Want more research funding? Time to give your study organism a better nickname

People who work on pathogens, especially really nasty ones, have built in marketing and fundraising tools. They have nicknames (for the organism, the disease, or both): Good ones. Like “black death” “flesh eating bacteria” “bone break fever” any “wasting disease” any “hemorrhagic fever” “male killer” and more. Now – there are a few non pathogens with good nicknames, like “Conan the bacterium” for Deinococcus radiodurans. But I think we really need to work on better nicknames for non pathogenic microbes. So here are a few proposals:

Any halophilic archaea -> “salt monsters”
Prochlorococcus -> The carbon eater
Rhizobium -> The fixer
Any methanogen -> Fartilicious
Myxococcus xanthus -> The stalker
Nanoarchaeum -> The Hobbit
Tetrahymena thermophila -> The hymenator

Come on everyone.  Let’s get some better nicknames.

If you subscribe to the NY Times – you might want to cancel to get their secret discount

Just got this email

Dear New York Times Reader, 

You may have received an e-mail today from The New York Times with the subject line “Important information regarding your subscription.” 

This e-mail was sent by us in error. Please disregard the message. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused. 


The New York Times

Which then caused me to go back to my trash and read the previous one:
Dear Home Delivery Subscriber, 

Our records indicate that you recently requested to cancel your home delivery subscription. Please keep in mind when your delivery service ends, you will no longer have unlimited access to NYTimes.com and our NYTimes apps. 

We do hope you’ll reconsider. 

As a valued Times reader we invite you to continue your current subscription at an exclusive rate of 50% off for 16 weeks. This is a limited-time offer and will no longer be valid once your current subscription ends.* 

Continue your subscription and you’ll keep your free, unlimited digital access, a benefit available only for our home delivery subscribers. You’ll receive unlimited access to NYTimes.com on any device, full access to our smartphone and iPad® apps, plus you can now share your unlimited access with a family member.† 

To continue your subscription call 1-877-698-0025 and mention code 38H9H (Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. E.D.T.). 

This is a service message. You are receiving this e-mail to confirm your New York Times home delivery cancellation. 

*This 50% promotional offer is available for the first 16 weeks. At the end of this promotional period, delivery will continue at the regular rate unless you notify us otherwise. You will be billed or your credit card automatically charged in advance of each 4-week billing period. This offer is valid only in areas served by The New York Times Delivery Service. Prices are subject to change. Offer is subject to additional restrictions or limitations. State and local taxes will be added where applicable. Product availability and price may vary by region. This is a limited-time offer and will no longer be valid once your current subscription ends. Offer is not transferable and is only available to the recipient of this e-mail.

†Mobile apps are not supported on all devices. Does not include e-reader editions, Premium Crosswords or The New York Times Crosswords apps. Book Review and Large Print Weekly subscriptions do not include All Digital Access. Other restrictions apply. 

So apparently if I had cancelled my subscription I would be able to get a temporary discount to restart my subscription.  Well, that is interesting.  Gonna be canceling my subscription soon I think …
I note – despite the generally excellent writing at the NY Times I am a bit perplexed by the signature suggesting this email was actually coming from the newspaper and not a person in the circulation department …

Maybe the next thing is animal fecal transplant toys? #poop

OK – this is a bit gross – but whatever.  At the National Zoo the other day at the store my kids pointed out these “Pooping Animal Key Chains”.  Wonder what is next?

IMG_0061.MOV Watch on Posterous

Something smells off with this – grant to fund travel to meeting, if you use Roche technologies

Just got this email from Roche announcing a grant program to pay registration and travel fees for the AGBT meeting if you are using Roche-454 sequencing or Roche-Nimblegen arrays as part of your work (see below).  Seems like this would have some of the same conflict of interest issues as a pharma company paying someone to give a talk.  I note – I participated in a session supported by 454 at a meeting but paid my own way to avoid this type of conflict of interest issue.  Anyone have opinions on this?  Is this a common pharma method creeping its way more and more into genomics?

Germophobia: wanna get people in the mood for "Contagion" movie about killer virus – grow harmless microbes in public #microbialart

Well, this story is pretty cool in many ways. David Coil, who works on my “microBEnet” project posted an entry on our blog: Microbial art in the built environment: bacterial billboard goes viral which called my attention to the story.

Seems that the folks promoting the microbe-focused movie “Contagion” came up with a fun marketing idea. They created a living billboard with microbes on it

It is pretty cool. Just watch how the letters come out and the billboard becomes 3D. It would be fun to do this with some event at UC Davis .. will have to think about it. But overall, I think this idea is really cool and very very well executed.

