Friday, June 30, 2006

Almost an Entire Month Gone, Only One Month Left

Hello all,

Time has really been flying. It is now the end of my fourth week in Japan and my time here is halfway over. We have been very productive this week. I have gotten much chemistry done, even though I have spent a ton of time on the computer trying to figure out how to see the rest of the country in four weeks. So far, it is not looking like I will be able to see the entire country, but I am going to see as much as I can. I have also been trying to decide whether or not I really want to l put Windows Vista (beta) on my computer. I already got Office 2007, and I am using right now because with this new version, I can post straight to my blog from word. Pretty cool.

This week has flown by, but we have gotten much accomplished. We have started on a new mesityl, and I think that I will be a pro; I have done so many (it is actually only my third). They are getting easier, because the procedure is almost the same for all of them, and I had already done the reaction a few times before I got here, and Gabi taught me well.

We started another small scale reaction for a different alcoholate, and this one is a better because it takes about half the time of the other one. A disadvantage is that one of the reagents is air sensitive, and I didn’t make a note of that when I watched Gabi to the reaction. This time I forgot and pretty soon I had a big mess because it was absorbing all the water from the air. But it is not a mistake that I will make again. We just started the workup, and should be able to finish it the beginning of next week. Hopefully everything will still work, I have my fingers crossed.

The most exciting thing was large scale reaction that we started of the same alcoholate reaction we have already done. There is nothing big about the reaction, but because of the air sensitivity issue we had with the other reaction, we decided that it should be started in the dry box. This meant I got to work in the dry box for the first time ever. For those of you who done know what I am talking about, a dry box or glove box is a sealed container that is filled with N2 and we use it to work with air sensitive materials that come in contact with any O2 or H2O. I have seen Gabi working in the dry box a million times, but I have never actually done anything. All I did was some measuring and I put a reagent in the flask, but it was still fun for me. Yamamichi had to do the rest because it was working with syringes, and I don’t think either of us wanted me doing that (one hole from the syringe in the gloves, and the entire thing would have been ruined).

I have decided on my plans for the weekend. I want to start my heading to Hagi, and then rent a bike and go to Omi-Jima Island and hopefully see it at sunset and maybe at sunrise if I am lucky. I think that on Sunday I will go to the Sandan-kyo Valley and see the Sandan-kyo Falls. They look really nice from all the pictures. I have all the bus routes so it should be pretty easy.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Just an Update

Hello All,

Note: Sorry that it has been so long since I updated the blog, I have been very busy. As you will probably notice I have backdated the last two entries to when they were from, instead of when I actually got time to posting them.

Since I got back from the trip last weekend, almost all of my time has been spent in the lab. We started out the week by finishing all the purifications from the week before, and then started one of the alkylation reactions. This is a bit exciting for me because the molecule is finally starting to become more complex. And if you squint and look at in just the right way, it is starting to look like one of the target molecules. The only problem is that these reactions take FOREVER. Or at least forever from me. This one actually takes almost an entire week. And to make it worse, we only have the equipment to have one of these reactions going at a time.

To keep me from getting bored Yamamishi (in Japan people mainly go by their last name), decided we would do another reaction to make some starting materials to do a different alkylation. I didn’t mind, the procedure was very close to the reaction that I have now done at least five or six time so I though “oh, piece of cake.” I will get this done in a little over a day, and then have some free time. By the end of the second day of purification, I was starting to get a little frustrated, but I don’t give up very easily. I did get worried till I told Dr. Arduengo what we were trying to do and he told me that they had always had trouble with this reaction. He helped us get it more pure, and then Gabi and Dr Arduengo. told me that the melting point of our compound is below room temp. so we would never get crystals, and be able to keep them cold enough to filter and wash them. Oh well, I learned a good lesson this week.

It started raining Thursday night and has been raining off and on since then. It has been very nice; accept for the times when it has been pouring while I walk home. I started looking around trying to get a picture of while it was raining, and I found a spot in the chem. building where I can see the place where I am living. You probably have to zoom in too see it, but it is to the upper left of the pond.
(click to see large size)

It stopped for a bit on Saturday and I decided that I’d better get my laundry done before it started again. I put on my last clean pair of socks that morning, so I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. I figured it would be exactly like doing it in my dorm but I was wrong. First, there were about seven or eight choices in vending machine, and all I wanted was a little package of soap. They were all little boxes with only Japanese words, so I am still not too sure if it was soap that I bought. Washing the clothes went fine, but the drying didn’t go so well. I put the clothes in the dryer, and came back 30 minutes later to find the dryer had stopped and the clothes were still soaking wet. I learned that for 100 yen (about a dollar) you get ten minutes of drying time, but most of the Japanese people have little things to hang their clothes outside. Well, I didn’t have a way to hang them outside so they have been all over my room, and the clothes I put on this morning were still damp. Oh well.

