Monday, May 29, 2006

Cringe love

Last night, as I was driving back from dinner, Nancy Updike was talking on "This American Life" on the radio about this particular category of love affairs, "Cringe love". Now I usually pick the loud, slapstick buffoonery of the Magliozzi brothers, Tom and Ray any day over heartache stories, but "This American Life" often makes very insightful commentary about lifestyle and culture in America and I catch it whenever it's on.

So cringe love describes that category of relationships that one comes out of thinking "I can't believe I was with that guy". She exemplified by interviewing people who had invested time and effort in relationships all the while trying to ignore a certain disturbing aspect of the other person, all in the name of love. Ignoring, that is, until one fine day the #$@# hits the fan, so to speak, and then you want to bail out, realising you could have never lived with that. Much later, as you describe your experience to others, your tales are characterised by the opening statement "I once went out with a guy who.." You are cringing in embarrassment, but still feel a boastful thrill in relating to your friends as to "how far" you went for love.

I've never had to experience a cringe love first hand. I have enough of my own, self-imposed cringe-stories, as my "most embarrassing moments" consistently seem to outdo each previous one, leaving me thinking "I can't believe I did/said that!" Of course, you're not going to hear about them here, as I don't think I can type sensibly when I'm drunk. ;) So yeah, the program was fun listening to even if I couldn't identify that much. Nancy ended saying that there were no guarantees one wouldn't fall for cringe-love again. It was her closing line, however, that struck a chord, and I quote,
" After all, who isn't willing to be ridiculous for love?"
because I think that holds for all love, cringe, or not.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


"99% of the photos here are taken by me. If anyone rapes me, and calls them their own, I will find you and etch plagiarist on your forehead with jagged glass. They are digitally signed...."

So says destiny. Those words, I think, are more effective than any "small c in a circle" I've seen. With the internet being one free-for-all medium, nobody seems to respect issues of copyrights (or copylefts?) out here. I find people constantly infringing others' copyrights by efortlessly picking out images and photos reproducing them on their own blog. While the really depraved go on to pass it off as their own work, one need not necessarily plagiarize to indulge in copyright infringement. Reproducing someone's work without permission is an unlawful act in itself.

Today, Google (and Google-image-search) is all it takes. So it has become really easy to go out and find the perfect photograph to accompany your writings or make your point. And most of the time, it doesn't even cross one's mind to give credit where it is due. Let alone go through the formalities of requesting permission from the owner of the photo, most people do not even acknowledge the source. And this blatant copying without acknowledging is what bothers me.

There are two aspects to the whole thing, one is the legalities involved and the other is pure and simple courtesy and appreciating another's creation. I am not a huge fan of the first, although I do believe that the laws exist for a reason. I like and support all things open source. Some can argue here that the hassles of acquiring copyrights, blah, are all impediments in the creative pursuits of blogging, and most times, nobody really cares if you "implant" a random photograph on your blog that was taken by someone else. It's free publicity, say some. Well, it's publicity for them only if you acknowledge them. Even so, it's unsolicited and they may not want it in the first place. Unless something is explicitly stated as being in the public domain, it's not. And ask yourself, would you be allright if your thoughts/writings were reproduced blatantly, without your permission, and without your reference? A photo is not so much different.

Unfortunately, it would be a waste of resources for an internet police to be tracking down every copyright violation that is made out there. And perhaps pointless. So it is left to us to follow the honour code. Be nice. Acknowledge your sources. And if you don't want to get into trouble with the law, ask. Anyone who's taken a basic writing course has been taught that. Just like the final proof-reading after writing, seeking permission and acknowledging the original sources should be considered as part of the job.

And that is why reading satya's post on the Lordi celebratory gig made me happy..although I can't stand that kinda music!!! ;)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Flight risks

So I proudly refer to myself as the queen of missing flights. I have missed international flights on 2 occassions, 1 domestic flight, and *almost* missed a couple flights, both international and domestic. By almost I mean literally by the skin of my teeth. Part of it has to do with my inherent procrastinating self, and other times, it was my absent-minded self. Still other times, I was a victim of the system, so to say.

Missed flight # 1 was a flight from out of Europe, to the U.S. I was at a meeting and had way too much fun with this great bunch of people I met there. We spent our last evening at a beach, and it took me a while to tear myself away from them all and make my way to the airport. I had already checked in my luggage in the morning..but eventually reached the airport 5 mins after the flight had taken off. My bags made it , I didn't. :-( I got to stay back with my friends for an extra day :-) and made it on the next flight out of there, and didn't incur any fees, so that was overall nice.

