Polyfoniset soittoäänet – niin jäljessä kehityksestä!

Soittoäänet. Merkittäviä signaaleja, viestivät puhelimen omistajalle ja ympäristölle paitsi trendikkyydestä myös soittajan ja soitettavan suhteesta – mulla oli Pomon soittoäänenä pakoreaktioon sopiva ‘Runaway’ ja synkeille wodaajaihmisille pätkä Matrixia. Soittoäänet 1,20 euroa kappale – täällä Japanissa missä automallitkin vanhenee viikossa, soittoäänen käyttöikä lienee kahden päivän luokkaa ja operaattorit velottavat noin 300 yeniä (2,10 euroa) kuussa oikeudesta ladata soittoääniä listoilta sielunsa täytteeksi.
Paikallisvakoilijani kautta sain tietää kehityksen uudesta suunnasta. Tiedemies Hideto Tomabechi, joka sai kuuluisuutta 10 vuotta sitten parannettuaan aivopestyjä Aum Shinrikyon jäseniä, on kehittänyt Täysin Uudenlaisen Soittoäänen –
(taustalla soi hiukan reppanan oloinen Nokia Tune)
– soittoäänen joka kasvattaa kuuntelijansa rintoja.
Kyllä. Mainichi Daily News raportoi että lukemattomat “rintarajoitteiset tiput” parveilevat asentamaan soittoääntä puhelimiinsa (epäilen että tämä kappale ei kuulu 300yenin kuukausipakettiin) – 10000 latausta ensimmäisten päivien aikana.
“Kuuntelin soittoääntä viikon (!) varmana siitä että minua on huijattu”, sanoo Chieri Nakayama, 19-vuotias pin-up tyttö. “Mutta, käsittämättömästi 87-senttinen rinnanympärykseni kasvoi 89 senttiin! Uskomatonta!” (toim. huom. oletettavasti ko. rintarajoitteinen tyttö muuten painaa sen ihanteellisen 45 kiloa…)
Tomabechi selvittää kognitiotieteeseen perustuvaa menetelmää ja kertoo käyttävänsä ääniä, jotka saavat mielen ja ruumiin liikkumaan alitajuisesti. Piirustuspöydällä on jo suunnitelmia soittoäänistä, joilla saa kuulijan seksikkäämmän näköisesti, kaljun pään kasvamaan taas hiuksia ja tupakoinnin loppumaan.
Mutta täähän voi olla pelkkää urbaania legendaa? Todisteeksi ja kaikkia Suomen rintarajoitteisia ajatellen hankin ko. teoksen. Soittoäänen nimi on muuten “ROCKMELON”. Kaikki te jotka soitatte tätä työpaikan kaiutinjärjestelmässä koko ensi viikon, olkaa ystävällisiä ja ottakaa osaa Tieteen Edistymiseen – muistakaa suorittaa huolelliset mittaukset ennen ja jälkeen. Kiitos.
(Kiitti Janne;)

Terrible beast

A man in his 40s from Saitama Prefecture fell into a coma after being bit on the finger by his pet hamster in February and subsequently died. He is believed to be the first person in Japan to die from a hamster bite.
Apparently, no charges were raised against the hamster. The ever-so-grown-up community of posters on the Japan Today message board suspect the man was trying to mate with the hamster and was bitten in self-defence.

Before the storm

wp2504.gif I wonder if that’s gonna hit us squarely in the eye, finally. So far, Tokyo has been more or less spared. Too bad I had just developed a thought about going for training on Thursday…
But maybe it’s better I spend the time working on the poster I’m supposed to present on Monday at the retreat. So far, I’ve been mostly collecting stupid mistakes in the analysis process. Also, it is one stupid thing that I thought about standardising my experimental protocols (meaning, the amount of current fed into each cell to produce action potentials should depend on the properties of the cell and not of the sun spots) only in July, so that all data from before that needs to be adjusted by hand if it’s usable at all. Go me.
I hope I remember to visit the food store before the typhoon hits. I’d hate living another evening during this year with things emerging from the vending machine downstairs.
— later
As I got tired of constantly fumbling and brain-farting with the analysis, I tried my hand at laboratory work in the evening. Should not have: I have now a full set of poorly, messily stained neurons that are randomly glued on the right and wrong faces of objective glass, with some air bubbles and dust particles trapped in the glue (and most likely just on top of the neurons). Go me.

