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Monday, July 31, 2006

Procrastination

I was trying to get things done this weekend and ended up not doing much. I keep packing, I keep getting rid of stuff, I keep trying to write that darn Japanese article and I keep trying to do things I'm supposed to do. But in the end I came back to... Procrastinate. That reminded me of one of the great poster from demotivational series. Procrastination. Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now. I love them all.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Invited for a dinner

I just came back from a dinner at the house of Dr. AC, the PI from my neighbouring lab. He invited me over for a farewell dinner at his place. Dr. MM picked me up from my place around quarter past 6 this evening. His place is pretty nice in a nice neighbourhood in Rockville. He prepared some wonderful salmon with Indian herbs and spices, with the sides of sweet corn and green beans. His two kids running around and putting shows for us, and that was also nice. Afterward we had some dessert; ice cream, chocolate cake, strawberries and mangoes, as well as some tea. I'm completely stuffed, and feeling satiated. We talked about a lot of things, like how I used to be, how I got recruited, and how it will be at the next job and so forth. All in all, it was a wonderful evening, and I certainly enjoyed it.

Preparing to move

I'm moving back to Australia in less than a month time. I've started to pack my stuff to be sent back. It's a pain in the neck but I just have to do this. I've booked for a shipping today at WTX Global Logistics for seafreight. I told them that it will be about 1500 pounds of stuff over 24 boxes, probably about 8 cubic meters. When you think about it, 8 cubic meter is a lot of stuff... Probably I won't have that much stuff, but just in case. All in all, it will cost me about 2000 dollars from door to door including insurance. It's not too bad actually. I was expecting to pay a lot more. It will take about 45 days to arrive, and that's not too bad either. It will be picked up from my place on August 16th so I'll have about 2 weeks to pack up my gear. I'm almost halfway through packing, so I should have no problem meeting that deadline. They require down payment of 75% of the fee to schedule the pickup and I've paid that already. The rest of the stuff ie. stuff I'm not sending, I plan to give them away. Now I just have to wait for a go ahead for my actual position... It will be a bit of a waiting game, but it's expecting to come through within the next week or so.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Abysmal performance continues

Well. What can I say?

Drs. YT, HC, KS, MY, IY and myself went out tonight. At first Dr. HC and myself were to go out for a dinner. Dr. HC wanted to go out for some Thai food and he and myself were heading to the Medical center metro. We ran into Dr. MY and basically we dragged her into this... We went down to Bethesda, and went to Sala Thai restaurant to have a dinner first. Afterward we grabbed some frappuccino from a local Starbucks then headed to NNMC opposite NIH. We met up with Drs. YT and KS. Now, since I'm out of NIH, I don't have the NIH pass. I was little worried that I couldn't get in there. I managed to get in without any hassle however and that was good. There is a bowling alley in NNMC, and we played 3 games there.While we were playing the first game, Dr. IY showed up. I managed to win 1 game but the other two were again abysmal. Then we were joking around saying maybe we should go out and play some pool. Dr. IY took it seriously, and so we headed back to Champion's Billiards Cafe up in Rockville. We played a few games and my woes continued... I couldn't win any games. Mind you I had a great time both bowling as well as shooting pool. But I really should do something about my serious lack of form in both sports...

Friday, July 28, 2006

The great struggle

As I wrote in a previous blog entry, I am writing an article in Japanese. I am struggling to write this, as I find my Japanese quite inadequate. Essentially I have vocabulary of a 15 year old, and it is quite a stretch for me to write something academic in an acceptable form. It's meant to be a very short format just explaining the essence of my paper, but even then it's been most difficult... It's pretty frustrating, really. I'll be real happy when this is all over.

Meanwhile... mixi managed to fetch entries from my blog, so I am assuming that it was not on my end that was at fault. So that's good.

