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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Decisions decisions

My days here at NIH are numbered, and I need to find a place to go... My paper is out and the word is out there that I'm looking for jobs. Luckily I'm getting some good offers for positions. I've never been in a situation like this where I'll have to make a decision from a number of good offers, so I never thought this would be such a difficult decision to make. It's good to know that I won't be on a dole at least.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

WC2006 Australia-Italy

Well. What can I say. I was watching this game... Then when the first half was done, the power goes out. Great, I thought. I broke out my lantern, lit it, had shower, made lunch and ate it... Then the power comes back on just in time to see Italy being awarded a penalty kick they didn't deserve and winning the game in stoppage time. Would you f*cking believe it? What a bullshit. I guess that was the difference between these two teams; I'm sure they were equally motivated but one had experience and the other didn't. I guess it's Australian's fault not to score during regulation time but still I never expected it to end like that. No matter, it will be easier for Aussies to qualify for next WC now that they will enter Asian qualifying rounds instead of Oceanian one where they have to beat the bottom of South American team in a playoff...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Spontaneous combustion

I use a Dell Inspiron 6000 at work. It's been pretty good, and I got it 1/3 off using an online coupon. However what I saw on the Inquirer worried me a little. According to this article, a Dell laptop went spontaneous combustion. The reporter didn't say what model that was, but it's a little scary to have a problem like that. Good thing this fellow wasn't using it on his lap.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Celebration

In order to celebrate the publication of my paper, Dr. YT and myself went out for a dinner. We went back to Jose's Grill again. I wrote in a previous blog entry that it's off Georgia Avenue, but I was wrong. It is on Georgia Avenue. Anyway last time we came here, we saw people sitting at table behind us having some sort of platter of meat plus bowl of potato wedges and salad. We were wondering what that was and wanted to try it out. Tonight we had an opportunity to do so; we found our target item on the menu and ordered it. After waiting for almost an hour, it came out; a platter of roast plus salad and wedges. It was good and also plentiful; a blood sausage, two sausages, two ribs, some chicken (we thought it was chicken), and a steak. But we just couldn't finish it all. It would be just about the right amount of food if we had another person with us.

My paper

Got me paper out today in Nature AOP. I guess my five years at NIH was not a total waste, after all. I had a few papers out before this since I came out here, but this one is the best one. Pity it didn't come out earlier. I had all the data in this article at least a year ago if not before that. My time here is running out, and I'm struggling to find a new position after this place. I started this project probably about 1 year after I came out to US. Until then I was doing technology development projects as well as a cloning project. Tech development projects fizzled and the cloning project I couldn't publish because I couldn't convince the boss that it's not worth doing functional studies. That one I got "scooped" after sitting on it for 2 years. Anyway this project began when the boss came around and started talking about this fellow he met in a meeting. He was basically telling me that we can do in vivo studies of phenomenon seen in cultured cells using zebrafish. In order to do this he said "why don't you just make transgenic fish and shoot some pictures." It turned out that just making transgenic fish took 9 months. Imaging sessions took about 3 years. He tends to underestimate the efforts going into projects... After things were working for me, and when he gave talks at meetings he used to say that he did not believe that it was going to work... And I was thinking "you gave me something that you thought it was not going to work out?" Good thing it did work. I shudder at the thought that what if it didn't work out? It would've been a disaster.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sala Thai and Tara Thai

are two Thai restaurants in Bethesda. We had a visitor from Japan, and Drs KT, MM, RT, the visitor and myself went out for a dinner. We decided to go to Tara Thai in Bethesda. However... I was with Drs KT and MM, and we all thought we were going to Sala Thai though we all thought we heard Tara Thai. We knew there is a Tara Thai restaurant in Rockville but didn't know that there is one in Bethesda. This is when the confusion began. We waited in front of Sala Thai for quite a while but the other two didn't show up, even though we left NIH at around the same time. We didn't have the cell phone number of Dr. RT, so Dr. KT called the lab and tried to find that number but couldn't. Luckily Dr. RT did the same and she found Dr. KT's number and called. By this time we actually headed back to NIH to find either the number or the restaurant on the web ourselves. We headed back out to Bethesda straight away, and got to the restaurant. We had a pretty good meal in the end, talking science as well as gossips.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Catoctin Mountain Park/Cunningham Falls State Park

