17 September 2007

Man, I'm super busy.

Well, the title pretty much sums it up. However, I am going to endeavor to maintain this thing, so be on the look out, all five (probably less) of you who read this.

25 August 2007

Little things.

I think I've decided to leave the blog commenting options controls in German, somewhat in homage to LeAnn's voicemail machine.

Inconsiderate people really suck. On an unrelated note, has anyone seen four JSD T-Shirts at Pitzer? Two black ones, a green one, and a red one. Not that anyone from Pitzer reads this. Not that anyone reads this.

I've decided to rewrite the rules for Gorkamorka. Normally I'm a purist when it comes to rules, but since Gorkamorka is no longer supported by Games-Workshop and has no Living Rulebook of its own, I figure I may as well. It probably also the most flawed rules which would make it harder to get other people to play, which I hope to rectify.

I've been playing Medieval II Total War again, and this time as the French. And I don't know, but I think I've been in a war with Germany/Holy Roman Empire for just about the entire game now (at least 100 years).

15 August 2007

That whole Chinese Toy thing...

If you've been watching the news recently, you should know that in addition to the coming apocalypse (seen through the weird and horrible weather) that China sucks big fat monkey balls when it comes to product safety. There's the food, local construction, and toys. TOYS. Lead paint and small magnets. That sucks.

I've got a solution. How about instead of buying your kids toys that are going to break (they were made in China, after all), get them something like... I don't know, LEGOS. It's pretty hard to break LEGOS, and they come in the big sizes so kiddies can't swallow them. A book's a nice idea too, but I know that'll never fly. Or, how about a computer or some-such. It's good training, and computer games are so damn cool. Plus, if the kid's swallowing computer stuff, well, maybe you should think about getting some new fucking kids.

07 August 2007


So I was writing my abstract for submission to JSD, and I ran the spell-check. Not surprisingly, "hexakis" is not in Microsoft Office's dictionary. However, the first suggestion was...


I should note that if you're snickering, it's because you are a product of recent "culture." I should note that I've never really encountered this word in actual usage... though, I do remember it. Maybe it was in the Boy Scouts or some old children's book or something?

06 August 2007

Oh, I've been made.

So at the Mensa (that's the cafeteria), there are student prices and non-student prices (the student prices are about 75% of the non-student prices). Except for the last two weeks, I have been able to get away with the student prices for all of my visits to the Mensa. Lucky me.

However, for some reason, the cashier person started finally asking for my ID, which I obviously don't have. She now knows me by face, so I can't sneak past anymore. Worse, I think the other casher persons are also wising up. Sigh. I suppose I could find something else to eat. I guess I don't have CIA training afterall if I got made so easily.

In a slightly related topic, this is what I want to eat when I go home and before I return to school:

- Cicero's Pizza
- In-N-Out
- Prime Rib at Garden City
- Japanese food

What I want when I return to school:

- Indian food
- Peruvian food
- More Japanese food

This is what I will miss from Germany:

- The bread, meat, and cheese
- Döner kebab

Things that were interesting but I suppose I could do without:

- McBeer at McDonalds

And does anyone want me to bring anything back? I obviously can't bring back things like meat and stuff, but I can bring back beer...

02 August 2007

Well, being in front of a computer tends to do that.

I guess the nature of work involving lots of computations is that there's a fair amount of downtime. I'm waiting for some calculations, and shit -- I'm already in front of a computer, so I might as well blog.

In a related note, I was granted use of their computer cluster which has some 16 or so nodes with a variety of processors (I saw AMD64 a lot in the node list). It's kind of neat to fight for spots in the cluster. Maybe they should just buy a bunch of Xboxes?

And because I'm in front of a computer so much, I've taken to perusing through some sites that I haven't checked in awhile, including Games-Workshop stuff...

I've decided that I really want to get back into some GW mini-gaming, particularly any of their Skirmish offerings:

In case you're wondering, a Skirmish game deviates from GW's normal offerings in that you're not dealing with managing an entire company sized detachment/issuing commands to squads. Instead, you're down to the individual soldier level, and this affords a bit of personality to each and every man/woman/creature you control. Furthermore, each game tends to have a bit of character to it, which is always nice. This also has the advantage of only having to buy a small amount of models instead of a massive army, and you can lavish more detail and attention to each model.