And on the job front. I contacted the guy whose lab I want to go early this morning, telling him that I got a solid offer from another lab. He wrote back saying that things are moving, and be patient... I'll be patient alright, but there is only so much I and others can wait... I am hoping that they will come through, as he has urged the collaborating company to speed things up for us. Well. They have a week, and that's all they are going to have. We'll see how things will turn out.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Farewell yet again

Drs KT, RY, MI and myself went out for a farewell dinner (for me). We went out to Addie's Restaurant in Rockville. The web page says it's in Rockville, but in reality it's just off from White Flint mall. This place is unique that it's a converted house. Not the cheapest of restaurants, but many reviewers said it's a good place to eat. We sat out on the porch in front of the joint, but there was a problem; bugs. Lots of bugs. They were crawling all over the place including my face, my legs and some of them were crawling into even bread! I ended up doing a lot of Aussie Salutes to keep them at bay, but it was a futile effort. In the end I gave up... It was pretty hot out there too. Supposedly 29 degrees Celsius, but felt a lot hotter than that. Anyway. I had an Angus steak (rare, as usual), a glass of nice red (Cabernet Sauvignon but wasn't that full bodied and quite sweet) then chocolate pekan cake and espresso as dessert. The food was pretty darn good, but it's difficult to get over the mozzie stings and the price... I didn't have any meal today during the day just because I didn't have much left in the fridge, so I was pretty hungry when I got to the restaurant. I wasn't expecting it to be this filling though. We had a great time (or so I'd like to think), and I'm full right now. I'm feeling pretty happy.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Yet another interview

I went off for another interview today... And it went quite well. I was already offered this position before this interview; it was just a formality. Now I have a week to decide whether I'll take this job or not. Unless the other one comes through with the goods, I have no choice but to take this one. I really want and prefer the other job but right now it's a vapourware. So I'll be writing the other guys to let them know the situation. Maybe this may help, and maybe not. I just hate to be hung dry.

Meanwhile... Mixi is misbehaving yet again. It has stopped updating my diary section. It's linked to my blog, but it's not being updated since 22nd. WTF is going on? I've swapped around addresses and all, but it's not helping. Blogger seems to be making invalid RSS, and that might be a problem. I changed the feed to livejournal, and I'll see if this works at all. Livejournal makes a valid RSS, and if mixi doesn't update the diary section, then it's their fault... I'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

First gray

I was looking at a mirror, and found a single gray hair. Pretty shocking really. I'm going bald as well. My teeth are chipping away. It's unbelievable.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Out for a movie

A couple of us went out for a movie. I've never been to Bethesda Row Cinema before, and it was quite an experience. First of all... the ticketing system. I didn't realize that there are ticket booths outside cinema, but in the lobby there are ticket vending machines. I actually liked them, since you could actually make purchase over the internet and pick it up there. The theatre is an art house cinema, and I always liked the atmosphere in these theatres. Never full of screaming kiddies trying to impress their peers; just adults enjoying good films. The theatre was opened fairly recently, and so it didn't have this run down feel to it that I often associate with such cinemas. We saw a movie called A Prairie Home Companion. IMDb gave a fairly high rating, so I thought it would be an okay film to watch. The movie was alright, had good actors and played pretty good. I thought it was pretty well done in fact; it had a story to tell, and it delivered nicely. The only negative thing I noticed was this sudden shifts/cuts during the film that I wasn't sure about. I don't know if those were when film rolls changed over, or intentionally cut or just plain bad editing, but they did distract me a lot. Anyway, I did enjoy this movie in a different way from my usual genre of films. I usually watch films that don't require brains, so I can actually relax. All films however should be about telling stories, and I hate the ones without. After the movie, we went out for a dinner at Union Jack's in Bethesda. I've never been there before, but I liked it. Maybe it's a little stretch to call it a British pub, but I could see they were trying. Maybe next time they can show cricket on TV instead of football. I just realized (by looking at their web page) that they have free pool tables all day on Sunday! Bugger! I could've practiced it tonight, after the abysmal performance last night...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

You are not safe

And so they are. I like Google mash-ups. I think it's a really cool idea; linking data from multiple sources/contents to create new service. I was browsing the web to get sober, and found this one. I guess it's one way of doing things... According to this thing, there is an offender in my apartment complex. Great. Some things you are better off not knowing. But for some I guess it's better to know. I'm more disturbed to know that there are so many of them out there... A lot of them are into kiddies... Jeez. One weakness I can see on this DB is that it displays only compliant ones; ones currently offending might not be represented on this mash-up. I dunno...

