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Letters to Myself
Tuesday, 12 April 2005
Human Female Genetic Study
This is one of the most intriguing bits of information yet, from current studies of the human genome.

Nature: Human Female Genome Study


"In female mammals, most genes on one X chromosome are silenced as a result of X-chromosome inactivation. However, some genes escape X-inactivation and are expressed from both the active and inactive X chromosome. Such genes are potential contributors to sexually dimorphic traits, to phenotypic variability among females heterozygous for X-linked conditions, and to clinical abnormalities in patients with abnormal X chromosomes. Here, we present a comprehensive X-inactivation profile of the human X chromosome, representing an estimated 95% of assayable genes in fibroblast-based test systems. In total, about 15% of X-linked genes escape inactivation to some degree, and the proportion of genes escaping inactivation differs dramatically between different regions of the X chromosome, reflecting the evolutionary history of the sex chromosomes. An additional 10% of X-linked genes show variable patterns of inactivation and are expressed to different extents from some inactive X chromosomes. This suggests a remarkable and previously unsuspected degree of expression heterogeneity among females."


This does have some really fascinating implications.

Here's a fun article that discusses the function of X inactivation in producing tricolor female cats.

Mosaic Genetics

One thing that makes the new chromosome study so intriguing...
"Early in embryogenesis in mammals, all but one X chromosome are functionally inactivated through a process called X chromosome inactivation. Because this inactivation occurs randomly, all normal females have roughly equal populations of two genetically different cell types and are therefore a type of mosaic. In roughly half of their cells, the paternal X chromosome has been inactivated, and in the other half the maternal X chromosome is inactive. This has a number of important biological and medical implications, particularly with regard to X-linked genetic diseases."
This article reflects conventional thinking about X inactivation. But the latest study indicates that it isn't nearly this simple -- in human females, the X inactivation is incomplete and shows quite a range of variability. Apparently even in the cells within an individual.

Part of the import is that alleles which are heterozygous may be pathogenic -- something like the possible adverse results from conditions like trisomy. It is pretty confusing to me when I try to think of exactly what happens when multiple different alleles in the same cell are actively transcribing to produce the same protein, but if they're very different, it seems obvious that the results will not be good.

At the very least this might explain why I have such a hard time understanding the female of the species.

Anyway, where this is taking me --

Imagine an organism with such fundamental characteristic capriciousness built in, from the level of chromosomes on up.

Little wonder that women should reserve the right to change their minds. Their very constituent cells are explicitly built, from the ground up, upon that very theme. ;-)

Posted by jcobabe at 12:04 PM MDT
Updated: Tuesday, 12 April 2005 1:28 PM MDT
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Monday, 11 April 2005
Religious Left?
Headline: America having second thoughts about influence of religious right

Do you think the stuff this guy writes is true, or is he just another disgruntled liberal? They all still seem to be pretty much clueless about why left-wing politics is such a big loser.

Here's the main point of the editorial, and what this guy is really hoping to sell:
"Maybe they're realizing that for all its pious moralizing, the fundamentalist movement is less about right than self-righteousness, less about faith than intrusion and less about God than power."
This is a laundry list of what the frustrated liberals are really worried about, and the big lie they're hoping to get everyone to swallow. Isn't it amazing that these guys are so vitally interested in public opinion polls -- they absolutely hang on the hint that public sentiment might possibly be manipulated or shifting in their favor, regardless of what people really believe. So now they're hoping to exploit this paranoia about the "religious right", whoever that is, caricatured as some kind of power-mad out-of-control ugly monster that burns books, destroys scientific progress, and brutally forces everyone to recite that horrid pledge. It's obvious that the "religious right" is really just a thinly disguised Hitler, waiting to enslave us all in tyrannical dictatorship and mind control.

Despite the "attack" stance of this piece, this kind of left-wing preaching can never resist the chance to do some promotion of their own doctrine:
"Yes this is, as the fundamentalists are fond of saying, a Christian nation. Thing is, it's also a Jewish, Muslim, atheist, Hispanic and gay nation."
Here is another big lie -- it's a fatal moral flaw if the majority somehow fails to perfectly serve every minority interest. The system is a failure if it fails to serve Muslims or gays, or Wiccans or Druids or any other freakish but politically correct vanishingly small faction they can scare up out of some dark corner.

But of course, this is why our founders created a Representative republic, designed to weight the consideration of minority interests, but without letting them derail the whole machine every time there is a minor dissent. And the liberals never seem to recognize that their style of representation tends to disenfranchise the majority, the unique interests of a few are served at the expense of many. Witness the current controversy over filibusters and judicial appointments.

