Telomeres

red geranium

My area of expertise is not molecular biology.  Such cannot be said for Elizabeth Blackburn.  I recently watched a documentary called Immortal?, aired on The Passionate Eye, which included some footage of Liz Blackburn.  The documentary discussed the “science” of telomeres, it did not delve into the politics of science.  I found the documentary very interesting from a layman’s perspective and very biased from an analytical perspective.

From where I see things science is not unbiased.  This perspective made my years in the academy politically challenging.  I think the answers you find are dependent on the questions you ask.  Science asks very specific questions, questions mediated by research funding and academic politics.  That is where the research begins; in the questions asked.  To these specific questions science finds very specific answers, that are often fascinating and often of benefit to humans and too often detrimental to human existence.  I feel that bias begins with the formation of questions asked, and continues during the process of answering the questions.  My point is not that all bias is bad; it is that all knowledge is biased. Informed decision making must include acknowledgement and consideration of bias.

Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres explores the life of Elizabeth Blackburn, the story of telomeres and the nature of the scientific community.

I stayed up late last night to watch the documentary Immortal?, something I don’t do very often.  Attila didn’t wait up for me though, he went to bed as soon as the fire in the little wood stove died down and he could close the damper.

If Attila is awake he is moving.  Atilla is a “doer”.  He is happiest when he has a project on the go, a project requiring physical activity.  At the end of the day Attila is ready to sleep.

I am a different sort of “doer”.  I am happiest when I have several projects on the go, some requiring physical activity and some requiring intense mental focus.  If the balance tips towards mental focus my sleep requirement shortens, if it tips towards physical activity my sleep requirement lengthens.  Lately, the balance has tipped towards physical activity, so I have needed more sleep.  Watching a thought provoking documentary tipped the balance towards mental focus, so last night I went to bed later and this morning I woke up earlier, thinking about what I had seen the night before.

Both Attila and I have the capacity for the third focus, that is emotional/imaginative/creative.  However, at this point in our lives there is little opportunity to indulge this sort of focus; we are too involved surviving our respective jobs (places where emotions, imagination and creativity are not welcome) and enjoying our responsibilities for our two homes.  It is our dream that at some point in our lives here on earth, we will be able to include a healthy element of our emotional/imaginative/creative energies in our day-to-day lives.  It could happen.

We had a wonderful weekend at the little house.

Lares got the heating system up and running, we are so lucky he is a member of our family!  After working for a week solid, Terra had Sunday off and took the time to show me her new Blackberry phone.  An amazing device!  Terra is on 24/7 call, and needs an extremely reliable device to make sure her employer can contact her when needed; the Blackberry does a fine job of it.  I really enjoyed going for a long walk with Terra, I love walking and it is a treat to have such good company at the same time.

Sunday afternoon Luna stopped by with Imp and Elf and Tink.  They brought cookies for us, cookies that they made that morning.  I’m glad they only brought one each, because those cookies are so good that I’d eat every last one.   What fun we had!  The grandkids enjoyed peering down into the basement through the partially constructed cold air return grate.  Grandpa chatted with them, and they kept trying to catch a glimpse of their hard-working uncle.  I took Imp and Elf down to the basement several times to see what Grandpa and Uncle were doing.  It was a real work zone though, so we didn’t stay down there very long.  Tink is amazingly aware of everything!  She has a quick and adorable smile, and a very determined idea of what she wants.  This girl is no pushover!  Imp and Elf and Tink and I all played on my bed, rolling around like a barrel of monkeys.  It was great fun.

Today is overcast, and warmer than it it has been.  I’m hoping the sun will come out and warm the house up!  Next week I’ll cure the masonry heater, then it will be charged and ready to heat the house for the winter.  Wood heat is a lot of work.  I love sitting in front of the cozy fires with Attila and I miss Attila when he has to spend hours of his free time working on the wood supply and building the fires.  We cannot have it both ways though, so for now we are going to stay with wood heat.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

4 C
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 4.0°C
Dewpoint: 3.0°C
Humidity: 93 %
Wind: NNW 8 km/h

Quote

Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.
Robert Bresson

Moving through time slowly.