Rehab required

Drs YT, HC, KS and myself went out to play pool tonight. We went out for a dinner first at Jose's Grill to stuff ourselves with meat. Then we went out to Champion Billiards Cafe in Rockville to play pool. I was disappointed with myself for a poor performance. I couldn't even win a single game. I really lost touch, and I need rehabilitation really. Basically I got my arse kicked by just about everyone. Bugger. Basically Dr. KS was the champion... She's good. Very good in fact. In the end though we all had a good time (or so I think; I certainly did) and that's all it matters. I even got to drink alcohol in public for the first time in a long time. We should do this more often.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Woo Lae Oak

It's basically my last day at NIH. I'll go in tomorrow to clean up a little but basically this is it. To commemorate this occation, Dr. YT and myself went out for a dinner. He thought we should go out to Woo Lae Oak out in Pentagon City. We had mixed Korean bbq set (that supposed to feed two) plus cold noodle. BBQ was to be honest a little disappointment; probably better off ordering two servings of meat rather than going for this one as this was mostly vegetable. We stuffed ourselves on BBQ thanks to lots of vegies plus two servings of rice each. Then the cold noodle. They split this one in half for us. I managed to finish all for myself, but Dr. YT had a little trouble eating it as he was getting really full. In the end we were hurried off the premises as the place was closing down. I thought that was a little poor for paying that much of money for this food... Didn't even get to have dessert (not that I had much room left but).

Friday, July 21, 2006

Japanese language

II never thought it would be this difficult to write in academic Japanese. Sure I can write usual say hi sort of short letters in Japanese. No problem. But when it comes to the academic kind, I'm utterly out of depth. I found that out tonight. And here's why/how... I got a request from a Japanese journal to write a short article on an article I published (printed version is coming out on 27th!). Sure. No worries. Except of course... It has to be in Japanese. I gave a decent go at it tonight, and boy was it hard! I left Japan at the age of 15, and that's when my education stopped in Japanese. Everything has been in English instead since. So I have a vocabulary of a 15 years old. And they are asking me to write an academic article. It's a quite a bit of a stretch if you ask me. I think I'll be enlisting all the help I can get for this one, as they asked me to write minimum 2400 characters. From tonight's effort, I managed to squeeze out about 900... I have a long way to go... This is rather depressing. *sigh*

Escalators

I was carrying some stuff today, and was on an escalator at Medical Center Metro station. It's a very long one, and I found out the other day that it's one of the longest single escalator in the western hemisphere. In fact, the Washington Metro system has a few; ones at Wheaton, Bethesda, Adams Morgan and Medical Center are among the longest. The one at the Medical Center is 138 metres. For the last 5 years, I've been using this escalator in and out of the system. While I've been here, they installed a roof/cover over the escalators at the Medical Center station. When I came here, it wasn't there and I was thinking it was pretty stupid not to have one. During the winter, especially when it was snowing, salt is spread around to help melt the snow. It was wrecking havoc on the escalators and on some days all 3 escalators were out of action, forcing people to climb up and down on foot... Those were the days.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

San Francisco Trip 3

Well. The final day. I managed to wake up early enough to have the complementary breakfast at the hotel. It was pretty good... Double omelette made to order, sausages, bacons, potatoes and bread... I pigged out as usual since this was a buffet. Then I took a shuttle to the airport. But let me tell you it was a bumpy ride! I was sitting in the back of the bus, and every time it hit a bump, I swear the tail section of the bus was lifting off. It was a pretty rough ride, and I got all shaken up inside. Not good after a huge meal. After seeing a long queue at United counter I was glad to have come early. I had to wait for my flight to leave for a while though since it was running late. The plane was there, but crews were flying in from another city which is delayed. We started boarding 30 minutes late, then I heard a crew making frantic phone call on the skybridge saying that there is no food/drink on the plane... They had plenty of time to do that while the plane was on the ground...