However, I do want to note some of the reporting on it has gotten a few details a bit off. For example, in the Washington Post: ‘Contagion’ bacteria billboard is exactly what it sounds like (Video) – Celebritology 2.0 – The Washington Post they write

“A YouTube video shows the process in which “two large Petri dishes were inoculated with live bacteria including penicillin, mold and pigmented bacteria.” The result is the most amazing, creepy and literal viral marketing campaign in recent history”

Well, not exactly. Penicillin and mold are not live bacteria. Penicillin is alas, not even alive but I think they are referring to organisms that make the antibiotic, not the antibiotic itself. And this is certainly a great viral marketing campaign, but it is not “literally” viral marketing as these are not viruses in the billboard.
The Montreal Gazette has a better story on the campaign: Bacterial billboard brings ‘culture’ to Hollywood marketing. In the article they describe in more detail the ideas and some of the challenges behind the living billboard. Most interesting to me:
“We wanted to create an organic execution that people could fall in love with,” said Anthony Ganjou, founder of U.K.-based CURB media, an agency specializing in natural and sustainable media whose previous creations include billboards made out of grass plants and light installations made out of glow-in-the-dark bacteria.
Using 35 different strains of bacteria and fungi — including penicillin, mould and pigmented bacteria — CURB’s team of 25 microbiologists and immunologists tested different strains of bacteria to see which would work best at creating a message that would slowly grow into letters making up the film’s name.
So I guess they too called the mold penicillin not Penicillium … may be more common than I thought. But also worth noting is this is a agency that specializes in living billboards and this is not the first time they have done something with microbes. In fact they have done some pretty cool living/outdoor ads including using compost, crop circles, mowing patterns, and even, yes, bioluminescence: Bioluminescence – CURB, sustainable advertising, natural media
Going back to the accuracy of the reporting issue. I note there are others out there who have flagged the story and the concept due to the fact that the movie is about a killer virus and the billboard is of course using bacteria and fungi. For example see Katherine Hobson’s post at the Wall Street Journal Blog: Studio Promotes Killer-Virus Movie … With Bacterial Billboard. In it she says
We at the Health Blog are very sensitive to mixing up viruses and bacteria, probably because we’ve made that error ourselves before.
So on one hand, we think the promotion Warner Bros. Canada dreamed up for Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion,” which opens today, is clever …..
But then she goes on to critique it

On the other hand, the movie is about a virus — the fictional MEV-1. People are already confused about the differences between viral and bacterial ailments, to the point where they will demand antibiotics for problems that likely have a viral cause, like upper respiratory infections.

Personally I think this may be a bit too curmudgeony. The campaign clearly had the desired effect by showing, well, that microbes can grow fast. So the microbes they used were not viruses. And so the ones they used were not harmful. It still is creepy in a way. It is a fine balance of course. We (the royal we here) want to promote microbes as being fun. And we also want to promote them as not always being dangerous. But microbes also do kill a lot of people. And this billboard will probably do more to get people talking and thinking about bacteria and mold than any other movie promotion in recent memory.
In the end microbes I guess creep people out much of the time. And we microbe fans just need to work on that to find ways such that microbes are not always viewed as icky.  So – sure this is capitalizing on a general feeling of germophobia.  But hey – that is pervasive and not the fault of the movie marketers (NOTE – ORIGINAL VERSION OF POST LEFT OUT THE “NOT” HERE – OOPS).
Just a last little note here – though some of the reporting has implied otherwise, there are lots of examples of microbes being used in art or related enterprises. See for example Microbial Art as well as the “Growing Impressions” work of Baldwin and Gulden and the work of Hunter Cole.  Lots of other living art out there including microbes – if anyone knows other examples please post.

Fun with marketing #numerology

Just got an email marketing a new book on numerology.  I have a feeling, just a slight one, the marketer does not know much about me. But I thought I would share so everyone can ponder numerology. In order to spare people if they are not interested I have put everything below the “jump break”

Dear Jonathan Eisen:
Glynis McCants has studied Numerology for over 21 years and her accuracy at predicting events has earned her repeat appearances on The Tyra Banks Show, The Today Show, The View and many others. When she does live, quick Numerology readings on air, SHE DOES NOT MISS! In fact, the producers of Jim Carrey’s movie Number 23 hired her as their expert as did the producers of Dancing with the Stars. Upon its release, her latest book Love by the Numbers became the best-selling Numerology book in the country. Love by the Numbers has received rave reviews for its accuracy in helping single people find lasting love, and giving people in a relationship the tools they need to re ignite the passionate love they once had.

