Monday, September 28, 2009

Love this Pic

It was on my friend's blog, but I just love it!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ghost in Your Genes

Epigenetics is starting to come into its own and revolutionize our understanding of biology and genetics.

Men, if your grandfather entered puberty during the time of a famine, you are more likely to have a long life. Women, if your grandmother was in the womb during the time of a famine, you are more likely to die unusually young.

We are learning that it isn't only genes that are passed from generation to generation and that genes alone do not account for the diversity in our species and between identical twins. What matters even more is what genes are expressed, or turned on, and when and in what combinations. Things that you do or experience now can affect what gets turned on in your children and grandchildren. Your smoking or eating habits can lead to the cancer of your grandchild that you never even meet. Our behaviors have a bigger influence in the genetic destiny of our offspring than realized - increasing our responsibility for our actions beyond ourselves but also onto future generations to an extent never before imagined.

On the flip side, epigenetics also provides hope: Doctors are learning how, in some cases, to turn some activated genes back off to cure cancers that were hopeless cases before.

See the
episode on NOVA.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Murder of Crows

I have often seen crows in singles, twos or threes or fours, they are common in this area. One year, I even had somewhat of a conversation with a crow. I had put peanuts on my back porch, which the crow and his friend or mate watched. He came and got them but wanted more. He returned to my porch, hopped right up to my back screen door, looked through it directly at me into the house where I was seated on the couch, and "Caw, Caw!" he cackled at me, eyeing me intently while flapping his wings against the screen. I knew exactly what he was saying and exactly what he wanted. I complied, going and getting the last of my peanuts and putting them on the back porch. He took them off to his friend and they left, apparently contented.

I am fascinated by the intelligence and curiosity of crows. I have seen crows put rocks into a narrow patch of water to make food rise that they couldn't reach. I have read about them hanging out at traffic intersections in Tokyo, using red lights to deposit nuts to be cracked by cars when the lights turn green, and then the next red light to pick up their prized cracked nut meals. I know some people are frightened by crows, hence the group name "murder", but I like them.

So it has been a joy to observe a murder of 23 crows in residence in my neighborhood. I have seen them roosting in trees at dawn like the picture above, but more enjoyable is that the past two weekends when my mom and I have walked her dogs at the track across the street on Sunday morning, the 23 have been there hanging out all together, perched in the stadium seats, on the fences and in the fields. As we walk by, as long as they are higher than us they will let us get within a few feet and just watch us pass with a wary, curious eye. Sunday I watched one find a straw and entertain itself with it for a long time and listened to them talk to one another. You can tell them apart, too - some are a bit larger, some have smoother feathers while some are thinner in the neck.

The last dogs my parents had hated crows. They always defended the yard against them while ignoring squirrels. My mom felt it was because once a crow had raided the eggs or babies from a smaller bird's nest in the yard. But the current dogs could care less about crows while they are incessantly chasing squirrels out of the yard.

Mom and I both counted them these past two weekends and always the count is 23. We wondered how they are related to one another and what their social structure is like, but I don't really know the answers to those questions.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I like this recitation - it is clear and beautiful to me.

Recommended for reciting on Laylatul Qadr:

Surah Qadr (short Surah, recommended to recite many times)

Surah 44 - The Smoke

Surah 30 - The Romans

Surah 29 - The Spider

Surah 36 - YaSin (Recommended to recite 3 times - here with transliteration - follow along if you wish, insha'allah)

As an aside, I decided the main focus of my prayers, aside from asking for the well-being of my family and loved ones, is simply for contentment in all occasions. I pray for increased gratitude to Allah swt, guidance and forgiveness for those who seek them, blessings on the Prophet (saw) and the Ahlulbayt (sa), good of this world and Hereafter for all believers in all times and places.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Munajat (Whispered Prayer) of Imam Ali(as)

I might have posted this before, I am not sure. But, it is really wonderful and it is part of the recommended dua'as on the potential dates of Laylatul Qadr.

May Allah swt bless Muhammad (saw) and the Ahlulbayt (sa).

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Funeral/Memorial Service

Today was the service for my aunt, held at The Shrine of Remembrance. In the service, there was a part where people spoke about her if they wanted to, and it was nice to hear many people notice how selfless she was and how much she tried to help people and take care of her kids and grand kids. Even though it was short notice - she just died Wednesday and her obituary was in the paper I think yesterday, the service area was overflowing with family and friends. I went with my parents, and when we arrived my brother's family was already there and he and his kids were crying - that was heartbreaking to see. You notice stupid things in a funeral, like I noticed how I like the stone walls in the hall. After the service, purple balloons with messages to Nancy written on them were let go outside into the blue sky - it was a beautiful day. Then we went to my cousin Angela's house - one of Nancy's other nieces, for a reception. It was kind of nice to see so much family, I don't think that much family has been together in years, if ever.

Afterwards, I went home and took a long nap, just feeling tired.

But on another unrelated note, I took the first two squashes from my patch and ate my first calabacitas squash tonight for iftar - very good, basically the same as zucchini or yellow squash, but it is round. I'll try to give the other one, which I think is a zucchini, to my mom tomorrow.