And then our plane got diverted to Pittsburgh. Apparently there is a thunderstorm activity widespread in northeast and mid atlantic region, and no planes are allowed in or out. It must be pretty bad if that's the case. The captain announced that we'll be stopping over in Pitts then wait at least an hour and see what's going to happen. I just hope I'll make it back to DC sometime today.

We just landed in Pitts. It's almost quarter past 7. Called Dr. YT for a weather update, and he told me... Weather's fine in DC. Then there is an announcement that air traffic over DC is reopened. We'll still have to wait though since there is an express flight 3 hours behind schedule. It will fly out before us. Our plane is being refueled right now. Apparently it will be a 30 minutes flight from here to DC. Maybe it's not too bad. I'll grab a dinner on the way home, maybe even in Dulles, I think.

Landed 40 minutes ago, and I'm on Washington Flyer coach now. I've had my dinner, and I'm okay... It took long enough. Hopefully connection from this bus to Orange line will be as smooth as the outbound trip.

Finally got home, and it's 11:30 EST... It's been a long day. 12 hours of travelling in total. I think I'll hit the sack.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

San Francisco Trip 2

I just came back from a long day of interview. It's been a wonderful day. It started off with... Waking up way too early by local time though it was pretty late by EST. In the end I ran out of time so I ended up not having breakfast. I was meant to have reported at the place at 8:30 but instead I ended up getting there at 7:30 because of hotel shuttle. The place doesn't even open until 8:00. I waited until 8:30 to actually start meeting people. I got to talk to a bunch of people including some senior managers. Then I gave a talk. Maybe it wasn't the best performance I've ever put on, but audience were all impressed and that was good. All the people I met were nice, and that was also good. Pretty much everything I saw I liked. Bummer they can't offer me a job because of my visa issue... But it was nice to hear that they would've hired me if it wasn't for the visa issue. Maybe in a few years perhaps... After all this commotion they treated me to a dinner at a rather fancy restaurant. It was all wonderful, and I am sure to keep in touch with them. I really had a good time. Now I'll have to face a long trip back to DC...

Monday, July 17, 2006

San Francisco Trip 1

I'm typing this on the flight to San Francisco. I'm off to San Francisco for 3 days for an interview with a company. My boss presented my data in a meeting somewhere in Europe, and a senior scientist from that company saw it, found out that I'm looking for a job, and she invited me for an interview. Talking about connections... I'll see what comes out of this little trip. At the very worst I'll get a free trip out to West on their expense, and possibly making some connections. Anyway, my flight is out of Washington Dulles International Airport, and I was meant to have an early start. My plan was to catch the Red line down to Metro Center, switch over to the Orange line to West Falls Church then hop on a Washington Flyer Coach. Well. I plan well and then execute poorly for this sort of thing, and today was no different. I was meant to have got up at 7, and leave by 8. That would've left me plenty of time to have brekky/lunch at Dulles. Instead... I left home at 9:20. By strokes of luck everything connected, and I was at the airport by 11:10. This was despite of the fact that the Blue line was delayed by track work, and also having to catch Washington Flyer that comes every 30 minutes. On the plane I just wanted to try to see if my toys worked; namely GPSMAP60CS. When it's placed right next to the window with the blind up then it can actually catch satellite signal, and measure speed etc. Currently we are flying at 850 km/hr... And obviously heading west. Duh. Then this lady sitting next to me got sick. She apparently reacted badly to orange juice UA served. There was a doctor on board, so she could be looked after. The flight was very smooth and I'd say it's a good start...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Farewell lunch

