Brand New ‘TAG’: Scientists Rewrite Genome

I love making German puns (especially when nestled within a Doctor Horrible reference)…

Anyway, a recent bit of news out of Harvard, Yale, and MIT (yes, we’re playing with the big boys today) is an interesting piece of tech that could revolutionize genetic manipulation.

Galleons, I assume you are all familiar with the find-and-replace function common in word processors. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is all too familiar with it, as they recently made a hilarious mistake on their commuter rail tickets in the month of June. Apparently, they did a find-and-replace on their tickets, replacing “MAY” with “JUN”, which led to:

Good times.

On the whole, however, find-and-replace works quite well. And scientists have found a way to harness this common function and apply the basic concept to changing pieces of a cell’s genome.

Skeptical? You aren’t the only ones.

“We did get some skepticism from biologists early on,” says Peter Carr, senior research staff at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. “When you’re making so many intentional changes to the genome, you might think something’s got to go wrong with that.”

However, the researchers have managed to do hundreds of targeted edits of E. coli gene stuffs in living cells, with the altered bacteria behaving normally.

So, how do they do it?

There are four nucleotides involved in the genetic code of most DNA (and you’ll probably recognize, if not their names, then the letters themselves): Adenine, Thymine, Guanine, and Cytosine. When you take three of these nucleotides and put them together in sequence, you get a codon. There are 64 unique codons in the genetic code. On the most basic level, most codons add an amino acid to a growing polypeptide chain, which eventually becomes a protein in the capable hands of our friends, ribosomes. However, some codons (known oh-so-cleverly as stop codons) stop the addition of an amino acid to that chain.

Within E. coli, the TAG stop codon in the rarest (like Mew). Which makes it a prime target for our find-and-replace endeavor. An endeavor that requires some much more specialized tech than your average word processor. After all, it’s not like we can just open up a text file and type in our terms, replacing all with the click of a button:

The first bit of tech is multiplex automated genome engineering (MAGE), which locates specific DNA sequences and replaces them with a new sequence as the cell copies its DNA. Using this, scientists assume direct control of the changes happening within a cell.

The second is conjugative assembly genome engineering (CAGE), which gives them precise control over a process that bacteria use to exchange genetic material, wherein one bacterium builds a little extension/bridge to its neighbor and passes a piece of its genetic material to its new bridgemate.

Specifically, scientists used MAGE to manufacture 32 strains of E. coli in which they replaced 10 of the TAG stop codons with TAA stop codons. But there are 314 total edits required to completely replace all of the TAG codons, so scientists decided to use CAGE to make things a bit simpler.

Basically, they built a playoff bracket for their little bacteria strains, with each one sharing a bit of genetic goodness with one other strain. So, after Round 1 of CAGE, 16 strains were standing, each now containing 20 edits. Then they were put back into CAGE for Round 2, which yielded 8 strains with 40 edits each.

They’ve managed to get their strains down to 4 (with 80 edits in each, roughly a quarter of the total 314 needed), and they believe they’re on track to create that single strain with all of the needed substitutions.

After they’ve managed to substitute all of the TAG codons, they are going to go in and delete the machinery that reads that particular codon. After all, if it doesn’t exist anymore, why should the cell be able to read it? That will free up this slot for a whole new purpose, which scientists can use to encode new amino acids.


But… why? That’s always the question, galleons. While it just sounds cool to muck around in a cell’s genome like that, we all know scientists have to have some ulterior motives when bothering to create such sophisticated technology in an attempt to fine-tune this kind of genetic tampering.

And this is where shit gets scary.

See, with this technology, scientists could engineer bacteria that are resistant to viruses. Because viruses can only infect a cell if the bacterial and viral genetic codes are the same. Change the genetic code and the bacteria suddenly becomes safe from those pesky viruses.

While scientists claim they could also create little genetic firewalls that prevent their engineered bacteria from spreading their genes to natural bacteria (or just prevent them from being able to survive in the wild in general), I’m just saying…

It sounds like we’ve taken our first steps toward the accidental creation of a zombie virus and the subsequent apocalypse.

Galleons, get your shotguns.

John Allison, Your Words Tickle Me in the Vaguely British Region of My Humor Center (It Borders the Veil of Puns and is Encircled by the Sea of Silly Extended Metaphors)

Tomorrow will be chock full of my opinions and will probably contain a small tirade. But today, I’m going to continue a glorious tradition, wherein I read the archive of a webcomic and then share with you all the quotes that struck my fancy and elicited a titter (so… it’s basically filler, but it’s entertaining filler, which should count for something).

