Invitation To A Dance

When you're a writer, there are certain milestones that help to reassue you that you really are a really-real for real writer:

When you're first sending out manuscripts, one of those milestones is a personal rejection note from an editor, rather than a form letter.

Your first story sale is a big milestone.

But your second sale is almost as important, or maybe even more so, because it tells you that first sale wasn't just a fluke.

And another milestone is when you've established enough of a reputation, that an editor will actually invite you (yes, YOU, you writer, you) to contribute something to his or her project.

So I opened up a recent email to find that that last had finally happened to me.

Well, sort of....

International Conference on

20th and 21st September 2007
Edinburgh, Scotland

The CMSB (Computational Methods in Systems Biology) conference series was established in 2003 to help catalyze the convergence of modellers, physicists, mathematicians, and theoretical computer scientists from
fields such as language design, concurrency theory, program verification, and molecular biologists, physicians, neuroscientists interested in a systems-level understanding of cellular physiology and

CMSB'07 solicits original research articles (including significant works-in-progress), surveys of current research and posters. These may cover theoretical or applied contributions that are motivated by a biological question and can demonstrate either actual or potential usefulness towards answering that question. They may also cover models of computation inspired by biological processes; the motivation may be as much computational as biological. Particularly relevant case studies and open issues from the biological side that demands modeling of systems are of interest as well. The introduction of formal models should be supported by theoretical arguments about the model and/or on the analyses that they enable, by comparisons with other network models, and/or by examples of representation and analysis of a biological system.

Topics of interest include, among others:

1. Biological systems and networks: inference, properties, modeling, dynamics, simulation and reverse engineering
2. Formal methods for drug discovery and design
3. Methods to predict biological network behavior from incomplete information
4. Models including symbolic evolution and learning
5. Models of self-assembly
6. Detailed case-studies on how a biological question was successfully addressed using formal models
7. Emergence of properties in complex biological systems
8. Theoretical comparisons between different formal models of cellular processes
9. Differential, discrete and/or stochastic modeling-language frameworks
10. Quantitative formal languages
11. Biologically-inspired extensions to concurrency theory, constraint programming, logical methods or language equivalences
12. Computer models in nano-sciences applied to biological domains
13. Definition and study of theoretical properties of biologically-inspired formal languages
14. Biological data bases and exchange formats for biological data and standards

Paper and poster submission guidelines

Authors are invited to submit original research papers or survey papers of no more than 15 pages in PDF format using the LNCS templates, available at the url below


Hoo, boy, how did I (who had less than two years of college, almost all in Humanities type courses) end up on a mailing list inviting papers for a scientific conference?

(Some of the subjects of the conference sound like they might be interesting, though I'd probably need to have a translator at hand who spoke both Academic and Tech.)

I'm wondering if there's some other Bruce Arthurs with a background in biology and/or mathematics who should have received this email. I know there's a standup comic in Canada and a long-distance runner in Australia who share my name, so why not a Bruce Arthurs who's actually a hard-science geek somewhere too?

(What? Google my own name? Why, no, I'd never be that vain. Never. I have no idea why that guy in the ski mask breaks into the house every year or so, holds a gun to my head, and forces me to Google "Bruce Arthurs". Yeh, yeh, that sounds good. That's what happened. I swear it, I swear to God.)

Knockoff Cuisine: Starbucks' Bananas & Creme

It's been a while since I've done a food post:

The last few months, Hilde has picked up a jones for Starbucks' "Bananas & Creme", one of their cold blended non-coffee drinks.

Whoops, they're discontinuing that particular choice; it's dropped off the menu boards, and while sometimes you can make a special request, the last few times the local Starbucks haven't had any of the banana puree they used to make the drink. (I figure they've probably used up leftover supplies of the puree.)

So I figured I'd try and whip up a home-made substitute, and came up with this:

Knockoff Bananas & Creme

1/3 C. vanilla-flavored liquid coffee creamer
1/3 C. egg whites (I use the packaged egg whites in cardboard cartons)*
1 ripe banana
10-12 ice cubes

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed approximately 1 minute, or until smooth. (Depending on the size of the ice cubes, you might need to add a few teaspoons of water.)

*No, I don't know how they manage to pasteurize the egg whites and still keep them liquid.

Pretty close imitation, I think. Makes a 16-oz drink, about 300 calories if I've figured it right.


Back To Work

I've finally recovered enough from the respiratory crud I've had for the last two weeks to go back to work tomorrow. I'm not used to feeling this crappy for this long; usually, when I've been sick, it's been something that I recover from in two or three days. This may be part of getting older.

("Golden Years", my ass.)


Why Not To "How Not To Get Laid"

A friend sent me a link to How Not To Get Laid, a website by one "Stewart Fox" devoted to readers' stories of near-misses, last-minute fumbles, and fast-trains-to-Loserville in trying to have sex with another person.