Drs YT, KS and myself went out to Catoctin Mountain Park up in Thurmont. We got there maybe around 11 in the morning. We ended up going to the neighbouring Cunningham Falls State Park though. I had my GPS with me and had it on. I wanted to try out this one thing; take a track data to display on Google Map. When we got there, we decided to go take a look at the cascading waterfalls. We went to the waterfalls via Cliff trail. Cascading falls were... Well. I guess you could call them falls... We scaled it up to the top and back. It looked a little steep from the bottom, but it really wasn't that bad. Dr. KS had a little slipping accident and had her foot wet, but apart from that we didn't have much problem coming down. We came back to the lake area via Lower trail from the falls. We hung out a little on the beach area of the lake and then decided to go for a boat riding. There are 3 types of boats available here; paddle boats, rowboats and canoes. We took the rowboat. The boat was... Hot! I thought I would have a burn on my bottom! This boat was sitting on water out in the sun for all day probably, and I bet this thing was hot enough to cook eggs on it. We spent some time on water being cooked inside out by both sun and boat. I think all of us have improved in rowing since the last time we went out to Black Hill Regional Park. It was a good exercise all over and I bet I'll have some soreness later.

All this physical exertion made us pretty hungry. We decided to give a go at an IHOP. I've been there once like 4 and a half years ago but the other two had never been there before. Dr. YT was a little hesitant in going to this place, and needed a little coercing. He doesn't care much for sweets, and our impression of this place was that it mainly served sweets. It turned out we were wrong, and that this place offers more savoury stuff as well but with one catch; they all come with pancakes, obviously. Dr. YT was okay with this place after having some pork chops though of opinion that potatoes instead of pancakes would've been better. Both Dr. KS and myself had some pancakes with eggs and/or sausages. I thought it was more expensive when I went there last time, but probably because I pigged out back then. With the amount we ate, the price was reasonable.

After getting home, I tried to see if I can display today's track on Google Map. It turned out it wasn't too difficult to do. I imported my tracks into Mapsource, saved it as a .gdb file then used GPSBabel to convert it to either XML or GPX format. Then I went to a GPS Visualizer web site, uploaded my converted GPX file then "draw the map" button and hey presto, I had my Google Map with today's tracks dotted on it. I signed up with Google Maps API so that I could display this map on my own site... I haven't managed to display this map in my blog however, but I'm working on it. Hopefully I'll be able to do so soon.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Recovery

I ate only fast/junk food for the last two days. I didn't have time to go look for food in Madison, and there was no way I could get decent food in O'Hare airport. I needed to recover. Dr. YT and I went out looking for a place we've never been to in Wheaton. We found a place; Jose's Grill. Supposedly it's located on Georgia Avenue but in reality it's not. It's located a little off from Georgia Avenue. I had a steak and Dr. YT had a schnitchel. The serving size was pretty generous, food tasted okay and price was very reasonable. If we felt like eating lots of meat then probably we'll go back there.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wisconsin, a dairy state I

So many cows on their capitol.




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Just got home

Well. The plane landed at BWI around midnight, and I actually managed to catch a shuttle going down to DC way. And guess what, there's an accident on the highway in the direction of where I was going down and effectively choking it. Just great. It actually took around 2 hours for me to get home from the airport. What a wonderful way to finish the day.

Lost in Chicago, or 8 hours of hell

However... Currently I'm stuck in Chicago O'Hare Int'l Airport waiting to be wait-listed. I got to the airport in Madison around noon then managed to catch a plane leaving there at around 1PM. It was even an Economy Plus seating with extra leg room. A very good start. The guy at the United counter told me that connecting flights from the 1PM Madison-Chicago flight going to Dulles and BWI are close to full, but the one going to DCA had 40 seats available(!) and I am too glad to fly to Reagan instead of BWI. So I was wait-listed for Chicago-DCA flight. Once I got to Chicago I went to the gate, and was told to wait for a while. I did, and they called my name and I thought I was in business. Wrong. I was told that I cannot fly to Reagan since I didn't book my flight to Reagan but to BWI in the first place. So, I can only fly to BWI. OK, great. I didn't know... But they are all in the DC area! I was told that there is a flight leaving for BWI at 3:30PM. I hurried to that gate on a different terminal, and found that 3:30PM flight is now delayed to 5:30PM. Just great. The boarding gate isn't even manned as of 4:00PM. I still have a boarding pass for the 8:30PM flight to BWI so I will get home sometime tonight, but it sure doesn't look good. I really should've joined airport lounge program, because I could certainly use the service now... And internet connection here is so sketchy. This is terrible. This terminal is getting crowded and hot. I must make my escape...