Strictly speaking, I’m bending tradition a bit here because this is not my first read-through of the Scary Go Round archive. However, I just discovered Allison has created a spin-off comic, and I felt I needed a strong refresher on all the crazy happenings of Tackleford in SGR before I dove back into the mind of webcomicland’s craziest Brit.

By the by, this comic is pretty much one of the greatest things to ever grace the face of the interwebs, so you should check it out. It’s zany, intelligent, and oh-so-British.


Tessa: We’ll bust this case Angela Lansbury style. Despite pursuing tough killers, she never even got her cardigan dirty.

Rachel: Do you think Angela Lansbury ever cusses?

Tessa: Jesus yeah. She gets drunk and talks about how cute her ass is.

Ryan: Listen, Satan- if that’s your real name– I don’t owe you no damn soul or nothing.

Satan: I brought your little princess back from the dead. That isn’t cheap! And I need souls as an inexpensive winter fuel. Do you know what it’s like, trying to keep the underworld heated? It’s hell! Ha ha! I am the dark prince of your “observational humour” also!

Tim: Robots are 100% reliable, Amy. They’re better than people.

Amy: Couldn’t, say, an electromagnetic field get into its brain and send it loopy?

Tim: Electromagnetism is a benign force. I am 85% sure it would make the robot’s brain extra nice.

Amy: You shame science with your lies.

Tim: According to this dictionary, “qakki” is not a word, and I demand my lapdance forfeit.

Amy: I’m dropping out of art school, daddy. I need to give more time to my poetry.

Len: Noodle, we have gone over this. When I disown you, I disown your car. I disown your credit cards. Poems are fancy-talking flim flam!


Rachel: What makes Klinker’s book so rare? His dimensional theory sounds like some old soak making things up just to sound clever. Like all physics.

Amy: I think the best bet is for one of us to holler at the evil creature. When it is confused, the other one can hit it.

Shelley: What if you’re wrong and it’s a peaceful creature just trying to live its life right?

Amy: Then tonight’s the night you break your eyes crying.

Shelley: This is a good place! I saw a pub called The Lark’s Arms!

Amy: How can a lark have arms?

Shelley: The countryside is the cradle of evolution, Ames! You may see an educated pig taking tea with the vicar! That is nature being awesome.

Mayor: Shelley, what can you tell us about Robotania? Who is it, where, and why?

Shelley: When the Soviet Union dissolved, the robots built during their Cold War campaign were given their own small country in the Khrebet Cherskogo. Think of it as a robot mountain kingdom of doom, if that helps.

Mayor: And this is where those robots live in peace and happiness?

Shelley: If by that you mean “brutal hardline mechanical Communism,” then yes!

Old Woman: The g-string is a slingshot to Gomorrah.

Tim: I worked out a method by which we could work out whether the human race is essentially good or bad. An anonymous global vote on whether music or pornography should cease to exist.

William: Rachel, you nearly got that Shelley girl killed.

Rachel: I know, I know. MUST TRY HARDER.

William: What’s your problem with her?

Rachel: She annoys me on an existential level, and I have very poor impulse control.

Shelley: Ames, if you had Bette Davis’ eyes, would you use them for good or evil?

Amy: I’d keep them in a jar and use them to freak people out. Then when I got bored, I’d sell them on Ebay.

Shelley: Stinging me to death is a bad idea! I’ll turn into a zombie and… um… develop a sinister twist on my childhood love of jelly.

Jellyfish: My naturally quivering state makes any display of fear deliciously arbitrary.

Fallon: If I had my own ice cream van, the chimes would play “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”

Shelley: Ames, there are legions of the risen undead on our heels. These aren’t frat boys, they’re zombies. Animated corpses that would rather suck out your cerebellum than peek at your knickers.

Amy: Oh, fine. Last week it’s “I wish I could find a boy who was interested in my brain and not my body” and now you’re all “Aaaugh zombies!” Seriously, Shel. Make up your damn mind.

Ryan: I’m growin’ a handsome beard. It’s sparse now but you’ll love it when it’s glossy. You won’t be able to keep your hands off me!

Fallon: I might impress you with my restraint.

Shelley: No, lightbulb, no! I’m gettin’ jiggy with my muse here! We can’t finish up sweaty and spent without your participation!

The Boy: “Bob Crowley was known by many names. Delicious Beast, Black Bob, Saucy Bob, Doktor Proktor…”

Esther: But never “Pappy Sunshine.” What an injustice.

Amy: I’ve never been this rich. Or this smug. I’m going to buy a box of dreams and piss them all away.

Ryan: Why?

Amy: Just because I can.

Amy: Did you ever stop to think that baby Jesus was an alien? Perhaps Mary found him and stuck him up her robe for 6 months. He lived up there eating jam, then, bam! Virgin birth!