Sunday came and it was raining again. I thought that I told the guy I went to church with that I wanted to go again, but I waited out in the rain for 20 minutes and Decided that I must have been mistaken. I tried to call him that morning, and realized that I still don’t know how to make the phone work. I had the number, but I pushed every button, and never got a dial tone. I talked to him later that day and he said that he didn’t even go that morning. Later in the day, I went to the Yukata festival. A Yukata is a kimono that girls wear in the spring. I didn’t think many people would be there because of the rain, it was actually pretty big. There was a stage with bands playing, and there were tons of little booths selling all types of food. I actually had some kind of Egyptian kabob, and it was great. Inside they had displays of photographs and calligraphy, and there were some people performing inside as well. There was a magician, a person juggling, and someone balancing spinning plates. All-in-all, it was a pretty good time.

Well, I guess that is it for now, hopefully I will have enough time that I will be able to make more frequent updates.

Till next time,

PS I am still trying to figure out what to do this weekend, if anybody has any suggestions or any thought, please feel free to tell me. Right now, I am trying to decide on one or two of the following:

Those of you that know me know I always have trouble making up my mind so tell me what you think.

Monday, June 19, 2006

End of the Weekend

Hello all,

I know it hasn’t been very long since the last time, but I finally made it to church. I though I would make a quick entry and tell you all about it. Last night, after I got back from Hiroshima, I called the American guy that I met last week. He said that it wasn’t too late to get a ride in the morning. I went out this morning to go meet him by his dorm, and to my surprise he was already at the door. I turned out the person giving the ride had to be there earlier that Brian thought.

We got to church, and the moment I walked through the door, I knew this church would be a little different. Just like at the entrance to my dorm there was a big rack for shoes. I was told that I could use slippers if I wanted to. I later found that that most of the Japanese people just went bare foot or in socks. The service was on the second floor of the service, and after I filled our as much of the guest card as I could, I made my way up there. Soon, the singing started, which was kind of awkward, because even the songs that I recognized, I couldn’t sing along with because they were in a different language. Once the preaching started with the translations, everything seemed normal, or at least am much as could be expected. I had taken my Bible, and so I could follow the outline that had been translated and read the passages my Bible. Since it is Father’s Day, the message was about how God is our Heavenly Father, but does many things that an earthly father does like corrects us when we are disobedient out of love.

Following the service every week they serve a meal, and because it was my first time, it was free for me(it is usually 200 yen). It was noodles with something in it, I am still not sure exactly what it was. At first I thought it was some kind of meat, but it didn’t taste like anything I had ever had before. There was some type of powdered something that all the kids were pouring on the dish and at first I thought, “Oh, I should try it even though I don’t know what it is, because if the kids like it, it must not be too bad.” Instead I asked Brian, after studying the bag for a bit, he told me that as much as he could figure it was powdered squid. I politely passed when they latter asked if I wanted any.

Later that afternoon I decided that I would go to YouMeTown. I got the idea that it might be easiest to learn the symbols of Hiragana and Katakana the same way the kids do, with little books where you trace the letters. I found the ones with the simple math and with the reading, and after about half an hour, I finally found the right one. I got that book, a notebook, and a Japanese-English dictionary. We will see how much I use them. After I pick up some groceries, I headed out, but not before picking up dinner. I thought that since Subway was so good yesterday, I would try McDonald’s today. I walked in an after minimal had gestures, I managed to order a No. 1, exactly the same as back home. I got back to my room and couldn’t wait to try it. I tasted exactly the same; I think they must use the exact same ingredients for the fries and the bun, and even the meat. And the best thing was that it didn’t cost that much more than in the US. Well, I better get to bed, I got in late last night and the weekend is when I am supposed to catch up.

Till next time,


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Josh goes to the big city (just click on any picture to make it bigger)

Hello all,

I finally went to the out on my own. Today, I went all the way to Hiroshima. Many people, like me, probably thought that Hiroshima University is in Hiroshima itself; actually it is in Higashihiroshima which is about 40 miles to the east of Hiroshima. And without a car or any other means of transportation, it was time to take a little trip on the bus. Besides the fact that I have used the public bus system very little even in the US, most bus drivers know little to no English, so I thought that just the trip to get to Hiroshima would be very interesting. Well, there was trouble from the very beginning.

