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Mikimoto was here.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hilton Garden Inn San Francisco North (San Francisco, CA)

So I got to the hotel and checked in. No worries. The room looked decent enough, for an overnight stay. Okay. Couldn't get free wifi to work. Bad. But managed to get connected by wire. Good. The boss left a message to give him a call when I get in. I tried call that room, but didn't connect. I left a written message on his door. It turned out that he changed the room when he arrived as his original room was located right next to the elevator. The front desk failed to take note of this, and told me his original room number, and thus I couldn't catch him. Very bad. The boss called me since he got a message from the front desk that I have arrived. Good. We talked a little bit about the plan ahead. Well. We decided to meet up for a brekkie at 8:30am next morning (which I mistook for 8am). TV was alright. After catching up on email as well as blogging, I hit the sack. Bliss.

Oh. One more thing. I knew there were nothing around in this area in eateries so I bought some sushi from SFO. Turned out the hotel had room services but I was glad I got sushi instead as it was a grease town; the elevator smelled of a deep frier. Mmm there is nothing like smelling UFOs (unidentified fried objects). Yuck.

As a postnote: I dropped the TV remote between the bed and the nightstand, and I reached to get it. As I reached, I felt something... Round. Turned out they were Cheerios. Gross.
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Heading out to SF

So after the successful conclusion of the Madison zebrafish meeting, I headed out west to the direction of San Francisco. I flew out of Madison in the afternoon through Denver. I had little to eat in the morning and was starving by the time I got to Denver. I had a lunch at this place Itz a wrap! Itz a bowl!

The Vietnamese spring roll was alright, and this bowl of monstrosity placed next to it was... Well... Heavy. At least it got me full, and let's stop it there. At least the Denver International Airport had a free wifi and that was a saving grace of the place.

After landing at SFO, I had to wait for yongs to get a courtesy hotel shuttle. It had to do a couple of rounds before it could pick me up as there were just that many people waiting in the line there. Maybe I shouldn't have been such a cheap ass and should've just taken a cab to the hotel as it was freakin' cold! Really. My breath turned white, and I had to pull out my rugby jumper as well as a fleece jacket to keep warm. It was my mistake to wear a pair of shorts but hey it was just fine up until Denver. Never thought it would be this cold in summer here...
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A lunch at the Madison zebrafish meeting 2008

It was such a nice day, we had to have our lunch outside, overlooking the lake.

A sandwitch, a piece of chicken, gumbo, salad, vegies and corn chowder. Maybe a little too much for lunch but hey.

It truly was a nice day. Better soak it up while I can as the Land of Sheep is dark and cold right now...

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Ocean Grill (Madison, WI)

So we went back to Ocean Grill yet again; this time for a lunch. The menu said if we tell the waiter that we are in a hurry, we can get done within 30-40 minutes and so we did. I had a grilled salmon.

And it did not disappoint. I was a happier man leaving the restaurant.
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Mercer Kitchen Restaurant (New York, NY)

So when we went to New York, after hours of wandering we wanted something to eat. We should've decided on a restaurant to go to before we left for NY... Anyway. We decided on the spot that we'd try Mercer Kitchen Restaurant. We shared this Barry Wine Raw Tuna and Wasabi pizza...

Well. To be honest... It was not great. Warm pizza dough brings out the worst of fishy smell out of the tuna. To make things worse, cold tuna neutralized the hot dough, making the entire thing lukewarm. I don't think neither the topping salad nor the wasabi helped much either. Probably it should have been garnished with shreds of pickled ginger instead of julienned daikon radish and carrots, and also could replace the pizza base with a bed of thinly laid out sushi rice. I had a cheese burger as a main, and at least that was filling if bland. To me the place was a little overpriced and didn't think was worth my money. Anyway.
Mercer Kitchen on Urbanspoon
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Frida Mexican Grill (Madison, WI)

Us 3 research fellows plus a professor from Melbourne met up at the hotel and went out for a lunch at this Frida Mexican Grill on State Street. I had a chicken buritto.

I must say it was a little on the... Heavy side. I managed to finish the whole plate but ended up with such a full stomach that I was feeling the effects all day...
Frida Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Double Quarter Pounder

My favourite I cannot find in the Land of Sheep. Apparently there used to be one but no longer on the menu down there. Too bad. I always wondered though about the naming; doesn't double quarter pound make it a half pounder? Anyway.

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Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000

I needed to get a mouse to make some slides on the road; my travelling laptop has both a touch panel as well as a stick pointing device but I would have a helluva time trying to make drawings in Powerpoint. So. I paid homage to one of the local shrine of mine; Circuit City on Rockville Pike. My usual choice would have been the Best Buy on Rockville Pike but since I was on foot, I just wanted a quick solution...

It works reasonably well. Pity it doesn't have a "forward" button, but hey it's just a travelling mouse.
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Madison Concourse Hotel (Madison, WI)

So we are in Madison, and I'm staying at the Madison Concourse Hotel near the Capitol. I stayed here in 2004 (again for the fish meeting) with a fellow postdoc, and I liked it. So I'm staying here yet again, sharing a room with yet another research fellow from the lab.

