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May 31, 2005

Aquilegia - Purple

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Iris germanica 'Honorabile' - better picture

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Ajuga reptans

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Aquilegia - Pink

These are in several locations around the yard...

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and

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May 27, 2005

Emerging Iris

Was out looking to see who was coming up in Grandma's Irises and saw this cool view of a bud still encased in the leaves. Had to get a shot.

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Iris germanica 'Honorabile'

I've been calling them the Golden Gopher Irises, but apparently they're the variety 'Honorabile'. Also on schedule, as in the bloomed on the same day this year as last (5/22).

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Ranunculus acris 'Flore Pleno' - "Buttercups"

Right on schedule. Am moving them to the big boulevard bed after bloom ends.

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May 25, 2005

Surreal Life VII - What PubChem?

What follows is the background on the attempt of the American Chemical Society to remove taxpayer-funded content from the public domain. PubScience has already bitten the dust. If PubChem goes, you can be sure PubMed (the only reliable, free medical information on the web) will be gone too. The irony? I polled our SciEng staff and got the same responses as everyone else I know: that the ACS databases fill their needs already - no one's going to cancel their subscriptions simply b/c PubChem exists.

To say that that the ACS can only survive in the total absence of other databases is just pure, unadulterated greediness and it's anti-democratic to boot - it's a move to remove completely from the public domain that which was already paid for by the public and is statutorily in the public doman by default. Instead of offering a product people clearly will buy b/c of its many additional features, the ACS wants to require people to buy its product b/c there'll be no alternative. I'm so sure that will make everything better.

The American Chemical Society is calling on Congress to shut down the NIH's PubChem, a freely accessible database on small organic molecules. PubChem is an important component of NIH's Molecular Libraries Initiative, which is a key element of the NIH "road map" for medical research.

ACS claims that PubChem competes with Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS). In reality, PubChem and the Chemical Abstracts Service databases are complementary, not duplicative.

ACS is currently targeting the Ohio delegation to Congress, Rep. Ralph Regula (OH), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, and Senator Arlen Specter (PA), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

What is PubChem?
In 2004, as part of the NIH's Roadmap Initiative to speed new medical treatments and improved health care to all Americans, NIH launched an on-line database called PubChem as part of a suite of databases supporting the New Pathways to Discovery component of the roadmap effort. New Pathways focuses on very basic biomedical research, and especially focuses on understanding the molecular biology of health and illnesses. Bioinformatics is a critical component of that effort.

Drawing from many public sources, PubChem organizes information about the biological activities of chemical compounds into a comprehensive biomedical database. All of this supports the part of the Roadmap called the Molecular Libraries initiative. PubChem is the informatics backbone for virtually all of these components, and is intended to empower the scientific community to use small molecule chemical compounds in their research.

What is the issue?
A bedrock NIH principle is that medical research information developed with public funds must be made freely and publicly available for the good of advancing medical research to cure disease.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has expressed concern that a new NIH database called PubChem, which was created to support the NIH Roadmap initiative, and especially the Molecular Libraries Initiative, is a threat to the financial survival of the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS). PubChem provides free access to its database; CAS charges a fee for researchers to use its database. ACS has demanded that NIH shut down PubChem or substantially alter it so as not to compete with CAS.

o ACS/CAS claims that a federally supported database that is freely available to all users and is supported by federal tax dollars has an unfair advantage over the CAS service, which charges a fee for access to its database.
o ACS claims that PubChem will cripple CAS, sapping both it and the ACS's economic foundation, resulting in the loss of jobs in Columbus, Ohio.
o ACS/CAS appears to want NIH to either shut down the PubChem database or severely limit its content so that it does not overlap with ACS/CAS in any way.
o ACS/CAS also appears to want to provide some of the information contained in PubChem, but at a cost to researchers who would use this information.

This is much the same argument that the information industry made with regard to PubScience which they managed to get shut down.

PubChem is a free, publicly available database created by NIH in 2004 to provide information about small molecules for use as research tools and as potential starting points that may lead to the development of new medications. The database connects chemical information with biomedical research and clinical information in a connect-the-dots fashion, organizing facts in numerous public databases into a unified whole. PubChem is a critical part of the Molecular Libraries initiative of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. It will combine new data generated by this initiative with data available from other public sources to create a powerful new research tool. PubChem is the latest member of the powerful family of integrated databases operated by the National Library of Medicine, including GenBank, PubMed, GEO, OMIM, and a host of other resources that are utilized millions of times a day by scientists all over the world. The integration of these databases makes the whole much greater than the sum of its parts.

NIH staff analysis shows that PubChem and CAS overlap relatively little in terms of content. PubChem and CAS differ widely in scope and resources.

Budget: CAS budget is reported to be $260 million; PubChem budget is $3 million.
Staffing: CAS staff is reported to be 1,300; PubChem staff is 13.
Chemicals: CAS has information on 25 million unique chemicals; PubChem has information on 850,000 unique chemicals (though this number is expected to grow).
Purpose: CAS provides chemical, commercial and patent information to chemists; PubChem integrates medical information for medical researchers.
PubChem and CAS content are complementary resources tailored to the needs of different segments of the scientific community.

NIH met with ACS officials to seek a solution that would resolve the society's concern. Since the initial meeting, there have been multiple communications between NIH and ACS leadership. ACS has effectively broken off discussions, leaving the issues unresolved.

