Monday, April 30, 2007

A bee mystery

It looks like the cell phones might be innocent.
LA Times reports:
>>A fungus, a single-celled parasite called Nosema ceranae, that caused widespread loss of bee colonies in Europe and Asia may be playing a crucial role in the mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder that is wiping out bees across the United States. But the results are "highly preliminary" and are from only a few hives from Le Grand in Merced County, UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi said. "We don't want to give anybody the impression that this thing has been solved."
Historically, bee losses are not unusual. Weather, pesticide exposures and infestations by pests, such as the Varroa mite, have wiped out significant numbers of colonies in the past, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s.
But the current loss appears unprecedented. Beekeepers in 28 states, Canada and Britain have reported large losses. About a quarter of the estimated 2.4 million commercial colonies across the United States have been lost since fall, said Jerry Hayes of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Gainesville.
Besides producing honey, commercial beehives are used to pollinate a third of the country's agricultural crops, including apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries, strawberries and pumpkins. Ninety percent of California's almond crop is dependent on bees, and a loss of commercial hives could be devastating.
"For the most part, they just disappeared," said Florida beekeeper Dave Hackenberg, who was among the first to note the losses. "The boxes were full of honey. That was the mysterious thing. Usually other bees will rob those hives out. But nothing had happened."
If N. ceranae does play a role in Colony Collapse Disorder, there may be some hope for beekeepers. A closely related parasite called Nosema apis, which also affects bees, can be controlled by the antibiotic fumagillin, and there is some evidence that it will work on N. ceranae as well.<<
Let's hope.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mi Vida con La Manzana, Pt.3: Hell

In January 2001, I moved to deep-frozen Michigan. In my lab and also in a general computer lab at the department, one could find both Macintoshes and Windows PCs. Sadly and somehow not surprisingly, the PCs were constantly occupied and the Macs were usually available, reflecting the general disillusion with the platform. In March 2001, I attended a seminar focused on a new operating system developed by Apple and based on a recently purchased NeXT/OpenSTEP. Looking at the screenshots during the presentation, it struck me that the Mac just got resurrected through the fusion of a visual beauty of the new GUI and the old Mac feel, which is, maybe more importantly, based on a solid UNIX-like kernel technology. Unfortunately, the lack of native applications and missing support for other languages forced me to get a PC laptop - the one-way ticket to Hell. The notebook came with the ill-fated Windows ME and entertained me with Blue Screens of Death for 3 years. In the meantime, I moved to California and started to notice that the ugly and somehow crippled duckling called MacOS X 10.0 started to turn into something usable (Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar) and later even into something solid and very stable (MacOS X 10.3 Panther). Together with the system speed improvements and stability, Adobe and Microsoft delivered crucial applications like Creative Suite and Office, respectively and Apple itself came with a bunch of applications focused on music and video. It was time to "think differently", again.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mi Vida con La Manzana, Pt.2: Purgatory

At the end of 1990s, the Windows world was significantly changing and once-Mac-unique GUI features were being shamelessly copied. Trying to move the Mac project forward, Apple was internally experimenting with a new operating system code-named Copland, which was to be released as MacOS 8. Its sad history can be found here. In a moment of desperation, some of the parts of the Copland project were implemented into OS 7 and subsequently released under a moniker of MacOS 8. For the average person the need of a new OS was not so obvious, as the GUI and many features were still among the best available, but the system was crashing too often to make users happy. In a common scenario, when one application crashed, the whole system followed. Even though the Win9x releases, especially the disastrous Windows ME were also crashing a lot, they couldn't be considered as an excuse. At that time, Microsoft implemented a preemptive multitasking, while the Mac community was still stuck with a cooperative one. Memory protection management was missing, while Windows NT introduced protected memory. Extension conflicts were also a nightmare. Apple realized that if they couldn't come with their in-house developed system, they had to buy one, which lead to a short flirt with BeOS and ended by a purchase of NeXT Computer in 1997. NeXT Computer, a cute baby of Steve Jobs and the renegades from Apple that joined him on his crusade after he resigned at Apple, was developing not just breathtaking computers but also a platform-independent, object-oriented and multitasking OS called NeXT/OpenSTEP. In 1999, MacOS 9 was released, being a more mature sibling of MacOS 8, but without any significant improvements in system stability. The only really useful feature were user accounts with privileges and therefore we didn't have to install AtEase anymore. Simultaneously, MacOS X Server (as a first hybrid between OpenSTEP and MacOS 8.5) was released, a clear sign that a purchase of NeXT would hopefully bring its fruits soon. In 2000, I accepted a Research Associate position at the MSU.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mi Vida con La Manzana, Pt.1: Heaven

