December 30 – Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

It wasn’t a big ticket emotional item, but I’m really glad to have connected more with an old high school acquaintance. She and I knew each other in high school, but never really hung out that much. The craziness that is Facebook1 reunited us in the casual context. However, after a few drunken chat sessions on there2, there was a realization that we connected pretty well. She and I both share a very practical, play-it-how-things-are approach to life, although I think she’s got the guts to act on it nearly whenever she wants. Granted, we don’t talk all the time or anything, but after crashing with her and her fiancé for a weekend back in Fargo, it was pretty obvious that she respects and cares for her friends that matter.

Thankfully, I am one of those friends. For as short as our friendship has been, she’s done a marvelous job of keeping it intact. She’s done a pretty good job of keeping in touch, but it cannot stay that way. This will be a friendship I’ll need to remember to work on to keep. We have to share that pro-active nature, being 1000-miles separated and such.

1It has the maddening and addicting quality of wanting to find out things about people in your past. Probably helps feed our need to feel vindicated in the decisions and choices we’ve made in life.
2Or even a couple phone calls. We have a tendency to get in touch with each other when we’re intoxicated (one or the other, if not both), and just go on about life, and just rant in general to reinforce each other.
29. December 2010 · Write a comment · Categories: Personal · Tags:

December 29 – Defining Moment. Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.

Oh dear, this year was just a cluster of events that haphazardly drug me around life in general. I don’t think that it really did tons to make my year unique; it just made the year a clusterfuck to deal with. En totale, it has basically told me to get a firm grasp on my life and just live it. I’ve procrastinated, I’ve fretted, I’ve secluded myself, and I’ve embittered myself over life. It’s almost been more of a year for reflection than 2009 was, and 2009 was a pretty big fucking deal. Too many negative events, and not nearly enough positive ones!

December 28 – Achieve. What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

What do I want most? Get published three times in scholarly journals! Namely, in order that I envision the papers coming along, Molecular Microbiology, Journal of Biochemistry, and then finally Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

How will I feel? Seriously? Is that a legitimate question here? I am going to feel fucking awesome!!!

Ten things I can do to get there? Oy vey…here comes the trouble.

  1. Figure out what alternative pathway hda seems to be mucking around with, either genetically or biochemically.
  2. Purify a bunch (more) Hda protein and demonstrate that it definitely impairs translesion synthesis DNA polymerases.
  3. Demonstrate that Hda is able to stabilize the replication fork and alter the ability for other accessory proteins to interact with the complex.
  4. Show biochemically that my mutant library is composed of both RIDA-competent and RIDA-incompetent mutants.
  5. Get a crystal structure of Hda, or a co-complex of Hda with the ß-subunit of DNA polymerase III.
  6. Selectively break interactions of Hda with other accessory proteins, and restore those interactions by compensatory mutations on said accessory proteins.
  7. Genetically demonstrate the ability to block and/or promote these interactions with mutants.
  8. Demonstrate the blatant redundancy of the initiation regulation pathways in cellular viability.
  9. Demonstrate that accessory functions of the initiation regulators were the evolutionary pressure for adoption as opposed to control of initiation.
  10. Make the grand corollary of what all this means in the greater scheme of breaking the microbial replication cycle and propose a new, unique pathway of antimicrobial targets.

Nobody said I couldn’t be dreaming when I thought all of this up. But it’s an entirely possible order if the experiments go in my favor…

27. December 2010 · Write a comment · Categories: Cooking, Geek · Tags:

December 27 – Ordinary Joy. Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?

Some days you really have to live for the little things. Some mornings, you really just have to live for the little things, especially. What better tone to set the day than a wonderful morning?

One of my favorite simple moments was the weekend breakfasts during the late summer/early fall. I would get up around 8ish, and Emily would have already left for work, so I would have the entire kitchen to myself. I’d fire up the broiler and broil some bacon. I’d diced up bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and toss them with some shredded cheese inside a large omelet. As the omelet would be finishing and the bacon would be draining off, I’d get the toast made, and finish sautéing up any leftover potatoes I might have had from the night before with the residual vegetables. Top that all off with a large, fresh cup of coffee, and I’d have one loaded breakfast.

I would take one of the large stoneware plates, load up all my food, and march it and the cup of coffee out to the porch (which faces east), where I’d sit and let the sun beat down on my bare arms and legs, basking in the sun like a cat. I’d take my time, enjoy the food, sip on the coffee, listen to the breeze, and just enjoy the quiet weekend morning. I didn’t think things could be so fantastic!

Despite the large cup of coffee, all that food typically put me into a minor food coma. I’d have to be careful, or I’d fall asleep into a mid-morning nap with all that delight going on in my stomach and on my skin. But hey, that’s what this post was all about, wasn’t it?

December 26 – Soul Food. What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?

Memorable food of the year? Nacho Mama’s of Baltimore, MD, and their jumbo shrimp and smoked gouda quesadilla.

This tied in to the Party prompt, as it was the hangover dining afterwards. Frankly, I wish I was far less hungover so I could have enjoyed it more! I swear the quesadilla is roughly the size of a person’s head in diameter, and pushing an inch to an inch and a half thick. I was only able to consume half of it during the meal anyways!

