Just about two weeks ago I left for a trip to Japan. I was invited to give a lecture at a workshop titled "Neuronal oscillations in multi-scale brain networks" at the 2010 International Congress of Clinical Neurophysiology. My presentation was related to my recent paper in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, "Shifts in gamma phase-amplitude coupling frequency from theta to alpha over posterior cortex during visual tasks".
Our hostess was Dr. Noriko Tsuru; she was amazingly generous and a very interesting researcher. I couldn't have been more pleased to meet her. And she was kind enough to introduce me to Japan's Science Minister, with whom I got to share a bit of sake! I also got to meet Dr. Ryuta Kawashima (of Brain Age fame) very briefly!
The trip was amazing and I got to meet some brilliant people. Japan was beautiful, the food was excellent, and overall it was an interesting personal and cultural experience. I would love to go back for a more personal vacation some day. We saw and did so much, that I really can't capture it all here. Though, I do have time for one quick historical anecdote that I loved. We visited a castle that was a major stronghold during the Edo period. Some rival clans came to siege the castle and were completely stopped by the huge moat surrounding the compound. Instead of giving up, the attacking general spent several months re-routing the local river, flooded the moat, and proceeded to sail in ships to bombard the castle walls. Friggin' AWESOME.
My wife and I also visited a super interesting place in Osaka. It was a 9-story entertainment... place. It had three stories of bowling, two for gambling, two for video games, a bar, darts, billiards, karaoke... everything. Check it out:
This week I also applied for a few faculty positions at UCLA and Stanford. This has been an exciting process, because I'm doing it much earlier than I was initially expecting (considering I'm only a few months into my post-doc). But I've had a pretty good publishing run, and several faculty members have suggested I give it a shot. The worst-case scenario is that I continue doing my post-doc as planned, with my excellent mentor(s).
By the way, I think I should get extra "definitely prepared for academia" points for putting the final touches on my application essays while riding the ferry across Osaka Bay from Kobe (the site of the conference) to Kansai Airport...
Now, instead of flying directly home from Japan, as any sane man should have done, I stopped instead in Seattle for a long weekend of presenting both real and fake science! Hooray!
As a member of the advisory board for the Zombie Research Society, and one of the world's experts on the zombie brain, I was asked to attend the first annual zomBcon!
Here, along with my colleague Tim, I gave a presentation on the anatomy of the zombie brain. The presentation went over very well, and people really seemed interested in the actual science! One guy even told us that he was planning on going back to school to get his bachelors in psychology after hearing us talk. That's really, honestly, the best kind of reaction I can hope for from these kinds of outreach efforts.
Coincident with zomBcon was the release of National Geographic's TV show "The Truth Behind Zombies" starring yours truly, and other board members of the ZRS. I haven't even seen it yet, but I hear it's not too bad.
One of the most exciting parts of zomBcon was when I found myself suddenly moderating an hour-long interview with the legend, George Romero, director of the original, 1968, Night of the Living Dead. We sat up on a stage in front of a few hundred zombie enthusiasts shooting the shit about zombies, psychology, neuroscience, and sociology, as well as his personal history and interest in film.
To round it out, Romero is also now an official member of the ZRS advisory board! So chances are, we'll get to hang out again.
Another zomBcon highlight was the fact that I got to sit in on a 5-person panel with Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk! We talked about zombie infection, and why we think zombies are so culturally fascinating and hot right now. We got to talk about memetics, neuroscience, film, etc. Apparently he's also writing a piece for Rolling Stone about zomBcon. Can't wait to read it.
(That's Palahniuk on the far right)
Finally, I gave a scientific talk at the University of Washington Monday about my latest research. Attending the talk was a neurosurgeon who is the decendent of legendary psychologist and neuroscientist Donald Hebb. And I got to have a nice, private dinner hosted at my friend Kai's place with one of the Ojemann family, and son of neurosurgeon George Ojemann (who trained with Wilder Penfield). The guys have some crazy neuroscientific lineages!
Like I said, hell of a few weeks! And even better, I've got some big news coming in the next few days!