July 2009


I’m not sure how exactly this happened, but I’m going up Fuji again tomorrow night. This time, of course, I will pack less food and more clothing, take a few more pictures, and get my stick stamped. This morning it occurred to me that it would be difficult to get a 5’2″ hiking stick onto an international flight, so I spent a good deal of the morning expanding my practical Japanese skills by trial and error in search of a hardware store or plumbers’. Amazingly enough, these are not things Japan apparently has in abundance, despite the omnipresent construction. But I now know the words for plumbing system, diameter, plus, pipe, and so forth, and I do in fact have a 5′-some-inch PVC pipe. Best of all (and this may sound strange to those of you who don’t study the language) no one complimented me on my Japanese! That made my morning, right there.

Although I’m quite sad to leave Japan, I’ll be back in the states Sunday. Technically, I arrive before I leave, so I’ll finally get that lost day back, and have an easier time with the jetlag. I have a hunch that Fuji will aid my sleeping on the plane. Of course, a return to the states means the return of internet, and pictures will follow. I haven’t taken so many, but they’ll come in a flood. Be warned.

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You guys caught me out (I did try to make it easy); the mystery destination was the summit of Mt. Fuji. On a whim and with absolutely no preparation, I decided to take a night hike up the mountain in order to see the sunrise. This meant going from 0 to 3776m above sea level and back within 24 hours. It did indeed mean I was insane, but I wound up climbing with a few other nutcases, so that was alright. We shared food and jokes and kept each other from freezing to death when we reached the summit a good 2.5 hours ahead of schedule and had to contend with a real night on bald mountain. In all honesty, without them, I may not have made it. Instead, though, I made a few new friends. Nifty how that works out.

Since there is no editing capacity on this firewalled jalopy, I’ll close with just two extremes of the experience. First, the surprised numbness at trudging through the empty path at the top (realizing later that we were among the first 30 people to complete the ascent), followed by awe at the bitter strength of the winds and the tempered brilliance of the sunrise. Secondly, my comment to Greg when he suggested staying over to make the climb again in daylight (so we could take photos): “Dude, no. I need a week before trying something so batshit crazy again.”

I’m going somewhere special tomorrow.

All I’ll say about it for the moment is that it means I must be nuts.

It may pwn me, but I may yet pwn it. Wait and see.

So today was the last day of the congress, which makes me sad intellectually, although my bum is rejoicing (sitting for 6 to 8 hours at a stretch has been a pain in the…I can’t believe I was about to write that). I’m a bit confused still about questions. I asked two, and neither time did I get an answer. I don’t think they were stupid or irrelevant, nor did the second presenter, at least, have a language barrier excuse; he just repeated the last two minutes of his talk rather than answering me. The other time, the speaker had no idea what I was asking, and the moderator said there wasn’t time for my question, and would I please ask it later. This would be why I hate open mic questions. I always walk away feeling either a jerk or a fool.

All that aside, this was much better and more educational than spending the week in basic bio lectures and my evenings hunched over a kanzi dictionary. The last keynote lecture was pretty awesome, too – a hypothetical romp and keen analysis of the facts for tissue engineering. It was much more like the lectures we had at KCL, and I wish there had been fewer important old dudes who wanted to speak to the lecturer afterwards.

The social lesson learned: Undergrads get no love. Postdocs get a pat on the back. Happening researchers are promiscuous. Frumpy old tech masters are prima donnas.

In other news, happy birthday Tesla! With the time difference, I’m not quite sure if I’m early or late, but it was sometime around now. And although he is due much love, let’s give him his space and not throw any bloomers in his coils. As Kate Beaton puts the reaction, “Ladies!”

Me bum is sore from sitting through so many lectures, but the brain is happy at having supersaturated. That ain’t such a bad way to go, and they did provide a rather nice bento during the lunch hour seminar. Now I need to get hold of Iain McInnes to ask a few questions, though. As an undergrad (and from a tangential field, to boot), I’m too intimidated to go up to the mics.

So by grace of persistence and self-effacement, I got directions and admittance to the 9th world congress on inflammation in Shinjuku. It started out tonight with a lecture by Dr. Yamanaka of iPS cell fame. I read a few of his papers earlier this year when researching liver cell therapy, and especially was keen on the 2008 one wherein his lab demonstrated induced pluripotency can be achieved in the absence of c-Myc (Yamanaka 2008, go read it), so this was certainly worth getting all dressed up. Although, what with my now only having one set of dress clothes, this ought to be an interesting week. But hey, any conference that starts out with humorous comparisons of Bush and Obama re stem cells (“Absolutely NO” versus “Yes We Can”) is bound to be good. Once again, my initial reaction to the lecture would be best summed up as <3.

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東京からの手紙2: Just an update for you all. I still don't have internet and apparently will not for the duration of my stay, so I'll be making do with the heavily-firewalled library computers. They have no word processor, block all uploads, block my ability to edit this blog, and (in the PCs' case) block flash drives, and about all one can do is cruise PubMed and maybe email, so blog posts will be at a minimum. However, please know that I'm having an awesome time and may still put up simple posts like this one. There will be less stilted talk when I'm back in the states. For now, I'm going to go do some recreational PubMed reading!