Shelley: That is the most appallingly blasphemous thing I have ever heard.

Esther: Where do you learn to sing white noise?

Shelley: Tuvan throat singers can sing two notes at once. But that’s necessary to soothe the winsome yak.

Ryan: The moon’s been in the Earth’s orbit for a long time and it ain’t done nothin’. Give that ol’ circle the benefit of the doubt.

Shelley: I’d like to believe its intentions are pure. But only scientists can prove that the moon isn’t Earth’s stalker.

Riley: Sorry about totally emasculating you back there, Tim.

Tim: Don’t worry, you can’t emasculate someone who’s 100% pure man. If you did, I’d cease to exist.

Shelley: I’d use my giant bazongas for good works and charity.

Amy: I don’t think you can be trusted with bazongas, Shelley.

Shelley: But…


Shelley: Hard as you may find it to believe, I was once like you! I would drink four bottles of vodka a day and still feel thirsty! Eventually I lost my job as a top model and dropped my baby down a manhole!

Amy: Man, I’m so baked right now.

Shelley: Amy, you will go to hell for baking Cedric the Emo Potato. His ghost is very angry at you… but too sad to do anything about it.

Tim: There’s always a remote chance of anything happening. During the act of love a jealous goose could fly in the window and savage me.

Riley: Why… would that happen?

Tim: I’ve seen the way they look at you. It infuriates me.

Ryan: The mellow men of science don’t want to see a sister in diamonds and furs! They want a dame in an anorak who’s been to the Worlds of Warcraft!

Shelley: I don’t know what that is!

Shelley: The British Space Agency! It’s like NASA! But with many billions less dollars. These brave boys fire expensive machinery onto distant worlds, where it breaks immediately!

Amy: Before we start, you have to declare any unrequited loves and back-up girls.

Ryan: Aw c’mon, that’s the secret treasure chest of a man’s heart! The basic oil and grease of single livin’!

Amy: What are you doing?

Ryan: Adjustin’ my unified theory of what ladies are all about. I’m now thinkin’ a lady’s attraction to a man is based on elevation above sea level… or proximity to strong magnets.

Amy: He smells so bad that it’s registering as white noise and fractals.

Priest #1: He took that better than I expected.

Priest #2: That is why you have won national prizes for your pessimism.

Amy: “Chewbacca walked into the spaceport and didn’t know where to look. Battlestar Galactica was doing it with the Millennium Falcon.”

Ryan: Ame, the genre of fan fiction just collapsed like a dead star.

Ryan: If I’d known savin’ that gal’s life would make her love me, I’d have done it in disguise.

Amy: Tell her she’s not your chosen baby bucket! Now!

Ryan: Ames, are you jealous of her Latina looks and homespun charm?

Amy: I’m secure! Very secure! I am a serene lake of sexy, jetskiing allowed at pre-arranged times. She’s a run-away tanker of sex heading for your house, Ryan. Your house will be crushed.

Ryan: I think I understand-

Amy: You’re going to lose a leg!

Smuggler: They’re aboard, uh… Count Blackula.

Blackbeard’s Ghost: I tire of “Count Blackula!” Refer to me as Your Beardness!

Esther: Genius. One page is in another dimension. We’ll print it in the Large Hard-on Collider.

Sarah: Ha, science! She knows science!

Esther: It’s The Boy! He puts these things in my brain. Science facts. He lurves the Hard-on Collider.

Sarah: Hur hur, I bet he does.

Esther: Look, she’s sad, she needs affection.

Sarah: I need my bell rung.

Esther: Her days are divided between embroidery and prayer.

Sarah: I need someone to go up the mountain and catch a goat.

Esther: Her euphemisms are becoming dangerously ornate. I’m going to get us all a cup of tea. Eustace, do the right thing and service my friend.

Amy: Oh the tweed and the elbow pads… and the brogues… I find this gathering very erotic.

Shelley: Amy concentrate! Oxford is not a place for your unbridled lust!

Well Great… Now the LHC Rap is Stuck in My Head

Two things to discuss today… to be honest, if you know me at all, galleons, you saw this post coming, and the fact that I’ve delayed it is testament to my innate laziness (it’s so much easier to babble on about zombies than about intelligent fare).

First, who’s heard about the recent (possible) discovery made by the Tevatron? They’ve found an interesting possible explanation for the lack of antimatter in the visible universe.