Back in the Ivory Tower

IMG_1068.jpgJanka wrote some time ago about rediscovering her muse for science after a vacation – well, I guess my muse is still up and running somewhere else. Maybe I’ve rested a bit, at least got rid of the worst lack of sleep, since I now stand in front of impossibly big mountain of work to be done ASAP (much of which using methods and analyses I have no idea how to do them) uninspired but not so tired. During the first 6 hours at work I have even managed to plan 6 new mouse breeding lines and processed several brain slices into A/B conjugation solution. Whee. Go me.
Next Monday most of us are going for a semi-obligatory get-together-retreat in the outskirts of Saitama, where I am supposed to present a poster – so far I have not even looked at most of the data that is supposed to make a point of some kind there. But no worries, I am being told that there is rather nice park around the hotel, as well as a decent onsen. Guess I’ll just skip all training sessions for this week (and the next, since I’ll be retreating…) and try not to think about the next presentation, just 3 weeks later, in Shanghai…
Some science news, for a change: they’ve found out that when watching videos at 50 or 60 Hz, the action potentials in the visual cortices of humans and monkeys are entrained to the same frequency. For some reason, though, we don’t seem to have any problems with seeing things aroung the TV, even though that visual feed does not happen at any particular frequency. Or, maybe that explains why it is so difficult for some people notice anything happening outside the SportsChannel…
Another thing: the journal Nature has opened it’s special free section on US elections, discussing the two candidate’s views and opinions on several science-related issues, including stem cell research and climate change. Also, a blog by the Nature’s US-based reporters concentrating on the presidential race. Have fun. (?)

Oh brother, where are thou

Kuva205.JPGOne good thing about living this damn far away from bloody everything is that even short trips somewhere induce some synaptic changes and one physically feels having been away. Usually I would consider one week abroad a waste of time and would be sitting now thinking “did I really go somewhere?” – but, the 30+ hours of travelling one way do leave some marks. Left the hotel in Zakopane around 21:45 on Wednesday evening and sat on sofa in the apartment in Wako just before midnight on Friday. After sleeping over 12 hours without much stirring, I still remembered I had been somewhere else.
Weird. Even this time, I don’t remember being bored for a moment during the whole time sitting in various moving devices. Actually I skipped some hours of sleep in the plane (I could have slept, was sleepy, but decided not to) since I wanted to have some extra time to read and write things – and did not have time for watching any of the DVDs I had with me. Maybe I should take a boat next time I visit Europe.
Too warm, too sore to even think of walking to Ito Yokado to fetch anything; also, after having eaten for a week like desperate sumo-wannabe (and gained 2 kilos) it would do good to skip eating for a while.
Leaving the groung in Poland I felt a strange sadness. As a child, I did not immensely enjoy travelling to that country – there were so many other places to go and being a spoiled brat who was accustomed to the living standards in Finland, the lack of everything and overall misery was highly uninspiring. Also, there were few kids in my age to hang around with; combined with the fact that going to Poland usually meant spending seemingly weeks on a boring ferry from Helsinki to Gdansk, it should not be surprising that I’d rather have spent my summer holidays making havoc with the kids in our home neighbourhood.
In the early nineties things started to change, and by 1995 I already set out for a holiday trip to Poland all by my own. But I guess it still needed for my sister to move to Warsaw straight after high school for me to realise that indeed I do have roots and family in Poland (many of the relatives from my Mother’s side live nowadays in USA, France, switzerland, Belgium, etc) – during my (admittedly too) few visits to her I met many relatives I had for some reason not since the eighties.
Kuva210.JPGAnd now… with so many facets of the family converging in the Mazancowice for the wedding (even though many did not arrive, which is a great pity, since I don’t see any near-future possibilities for this kind of congregation) I realised one step further that at least part of me IS Polish, and that the vast majority of my family lives in Poland. Especially now when, through the union of two families, I suddenly have a new mother, a new brother, a new sister, and a horde of new cousins and aunts.
During the last day in Warsaw, Poland felt … soft to my mind. Softer and gentler than Finland, even. So, leaving the harvested fields and old houses down below, I looked in front of me and saw things hard, polished, shiny, air-conditioned. Stillness. Sadness for having to leave, as usual. But in a different way than when leaving Finland.
I guess my friends are in Finland, my family in Poland, and my life where my work is.