I had a list of stops and times from Dr. Yamamoto. I picked the one that I was told wo
uld be right in front of the dorm complex because it should have been the closest, but then I couldn’t find it. When I finally did find it, I realized that I didn’t know which side of the street I should be on(there were two stops right across the busy street from the other). None of the Japanese symbols looked like the ones for the stop that I was supposed to be at, so I decided to cross the street, and hope that there aren’t any jaywalking laws in Japan aren’t enforced like in the US. I finally got to the stop after being stuck in on the median for a bit due to traffic, and then, by pointing at the paper and hand gestures that was indeed at the right spot to go to Hiroshima. After a very quiet bus ride (I think talking on the bus must be against the law because I didn’t there a word spoken for the entire 50 minutes) it was time to get off and pay. I had been told by an American that the bus ride for this trip was exactly 1000 so though I would just give the diver a 1000 yen bill, but I thought wrong again. I first had to get change and then put the coins on a little conveyer belt, and the bus diver managed to get out that the fair was only 800 .

I was now off the bus and on the third floor of the Sago department store, and let me tell you, when they make a d
epartment store in Japan, they really make a store. The size of each floor is only a bit larger than in the US. The difference is that there were ten floors. I knew that there was an English book store in some part of the store, I just couldn’t remember exactly were it was, but after wandering around the closest three floors, and having little luck, I gave up on finding it.

I decided that I would first go the castle, and save the best, the peace park, for last. I was soon reminded of the safety of Japan when I walked outside and saw two kids that were probably seven or eight riding there bikes down the street of downtown Hiroshima (pop. 1.1 million). I passed the art museum, which would be for the trip back and ventured into the underground walkway. It seems that instead of having the pedestrians cross the street, at busy intersections they just make a tunnel to walk below the street. I came out on the other side right outside the castle walls. I read the little plaque telling about the castle and walked decided to explore the surrounding neighborhood. I found what I thought was a huge temple and took a few pictures before heading back to the castle to look inside. There was a little man inside, and like many other places, I had to take off my shoes before looking around inside. On the plaque it said that 10,000 soldiers were stationed at the castle at one time, and while I was looking though these two small building, I couldn’t figure out how 10,000 could fight from this small place let alone life there.

After leaving I decided to look around on the other side and see if I could get closer to the temple I had seen earlier from far off. While walking around the mote that protected the castle, I saw that many coy live in the mote along with many turtles. I finally got back to the base of the “temple” and read the sign that said “Hiroshima Castle” and then felt very silly. I had been looking around the outer walls and fortifications before and “huge temple” was actually the castle. After walking around the huge interior and the five levels, I could see how 10,000 soldiers lived there. I was not allowed to take any pictures of the inside museum part of the castle that told about the construction of the castle and the history of the castle and the samurai that had once lived there. The construction and engineering was quite fascinating. The castle, against the advice of many, was built on a silt island between two rivers. This made for a great defense but an interesting engineering challenge which was overcome over four hundred years ago. And in the four hundred years that followed, the only thing that could destroy the castle was an atomic bomb.

Next, I went to the Hiroshima Museum of Art. I know very little about art, but I had even heard of the very famous painters in this surprisingly large collection. I really liked the painting of Millet, Pissarro, Monet, and other Impressionism painters. I even the picture
s they had from Renoir, Seurat, Cézanne, and van Gogh were very nice, but I still have trouble appreciating Picasso. One of the galleries in the main building and the entire second building was for Picasso and a few other abstract artists. I stood and stared at the pictures for a long time like the rest of the people trying to figure out what was so special about them, but I couldn’t figure it out. If there are any art lovers out there that can explain their appreciation for abstract paintings, please help me out here.

After wandering around the museum for a couple of hours, I decided it was time to find the peace park. After getting lost for a bit, the A-bomb dome came into view. This building was formerly the Hiroshima Prefectural Industry Promotion Hall, and was almost right below the place where the atomic bomb went off. Due to the fact that the bomb produces waves of destruction, the ruins of this building were left standing, unlike many of the surrounding neighborhoods. The building has been left exactly as it was after the bomb went off. It is right across the river from the peace park and the bridge in the shape of a “T” that the used as the guide for the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb.

After walking across the bridge I walked into the peace park and to the place there paper cranes are collected. I remember in elementary school reading the book of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. It told the story of a girl who was suffering an illness caused by the radiation of the bomb. She was told that if she could make 1,000 paper cranes, she would be healed of her illness. She spent every day making cranes, but died just short of the 1,000th crane. Now people from all over Japan and all over the world bring cranes in memory of her and the others that died either directly, or from the side affects of the bomb.

