More animal things, with a sneeze

“Kyoto Prefectural Police have questioned Hideaki Asada, president of the Tanba farm, over why he failed to report the deaths of thousands of chickens every day.” It seems that already close to 70000 chickens have died of the flu since Feb. 20th – No panic. But I just found out that the Seiyu supermarket I shopped at yesterday for meat, sells whale and dolphin meat.
And, that it is in fact practically a Wal-Mart.

Live furry things and cute mafia girls

Shuan Shuan, a 16-year-old female panda from Mexico City, is artificially inseminated at Tokyo Ueno Zoo this week. Shuan Shuan was brought over on a breeding mission to mate with Ling Ling, who apparently wasn’t interested, prompting breeders to resort to artificial insemination. I’m not a bit
surprised; last time I went to see Ling Ling last year he did not seem to be interested in anything that would include physical efforts. Jukka sent me a webcamlink to a more lively panda – well, in my opinion the San Diego panda has much more interesting surrounds than the Ling Ling’s concrete room with yellowish light. Talking about lively webcams – for those of you bored with Elviira’s habit of sleeping all the time when inside her home, check out: ‘Elviira Varuillaan’ and ‘Elviira puolustaa’ – true high-tension action! Go Elviira! Keep those intruders out!
… btw, I’ve noticed that the time zone difference between Tokyo and Malmi (where Pönttökamera’s Elviira lives) is just perfect for me to see Elviira go to sleep – I do it usually just slightly later than she does:)
The Japan Today went out and asked people the question:
How would you feel if a foreigner moved in next door?
… and the answer by a 18-year-old boy was:
“Well, I wouldn’t like to see any mafia members living next door, but if it
was a pretty girl, no problem. If she were nice enough to teach me English,
I would give her exclusive treatment as well.”
These things said – the news are filled up to the brim with Ashara’s sentence. The guy himself does not seem to understand anything going on aroundand is not even talking to his defence team. One of his defence team’s tactics was to state that Asaha’s followers who in the end committed the crimes were taking part in a special training for enlightement (or something) and the training included accomplishing impossible tasks. Therefore, if they succeeded in some of those impossible tasks, the leader could not be held responsible.
Somehow this did not convince the judge.

Japanese blades

*Yawn* Saturday bliss, no hurry, no obligations – even though work has been so pleasant, interesting and at the same time challenging that I almost feel depressed about not working today. (Almost.) (And, in any case, I’ll be at the office again tomorrow, as the VCD workshop begins with an official mingle-in day…) I spent most of this week in various preparations for the project – I’ll be sort of continuing the project from last summer, with a few additions that would make anyone jump around with excitement.
First, there are new mouse lines, with two different kinds of genetically encoded fluorescent markers (meaning that, all the cells expressing a particular protein will be also expressing a fluorescent dye). Since the two marker dyes have different emission properties – ie, they are different colors – it is very easy to pick up for electrophysiological measurements those that express one or another or both. This is not a small feat in the structure I’m going to be working on since very little is known about the cells and their functions there, and the different types of cells are not discernible by morphology alone, at least not yet since the basic work is still missing. (And, then we can knock out a gene or two in these double-labeled animals, and see whether the knock-out (KO) results in any changes in function in labeled or non-labeled cells… so, enormous amount of knowledge just there waiting for me…)
Second – some of you might remember me jumping around already last summer for being able to use a lamborghini -class setup, with high-grade electrophysiology, infrared optics, confocal laser scanner and 2-photon laser scanner… well, now, in addition to the optics being enhanced by differential contrast prism, this setup (later to be called the Leica setup) will be practically used only by me. Free working hours!
And, most importantly – for the first time ever I think, I don’t have a deadline, no-one is breathing into my neck, asking stupid questions like ‘why there are no results yet’ or even telling me that while I am (spiritually?) preparing for my project I could do a couple of very easy and straightforward experiments using chewing gum and shoestrings as a replacement for the precision instrument set up I am working on…
In other words, I have time to think this over, to find out the best way to proceed with things. So, I spent a day waddling in literature on DCN current clamping,, found out recipes for extracellular and intracellular solutions and preparation procedures, selected those that sounded most convincing, made orders for missing chemicals AND took the time to find out about those chemicals I was not familiar with. Spent another day designing experiment data sheets for keeping everything organized – this was fun, somewhat similar to designing RPG character sheets:) Designed sort-of-databases (I know too much about databases to call anything based on Exel sheets such) for keeping track of my mutant mouse lines and the specifications of drugs – I know from experience that if such plans are not made in advance, the day-to-day work is always pressing and interesting to believe that ‘oh, surely I will remember THAT, NBQX is *always* uset at 40 micromolar…
As the final touch for my new, good scientific life, I was given some new blades to do the slicing with. I am not sure if they’re comparable to Hattori’s blades, but the ceramic blades with 1 micron sharp edge good for a month of cutting seemed really to make a difference. Even though the two first attempts at DCN preparation were not perfect, the slices looked much better than any I did last summer: smooth surface with plenty of healthy cells just begging to be patched. In the end, I did not patch any – but got close enough to call this a succesfull week.
One further accomplishment: I managed to prepare sort-of japanese food in sort-of japanese way: using the frightening gas stove and a rice cooking machine. Not bad at all. Even though, it’s rather difficult to screw up rice and thinly sliced marinated beef…