Since I wrote the last statement, I've moved to Concourse B (I was in Concourse C). Network access is not any better, but at least it's not as crowded and I can actually breathe. AC seems to be on as well. I have 4 hours to kill now... Maybe I'll try to find something to eat, find a power socket to recharge the laptop battery... I've been looking for one since I landed here but they are either taken or in very inconvenient places such as right next to the entrance to bathrooms. I've got a spare battery that probably will last 3.5 hours, and this one is going to last another 2 hours so probably I'm covered, but... This truly sucks.

I've come back to Concourse B through Ted counters. It's 7PM now. Previous two flights to BWI were chock full and they couldn't wait list me. So I'll be on 9:20PM flight to BWI. *sigh* I was going to go to this fellow's birthday dinner thingy tonight if the flight to DCA was happening. I could've made it there, actually on time. They were going to go to this Korean Tofu restaurant. Instead I ended up eating Double quarter pounder meal at the Macca's.It's pretty sad really. Number of people in the concourse has diminished, AC is adequately on and network access is back. I have two hours to kill and I have an hour left on the current battery. I'll put on the fresh one once this one runs out of gas.

Madison Trip Part III

I got to meet my collaborator today. He's actually just left Michigan to go to Ohio to be with his wife. I also met a fellow who's taking over the fish work from him, as well as their supervisor. We got to talk science, as well as what to do from this point on in terms of publication. I told them that I am finishing off my part in this collaboration hopefully sometime next week. That's all nice and well. I also got a name of a person who's looking to recruit some fish biologists. I also caught up with a fellow I have known for some time. It was good to catch up with all these people in Madison. And I seem to have secured backup options in case I cannot get any other job. That alone was worth the trip up here.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Madison Trip Part II

Meetings with potential employers went very well. Both labs have good projects that I can fit in, and I like them both. It will be a difficult decision as to which one I would choose... Of course I won't be going neither of them if other positions come through first... I"ll see how things will turn out. I also caught up with one of my old colleague, his younger brother and his fiancee. They are doing quite well. I also caught up with another one of my former colleague. Hopefully he'll have enough time for lunch tomorrow. I'll keep an eye out for other guys I know and see if I can catch up with them. Half of the purpose I came here for, I have achieved. Now I have to do the other half which will be happening tomorrow.

Madison Trip Part I

I'm in Madison Wisconsin, for today and tomorrow. I'm staying at a Best Western Inn on the Park. Free access to the Internet is wonderful, as I can update this blog from here in Madison. I'm meeting with a couple of PIs for possible postdoc positions, as well as my collaborator I've never met so that we can discuss on our collaboration as to where to go from here. I'm also hoping to catch up with some people I know. Yes, there is a zebrafish meeting going on starting today but I am not attending it. I could've presented something but I didn't bother. Silly me, I could've got this little trip paid for! Anyway I might crash the party tonight though that really depends on the security. It's in the student union building anyway... Oops I'd better leave now for the first interview!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

WC2006 Japan-Australia

I don't know much about soccer at all. I know basics but not anything beyond that. Anyway, I was watching this Japan-Australia game this morning. I was hoping this game ended in draw as I barrack for both teams. Maybe a 2-2 score line would do. I guess both teams had to win this game one way or the other since the other two teams Croatia and Brasil would be rather difficult to beat. So I was expecting a tight yet aggressive game. I saw that until late second half. By this time though Japanese guys were obviously out of steam. I really thought Japan might get away with a 1-0 win, but I was wrong. Their defenders need to keep up a little bit more as you should never ever stop fighting till the fight is over, as Jim Malone said in the movie "The Untouchables."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Working over the weekend, Part 2