In a radio interview at the beginning of this year, Glynis said that in the month of August, there would be a lot of political upheaval and serious issues with the economy. The recent downgrade of The United States Credit Rating is a great example of this, and Glynis can give more insights on this subject.

Please read the following press release and let me know if I may book an informative, as well as entertaining interview for you with Glynis McCants. Thank you.
Please view Glynis in television appearances at: http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=23012149

Rick Stevens
Ascot Media Group
Post Office Box 133032
The Woodlands, TX 77393
Office: (281) 333-3507

Welcome To Glynis McCants’ World – The World Of Accurately Predicting Romantic Love!
San Marino, CA, August 10, 2011 – Glynis McCants is an internationally-known celebrity Numerologist, whose latest book Love by the Numbers (Sourcebooks Publishing), was written for anyone looking for a healthy love relationship, or wanting to improve the one they already have. With a background in comedy, McCants is an in-demand motivational speaker on relationships and in her quick, live on-air readings – she does not miss!
Knowledge is power, and by researching Numerology for over 21 years and using the 2,500 year-old Pythagoras Number System, Glynis tells us that when you have someone’s name and date of birth, you can discover who they really are. Celebrity couples are one of Glynis’ specialties. She predicted that Reese Witherspoon/Ryan Phillippe, Halle Berry/Eric Benet, Ryan Reynolds/Scarlett Johansson’s marriages would not go the distance. Not only did Glynis know Jennifer Lopez was not going to walk down the aisle with Ben Affleck, but she was certain that Jennifer’s marriage with Marc Anthony would be a very difficult one, and that they would not be living “happily ever after.” Glynis makes it clear that Numerology is in everything– people, our home, business, and even the city and state in which we live.
Naming your baby by the Numbers really does make a difference. In the news, Pink, Jewel, Ivanka Trump, Kate Hudson, and Victoria Beckham have all recently given birth, and Glynis teaches that giving the baby the right name can ensure compatibility with child and parents. As your guest, she can explain how that works.
Glynis’ book Love by the Numbers is incredibly accurate, informative and entertaining! For many years, Glynis was a Numerology Counselor who taught others how to find healthy love relationships. One day, after a period of dating disappointments, she realized that she needed to follow her own advice and apply the science to finding her own compatible relationship. She used the power of Numerology to find her husband Charlie. They have been together for nine years, and are still madly in love, and feel as if they are on an extended honeymoon.
While other books make it complicated, the author has defined each number in a simple, understandable process. Its 25 exciting chapters teach readers how to find the Six Numbers that make up their Numerology Blueprint, and how to do a chart comparison. You can also discover what turns your partner on- or- off in love. Love by the Numbers will also show you how to pick the perfect wedding date to avoid a wedding day disaster! There are instances where taking the husband’s surname can actually harm the relationship—this book lets you know if that is the case for you.
Glynis McCants has made repeat TV appearances on The Tyra Banks Show, The Today Show, The Other Half, The Leeza Show, The View and Entertainment Tonight. She was the Numerology expert on Dancing with the Stars and for Jim Carrey’s film, Number 23. Glynis has been featured in top magazines and is a recurring guest on George Noory’s Coast to Coast Radio. She is also heard weekly on The Leeza At Night radio show. Glynis was voted Favorite Guest on PBR for three years running.
Please visit the Glynis McCants website at: http://www.numberslady.com for more information.
Olympia Dukakis: “What impresses me most about Glynis is her boundless hope and optimism about the world we live in today. She uses the ancient science of Numerology as her guide, but her insight and wisdom are invaluable. Glynis believes that you can achieve all of your dreams, and by the time you finish reading this book, you will too.”
Leeza Gibbons, Talk Show Host: “I’ve seen Glynis work her Numerology magic dozens of times…always with the same result; empowering people to create the best version of themselves by really knowing and understanding who they are.”
Caroline Rhea: “Glynis knows so much about numbers, she makes the Yellow Pages seem obsolete.”
L.A. Confidential magazine: “To put it simply, if cupid and a clairvoyant were to have an affair, Glynis McCants would very much look like their offspring.”
John Edward, Psychic Medium: “When I think about Numerology I think about two people: Pythagoras and his modern day equivalent, Glynis McCants, The Numbers Lady. Glynis has taken a historic metaphysical science and transformed it into an easy to understand, organized and quite honestly entertaining field of study. To sum it up, she’s GOT your number – now it’s time for you to get it.”