I have decided to put together some memories of my first experience with Macintoshes. When I started my PhD, I joined a newly established plant molecular biology laboratory. My boss just returned from a post-doc in Germany and received a gigantic starting grant. Being ones of the first employees/students, my colleague and me were responsible for the computers in the lab. My boss was totally obsessed with a Macintosh and therefore we started to design a lab network based on Apple machines. In a couple of months, we were running three PowerMacintoshes 8200 (with PowerPC 601 chips), two PowerMacintoshes 7600 (with a PowerPC 604 chip), with one of them controlling a sequencing machine and one PowerMacintosh 8500 (also with a PowerPC 604 chip), which was connected to a densitometer and a fluorescence scanner through SCSI ports and later was replaced with then newly released PowerMacintosh G3 (code named Gossamer). In addition to the computers, we also purchased some original Apple accessories, including a brilliant flat-bed Apple Color OneScanner 600/27 with SCSI implementation (it was 11 years ago!) and one Apple LaserWriter 12/640, which was, at that time, an absolutely stunning network (!) laser printer. All computers were sharing files and printers through OpenTransport-implemented EtherTalk (one of the Mac features that instantly left the Win users in awe). PowerMacintoshes all had SCSI ports by default, so a backup of documents on ZIP or JAZ drives could be done in a blink of an eye (again, for Win users something unbelievable; considering that at that time, the ZIP drive was usually connected to a PC through a parallel port). When we got them, the machines were running MacOS 7.5.5. and in 1998, we upgraded to MacOS 8.1, shortly after Steve Jobs returned to Apple as iCEO.

La Coronita

I am back from the dentist appointment! Everything went well and the lost crown is back on my tooth. The doctor was great and he was even making jokes how small my teeth were (which is true, unfortunately). Thanks to Gloria from Servicio de Genómica, I know where to go with dental problems in the future.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


The building of the Reduta Theatre in Brno is thought to be the oldest theatre building in Central Europe (first built in the 16th century). Newly reconstructed and subsequently awarded the Grand Prix of the Society of Architects of the Czech Republic.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Just got back from a departmental retreat in Cercedilla. We spend a night there, so it was nice to see everybody out of Madrid. The retreat was taking place in a conference centre of Politecnica and the residence was actually pretty good, except for the showers that were not working well: the cold water was oscillating so much that we got either burnt or frozen. Yesterday in the afternoon we made a 3-hour walk in the hills to find wild-type Arabidopsis plants. In the night, we played bingo and of course, we also socialized a lot. I was practicing my Spanish and in fact, it was better than the class. Unfortunately, on the way to the mountains, one of my dental crowns got loose and now I have to find a dentist... totally stressful.


Shiira is a promising browser for THE Mac (only, unfortunately for the Win users), based on the Apple Webkit and written in Cocoa. It's still a little bit buggy, but some features are stunning (the Tab Exposé feature, for instance). Check it out, if you are running OS X, the best operating system in the world.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Airport in Brno

A new Departure hall of the Airport in my city. The walls/roof are covered by TiZn scales that evoke a snake skin. Brno is best known for its international style buildings from the 1930s and this particular structure was meant to break this tradition. The new building won the competition under a code name of ANTIBOX and its aerodynamic shape should resemble an airship.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A sweet exile

Having couple of drinks with "El Pintor" yesterday, I realized how lucky were the inhabitants of this country. The phenotypes that reflect the gene pool are simply breathtaking here. "El Pintor", for instance, is taller than me, with a tiny waist and wide shoulders... When I walked through Chueca today, I saw many more examples of this "peninsula phenomenon". Actually, I wasn't walking around to perform these phenotypic studies but to buy a digital camera. I knew what I wanted (Canon IXUS 70 retro) and then in fnac, even though they had the camera on display, they had none (!) in stock. Unbelievable for a capitalist country, a big disappointment... I have to find another place to get it from and I am just hoping that I won't have to go to Alcobendas...
I also realized who "El Pintor" reminded me of. He looks like Jeremy Davies in Solaris but without those obsessive-compulsive moves:

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Pasados" and "pronombres"...