I then made my way to the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. It is a round building that is completely under ground. From the front doors, visitors immediately after receiving a guide enter into the main hall. A ramp leads around the main hall, and along the ramp, there are different facts about the Hiroshima before the bomb, facts about the destruction, and facts about the city since. In the center is the Hall of Remembrance. The upper portion of the walls is a 360o view of the city from the hypocenter. The picture is made of 140,000 tiles which is the estimated total number of victims that had died by the end of 1945. On the lower portion of the walls are the names of the neighborhood in 1945. The lower the name is on the wall, the closer to the hypocenter. As I left, I entered a room that just has monitors with a constantly changing list of names of victims that died along with their photos. After going up the escalators back to the top floor, there is a library where there are the tesimonies of the survivors along with their pictures and other photographs in their collection.

After leaving the Memorial Hall, I walled throught the rest of the Peace Park. One thing that surprised me, was the large number of tourists that were speaking English, which was a change from university where even the people that are from the US mostly speak Japanese in regular conversation. Another surprise were all the groups of older Japanese people that were visiting the Peace Park. I wanted to save the best for last and visit the atomic bomb museum last. Unfortunately, I had waited too long and just missed the time that they shut the doors. I guess I will just have to go back sometime before I leave.

Since I had missed that, and still had a bit of time before I wanted to head back to the bus station, I walked to the Shirakami-sha Shrine, which turned out to be a small empty building that looked very out of place next to the rest of the high rises that surrounded it. The only activity at all was a small Japanese woman that walked up as I was reading a plaque in from. She only paused for a moment an made a slight bow and then hurried off as fast as she had come. I learned from the plaque that was outside the shire was built on the place on the reefs where the signal fires used to be lit to keep ships from running aground on the reef.

I soon realized there was very little to see here so I decided that I would just wander around the city. It didn’t actually cross my mind at first that maybe I shouldn’t just wander around in a big city, where I didn’t know my way around, and I could talk to anybody and ask for help in the event I did get lost. That thought only entered my mind when I started walking around a huge mall, and came out I realized that I had come out the wrong way and I was just a little lost. After wandering around a little more, I found the a place that I never expected, a Subway restaurant. I walked in and got my 15 cm. turkey breast sandwich just like always, and amazingly it tasted exactly like the ones it get back at home. It was the perfect end to a great day.

I then just had to get back to the bus station before I got stuck in Hiroshima for the night. I wandered in the general direction where I thought that the Sago department store and after a bit, things started to look more and more familiar. I made it back to the third floor and the fear hit me again. With 15-20 different gates at the station, it happened to be the one place where everybody was rushing around, and I didn’t see anybody around that could help me. I finally found something at one of the gates that said Hiroshima International University, and the first person I tried to talk to spoke English pretty well. He told me that this was in fact the place to get on the bus to go to Higashihiroshima. He told me that was the bus that he was talking and he would tell me when to get on(it turned out that there were many routes that used that gate, and a different bus would pull up every five minutes, and only per hour would take me back). For some reason the bus did not stop at the place at the top of the hill where I got on, but I got off at the university and was happy enough just to be back somewhere familiar. I know that I went on forever and that is probably enough for you and for me.

Till next time


Monday, June 12, 2006

Great weekend

Hello all,

Well the busy weekend is finally over, and now I am back to the week so I can take a rest. I wish it would have lasted a little longer, but that's how it always is. And there is always next weekend. Saturday was actually pretty uneventful.

Then Sunday came and all the people from the lab were in a softball tournament. There were so many people from the wanted to play, they had one entire team, and then some of the people had to go with other groups in on two other teams. For those two of the teams, the tournament didn't go so great (they got out after the second round), but for the third team, they ended up making very far and came in third. I bet that probably 95% of the people in the lab were on one of the teams. Even Dr. Yamamoto's son got in on the fun and scored once. I have mentioned it before, but I think I will mention the atmosphere of the game again, which is completely different than most sporting events in the United States. Instead of the competitiveness and trash talking that I am used to, there were just a bunch of kids that wanted to have fun. Half the time, when the batter got up to the plate, he would bow to the pitcher and the pitcher would bow respectfully back. And of course I have to say something about the food, which was nothing out of the ordinary, accept they there were some chicken nuggets, and rice balls. And the rice balls are wrapped in sea weed with a nice surprise in the middle. When I first saw it, I thought "oh, a cherry, that is weird, I have never had anything sweet in my rice." And then I tasted it and realized it was a pickled cherry, which has one of the most unusual tastes. I have decided that I wouldn't particularly care to have one again any time soon.