Okay, before we can really talk about the Tevatron’s find, we’ll do a quick primer on antimatter. What is antimatter? Antimatter is the antiparticle to matter (like the positron, which is the antiparticle to the electron). Which… actually, you know what? The LHC Rap does a great job of describing antimatter:

Antimatter is sort of like matter’s evil twin
Because except for charge and handedness of spin
They’re the same for a particle and its anti-self
But you can’t store an antiparticle on any shelf
Cuz when it meets its normal twin, they both annihilate
Matter turns to energy and then it dissipates

When matter is created from energy
Which is exactly what they’ll do in the LHC
You get matter and antimatter in equal parts
And they try to take that back to when the universe starts
The Big Bang – back when the matter all exploded
But the amount of antimatter was somehow eroded
Because when we look around we see that matter abounds
But antimatter’s nowhere to be found.

See, during the Big Bang, physicists believe that matter and antimatter should have been created in equal portions. But… we live in a universe full of matter, and the only time we’ve found any antimatter is when we create it in a particle collider (of course, it then promptly annihilates). This asymmetry plagues the scientific community. Where did all the antimatter go?

Okay, second bit of the primer- CP symmetry (a combination of charge conjugation and parity symmetries). Briefly, CP symmetry states that the laws of physics should remain the same if a particle and the anti-particle are swapped and if left and right are flipped. If this symmetry gets all wonky, we have a CP violation on our hands.

Now, what does this mean in terms of matter and antimatter? Well, you’ve probably been wondering something- if matter and antimatter were supposedly created in equal parts during the Big Bang… why is there an imbalance of matter now? Shouldn’t the antimatter and matter have all annihilated?

Physicists agree that the gross disparity of matter in the universe now points to CP violation during the earliest phases of the Big Bang. Problem is… the two ways the Standard Model has for the breaking of CP symmetry aren’t sufficient to describe the violation that would have had to occur to make the laws of physics different for antimatter and matter during the Big Bang.

As you can see from this diagram charting results of the D0 experiment, the CP violation found (black dot) is about 10 orders of magnitude greater than that projected by the Standard Model (blue dot).

Now, back to the Tevatron.

The D0 experiment had researchers observing collisions of protons and antiprotons. Theoretically, they should have produced particles of matter and particles of antimatter in equal parts. However, they instead found that pairs of matter particles were created slightly more often than the matter/antimatter sets. A 1% difference was found. Which means… CP violation has been documented!

Now, we can’t get ahead of ourselves here. Other experiments will have to be done to verify or disprove the findings (including experiments at the LHCb)- that’s the way of science, after all. Still, even the possibility of actual CP violation verification is a huge blow to the Standard Model. Who knows- maybe we’ll soon find ourselves having to rewrite our laws governing the interactions of subatomic particles.

It wouldn’t be the first time, after all.


The second juicy piece of science news this week has sparked all kinds of delicious controversy. At a press conference on Thursday, biologist Craig Venter announced he had synthesized an artificial strain of DNA and transplanted it into a host cell. The little Mycoplasma microbe then looked and behaved exactly like any other Mycoplasma microbe.

“[It’s] the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer,” Venter said. “This is a philosophical advance as much as a technical one.”

And that’s where everyone is throwing a shit-fit. Because the philosophical implications of such a creation are, in everyone’s minds, staggering.

Of course, this is where I roll my eyes and scoff. Loudly and with much gusto.

Everyone’s in a tizzy primarily because the synthesis of life challenges our definition of what life actually is. Here’s something that might surprise you- the scientific community actually doesn’t have a proper definition of life.


See, it’s easy when you’re talking about a rock (not alive) and a cat (alive, unless it’s been hanging out with Schrödinger, then it’s a crapshoot). But what about a virus? Viruses are made from proteins (the stuff of life), but they cannot reproduce independently… so are they alive or aren’t they? Most biologists say life starts at bacteria, but there’s not a solid definition of life. So… we’re confused as to whether Venter’s little microbe is even in the category of “life,” taking the synthetic nature of its creation out of the equation. It’s like the whole “is a blastocyst alive?” debate- there’s just not a consensus one way or another.

So the synthetic-virus-that-could is not the Frankenstein’s monster that everyone’s making it out to be, but I will grant you that it’s a visible step down a road of synthetic biology. People worry that we’re playing God with such creations, and that we need to draw the line somewhere in this moral quagmire.

Okay, that’s great and all… so let’s say you get cancer. Any medication you receive to treat your disease is, in effect, “playing God.” According to the rules of deities and whatever, you were supposed to get that disease and (probably) die- to attempt to prevent it is to decide who deserves to live (people with good health insurance) and who deserves to die. How is synthesizing life any different than artificial insemination? How is that acceptable, but this microbe is a danger to our moral foundations?