A horrible confession: I like the "Cosmo Confessions" and similar features in COSMOPOLITAN magazine. I sneak looks at other people's copies ('cause you know that, like, guys don't read COSMO) when I get a chance. These are collections of anecdotes from readers telling about spectacularly bad or inappropriate sex, and/or of being caught having bad or inappropriate sex. (The type of story like having hot, noisy office sex while not realizing the intercom is on.)

So How Not To Get Laid is sort of the geeky kid brother of "Cosmo Confessions". I took a look, and some of the stories were pretty amusing, in a horrifying deja vu kind of way.

The friend who sent me the link added a note asking if I wanted to contribute a story of my own to the website.

Back when I was young, my most common method of not getting laid was, like most guys, being too scared to even try. But there were a few times when I made some motions in that direction, with, umm, less than positive results. Once, not getting laid actually turned out to be one of the most pleasant, memorable and fun evenings I've ever had. But for full dramatic effect, that story needs to be told along with its Evil Twin, an occasion so spectacular and emotionally painful that if it were filmed, it would be a wide-screen epic with an all-star cast and a red carpet premiere. And that story is one I will probably never, ever tell in public.

But I did think of another not-getting-laid story that would have been appropriate for the HNTGL website. So I clicked on the "Submit A Story" button, and saw...

...this, in the middle of the submission instructions:
By submitting a story in the box below or to the e-mail address below, you grant How Not To Get Laid an unlimited, exclusive worldwide right to republish the story online, in print, or in any form of media. How Not To Get Laid reserves the right to fully edit submissions. By submitting a story, you assert that the story you are submitting is one of your own creation and does not infringe on any existing copyright. Submitting a story does not guarantee that your story will be posted or used by How Not To Get Laid‘.

So, if you post a story to HNTGL, you also assign all rights to further use of that story to "Steven Fox". All rights, forever.

What this suggests to me is that "Fox" is using the website to accumulate material for a book. Material that the actual authors will get no recompense, at all, for.

Nope. Uh-uh. Not acceptable.

If Fox had stated up front that HNTGL might eventually be used as the basis for a book or other projects, I might have respected that honesty enough to submit a post regardless. But there's no reason for that paragraph to be there unless he is thinking of using the material from HNTGL for future (presumably commercial) projects. (His bio describes him as a writer and screenwriter.)

So, nope, you won't read my story of long-ago humiliation on How Not To Get Laid.

You're going to read it here instead:

Back in the early 70's, I was catching a flight home to Arizona. I boarded the plane and found my seat.

And noticed that the passenger sitting next to me was a nice-looking young woman of about my own age. A very nice-looking young woman.

So as the plane takes off and starts flying westwards, I'm stealing sidelong glances at this lovely young woman, and thinking, "Wow. What could I say to start a conversation with her?"

I think along these lines for fifteen or twenty minutes, trying to screw up my courage to actually speak to her. And I'm getting close, pretty close, to actually turning and saying something...

... when I feel... something.

Something... in my stomach.

Something... roiling. Something... churning. Something... taking on a life of its own. Something... taking on its own inhuman form of sentience. Something... that wants to escape.

And I feel a surge of vomit racing up from my stomach, through the esophagus, towards my mouth, and I clamp! a hand over my mouth and lurch forward in my seat, reaching with the other hand for the air sickness bag in the seatback pocket in front of me.

The air sickness bag... that is NOT there.

And the vomit reaches my mouth, and I'm struggling mightily to keep it in, but it's spurting out between my lips, between my fingers, and, oh god Jeezus, it's coming out my NOSE...

... and the passenger across the aisle sees my distress and, as quickly as possible, hands the bag that IS in HIS seatback pocket, and I'm able to release most of the vomit into the bag, gasping for breath and wishing that a trapdoor would open in the floor of the plane and just drop me out into mid-air.

For the entire rest of that flight, I didn't even glance towards that nice-looking young woman seated next to me. (It was a long flight. A long, long flight.)

But wait, there's more!

This was back during my military service, and regulations at the time required us to travel in uniform, and I was wearing a freshly starched, spotless set of khakis for travelling. So not only did I suffer an utterly ghastly personal humiliation, but I totally trashed the strong, manly, macho image of the entire United States Army.

Oh yeh, the good old days. Like Hell.


*hack* *cough* *wheeze*

I'm recovering from a bad bug that started last week, starting with stuffy sinuses Saturday afternoon, developing into headache, sore throat, cough, wheezing, and deep fatigue within a few hours. Spent virtually all day Sunday in bed, utterly miserable. A lot of the syptoms improved within a few days, but the lung congestion, coughing, and fatigue are not going away. So I've seen my doctor a second time, had a chest x-ray and bloodwork, and am awaiting the results of that.

This is really annoying. I tend to be obsessive about Getting Stuff Done, and it's frustrating to try and do something that ought to be simple and effortless (loading the dishwasher, for example) and end up gasping for breath and having to (having to, dammit) sit down and rest.