Think Final Fantasy Tactics and you should get an idea for what these games are like.

1. Necromunda: Definitely Warhammer 40K (WH40K) themed -- it takes place in that time period. It's mainly human-on-human conflict in the form of gangs. It's got the same great dark and dystopian feel that characterizes the 40K world. Players control gangs numbering around 7-12 models. There's a bit of strategy involved in choosing House affiliation, armaments, gang members, etc. Different gangs then go at it in a long campaign style game, with periods inbetween action to manage and modify their gangs. The rules and related material can all be found here.

2. Gorkamorka: No longer supported in any way, but I still have the rules (Gorkamorka will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first mini-game that I played) and getting models is easy. In fact, the WH40K Ork line is one and the same, or in many cases easily convertable. The premise is the same as Necromunda, but the game has a more distinct and wackier feel to it, which is consistent with the weird wacky-goofy-brutal Ork character. There's also vehicle combat. Imagine gangs of Orks going at it in a Mad Max sort of world. You can be either cunningly brutal or brutally cunning.

3. Mordheim: Set in the Warhammer Fantasy Battle timeline (sort of) in the eponymous (ruined) city of Mordheim. Players again manage bands intent on scouring the ruins of the city and fighting for territory. You can be either human, ratmen-like Skaven, Elven, Dwarven, Orcish, or even Undead... just to name a few. It's got, like Necromunda, a darker and more serious feel to it as well as a horror/Halloween sort of theme going on. The rules are here.

If anyone else wants to play when I get back State-side, just tell me. I'll front the communal costs, but would-be players need to buy their own miniatures... though I'm sure we can work something out. I'm not even sure why I'm bringing this up at all because I know I'm not going to have any time once I get back to school, but hey, you can always hope, right? And I can't get in trouble for owning small models of guns and swords that are smaller than my index finger. Well, I hope so. I mean, heck, some people think I'm Korean.

In other news, I've got two weeks until I get on a plane to get back home, though through that hassle of Heathrow.

01 August 2007

The differences between Computational Chemistry and Laboratory Chemistry

So, for this week, I've been spending the majority of my time on another floor of the chemistry building here at the universität, partly because I want to learn about as much chemistry as I can and partly because everyone is going crazy over preparations for the ACS meeting in Boston.

On this floor is the group of Prof. Holthausen, who does mainly computational chemistry. It should be noted that computational chemistry is different than theoretical chemistry with computation -- it would appear that the latter is mainly concerned with developing tools for chemistry but not the actual application of those tools/development of methodology of those tools for chemical applications. As such, these folks actually know something about the chemical reactions I encounter in lab.

I've mainly been brushing up on my Linux commands and learning to use programs like Gaussian and such. It's pretty neat.

Here are the main differences between doing the "soft-work" and the "wet-work":
1. They have substantially better coffee down here, I think. I can't really taste the difference, but it smells different and their machine seems to have some degree of robotic implementation in it.
2. Their chairs are also substantially better. This makes sense, and is probably a consequence of the amount of time they spend sitting. It's like a nice break in here.
3. The degree of weirdness seems to increase, which seems to follow the rather normal correllation of weirdness to proximity of computers. It should be noted that this correllation does not follow for proximity to chemistry, unlike in the states. Most of the people I know who do real science tend to be a little weird, with the possible exception of biologists. Yet, everyone here in AK Wagner is not -- in fact, I know they have real lives outside of lab. They just happen to be tired all the time.


29 Juli 2007


Man, I'm really gonna miss döner when I come back state-side.

25 Juli 2007

A Day in My Life in the Fatherland

For the weekdays:

~6:30 - I wake up at around 6:30, which is to say I really hit my snooze button and really get up around 7:00. Following this are the usual morning rituals -- a shower and maybe a light breakfast, all before 7:45, when I have to be ready to go to lab.

8:00-8:30 - Get my apparatus ready to go (attach cold traps, check for leaks, etc.) and unload the base bath. If nothing is pressing, I take my first coffee "break" of the day, which everyone does. This is essentially the stitch-and-bitch session. I kind of wish I knew more than the scant German I know now, but not really.

