Sunday, May 30, 2010

Some May updates.

Well after that somewhat subtly somber note, lets move on, shall we?

Yesterday myself, a few gaijin NTT folk (there are newbie Canadians there now, and one old-timer stubbornly remaining) and one nihonjin NTT guy (Yoichi) rented a car and headed up to Utsunomiya, a smallish town about 2.5 hours north of Tokyo. This area is known for some of the best gyoza (dumplings) in Japan, some awesome caves that doubled as super secret and shielded aircraft factories during WWII and also is home to the monkey waiter restaurant that I blogged about ages ago.

My new Canadian friend Shaun brought a fancy camera and filmed about 20 minutes of monkey waiters while were were at かやぢき (kayabuki). So when I get these videos in my hands, they will most definitely get a post of their own. But for now lets just say that the mommy monkey really had it out for me. I had an extremely disturbing experience of an angry hissing monkey alternating staring and baring its teeth at me, skillfully trying (and succeeding) to untie the leash that kept her from attacking me, and running around a corner to check whether his owner was coming back to retie it. Savage intelligence, guys. Savage. The owner tied a 6x coral knot to restrain the monkey, and it got down to the last one (giving me killer and troublingly human glances all the while) before we managed to get the owner's attention and get him to take it away for a breather.

The gyoza were fantastic (as fantastic as dumplings can be, anyway), and probably worth the hour wait outside the tiny little place we went to. The caves were really impressive and sprawling, obviously reminiscent of the dwarven mines of Moria (from Lord of the Rings).

On the work front, my original contract with my collaborators has long since dissolved through inaction on their part, up for possible renewal in the month of July. After a very long waiting period, my boss has just told me to do what I want, and I've decided to depart from the project I've beek working on, having deemed it irredeemably flawed from the premise. Click dendrimers have a fundamental patterning conflict due mostly to steric hinderance with the large organic Cu(I) radical stabilizing group and the inherently cramped quarters of growing dendrimers convergently.

So I've switched to the tried and true PAMAM (polyamidoamine) dendrimer superstructure for my stuff, preliminarily this doesnt seem to be behaving the same way, but I think its a different problem than before. I'm probably too used to the easy stoichiometric nature of a "click" reaction and having to rely on this lame and low yield Michael addition/methanol condensation is a drag. Agents exist to push these reactions to the right, but I'm no organic chemist, and my boss is no help at all. Tam taught me that divergent synthesis isn't the way to go, perhaps I should have listened to him. But I think my system is such that I can make it work. Being able to manipulate your product easily and separate them magnetically has its advantages. Column chromatography for separation of incompletely reacted species sucks, ladies and gentlemen.

As I said, I've been working on this stuff without any help or direction from my supervisor. He has a new project now, but its a lame catalyst modelling thing that hes all depressed about. And he doesn't get any data until October, so hes pretty much just twiddling his thumbs. Seriously, this guy actually told me that he was feeling really depressed lately, and apologized to me. He also leaves before 6pm every day, which is ridiculous for a Japanaman. I'm really kinda worried about him doing the seppuku. Seriously folks.

Today I went to KFC and gorged, as I do every once in a while. Whenever I order an 8 piece bucket "kochira de onegaishimasu" (for here), they always question me whether I actually want it for here, and whether I'm eating it alone. At this point I switch to rapidfire english and say "isn't this the country with the world record for hot dog eating? yes I want it for here goddamnit".

On my way home picked up some chocolate and a drink at a konbini.

Pepsi BAOBAB. A new and exciting drink from Pepsi. Japan only, o'course.

See here for a culinary review of this stuff. Its brand new (released May 25th), I bought it because I hadn't seen it before at my konbini. Its really refreshing and tastes pretty citrusy. I really don't much like Coke and Pepsi, but this stuff reminds me much more of Jones soda.

Apparently this Baobab fruit puts the nutritional value of pomegranate and cranberry and acai to shame. Jones should totally market a Baobab flavoured soda. You heard it here first, folks.

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