Wednesday, August 31, 2011

23AndMe Results!

So about a month ago I decided to do genetic testing on myself, mostly for curiosity's sake. I went with 23andme because I've had several friends use it and like it. Just last night my results came in, so instead of going to bed like a normal person I stayed up for two hours looking at everything. Obviously I can't talk about my increased risks or anything like that because even though there's a genetic non-discrimination act in place, I wouldn't count on anyone following through on it. So here's the other stuff.
mtDNA haplogroup: I'll start with this one because it really threw me for a loop. I'm Native American on my mother's side. My great-great-grandmother spoke Cherokee. This is how I was raised, this is what I am. That's important. My haplogroup is H2a1, which originated about 26,000 years ago in the Middle East, around Turkey. It slowly spread through Eastern, Northern, and parts of Western Europe. It is not one of the haplogroups that indicates Native American ancestry. My first reaction was something like WHAT. Then I poked around on the 23andme forums and found out some interesting things. First of all, the haplogroups to determine NA ancestry and the modern Asian haplogroups because they're aren't many NA people who've done genotyping to compare to. Secondly, many people, some of whom have more documentation than I do, who are related to NA tribes on the Eastern seaboard do not have a typical NA haplogroup. Weird, huh? Currently there are a couple of hypotheses floating around to explain that. There's the Solutrean Hypothesis, which no one can really prove or disprove at this time, which posits that people came from southwestern Europe to the Americas about 20,000 years ago, before the Bering Land Bridge, and they're the ancestors of lots of eastern tribes. The second is that this maternal haplogroup came from Vikings who settled in the Americas before Columbus. The third, which is possible for my family in particular, is that we picked up this haplogroup from one of the Roanoke colonists who intermarried with local Native Americans. So that was weird, and I've just joined to see if I can follow a paper trail and get more information about my family that way.
Decreased Risks: I'm at decreased risk for breast cancer, Alzheimer's disease, lupus, MS, melanoma, ovarian cancer, and osteoarthritis. All of which makes me very happy.
Traits: So I obviously don't have the alcohol flush response, which it accurately predicted. It also accurately knew that I was a bitter supertaster. It also accurately predicted my eye colour (blue), my hair curl (it's wavy), and that I'm more of a sprinter than an endurance runner. One of the things I thought was fun is that I'm apparently less susceptible to contracting leprosy if I'm exposed to it. I can armadillos with impunity! It also accurately showed that I have extremely good episodic memory.
Drug Response: So apparently I would have a really good response to interferon beta if I ever took it. I guess that's good. But I'm extremely susceptible to liver toxicity from floxacillin. Luckily that drug isn't used in the US, but if I go back to Europe it's good to know. It also says that I'm a slow caffeine metabolizer, so the reason I need so much coffee to feel an effect must be because I drink too much or something like that.
Yeah, so that's my DNA!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First year anxiety, part two

This week was the first week of class. I think it went alright. Two of my classes are pass/fail. Of course one of them is journal club and I have to present in it, but I signed up for December 1st so I can put off freaking out about it for awhile. The other pass/fail class is Ethics. I think it will be pretty easy. Then I have Micro 551, which is Microbial Diversity. It's only five weeks long, then it's replaced by Pathogenic Microorganisms and then Bacterial Genetics. I think it won't be too bad. I don't know how in depth it will be and there's only one exam, but it's a short class and I think it will be okay. Then there's Biochemistry. It's a huge class full of undergrads, of course, but the professor says he wants everyone to know big concepts rather than minutiae. Whether that will play out in his exams and homework remains to be seen. The annoying thing about the class is that all of the tests are online and we have to take them at the Online Learning Center in Carver Hall. This is stupid. If I wanted to take my tests online, I'd take the whole freaking class online! I am not amused by this at all. Oh well. I'll live with it.
The major source of my anxiety thus far is that I still don't have any rotations set up. Two people have said no, and I'm waiting to hear from two people right now. If I don't hear from anyone by tomorrow afternoon, then I'll email two more people. I really only have about ten days to get the first one set up, so I'm really nervous.
In the land of non-grad school but still annoying things, my cat is still stressed about the move and I think might be picking up on my anxiety a little because he took a pee on my papasan chair this evening. So tomorrow after class I have to drive to Ankeny to go to Petsmart and get some enzyme cleaner to get the smell out. I can't blame him too much because he's a nervous cat, and he takes some calming treats called Composure every day, but it is one more thing I didn't need to deal with. I actually need to find a vet to take him to soon, since he's due for his rabies shot, so maybe I can talk to them and see if they can offer anything else to help him out. He's got the Feliway diffuser and the Composure, maybe he needs a short course of antidepressants again. I don't know. Anyway, more crap I have to do.
I've also been eating like crap the past couple of days. It sucks because I'm obviously still trying to lose weight, but I just felt so out of control. I'm trying to go back to the Weight Watchers basics and be really good about tracking my points and exercising so hopefully I will start feeling better and less crazy. And hopefully I didn't do too much damage to my weight. I did buy a swimsuit this week though, which I haven't done in four years, and it's a really cute one that doesn't look horrible on me, so I guess that's good.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First year anxiety, part one of many