There’s a Buddhist proverb that reads, “To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven; the same key opens the gates of hell.” Scientific knowledge is that key. Our ability to synthesize life is a key. And it could open a gate to heaven (production of drugs and vaccines, for example) or a gate to hell (the microbe might not operate by the laws of nature and essentially go on an insane rampage and kill crops or humanity or maybe start the zombie apocalypse…). The knowledge and ability are just a key. A powerful key, a powerful tool, but essentially neither good nor evil. Power is not inherently polarized- it’s how it is used.

The thing is, as Richard Feynman said, “…in spite of the fact that it could produce enormous horror in the world, science is of value because it can produce something.”

Besides, any super zombie virus is still ages away. All Venter managed was one weak cell based on a pre-existing organism. There’s been less genetic tampering there than occurs in insemination labs, really.

People need to calm the fuck down over all this. Hell, it wasn’t even a fully synthetic cell- only the genome was synthesized (then planted in a host cell). Instead of panicking over the dangers (there are dangers to anything- remember the whole “knowledge is a key” business?), we should focus on the potential, enormous benefits this technology could yield us. I love theoretical physics, don’t get me wrong, but this microbe isn’t just a thought experiment- it has physical, practical applications to our everyday lives. I think that deserves less of a torch-and-pitchfork approach and more of a sense of wonderment as we envision the possibilities.


We’ll end our science babble with some humor:

Why I Won’t Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, Despite My Intensive Mental Preparation

It seems zombie fever has swept the populous in recent years, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t swept up in it with the rest of the world. I would also be lying if I said I liked zombies back before they were cool, because I actually hate zombie movies (with only one exception) and only developed an interest in this particular brand of undead with the publication of The Zombie Survival Guide (which still has a home on my bookshelf).

Of course, it’s been years since that book came out, and the zombie madness has swelled immeasurably. Zombie Apocalypse (ZA) survival plans are the new bomb shelters. The number of zombie-themed video games and films has skyrocketed. It seems everyone is waiting for the ZA… and everyone thinks they are going to survive.

I, on the other hand, pretty much know I’m fucked. And here are the top ten reasons why:

1. Columbus in Zombieland wasn’t wrong in believing the first rule to follow to be prepared for the ZA is a strict cardio workout. And, while I can run for 2 miles without much of a problem, during the third I’d seriously falter and slow… and then I would die. Because the zombies would catch my sweaty, heavy-breathing, rubbery-legged self. Besides, once I started to tire, I would probably trip and fall. Which leads me to…

2. I am one of the klutziest, most accident-prone individuals on the planet. This is 98% likely to be the reason the zombies feast upon my juicy brain-bits. If I don’t trip and fall while trying to escape, there are other ways my innate gracelessness will do me in.

For example: melee weapons. Melee weapons are by-and-large considered to be the most effective weapons against zombies, because they don’t require reloading or the carrying of ammunition and because they are more effective in close quarters than firearms. Now, that’s all fine and dandy. Except… okay, have any of you ever handled a sword or a machete? It requires skill and finesse to properly hack and slash with a bladed weapon. You can’t just pick it up and flail about- you’ll hurt yourself. Now, when I get frazzled and scared, my initial reaction is to… panic. Which involves a lot of flailing of the limbs. Give me a sharp weapon on top of that thrashing craziness and I’ll probably hack myself into bite-sized appetizers for the zombie horde.

But all that is small-potatoes when you take into account the biggest problem my constant state of injury will cause. And that is the ever-present danger of infection. One thing that most people agree on is that the infection will spread via contact with zombie bodily fluids (thus why a bite would do the trick). The thing most people don’t realize is, if you kill a zombie and its suped-up infected juices get in a cut or wound, no matter how small… you’re now infected. On any given day, I have at least two or three little cuts and scrapes (often on my hands). I would be infected the first time I killed a zombie (because I always make a mess). Balls.

3. I have absolutely god-awful depth perception. I attribute my utter lack of grace to this. But my depth perception is its own problem in the ZA. Ever watched a zombie flick? Or any action sequence, for that matter? The good guy always gets grabbed by whatever is chasing them. And then there’s a smooth maneuver where the hero rolls/twists out of the way just in time to avoid a killing blow. I could never dodge such an attack- I’d misjudge the distance and still end up bitten by ye olde zombie.

4. I am good at making plans but terrible at adapting my plans to changing conditions… so I’m actually really bad at making plans. Because if there’s anything I know, it’s that only practical, adaptable plans (and makers of plans) are successful. This is of utmost importance in a bloody, tumultuous world like that of the ZA. You have to be able to think on your feet, to change things to suit the needs of the moment. While I would be able to craft a well-thought-out, solid plan, it would crash and burn at the first moment of crisis, because I wouldn’t be able to think fast enough to amend the initial idea.