The N’EX nr 46 to Ikebukuro – 21:50

As expected, Tokyo is air-conditioned, clean and neutral. Also, regardless of what the on-board information system told us, it is hot and humid and I was already sweating heavily by the time the faithful luggage transport agency got the suitcase.
Hong Kong had a nice enough WLAN connection – downloaded most of the blogs I am lagging behind in and read them on plane between watching Kill Bill 2 and Harry Potter. (Reading them it appears to me that I would have had the opportunity to meet with Vera who might have been at Heathrow at the same time as I was idling away there…)
Nice flight, even though I actually failed most steps in my famous Method for Enjoying Trans-Continental Flights and Avoiding Jetlag – 24 hours before start of the journey I was still on my heavy Polish Diet and we spent the last evening before taking the night train to Warsaw sitting in the hotel bar with the Uusisaari-Grzelczaks and going through the cocktail menu. This was continued by having a coffee near the Starowka, the “Old” town of Warsaw (due to the very early hour and pouring rain, no significant sightseeing was performed, but I did manage to buy some Polis CDs and DVDs) and, to lose all hope for getting through the ordeal in good shape – the food on Cathay Pacific seems to becoming more or less eatable, so much that I really enjoyed eating at least half of each meal.
So, I emerged from the Immigration tube (fastest processing ever; the cute girl at customs office only asked politely “do you have any prohibited items with you?” and that was it) rather exhausted, and blessed be JR for providing a Narita Express train to Ikebukuro at this late hour. Changing in Nippori to Yamanote and then again at Ikebukuro just would have been too much for this evening…
Most painful part: legs. Not so much because I did not do my usual step-aerobics workouts in the plane toilet, but more because of the activities of Tuesday: after debating rather long about on which mountain top to climb on, and what kind of equipment would be needed, and should we rather go enjoy the hotel’s sauna/jacuzzi/pool area, we decided to change the plan altogether and knocked on a door in a house near to the hotel. The house had pails of hay in front of it, and yes, the owner confessed, he owns horses and even agreed to lend some for us – one of them just had to be shod before.
So, even though the weather had time to turn from sunny to pouring to windy to sunny before everything was ready, me and sis spent close to two next hours riding on the mountain fields. Only sounds the wind, the bells on the cows and whistles – whistles of bent-back sheep shepherds to their dogs, the big local white shepherd dogs… and the soft thuds of hooves in the grass. The sense of freedom, the dream of open land with no borders and no pressing matters, just us and the horses…
And, even now when my legs still refuse to operate as they should, I wish I had the time/inspiration/will/whatever to ride more often.

Hong Kong gate 62

Friday September 24th – somewhere over Mongolia
Another blatant admiration of aeroplanes and aeroports: at sunset, the tail wings of jumbo jets catch the last rays of sun, and against the darkening sky an unbroken chain of shining stars – the planes lined up for landing. Rising above Europe, bit like on Wednesday when we took an old cable car that rose above the town of Zakopane, the trees and waterfalls and took us on Kasprowy Wierch. Only slightly less than 2 km high, still enough to take your breath away – especially when considering that I had arrived in the country with no coat and only two pairs of sandals with me. Even when equipped with the wool shirts, gloves and caps as well as hiking shoes that we bought from the selection of fine mountain trekking stores, the planned 2-hour walk around the peaks and a possible walk down was quickly downsized to “let’s go to that spot 50 m away, take some photos and hide in the restaurant and drink grzaniec (kind of strong mulled wine)” as the miserable rainy weather down in the town transformed into a snowstorm by the peaks. (I must have looked really professional, by the way, fighting the rain with my tiny red foldable japanese umbrella…) Nevertheless, had more or less enough of the taste of mountains to again start thinking of actually doing some mountain trekking at some stage of my life – the plan to check out Nepal has not yet been realised…
After getting down in the steaming cable car and warming us up with absolutely huge gofry (hot waffles with fruits, cream and cherry sauce) we took advantage of a steaming horse-car; the horse gladly took advantage of the downhill slope and did not complain of heavy cart. I must remember the sound of mountaineers “Wioo!” from childhood since hearing that (when the driver urged the horse forward) mixed with the sound of shoed hooves on hard road made me happier than the mere comfortability of not needing to walk in rain should.
Two observations: the runways are swarming in dragonflies.
And they are already selling Christmas decorations.

