It’s been a bit crazy this week on the work front. Part of it is my own fault for forgetting that I was supposed to give a talk in the Ultra-High Pressure Group Meeting on Monday; a fact of which I was reminded at about 1 am Monday morning as I was on my way to bed. Awesome.

So I spent the first couple of hours at work on Monday preparing for the talk I was to give in the afternoon. Luckily, since I had just given the lecture to the 3rd year undergrads this past Thursday, I was able to recycle a lot of the basic information and just add in some more specific details.

Let’s hear it for Copy/Paste!

I spent most of Monday afternoon before the meeting preparing for the experiment that I am running today (actually as I write this) in the 3000-ton press on the first floor. For synthesis experiments like this, I most commonly use the 2000-ton and 3000-ton presses here in the GRC. For those of you who have never seen such equipment before, here are some pictures.

Orange-2000.
Haruka with ORANGE-2000.

Orange-3000.
Me with ORANGE-3000.

To put two things to rest right away… First, yes, these pictures are a few months old, from back before I started shaving my head. Second, although it may not seem it from these photos, the 3000-ton press is actually significantly larger than the 2000-ton press. As proof, here is a picture for scale:

M and H.
Me with Haruka.

As you can see, I am significantly larger than Yano-san. Significantly. Like, a factor of 2-point-something.

Anyhow, I had originally intended to do this experiment last Friday, but the last experiment I did ended up rupturing several anvils, and the new batch had not arrived yet. I had to postpone the experiment to the next available day on the schedule, which was today. Thankfully, the anvils arrived late Friday afternoon (just barely too late to do the experiment; grrr…) and I was able to run today.

After the group meeting got out, just before 6 pm on Monday, I was asked whether or not I had submitted my research grant proposal. I said that I hadn’t, as the deadline is this coming Friday. I was then informed that the deadline for non-Japanese proposals that are to be submitted in English was last Friday. Needless to say, I was taken aback by this, as I had no idea. I was told that this information had been emailed to me, and I went to check, and sure enough it had.

In Japanese.

I will repeat that. The administrative office sent an email saying that non-Japanese speakers who were submitting English proposals had an earlier deadline, and they sent this email to the non-Japanese-speaking GRC folk in Japanese.

Hence my confusion.

Anyway, it turns out it is not a big deal, as it is only a soft internal deadline, which is a week before the hard internal deadline, which is three weeks before the actual JSPS deadline. (JSPS is the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and acts kind of like the National Science Foundation in the U.S.) Another excellent example of the multi-layered bureaucratic structure here.

I finished preparing the proposal about 2am Tuesday morning, and finished revising and polishing it on Tuesday. In addition to working on the proposal, I also finished preparing for today’s experiment, which was another few hours of lab work.

I also had my first Daddy/Husband panic attack on Tuesday afternoon. Sara was supposed to go to City Hall to pick up some paperwork so she could finish filing the last of the necessary forms for her and Emi’s Visas at the immigration office that afternoon. What should have been a 1 hour excursion turned into four hours without any sign of her. Several phone calls went unanswered, and I began trying to figure out how the hell to report two missing people to the local police in a language I can’t speak.

Luckily, she finally arrived here about 5 minutes before the aneurysm actually burst, and my mind was put at ease. I finished the lab work at about 7 pm, and Sara stuck around here so we could walk home together. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home to pick up some snacky foods and ketchup, the latter of which I had ruthlessly devoured the last of that morning.

Emi was really good the whole time, and it was time to eat when we got home. She got a tad fussy for a while, and now you know the reason for the Stewie Griffin video I posted.

So, today I got a bit of a later start than I had intended, and came in here to start the experiment. It was a bit different than usual because the computer that monitors the pressure and controls the heating in the press died yesterday. It was replaced, but the programs and such work a bit differently than what I am used to. Haruka helped me get the press cleaned and ready, and after a brief explanation about the new computer from Shinmei-san, it was time to begin compressing.

Which is a five hour process, by the way.

So, during this five hours, I worked with the Research Administrator for the GRC, Yamada-san, on translating the title of my research proposal and submitting the preliminary proposal to the JSPS website. We ended up taking care of a lot of things today; see if you can follow this trail with me.

1) I write the proposal in English. No problem.
2) The descriptive title must be translated into Japanese for the submission process, and can be no more than 40 characters. Yamada-san took care of this. I don’t know what I would do without him.
3) Submit the proposal to the JSPS web system. Which is written entirely in Japanese. Again, thanks go to Yamada-san.
4) Receive PDF file of proposal with new cover sheet.
5) Print this PDF file.
6) Take hard copy of PDF file across campus to the research office at the University for them to look over and check for formatting errors or other logistical problems.
7) Receive either corrections or the green light from the research office. (Rinse and repeat Steps 6-7 as needed.)
8) Submit final version of grant proposal to JSPS web system.
9) Wait 5 months to find out whether or not the proposal is funded.

Today, we got through steps 1-6. Hopefully things will be in order and I can finalize all of this tomorrow.

The huge amount of bureaucratic machinations aren’t the most difficult part of the proposal process, however. We are not given a character limit or anything, but we ARE given a very limited amount of space and a minimum font size. This is universal, whether written in Japanese or English. Since I am writing in English, I don’t have the luxury of using Kanji characters, which significantly reduce the amount of space taken up by Japanese writing. This means I am limited to saying about half of what the typical Japanese proposal has room to say, which makes it harder to fully develop and give enough details, and that can be frustrating.

On a good note, though, I received the final electronic version of my latest paper, which has just gone live in the Journal of Earth Science. For those of you who are interested, it can be found by CLICKING HERE. Good times.

And that leads us to now, where I am about 3 hours into the 4 hour heating cycle. Unfortunately, the thermocouple broke during compression, and I can’t seem to find the reason why. I hesitate to call shenanigans, but I will keep an eye out for signs when I take it out tomorrow. So, one more hour until I can quench the sample and set it to decompress overnight. The press is booked by a student tomorrow, so I need to make sure to vacate the space for her as early as possible.

Now that I’ve bored pretty much all of you to tears, I suppose I’ll call it a day in Blogsville and head back downstairs to check on my little alchemical concoction. Thanks for stopping by, people, and until next time, I bid you all a Metal farewell.

-Matt