5. I can shoot well, but I’m not knowledgeable about a wide range of weaponry. And while “pull the trigger, you stupid ass” is the natural response to that, there’s more to shooting a gun than pulling the trigger. There’s aiming, for one. And something that seriously affects aim is weapon kick back. Every type of gun kicks back differently. Being familiar with that allows you to compensate when aiming, to hold the gun properly, and to recover fast enough to shoot again. If you aren’t familiar with the type of gun, you’ll shoot once, probably miss, and then have zombies swarm your body as you struggle to get your bearings again.

I also am totally in the dark on how to care for most weapons. Regular gun maintenance is vital. And it’s not like I could just Google that shit during the ZA, so… I’m boned.

6. Every time there’s a tornado warning (so… the entire 5 times that’s happened in my lifetime, including the 2 in Michigan), I always think that I’m going to die because I never bothered to make that box of non-perishables and batteries and flashlights and candles and what-have-you that everyone recommends for such disasters. And I’m just as unprepared for the ZA. If zombies attacked right now, I’d never be able to gather everything I needed in a timely fashion.

Not only that, but I don’t even own all of the shit that would be useful in the ZA. Here’s the recommended list of supplies (for a fortified home or shelter) from The Zombie Survival Guide, not including weapons and clothes:

Water, 3 quarts per day, for cooking and washing
Hand-pumped water filter
4 replacement filters
Cistern for collecting rainwater
Iodine and/or purification tablets
Canned food, 3 cans per day
2 portable electric stoves
Advanced medical kit (must include field-surgery implements and antibiotics)
Bicycle-powered electric generator
Gasoline generator for emergencies
20 gallons of gasoline
Rechargeable, battery-powered shortwave radio
2 battery-powered flashlights
2 rechargeable, battery-powered electric lamps
2 rechargeable, battery-powered and/or solar-powered radios
Appropriate reinforcement materials, including lumber, bricks, mortar, etc.
Extensive tool kit, including sledgehammer, ax, handsaw, etc.
Lime and/or bleaching powder in sufficient supply to maintain latrine
High-powered telescope (80X-100X), with spare lenses and cleaning equipment
15 emergency flares
35 chemical light sticks
5 fire extinguishers
2 sets of earplugs
Spare parts for all aforementioned machinery and user’s manuals
Extensive library of manuals, including a general disaster manual

Wait… seriously? WHO THE FUCK KEEPS SHIT LIKE THIS AT HAND?! Yeah… I’m gonna die.

7. Silly as this sounds, I cannot remember the last time I went more than 24 hours without listening to music. And it’s not just the “oh, music’s on in the background of a store or movie” situation, it’s “I am listening to this music in my headphones and singing along and thoroughly immersed in it, thank you very much, for the love of Feynman don’t talk to me you douchebag” kind of situation. I’m a fucking addict. I don’t think I could go for more than a week or two without listening to music without going bat-crap crazy and getting myself killed in a fit of frothing insanity.

Because here’s the rub: I could never listen to music during the ZA. Naturally, you couldn’t have it playing out loud, because that would attract zombies. But you also couldn’t listen to headphones, because then you are unable to hear what’s going on around you, and that will get you dead.

8. I am physically incapable of being quiet for long periods of time. No, seriously. For a few hours? Sure, I can manage that. For days at a time? Oh fuck no. I’ve been alone for days at a time, with no human contact. You know what happens? I talk to myself. And that’s just the talking. Think of all the ways you can make noise during a regular day. Now think of trying to keep all those ordinary sounds muffled or silenced. Now imagine that, in your effort to keep quiet, you trip into a pile of guitars on top of a huge button that activates a piercing alarm. Because that’s what’s going to happen. And then the undead are going to be beating down your door to get at that noisy, lovely meal.

9. The ZA is going to be fucking exhausting. Living in a constant state of alertness and fear will wreak ever-loving havoc on sleep patterns. Namely, there isn’t going to be enough sleeping going on. You’re going to be tired all the fucking time. When I’m tired, I get stupid as shit. I’m sluggish. I don’t think properly. All my senses are dull. Exhaustion will be dangerous as hell.

But even worse than that is the fact that, when I get really tired, I get debilitating migraines. It’s torture for me to sit through a fucking lecture when I have a migraine, when all I have to do is stay still and let someone talk at me for an hour or two. Imagine trying to shoot or bludgeon or keep a lookout while you have a migraine. I’d be so dead.

10. Let’s say I manage to hold out for a while. Let’s say I manage to find other survivors. This is usually the end of many zombie tales- the hero finds another band of survivors, and they build a little colony that is safe from the zombie menace. People always band together in times of crisis. It helps to have extra sets of eyes (and really cuts down on the problems caused by number 9 on this here list) and hands… full of guns. Plus, companionship is important to prevent madness and/or hopelessness from taking hold.