Unlike the European hotel we stayed, the room is large enough to share and at the same time not suffocating. The beds are huge. Free WiFi is wonderful; actually feels faster than the connection at the University back home. I guess that's from the difference of location; the Land of Sheep vs. being in the Land of Opportunities. Anyway.
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Barney Greengrass (New York, NY)

When we went to New York, one of us wanted to go to this Barney Greengrass Deli for a brekkie. The rest of us decided to tug along. We got there half an hour before the place opened up so went for a little walk to Central Park to kill time as well as to work up our appetite. Turned out we needed it! When we came back, the place was opening up for business. I had a coffee, OJ, Sturgeon Scrambled with Eggs and Onions with a pumpernickel bagel.

After all said and done, I was pretty full; it was a pretty heavy breakfast. Perhaps next time I'll try salmon scrambled eggs instead...
Barney Greengrass on Urbanspoon
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Ocean Grill (Madison, WI)

So two of us from the lab got in Madison early last night. We went looking for food in town and found this restaurant Ocean Grill across the Capitol. We decided to give them a go. I had a cup of NE chowder which was alright. Then had a gumbo.

It was pretty good I thought. Dessert time came, and I had this white wine cake thing that was in French I cannot remember the precise name, and also a cappuccino. I nearly ordered a flat white which does not exist in the US (but according to a Wikipedia article it's just a latte...). Anyway.

This one I did not enjoy as much as the gumbo. Maybe should've gone with something else...
Ocean Grill on Urbanspoon
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Safe and sound in Madison

So, I managed to book myself a SuperShuttle pick up from my friend's place; 11:25 AM pick up. That was around 2 AM. Managed to sleep about 6 hours. Had shower, went for a little walkabout then got picked up. After driving around DC area for an hour or so, got to DCA. Waited for a couple of hours before flight; had some expensive sushi (for what they are; why is it so expensive in this area? Much better in SF for value for money). Flew to Chicago O'Hare first then onto Madison. At least United Express had aircraft of Mesa Air; not the Bombardier monstrosity that I got used to. After I got my checked luggage I was pondering what to do; should I catch a cab, or call the hotel to see if they have a courtesy shuttle pick up. I was hanging out in the front of the terminal when I saw a van with the hotel logo! I just ran to it and asked if they can give me a lift; and it did. Wonderful. Small things like this make me happy; I'm easily won over. Now I'm checked in and settled down, waiting for my roomie to turn up so we can go out local microbrewery I checked out on the web before departing the Land of Sheep. I'd say it's been a good start!

NIH Visit

Well. It's been close to 2 years since I left NIH. Since I am in the area, I decided to pay a visit to my old work and friends. One friend took me to NIH cafeteria in Bldg. 1; tasted NIH cafeteria food... That's not changed much (in a not so good way). Not much else has changed either (I guess two years is not that long) except my old lab got lots of upgrades on their microscopes (and I was drooling over them; wish I had access to such systems again!). There are new people in the lab but I met them when they came for interviews. I also caught up with friends from there; they all seem to be doing just fine. Some of us went out to the dinner at Tako Grill, one of my old favourite in the area. Had Omakase sushi (chef's choice). It was pretty good but kinda pricey and small serving... Oh well. I guess that's expected. We got rained on but not too badly. I guess the day was not a total waste.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Trip to NY

So my friends picked me up from BWI. I was starting to get little worried when they were a bit late; I'd hate to spend the night in the foyer... Anyway. I got to have shower, slept a few hours before we headed in a northerly direction towards NY. We just went about our business, completing tasks; it was just like orienteering. Went to Mitsuwa, have a lunch and buy some spirits; check. Went to all the landmarks I wanted to go including the Statue of Liberty (to see from a distance on a free boat to Staten Island), United Nations headquarters, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, Central Park (Strawberry Field), Museum of Modern Arts and night skyline from the Empire State Building. On the way back we again dropped by at Mitsuwa and had lunch; it's so cheap and good. The hours flew by, we were exhausted, but we've done it! One little complaint would be... The little hostel we stayed; the room was stinking hot and humid I couldn't sleep well at all. When I changed the settings on the AC, the bugger made thunderous noises sure to wake up the dead. Thought it was the freaking curtain that blocked the cold air from the AC and I yanked at it... And the railing came off. I put it back in its place but man, it was such a pain. In the end I propped open the door with an empty soft drink bottle to let cool air in from the corridor. Anyway. Now that we are safely back in the DC area I can relax... For now.


I so feel like... Shower. Damn. It's so warm here in SF. If it's this warm here, I would hate to think how hot it will be in DC and NY. Good thing I packed two pairs of shorts. Now, I'd better go look for T-mobile retailer to get a prepaid SIM card for my cell phone.

From Snake:

I'm in...