Attila and I enjoyed the month of September, in which we went on a working holiday at the little house and then returned to work and chores at the country house.

I’ve spent much of the last two weeks catching up with paying bills and working through all the paperwork generated by our two weeks of work at the little house.  That was one expensive holiday.  Also, there was a very high pile of bills and documents waiting for my attention when I arrived home, and they have taken up almost all of my free time since.  I have almost caught up with all these fiddly bits!

Our next project at the little house is to get the furnace working.  Cold weather is on the way!  The furnace needs a bit of attention, even though it is only a few years old.  Actually, it is the duct work  that needs all the attention.  Previous renovators installed a new bathroom floor, which completely covered the heating vent.  One has to wonder what they were thinking.  We will have to cut through the floor in the bathroom to release the heat into the room.  Also, the cold air return was almost completely blocked (don’t ask!) and now needs to be taken to bits and rebuilt.

At our country house Attila is working steadily to bring all our wood into the wood shed.  He has made real headway on the project; it is a lot of hard work.  I am working six days next week, and so will wait to the following week when I have more time off, to begin charging the masonry heater for the winter.  In the meantime Attila is building evening fires in the little wood stove in the basement, which is keeping the house at a comfortable temperature.

I brought the geraniums into the house this evening, as the temperature could drop to zero over the weekend.  These are my first geraniums. I’m hoping to put them in a dark place for the winter and bring them back out in the spring.  I won’t be putting a garden in pots on the deck at the country house next summer, although I may plant some tomatoes and such at the little house.  That is a big maybe, because gardens need regular attention and I may not be able to supply it.

Attila and I sit in our chairs at the end of our long, satisfying days, and most evenings we are waiting for bedtime!  Aren’t we exciting!  To go to bed too early is disastrous, as we wake up far too early in the morning and then are tired anew when we toddle off to work.

I haven’t been taking all that many pictures of late, and they take quite a while to prepare for Internet publication. Tonight I fear that if I try to find and edit a photo, this entry won’t make it to the server at all. So I’ve forgone my usual image, for the sake of expediency.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

12 C
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 12.0°C
Dewpoint: 4.3°C
Humidity: 59 %
Wind: NW 13 km/h

Quote

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
1896 – 1940

Catching our breath…

Attila and I are catching our breath.  We took our vacation over the first two weeks of September.  It was a working vacation.  The day we left two Realtors took prospective buyers through our country house, the second one came in after we left for our little house in the city.  It was extremely hectic, trying to plan, pack, load the car, prepare Mist for her maiden voyage to the little house and make sure all would be secure while we were away.

Mist HATES car rides, and she spent a great part of the journey verbalizing her opinions.  However, within five minutes of arriving at the little house, she was sprawled out on our bed and making herself right at home.  She loves the little house!

Our first task was to try and evict the chipmunks.  It took three days, but we managed to block their entry and keep them from reentering the building.  The dumpster arrived in our driveway on Tuesday morning of the first week, it was 20 feet long and 8 feet wide.  Attila spent Tuesday gutting the basement.  What a job!  He removed drywall, studs, vapour barrier, insulation, doors, closets, ceiling boards, all stained with animal waste and covered with mildew.  For this job Attila wore a disposable coverall with hood and a face mask during the entire project.  Once all the materials had been removed from the basement the bad smells in the house began to dissipate.  I also sprayed an alcohol solution on all the surfaces in the basement to kill mildew and spores and any viruses that may  have been left behind by the evicted animal residents.

The basement remains damp, as it has moisture issues that still need to be resolved.  We purchased a large dehumidifier which has removed much of the dampness temporarily.  However, we must dig around the foundation and put in proper drainage and water barriers before thinking about finishing off the basement.

On Wednesday morning of the first week Attila tore the rotted decking off the back deck, and the frame that held it up, which was cobbled together and quite dangerous.  All of the wood he tore out went into the dumpster.