But I’m gonna be the Francis (Left4Dead reference, in case you’re confused) of that group. Everybody is going to hate me. I will manage to piss off enough people that one of them will finally snap and shoot me. Because they can (who the fuck is going to stop them?).


I do have a few things going for me when the zombies descend. Which is not the boon you’d think it is. Because what it amounts to is that I have just enough in my camp currently that I won’t die immediately, before everyone really knows what’s going on, but will instead survive long enough to die in a land of blood and fear.

1. I can shoot. Not all types of guns, but I have experience with a few handguns, shotguns, and rifles. Enough experience that I’ll be in a much better place than the vast majority of folks, because I’m familiar with handling weapons and will be better prepared for that kick back and aiming shit we talked about earlier. Plus, I’m actually a damn decent shot, so… I’ll be able to pick zombies off, so long as I have a gun and sufficient ammo.

2. I’m in a rural area. Rural areas are the best places to be during the ZA, because the greatest outbreaks will be in cities, where the population is denser.

3. I’m not burdened by a crapload of morality issues. I’m not going to freeze up when I have to kill a zombie. I’m not going to be bothered by the philosophical implications of shooting another human being, even if they are infected by a zombie virus. They aren’t humans anymore- they are zombies. If my brother or mother or best friend or the boy that I love toddle up to me, all zombified, I’m going to put their ass down. And I’m not going to bat an eye while doing it. Later, I’ll mourn their passing a bit, but I won’t be crushed by the crazy idea that I was the one who killed them. That was the infection.

And I’m certainly not going to hide my zombified loved one away in the hopes that a cure will be found. Because that never ends well.


So, that’s the truth of it. Despite the amount of zombie-themed gaming I do (a substantial amount within the last three years) and all the amusing zombie survival plans I create (my favorite still being riding around in a combine, mowing down zombies like an undead crop that needs to be harvested), I’m probably not going to survive the ZA.

Oh well.

You Are a Woman and Therefore a Fool

Song of the moment: My Black Widow People in Planes

I fell in love today, blogorealm.

Well, in so much that I am capable of doing such a thing.

I was reading the US LHC outreach blog today (as I do every day, because I’m a geek), and today’s blogger was… incredibly entertaining.

His name is Philip (nicknamed Flip). He’s adorable. He’s a particle physics PhD student at Cornell.

As I said before, I am in love.

Of course, I’m just kidding (mostly). One thing dear Flip talked about in today’s little post on television and the scientific community was about the return of Doctor Who. Which startled me into realizing that the 5th series begins at Easter. Which is right around the corner.

Matt Smith, your time is coming. Prove yourself worthy of the shoes you are filling.

On a completely unrelated note, I hate Rush Limbaugh more than words can ever say. But you know what I hate more? I hate conservatives who blindly latch onto Limbaugh’s words.

While not a Republican, I have no problems with an educated individual sharing differing beliefs from my own. So long as they’ve done their research and know their shit, they can have whatever opinion they want. I’ve never said mine was right, it’s just what I believe.

What I fucking cannot stand are blind believers in their political parties (Republican and Democrat alike- I say Republican here because they are the ones I’m dealing with more regularly at the moment). People who don’t actually know two shits about politics, government, or how the world operates, but who happily follow whatever their party’s candidates say. Fuck, they don’t even know the platforms these candidates are running on.

While we have two primary political parties in our system, that does not mean every candidate within a party believes precisely the same thing. They have similar overarching ideals, but the details can vary enormously. I have absolutely zero respect for people who come out preaching to me and shoving their views down my throat when they don’t actually know what those goddamn views are. They don’t know what their own words mean. And these people are voting and running for office.

How fucking terrifying is that?

It’s funny- in the advent of the digital age, with all this information at our fingertips, I’m starting to feel people are dumber than they ever have been in the past. Access to such a wealth of information leads to a lack of actual learning.

You’d think it would be the opposite. That access to material would lead to increased knowledge and wisdom in the populace. In an ideal world, this would be the case. But here in reality, we’ve forgotten how to learn. As a whole, we don’t actually know how to learn.

Now that’s more terrifying than anything.

We keep “raising the standards” in our education system, but what does that really mean? On the surface, it sounds lovely. It sounds like we’re bettering our education system and doing a better job of teaching our children information that will serve them later in life.

But we’re not, are we? Forcing students to memorize pages of notes is not teaching them to learn. The only students who are getting anything substantial out of lectures are students who already know how one acquires knowledge. The students who want to know things, because they’ve discovered the intoxication of discovery.

Despite what people seem to believe, the ability to learn is not limited to academics. Our ability to learn is what drives our culture. It’s how we succeed in life. Our ability to learn and grow is what helps us to not repeat mistakes.

