Sunday SciKu | Resistance Not Futile

Photo by Adrian Lange

Good news to start the new year from the Wistar Institute, where scientists have developed a novel approach for fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The new class of antibiotics, IspH inhibitors, use a double-pronged strategy, killing bacteria while also flagging them to be targeted by the immune system’s cytotoxic T cells—like a fleeing bank robber covered in red dye. That way, if any of individual bacterium evolve to resist to the antibiotic, they’ll be hunted down by the body’s immune system before they can escape and become a new resistant strain.

“The end of antibiotics” has been touted as a looming crisis since I was in grade school, but this is why I’ve never been very worried about it. As an organizational system, human society is very good at incentivizing and so solving slow-moving problems. As problems become worse, the rewards for solving them become bigger, and we’re a very clever species. What we don’t do well is move quickly or incentivize responsibility, so the real crises are usually shocks and sudden collapses. When it comes to civilization’s future, I worry about viruses and CMEs and the petrodollar, but not things like this. We’re good at solving problems when they arrive gradually.

This week’s tiny sciku winds this into a little knot, with a nod towards our New Year’s resolutions.

 

resisting
the resistant
choice

 

Sunday SciKu | Llama Spit

Llama in Patagonia by RocketFuel Collective (CC0)

This week’s #sciku is more of a senryū. NIH researchers were able to isolate “nanobodies” against SARS-Cov-2 in a llama named Cormac. The immune systems of camelids produce unusually tiny antibodies, about a tenth the size of our own. Basically these are just the binding domain that sticks to the virus and not the tail that flags it for the rest of the immune system. Because these nanobodies are so small, they’re easy to synthesize and can be aerosolized in a nasal spray.

It would need be tested (extensively, in my opinion), but in theory we could inhale a squirt before higher-risk activities (like holiday dinners) to create a temporary barrier in our nose and lungs against becoming infected.

When I was a kid, my grandmother’s house backed up to a zoo. After holiday dinners, all the kids would go down the hill, cross some railroad tracks, and look at the animals from the back of their enclosures. The closest were the llamas, and they’d chase us as we ran back and forth along the fence, until they’d finally become annoyed enough to start spitting. PETA would not approve, but we were kids, and it was fun.

The third layer to this little senryū, I should say, doesn’t apply to my family now—we all get along just fine!

 

almost dodging
the angry llama spray—
Christmas dinner

 

In Other News

I’m thinking about radically changing this blog.  I like writing, but I don’t like blogging.  I’ve done my due diligence, trying to come up with things to post about, and I just don’t really care what I have to say, at least when it comes to poetry and editing.  And I think it shows.  More and more it shows, as more and more I come to the realization that I just don’t care.  And if I don’t care why would you care?  Do you care?  Would anyone be heartbroken if I deleted all 233 posts I’ve made so far and turned this into a travel log of my trips between the office, the grocery store, and the garbage disposal?  Honk if you’re horny, I guess.  I’m not.

The Bard of Belltown

Harvey Goldner passed away last week, from cancer at 65. I didn’t know him very well, but we published a poem of his last summer. The Seattle P-I has written a nice obiturary for him — he drove a taxi a few nights a week to pay for his room at a boarding house, and dedicated the rest of his life to poetry. There’s a simple beauty to that, at least in mind mind, and I hope it was as fulfilling for Harvey as it is in my imagination.

His poem from issue #25, “War and Peace,” is one that I still think of often, and so fits my definition of greatness. Perhaps like Goldner himself, it’s playful and important at the same time. He will be missed, but a body of work worth reading remains.

    Harvey Goldner

    WAR AND PEACE

    Big bombs fell out of the
    sky. Big bombs fell all over
    the countryside. Chickens died,
    some cows, a few lucky people
    from down the road. Then the war,
    the exhilaration, was over.

    A new tax collector came by–
    different uniform, same fishy
    eyes. The craters made by the
    bombs filled with rainwater.
    Kids played in the bomb ponds
    until Cousin Bob, the smart one,

    came back from the big city
    and taught us how to raise
    catfish in the bomb ponds.
    His lovely wife, Bobette,
    gave us a dynamite
    recipe for hushpuppies.

    Now, when the new tax collector
    (different uniform, same fishy
    eyes) comes by on the first of
    every month to collect, we
    have a party–all the catfish
    and hushpuppies you can eat.

    So far, he hasn’t gotten too
    greedy, not yet. But if he does,
    Aunt Mary, the ancient one,
    still has left some of the
    good poison which she
    murdered the last one
    with.

Rattle Poetry Prize – Simultaneous Submissions

Due to some gracious feedback, we’ve made a slight expansion to the guidelines for the Rattle Poetry Prize. In regard to a poem’s availability, the following now applies:

RATTLE’s winter issue (Dec. 2007) must be a potential first publication for all works submitted. No previously published works, or works accepted for publication elsewhere. No simultaneous submissions, except to magazines or presses open to publishing reprints after January 1st, 2008. [expanded 7/9/07]

What we care about for $5,000 is that, when we choose the winners, we get to be the poem’s first publication, no matter what. Originally we had said that we simply wouldn’t consider simultaneous submissions — but it’s been brought to my attention that some people are hesitating to submit poems that also appear in manuscripts that they’re trying to publish. Since the process of getting a book published is such a slow one, and all rights revert to the authors upon publication in RATTLE anyway, this really doesn’t matter to us, as long as the book wouldn’t come out before RATTLE #28 gets a month on the shelves.

Because we’re already mid-stream, I didn’t want to change the rule completely; it makes more sense to add this slight expansion to the guidelines. They will probably be entirely re-worded next year.