This is the group picture from after the games

It was a day of a lot of fun, and a lot of sun. I am so sunburned after being out in the sun all day. All day, if I touch my nose or my cheeks, for five minutes after I am asking myself why did forget sunscreen because it burns for at least that long. It is kind of funny because it has broken the language barrier a little. I know exactly what someone is saying as soon as someone points at my face with a smile on their face. I just smile back and say, "I know, I know."

One more thing on the subject of food. I am thinking about changing the title of the entire blog to One Summer of Eating in Japan, because that is all I talk about, but that is one of the most interesting things for me. And when I eat three times a day, there is at least something new at one of the meals every day. But this has to top them all so far. After the game, I guess for a victory dinner of sorts, we went out for Japanese bar-b-que/buffet or "yakiniku."

I don't even know were to start. There are regular tables, but where we sat, you take off your shoes and sit on little mats around the table. In the middle of the table there is a little charcoal grill. You order, and they bring out plates full of raw meat (still no raw fish), and then you get to put in on the grill yourself. They have all kinds of vegetables and every kind of meat (beef, pork, chicken, meatballs, pepperoni, sausage), and it is cut every way possible (thin and round, little cubes, thin rectangles, and then some is just randomlys liced). After it is grilled, you put dip it in miso sauce or soy sauce, and eat it. It is all you can eat meat, and rice, and soup, and ice cream. I wish there was something like that where I live because it was so good and so much fun. The only thing that I hesitated about was the fact that you use the same chopsticks to put the raw meat/chicken on the grill as you use to take the food off the grill, which are the same ones you eat with. There is nothing even to wipe them off on and since each plate is closest to one person, that person cooks that type of meat for everyone. I thought for sure I was going to get sick with food poisoning or something, but it has been 24 hrs. and nothing.

I finally got back to my room and started watching Gladiator, my favorite movie ever, and fell asleep halfway through. I woke up though bright and early very disoriented. At first, I thought I must have overslept and someone was shaking me to get up. I then thought did I leave the door unlocked because how else someone could be shaking me. I then thought wait, I think it is the bed that is shaking and I wanted to know who was shaking my bed and why they had barged into my room without knocking. When I was sat up I realized it was just an earthquake. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do, but I decided since no one was moving around outside, I might as well go back to sleep(the thought that it might be bad no one is moving never crossed my mind). When I woke up a couple of hours later, I tried to figure out if it was all just a dream, so I turned on the TV to listen to the news, and guess what. I still couldn't understand Japanese so it did very little good until they showed many clips in a row of different security cameras shaking and no armed robbers or anything. I came in and found out on the internet it was a 6.2 quake and the only person that got hurt was an 82 year old walking a dog in Hiroshima.

That was enough for one weekend; I have to see if I can top it next weekend, I am thinking about going out of town for the first time in Japan. Wish me luck!

Till next time,


Thursday, June 08, 2006

One week in

Hello all,

Well, today is one week that I have been here, and I am really starting to like it. The chemistry stuff is about the same, and I have none of the stress of trying to do the school stuff at the same time. I can communicate with most of the people in the lab and get by without talking to others. And my biggest fear is all but gone.

The thing that I was most scared about when I got here was the food. A neighbor said that all I would be able to eat was "raw fish, raw fish, and more raw fish." This gave me much concern because both of the times that I tried sushi, I could barely swallow one piece. I thought that I would come back looking like a starving person that had just been through a famine. The first day I got here, I went to the cafeteria for my first meal, and had some chicken curry. It wasn't the greatest, but I thought to myself, at least I won't starve. As it turns out, since then I have not had the curry again, and I have not had the same thing twice (besides rice, which I have had for every lunch and dinner accept two). The most surprising thing is that the curry turned out to be the worst thing here. I am beginning to like the food here better than the great "Fresh Food Co." back in Alabama.

A couple of days ago I had some of the best chicken I have ever eaten. It was seasoned like a grilled chicken, but much moister. I have eaten chicken most of the time, but am starting to even move away from the wide variety of ways to serve it. Yesterday, we went to the cafeteria, and I asked someone what one of the items (which appeared to be some kind of breaded chicken to me) was and I thought he said pumpkin. I thought to myself, he must just be confused, or I must not be hearing him right, so I asked again, and the reply was the same. I decided that I would be adventurous and try whatever it was, and guess what. It was pumpkin, for the main dish. I had never heard of such a thing, but it was great. The miso soup and had some tofu in it, but I am even beginning to thing tofu is ok.