On Thursday morning of the first week Attila began removing shingles from the roof, which took all day Thursday and Friday.  Saturday Lares arrived to help Attila shingle the roof, and they managed to get about a third of the job completed.  Then Attila worked all day every day until the following Thursday to finish the job.  I hope he never has to do that again, it is very, very  hard work!

Attila worked on cleaning up the roofing job on Thursday morning and then took the afternoon off, as there were torrential rains. How lucky we were that the rain started after the roofing job was completed!  We drove through the countryside in the area, in the rain, and enjoyed ourselves.  While on our drive we passed a pick-your-own apple farm, but it was too wet to consider picking apples on Thursday.

The final Friday of our holiday, our first day of rest, we returned to the apple farm and picked ourselves a bushel of rosy red apples to take home with us.  Then we headed to the city to shop.  Our idea of shopping is to visit the ReStore, and other second hand shops, to look for building materials for our little house.  We did buy a few small things, a curtain rod and a doorstop.  Then we took ourselves out for dinner.

We were so lucky that during our visit granddaughter Tink turned one year old, the twins Imp and Elf turned four years old, and Imp and Elf attended their very first day of school.  It was great to see them.  Attila and I agree, being a grandparent is just plain wonderful.

So, while Attila was doing all his strenuous work on gutting the basement, dismantling the deck and putting a new roof on the house, what was I doing?

Plenty!  First I went shopping and bought a stove for the house.  I wanted to buy a used stove, but without a vehicle to transport it home it just didn’t work.  So, off I went to a chain store and bought the cheapest stove they had, which was delivered the first Tuesday of our two week holiday.  And then I cooked!  We ate like royalty the whole two weeks.  Attila really needed to, with all the physical labour he was doing each day.  The stove, although inexpensive, works very well.

I shopped for several days, running to the building centre for Attila to pick up things he needed for his projects.   I purchased small things from the dollar store, and larger things from the second hand stores.  The role of chief cook and bottle washer was mine alone.  I cleaned, cleaned, cleaned. Slowly I outfitted the house for comfort.  I did small “repairs” such as my fix for the bathroom faucet rot in the photos; which was very successful and we were thus able to take showers.

Bathtub at the Little House July 2010

Bathtub at the Little House, September18, 2010

On Monday and Tuesday of the second week Luna accompanied Janus on a business trip, and I stayed with Imp and Elf and Tink.  What a great time we had!  We stayed indoors, as the yard was being excavated for a new septic system.  Elf had endless hours of entertainment there, as we moved a stool to the bedroom window so that he could stand and observe the excavation and the installation of the septic system.  Imp enjoyed reading books with Gramma, and Tink just enjoyed everything!  We all had a wonderful time.

An added bonus of the holiday was that we got to see Terra and Lares almost every day.  It was great to spend time, share meals and chat together.  We look forward to moving to our little house, it will be so nice to have them near all the time.

Terra is enjoying her new job, I believe she has found her true calling.  The shift work is difficult to get used to, and being on call 24/7 is very wearing, and she is holding up very well.

We arrived home Sunday last, tired and ready to go back to our jobs for a little rest and relaxation!

Critters!

I am working four days this week!  Today is my one day off and Attila has left me with a list of places to call; I am on a verbal information gathering expedition.  I must call metal roofing manufacturers and retailers for prices and delivery schedules.  I must call waste management firms for prices and delivery schedules for dumpsters.  I must call asphalt shingle retailers for prices and delivery schedules.  We are going to be roofing very soon!  We have our fingers crossed for fair weather! A big project, in terms of time and money.  It has to be done.

Bumblebee on a zucchini bloom.

We will need a dumpster to discard the three layers of shingles that already exist on the roof.  We will be adding all kinds of other building materials to the dumpster.  Old carpeting (mildewed and disgusting), the existing deck boards (particle board!  A silly, silly, silly choice!), drywall, insulation and wood panelling, boards and who knows what else, will go into that dumpster.