Liberals seem to wholeheartedly believe that they invented religious freedom, and in their great wisdom granted limited license to this special privilege, along with all the other civil liberties they so graciously extend to plain common folk.

Of course, it was never intended for us to actually use this license. It was supposed to be subject to their oversight and approval.

Perhaps that's why they're so flustered and frightened that we now presume to exercise those freedoms -- without their permission.

The editorial asserts,
"The only way that works is if we inculcate respect for difference and, more to the point, respect for the laws and customs that protect difference."
Nonsense. These people have such a selective, blinkered focus. Their whole ACLU-dominated mission is to create and exploit loopholes in the law, and is the antithesis of "respect for the laws". They cannot abide the traditional values that are the foundation of our common law, and are forced to hammer in their own brand of dictatorial "respect for difference" through divisive and devious means like judicial legislation and phony public opinon polls.

Truly the most invidious form of intolerance is the one that discriminates against and abuses the majority, the people who empowered these elite snobs in the first place.

(How's that for reactionary?)

Posted by jcobabe at 9:42 AM MDT
Updated: Tuesday, 12 April 2005 11:37 AM MDT
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Tuesday, 5 April 2005
Terri Schiavo: Saving a life?
I'm not enthusiastic about this cause. If the issues were as clear as some of the conservative talkers indicate, there would be no controversy.

It reminds me of past campaigns to raise pennies for school children, or feed starving orphans in Somalia, or something equally heart-rending but just as likely to be deeply burdened with layers of useless bureacratic "overhead".

I cannot learn the facts of the matter by scanning the news stories or listening to Rush. The news is just packed with rumors and innuendo -- there's no way to tell what if any is true.

I believe that under the current laws, the spouse of an incapacitated marriage partner holds the responsibility of legal guardianship. This woman's parents don't like that arrangement, because they want to keep maintaining the women in case she might recover from her decade-long coma, and the husband wants to withhold medical intervention to let her die. Thus the parents want to challenge the legality of the husband's custodial authority. This argument is the essence of the matter, and as far as I can tell, summarizes the only clearly delineated facts. Almost everything else in the news appears to consist of one-sided stories that rather remarkably represent one of the parties as a saint and the other as an evil tyrant -- this assignment of heroism or depravity depending on which of the two family groups you choose to side with.

This argument should have been settled between the families. How unfortunate that the jurists who heard the original lawsuits did not so judge.

Posted by jcobabe at 2:26 PM MDT
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Tommorow is the end of the world
Somebody else is worried that the world might end tommorow...
FLDS doomsday
Least of my worries, I'm thinking. Not sure I would even notice. :-(

Posted by jcobabe at 2:12 PM MDT
Updated: Tuesday, 12 April 2005 11:43 AM MDT
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Nuclear Iran
I'm indulging in some sloppy brainstorming here, honest reactions welcomed...

Nuclear Iran

While things in Iraq seem to be working themselves out, now I think its time to set off a little bomb in the Iranian nuclear project, before some of the Iranian radicals start thinking they're free to cook up nukes to use on us. There's no reason to work so hard against terrorist capability in other places while neglecting such a threat.

Here's hoping the Israelis will take charge and catch the heat. I would volunteer for an Israeli-sponsored international strike force to blow away the Iranian nuclear complex. There's no reason for terrorism to be such a one-way function.

These people developing their nuclear program have it far too easy, leveraged by borrowing existing technology from others who already bore all the risks and paid the real costs. It wouldn't take much to discourage this kind of enterprise. Rupture a few containment vessels and the site will glow in the dark for 5000 years. And billions in infrastructure investment will be untouchable.

Then let the Iranians raise a hue and cry about nuclear poisoning in their own backyard.

Posted by jcobabe at 2:02 PM MDT
Updated: Tuesday, 5 April 2005 2:05 PM MDT
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Interpreting AIDS/HIV statistics
In the course of discussion someone told me that my assertions were simply wrong.

Yah, I always am, just as a matter of policy. I find that it saves a lot of time just to start out simply wrong, instead of fumbling around with complicated complex wrongs.

As far as sparring with the numbers, I suppose you serve your own interests there. The numbers I see tell a different tale.

I was looking at Avert.org, and found data and reporting that seems to support the same kind of inconsistency I see in your views.