Closing February

feb27a.jpg End-of-month formalities: decorating time books and attendance sheets with my personal seal (there’s a dedicated sheet where I must personally put my seal on each day, and that verifies that I’ve been at work). Hiro wears a smart suit today, my guess it’s because today’s his last day at work here. Ako runs around ‘watashi wa panikku desu’ with the Workshop arrangements but still had the time to explain to me how to operate the campus ATM. Apparently I can use it to transfer money to Finland, which is good – all kinds of bills will be running from my rather depleted Nordea account… I still don’t know how to pay for the I-house apartment, but I trust I will be informed of it in due time:)
For some reason, there have been announcements during the whole day – in japanese, of course. It always surprises me how few people even here speak english – I spent an hour in the Animal Facility and Research Resource Center trying to explain that apparently my security codes from summer and / or fingerprints have been erased from the system and I would like to have this fixed – without success. Not a single word of eigo – I finally got through the message by remembering words like sekuuritii, bangoo (number) and dame (not good/allowed something), but most likely I’ll just have to bother – again! – some of our lab’s natives and go up there on Monday to get things corrected…

Tokamaks and stuff

A rather demure but still devoted procession crowded a narrow street in Wako-shi, with banners and slogans (“NO!” and some words like ‘Bush’, ‘Ameerika’ and ‘Irakku’ discernible ), candles in medieval-looking lamps mixed with fluorescent flashlights. Priminister Koizumi basks in Kofi Annan’s praise for Japan’s actions in Iraq. It seems Japan is in a difficult position – on the other hand, Japan feels the need to support USA, on the other hand – well, the pacifist constitution. War in Iraq has influenced an other path which Japan seeks to follow: the fusion plant project. As this week’s Nature reports, the political winter between USA and France took America’s backing from France as the main site for next step and gave it to Spain – And, where the quarrelsome but superior in technical know-how France, Europe and the States stall, Japan with its political and economical unity might well get it done. And, as Nature states – this nation, practically devoid of domestic energy sources also needs fusion more than the others.
50 years from the Bikini atoll. The Aum Shrinko leader will be prosecuted tomorrow – One Truth Under the Pine Tree says it’ll be definetly death sentence. They hang people here.
The Tokyo District Court rejects a lawsuit filed by a 40-year-old Iranian seeking recognition as a refugee on the grounds he would be punished due to his homosexuality under Iran’s Islamic penal law. A possible case of bird flu is detected in the village of Achi, Nagano Prefecture – no wonder the amount of chicken food in the local canteens has been increasing as the price for bird meat falls…