For dinner, we went out to a Japanese restaurant for the first time. It had a big 24 hrs. sign on the top so I guess it is something like IHOP (just no pancakes). The menu was very different than one from the US. The menu was one that folded up like I am used to but on each flap was one type of meat at the top of the column. Under the main meat down the page was each of the different pictures of ways to have it (topped with cheese or some kind of red vegetables or green vegetables with egg). Then you just had to choose the sized (small, medium, large, or extra large). I chose the pork and almost had the green vegetables and egg, like one of my friends, but decided on cheese instead. We called the waiter over, and in about two minutes, he brought out our steaming food (I got the meal with some kind of salad and miso soup). I then realized that the egg was raw and was very glad that I had chosen the cheese. The meal was so good, I could eat there every night (it is just a little too far though), and my entire meal was 430 yen or about $4.

Well, that is enough talk of food for now; I am starting to get hungry.

Till next time

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Fun Chemistry

Caution: what you are about to read could quite possibly bore you to death unless a large part of you is a nerd.

Hello All,

Well, if you didn't think that it could get any more boring, it just has. I think I will talk about chemistry because that is all I have been doing all day. Yesterday we started our first reaction since I got here(the rest of the time I was just sitting around playing on the computer and posting blogs(and getting ready to start)). This reaction was to make mesityl imidazole, which was not to special to me because we did the same reaction a couple times last September.

After we started the reaction the real fun started. The rest of the guys (and girls) in the lab were making chromatography plates, which would usually be a pretty boring job. But not here. They were having so much fun, I decided I would try my hand at it for a bit. What you have to do is measure out the silica and then mix it with water by shaking it in a flask. I don't think I have ever seen anyone shake anything as hard as they were shaking the silica gel. I tried my best, put my whole body into it, but it was never enough. At least everyone, including me, was having a good laugh at my poor attempts to shake this little flask. Then you have to quickly poor it into a mechanism that allows the gel to be pored across the pieces of glass evenly. That was the easy part and I managed to do it with very few laughs. I let someone else spread it out, because I didn't want to mess them up, but as soon as the gel get spread out over the plates you have to rush in and pick them up and start banging the on the bottom so that you can get all the imperfections out before it dries. Again, the laughs started as I was not hitting the piece of glass hard enough. I was afraid I was going to break it, something that one of the guys next to me did. Well, after trying a few times, and messing up at least two or three plates, I decided to leave it to the professionals.

When we came in this mooring we had to finish the work up from the reaction that we started yesterday and I had another first. Even though the reaction was the same, the work up/purification was very different. The workup included doing a chromatography column, which even though it looked pretty easy, I still managed to make a few mistakes. To do a chromatograph column, all you do is put a piece of cotton at the bottom of a tall skinny piece of glass tubing and then pour sea sand on top of that, then silica gel (the same stuff as in the chromatography plates), the more sand, then the mixture you are trying to separate, then more sand and then a bunch of solvent. The idea is that gravity will pull the different compounds in the mixture down at different speeds due to the fact the layers of filters will slow each compound down differently. You then separate the solution coming out the bottom and test each one to see if it is the product that you are looking for.

The picture on the left is before we added our stuff was added, and the picture on the right is most of the way through the process, you can see the different solutions we separated out in the different flasks.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Just a little Scare

Hello All,

Well, the weekend is now over, and, as usual, I got very little done. I did figure out some computer things and managed to get to the store by myself, but I didn't learn Japanese as I had hoped. Maybe next weekend.

I am still a little to scared to travel too far by myself so I stuck to the lab (for internet), and my room for most of the weekend. I did see the Constant Gardener, with was a pretty good movie. It was the only one out of the many that I didn't see while I was one the plane (mostly because I know that I could watch it later).

The only thing of any interest that happened this weekend was last night. In case you don't know, in Japan, Sunday is the main "holiday" as they call it. Most things are closed and nobody is out. This also meant that the people in the lab that help me get around stayed home. I have a key to the lab so I came in to check my email since I had nothing else to do. I also wanted to get something set up so I could have church services recorded so I could watch/listen to them sometime (there are very few Christian churches and I haven't found one that has services in English). After I had messes around with that for a few hours, I decided to go home and watch a movie at about six. I went back to my room and stuck the key in the door just like always, and I heard the key, just like always and turned the handle, but the door was still locked. After trying about ten times, I started to get worried, but I am persistent so I tried another ten or so before I gave up. Luckily there is Japanese student that is here for two months and I went up and asked him for help. He came down and couldn't get it to work either. He asked if I had paid the bill, and I really got scared because I hadn't talked to Dr. Yamamoto and to figure out everything yet and I hadn't paid anything. We went down to the main desk in another building, but it was closed because it was Sunday and it was after six. I started trying to figure out were I could sleep for the night, maybe on the floor of the lab or something. But then he found a number and called someone (that only spoke Japanese) who came and they talked for a while and it started looking hapless. Then the manager called someone else and finally he got the master key and unlocked the door. And as soon as he opened the door, the key started working again. After that I took a five minute bath(I was afraid to look the door again), ate my butter and jelly sandwich, watched my movie and went to bed at 10:00 dead tired(I still don't think I am completely over the jet lag). Well that's about it and I have to get back to chemistry.