At this point, I'd be glad to be able to go back to work. If I had the energy and stamina to do a day at work, I'd be well enough to get more done at home after work than I'm able to do right now, staying home all day.

A Few Reminders, And A Word, For George

Hey, George,

Remember when you invaded Iraq in 2003, after we'd pretty much whupped the Iraqi Army and it was time to hold and secure our gains, your top priority for assigning troops to guard and protect was... the headquarters of the Iraq Oil Ministry?

What you didn't guard and protect... what you barely attempted to guard and protect... were the military weapon and supply dumps scattered across Iraq.

Tons... hundreds of tons... of weapons, ammo, explosives and other supplies of war... simply vanished from those dumps within a few days and weeks, stolen, gone, to be used... against who?

Against US troops.

Remember how, after Iraq's defeat, you had hundreds of thousands of members of the Iraqi Army left without a leader? Hundreds of thousands of men, wondering what would happen to them. They could have been told to turn in their weapons, or lock them away, and then been used as a massive reconstruction team for Iraq, rebuilding war damage, rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, restoring electricity and clean water, rebuilding roads and bridges and hospitals, and, oh yeh, maybe paint a few schools too.

You fired them, George. You fired them all. "Army's disbanded. You're unemployed. Go home."

And they went home. Most of them took their weapons and went home. To watch as the work they might have done, for their own country, for their own people, be turned over to your mega-corporate friends like Halliburton and Bechtel with no-bid contracts and grotesque amounts... billions of dollars worth... of graft, corruption, fraud and outright theft.

And they thought about this a while, and then maybe they got their old weapons out of the closet and thought some more while they cleaned them, and maybe they talked with other Iraqis about this, and maybe they talked about the hundreds of tons of weapons and explosives and ammo secreted away after being taken from the unguarded ammo dumps, and maybe some of them decided that their old Army weapons, and those hundreds of tons of weapons and explosives and ammo, might still have a useful purpose.

Against US troops.

And all of sudden there were "insurgents" attacking US troops, with rifles and RPGs and IEDs and truck bombs. And then more. And more. And more. And still more, every month.

And all of that was made possible because of you, George. Because of you.

But all of that might have been chalked up to bad decision-making, incompetence, or that handy excuse "poor intelligence".

Except for one thing. Except for the three words you said, said in public, said before television cameras, three words that went around the world within hours. Three words:

"Bring it on."

You asked our enemies to attack and kill US soldiers. You dared our enemies to attack and kill US soldiers. You wanted our enemies to attack and kill US soldiers.

And they did. And they have. And they do, to this day. Every day.

To the cost of over three thousand American lives. So far. To the cost of ten times that, thirty thousand Americans, wounded, and maimed, and crippled, who've left arms, legs, chunks of their brains behind them, laying in the streets of Iraqi cities.

You armed our enemies, George.

You motivated our enemies, George.

You asked our enemies to attack and kill US soldiers.

What's the name for that behavior, George? What do you call that?

You said those words over three years ago, George. I had a word to describe what you'd done, a word I sent to my Senators and Congressmen. I thought it was an appropriate word then, and I think it's still an appropriate word now.

You should have been removed from office right then, in 2003. But you weren't. You got what you asked for, you got what you wanted: the death and maiming of thousands of Americans.

And now you want more. You want to increase the violence, you want to increase the bloodshed, you want to expand the war. In your speech a few days ago, you gave clear indications that your goal isn't merely to expand the US military presence in Iraq, but to provoke a war with additional nations, with Syria and Iran.

You are drunk on blood and power, and your words and actions are those of an enemy of America, not a leader.

You armed our enemies, you motivated our enemies, you asked our enemies to attack and kill US soldiers.

And the word for that is... treason.



So I've had like half a dozen posts in mind to make here, including several with photos, and Gerald Ford is kind enough to die and give me an unexpected day off on January 2nd, which meant that I actually had the spare time to sit down to write and post some of them.

But first I decide to install the new keyboard I was given for Christmas (nothing wrong with the old keyboard, as long as you didn't want to use any vowels). And just as I'm in the middle of the software installation...

BANG! The friggin' computer's friggin' power supply explodes.

Really. A loud bang, a burning smell, and a quick dash to unplug the power cord before I start seeing, like, smoke and flames. One dead computer.

I'm assuming that the timing was sheerly coincidental, and that Logitech's software isn't that incompatible.

We're past due for an upgrade (128k RAM was a lot when we bought the machine), so we've decided to shop for a newer computer. Then we'll have to take the old hard drive from the dead machine and transfer the data to the new. It may take a week or two to get things back together where they were.

In the meantime, I'm using Michelle's computer in the living room to do things like check email and write this post. But I don't like to use other people's machines unless I have to.

Regular (i.e., semi-regular) posting will resume as soon as possible.