Bunch of people from my lab, the lab next door, the lab upstairs and the lab around the corner went out for a farewell lunch today for me at Cesco Trattoria in Bethesda. I chose it on several different bases; I wanted to go somewhere close by (ie. Bethesda), somewhere I've never been to and somewhere with good reviews. Cesco fits the bill perfectly; it's in Bethesda, I've never been there before and the reviews are wonderful. And it did not disappoint. I made a reservation for lunch yesterday for 18 people... And everyone turned up. Dr. JU and myself walked there while all the rest of the party drove there. We actually arrived around the same time as the rest, and so it was nice to do some exercise before a big lunch. Lunch menu was okay and I had a baby octopus salad as an entree, grilled fish of the day (mahi mahi) for the main course and almond cake for dessert. I still get it wrong at times about this; back home in Australia, an entree is an appetizer. Over here in US, an entree is a main course... Anyway. The food was pretty good and the atomosphere was excellent. Maybe it was a tad expensive for a lunch especially for students but hey our lab doesn't do lunch often so it should be okay... Except for one thing. Some people left earlier because they had work. That's fine. They left money, and that's good. But when the time came to pay the bill, it turned out that we were almost 100 bucks short! The people who stayed obviously paid their due; those who left earlier obviously covered only their own food, not tax nor tip. In the end, one of the PIs covered the difference, but that was so not cool. Anyway. I cannot believe it's been 5 years since I came here. Time flies like an arrow, really. I would hope that I have achieved something here, and contributed something to the science.

Monday, July 10, 2006

My days are truly numbered

I booked a flight back to Australia today... I'm off to Adelaide on August 20th. Then it just dawned on me; I've got shitloads of things to do, starting with the chores. I need to finish up and clean my desk and bench at work. I need to organize a move. I accumulated so much stuff over last 5 years, and have to sort them out as to what to bring with me and what not. I need to work out logistics of the move as well. I just got quotes for shipping; about 2000 bucks for 10 cubic meters of stuff. That's not too bad, and probably I'll go with that company. I need to figure out other mundane things like cutting off phone lines, cable, mobile and paying bills yet maintaining a line of communication. Jeez. I never thought... It would be this painful. It was a lot easier moving over here when I didn't have this much to do. I practically hopped on a plane out of Canberra and a day later arriving in DC. Oh well... I guess I'll just have to bite the bullet and start doing all these things. On a brighter note, I got to talk to my parents for a while, and they assure me that Auckland is a nice place to live. I guess that's something I could look forward to.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Another week, another job interview

Another week passed at NIH (not much of it since I took half of it off). I get to go to another job interview. This time I'm off to San Francisco, in a week time. I'm not expecting much from this one at all except for a free trip out to the west. Flying out of DC on Sunday and coming back here on Tuesday. Hopefully it will be a pleasant trip, as the last few (long) trips I've taken have been rather disastrous. Last San Francisco trip I did was at the end of last year, and that was the worst travel experience I have ever had. It started to snow the night before the departure date, taxi didn't come on time, my flight got canceled, had to deal with a rude customer rep, I didn't fly out until 9 hours later, missed connecting flight at Dallas TX because half the American Airlines terminal was blacked out, and got to hotel 1AM PST, making that day 24 hr day... I'd better find something to keep me occupied while flying...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

My IQ

I just saw a site for testing my IQ. According to this site, my IQ is 126. I guess I'm okay with that, apparently I'm not a total idiot though it's nothing to rave about. The questions get tougher as you go on, and the Last 4 questions were really hard... I basically ran out of time. I don't know though if this test truly measures your intelligence as I suspect this is mostly measuring your pattern recognition abilities... I really should have been out there watching 4th of July fireworks (instead of staying home doing this) but just couldn't be bothered going down to the Mall in this weather.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

Assateague Island National Seashore

Bunch of us decided to go to the beach. The usual suspects including myself, Drs. YT, HC and KS were rounded up and headed down to Assateague Island National Seashore way. Unlike our usual way of totally lacking planning, this time we actually left around 10AM to head down there. It should have been a 3 hour drive down there. Instead we got caught in a traffic jam at the toll gate of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and it took us 4.5 hours instead. This delay caused us to forego with lunch and instead we just snacked on some junk food we bought on the way. We spent about 2-3 hours on the beach. Dr. YT jumped right in the water after getting changed. I don't have bathers and I normally go to the beach to relax on the sand and so I spent my time accordingly; lie down and relax. Drs HC, KS and myself after a while did get our feet wet on the the edge of the beach but boy the water was cold! I guess that's the Atlantic Ocean for you. I didn't have sunblocker on hand, and I didn't think of it that much until later but I think I got even more tanned today.