So to continue experiments I started yesterday, I came in the lab again. It's Sunday, not bad weather outside, and I'm going to be stuck here doing time-lapse imaging. It's a dreadful prospect for a perfectly good Sunday. I came in and turned on two-photon laser then started setting up other procedures to do before I can start imaging. I wanted to do a microangiography to label patent blood vessels, so I set that up while the laser was warming up. I set up long-term imaging apparatus next, then by this time the laser has warmed up and ready to be tuned. I wanted to use the two-photon scope because I was going to take pics of deep cranial vessels, and regular confocal hasn't been too satisfactory in this application. Before use, two-photon laser needs to be tuned to around 960 nm wavelength in order to excite EGFP. It's a pain in the butt step to do but still needs to be done.The laser was recently serviced and had a good power, so it was easy to tune. However I knew that laser is not aligned properly to the microscope. Normally I can find the beam, but today, I just couldn't find it, no matter how hard I tried. This is a scope problem, and I did tell my boss to call in for a service a while back. As usual he hasn't. So, after all this effort, everything is wasted. This kind of failure I consider the worst; you put in your hard yakka, and no results to show for it. You might as well not have done anything... What a pisser.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Working over the weekend

truly sucks. I don't have much time left here, and I just wanted to finish off a few things. So I set up some crosses last night in a hope to do morpholino injections this morning. I admit I'm an idiot for watching Onmyoji at 2AM when I planned to have an early start. Thought the movie had a potential; had a good story IMHO. But it was let down by pretty ordinary acting. Anyway, as expected, I managed to sleep in, woke up at 8:30AM that is way past due time for fish spawning. Luckily I set up half my fish separated so that at least they wouldn't spawn until I mix them. I hurried to the lab, and found that those cages with mixed sex didn't give at all. That was a pure luck, no eggs wasted. In the end I managed to inject about 500 eggs in 2 hours. This was pretty good since this line of fish wasn't performing too well; not giving enough eggs to inject. I got a fresh batch of this line moved over from across campus, and these guys did the wonders. Hopefully I'll have some good embryos tomorrow to do a time-lapse imaging. This will be a lot of work as usual... After that, I did other work in the lab, and finished up about 2:30. There was a party at my department head's place, but I just couldn't go; I didn't have anything prepared (it's a pot luck party), I was a mess, and also starving. Dr. YT called up around this time as usual, and off we went for a very late lunch at Daruma. I haven't heard too good things for this place, but it turned out the food they serve is okay. You get fair amount of serving for a pretty low price. There is one drawback however, which is that they don't give you anything to drink. No, not even tap water. If you are eating hot (chilli or temperature) and/or salty food, basically you have to buy drinks. I had a katsudon, it was a little salty, but I managed to finish it without a sip of liquid. After the lunch we hang out as usual, and today we went down to Georgetown University. I had never been there before, and wanted to check out what it was like. I thought it was a nice place; very picturesque campus, very nice student union building with all the amenities you can ask for (a coffee shop, a book shop, a a bistro and a lounge) and such. We left there after a while, dropped by Korean Korner to pick up some grocery then Dr. YT dropped me off at my place. All in all just another day (fairly) well spent. Now I just have to go back to the lab tomorrow and finish off what I started today...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Missing equipment

Well. I wanted to make a large prep of one of my plasmid. This plasmid is particularly difficult one to make; it's based on a fli1 vector that was made by a previous postdoc in our lab. Basically you need to use a BAC prep kit to get a decent amount. So, I set up a 500 ml culture day before yesterday. Then yesterday I found out that our GS-3 rotor has gone AWOL. Great. So I left my culture in a cold room and went home. Today, after searching everywhere, I found the rotor but without the lid. A centrifuge rotor without lid is pretty much uselsess; it secures the rotor to the centrifuge. Unbelievable. This is when my good friend Dr. YT came to a rescue. He let me use one in his lab so I can harvest bacteria. Now I'll be stuck in the lab doing a BAC prep... It's late Friday afternoon, and it's sunny outside. Bummer.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Wasabi is deadly

As a born Japanese, I love wasabi; I put it on sushi, sashimi, ochaduke and any other dish that calls for it. I usually put it on a generous side; I tend to overuse it. I love the flavour, the kick, the sensation. But even I won't do things these people did...

Social networking

I got invited to a Japanese social networking site by my colleague Dr. YT. It's an interesting concept. A club by invitation only, but invitations can be sent by any member of the club. There is an article on Wikipedia on this subject. Immediately I was thinking about six degrees of separation, friend of a friend is a friend, and "small world" phenomenon. I haven't found anyone I know back from Japan yet, but I've noticed that lots of them are a lot younger than me... I REALLY felt ancient reading what they wrote.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sequence editing software

