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February 10th, 2006

random yellow

I went to the speed dating event last night at the request of a housemate, who was dismayed at the uneven ratio of girls to boys. There were eleven people from each sex and each pair was given three minutes to converse before moving to the next person in line. Most of the girls were freshmen, and four of them were also from the city of Pullman. Interesting. My fake fiancée was also there, but her reasons for attending didn't include a search for romance. I wrote down the names of two girls, and if they wrote down my name as well the event organizers will contact us with the corresponding contact information - not that my life isn't complicated enough that I need to go looking for further trouble right now. If nothing else I suppose it serves as good practice at making a decent first impression?

In the last week I've made or helped to make double-fried plantains, bananas foster, and two types of pasta. Wendy drove back to Seattle last weekend to buy a second property and while she was gone she caught another illness-inducing virus. I was supposed to stop by her apartment yesterday but she was already in bed by the time I called at seven o'clock and wouldn't let me come over, as, according to her, she'd need to get up and take a shower first. I told Wendy that I thought she would look pretty even without the shower but she wasn't hearing any of it. She's going back to Seattle this weekend as well, and if it weren't for some previously-arranged study groups in preparation for next week's exams I would have offered to do all the driving myself. Still, Wendy promised to call me once she's home so I'll know that she's alright.

Twice this week I've received a string of compliments from other people. One was from the teaching assistant of my biological anthropology class, who said that my lab reports were worthy of being turned into manuals due to how neatly I wrote in even the tiniest spaces and that my worksheets were always right (my scores have been 105% and 103% for the two graded labs so far), which was a sentiment echoed by two students standing next to him at the time. The other compliment came from Victoria, who must have spent five minutes telling me how much she liked how I smelled and asking what I'd been using in the shower (as that's where I had been less than thirty minutes before). It's probably not the most common compliment for a guy to hear, but it's a compliment all the same.

night three

Continuing with events from the end of last month, Wendy and I never spent any time together over the weekend like we had planned - on Saturday she slept through most of the day, while my decision to spend the following day with Violet meant my availability was so limited as to be nonexistent. Monday was expected to hold more promise, although when I tried calling Wendy at five o'clock the only reply came from her voicemail.

Continuation On A ThemeCollapse )

sixth speaker

Having missed the opportunity to view several interesting guest speakers since my last outing into the world of academia I was finally able to put things right earlier this afternoon. The title of today's lecture was "How To Become A Pathogen: Lessons From the Pathogenic Eschericha" by Dr. Thomas Whittam of Michigan State University's Microbial Evolution Laboratory. The major emphasis was placed on the evolution of E. coli from a benign bacteria living in the gastro-intestinal system to a virulent pathogen capable of surviving in bovine reservoirs and passing along infectious diseases between humans.

Most of the discussion on gene-mapping was outside my knowledge of biology, but there were a few things about the O157:H7 strain of E. coli that caught my interest. One of the main discoveries was a formula concerned with the natural selection forces in operation for pathogens, which concentrated on a corresponding relationship between enhanced rates of transmission and lowered virility. It makes sense though, as one of the best ways to ensure you pass on your genetic material is to avoid detection for as long as possible by keeping your host unaware of what you're doing.

There are several species of Eschericha that cause dysentery, but the predominant strain, O157:H7, is actually most closely related to 055:H7 - an intestinal bacteria that is found almost exclusively in children and which doesn't cause bloody stools like it's nearest relative. E. coli and other Eschericha species have acquired toxicity independently of one another through the production of Shiga (Stx) toxins and special plasmids (acquired in subsequent stages), as well as developing the ability to move from humans to ruminants (such as cattle) over time.

This probably isn't a topic covered in most general education or high school classes, so it was interesting to hear how Eschericha started off as commensal genus that didn't harm its human host before evolving into the modern fright that it is today. With the recent concern over SARS and Avian Influenza A/(H5N1) it's worth realizing that there are some pathogens that have attacked us first before moving on to other species in the animal kingdom.

Plus, there was also a humorous moment during the Q&A session, when one of the university's faculty members asked about the origin of E. coli's pathogenic state - Dr. Whittam's reply was, "Well, looking at it with our molecular clocks we've managed to narrow the date down considerably. Mapping the genome has given us a starting point of 30,000 years ago, while the first identified infection in a human can be traced to 1975. So I'd be willing to bet it took place some time between 30,000 years ago and 1975. You have to admit, for evolutionary biology that's pretty good!"