The United Arab Emirates isn’t best known for its efforts to uphold women’s rights. So it’s no real surprise that they have just passed another oppressive law – women are now legally required to breastfeed for two years. They can be sued by their husbands for failing to do so. You can read more here.
The study has its roots in something that scientists discovered in the 1990s: A small percentage of people are resistant to H.I.V. thanks to a lucky mutation that causes their immune cells to lack CCR5, a protein that gives the virus a foothold. In people with one copy of the mutated gene, the infection progresses more slowly than in those who have normal CCR5. People who have inherited two copies of the mutated gene, one from each parent, are highly resistant to H.I.V. and may never become infected despite repeated exposure.Why a woman who was an award-winning organic chemist left science, and what we can do to support women in science. Lots of good links to follow.
One man, known as “the Berlin patient,” was apparently cured of AIDS after he developed leukemia and had bone-marrow transplants in 2007 and 2008. As luck would have it, his bone-marrow donor had two copies of the mutated gene for CCR5. His immune system rebounded, the virus disappeared and he was able to stop taking antiviral drugs. But bone-marrow transplants are too arduous, risky and expensive to be used as a treatment for H.I.V.
Textbooks don't tell you everything. They don't tell you that organic synthesis has been a cutthroat boys’ club for a century. They don't tell you about the suicides in Nobel Laureate E. J. Corey's group. They don't tell you about flat NSF and declining NIH funding. They don't tell you that you'll never get far as an organic chemist without a PhD -- and certainly not that you'll need more stubbornness than brilliance to get one.In other convalescent news, there has been binge-watching of a TV series called Arrow. I was amused to recognize John Barrowman as a recurring character.
They don't tell you about the grind of the tenure track or the two-body problem. They don't tell you how your boss/academic adviser (your lab group’s principal investigator, or PI) can take advantage of the fact that your visa status depends on your employment to work you harder and pay you less -- that they might delay filing your paperwork as they drop hints that you’re not working hard enough, or just fire you and send you and your family back to your country of origin. They don't tell you about the common perception that a scientist should be 100% devoted to “his” work (or her work, if she is single or has a "supportive spouse," as it's usually put).
- A panel on secret worlds in fiction: portal worlds like Narnia and Oz, and worlds hidden in the shadows of our own like the wizarding world in Harry Potter. This is where I got most of my best book recommendations.
- Another panel on the related but separate topic of secret histories in fiction. ("Secrets" is the theme of the con this year.) More discussion of what makes a good secret history, and more book recommendations of course.
- Dinner with people -- I went up to say hi to a friend, and she was gathering people together for a pre-planned meal, and she invited me to tag along, which was nice. The conversation was mostly about con planning, which was quite interesting even if I have little to no practical experience with the subject. :)
- ConTention: an annual event in which folks get together for a good old fashioned hour of arguing about things. This is one of my favorite things at the con, because everyone attends it with an open mind and without taking it too seriously -- people often end up switching sides on a topic, sometimes more than once. I did more listening than talking this time, although I did get pretty involved in the question of whether the Game of Thrones tv series is superior to the books. (I argued on the side of the books, and my main issue with the show -- that it plays straight many of the fantasy tropes that GRRM is subverting in the books -- was well received by the crowd.)
- A very well-done panel about rape in fiction. One of the guests of honor is Seanan McGuire; she was on the panel, and the jumping-off point was an infamous question she received from a fan about when one of her female characters was going to be raped. Not if; when. As if rape is an inevitable fact of being a female protagonist in a fantasy setting. The discussion centered around the problems with using rape as a plot and character development subject. It was an excellent panel, well-moderated, thoughtfully handled, and so many times I wished I was live-tweeting because Seanan is so very quotable. (If you are a fan and get the chance to see her in person, take it. So much fun.)
- And then a stop by the con suite and a room party, and then back to my room to take my notes and decompress. A good day, but I am ready for some rest. Especially since I'm doing a panel tomorrow morning!
