The Cartoon Guide to Genetics

by Larry Gonick. This book was recommended to me by my friend Ann, who claims it’s the best introductory genetics textbook out there. And I would agree, if the person reading the book doesn’t know anything about genetics already. Unfortunately, I had seen most of the material before, in an introductory biology class, so it was not news to me. But the book is very clear in most of its explanations, which made it ideal as a review of that knowledge for me. It cleared up some of the gene regulation mechanisms that I had forgotten about, and the cartoon approach certainly made what was going on more intuitive.

I recommend this book to anyone who thinks “I’d like to know something about genetics” or “I wish I remembered more of that genetics stuff.” It’s not really for the crowd that wants more than nerdy cocktail conversation topics, but it will certainly teach you something while entertaining you, which is more than you can say of most textbooks. The best thing about it is the way in which it follows the historical development of genetics (something I missed in the class I took), which turns the whole subject into a story of sorts to follow. So go to the library, pick up a copy, and kick back on a rainy summer afternoon, and expand your brain.

Nirvana

I went to this place again to sample different dishes this time. Rather than going for the noodle options, we went with some of the rice dishes. For an appetizer we had the dragon dumplings, which were somewhat disappointing veggie pot-stickers. I felt that the dumpling wrapper was a little too thick and chewy for the drab interior. The citrus short-ribs were sweet and tender, and came with a side of sticky rice — delicious! The mango chicken was very dry, which was strange, but the glaze helped make up for it.

The strong point of Nirvana is certainly in the sweeter dishes — meats glazed with fruit. If you want something spicier or less cloying, I would recommend going somewhere else, but if you have a sweet tooth but don’t want to pig out on ice cream for your meal, Nirvana is a good bet.

I choy, yau choy, we all choy…

I’m really frustrated by the lack of information about Chinese food and vegetables on the web. I go to the local grocery and buy some “yau choy” from the produce section, and then come home to find only 3 hits when I look for recipes on google, and none of those have actual recipes for it. I found out it’s also called “oil seed rape” or “broccoli rabe.” The first sounds dirty, and the second sounds like a a underground techno party for vegetarians with colds. I see a lot of chinese cookbooks out there, but since I don’t know if any of them are any good, or authentic, or whatnot, I have no idea what to buy.

This goes along with my frustration at identifying the dish “Ling Gao with Sezuan Pickles,” which is served at King Fung Garden in Boston’s Chinatown only if you ask nicely (since it isn’t on the menu). Ling gao seems to refer to small 1-2″ long noodles that are oval, thick, and chewy. But I can’t find any information anywhere about these noodles, where to get them, what else they might be called, etc.

California has great produce, only I have no idea how to cook most of it. It’s not that I can’t make something up, but I would rather have some recipe at least point me in the right direction.

Little Plearn

Shattuck and Channing. This is the companion restaurant to the main Plearn on Univeristy. It’s a cute little Thai restaurant and one of the better ones, I think. Last time I went I got the Pat Kee Mao, which was spicy and tasty. The service is a mixed bag, so if you’re in a rush, it might not be the best place to go, but the food is good, and they do take out as well. The only trick is that it’s cash only. But ATMs abound in Downtown Berkeley.

Dinosaurs!

I found out today that Berkeley has a palontology museum that is a federal repository and the 4th largest collection in the country or something. This is awesome! I’m gonna have to go sometime and check it out.

The OED word of the day is “AOR,” or album oriented rock. Again: who picks these words? What ever happened to learning obscure vocabulary like “gemellion — One of a pair of basins used for washing the hands before meals, the water being poured over the hands from one basin and caught by the other; hence, any decorative basin?” Apparently the word of the day is supposed to turn you into a musical hipster. I just wish they would kick it old school.

Not Lovecraft

H.P. comes out this week, and the Guardian is sponsoring a contest to see who can come up with the closest thing to the first 350 or so words of the book. I’ve already reserved mine at a bookstore in SF (in retrospect, probably a sub-optimal strategy, since that means I have to wait an hour to get it). I think it will look good on the shelf next to “Random Processes : Filtering, Estimation, and Detection.” In fact, I think HP6 should be “Harry Potter and the Annihilating Filter.” I’m sure it would sell lots of copies — Rowling could get it published by the IEEE and charge $150 a copy.

The Daniela Mercury concert was pretty awesome, all told. Unfortunately, I don’t know any Portuguese, so I have no idea what she was singing about. But I could usually sing along with the chorus by the 3rd time. Now all I have to do is learn how to dance and then go to Rio. And make sure I’m wearing the appropriate soccer jersey. GOOOOOAAAAAAALLLL!