In the long run, it is through learning that we achieve any semblance of meaning in this life. So the fact that we are stunting that development is detrimental on more fronts than we can easily imagine.

You see it all around you. Every day. Let’s take a simple example. How many people do you know that honestly hear/read a word they don’t know and go and look up the definition? If you are answering truthfully, the answer is a very small percentage.

But instead of looking these words up, people the world over accuse the speakers of these words of “muddying the issues” and “misdirection.”

What the fuck? They aren’t deceiving you- they are actually clarifying their point better than you realize. See, there’s a reason we have such a myriad of choices when selecting our words- it allows for shades of meaning. “Pretty” and “beautiful” mean similar things (that something is appealing or desirable), but calling a girl beautiful is not the same as saying she’s pretty. There are levels of meaning within each cluster of words.

So when you refuse to learn your own goddamn language and then yell and scream that nobody makes sense, you are actually destroying that language and the finer points of communication. Because the folks you are hollering at will eventually “dumb down” what they are saying, choosing less adequate words to try to convey to you what they are saying. And the words that mattered, the words that meant exactly what they originally intended, are lost in the aether.

And this only leads to greater and greater miscommunication because the clarity the right words bring has been lost.

Way to go, people. Way to fucking go.

So… I really didn’t intend to rant here. I was just going to declare my love for good ol’ Flip and be done with it. Sorry about that.

Here’s some Left4Dead humor to make you feel better. It’s been some time since I tossed some zombie goodness in here.

I’m What’s Wrong With This Generation

Song of the moment: Hoppípolla Sigur Rós

I have now, officially, played Left4Dead 2. Well, I played the demo. But it was enough to make me start to drool. I feel like they ripped aspects of it straight from my suggestions as to how to improve the first game. Namely, in the addition of the melee weapons (and, for the record, the word ‘melee’ is pronounced māˌlā or may-lay, in layman’s terms… people should really check to make sure they are in the right before they mock others). It felt like Dead Rising and Left4Dead had a child. A violent, angry, beautiful child.

The demo only allows you to run through two safe houses worth of material, but that’s a substantial amount of content when you take into account the masterful AI Director making the game a new and special version of hell every time you pick up a controller.

I was concerned about the game losing some of its terror by placing some of the campaigns in daylight. And yes, the tone of the game shifts somewhat during the daylight hours. ‘The Parish,’ the campaign in the demo, is set during the day, and it was a whole new animal to play. While you have the advantage of a more expansive range of sight, they temper this by throwing you in a city, with buildings and a hedge maze to obscure your view.

But the gore. Oh, the beautiful gore. There’s so much blood in this game. And the zombies get ripped apart in beautiful new ways by your weaponry.

There were a lot of new additions to the game that I hadn’t yet heard of, such as adrenaline shots and defibrillators. The new specials were interesting to contend with, and the music cues are no longer as noticeable, so the specials can sneak up on you a bit easier. The witch’s music cue has become this haunting little melody that sent shivers up my spine. Speaking of the witch… that wandering witch is a pain in the fucking ass.

The old specials are the same (with the smoker just looking more disgusting), and the new specials are… interesting. The charger is my favorite. He’s like a smaller tank, but with a new twist. He can pick you up and beat you against the ground until someone kills him. Which is amusing to watch, but not so amusing to suffer through. The jockey is just weird. He jumps on your head and rides you into danger. I can’t take him seriously. And the spitter? The spitter looks like trailer trash, but she packs a hell of a punch. That acid does serious damage.

So yeah… now I’m even more excited for the game’s release on the 17th.

Brandon wanted me to hang out with him last night. And I was inches away from going over. Thankfully, Sean called me and wanted to hang. I was mostly bored, and Brandon’s was better than nothing. I was hesitant to go, though, because I don’t really like him that much, and I know he hasn’t quite given up on me. Add alcohol into that equation, and I could be walking into a situation that will only irritate me. So, I chose my actual friends over him… which led to him texting me  all fucking night, asking where I was and begging me to come over. My favorite of which was when he asked me to come over after everyone had left. I’m like, “Kid, we’re both drunk… and you are asking me over to your room. Where we will be alone. Yeah, I’m stupid enough to not know what you want here.” I told him that I had more friends where I was than where he was, so there wasn’t much incentive to walk all the way to his dorm (yes, I’m an asshole). His response? “Aren’t I incentive enough?”

No. Good god, no. Creepy little fucker.

Bonus link of the day: The opening sequence to Left4Dead 2. I love that Rochelle wears a Depeche Mode t-shirt in the game. Guess who my new regular character is? Hehe.

Also, Ellis is the new Francis.