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Early July, late post

Posted on 2007.07.14 at 14:03
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I have some questions I have to answer about my experiences in Japan. Next week is the mid-program weekend excursion to Kyoto, during which time we’ll do absolutely no science, and during which time I’ll be hanging out again with other Americans. Although I am curious to explore another part of Japan, I am not excited to leave the wonderfull people and interesting schedule that I have grown accustomed to here in Tokyo. Right, so, on to the questions, one by one:

1. What has been your biggest personal accomplishment to this point? It can be something major (i.e. climbing Fuji!) or something small (i.e. successfully ordering a meal in Japanese on your own at a local restaurant.)
My biggest personal accomplishment will have to be drawn forth later, after agonizing deliberation, from a list of four things that immediately come to mind. I hit a double in softball and almost got someone home, which was a big deal for me, since I suck at softball and tend to drag the team down; I made a whole batch of good Si samples in lab, which even Shiren says are fine and will make good bases for our subsequent experiments; I made Yoko laugh so hard that she almost fell over; I gave a satisfactory mid project presentation to Kono-sensei during his recent visit to Tokyo, despite general lack of sleep and incessant failure of recent experiments to produce usable results.

2. What has been your biggest personal challenge to this point?
My biggest personal challenge has been remaining awake and attentive during our Monday and Tuesday morning graduate student presentations. The science is beyond me to the point where even basic definitions of the terms being tossed around are unknown, and I have to really kick myself to approach speakers afterward and ask questions. A lot of times I feel like, “These projects aren’t even related to mine, and no one is going to care if I didn’t follow what was said, and I’m tired and learning plenty enough as it is, so what’s the point?”. This is not admirable, and so I struggle to act in ways different from how I feel and to change how I feel in this regard. Sorry!

3. How are you progressing with your research, especially with regards to your anticipated timeline? Are there any issues with your research about which we need to be aware?
My research is shifting more and more from the original project (silicon stair-step quantum computers with isotopic transistors) to another team’s project (metal-oxide semiconductor field effect transistors), for which I am studying boron diffusion in silicon. There seems to be no problem for anyone with this shift, and the projects are related enough that RQI drafts aren’t totally wrong.

4. How are you progressing with your Japanese language studies? How would you rate your proficiency at this point?
I can hold really silly basic conversations with people. Comparing my progress here with my progress in China, I would give myself much lower marks for acquisition of new words and grammar structures, but I would give myself (surprisingly) higher marks for listening comprehension. I think that this may be because I am working in an environment in which Japanese is the primary language, so I am personally affected by how much I understand. I also think that Japanese is easier to understand than Chinese. I wish I was learning more, but I’m here for only a short time, and the days are packed as it is.

5. Are there any other issues that you would like to discuss during the mid-term meeting that are related to the success of the rest of your summer in Japan?
I want to learn how to make two important purchases: an international cellphone and a kanji dictionary. I have learned that IP card cellphones work in any country in the world, that they often have much better rates than pre-paid card phones, and that they are the top choice for people who travel frequently. I have also learned that electronic dictionaries exist that not only allow users to draw kanji and obtain a bilingual definition, but that these dictionaries contain kanji learning games! There are even models that are trilingual: English, Japanese, and Chinese. I want to make these two purchases before I leave Japan, and I am having trouble learning where and how. Any help would be much appreciated.

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