Photographer: Nuno Lopes; Nuno's Facebook site
Summary Author: Nuno Lopes; Jim Foster
This beautiful set of crepuscular rays streaming out from the western horizon was captured at sunset over Alburrica in Barreiro, Portugal, on December 28, 2013. Sunlight blocked by the cumulus mediocris turrets (in the far background) results in the darkened lanes while light that threads its way through gaps in the same clouds produces the bright rays. These sunlit streaks are more noticeable when dust or aerosols are present in large quantities in the atmosphere. See also tomorrow's Earth Science Picture of the Day.
Photo details: Camera Model: Canon EOS 550D; Lens: EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II; Focal Length: 40mm; Aperture: f/8.0; Exposure Time: 0.0016 s (1/640); ISO equiv: 200; Software: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.4 (Windows).
Less than ten miles south of Los Gatos we hit a bump, literally, in the form of a piece of debris that flew across the highway and went right under the front driver side tire. We pulled off the road at a handy country club literally half a mile down the highway and discovered that the tire was in fact flat; luckily, my friend had a spare in the trunk and, secondary to the horrible not-trip to Austria in January, my dad renewed our AAA membership and sent me my card in the mail, so we only lost about 40 minutes to calling AAA and waiting for them to come change the tire, which they did for free. It was a beautiful day to be hanging out on the side of the driveway to a country club, let me tell you.
When we finally got to Monterey we were starving, but thanks to Yelp we had pre-identified an absolutely delicious vegan Mexican restaurant, and after stuffing our faces, we went down to the aquarium. It was indeed really cool, although the price was not cheap, even with a student discount. But! There were many fish and OTTERS and PENGUINS and PUFFINS, and it was generally really fun and awesome, and I was well-satisfied. Monterey is beautifully located, and the sand dunes and the ocean were beautiful.
On the way back we drove up the bay and through the Santa Cruz mountains, then hit Liang's Village Cuisine for dinner. OM NOM SO DELICIOUS AND SO REASONABLY PRICED. The server asked if we'd been there before (me yes, my friends no), which only later did I realize might be because they may not see a lot of parties of white people wander in, particularly on a Friday night. But the food is so delicious! And then, because it is practically next door, we hit Fantasia Coffee, albeit after a lot of wandering around semi-lost in the shopping center where it's located. But my friend E found a store selling some of the Chinese snacks she likes (she does Song Dynasty-era Chinese history), so even the wandering around wasn't a loss.
After I dropped people off at their domiciles in Berkeley I took the car and went driving aimlessly up in the hills--I went down Marin Rd. in lowest gear because it's just that steep, I doubled back up Grizzly Peak a few times, and then I wound up on Wildcat Canyon Road, up through the houses in Tilden, up Grizzly Peak again and to the Laurence Hall of Science parking lot to look at the view for a while before heading back down through the Botanical Gardens down to the Rim Way and past the stadium before back down into Berkeley proper. It was a beautiful night, the moon at first quarter and low in the sky over the bay, fog lying lightly over the city.
I could get used to this. Have I mentioned that I've been doing really well? I'm ridiculously, ridiculously busy with orals, but my mindset flipped about a month ago and now everything seems doable and mostly interesting and I'm generally in a very good mood. I just wish I could give some of my own recent good fortune and good mood to some of my friends who aren't doing so well.
Tomorrow I get to see about getting the tire repaired at the Toyota dealership, and on Monday I have to do a lot of paperwork and actual work and hopefully figure out why I still haven't been paid for one of last semester's gigs, but still: it was a good day, and a great adventure.
