Sunday, June 27, 2010

A new cat

I was trying to see how easy it is to add pictures to my blog - and it was quite easy! This little fellow (actually I think it is a girl cat), showed up on my friends' porch while I was house and cat sitting (they have a 15 yr old male cat, Alvin, that can be affectionate). She checked out the porch and even hopped up on my lap! Adorable! She even tried to get into the house when I went to get my camera.

After I left, the cat came to the porch on a regular basis. My friends decided to adopt her after they weren't able to find the owner. She's a little cat so they thought she was a kitten but she has her adult teeth and is likely 2-3 years old. They named her Allison Catherine (Alley Cat). She's settled into the house but I hear Alvin is taking his time getting used to the new addition to the family.

Over the years I've thought about adopting a cat. My allergies to cats have pretty much disappeared (may be I should look into how allergies change over time - I had allergies all my life. They got worse when I was in grad school & disappeared 10 yrs later!) so I can have a cat, but I've never really had pets growing up. And I worry about the cost of a cat & what the cat might do when I'm not at home (I sometimes work quite long hours during the semester). And do I really need to add cat hair to my hair that I already have to vacuum?!? My poor vacuum cleaner!

I get to visit Alley and Alvin next weekend when I head to the shore. I'll be participating in a kazoo band in the Ocean Grove parade - should be interesting!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

toxins in sperm whales

Toxins found in whales bode ill for humans

This is based on a news piece I read in Yahoo news (toxins&whales). I'm not sure why is this such a shock. It is well known that animals & fish that feed on other species of animals will accumulate the toxins that their prey have eaten. And as you go further up the food chain the toxins accumulate to higher concentrations (it was noted that sperm whales eat sharks!). This is why pregnant women, children & other susceptible groups shouldn't eat salmon, mahi mahi and similar fish. See: for information about this (I tried to find the information at the USDA or EPA websites but found it difficult to do so). And given the fact that ocean currents will carry waste & debris from one end of the earth to another (see: it shouldn't be that much of a surprise that Artic whales have high levels of toxins.

I also think an explanation of one of the statements by Roger Payne, who headed the study, is needed:
"the concentration of chromium found in whales was several times higher than the level required to kill healthy cells in a Petri dish"

Sometimes you can't make the jump from what is observed in animals to what you would expect to observe in cells in culture. Healthy cells in Petri dishes aren't normal cells; although scientists use them as if they are to do their experiments. These are cells that have been transformed (changed) to become immortal so that scientists have time to do their research (normal cells from humans or other mammalian species have a limited life span in culture). To become immortal the cells have acquired mutations or have oncogenes (cancer causing genes) inserted into their genomes - many of the changes that are associated with immortalization are not known and there may be other mutations that may not be related to immortalization but will contribute to how the cells act in culture.

Take home message: (1) don't take science news articles at face value - the reporters writing these articles often don't have the background to ask the right questions or see the 'big picture'; and (2) take care in choosing the foods you eat. I have found the book, "What to Eat" by Marion Nestle to be quite informative. She also has additional information at her website

A start

So I've finally decided to start a blog. I've posted links and comments to Facebook about a variety of topics and the ones that garner the most interest are those related to exercise, nutrition, vaccines, etc. And friends have suggested I start a blog (I guess they think my thoughts are insightful enough). I'm also a member of Sigma Delta Epsilon/Graduate Women in Science (check us out at* and we are trying to reach out to more people via Facebook, LinkedIn, as well as other social media - including this blog.

So check back soon. I hope to have a new post in which I actually discuss something!

*I'll also figure out how to make hyperlinks!