The flight to the US

I had an uneventful flight; caught up with a couple of movies I hadn't seen. As usual Air New Zealand had a pretty good personal entertainment system. I watched Batman Begins and The Departed. Also saw the latest Knight Rider; I think the Mustang is better than the TransAm but seems the security of the vehicle has dropped dramatically, including that molecular bonding sheild that old KITT had. I wanted to sleep a bit but ended up just dosing on and off. I used my noise cancelling earphone I got ages ago (a Sony NC-11); it's got a very bad rep for its noise cancelling ability but I noticed marked difference with and without noise cancelling on. Anyway.

Trip to the US

Well. I'm writing this at the Auckland International Airport, and having to save it before posting. Yeah. No feebie wifi here at Auckland. Wonderful. I'm not paying 8 buck an hour for posting blog entries and checking emails. I wonder if SFO has freebie wifi... Anyway. I've just realized I left my pair of glasses at home. This happens all the time to me... Leaving something or other at home even though checking numerous times. Often it is my toothbrush. Last time it was my ear plugs I think. At least I'm carrying extra fresh disposable contact lenses. I still have to wait at least another 20 minutes before they start the boarding procedure. Wonderful. And boarding gate waiting area is now getting filled up. I was hoping it wasn't; nice to have some space next to me on a long flight. At least I managed to go under in checked luggage; only 1 bag at just less than 20 kg. I'll be able to bring stuff back though I dunno what. I packed an extra bag so I can spill out if necessary. Anyway. In 20 hours or so hopefully I'll be arriving at BWI.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Jun Joo Restaurant (Upper Queen Street, Auckland)

I used to go to Korean BBQ joints quite a lot. I hadn't been to one since I landed in the Land of Sheep. So. I asked around in the lab, and this grad student also wanted to go to one. I let him look for one, and he decided we should go to Jun Joo Restaurant on Upper Queen Street. He managed to convince a lot of people in the lab to come with us for lunch. So we ventured out to this place... When we got there though I thought oh oh... Kinda dindgy. Well. I guess you can't complain with the price (NZD13) nor the amount of food (all you can eat). But at the same time I was glad our boss was not with us. I was okay with the food (actually their kim chi was very good), but some people in our group didn't want to go back again. I ate a lot, and enjoyed it and I guess that's all it matters to me...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Well. With the recent misfortunes on my hard drives, and the fact that hard disks are now a little too large for backing up using DVDs (well dunno about bluray but it's a little too pricey for me right now), I decided to get a NAS to back things up. After much searching, I decided on a D-Link DNS-323 2-drive unit.

I threw in a couple of WD 1 TB HDDs in there and using them in a JBOD mode. I've updated the BIOS on the unit to 1.05. The 1.03 the unit came with couldn't handle Japanese file names; the files couldn't be read at all. With ver 1.04 and 1.05, the file names still get trashed, but at least files themselves are accesible. The biggest disappointment I guess is that it's pretty slow. Even with a gigabit ethernet, it's no speed demon; it takes a sec to spin the disks up. But for the price I think it's pretty reasonable, and have now just backed up all my work stuff including the ones from my previous lives in the US as well as in other places. I feel much better knowing that I have multiple copies of my important stuff now... Backup is importnat!
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Monday, June 09, 2008

Recovered data

The HDDs that seemed to have died on me were resuscitated and data backed up on other HDDs. It seems that the removable trays and/or frame were the culprits; the cooling fan on the trays were not working at all and in fact were generating heat instead! When I connected the HDDs directly to the IDE interfaces they spun up alright and I managed to get my hands on the data. It was promptly backed up on multiple other HDDs. Oh well.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

WD Caviar SE16 (640 GB)

So the Raptor died on me, and I needed to replace the boot disk. I just bought this WD Caviar SE16. It's fairly large (not the largest out there; 640 GB), yet was cheap (NZD145 including GST). I've been trying to restore things back to normal but have a way to go. Initial impression of the disk is "mmm not too bad." Obviously it feels slower/more sluggish than the Raptor but hey I paid only a fraction of what I would have had to pay for a VelociRaptor. I guess you get what you pay for in a basic gadget like this.

Monday, June 02, 2008

RIP Raptor

My WD Raptor 150 GB is dead. After installing the Vista SP1, the machine got rebooted a couple of times, and each time it went through CHKDSK... A very omnious sign. Then this morning it finally gave out; SMART says it's gone bad, told me to back the data up replace, and that was that. The disk lasted maybe about 2~3 years. I guess this means I'll have to go out and get a replacement. But I don't think I'll bother with a VelociRaptor. I'd love to get one, but frankly it's a little too steep at the moment...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Vista SP1 installed...

I kept trying to install Vista SP1 last night, and finally it came through. After much searching on the Google I found this webpage. I followed the direction of the page which was to simply turn on a couple of services. Then it just installed, without any problems. It was just that simple. Maybe Microsoft should update Vista SP1 installation help page on their site...