Friday, June 24, 2011

Genes Upon Genes, Dreams within Dreams

In class today we discussed the results of our electrophoresis analysis of methylation restriction. No one had gotten an ideal gel, but we did learn that the error was caused by partial methylation, where methyl groups did not bind to every restriction site for the enzyme we were using. I had the misconception that the methylase that attached the methyl group to the restriction site was an enzyme that digested the restriction enzyme. After a long discussion of application of electrophoresis, Professor Hall showed the class a Nova documentary called The Ghost in Our Genes.

The film addressed the problem observed when one identical twin with the same genome as the other twin had a disorder. The scientists concluded that there was something above the gene or the epigene that controlled the expression and suppression of genes. One example of the epigene was the type of nurturing in a mouse—how a nurtured mouse would be calmed with higher levels of a certain chemical, while a less nurtured mouse was stressed with smaller levels of a certain chemical. Some scientists used the information that the genome is controlled by chemicals to temporarily treat a disorder or cancerous tissue. While another scientist investigated how chemicals in one generation affected later generations. I was amazed to find out that there can be something acquired from the environment that is passed from generation to generation—genes cannot, but what manipulates the genes can. It puts a new perspective on life; every mistake you make is not just limited to your lifetime but the future family you will never see.

Speaking of levels upon levels, I watched Inception tonight. I must agree that the movie has fantastic style, which leaves the viewer trying to figure out what everything represents and the significance of the order of scenes. I have already seen Inception once before tonight, but I find new lines, new actions and new scenes. I still wonder whether the top ever fell; the optimistic response is that it did fall, while the pessimistic (pragmatic) answer is that it did not fall. I personally think it did not fall and the director wanted to satisfy the audience with the wobble at the end, so then Cobb has a chance at a happy ending. I think it was entirely a dream because it was never his totem to begin with, which would alter his reality—he could have wanted that presumed dream to be a reality, then his mind manipulated the top so it would stop. He could have created his own idea because he could never have the reality he wanted. I am comfortable with both sides of the argument and enjoyed a well developed action movie.

Tulip Bubble

Today in class, we deviated from lecturing from the book and instead, Mr. Coleman educated us on the recent financial crisis in the United States. This lecture was the most interesting class we have had so far. I was always curious about the economic downturn, I didn’t know much about it until today. Our teacher explained the cause of the housing crash, the role of credit rating agencies in the crisis, the Dodd-Frank bill, mortgage-backed securities, credit default swaps, stocks, banks, loans, leverage, and securitization. He also told us about the conflict of interest for credit rating agencies and how subprime loans contributed to the financial downfall. We covered a lot of material and the concepts were difficult so I tried my best to absorb most of the information.

The most intriguing part of the lecture for me was about the tulip bubble in the Netherlands during the 17th century. A bubble is a boom in the price of something followed by a rapid fall. Mr. Coleman told us that tulip prices shot up in the Netherlands until the cost of a single tulip bulb reached up to more than six times a person’s salary. People bought tulip bulbs not for the tulip itself but for the chance of selling it later as prices continued to rise. Eventually the price fell, but the fact that this extreme inflation occurred astonished me. Mr. Coleman compared buying a tulip bulb to purchasing a Mercedes car. Nowadays, no one in their right mind would do that. I find this event extremely fascinating and plan to look into it more.

At 2 PM, I went to another session of yoga with Erinn, Frank, and Andrew. This time, the instructor introduced more difficult balance poses, and I found myself struggling not to fall. Yoga has taught me better ways to stand and breathe, which I hope to apply to my daily life. After yoga, Erinn and I explored the campus and were joined by Erin on our way to Thayer Street. We went inside many interesting stores including a thrift shop, an Indian shop, and Urban Outfitters. I always love hanging out with the Erin(n)s.

Erinn and I went to watch Inception in Salomon Hall at 8 PM. More students showed up for this movie than Freakonomics. This was my third time watching it so I almost fell asleep during parts of the movie. Erinn and I are still arguing about whether or not Cobb, the main character, was dreaming at the end.

Tomorrow is Saturday, which means I get to sleep in at last! I can’t wait.

Where is Delaware?