I have a bunch of raw trace files to analyze from last week... Just bunch of sequencings I did for verifying my constructs. I used to use MacVector and BioEdit when I was in grad school. They were good. MacVector was expensive, but good for processing lots of sequence information. We used to do shotgun cloning and sequencing, and MacVector was used in producing Staden format sequence files so that they can be put together using that package. BioEdit was good because it was free... Pity that it is no longer maintained properly. After coming over to NIH, I used DNAStar for a while. It's okay, but I found the interface rather clunky; all functions not well integrated with each other. We purchased MacVector again, both static licenses as well as network seats in NIH so that all of us have some access or another to the package, and we could also bring work home if we wanted to. I have since moved to use Vector NTI from Invitrogen. It used to be developed by Informax, but it got purchased by Invitrogen. Invitrogen released it for free for non-profit organization. Good for them. Vector NTI I found is pretty good, it's well organized and has enough functions such as alignment and assemblying modules that works with the main program. It stores molecules in its own database for a quick access. It produces maps off from sequence info. It can import all sorts of information from all sorts of sources/databases. I pretty much rely on this program for molecular work. I wonder if there will be a better program than this one out there... Oops, 'tis time for lunch. I'd better go set up some restriction reactions then go buy some lunch...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Google calendar

I've been using Google calendar for the last month or two now... It's been surprisingly good, really. First of all, I like the apperance. It's cute. I can add all sorts of different calendars made by other people, and it's pretty handy to have weather forecast and other stuff available on the spot. And it seems to be "lighter" to me. I guess a web browser doesn't take up much system resources these days. That's why I have started to use it instead of Outlook. Initially I thought it would never replace Outlook; but I think I have been wrong. Sure I still sync Outlook with Gcal, but I now update only Gcal; Outlook sync is automatically done, and that's when I open the program to check my mail. I've started to experiment with Thunderbird, and when I finally manage to configure this client properly (namely smtp setup so that I can send stuff out), I don't think I'll be opening Outlook as often... After that I just have to figure out how to sync my Pocket PC and Smartphone to Gcal/email...

Let's see if this works...

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Dinner!

Well the usual gang Drs YT, MM, KT and myself went out for a dinner yet again... This time to Ruan Thai Restaurant in Wheaton. We had deep fried soft shell crab in chill/basil sauce, chicken fried rice, green curry and some wide noodles I cannot recall the name. The dishes were on the mild side, but tasted pretty good. Amount was plenty also, and the price came to around 13 bucks per person including tips. Great place it was.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A bit of break

My friend Dr. YT decided that he wanted to take a break from his work... He usually does on a Saturday afternoon out of nowhere. So he called to see if I wanted to tag along. I wasn't doing anything at the time, so I replied okay. We drove out to Great Falls; but on Virginia side where I've never been to. I think the view from the lookout is much better from the Virginia side than Maryland side.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Dammit...

So difficult to get an academic position... I was so sure I would get this one position, but doesn't look like I'll get it now... On a brighter note though I got another invitation from elsewhere to apply. I'll see how that one will turn out.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Goodies for the lab meeting

We have a roster for bringing goodies to the lab meeting. It's on every Friday, and it's my turn for tomorrow. Other people bring in either bagels or donuts (mostly bagels). I bring in cakes. Why? Because I don't have a car so I can't easily pick up bagels nor donuts on the way to the lab. So, I end up baking something at home because that's the easiest thing to do for me. For tomorrow, I baked a cheesecake. This recipe has already been tested on some test subjects namely postdocs of Japanese origin and received seals of approval from them, and I am not expecting too much trouble from other lab members tomorrow. One problem is... It looks so good it's hard for me not to touch it until tomorrow...

Proof of publication

Proof of my paper came today. Somehow they messed up various bits and pieces... They relabeled figures, and one figure contained remnants of ruler so that those panels look cut in the middle; if I was a reader looking at these panels I would think of Photoshopping... Other mistakes include missing characters and a whole line. I just don't understand why this happenes; edited version didn't contain any of these errors. Oh well at least I picked them up and will be corrected.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Another advantage?

I guess blogger allows modification of template...

Out for dinner (again)

One of our friend Dr. YS managed to get his driver's license. He'd never driven a car before coming over here; so it took some time for him to get his license. So in order to celebrate this occation we went out to Tako Grill for a dinner. Spent about 2.5 hr there; about 35 bucks each. Ate enough sushi etc to keep me happy for the rest of the evening. The usual members Dr. YT, Dr. MI, Dr. KT, Dr. MM, Dr. RY, Dr. HC and Dr. KS (yes we are all postdocs) were there. Spent all this time yakking. It's good for my soul. Very much enjoyed.