COVID fix, professors, writing fiction

DNA/RNA

Diamonds and RustDan, the albanyweblog man, decided to confound me:

A Pharma Corporation called Inovid is trying to speed up production of COVID-19 vaccine. They take virus DNA, convert it to RNA, pick out the right bits of the RNA according to a computer program, then inject it into bacteria, which makes lots of virus DNA that can be used to stimulate antibodies in the human, thus making an effective vaccine. What I want to know is how do they convert the virus DNA to RNA on cue? They talk about this like it’s NBD.

As I understand it – and I REALLY DON’T –

So what’s COVID-19’s story? Is a hint in what normally binds the receptor?

Perhaps sometime in the past, a virus formed, or came to include, human DNA or RNA instructions for making an integrin, which is a protein that binds to ACE2. Integrins glue our cells to surrounding connective tissue. The viral spike masquerades as the integrin, grabbing our cells.
In other words, a viral epidemic may arise as an accident, of sorts, of biochemistry and evolution.

Vaccine!

One of the things I learned as a librarian is that sometimes I don’t understand what I’m passing along. It’s just beyond my comprehension. Check out this article, which may, or may not be useful.

Fiction

Carla, an old colleague of my wife’s, wants to know:

Roger, Have you ever thought of writing fiction; or do you write fiction?

I’ve thought to do it. But a long piece seems too hard. You have to have a consistent universe. See, e.g., this post by Jaquandor. And I haven’t loved the short pieces I’ve written.

But if I live long enough, I’ll probably write a roman a clef. Or two.

Kevin, from my home county and the Wind Sun News, wants to know:

Who was your favorite Professor at New Paltz?

Of the ones I had class with, probably Glenn McNitt in the political science department. He was very smart but easy going. I remember listening to Stevie Wonder at his house more than once. I also recall specifically hearing Simple Twist of Fate by Joan Baez from her Diamonds and Rust album. She did a wicked Dylan impression and I cracked up.

Of the ones I did not have, probably Pam Tate, the head of Innovative Studies. I knew her in part because I was on the Financial Council and some of our budget went to her program. I was the Education chair so her program was in my jurisdiction.

Three fictional characters, redux

Popeye the Sailor, who, as my sister correctly noted, was the reason I would eat spinach as a child while rejecting other veggies.

michael-badaluccomurrayslaughterillflyaway

I did this recent post about this Facebook meme of posting images of three fictional characters that define me, without describing them. And it was unsatisfactory. So this is a do-over.

I will say that Miles, who I haven’t actually seen this century, came closest to getting all the correct answers. He knew, as did Uthaclena. the first fellow is actor Michael Badalucco. But Miles knew he was playing Jimmy Berluti, one of the attorneys on the TV show The Practice in the late 1990s. He was, as Miles described, “an earnest, working-class guy who worked hard to become a good lawyer.” He wasn’t all shiny, and pretty, but a self-described schlub. Badalucco and I were in the same dorm my freshman year in college at SUNY New Paltz.

Miles nailed my next alter ego, played by actor Gavin MacLeod, who you may know better as Captain Stubing on The Love Boat. Here, though, he is Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Miles notes that he was “a wisecracking TV writer who skewered the dumbest people around with his rapier wit.” But he was also not as well-recognized as the very dumb TV anchor Ted Baxter.

The third guy IS a young Sam Waterston, as Miles suspected, before his lengthy stint on Law & Order as crusading ADA, and later District Attorney Jack McCoy. Instead, this is from a short-lived TV series called I’ll Fly Away. The IMDB describes him thus: “Forrest Bedford [named for a Confederate general] is a Southern lawyer in the late 1950s, generally content with his privileged life. But the winds of change are blowing, and he becomes increasingly involved with civil rights cases.” He’s a guy who, despite his initial wish to maintain the status quo, realizes that it’s unfair and untenable. It was a great show in the early 1990s that lasted only a couple of seasons plus a concluding TV movie.

dudley_do_right
kermit-two1
popeye

As for the other three characters, Dudley Do-Right was always intending to do the right thing, even if it happens by accident.