With regard to AIDS/HIV epidemiology -- statistics indicate that it is manifestly a disease that far disproportionaly affects blacks and homosexuals. Without those particular groups to communicate HIV, the "epidemic" does not exist. This is what the numbers show.

The numbers from Africa are staggering. 7% of the total population is infected. Two-thirds of worldwide AIDS/HIV incidence is in Africa. Some individual African countries approach 40%. Truly, this is not an epidemic, it is a decimating plague. (BTW, this also tends to skew the "worldwide" figures.) AIDS/HIV incidence in North America is reportedly 0.6%.

I found it ironic to read in the Avert reports the concern that in the US, blacks account for so much of the current incidence (12% of population, 49% of cases), but nothing to note a similar disparity for homosexuals. Rather, there was sort of a congratulatory note because a third of the currently infected are reportedly heterosexual -- a sort of inference that homosexuals don't have any more to worry about. Perhaps this is what you were trying to explain as well. But by my ballpark guestimation,the current numbers indicate that homosexuals run five to ten times higher infection risk in proportion to the rest of the population.

To me, that sounds like a disease that definitely prefers homosexual victims.

I'm not passing moral judgements about AID/HIV. But if it matters, we should at least charcterize the problem accurately.

Posted by jcobabe at 1:52 PM MDT
Updated: Tuesday, 5 April 2005 2:07 PM MDT
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Saturday, 12 March 2005
Proof

In the priesthood meeting discussion regarding the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the subject of the witnesses was brought up. Someone asserted that it would be impossible for that many people to all experience exactly the same fantasy at the same time, with no prearragment or collaboration, and corroborate on all details.

I wondered to myself how many people would be watching the same television program that night.

What constitutes proof in one context does not necessarily suffice in another.

Posted by jcobabe at 11:01 AM MST
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Arguing with God
I've had my own arguments with the Almighty about the way things are being mis-managed. It seems that my personal plans for happiness and success don't always fit in with the eternal scheme of things. Too bad, I really did intend to share the wealth. And as far as I can see, nobody seems to be very receptive to the idea of sharing poverty.

Posted by jcobabe at 10:57 AM MST
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Safe assumptions
In the last few years it has been made painfully obvious to me that my personal predisposition and inclination are based on many rather arbitrary
assumptions. I cannot function effectively without taking a whole lot of things for granted. But because of some of the things I accepted without question, I have on occasion run face-first smack into a lot of brick walls that I assumed were doorways.

One of the areas of concern that I take for granted is that I am safe from massive secret conspiracies. The possible food conspiracy that was hinted at doesn't seem real to me, so I assume that it doesn't exist.

I have come to know, however, that my assmptions don't necessarily obtain, in all cases. Perhaps there really is a food conspiracy -- Phillip Morris and Pepsi and Coca-cola are really trying to poison me. From a pragmatists point of view, what can I do about it? Not much, I figure. So it seems a safe assumption to pretend that no such conspiracy could exist. In fact, I know that a major conspiracy has existed for decades in the formuation of addictive substances in cigarettes and cola drinks. But it is more convenient for me to ignore this evidence in the interest of a comfortable life.

What other "safe assumptions" do we make that really are not at all "safe"? We depend on countless elements to sustain our very lives. And we have no
rational reason for believing that they are dependable, other than that they have been up to now. And a track record is no assurance that we are not nearing the end of the rope.

What can we depend on, then? Virtually nothing, it seems.

Isn't that why we have faith, the evidence of things hoped for, the assurance of things not seen?

Posted by jcobabe at 10:53 AM MST
Updated: Saturday, 12 March 2005 11:04 AM MST
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Friday, 11 March 2005
So soon forgotten?

Bored and sick today, I started making a survey of attitudes reflected in news and blogs. How remarkable it is to me that we so soon forget. I suppose human memory is merciful in this regard. Otherwise the pain from hurtful memories should be constant and unremitting.

I looked at photos of people falling from the burning WTC buildings, and was reminded of my feelings on the day of that horrifying event. I renew my assertion that we cannot afford to live in the same world with people who can contemplate such acts, who have the will and the resources to commit such atrocities.

I believe progress has been made in correcting that problem. While the means we have used to forward that undertaking are as distressing as the problem they intend to correct, I believe the motivation which moves us makes all the difference.

When bombs and bullets are being flung about, it is difficult to identify the higher moral and ethical considerations that prompted us to escalate this conflict. Yet our purposes remain the same, as do those of our antagonists. To me it is only a small sample of the continuing battle between good and evil.

Posted by jcobabe at 6:55 PM MST
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