After spending our time on the beach, we were debating on where to have dinner, and then decided to have it in Ocean City. We headed up there, walked around the beach front and explored the endless rows of shops and rides in the waterfront. We rode on the ferris wheel there, but it was kinda scary; the wheel was spinning way too fast for my taste, compartments were not enclosed, the one we were on it was listed slightly and in general in dodgy condition. Dr. KS was adamant that she would try this one ride where a cage containing a couple of people get shot off the ground. But I've seen this little film on youtube.com, and after seeing it... Well. I didn't want to take chances before dinner for losing appetite or emptying my stomach contents after dinner. The ride itself was a little too expensive for my taste as well. Anyway. We had our dinner at a restaurant called Little Italy on the shore. The food was pretty good in general and plentiful even for me, but thought it could use a little bit more salt. Driving back was pretty smooth, and got home in about 3 hours at around midnight. All in all it was a very enjoyable outing. I want to do this again some time in future.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Fort McHenry and Crabs

Dr. YS bought a Scion tC. He wanted to take it out for a spin, and so myself and Dr. HC joined him to go somewhere. We decided to go eat some seafood up in Baltimore, and on the way visit Fort McHenry, the origin of "The Star-Spangled Banner." On this little trip I took an extra toy with me; a Garmin software called nRoute. I wanted to see how well it worked. Though the routing for this drive was simple, it contained some tricky maneuvers. Every time we deviated from the navigation, it almost instantaneously recalculated routing to get back to the destination. GPSMAP 60CS does an okay job in doing the same task but with nRoute it was much much faster. Additionally I didn't realize because I had muted my computer but it had voice navigation as well. That feature worked out really well. After arriving at the fort, we spent a few hours there walking around and watching some sort of historical society people doing some drills. We didn't realize until later that they were practicing for a military tattoo to be performed a little later on. That started around 5:45PM and we watched it until about 6:30PM. We left before The Old Guard performing military tattoo, which was a little bit of a bummer really. We left there because we were getting hungry, and wanted to go for the main purpose of this trip, the seafood. We chose to go to Al's Seafood Restaurant just outside of the center of Baltimore. I have read good reviews of this place, and it didn't disappoint. We had a couple of appetizers then a dozen crabs for 3 of us. It was a really messy affair, as we literally smashed our way through the crabs. Instead of tablecloth, they had butcher paper. We also had small wooden mallet each to break crab shell open. Every time we smashed crab shell open, bits and pieces of crab were flying all over the place. Good thing we weren't really dressed up for this trip. And I never thought crabs were so filling. We stank of crabs after all these shenanigans. I washed my hands numerous times but just couldn't get rid of that crab smell. Anyway we were all very much satisfied with this little diversion from our daily routine.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Heart Sutra

I got invited to join an SNS a while back. This SNS started to offer a new service yesterday. They developed a piece of software in which the users install on their computer and let it report what music the computer is playing (either on WMP or iTunes). The SNS then uses this information to take polls on the trends of music played by its users. I understand that these polls are linked to Amazon and iTunes music shop in order to generate affiliate type income for the SNS.

I frequent a BBS called 2ch; the biggest of its kind in Japan if not the world. There is a section called VIP news in this place. Users of VIP news like to have "fun" that ranges from tongue in cheek kind to down right malicious, often at the expense of unsuspecting victims. This time they decided to have a go at this SNS music polling system. They decided to use Heart Sutra by Ku-kai as a part of joke. The effort they put in for this practical joke was quite amazing; they created fake life story of Ku-kai fellow, put up web site, made song lists etc. Basically all they needed to do was to play Heart Sutra muted all day long on WMP. Now it's threatening to make it to the number one spot. I wouldn't participate in these pranks but don't mind watching them happening as long as they don't get too nasty; once they get nasty, they are not cool anymore.