Kana catching

A note on japanese language: I Object (vas-tus-tan) the following words: shizuka (quiet, peaceful), chiisai (small), chikai (near) and chizu (map). Especially in the sense that they all have to appear in the same exercises.
Meanwhile, over-shoulder-watching the ‘Slime Forest Adventure’, a computer adventure game where one has to kill slimes by guessing the right katakanas, has clearly improved my capabilities at the grocery store. Even thoug I’ve basically known all the kanas, a significant change has taken place during the last 2-3 days and deciphering ‘burugaaria yoogaato’ as bulgarian yoghurt is a lot less arduous than before. With some help, I managed to understand most of my paycheck, and the hours of exposing myself to weird japanese TV-programs have had their effect – I have funny words popping up in my mind during the day, without any knowledge of their meaning. Bought a dictionnary – a honest paper version – but we’re still both driving people around us crazy by asking about words or translations or kanji meanings…

Aurinko ja lumi

Pinseri kirjoittaa auringosta ja kevään lupauksesta. Sellaisen valokuvan kera että henkeä salpaa. En varsinaisesti tarkoita sen valokuvauksellisia ansioita (ihan kiva kuva tosin), vaan sitä miten se tuo mieleen just sen tunteen mikä tulee helmikuun lopussa, että hei, ehkä sittenkin joskus talvi loppuu, ehkä joskus aurinko vielä paistaa ihan defaulttina, ehkä sittenkin selvisi taas yhdestä talvesta ja saa taas kävellä paljain jaloin nurmikolla. Vaikka vähän aikaa vain ja juhannus on aina liian pian ja taas kohta on talvi – helmikuun aurinko ei muista vielä sitä vaan kesän vuoksi kannattaa jaksaa. Hiukan myöhemmin, märän asfaltin ja maan haju (koirankakoilla tai ilman), sulalta lumelta ja mereltä tuoksuva tuuli, auringonpaisteinen tyyni bussipysäkki jolla on ihan pakko kuoriutua spagettiolkaimiin vaikka mittari näyttää tuskin +13.
Vihis lähetti valokuvia umpihankihiihdon MM-skaboista, enpä muistanut että luminen maisema voi näyttää noin hyvältä. Ihan tuli tippa linssiin – vaikka täälläkin pitäisi olla kovin kauniita lumisia vuoristomaisemia, erilaisia mutta aivan yhtä upeita, kunhan vaan joskus saisi aikaiseksi matkustaa niiden luo. Ei se lumi Helsingissäkään yleisesti ottaen ole kuin ruskeanharmaata lokaa bussien roiskeläpissä. Toisaalta, soitin Sallalle (my favourite teenage ninja girl) eilen kun sillä oli 15-v synttäri, ja se kertoi ulkoilleensa koko päivän laskiaisen kunniaksi – täältä katsoen ei muista enää sitä että pulkkamäessä tulee kylmäksi ja märäksi, vain sen että jälkikäteen saa kuumaa kaakaota ja saunan.
Tokion sää on muutamat viime päivät alkanut muistuttaa etäisesti sitä mitä se oli kesällä: epämääräinen pilvipeite jonka läpi aurinko kuitenkin häikäisee, kosteahko mutta ei kovin lämmin ilma ja hiukan vähemmän raikas tuuli. Ako kertoi että kevään tunnistaa siitä että alkaa sataa kunnolla; Ainoa Totuus Kuusipuun Alla (Shin-ichin nimen merkitys on aika vakuuttava) puolestaan kertoi että varsinainen sadekausi alkaa siinä juhannuksen kieppeillä. Mun tuurilla tässä käy nyt niin että jos tulen Suomeen kesäkuun alussa onnistun saamaan niskaani yhtäjaksoisen sateen maaliskuusta elokuun loppuun asti jos vietän ne muutamat sateettomat alkukesän viikot sateisessa Suomen kesäkuussa…
Taitaa olla parasta hankka sateenvarjo tällä kertaa.