This morning we had a meeting with the dean of the IM program. Dr. Halverson is a really nice guy and he's very helpful and not intimidating and so that was great. I finally met the other guy who is in my year who also is an ISU alum. Weirdly enough, he got degrees in English and Biology, so we have a sort of similar history. Anyway, we had individual meetings with Dr. Halverson after the big one. That went well, we both agreed that it was wise for me to take BBMB 404 again. I took it in undergrad, but I took it online and only got a C+. I don't feel confident in my ability to do biochemistry and I don't think I could pass 405 if I went straight into it, so I'd rather repeat 404 in an actual classroom with an actual teacher and do better. We also talked a bit about rotations and who I should look into, and this evening I sent out my first inquiry.
I have to say that asking for a rotation is my least favorite thing to do. I think I would rather speak in public than asking for a rotation. It feels like cold-calling, and it actually kind of is. All of these factors out of my control go into it-whether the person has funding, whether they have space in the lab, how they feel about having students work for them, etc etc. Then it comes down to a meeting and whether I sell myself well. I absolutely hate it and it's such an anxiety-ridden process for me. Now I know the professor I emailed today is well-funded, and I have a special fellowship, so hopefully money doesn't keep me out. I did talk to him when I interviewed, and he seemed nice and I know he has students in the lab, so it probably comes down to space. I really hope there's space. Once the first rotation is set up, then I have time to get the next two nailed down. I'm waiting now for a response. It's out of my control, but I hate hate hate having to wait on something like this.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Tonight is the first night I've felt any kind of homesickness. I don't really know what sparked it, if it's just time to be homesick, or if it's the weather, or if it's that I made chocolate chip cookies from the family recipe today, but I'm feeling kind of down. I'm sure I'll be back to normal soon, but for now I am all weirded out.
Next week there's some kind of mandatory meeting on Tuesday morning, and then I have an individual meeting with Dr. Halverson afterward. I think this is when they tell us the procedure for getting our rotations set up. I'm not positive how that works yet. I'm a bit nervous about that because I don't know if the people I want to rotate with are taking students, and if they aren't then I have to try and find other people. I think rotations are more stressful than classes.
Speaking of classes, my schedule is actually pretty awesome. At Georgetown we were taking a full load, like an undergraduate. I still have 12 credits this semester, but the way they're configured is pretty cool. I have Biochemistry all semester, as well as Bioethics, and once a week there's a microbiology seminar I have to go to. The other three classes are Microbial Phylogeny, Pathogenic Microorganisms, and Bacterial Physiology. But they're each only about a month long. So instead of taking all three at the same time, they're one at a time. It's way better and it leaves enough time in my schedule to actually get something done at a lab rotation. So that definitely made me happy. Also, I already have the Biochemistry textbook, and so far there's only one other book I need to buy, so I won't have to spend a lot of money this semester on textbooks. Yay.
Anyway, next Thursday I have to go to four hours of safety training. BLEAH. I have done lab safety so many times that I should get a waiver or something. It will be boring and useless. Ick.
I promise I am having fun though. Tomorrow I'm going to a grill-out that my friend Mike put together. Mostly the people that are coming are people I know, although there are a couple I haven't met yet. That's why I was making cookies, I thought it would be nice to bring something for dessert. And next Wednesday I'm going to see Rifftrax Live: Jack the Giant Killer. Rifftrax is done by the people who did Mystery Science Theater 3000, so it's really funny.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove him­self into the spot­light and why!

