?

me: haha you are right.. i have to 'bake' some beakers, measuring cylinders etc in a high heat oven which is supposed to be the most effective way to kill bacteria, RNase and whatnots.. just some small chores la. then come the interesting part.. pipette pulling.. it's like a process of pulling a fine capillary tubing with outer diameter of 1.7mm and inner diameter of 1.15mm through using a machine to make 0.001mm pipette tips.. the tip is soo fine that i can't see it with my eyes

Big: how then do you pull them using the machine?

me: so the pipette is used for microinjection.. oh the machine has a small metal column.. erm how to describe... it's like a ring, but it's square shaped..can you imagine? that metal column is connected to high heat conductors so when the switch is turned on, lots of heat energy will travel to the column.. so before turning the switch on, i put the fine capillary tube through the metal column and fixed it down on screws at the side. then i turned on the switch, a red light glowed and voila! the tube is separated and both tips become fine and sharp

Big: hmm... ok... can you take photos at work?

me: cannot la.. later kena marah.. but maybe i can do it after working hours

Big: so you weren't supposed to work until 9pm?

me: nope.. should be 9am - 5pm.. around that time la

Big: no cctv?

me: cctv? what's that?

Big: closed circuit camera

me: oh that cctv haha.. i don't think so la.. the lab is not that rich haha

Big: k... gtg.. see ya around!

me: actually i gtg too.. tired and grouchy now

Big: k... see ya!

me: take care and eat lots of malaysian food for me :) byebye!

Big: haha... k! bye

Posted by peixin at 10:34 AM | Comments (2)

June 10, 2006


Life is one of the many inexpicable quagmires in the universe: the living, at certain period of lifespan, will invariably ask oneself what is the purpose of life. For example, a fly recently emerged from its dormant state in a puppa will question whether it is supposed to hang around in an inglorious garbage dump or follow a more divine path to a 40 MWatt bright UV light, where it can bask in warmth and rest in peace 2 seconds later. It might even meet unsuspecting end under oblivious circumstances, particularly in the kitchen of Apartment 190, 2226 Willowbrook Dr, West Lafayette, IN 47906. More specifically, under the hands of, what it seems like a coincidence, the author of this blog.

Life, to all the livings, is short. Even to the Galapagos tortoises, which in their own reference of time manage to move only 1 inch in half an hour, striking up an insightful conversation with fellow turtle species about their being the sole lifeform whose generations had witnessed evolution on the earth would, on average time human count, take a century. Here's how an introduction would sound like:

"It is with great pleasure that today, on the most auspicious year of 238,675 post the creation of O Great Tortoise Of All, circa existence of O White Fangs in the Sea and O Black Roach on the Land, I call upon our honourable brothers from the nearest phylogeny line, the water turtles, into the Great Conglomeration of The Great Galapagos Tortoises, the direct descendants of O Great Tortoise Of All. I, Galapagos Descendant 89,562nd in line, of Galapagos Descendant 65,236th in line, of Galapagos Descendant 43,871st in line, ...(8 more generations)..., of Galapagos Descendant 21st in line, of O Great Tortoise Of All, welcome your presence here on the Great Rock of O Great Tortoise Of All. Under the influence of Fuzzy Bear and Little Fuzzy Bear of the Sky, I feel extremely comfortable today, which is 238,675 years post creation of O Great Tortoise Of All, to discuss how life had been in the past, how it is now and how it will be in the future."

At the rate of the discussion goes, the extend of the present and future life transcending into the past is so great that, in the end, only the past is deeply pried open and examined. This leaves the water turtles greatly annoyed, considering their deployment of 20 precious generations in attending the Great Conglomeration of The Great Galapagos Tortoises, the direct decendants of O Great Tortoise Of All, with high hopes of gaining insights to the meaning of life and attaining spiritual elevation through clairvoyance from the wise, amphibious star-gazing tortoises. But they all ended up just listening to a bunch of crap that only Charles Darwin could think of and only historians, biologists and anti-Christians could make use of. Stupid sleuth tortoises, they fumed, and swim back to Rantau Abang, eat plastic bags mistook for jellyfish and lay more eggs, which, to the delights of Rantau Abang people, provide turtle omelette again after the turtles' long hiatus at the Galapagos Island.

Life indeed passes by quickly.

to be continued...

Posted by peixin at 01:31 AM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2006

The Worst Poem in the Universe


"In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitch Hiker's Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.

First, it is slightly cheaper; and second, it has the words Don't Panic inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover."

~The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy~

I've been reading the complete Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy. Douglas Adams eventually wrote 5 books (He jokingly wrote "the fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Trilogy" under the last book's title, "Mostly Harmless"), all about random events, quirky plots, a paranoid android, an Englishman, and whatnot. My next entry will most unlikely be an infutile attempt to emulate Mr. Adam's zesty humour. In the meantime of constructing the storyline, here I present, the worst poetry in the universe. Proceed with caution!

The dead swans lay in the stagnant pool.
They lay. They rotted. They turned
Around occassionally.
Bits of flesh dropped off them from
Time to time.
And sank into the pool's mire.
They also smelt a great deal.

by Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings
of Wasp Villas, Greenbridge, Essex, England

Posted by peixin at 12:24 PM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2006

An up-coming little project

I was all engrossed into Jay Chou's music videos recently that I made a resolve (i don't normally announce a resolve out of a sudden, because a bulldozer of effort is invariably needed to move me along with whatever commitments the resolve might bring) to make the ultimate link to all Jay's music videos from YouTube and the corresponding lyrics from all his previous major albums (Jay Album, Fantasy, the 8th Dimension, Ye Hui Mei, Common Jasmine Orange, and November's Chopin) into my other homepage, which is quite unknown and abandoned for a long while now. Haha... to all Jay's fans out there (esp ls haha), i hope my little project enables you to bask in Jay's musical glory!! More updates soon :)

Posted by peixin at 01:43 AM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2006

Music Video 3

Okay I must be addicted to music videos now... I found this video in YouTube.com which truly amazes me. It's Jay again (who else?) with his rather old song, 'Zui Hou De Zhan Yi' (Final Battle) from the Eighth Dimension album. What amazes me is how the video makes the song even more meaningful. For those who don't understand chinese, this page will be most helpful. Enjoy!

Posted by peixin at 02:46 AM | Comments (3)