8:30-11:00 - Lab work. Start reactions, observe reactions from overnight, sample reactions, etc.

11:00-12:00 - Lunch, usually at the mensa (cafeteria). The food's not too bad.

12:00-12:30 - Coffee break number 2. I can't get to work even if I want to, because everyone else is still on their coffee break/gossip session zwei.

12:30-17:00 - Normal working hours. Most people leave after this. Note: on Fridays, all of the male chemists stop, grab a beer and some popcorn, and play Worms.

17:00-18:00 - "Special" working hours, followed by the take-down rituals for my apparatus, and the loading of base bath and oven.

18:30-19:00 - Return home... or something.

It's a long day, but not as long as others. The more hardcore organic synthesis labs might be in lab longer, or on the weekends, which our Prof. doesn't encourage.

16 Juli 2007

Quick Observation.

Ever learn to read moods? Anyone who's been around animals for a long time should know this pretty well. People are similar, but in many ways more complicated. So, that being said, I was watching a CNN special on this animal caretaker who is remarkably empathic and in tune with animals, notably lions. He described this best as simply knowing the animal's mood -- somedays you just know not to pet them or get close to them, otherwise you're gonna lose a hand.

Think about it.


Last weekend, Mariam, Lena and myself went to Heidelberg for a four day paid vacation to Heidelberg. Heidelberg is said to be the Germany that non-Germans think of when they think of Germany... so it's quite touristy. This was quite evident in the large concentration of Americans wandering about. This historically may very well have to do with the fact that the US Army maintains IMCOM (Installation Management COMmand) in Heidelberg, so there are a lot of Americans about all the time anyway.

I'll write about this more later as I currently have to prepare a progress report on my work thus far. I know I always say I'll write later, but it's hard to snatch away computer time from lab. Here's the quick overview:

1. We met basically all of the RISE scholarship holders for this year, which was quite exciting.
2. The RISE scholars were invited to tour some local (depending on how you define local) companies including BASF (where my group went). BASF has a pretty nifty steamcracker.
3. On the way back to Frankfurt, some of us travelled to Mainz then Bingen via train, then to Koblenz via the Rhine. It was pretty nice.

06 Juli 2007

Just a quick little thing.

Brother printers suck. They're just terrible. My family has owned one and it never gave consistent or reliable service. There's one at CAPAS and it's quite terrible (though, the computers and software systems are suspect). There's one here, and it's also quite terrible.

That's three for three. You suck, Brother.

28 Juni 2007

The Old Country.

Something about a week ago, Hannes came in with something he'd made. It was a metal jar, probably fashioned out of an old coffee can, but with a topside slot for inserting money. You know, like a piggy bank or something. Why, in fact, there was even an image of Snoopy on the side:

Seems ordinary, doesn't it?

Well, not if you spin it around. The rest of the jar:

In case you can't see the writing, due to the lighting in the picture or the gamma of your monitor, it says: "womanish behavior cash." A little backstory: Prof. Wagner and his good friend and colleague, Prof. Holthausen, have this floating cash sum that gets deposited into whenever one of them engages in womanly behavior. This could be for saying something in a particular manner, dressing properly, eating with a knife and fork -- who knows. This jar is simply that tradition or pact taken physical form, and it has become of something of an workgroup joke. When I was asked by Prof. Wagner if the wording on the side was proper, I replied that it was, but would be considered politically incorrect. He replied that therein lies one of the advantages of being in Germany, for "in the old country, you can be politically incorrect." This sentiment is not unique to Prof. Wagner either.

Now, on to why this pertains to me:

1. The pump for my Schlenk apparatus is, in fact, small. Cute, even.
2. My chemistry is quite colorful:

-A white, substituted imidazole deprotonates to form the blue potassium (should I say "kaliates?") salt. The filtrate is also quite blue, but becomes quite pink after awhile.

-Dissolution of this salt in DMF yields a magenta solution that forms similarly colored crystals.

-A colorless diborate liquid combined with the white imidazole and potassium salt forms a reaction mixture that is reminiscent of taro. Sample this with DMF and you get grape juice. Reflux the taro to get pepto-bismol, which the solid product also looks like. This solvated in DMF turns quite rose.