Till next time

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Eating in Japan

Eating in Japan

Hello All,

Since I got here, eating has been one of the biggest adventures. Just trying to figure out what is what is one the biggest problems for me. When I was looking up the school on the internet, they showed pictures of a display case with at least what type of meat in English. I thought with that, everything was going to be ok, until I talked to our next door neighbor. She lived here for eight years and said that the only thing to eat is raw fish. I am not a huge fan of Sushi so that kind of scared me.

Then when we first went to the cafeteria, that was what most of the things were. But this was at lunch and I hadn't eaten since I got off the plane so I would have had just about anything. I ended up getting the curry and rice with a salad. It was ok, not too great, but not too bad, except the salad. I put some sesame seed dressing on it and it is hot and sweet at the same time. My taste buds didn't particularly care for that. But I had seen McDonald's(the same just with smaller portions and a bit more expensive) earlier that morning and decided if it got too bad, I would just have that for every meal(and then make a documentary if I gained any wait , I even thought of a clever name, "Supersize Me"). That night we went back to the cafeteria and I had chicken with rice and something almost like ranch dressing on my salad and I thought I was in heaven. Food that was really good and it only cost me 400 yen (about $3.50).

Then yesterday, for lunch we went to the cafeteria and when they were telling me what everything was, on of the things they said was hamburger. You would not believe how excited I got. It turns out that it is kind of like meatloaf, but still not too bad. I just found out though from our friend that used to live here that it might have been kangaroo. Oh well.

It was Saturday so everyone went home early and I was left by myself trying to figure out what I was going to do for dinner. We went to You Me Town (something like Wal-Mart) on Friday so I decide I would go over there, because that is where I saw McDonald's. Anyway I walked over there, passing a few restaurants because I knew that I could never order by myself. I walked in and started looking around and found that there were a few things that were familiar, even if the writing was in Japanese. I found Kellogg’s cereal like Frosted Flakes and Coco-Crispies. I also found snack foods like Doritos and Pringles (which were like $2.60 for the little snack size), and candy like Mentos and Kit-Kat that came in both the traditional chocolate and the unusual fruit flavor. The funniest thing though had to be the soda with "Made in America" in big letters. It just looked like some store brand of soda, but it seemed like something special. I think I am going to stick to good old Coca-Cola, which I have scene comes in a citrus flavor that I will have to try sometime.

Well, after I had wandered around the store for about an hour just looking, I decided I would get some Doritos, some Juice, and some doughnut. Then on the way out, I decide to get something from the bakery part of the store. Everything was freshly made from bagels to freshly made doughnuts (just more expensive than the ones I bought in the package). I decided on something that resembled pizza. It had crust and cheese and many vegetable (even corn) toppings, and then some kind of meat. I also bought something that was like a toasted sandwich (the students I went with the first time called it a bagel but it was not round) with cheese, tomato, and meat. After a short trip back to my room I found out that the food was actually really good. Who would have guessed I would have found food I really liked.

All this talk about food has made me hungry so I am going to go eat. I think I am going to try 7-11. I read online from another exchange student that they make good lunches (at least better than the US). We will have to see.

Till next time


Saturday, June 03, 2006

My new home

Hello all,

I am back, and had a few more minutes to continue about my trip to Japan. Well, I finally got to my room and found out some of the biggest differences from the United States. When I first walked through the door, I found out that you have to ware slippers in the building. You pick them up when you first walk in and there is a little shelf where you put your shoes (I guess nobody ever steels shoes). Anyway I walked up to my room and found even more interesting things.

The room was pretty small, I guess about the size of an average size for a dorm room, just a bit smaller than my double room in Paty. Inside I found a kimono for me, and I am still not exactly sure when I am supposed to wear it. The room has a pretty nice air conditioner with a thermostat; the only problem is that the remote is in Japanese. I got it to where all I have to do is set the temp and now I all I have to figure out is what a nice temp in Celsius is so I don't have to keep turning it off. There is no real storage space accept a small metal locker, but I managed to fit all my clothes in as long as the kimono is not supposed to go in there. I also found out that they leave you a fresh kimono and fresh sheets if you change them and leave the old ones outside the door.