Kermit the Frog not only says that it’s not that easy being green, he knows you blend in with so many ordinary things. Surely, I have felt this.

Finally, Popeye the Sailor, who, as my sister correctly noted, was the reason I would eat spinach as a child while rejecting other veggies. I have what I believe to be a very long fuse. But there comes a point where, “That is all I can stands, ’cause I can’t stands no more.”

 

Myself in Three Fictional Characters

“That’s part of your problem: you haven’t seen enough movies. All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.”

michael-badaluccomurrayslaughterillflyaway

There’s this Facebook meme of posting images of three fictional characters that define me, apparently without describing them. I find the exercise oddly unsatisfying. Whereas when Dustbury and Chuck Miller cheated and EXPLAINED why they picked their folks, THAT was interesting to me.

For instance, of the three roles here: one you probably know, one you know the actor but likely not the character, and the third is played by a guy I knew, not very well, back in college, and most of you won’t get at all. So what that give you, the reader?

Or maybe I’m wrong. Any guesses as to the CHARACTERS I’ll take for a day or two before approving the comments.

I suppose I could have picked three other characters that you should all recognize:

dudley_do_right
kermit-two1
popeye

Now, I suppose I ought to tackle that other meme, that of coming up with my “life quote.” Except, of course, I’m stymied.

I could steal from Kenneth Rogers who sang:
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run

I was taken for a time with a line in the 1991 movie Grand Canyon, when the Steve Martin character says, “That’s part of your problem: you haven’t seen enough movies. All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.”

On my more serious days, I could try, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

But ultimately, I’ll stick with my first hero, who said “I yam what I yam,” and that wouldn’t be wrong.

Stardancer and other science-fiction/fantasy books

Maybe I DO like “that kind of book.”

stardancerSome months ago, I read and enjoyed Stardancer (The Song of Forgotten Stars Book 1), the first book by Jaquandor, a/k/a Kelly Sedinger, quite a lot, actually. And it won’t be his last book, judging by his Forgotten Stars website. In fact, the second book in this series is coming out this week.

Read SamuraiFrog’s review and the Amazon customer reviews. One line of a five-star review: “What will hold most readers, young or not-so-young, will be the relationships among the characters, the fast-paced action, and the lovely unexpected unfolding of a story well told.”

What I really wanted to write about here, though, is the fact that, for whatever reason, Stardancer has not been the type of book that I traditionally read. I tend to be more of a history/biography type of guy.

I came across this Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books, and there are some big-name books of the genre that, not only did I not read, but that I STARTED to peruse, but failed to complete.

In fact, the only reason I finished A Handmaid’s Tale (#22) is that I was in a book club at my previous church about twenty years ago, comprised almost entirely of women at least two decades older than I. Our monthly pick was fiction, and I read and enjoyed, the Attwood book. Maybe I need a group to be accountable to.

Now, many of the “classics” I did read, such as The Time Machine and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, as well as the comic book-related material – Watchmen and Sandman.

As for some of the other books:

1. The Lord Of The Rings. For a good long while, I owned the trilogy, in colorful paperbacks; maybe I still do. I thought I’d read The Hobbit first. Got to about page 59 and lost interest. I did see the first LotR film, but none of the subsequent ones.

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert. Started the first book; did not finish.

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin. Did NOT give this 1969 book a fair shake. I was lent this, and quite possibly Stranger In A Strange Land (#17) when I was recovering from a car accident in 1972. I just wasn’t focused enough to read them.

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard. I DID read a lot of Conan comic books. In fact, one of the few comics-related materials I still own is a short white box filled with Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan. But never read the source material.

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire. This I DID finish.

I’m thinking that, in the next decade, I want to read – let’s be reasonable – 20 of the books I haven’t completed. Two per year, which will give me time to read other things traditionally more to my liking. Maybe some Stephen King, who I had not read AT ALL until I devoured 11/22/63. Almost certainly Asimov; I’ve enjoyed his essays.