From Heathrow, again

Friday September 17th – 09 AM – Mazancowice
First time to sleep over 6 hours since don’t know when. The noises from the kitchen and the bright sunlight tell me it’s morning and no traces of jetlag mar the peace. Lights of Shinjuku on a photograph seem unreal.
We’re definetly in the countryside. The family inhabits a row of houses on a small alley with a magnificient view on the mountains further south; a cow moos somewhere nearby and chicken go about their business. No real need for an internet connection.
The wedding is tomorrow, and I am getting nrevous, perhaps not quite like my sister but close so. I have not had many wedding experiences, and in Finland they usually follow the easy protocol – after a shot ceremony held at at a church or at the civil office, people sign some papers and proceed to the party place, for not so formal dinner and party. Also, I have never before been acted as the witness…
So far, I’ve learned about the protocols up and until leaving for the church. First, the future husband, Slawek, will spend the night and morning before wedding at his grandmother’s place; after helping my sister with the dress (and what kind of dress! straight from Disney’s princess-stories) I and the other witness, Slawek’s friend Kuba, will walk over to the Grandma’s place and fetch the groom – hopefully he won’t resist too much – and walk again back to take my sister from our family. Lot’s of speces and blessings follow, using salt, bread and holy water; I hope that I will not need to know the littanies precicely, but I understand that the correct answer for the question “Which will you choose, bread, salt or the groom?” for the future wife is that she’d have them all; salt and bread so that there would be no lack of them and the man to work for the bread and salt. Or something.
Then, pack the wedding pair into the Rolls Royce and the rest of the family into 5 other cars, make up a car colonny – with me and Kuba the other witness leading the lot to the church. The road will not be long but it might take a long time – the whole village has been informed of a wedding event, and the traditional way for complete strangers to join the party is to form some kind of road blocks through which they will not let the procession before they have receoved some small gifts, to ameliorate their sorrow for having to let their beloved go. Slawek’s cousin from next door, who married a Frenchman last year, said that they had 14 roadblocks and almost were late for the church.
(I can smell coffee, bread and cheese from the kitchen… nothing beats eating home-made food. Better dress up and join lest I miss the breakfast…)
— 10 PM —
Busy day, with gel nail installation (matching with the wedding dress, naturally) and final confessions of sins, shopping (still no new shoes though), relatives visiting from the US and others discussing the flower arrangements. 35 bottles of vodka and several tens of bottles of wine, tequila, gin etc have been carried to the hotel ‘Papuga’ and we all should be walking our shoes in. Lots of hassle with relatives and guests arriving from different corners of the planet and making sure they all will find their way to the church at least.
Countryside air does it’s job: food tastes divine (home-made tomato soup and potatoes… what a treat on a Friday of fasting…) and I’m already so sleepy I could fall asleep if I just let myself to.
(a side note: I’ve been conditioned for the sight of bakeries in Tokyo so that every time I see one in Japan, I just HAVE to go over and check if they happened to have any decent bread. And, if they did, buy a couple of loaves regardless of whether there is some bread at home or not. Obviously this leads quickly to some trouble here where all the bread is good and bakeries are abound…)
September 18th, 8 AM
What a beautiful morning. It’ll all be just right.
September 19th, 2:47 AM
After close to 11 hours of celebration, I am exhausted. Regardless of the dubious glory of leaving the party before one’s parents, I had to give up at 3:30.
There was always enough of Vodka. Haven’t drunk that much of vodka since high school I guess. The staff was still carrying new dishes at 2 AM. The orchestra just keeps on playing and people keep on dancing.
Indeed Polish weddings are of a different kind than what I’ve used to. But, the most important thing, next to which everything else fades: she’s now Mrs. Anna Uusisaari-Grzelczak.
September 20th, Monday, 10 AM