The last time we saw Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), she and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutsherson) had been crowned the co-victors of the Hunger Games, the yearly gladiatorial deathmatches used by the leaders of their dystopia to oppress the downtrodden populace. Katniss learns the corrupt Capitol is far from done with her, especially since her victory has been seen as a gesture of defiance, spurring signs of an uprising. She and Peeta are sent on a victory tour, and ordered by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to continue the ruse that they're young lovers, though Katniss is actually smitten with her childhood friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Meanwhile, Snow and a new Gamemaker Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) prepare for the next Hunger Games, which they plan to use to eliminate Katniss permanently.
Last time, it was everything going on outside the actual Hunger Games, the reality show spectacle, the distorted celebrity culture, and the not-so-subtle mass media critique, that delivered the most entertainment, while the Games themselves were fairly mediocre. This time the film is more competent as an action movie, but the good stuff is still mostly the maneuverings that are going on outside and around the Games. We get much more focus on the political climate and the social unrest this time, as Katniss struggles with a life in the spotlight she can't escape. Jennifer Lawrence continues to deliver a strong performance, as Katniss's survival-oriented worldview begins to shift towards rebelliousness. She really sells the paranoia and the moments of blind panic early on, which make Katniss's later bravery all the more affecting. Her would-be screen beaus can't keep up with her, though Hutcherson improves quite a bit.
The budget was noticeably increased for this film, thanks to the series' newly minted blockbuster status. The talent level of the incoming actors reflects this too. In addition to Hoffman, new characters include other former victors Finnick (Sam Claflin), Johanna (Jena Malone), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), and Mags (Lynn Cohen), who may be new potential allies or enemies for Katniss. Donald Sutherland gets much more screen time and much more to do, cementing him as the real Big Bad of "The Hunger Games." He's a lot of fun bringing on the malevolence here, as are returning cast members Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, and Woody Harrelson in supporting parts. More importantly we've got an action movie director onboard for this round, Francis Lawrence, best known for "I am Legend." No more shakey-cam, and though the action remains firmly in PG-13 territory, not so much squeamishness about the violence either.
All in all this is a much more comfortable, self-assured outing. In many ways the plot retreads significant portions of the first movie, but now the commentary is more pointed, the action more impactful, and the narrative much more focused. Stakes are raised across the board. The sinister tyrant who watched the first Games from afar is now right across the table from Katniss, and threatening her directly to her face. Where media manipulation was a clever strategy in the first movie, now it's a matter of life and death with both sides constantly debating ways to use Katniss's image to their own advantage. Concepts are better fleshed out, characters have more depth and definition, and it's much easier to get swept up into this universe.
I do miss some of the roughness of the first "Hunger Games," with its bluegrass infused score and gloomier, more atmospheric depictions of Katniss's impoverished home town. "Catching Fire" is much more polished, and its wilder conceits are easier to swallow because of better execution, but as a result it comes across as a little more generic. However, "Catching Fire" is much more accessible and delivers on all fronts a lot more consistently. It also does a great deal of heavy lifting to widen the scope of "The Hunger Games" to accommodate a four-film franchise. I'm much more interested in the seeing the rest of the films now than I was after the first one.
In fact, when you put it up against all the other big budget action franchises out there right now, "The Hunger Games" is one of the best that Hollywood has to offer. It does have some real substance to it, features a compelling narrative with strong ideas, and is terribly entertaining too. Let's hope they keep it up.
It's okay. You didn't have any important weekend plans anyway.
Now it's time for Hannibal! I know this is relevant every week, but it is especially relevant this week: I really cannot believe they got away with that first scene on network TV. But aside from the fact that Bryan Fuller obviously has all the NBC standards and practices people tied up in his basement: THAT WAS AWESOME. Amazing episode of television. Goddamn, show.
( hannibal. sakizuki. )
- In conclusion: GODDAMN SHOW. How is it so good? That shouldn't even be possible.
This is an extremely tiny learn-the-syntax exercise. I do not promise anything but ridiculousness. As I said, the opening is:
You are in a clearing for no apparent reason.
It's not impossible that there's a bug because goodness knows I generated a few coding this thing. Let me know. :-]