Laying this out

I spent some time last evening and night reading documentation for MT, and finally I suppose I start to grasp something about it. Or, maybe more precicely, the concepts of variables, classes, attributes, modules, functions etc – the basic blocks of making the computer do what one wants without using click-next-wizards – once again organize themselves as they ought to do in my head. I tend to forget that I used to work as a ‘programmer’ and even ‘software engineer’, even though the years spent struggling with physical laboratory equipment and too little time to even think about writing scripts to analyze my data seem to have quite efficiently wiped out all capabilities for such work.
Anyhow, now I find it again interesting and maybe somthing I might be good at. Of course, I’d laugh myself dead if I was to call MT style formatting ‘programming’ – but still it might be a start. For now, there’s not much new on these pages yet – but I’m playing around. You might look at the page foo.html to see what I am trying to do at present… for now, it seems that the combination of columnized text and occasional photos does not work well.
Other accomplishemts include unsubscribing from various mailing lists related to the Biosciences department (sorry, Faculty) at the University of Helsinki, cleaning up my bookmarks from links to the Helsinki public transport timetables and Unicafe menus, as well as finally deciding on paying the Helsingin Sanomat its consolidation money and subscribing to the web-edition – just in time to read in the Opinions my former Boss’s rant (“Biologia ei ole mikään pehmotiede!” as the title) about students who choose biology because it is ‘soft’ and so he has to deal with people who do not know what an integral is. So, did not get very far from all that yet.. 🙂

Nô no Kaisha

Aivofirmassa kuhisee äänettömästi – ilmeisesti Maanantai on sittenkin olemassa täälläkin. Kangas Korkeilla Riisivainioilla potee kotona noidannuolta ja välittömästi nähdään miten koko Kaisha (firma) on yhden pienen sievän japanilaistytön harteilla: kaikki hierarkian ylimmät jäsenet ovat hädissään ja alemmat, including us, yrittävät olla olematta hankalia. Ensi viikolla järjestämme maailman ehkä ensimmäisen jänniteherkkien värien workshopin, tarkoituksena lopettaa ko. alan keskinäiset riidat ja hyödytön kilpailu ja saada aikaiseksi jotain edistystä. Tai siis, järjestämme mikäli noidannuoli paranee. Tänään saapuvaksi odotettu Yalen edustaja – joka on siinä uskossa että pääsee maailman ehkä parhaiten varusteltuun VSD (voltage sensitive dye)-lafkaan leikkimään laserlaitteella, jota Valtteri ja Sty yrittävät hiki hatussa kasata tuolla nurkan takana ja ihmetellä miten sen saisi toimimaan – ilmoitti että hänen isänsä on kuollut ja ‘pääsee’ tulemaan vasta ensi viikolla, samaan aikaan sen hypoteettisen workshopin kera. Mulle kerrottiin että mun odotetaan ottavan osaa pikkuaivotapaamiseen joka maanantai klo 11, mutta ei tänään koska pomo on niin hermostunut. Tämä hyvä – mulla ei ole vielä ensimmäistäkään omaa ajatusta. Pikkuaivoista tai muustakaan asiaan liittyvästä.
Mutta on mailiosoite täällä (tosin vain POPia on tarjolla, joten joka tapauksessa forwaan mailit sieltä jonnekin toisaalle… ) ja paljon ajatuksia kaikenlaisista Täysin Turhista mutta hauskoista veppisivuista joita voisi ittelleen vihdoinkin tehdä – niinkuin joku ehkä on huomannut, nuo linkit tuossa vasemmalla ei vie minnekään, joten edes yhteystietoja ei missään näy… Sen lisäksi tälle blogisivullekin voisi laittaa vaikka mitä lisähauskaa, valokuviakin on jo tullut otettua …
Noh. Jospa töitä.

Weather report

In response to the demands of the public: we had rather bad weather yesterday. The warm winds got suddenly much too strong to be pleasant anymore. Rain and howling winds tortured the not-so-tight sliding doors of the balcony for the night, but surprisingly they were still in one piece when morning dawned. In my opinion, the finnish system of having the cold outside but warm inside is more pleasant than sortof-warm outside and chilling inside – especially when the air conditioning/heating decides that it WILL now start cooling and there’s nothing to stop it (unless you can speak japanese). (I started again reading my book for learning the language – kore wa, sore wa, are wa, dore wa… )
I decided that we will do nothing during the weekend since several days during the week that we tried to accomplish things resulted only in sore feet – and, surprisingly, the plan seems to have worked. Still far from having everything in order, at least I know where to find soy sauce in the local Ito Yokado supermarket.
BTW, Pinseri seems to have updated the link to this page. 🙂