Thank god the party does not continue for the third day – I’m doing fine with vodka (even Slawek’s sister was impressed) but the sight of steaming pots of meat and overloaded trays with beautiful cakes provokes feelings edging in panic. Still, I would not have minded for the various sections of our far-ledged family to have stayed around a bit longer; many people I have not seen in 10 years or longer, others that are part of my family since Saturday that I have not had the chance to get to know in the first place, and yet others, like my brother, who I just miss already now that he’s back on his way to the pristine Finnish forests and army.
An event so brautiful and grand, that one prepares for and dreams about for most of the life (at least the ‘normal’ girls are ‘supposed’ to do so?) and then it’s over in a few hours (as in those Finnish weddings I’ve attended to) or few days as in here. In such a short time, even though on the surface everything seems to continue just the same, everything changes and will never be the same again.
Maybe it is the setting, the Catholic Poland where religion is deeply rooted in everyday life, but joking about “the first time being always the most difficult one” sounds really sacriledgeous.
The list of customs that surprised me is long, beginning from various blessings and kissing the cross, through throwing champangne-glasses for luck and veils and bowties instead of flowers and stocking-holders (whatever that sukkanauha is called) to different traditional dances. Yes, oh boy did they dance through all the night! I had to literally drag my cool brother to the floor for the dance, but got my share of the other boys with dance-enabled modes so that I was really happy for wearing the japanese health sandals instead of any fancy creations (even though fancy creations would have better fitted my hair; I went to the famous local hair creationist in the morning and got something that resembled a japanese ikebana arrangement, even though I never found out what the object and subject of the arrangement were…)
September 20th, 5:30 PM, on road from Mazancowice to Zakopane
On Sunday morning, we started with a buffet breakfast at the hotel and ate ourselves rather full. Then, drove back to Mazancowice – the husband’s home – had a few sandwiches, coffee and cookies and fruits in the garden while preparing for the lunch, which was naturally awesome, continued smoothly over a set of coffee and cakes and transformed into a dinner – which stretched into very late night drinking and eating. After a short night break, we continued with delicious home breakfast – the bread and cheese here are just heavenly – took a break with some more tea and cakes, eating up what was left from the wedding party – and just when I was about to swear I would not eat anything more ever, I heard that the lunch was being served. Before leaving with the Uusisaari-Grzelcaks, we packed up a box of cookies (decided not to prepare any sandwiches for the road) and drove for almost 2 minutes to visit the neighboring musical friends that just happened to be the same ones that play each summer at Linnanmäki. Their company as well as the selection of cakes, cognac, sake and coffee was also very enjoyable – but unfortunately we just had to leave soon to be in Zakopane before nightfall.
I am not sure if I have ever eaten this much. Sending warm thoughts to my liver doing overworking hours. But hey, weddings are supposed to be like that, no?

September 14th, 22:45, Hong Kong airport
Lights in darkness… approaching Hong Kong from the blackest sea, gradually lights started to show up: stars above and boats below. Taiwan was an island of light and mist. Wondered which ones are further away from me: the stars or the human lives and homes below.
(HK airport seems to have failed me; can’t find WLAN connection at the gate.)
September 15th 8:20 Heathrow
It was already dark when the plane left ground at Narita; flying through eternal darkness, towards west, away from the warmth of sun. Until, finally, endlessly circling above the Thames, the clouds in the horizon started to light up… then the underside of the beautiful great wing caught the fire of the sun, and the light shined through the gaps between the flaps, and we were not anymore sailing on waves of air but on a foam of golden light.
I just LOVE flying.
After admiring the incredibly, impossibly high skyscrapers of Hong Kong and Taipei and other wonders of the far east, and lounged in the ultra-modern airports of Narita and HK, Britain – and Europe – looks … medieval as seen from the air. In a positive sense. Completly different, in the same way as the Far East is completly alien to most Old World habitants even though the surface might seem ‘western’.
And, people are BIG here. And noisy.There are signs posted on the wallls that specifically prohibit rude behavour the airport staff. People must really be told that?