Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Freedom of the Genetic Press? Can newly created letters of life's alphabet be patented?

Life is written in a language of chemical sentences. In 2006 a group of researchers began the process of engineering new letters to be incorporated into genetic alphabet. The naturally occurring genetic alphabet is made up of 20 chemical letters (amino acids). These letters are arranged in the correct order by molecular machines called ribosomes into words that make sense (proteins). There are words of all sizes that perform key functions in all organism, from two letter hormones to the epic 26,000 lettered titan muscle protein. Each of the 20 naturally occurring amino acids is known by the translating machinery to correspond to a sequence of three specific nucleotide bases (codons). Because there are four nucleotide bases and they come together in groups of three (4x4x4 = 64) there are 64 different combinations of these base pairs. Because there are only 20 naturally occurring amino acids and 64 ways to code for them that leaves 44 options left open to code for other things. Nature uses most of these extra codons as redundant codes for the same amino acid so some letters will have 2-6 different codes all calling for the same letter. But there are some of these extra codons that are nonsensical and do nothing apparently useful. What this research group did was take advantage of these extra three letter codons and engineered a special translator molecule known as transfer RNA or tRNA that they attached to new unnatural letters - (man made amino acids).
The mind blowing novelty of this expanded genetic alphabet is only now being realized for practical purposes. With new man made letters within nature's alphabet of life researchers are taking this patented technology and using it to create Frankenstein proteins with diverse and useful features like hemoglobin mimicry and in cell localization. This process will be at the heart of synthetic biology. The question stands... Is a patent for an unnatural letter allowed? Apparently so according to the US government's patent office. But does that mean that I could invent new letters for the English alphabet and patent them to make a profit if others eventually use them?

Political Discourse

One thing I have noticed about the bailout discussion is that the issues surrounding a socialist-like "Bailout" plan by the fed are so massive and complex that the whole country has turned purple. A mix of red and blue the likes of which have never been seen. The ranks of the great "Culture Wars" of the naughties are breaking and people are listening to different perspectives. Culturally this may be a boon. I stumbled across this documentary "SPLIT" within a Google search for "free speech." Looks to be a mind expanding film.

Monday, September 29, 2008

my way rx - M.C. George

A pregnant deer loving the salt in urine :-)

This deer visited our camp site several times to enjoy a nourishing urine suckle. The locals in the Chicago Basin area of the Weminuche Wilderness are not shy at all. I found the mountain goats in the area to be slightly rude, although they were traveling with several kids so their disposition was warranted. A crazy marmot also frequented our campsite and ate every leaf off of a small shrub that we peed on. After he was done enjoying some pee-infused leaves he would roll around in the shrub in pure ecstasy. :-)

Wall Street Freefall

The inability of our government to pass a massive financial bailout for an economy in free fall is a reflection of the complete absence of leadership in our happy United States of America. Basically a socialist bill giving the federal government control of large swaths of the financial system was suggested by George bush and Co. and they could not get their republican comrades in the house to pass this thing. Speaks to the fractionation of the republican party. Democrats who voted against the bill are just as guilty because they took a three page document suffering from legislative anorexia and plumped it out to a 110 page nightmare. No wonder this bill didn't pass. Do you honestly think any member of congress has the attention span to read and absorb 110 pages of text and then decide weather they like it or not. Can you imagine George Bush with that sitting on his desk. I heard that halfway through todays session some house republicans from Texas put up a motion to adjourn early. I think they should have. At least then they could have read it before voting it down.

Tina Fey vastly more qualified for the VP slot than Palin

Sunday, September 28, 2008


This reminds me of Oliver Twist. Specifically the scene where Fagin screams at his minions "put em all back in the box."
Hank Paulson = Fagin
Predatory lenders and wall street investment bankers = The artful dodger and cohorts
Oliver = China = nieve and hungry and wanting "some more"
The nameless pick-pocketed people of victorian England = The Current US upper middle class who don't realize how sweet they have really had it for so long.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Lawns!? My question to the average homeowner, Why on God's Green Earth? For most families lawns are not based on any utilitarian principle. The lawn is based on conformity to a generic and obsolete American dream. Lawns are as American as apple pie right? Wrong! Apple pie is delicious and nourishing. Your lawn is disgusting and unwholesome. Now don't get me wrong, I am not completely anti-lawn! Grasses are indigenous to many regions and can be naturally maintained. However, this is not the case for the vast majority. I am even in support of many unnaturally maintained lawns, due to the multitude of purposes that they serve, mainly community recreation. However, ask yourself what purpose does your lawn serve?  It is beautiful?  Is a seasonal vegetable garden not more beautiful?  The kids enjoy running around on the lawn?  Would they not enjoy running around in a vegetable garden even more?  It gives you an opportunity to get outdoors and exercise? Again, vegetable garden! 

Do you know how much water you waste to maintain your lawn? Likely not.  A vegetable garden in place of your lawn would not only use less water but would yield wonderful, nourishing produce.  A vegetable garden is not the only alternative to your disgustingly wasteful lawn and may not be the best alternative. A few urban dwellers are transforming their lawns into xeriscape landscapes, which do not require supplemental water. Beautiful herbs, flowers and plants can be used for xeriscaping schemes in many regions.  The xeriscape alternative may be best for many urban dwellers who do not have the time or ambition to maintain an urban garden or in regions where an urban garden is not sensible.

Think of your lawn transformation as an opportunity to employ and nurture your creativity. Designing a small urban garden or xeriscape is an enjoyable and glorious process. Yes of course you are free to have and maintain your lawn, yet ironically by doing so you demonstrate that in fact you are not free to think.  Think about it!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blog posting about blog posting... the infinite loop

On the tech-crunch podcast this morning that came to my hammer anvil and stirrup over the Stitcher radio application on my iPhone, a voice told me that a bloggers only hope for getting links back is to post at least 2-3 times per day. They reported that the top 42% of all blogs actually post 10 times per day or more!!! This came as a shock to me, as I only post about once every three months on average. So her I go. I will try to take a few minutes every two to three hours during the day to see if this lonely blog starts to see any more traffic.

So I have to wonder about sites that post 10+ times per day. First of all these sites probably have many, many contributors. So If I were to recruit say 30 contributing bloggers and we all had a schedule, we could keep up to that level and only post once every three days. I think that is reasonable. This will be my goal.

So what is there to talk about in a free thinking realm on Thursday September 25 2008? Oh yes - the economy. Let's say we did go into a depression what would happen? Would it go so far as people having to grow their own food, and make their own cloths and not have time for anything else like blogging? People would have to put away their speed boats and travel less for sure. Who would be at the top of the food chain? I think small farmers would. Would anyone care about the government, while the government would be helpless themselves to do anything... No, they would not at all. Nationalism would surely take a downturn and tribalism would resurface. I think in order to keep the people paying attention to them the US government may start to threaten our allies and bully them into sending us chocolate. Our borders would probably be death zones and passing from one town to the next would be treacherous, as the residents would wonder where you got the money to fill up your gas tank and try to take your fuel from you. What about the children. Well they would be hungry. What about the pets? Well they would be food. All and all we can deal with this no matter how bad it gets. The people who can't deal with it are those that can't stomach the possibility that they will now have to drink tap water instead of bottled. These will be the nut jobs that throw themselves from tall buildings in the face of all this. The rest of us will be the stronger for the struggle and come out with a fresh gene pool of hardy individuals ready to build a new world from scratch, with a new ethics for the ages -->Peace