... drive me crazy. It's impossible to explain to my Spanish colleagues that in checo, we have only one pasado and we can also express ourselves without a problem. Unfortunately, there are either Italians or French in my class. For them, préterito imperfecto, pluscuamperfecto, indefinido etc. all make perfect sense! They even look at me like: "But they are derived from LATIN!", in a way that means: "L-A-T-I-N, you know, you retard from Barbaria, the language that rule them all!". C'mon guys, there ARE other language groups!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

We are not all Hokies

I am constantly surprised how pathetic some people can be. Even though I really like to read some gossips from Trent, his new article about the Virginia Tech tragedy left me in shock. For instance the first sentence: "I know that the shooting at Virginia Tech has greatly affected many people all across the country and the world ...". Well, I don't know whether it should affect people more than reading about 200 dead Iraqis on Wednesday. Trent continues: "... and we can never forget the lost". I am afraid and deeply concerned that those 200 innocent Iraqi citizens will be forgotten as early as tomorrow.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Waiting for the night to fall...

... when everything is bearable
and there in the still
all that you feel
is tranquility...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Ten Storey Love Song (1994)

I was in love with Ian Brown back then (but unfortunately, I was not living on the 10th floor).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Everything's Ruined (1992)

This might be the craziest video ever made! The Angel Dust was released just when I was graduating from high school. Faith No More rock!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Io cammino mentre dorme la citta'

Ora ragazzo solo dove andrai
La notte e' un grande mare
Se ti serve la mia mano per nuotare
Grazie ma stasera io vorrei morire
Perche' sai negli occhi miei
C'e' un angelo

Saturday, April 7, 2007

El Viernes Santo en Toledo

For Good Friday, my communist friend Marco and me, a syndicalist-atheist, decided to experience the catholic face of Spain and went see the processions in Toledo. Originally, we wanted to go by train, so we met at the Atocha station at 11:45 to buy a ticket for a train at 12:20. Shockingly, all Madrid-Toledo trains were sold out. Therefore, we decided to get a ticket for a bus leaving from the Estación Sur - Méndez Álvaro. It's a great idea, because shortly after we were sitting in an express bus to Toledo. Sky of Castilla - La Mancha didn't look very promising, but I have been reassuring myself that if we had such luck with the transportation, we would have the same or better luck with the weather. Well... We arrived to Toledo at 13:30 and we followed the "what-to-do-in-Toledo" recommendations/suggestions that we got from Isabelita. The idea was to do a version of Via Crucis, in our case not a Way of the Cross, but a Way of the Jarras. The first stop was a great little pub called El Enebro, serving a good beer with big free tapas. Unfortunately, it was also a time when the first rain arrived. Around the fifth stop, the rain changed into hail. We were just sitting in one pub when the hail broke the glass roof and the rain started to fill the place, it was simply amazing (and scary, too). Because of the rain, there were no processions, even though we saw some preparations. On the way to the last pub, we heard some drums and, finally, we saw a little procession, but without any statues. Our final beer was in a pub called Livingstone, where we successfully finished our Via Dolorosa.

Thursday, April 5, 2007


Felicidades! The Helvetica sans-serif typeface was first introduced 50 years ago as Neue Haas Grotesk. How to distinguish the original beauty from the cheap pathetic rip-off called Arial:

"Widely considered the official typeface of the twentieth century, Helvetica communicates with simple, well-proportioned letterforms that convey an aesthetic clarity that is at once universal, neutral, and undeniably modern." Exhibit on Helvetica opens tomorrow at the MoMA.
Update: The Metro system in Madrid uses Helvetica on the station signs. However, the bold weight of Helvetica "a" doesn't have the tail, so it's mildly confusing. Following another lead, the shape of the letter "t", I found out that the signs on the station entrance door were in Arial. What a fucking inconsistency!

Sunday, April 1, 2007


Knut, das Eisbärbaby.

Una copa más

The full moon pill's got me out on the streets. Another borracho night out with "El pintor de vivienda". First, we did Why not? and then Polana. Watching him work the room. I got back home at 6 in the morning. Today I pay the price, LOL. The (after) life of the party.