Nothing is really going on that's worth writing about in Iowa right now, since class hasn't started, so until something exciting happens all you get to read is writing meme.

My favorite minor character that eventually ended up being heavily involved is Evgeni's father Nicolas in Last Days of the Unreal City. Originally he was not even alive, and then he was missing. I never planned for Jaelle and Evgeni to go meet him, much less for him to have a huge impact on the plot by directing them to a group of rebel fighters. So that was kind of a surprise. It ended up being pretty awesome though, and I had fun writing this grumpy old Russian engineer.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

18. Favorite antag­o­nist and why!

This is actually a hard question, because I genuinely dislike every antagonist I write. So far they've all been straight up bad guys too, no tragic antiheroes or morally complex villains. I think that's because if I wrote one of the latter characters, they would end up being the protagonist. So I really don't have a favorite antagonist.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Moving In Is Hard Work

So I thought that the hard part was done Monday, when we moved everything out of the truck and into the apartment in 100+ degree heat. I think that was the hardest part, but the rest of the week hasn't been much easier. It took me two days to render my bedroom and kitchen usable, and then today I tackled my books. I have probably close to a thousand books, and that made about 30 boxes worth sitting in my front room. I had managed to get two bookcases up in my office, so I filled those first, then maneuvered around and got the other two bookcases up in the living room and filled them. Then I patted myself on the back because I thought I had managed to fit every book I owned into these four bookcases.
Then I noticed the two boxes sitting off to one side labeled 'books.' Ugh. So I drove to Target and bought another bookcase. It was cheap but all my bookcases are cheap. I don't make enough money to get fancy shit yet. I got home at 4pm and dragged the box into my bedroom to put this bookcase together.
At 6:30 I was finally done. What a nightmare. I knew this thing was cheap, but geez. It had the requisite instructions not in English, but every single hole where a screw was supposed to go was too short and too narrow. So I had to re-drill every single hole. Then to top it all off, I finally got this thing together and up and realized that I had put one of the top sides on wrong, meaning there were no holes for the pegs that hold the shelves to go. I was not about to take the entire bloody bookcase apart to fix it, so I just drilled through the side and put the two holes I wanted in. It looks a little weird but I don't care because it works and it was a twenty dollar bookcase to begin with.
It's done and all my books are now really unpacked, but what a pain in the ass! I do not want to do that again anytime soon!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

17. Favorite pro­tag­o­nist and why!

You know, I really liked Jaelle from Last Days of the Unreal City. It was fun to write a scientist for once. It was also fun to write her as a bit of a rebel in a strict patriarchal society. I really should go back and do a second draft of Last Days. There's so much in all the characters that didn't get put in the first go round, and I think there's a lot to expand on, especially in Jaelle's case.
I think that Liera in the upcoming novel may become my favorite. Of course, this character and this story have been bouncing around in my head for more than a decade now, so Liera is practically part of me at this point. I'm really looking forward to writing this one.

16. Do you write roman­tic rela­tion­ships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you will­ing to go in your writ­ing? ;)

Oh God, I've tried but I kind of suck. I feel like when I write them that everything rushes along way too quickly and it only makes sense to me and not anyone else who reads it. But I keep trying, because how else will I get better? I don't write anything explicit though, I just can't manage to do that with any amount of realism. I have enough trouble trying to progress the characters from strangers, to friends, to lovers without it sounding stupid.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm Here!

Woo, this is my first official post from Iowa. I finally have a couple of minutes to type. I've been busy! On Sunday I left Michigan for good and drove all the way to Ames. Yesterday we spent the whole day unloading the trailer. It was awful, because with the heat index it was about 110 degrees out. I have never been so sweaty in my life. It sucked. But we got it all done and had dinner at Hickory Park and the ice cream made all the hard work acceptable. Today was putting a bunch of furniture together, and then realizing I needed more furniture, and then buying it and grocery shopping, and that's where I'm at. Oh, we also ate lunch at the Machine Shed in Des Moines, because I went there once with a friend and enjoyed it, so I took my parents there. Now we're going to shim some of my bookcases and my pantry, go visit my great-aunt Barbara's grave, eat dinner, and try to put together my recumbent bicycle. It should be interesting. But now I'm here!