As I mentioned before, there is no internet line so I think there will be little to do in my room besides DVDs that I brought. A TV was provided, but of course, only Japanese stations with Japanese words. I was trying to look the menu to see if there was a way to change it to English but since the menu is in Japanese I have had very little luck. I got really excited when I found news from the BBC and when I was flipping through the channels and even more excited when Condoleezza Rice came on in English. Then two seconds later it was dubbed over in Japanese. Oh well. I did find that I can download the news in the lab, video from ABC and audio from NBC (they won't let you download video outside the US).

The only thing else worth mentioning is the bath room. There is a urinal like usual, but the toilet is a squatting one (I am not sure exactly how to use it, but I found a regular one in the chemistry building). Also there is a tub, and on the door there are a few instructions. The sign says:

1. Don’t touch the gas knob
2. Hours for taking a bath are 1800 to 2100
3. Make sure you wash and rinse yourself before getting in the tub
4. Leave the plug in because someone else might want to use the water after you are done.

I am still trying to figure it all out. That’s enough for me today.

Till next time,

Friday, June 02, 2006

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Hello All,

After the months of waiting and preparing I am finally in Japan. Hopefully I will be able to keep the journal updated even thought I do not have internet in my new room. And hopefully I will not go insane from not having easy access to the internet for two months.

First, I will start with the trip over here. I was pretty uneventful, but still interesting as it was the first time for me to be traveling overseas. From El Paso to LAX was just as boring as any other plane trip that you could think of. I got to LAX and had to show my passport more times that I ever thought I would while I was still in the country. Then I got to the gate and realized that probably 90% of the people that I would be traveling with were Japanese, which was not a problem, I just assumed there would be more Americans on the plane. After I got on the plane, I found out that there would be plenty of entertainment for the trip over, but I don't know what I would have done for such a long trip without it. There were five or six movie channels and then about the same number of music channels, and all the movie channels just had the same movies that just repeated over and over (I think I was watched almost every single one), and then there channels with a camera out the front of the plane and one with a map of exactly where on the globe we were. We also got two meal good sized meals on the trip. I was going to be adventurous and try the Japanese food on the plane, but I decide that I would stick with western food as it might be the last time for any for a few months.

Nice view from the plane outside Salt Lake City

Something that was interesting was the route that we took. About ten seconds after we took off, we were over the Pacific Ocean, and I assumed that there would be very little to look at so I stopped looking out the window. Then about an hour later I looked out the window and to my surprise, we seemed to be over land, and it was as far as the eye could see. Then I looked at the camera pointed out the front of the plane and it showed water. Then I looked at the map and we were going straight north. I felt the urge to go tell the pilot that Japan is to the east not north of LA, but I resisted. As it turned out, I guess the pilot decided to take the scenic route to Japan and we ended up flying over Alaska and then nearly over Korea before coming back south to Japan. When I we finally landed I had to go through customs and everything which was actually a lot more simple than I thought it was going to be.

My first look at Japan
(and the first look a something besides clouds for about 10 hours)

I then had to figure out the train system. I found out how nice the Japanese people can be in trying to figure it out. After looking lost for a while a man came up to try to help me. He spoke English very well and even said that he had been to NM once (of course abq.). He then told me that I would have to wait for a little over an hour to get on the train. He said that he would help me get it changed, and said he would go with me to the train office while his friend watched out bags. My American instinct kicked in and told me not to trust him and definitely not let his friend watch my stuff while I was away, but they were big bags so I resisted the urge. To make a short story even shorter, he helped me get to Hagasi Hiroshima an hour soon than I would have and my bags were just fine. He even helped me on the train because part of our rides overlapped.

I finally got to my stop after changing trains a few times and falling asleep many more. I got finally met Dr. Yamamoto after talking to him many times only through email. We took a short trip (in his hybrid car), where the only thing that was interesting was trying not to freak out every time he turned into the left-hand lane. Well, I don't want to go on forever this time, I'll tell more about the room I am staying in my next post

Till next time,

Pics of the Planes and Trains
Just click on the pics for a biger size
(if you really want pics of the automobiles just ask)

Plane 1 (El Paso to Salt Lake City)

Plane 2 (Salt Lake City to LAX)

Plane 3 (LAX to Osaka, Japan)

in train 1(aiport to main station in Osaka)
This is the city of Osaka, where right next the the high rises, there are rice fields.

Train 2 (Osaka to Fukuyama)

Train 3(Fukuama to Higashi Hiroshima)

That's all Folks!