"everybody happy as the dead come home"

'Virgin birth' method promises ethical stem cells

In parthenogenesis, an unfertilised egg keeps two sets of chromosomes and begins developing as if it had been fertilised. Some insects and reptiles can reproduce this way but even though an electric or chemical stimulus can induce parthenogenesis in mammals, the resulting embryos die after a few days.

And that, according to its proponents, is the beauty of the technique as far as stem cells are concerned: it produces embryos that could never become human beings. So destroying these embryos to obtain stem cells would avoid the ethical concerns that have led to restrictions or bans on embryonic stem cell research in many countries.

[...] A team led by fertility specialist David Wininger at biotech firm Stemron of Maryland has grown parthenogenetic human embryos to the blastocyst stage, at which stem cells can be obtained. Cells taken from one of the embryos survived for a few days.

[...] Since eggs are needed to make parthenogenetic stem cells, one potential problem is that the technique could not be used to make matching stem cells for men or for women after menopause. Therapeutic cloning, by contrast, could provide matching stem cells for any individual.

However, because cells made by parthenogenesis have two identical sets of chromosomes, rather than one set each from the father and the mother, they have less variation in the surface proteins on cells that can trigger immune reactions. Wininger thinks it will possible to establish a bank of parthenogenetic stem cells that could provide cells to suit most individuals. And such banks would be much cheaper than creating stem cells from scratch for each individual.

Man, the scifi satire just writes itself these days, doesn't it? Thanks to the Religious Right, we end up with effective biological immortality for young women only, with the ageing Falwells going to back-alley baby-in-the-woodchipper Y-chromosome organ farms.

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prepare the Matrix Vats!

Physicists investigate brain power:

Researchers at the University of Tel-Aviv have shown that neurons can self-organize themselves into electrically active clusters of cells in the laboratory. [...] They found that the network, which is initially uniform, separates by the creation of 'borders' that break it into separate 'basins'. Each basin then collapses into a cluster, which remains intact until it degrades. [...] It found that the neural networks were able to self-control the strength of their interconnections, and their shape, to maintain the required level of electrical activity.

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Current Music: Pig -- Volcano ♬

Hello Jesus!

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McWar

War Between Democracies:

"Although there is no undisputed case of two democracies at war, the evidence certainly casts doubt on the thesis. In fact, the thesis is not nearly as strong as the statement that no two countries with a MacDonald's Restaurant have ever gone to war with one another."

Fast food comes to Iraq:

"Fastfood giants Pizza Hut and Burger King have set up their first franchises inside war-torn Iraq, even as many aid convoys waited on the borders for the war to officially end. The arrival of the two restaurants - sited inside giant trailers on a British military base near Basra - won a rapturous welcome from soldiers, whose limited range of rations lost their appeal many weeks ago."

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24 versus La Femme Nikita

So last night on 24, when Robert Glazer ("Operations" from La Femme Nikita) showed up as the latest pseudo-governmental conspirator, it finally clicked for me that "CTU" and "Section One" are the same damned thing. We've got:

  • The Undisclosed Location, with its faux-industrial 80s music video decor;
  • "George from Oversight" versus "Chapelle from Central", the vague parent organization trying to take over and/or looking for a scapegoat;
  • The l33t hax0rs on staff, spending all day sitting at their Max Headroom terminals intercepting phone calls and speaking nonsense tech-babble about cryptography;
  • The vaguely sinister and self-serving boss has a glass office that looks down on the minions;
  • And terrorists, terrorists, terrorists, always from Undisclosed Countries.

Then while writing this I find out that Robert Cochran wrote both shows. Doh! No wonder!

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DNA Lounge: Wherein the Plumber Conspiracy is revealed.

Some corrections:

  • Apparently the sensor on that toilet has been missing for a while: it didn't vanish at the same time the partition was most recently knocked down.

  • Apparently Paradise Lounge's main room actually opened for business last saturday!

So, speaking of the toilet sensors... in addition to the one that's gone missing, we've always had trouble with the sensors on the toilets and sinks: with them activating too often, or not often enough, or with the batteries in them dying way faster than they should.

Yesterday, Jason was calling around trying to find a plumber who is an authorized dealer in these sensors, and what he learned is that we're apparently on a plumber blacklist! He left a few messages, and when he finally got an appropriate plumber on the phone, the guy said, "Sure, I can come out tomorrow. Where are you?" Jason told him, and the guy said, "Wait, is that a nightclub?" Yes... "Which one?" DNA Lounge... "Oh. Sorry, I can't make it. <click>"

How did this come about? Well, we have a theory...

We did a lot of business with the plumbing supply place down the street from us: we bought pretty much everything plumbing related that's in the club through them, from toilets on up, and we had a pretty good relationship with them. Then one night, several months ago, that business's owner and his pregnant wife showed up here, and we comped them in. He handed Barry a CD and said, "Hey, get the DJ to play our song, ok?" The night was Qoöl, a progressive house/trance night, and the song he wanted to hear was some salsa thing. Barry said, "Well, I can ask the DJ, but he's probably going to say no, because it's not the kind of music they do. It's their party, not ours." Plumbing man got mad and said, "Hey, you're the BOSS, just fucking TELL them to do it!" Barry tried to explain that that's not how it works. Plumbing man got absolutely furious and started screaming. He wouldn't settle down, to the point that the security guys had to throw him out.