Maybe I DO like “that kind of book.”

Autumnal start, drinking, poetry, Internety stuff

It’s usually white wine, or occasionally something with Jack Daniels, Kahuala, vodka, or rum.

Elizabeth asked, in response to Ask Roger Anything (and YOU still can):

Why do they call the Autumnal Equinox the beginning of Fall when it is already Fall? Likewise, the Winter Solstice isn’t the beginning of winter but well along into winter?

Why do “they” say anything? Why do they still use foot/pound? From Wikipedia: “Some cultures regard the autumnal equinox as mid-autumn, others with a longer lag treat it as the start of autumn. Meteorologists (and most of the temperate countries in the southern hemisphere) use a definition based on months, with autumn being September, October, and November in the northern hemisphere, and March, April, and May in the southern hemisphere.

“In North America, autumn is usually considered to start with the September equinox. In traditional East Asian solar term, autumn starts on or around 8 August and ends on about 7 November.”

The answer, therefore, is American exceptionalism. That said, I never liked the fact that holidays commemorating dead soldiers and workers essentially frame summer.

New York Erratic must actually be from New Jersey because there are a lot of questions:

When you drink, is it beer, cider, wine, or mixed drinks?

When I first started drinking, which was when I was 18 – it was legal then – I did a lot of trial and error. I started with mixed drinks, mostly the sweet ones like a Tom Collins, eventually discovering rum and Coke, and 7 (7-Up) and 7 (Seagram’s Seven). Also white wine, but red gave me raging headaches.

But I could never drink beer. I would go out with folks and they’d share a pitcher or two, while I was drinking something else, which was both isolating and more expensive.

Now, it’s usually white wine, or occasionally something with Jack Daniels, Kaluha, vodka, or rum. NOT beer, not vermouth, and not gin.

What are your favorite flavor and favorite smell?

Strawberry (my favorite ice cream, yogurt), and bread baking, respectively.

Do you remember something better when you hear it out loud or when you read it?

Definitely NOT hearing it, unless it’s learning music. Preferably both, such as hearing someone’s name while reading the nametag. People giving me instructions for a computer orally is almost useless; I may not get it visually, but at least I can read it again.

So what do you think is up with the whole “dual personality” of the Internet age? How many people do you think have alternate personas – or multiple personas – online? And what do you think that is doing for the culture?

I found out only recently that someone who has a pseudonym on the Times Union site, and comments on several blogs, is someone who apparently has known me for a long time. He’s much more a jerk than he was in real life; this COULD mean he’s turned into a jerk, OR it could mean that being behind the shield of anonymity has allowed him to become a jerk.

I essentially reposted an article about a Tulsa, OK website disallowing anonymous comments, and it generated a lot of comments, mostly negative. Fear of harassing and threatening e-mail, for instance. Conversely, one guy “decided some time ago to post comments on the TU as me. I’ll admit that it keeps any snark I might be tempted to exhibit under control. It keeps one more civil than one might be posting anonymously…a good thing IMO.”

How many people post anonymously? I have no idea. But, I’ve discovered it’s a long-standing virtue; see this article from 1995. There are about 2.7 billion people on the Internet. Some don’t care who knows what about them, and another group has concluded that the NSA already knows.

Is it why people seem ruder? Possible, but there are so many variables, it’s difficult to isolate. Maybe it’s the fault of twerking.

Is there an optimum level of technology?

No. That’s because whatever technology is created, someone can build upon it. That’s why, not incidentally, I oppose these expanded copyright laws that protect the copyright holder for life plus 75 years. The reason the Constitution says “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. (Article 1, Section Eight) was to allow for innovation, not to reward copyright holders for long periods.

Do you ever (or have you ever) written fiction or poetry?

Never fiction, although I did have, in my mind some years ago, a roman a clef about my previous church choir experience.

My girlfriend in the late 1970s/early 1980s was a poet. She went to poetry workshops, and I went with her sometimes, so eventually, I tried writing. I never found “my voice,” or whatever; I never “got” it.

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