Those annoying color tags should speak for themselves.

This sort of jar would never work in my more politically "correct" home. Not that I would want such a jar in our workgroup, but hypothetically this would especially never work at JSD given how many of the other students and professors are women. I don't think I need to mention Scripps College. I do intend to graduate in one piece, and I don't think that diplomas are awarded posthumously.

Please don't kill me.

20 Juni 2007


I'll post more later, but I'm just really exhausted right now. On the upside, we (Kerstin, Thorsten, and myself) are going to Hiedelberg for a catalysis conference. Originally, more people were going to go, but there was something of a snafu. I'm not sure of all the details, but... oh well.


15 Juni 2007

Oh, the Metric System.

For those of my less worldy American readers (of which most are the latter, and hopefully not the former), everywhere else in the world uses the metric system. We, however, still hold to our old and somewhat arbitrary and strange Imperial/English system of units and measures. As such, our body weights are in pounds (which is an actual unit of weight, as opposed to mass) and our heights are in inches and feet (or just inches). This is opposed to body mass in kilograms and height in centimeters.

The list goes on: volumes (for beverages or gas tanks), temperatures, distances...

All of this, you should already know and if I haven't yet bored you, please read on for the more interesting information.

Everyone in lab assumes that I work universally with the English system, including in lab and so (at first) made an effort to explain everything to me in such units. This includes volumes of solvents and liquids reagents (though they like to use the word 'educt'), masses of such items, and temperatures. All of this as though we don't use the metric system in lab in the States, which all of you Americans should know is insane. I don't think I've seen a paper written within the last century that used non-metric units.

All the same, it's very nice of my colleagues to make the effort and it's much appreciated, if somewhat humorous.

As a quick aside, a liter of gasoline here costs about the same as a gallon at home and there are approximately 3.8 liters per US gallon. Think about it.

14 Juni 2007

Such a weird day.

Well, I don't even know where to begin.

In the early afternoon, let's just say that I got an interesting chance to interact with some of my lab colleagues while we were setting up (of all things) a volleyball net. I'm not going to say any more than that, because you know what they say about opinions -- everyone's got them (you can fill in the parts I didn't finish).

Then, on the way back, I kind of jinxed the day because I pointed out a weird sign on the perimeter of campus. Sebastian informed me that the sign signifies the meeting point for fire drills... and real fires. I laughed because I thought the sign looked funny, it almost looked like it was promoting family cohesion or picnics on lawns or something. You can decide later when I get a picture of it. Anyway, Sebastian was deadly serious when he described the sign to me.

A few hours later, I'm in the computer lab processing NMR data (I hate data collection and analysis techniques -- seriously, they have some of the worst interfaces for any type of software) and I hear a weird noise. It sounds like a car alarm. It is, in fact, a fire alarm, but I didn't know it at the time. The janitor is in the room with me, and he scrambles out. I take the hint and poke my head out into the hallway. The door to next room over (a lab) opens, and there's a bright orange flash with a color and feel that only a fire, specfically, a quickly combusting fire, can make. Anyone who's been to a Benihana (I'm ashamed to have to reference it) or a place where there are large gouts of flame on a regular basis can relate. Then there's a smell of burning. People are in motion now, and there are fire extinguishers and such. I make my way along with everyone else outside and the whole building is evacuated.

Talk about jinxing the whole thing by noticing that stupid sign.

Names have obviously been omitted because you know how rumors and gossip spread. I'm not saying anything because I know only periphery details, and I'm not going to say anything more.

In fact, this whole post could have very well been fiction.

In other news, we have a party tomorrow!

13 Juni 2007


...Okay, technically it was yesterday.

...Okay, technically there wasn't snow.