NIH is willing to continue discussions with ACS/CAS to benefit the scientific community and biomedical research. For example, PubChem management is willing to link to the CAS database, essentially bringing CAS a new, untapped market of customers. Medical researchers infrequently use CAS at this time.

Surreal Life VI.I

So. Patterns of Global Terrorism. In the news this time last year for blatant data tampering in order to make the claim (utterly, utterly, utterly false) that terrorism had decreased in 2003 - in fact, it shot up substantially. Same thing in 2004. So. *This year* the admistration decided not to repeat last year's mistakes - successfully, too. To quote Alan Zoellner at the College of William and Mary:

"The controversy about terrorism statistics has resolved itself in the
appearance of two new publications, one from the State Department to
continue meeting the obligation to report annually to Congress about
terrorism by the end of April but with no statistics, and one from the
National Counterterrorism Center which will have the data. Patterns of
Global Terrorism is replaced by the dataless Country Reports on Terrorism: 2004 from the State Department at http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/c14813.htm

The data was released in National Counterterrorism Center: A Chronology of Significant International Terrorism for 2004 at
http://www.tkb.org/documents/Downloads/NCTC_Report.pdf"
Source: New Publications for Terrorism Information.

This year's report generated a few no-profile news article. The irony? That the increase in the patterns of *global* terrorism increased because of terrorist activity focused on the Kashmir conflict. However, the folks at the State Dept. realize that no one will ever listen to this much discussion on the subject. They'll hear more terrorism and think "=bad administration", much as they heard "Saddam Hussein hates Americans; the 9/11 attackers *certainly* did" and therefore concluded that Saddam Hussein is personally responsible for 9/11, even though there is no evidence that Hussein's many evils included this particular activity.

No Shows / First-timers

Well, not one hyacinth has seen fit to bloom. Planted some in apricot, lemon yellow and blue (although not together). Nor has the daffodil 'Acropolis' so far. There's some greenery, but no bulbs. The two corydalis died back over winter, as expected, but I've seen no sign of either of them this year.

On the upside, the lupins are finally going to bloom and they're not messing around. The big one has at least 6 bloom stalks and there seem to be more every day. Also bought some white daylilys, they appear to be coming along nicely, as are some lighter orange ones from a friend named Eunice. Eunice is an exceptional gardener and everything I get from her does well, often straightaway, sometimes after a year or two. Luckily for me, she's needed to do some serious dividing in the last few years and I've picked up loads of hostas, plus daylilys, siberian iris and I don't remember everything else.

Finished the bed in the back yard

Extended the bed to the mulch path. It's not perfect in a couple of spots, so I got some more creeping phlox which will grow over the imperfect spots. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the color I wanted. So, I divided one of the white plants, dug up most of the rest and rearranged.

Before moving the phlox, but after finishing the bed:
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After re-arranging, but before the mulch:
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Anemones Blanda

Planted 30; got 8; only 3 blooms so far: 1 white, 2 blue. No pink, although those were shown on the package. Certainly hope to see a better showing next year after they've had time to settle in.

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May 16, 2005

Camping at Lake Maria

Barney grew up camping; the whole family was, and to some extent remains, serious campers. However, a few years ago his house was burned down and all his camping gear went with it. Not his cat Eddie thankfully, but it wasn't the best Christmas Eve ever for him.

So we decided we'd start doing some camping. Last week we went to pick up the last major gear - our tent, sleeping bags, etc. Man, tents are seriously different now from when I was a kid. We set that sucker up in less than 10 min. And, it survived pretty heavy winds overnight. Neat.

This weekend we decided to give everything a workout at Lake Maria, about 45 min. northwest of the Twin Cities. It was quite lovely:

The Marmot:
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Minnesota: Possibly meaning "clouds reflected on water" - my choice anyway:
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That amazing spring green:
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Reaching for the sun:
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Sigh. Only saw the sign:
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No turtles here either; pretty though:
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May 13, 2005

Anemone sylvestris--Snowdrop Anemone

Another photo that does the job, but isn't quite what I want...

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Narcissus Recurvus

I know I should just be happy to have gotten a good shot of these very white petals, but I'd like to get one that's framed a bit better and is a good photograph in general. Sadly it's been disgusting here all week. It's been borderline freezing and rainy. Ew ew ew.

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May 8, 2005

Phlox Sublata (Creeping Phlox)

Ok, I now have added a tripod to the mix; not sure if it helped this morning, but I'm definitely beginning to get the hang of photographing light-colored blooms.
The creeping phlox isn't quite ready for prime-time, but this isn't a bad shot:

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nor are these:

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May 5, 2005

Saxifraga arendsii "Purple Rockfoil"

These guys took a beating this winter (their first); lost 3 of 9 starts. The ones that made it are looking a little iffy, but I think by the end of the summer they'll be looking pretty good. They're certainly blooming extensively. I just learned how to use the close-up feature on the camera and viola! The plants are currently ground-cover and the blooms no more than 6" high and maybe a 1/4" in diameter.

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and

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May 4, 2005

Apricot Beauty?

So, what I originally described as an Apricot Beauty, I'm not so sure of now. The first one never did develop a fragrance and unbeknownst to me, I got of another color out of the same bin. The others - the pink ones - are fragrant, but don't look very "apricot" to me. Doesn't really matter - they're all just gorgeous:

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and

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More Tulips!

Yay!

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and

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Pulsatilla Vulgaris 'Ruby Red'

Actually, part of the tag for this has disintegrated - definitely Ruby - I'm just assuming it's 'Ruby Red'.

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