Highway 431 Blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Drastically Underemployed In Huntsville ::

Tristero at Hullabaloo had a post on this early this morning and I couldn't pass on commenting given the local flavor, especially given the Nobel announcements earlier.

In a couple of months, Roger Y. Tsien and Martin Chalfie will head to Stockholm to collect the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and $450,000 each in prize money in recognition of their development of a revolutionary technique that lights up the inner workings of living cells.

Meanwhile, the scientist who provided the essential piece that made Dr. Tsien’s and Dr. Chalfie’s work possible — a jellyfish gene that produces a fluorescent protein — is out of science.

Douglas C. Prasher, who conducted his research on the Aequorea victoria jellyfish while at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts in the early 1990s, now drives a courtesy van for a car dealer in Huntsville, Ala., earning $10 an hour. He said he was not bitter or jealous of this year’s winning chemistry Nobelists: Dr. Tsien of the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Chalfie of Columbia and Osamu Shimomura, the original discoverer of the jellyfish protein in 1961.

Trained as a biochemist, Dr. Prasher, 57, was interested in the chemistry of how certain animals are able to glow. In the late 1980s, he applied to the National Institutes of Health for a five-year grant to track down the fluorescent protein gene.

Dr. Prasher said his proposal included speculation on how the fluorescent protein might be used as a beacon to light up structures in cells. “That would have certainly been part of my research program,” Dr. Prasher said. “I knew it could serve as a genetic marker and it would be really, really useful, which it has turned out to be.”

That application was turned down. A parallel proposal to the American Cancer Society succeeded, giving Dr. Prasher only two years of financing, enough time to isolate the gene, but not pursue any applications.

By then, however, Dr. Prasher had decided that Woods Hole was not the place for him. Instead of going through the tenure process — he thought he would be turned down, anyway — he looked for a new job. Dr. Chalfie and Dr. Tsien independently contacted Dr. Prasher asking about the jellyfish gene. Dr. Prasher generously shared the gene with both of them.

Dr. Prasher then worked for the United States Department of Agriculture, first on Cape Cod and later in Beltsville, Md., developing methods for identifying pests and other insects. Again, he was not happy, experiencing the beginning of bouts of depression. “I was not happy with management there, so I looked for another position,” he said.

His next move was to Huntsville, where he worked for a NASA subcontractor that was developing mini-chemistry laboratories, which would be needed as health diagnostic tools for a potential human flight to Mars. Dr. Prasher loved that job, but NASA eliminated the financing for the project. For family reasons, he stayed in Huntsville, which restricted his opportunities. “The amount of life science done here is very limited,” he said.

The depression returned. “That’s been a serious problem off and on, but anyone who doesn’t have a job has that problem,” Dr. Prasher said. “If they don’t, there’s a problem with them. Or they’re independently wealthy.”

After a year of unemployment, he started driving the van for Bill Penney Toyota, his job for the last year and a half.

The above was snagged from Hullabaloo, but the entire NY Times article is here.

I'll be curious to see of The Huntsville Times has anything on Dr. Prasher's situation!

Dealing With Plants In The Fall ::

Moving plants in the fall is always a dilemma for me. I will be taking some to work, but the larger ones sometime pose problems. A couple of years ago I gave a couple of Dracenas to a friend who has a music room with 10 foot ceilings as they were touching the top of my ceilings at home. Now they live in a very well lit room along with a parlor grand piano. The small Dracenas I have left are easily incorporated into my great room, but I'm curious to see what will happen with the Philodendron. I bought it about 3 years old as in a 4 or 6 inch pot for about $4. I take great pleasure in getting small inexpensive plants and growing them to maturity. I have a beautiful Amaryllis which I have been babying for probably 5 years and it is just now really becoming an interesting plant.

The 2 year old Boston Fern has been moved into the garage, but I'm not sure what to do with the Staghorn Ferns other than to put them into the garage for now. I have 3 which I have also grown, over a period of time, from very small plants. I may combine the 3 in moss next spring in one big hanger. Something to consider over the winter!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Obama Yard Signs And Bumper Stickers ::

Yesterday afternoon I drove up to Hollywood and Stevenson chasing both light and pixels hoping to produce some new photographs. I found a bit of each and I also found some Obama signs in downtown Stevenson. I hadn't been up in that area for a long, long time. I was disappointed that downtown Scottsboro was less photogenic than I remembered, but I did get an image or two in Stevenson although I'm not particularly happy with them and I will have to go back when the light is better. Here is one I shot which I will have to look at some in judgment:

I'm struck by how much we speed by on 4 lane blacktops without slowing down to take the side trips where the really interesting scenes are found, but I have lost my train of thought and my original reason for this post.

