How very European of me

That's right, I took the month of August off from updating my website. No, I didn't spend it on an island in the Mediterranean. I couldn't share one of the projects I was working on due to a confidentiality agreement, but of course that doesn't account for an entire month. Here's what else I did on my August vacation. I taught 17 undergraduates how to derive the rate law for the reaction between bleach and blue food coloring and how to tell the difference between plaster of paris, chalk, and baking soda in the lab. I learned how to make interactive animations using Adobe Edge (the Apple device-friendly follow-up to Flash) for a textbook project I'm working on. I drove to Lake Tahoe and back with the husband and our 9 month old force of nature.  And most recently, I put together the figure below (a draft) for a bioinformaticist who is seeking ways to engineer a synthetic organism with a minimal genome. To this end, his group has explored the possibility of creating a genome that only uses 19 amino acids instead of 20. This figure describes their efforts to do without cysteine residues. Turns out there are a small handful of cysteines whose chemistry is just too important to be removed or replaced by something else. The PI behind this work was inspired by a lipogram which was a rewriting of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" that completely lacked the letter "e".  It's called "Black Bird". People in the biz are always looking for examples of science being inspired by art, and I think this is a particularly interesting one.