I woke up today with a great expectation for the weather to continue its trendy pattern of rain, but to my surprise it was not raining. All day the clouds teased me with signs of rain, and even a light mist here and there, but no real rain. But that was fine because I’d much rather stay dry. Learning from our mistakes yesterday of over sleeping, Frank and I got up early too go to breakfast. But I think we arrived a bit too early because after slowly enjoying our meal we still had about 40 spare minutes of nothing to do. So we just talked amongst the two of us, then our conversation began to spread like wild fire when another group of people joined in. In our joint conversations, one of the young men turned out to be the son of the Governor of Delaware. This was great just to hear some of his experiences growing up in the environment that he did.
I know it sounds repetitive throughout my blogs, maybe it is just because I am really enjoying my class, but today was the most engaging discussion/lecture yet. Professor Coleman discussed and analyzed the reasons for the huge financial crisis in 2008. I am glad that not only did I do my homework, but I had a comprehensive understanding, because if I did not then in today’s lecture I would have been lost. We discussed everything from hedge funds, to government policies, and even financial innovations. Many of the problems we discussed seemed like they should not have been problems. It seems that if everyone at high executive positions such as at Banks or Credit Rating Agencies would have looked out for the betterment of the society and been more cautious, the whole crisis would have never amounted to what it did. That is really despairing to me because if one man’s greed resulted in a million man’s failures change should be enacted. So I guess I am running on a small tangent but this is something I am quite passionate about. Helping to champion the burdens of the common and that is why I will be running for President of the United States of America in year 2032.
After class I ate lunch with a totally new group of people. The first young man was from Colorado, the second France, next Sweden, the fourth from New York City, and the last from Korea. So our dining experience was quite diverse, but we did all have one common thread, we love Baseball. We stayed in the dining all very late after lunch just discussing the nuances of the game.
This was great to meet people who shared the same passion for the game as me. But aside from that today was Friday so that meant no class the next day. I used today as a ventilation time. So in the afternoon I partook in Yoga for the second time. I felt like a pro having already participated once. After that I rested and then with about 200 other Brown students I watched the Movie Inception. Today was another wonderful day at Brown. I am very fortunate to have this opportunity.

Explorers of the World

Last night, I went around the basement floor of Jameson meeting some more of my floor mates. I met Jeanine who brought her acoustic guitar to Summer@Brown. I hung out in her room and played a few songs. It felt good to be musical. Olivia and I went to bed rather late last night due to excessive socialization.

In macroeconomics, I turned in my first homework assignment today. No one in the class has a stapler so we all just folded the corners over. My first assignment was challenging but I am glad that it is over. Professor Coleman lectured on housing prices for two hours and I found it rather interesting. Even though it was a lot of information and my head started to hurt, it was a great class today. I barely took notes because I chose to bask in the course material today. Thank goodness it is Friday. Unfortunately, I got my second homework assignment via e-mail as soon as I got back to my dorm after class. No big deal though, I have four days to finish this one and I like spreading the work load over the course of a few days.

I had signed up to go on a field trip to the Rhode Island School of Design. I have been looking forward to this all week. A small group met in front of Salomon Hall before we walked down the street to the school. We were only allowed in the museum section of the school but nonetheless, I enjoyed it to the fullest. Original pieces from Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol were displayed throughout the museum. There were also different themed art sections like Greek, Contemporary, Romantic, Egyptian, and Chinese. I was inspired to draw again by all the different artists. I especially enjoyed the contemporary art. A museum guide gave me some free pamphlets of the RISD (pronounced RIZZ-dee) after I purchased a couple of postcards.

Speaking of the postal system, I got mail today! One of my Pinole friends sent me a hand-written letter in the mail. As a college student 3,000 miles from home, some familiar contact was very welcoming.

I explored stores on Thayer Street with Erinn and Kathleen after lunch at V-Dub. Erinn took us to a hidden bamboo garden on the non-commercial part of Thayer. On the walk back, I found a hidden swing! The girls of Cohort #1 are busy uncovering the secret treasures of Thayer Street.

We had dinner together before heading back to our respective houses to blog. I am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow! Ms. Larson is meeting us on campus and we are going to give her a campus tour. We are becoming expert tour guides after seeing so many on the east coast. We can even walk backwards like them without falling over!

“Inception” is playing in Saloman Hall tonight! A lot of my floor mates left campus to visit their family for the weekend. Of course I miss my family, but I am okay with not seeing them for a few more weeks. Their phone calls are encouraging and loving. All this practice will have me ready for college next year.

Happy Friday, and good night.

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