I saw several Obama yard signs in Stevenson and the Democratic headquarters in Scottsboro was in a great location where traffic should be great. I had to stop at the Piggly Wiggly in New Hope this afternoon for a quick purchase and found a car, other than mine, with an Obama bumper sticker. I was heartened with 2 weeks left!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Decatur Daily Endorses Obama ::

Here is just an excerpt, or two:

Even recently, Mr. McCain advocated, “opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking.” He repeatedly demonstrates an inability to understand complex issues, and an ignorance of the plight of those who have not enjoyed his financial success.
Mr. Obama’s efforts to help the middle class, branded socialism by his opponents, show considerable wisdom in light of the current financial mess. Faced with a crisis, the government has had to respond with a flood of cash that increases the income polarization of Americans. Mr. Obama’s approach — helping middle class families avoid foreclosures at the front end — would have cost the nation less, helped those who needed it and possibly prevented the crisis entirely.

Mr. McCain offers few details on how we would prevent a repeat of our financial calamity, and even fewer on how he would deal with the mounting human and financial costs of the Iraq war. His proposals on health care, according to his own allies, would be disastrous.

(emphasis added)

Go read the entire endorsement and pass it around to your fence sitting friends!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Another Obama Sign ::

Someone else just down the road with whom I have a passing acquaintance has his Obama sign out so I don't feel so lonely now although I am surprised someone has not yet ripped it off. A passing pickup driver did yell something at me a few days ago: I'm not sure what he said, but I didn't figure it to be a compliment although I will give him the benefit of the doubt.


Winter's Coming! ::

It's cold down here in New Hope this morning!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Donating To Obama! ::

I just tossed a few bucks to Obama in light of his performance in last nights debate, but I got a little carried away. No, not with money-I couldn't afford that much, but, after donating, I was led to a page where I could forward my support of Obama to 10 people from my address book and ask them to support the Obama campaign with a donation also. Some of these addressees are true-blue Dems who may need a nudge, but I have to admit to some push-back to old high school classmates who have been inundating me with anti-Obama e-mails for the past few months.

I have bitten my tongue and generally just deleted these Obama attacks with a shake of my head, but I think it's now time to let some of these people know just how I feel. I have no false hopes of converting any of these people to Obama supporters, but I feel better just letting them know that I support change!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Header ::

I've only been planning to add something like this for the past year and a half. I took a few days off work this week and kicked myself in the butt and made the change. I also did a header for the blog I created for my high school graduating class. It only took me about a year to do that one also!

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Endorsement For Jerry Craig ::

As if he needs my endorsement for re-election to his county commission post, but I met him personally for the first time this past weekend at the New Hope Founders Day celebration when I was working the Parker Griffith tent.

Every time I have e-mailed commissioner Craig or called his office he has gotten back in touch with me and, believe me, this is something I appreciate, but there is more to his community involvement than that. He had several tables set up and he was giving away free books. I am a firm believer in the power of being able to read and I was happy to see that the book selection was good for both adults and children and this was a popular area. I snagged a biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald, an anthology of English literature, and Dude, The Big Book of Zonker (I couldn't pass this one up).

One of the guys working the Griffith tent with me is a school teacher at Madison County High School in Gurley and he tells me that commissioner Craig regularly gets free books for the school system and for the students. I don't know how he does it, but I applaud his efforts to promote reading!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Parker Griffith Tent At New Hope's Founders Day Celebration ::

I spent the morning and late afternoon/early evening in, or near, the Griffith tent and we had a pretty good turnout although the location was not the best. I had to leave before the parade started and that was supposed to be when the most traffic occurred. Even at that we had a lot of people getting brochures and stickers. Parker was there for the parade and then a later stump speech and we found a lot of support for his candidacy!

The republicans had a booth set up, but I didn't see a whole lot of traffic through there although I did see a few people pick up McCain/Palin yard signs.

I had to leave a couple of times to run to the house and I did see several Obama/Biden signs on the back road to 431. That was heartening!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New Hope Founders Day Celebration ::

This will be happening tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday. If everything goes as planned I will be manning the Parker Griffith booth Saturday morning. Stop by and say hello!

Obama Yard Sign Is Still UP ::

I put it out Sunday and no one has snagged it yet! I'm amazed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Huntsville Mayoral Election ::

I moved away from Huntsville just over a year and a half ago so I had no voice in the election of Tommy Battle over Loretta Spencer, but I am happy with the result. I was very pleasantly surprised by the margin of victory!

The Obama Yard Sign ::

None of my meth addicted neighbors have stolen the sign after 3 days so I'm hopeful!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Obama/Biden Yard Sign ::

I put mine out this evening to counter my neighbor's McCain/Palin sign. The neighbor has his kinda hidden right up against his house and is difficult to see. I put mine right out by the road.

I'll be surprised if it's still there tomorrow, but I hope I'm wrong!

We've got roughly 4 weeks left and now it should get interesting. I'm really looking forward to the next debate between McCain and Obama, especially since McCain has pulled out of Michigan and Obama has made a push in North Carolina. I understand he was in Asheville over the weekend. Asheville is one of my all time favorite towns although I haven't been up there in quite some time.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bailout Vote In The Senate ::

So, Shelby and Sessions both voted against! Interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing how the vote now goes in the house.