My first bite into this quesadilla from heaven was a jumbo shrimp. Tender, juicy, and utterly delicious in my mouth, with some of the smoked gouda going along for the ride. The entire bite really was an entire jumbo shrimp! After that, I just dove right in. Mouthfuls of smoked gouda, onions, some spicy sausage (Italian perhaps?), bell peppers…I just did not want to stop. Unfortunately, my stomach implanted a firm no to my system, as I was in desperate need of some coffee and water to offset the edge of the hangover.

Nacho Mama’s wasn’t anything terribly unique, but they put a very nice spin on the American tex-mex mentality. And for that, they’ll win an ever-present spot in my heart as fantastic comfort food that I will try to frequent when given the chance again in the future. But that quesadilla…*closes his eyes and begins to drool*

December 24 – Everything’s OK. What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

I think it really hit me that things were going to be okay when I finally found a new apartment to live in over the summer. I had a ridiculous amount of anxiety over that. It doesn’t help that it seems to be really hard to hunt for apartments more than 2 months in advance, and you have to give your notice anywhere from 30-60 days in advance…so you basically have to commit yourself to moving out, and then hope you can find a place by the time you do have to move out!

I hate the transitioning state. I want nothing more than to sink into a place, get entrenched, and make it my own. Being that I’m still working out that transitory stage of my career, it’s killing me a little on the inside. That, and I’m just getting tired of the chronic moving anyways. I can not wait until I finally find that stable industry or faculty position at a university, so I know I can finally find a nice lil’ house, and as much as I hate to say it, “nest.”

I don’t mean nesting so much in the sense that I need to provide a home for a family. I just need to provide a home for me. Or one more, if I’m so lucky in the near future, but mostly me. Everyone has their cozy lil’ environment that they can retire do when they’re done for the day, or need an escape from the world. Or real space to setup their hobbies, or projects, or whatever!

Incorporation of that over the following year will be tough; it’s not exactly something I can plan on just yet. I guess I just have the two options at the moment. Firstly, hope I don’t have to find a new place again come summer if I haven’t finished my degree yet. Secondly, as an alternative, I may luck out, finish early1, and then finally get on with my life to the next stage and be one step away from finally being able to settle into some permanence.

1I’d really rather not. I am not too keen on finishing with only one publication under my belt for my PhD career. I’d like to stick around for at least two or three publications, as long as I can keep that within a year’s time of the first one.
23. December 2010 · Write a comment · Categories: Personal · Tags:

December 23 – New Name. Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

Hola! Me llamo Diego. ¿Como estas?

“Jamie” is such a simple name, although an odd derivation from the typical “James” or “Jamison” that most males seem to get named instead. But no, my birth certificate actually says “Jamie Clinton Baxter.” It should not have come as a surprise, but my name was a bit of a dual-standard; a nice save in case of either gender, as I was named after one of my mother’s female friends. Oy vey…

When I hear “Jamie,” it doesn’t scream masculine off the get go. I’m not saying I want my name to, but one of the derivations of “James” in Spanish is “Diego.” I used that as my Spanish name when I took it during my earlier years of high school. Since later high school years, “Himay” became a common nickname, as one would pronounce “Jaime” in that language would come out like hi-may. After many a year of hearing and introducing myself with such a smooth, easy-going name, I would be highly curious to see what kind of a difference would arise from a sharp, stark “Diego” instead.

Have I mentioned that I love thinking of social experiments? I’m fascinated by psychology and sociology; it’s all driven by that little tick to understand how things work. *evil grin*

December 22 – Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

Travel really wasn’t terribly exciting over the past year. A few drives down to Maryland and back, a roadtrip to Toronto for a pre-season Bills game, a roadtrip to see the Bills playing in Cincinnati, and a flight back to North Dakota to take a mini-vacation to see family and friends. I had considered a drive back to be with the family for Christmas, but I was kind of driven out by that point (and I’m really not a huge fan of flying back into Minot, to be honest).

My itinerary for 2011 is basically where I didn’t get to this year, time and funds permitting. I still would like to take a train ride up over and up to Montreal before I leave western NY. There is supposed to be a lot of lovely scenery going up the Adirondacks, along the Hudson Valley. And along that route, I wouldn’t mind stopping over to see Rob and his wife on the other side of Lake Champlain, in Burlington, VT.

I wouldn’t mind taking a road trip to Chicago and actually seeing the city for a change, instead of always trying to race through it as quickly as possible when returning to North Dakota or Minnesota. I hear there’s a lot to do downtown near the lakeshore, and I’d like to check that out at some point. It’s also a relatively cheap hop if I would rather fly, however, I’m not the most keen on being left without a vehicle until I find some other adequate means of getting around.

In line with the cheap hops, I need to take a trip back to Minneapolis to visit some of my friends I didn’t get to drop in on during my last excursion to the Midwest. Hopefully I’ll be able to pull that off within the next couple months, while there is still some winter there to enjoy!

The long-shot trip I’d like to take is flying out to Seattle. I have some relatives that live out there, and I’m dying to see the city after being in Vancouver during the summer of 2009. I’m not sure if I can afford that trip, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out on ticket prices if it becomes feasible at all.