But the power was out (sucks for anyone who had a pump running... say, like someone with a glove box) so we couldn't really do anything for awhile, so it was sort of like a snow day. Basically, there were two different modes that people occupied: standing around and drinking coffee, or sitting around... and drinking coffee. It was great:

While we were waiting for the power to come on, one of the group members, Ph. D. student Hannes Vitze, asked me for advice on wording for his presentation (to occur later that day). The working language is indeed English as English is quickly becoming (if not already) the standard language of chemists worldwide. He wanted to describe future work with his silanes (which are silicon compounds somewhat analogous to carbon alkanes), specifically to add sterically demanding substituents. His original word choice was "explode" which I explained was perhaps not the best word due to the other connotations of the word. Thus, he suggested "pimp" as in to "pimp up" his compound. David, standing behind us, then did a rendition of the show with the appropriate analogous statements substituted in. Imagine a world where Xzibit went around and helped chemists to pimp out their compounds. A strange world indeed.

Hannes kept the descriptor.

So here's a little explanation of scorpionates, though I have yet to work with any specifically, and in fact, I might be working with metalloborotranes instead. But, they have a neat sounding name as well as chemistry and application, so I'll proceed.

Scorpionates were invented by Swiatoslav Trofimenko ("Jerry" to his friends) in the mid 60's while he was working at DuPont. The more systematic name would be polypyrazolylborates, meaning that they consist of N-bonded pyrazoles to the tetracoordinated boron center, yielding an anionic species. The pyrazoles form the coordinating sites to a metal, and in fact, are the reason for the name of the class of compound: two of the pyrazoles (called pseudo-equatorial) latch on to a metal, forming the two pincer-claws of a scorpion (here, "pincer" describes the individual claw, not the manner in which the scorpionate binds to a metal). The remaining pyrazole (the pseudo-axial one) forms the stinging tail. Where all three coordinating moieties are the same yields a homoscorpionate, and where the tail moiety is different yields a heteroscorpionate.

Their other properties, in summary (and compared to the ubiquitous Cp or cyclopentadienyl ligand):
1. Are nominally tridentate, six electron donating ligands that attach in a facile manner (as opposed to meridional, like a pincer ligand).
2. Generally have C3v symmetry, as opposed to C5v symmetry (I have to look that up, I forgot the symmetry designators).
3. And more, but I have to run off to the break room because one of our group members is celebrating!

Speaking of chemistry, just the other day, I was working with d7-DMF (deuterated dimethylformamide) and just to give you an idea of how nervous I was, a 10 g ampule of the stuff costs about 170 € or about $ 226. So imagine now that I was told to take the whole ampule along with the rest of our stocks and cold distill it. I know that other isotope enriched solvents cost even more, but hey, I'm still kind of new.

I also got a haircut today at the mall (specifically NordWestZentrum). I was told by Kai to go into this one particular shop (whose name I now forget) and simply say "wash, cut, and go," but it turns out that's also their slogan. Anyway, I think I might have to do a little trimming on the back, lest it turn into a mullet. I'll be sure to put up pictures before, during, and after this process.

11 Juni 2007

My First Post.

I'm hoping that everything looks alright for Blogspot accessed over here in Germany appears (coincidentally) in German.

Anyway, as a general overview, this blog is to keep a general log of my thoughts and semi-daily events while on exchange to Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

I am a RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) scholarship holder from the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst) studying chemistry at the Wolfgang Goethe Universität of Frankfurt am Main. I am assisting Ph.D. (or Promotion, as they call it) student Kerstin Kunz in her research for AK Wagner (the work group/circle or 'arbeit kreis' of Dr. Matthias Wagner).

So far I've really only just familiarized myself with basic air and water free laboratory techniques (Schlenk techniques). I had a basic handle of their operations before, but not quite to the level of caution and sophistication that is used in Kerstin's lab. I've run a basic reaction while learning to, I imagine, get working experience with Schlenk technique while doing something useful.

Germany (well, just Frankfurt am Main) is pretty neat. It's also not altogether that different from the States, but as you well know, I don't get out often back home and that hasn't changed much here. I'll give myself some time to get familiarized before venturing out. Note that there are indeed two Frankfurts, one for the river Main (am Main), and the other for the river Oder (an der Oder).

I'm working on getting some pictures up soon, but I have to find a hosting service. Is Photobucket a free service? I'll look into that later.

Lastly, the time difference, for general reference, is nine hours -- California PST is GMT -8, and Frankfurt is GMT +1. Perhaps I could use Zulu time for all things, but that would be both expected of me and perhaps confusing for everyone else.