So I guess he called up all his pals and got them to agree not to sell to us! Amazing...

Fortunately the main distributor of the sensors doesn't know anything about this nonsense, so he's willing to help us out. But get this: when Jason explained to him the kinds of problems we've been having, the first thing the guy said was, "You're not using these sensors with stainless steel sinks, are you?"

Why yes. Yes we are.

"It says all over the box and manual that you can't use these in a reflective environment. It makes them go nuts! Your contractor should have known that!"

We have so much love for the plumbers and general contractor we used during construction. So much love. Man, those guys robbed us good.

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beware the disembodied nun head

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Current Music: Ogre -- Borderline ♬

some sarcophagus!

The concrete shield thrown up to block radiation escaping the Chernobyl nuclear power station after it exploded in 1986 is collapsing and needs urgent reinforcement, Russia's atomic energy minister said April 22, 2003. A radiation level check is shown being taken outside the concrete sarcophagus housing the nuclear power plant's fourth reactor, April 21, 2001. (Gleb Garanich / Reuters)

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Madonnarama

Last week, the Madonna Corporation flooded the Kazaa with MP3 files purporting to be tracks from her new album that consisted only of her saying "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" (There was immediately an uninspired gag techno remix of that, which I didn't save the link to: it wasn't very good.)

Yesterday, madonna.com was hacked to say "This is what the fuck I think I'm doing", along with downloadable MP3s of the real versions of the songs in question! Screenshot.

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DNA Lounge:

It's so great when the members of the DNA Lounge community decide to get together and pitch in with their impromptu improvements to the space! This friday, some thoughtful fellow decided to donate a little remodeling work to our bathrooms. Apparently he decided that things would look a lot better if the partition divider between the two farthest urinals were removed from the wall. Hey, if that was you, there's no need to be bashful about it: come forward! We'd love to reward you appropriately for your generosity.

Oh, he also absconded with the toilet's motion sensor flusher. Took it right out of the wall.

The second partition is also barely hanging on, as you can see. This isn't the first time this has happened, and it's getting harder to fix, since now the wood studs behind the tile are all torn up from having the bolts ripped out. Clearly we needed to have built the bathroom partitions and walls out of solid steel, like so much of the rest of the club, if we intended them to stand up to these fucking savages.

Besides trying to figure out how to keep our fixtures attached to the wall, we've been trying to work out how to do live music one night a week.

Actually we've been talking about this since at least a year before we opened. Every few months we say, "come on, we've got to do a local band night or something. Just something small and cheap." And then we do the math, and realize that it's really a lot of work, and there's very little chance of it even breaking even.

But, I think we're finally fed up with talking ourselves out of it, and more to the point, fed up with only having live music here every couple of months, so we're probably going to actually do it this time.

The night in question will probably be wednesdays, and there probably won't be any overall theme to it, other than, "bands" (by which I mean, anything but djs or so-called "live PA.") The problem with this plan is that most of the bands won't be a big draw, and our break-even point will be pretty high: chances are we'll be losing money if fewer than 150 to 200 people show up, which will almost certainly be most of the time. It's amazing how much it costs in salaries alone just to open the doors here, even with the most minimal staff we can get away with. So we need to figure out if we can afford to burn that much money every week, subsidizing it with our usual friday bullshit. I hope so, because there are currently no live acts on our calendar at all, and that's a sad thing.

Even if we end up doing mostly local acts who don't expect to get paid much, live shows are really expensive because there's so much that goes into each event, in addition to our usual bar, security, and cleaning staff: there's advertising and promotion (calling radio stations, music journalists, etc.); a sound engineer, who puts in a lot of hours, since he has to be there not only during the show, but also during 2-3 hours of sound check; plus, someone has to actually book the bands; and, oh, probably a bunch of other things I've forgotten at the moment.

Even if we're lucky and have enough bands coming to us that we don't have to actively seek them out, someone still has to put in a lot of telephone hours with each of them, if only to determine whether they sound like they have their shit sufficiently together that they'll actually show up. And of course if we wanted the criteria to be a little more exclusive than "these guys sound minimally responsible" -- like, if someone is expected to actually listen to a demo CD first -- that takes even more time and effort!

It's one of those "spend money to make money" situations, where if we were to hire another person or two to do nothing but book bands, we could probably get national touring acts on a more regular basis; but we don't have the money to hire those people. Also, it's not a coincidence that most touring bands play at venues that are 18+, not 21+ as we are.

But there I go talking myself out of it again.

In neighborhood news:

  • In case you haven't noticed, a few weeks ago, Crepes a Go-Go opened a small trailer-based operation across the street, in the lot next to Butter: and they're open late! It's very rare that they close before we do, which is great...

  • There's a new bar/restaurant at 11th and Folsom (where Wa-Ha-Ka used to be) apparently called "The Public." (Dunno if they have a web site, since they named themself something that's absolutely impossible to search for!) I haven't eaten there yet.

  • I'm told that a bar is in the process of moving in to the old 20 Tank space, too, though it's probably going to be some time before they open.

  • Still no sign of Paradise Lounge reopening. Well, they do some events in the upstairs area, but their main room has been in progress for 15 months now.
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