The little house has a distinctive odour, very unpleasant.  We’ve wondered about the source.  Part of it is the mildewed carpet which will go into the dumptster, part of it dampness from a water problem in the basement, but there is another smell that we thought may have been the toilet leaking.  Yesterday Attila tore down the ceiling drywall in the family room below the bathroom.  It wasn’t our toilet that has been causing the odour, oh no.  A community of chipmunks have invaded the house, long before we purchased it, and they used/use that area as their toilet.  And they are still in residence!  Critters! We are not alone!

Attila boarded up every exterior opening he could find and used steel wool to seal every tiny crack that wasn’t taken care of by the boards.  We will have to completely strip down that family room; we will remove all panelling, drywall and insulation and then assess the damage and strategize the measures we need to take to permanently evict our unwanted tenants.

Yesterday, while Attila explored the odour problem, I was busy washing the hardwood floor in the living room.  It is badly stained and there are many nails visible to the eye.  It is not a good candidate for sanding and refinishing.  I am going to explore the option of painting the hardwood.  I also put up newer canvas drapes in the corner window, allowing us privacy while letting in lots of light.  Terra came over for a visit and helped me arrange the chairs in that sunny little corner.  Now Attila and I will have a pleasant place to sit when we take short breaks from our labours.

I still need to tackle the lower kitchen cabinets.  There is still a bit of carpet down there that has to come out, disgusting!  My plan is to remove the carpet, spray things down with alcohol, remove the rodent droppings and rodent food debris, wash the every surface with soap and bleach, spray a second time with alcohol, and paint all surfaces.  Then I will measure and cut cedar boards to line the shelves, varathane the top surface of the cedar for wear and waterproofing and nail them into place.  Only after all this is accomplished will I use the space for kitchen storage.  The cedar boards are old spacers which we rescued before they could be burned as garbage.

Attila and I have a busy few months ahead of us.

Today the sun is shining and the day has started off cool and refreshing.  Apparently that will not last, heat and humidity are predicted.  I have the house wide open to capture the cool morning breezes, and will close it up tight as soon as the outdoor temperature is the same as the indoor temperature.

The tomatoes are ripening on the deck garden!  I am really looking forward to having a few home grown tomatoes this year.  There is one zucchini!  Better one than none.  I won’t be bothered with another deck garden, it isn’t worth all that trouble for a half dozen tomatoes and one zucchini.  I’m glad I tried it though, it was fun.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

20 °C
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.4 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 20.0°C
Dewpoint: 18.1°C
Humidity: 89 %
Wind: S 5 km/h
Humidex: 26

Quote

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.”
Ursula K. LeGuin

The leaves are turning!

Looking out the window this morning a bit of colour caught my eye. Up until today the view has been green, green, green. This morning a bit of yellow and red have stolen into the landscape. Autumn is on its way.

First Autumn Colours 2010

First Autumn Colours 2010

It was raining again this morning, but not cold, or even terribly humid. I have only had to water my deck garden a few times this summer, the rain has arrived consistently to do the job. I’m not sure I’d go to the trouble again. Although we will harvest enough tomatoes, basil and zucchini to justify the initial cost of putting in the garden, it doesn’t yield enough to provide for more than few light meals. I am hoping that we can put in a more substantial garden at the little house, where bears aren’t an issue.

I’ve two days off this week. I’ll spend my time preparing for our next excursion to the little house. The list of things to take with us gets longer and longer. Anything we take in the car during these visits will not need to be transported by moving van in the future. Some things are making the trip back and forth, like power tools, because we use them at both locations.

Next week I have one day of work.

My to do list is short today. I have a few phone calls to make, but I have to wait until after 9:00 am to make them. It seems I’m always waiting for the rest of the world to wake up! Most of the morning chores are already done, just the bed to make and then the house is ready to “show”.

I think it is time for me to return to my book project, which has been neglected all summer long. The Canadian research is complete, I just need to pay to see the US records to fill in the blanks for one line of the family. However, I hesitate to spend any money on such non-necessities, because we are supporting two houses and a car. Perhaps I’ll publish without the US relatives, one has to work within one’s means.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

21 °C
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 21.0°C
Dewpoint: 16.0°C
Humidity: 73 %
Wind: 9 km/h
Humidex: 26

Quote

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(1807 – 1882)