Missed flight # 2 was within the US, en route to India. I was up all night long packing all of my room into boxes to store at a friend's house, since my roomie and I were supposed to be vacating the apartment soon after. Of course I underestimated how long it'd take me to pack up two years of my life in boxes, and I was still going strong when my friend came to pick me up to take me to the airport.

Missed flight #3 was within Europe, again going to a meeting, and had to change flights and airports at London. We hadn't accounted for weekend train timings, and got royally screwed as I rushed to that god-forsaken Luton Airport, out of breath, 5 mins before departure, and they refused to let me through the gates. I ended up buying a full price ticket on the next flight because I just had to be at the final destination that day.

On my way back from this trip above, one "almost" missed domestic flight happened when I was waiting in the wrong terminal in the U.S. for a connection to take me home. With more than two hours to spare for the flight,I was generally relaxed and feeling good that it was a rare ocassion that I was not all "rush rush" for catching a plane. So I merrily call my sister, chat with her..ya-di-ya. I hadn't changed the time back on my watch and was totally out of sorts about what time it was, and when my sister reminded me that I should've been boarding by then, realisation dawned. I pushed my way through and sprinted down to the correct terminal that was at the other end. Sure enough, they were just about closing gates, and the security woman gives me a dirty look (#$@#@@) while letting me board. I could not have afforded another missed flight at that point.

I've also run down streets, dragging luggage across, chasing and waving down buses and made a general spectacle of myself (all in foreign countries where nobody knew me, thankfully) in order to make it to a flight on time. After all this, I feel like quite a veteran. No wonder then, as I was driving a friend to the airport the other day, and we encountered huge traffic back-ups that were not budging, I remarked to him..."don't worry, I've missed flights". Yeah, that was surely comforting. He gave me this look, that went "I don't know why you feel so proud about that, and I don't know why you're telling me that, NOW!!". The poor guy made his flight, and I drove back thinking that I definitely had to brog (brag on blog) about this, nobody else would understand!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

teacher teacher

I've supported myself through teaching undergrad classes or being a teaching assistant (T.A.) through most of grad-school. I quite like teaching, especially since I teach labs and subjects that are really close to my heart, I make it my personal agenda to educate students about it. Over the years, I've familiarised myself with the education system here which is quite different from back home, and mostly enjoy sharing a rapport with the students. But it has become a huge time-sink for me, and I'd rather be spending those 16 hours a week working on my research., it was that time of the year again, grading the students' finals, and assigning grades. It can be quite a roller-coaster ride. While grading, you see how some students actually got it .Their answers reflect precise understanding of what that chapter was trying to convey..and every such answer I read makes me happy, and often rethink if I was being too hard on them. Then there are those, who have no clue what we were talking about in class for the past eight weeks, and therefore no clue what the question is asking. I look at those, mark a huge zero against the crap they put down, and think "what the hell were you thinking??". Many times, I'll be laughing out loud and read out to my lab-mate some of the hilarious answers the students put down. One of the gems over all these years was "because oil is homophobic" - a reply to why water and oil don't mix.

Then comes the time to total all their points over the semester and assign A - F grades- I do this along with the course instructors, and we make decisions about all the "borderline" cases. Grades are posted, and I brace myself for the onslaught. Every pesky undergrad who's missed an A by "4 points" (when it's actually 16), or a B by "only 8 points", or a C by some such seemingly small number begins to show up at my lab. I try my best to explain to them how they'd need a whole 16 points to bring their total up, and it was not worth arguing over a point or two. However, if they wanted to re-address their basic understanding of statistics and E-values, I would be more than happy to sit and chat. They slither away, mumbling about making an appointment by phone and never really show up again. Hah!

When it's all done, I sit back and relax, enjoying the thought of devoting all my time to research over the summer..such a happy thought. Then comes this huge yellow envelope in the mail, my teaching evaluations! And as I sift through them, it makes it all worth it..{{show-off alert}}'s what some of them had to say:

"TGFI was a wonderful TA and she responded promptly to any question I had outside of class"
"She really understood everything we were taught in class, and challenged us to have a conceptual understanding of the material."
"TGFI was a good TA, pretty easy going and knowledgeable, all you can ask for"
"TGFI was great!"
"TGFI, you're great! you deserve an award!"

awwwww :-)

p.s: and no, my students don't know me as TGFI. ;)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The painful impact of wisdom

So for the past few days I've been communicating with my friends and co-workers over e-mail, instead of just walking across and talking to them. When I do talk, I talk with a lisp. It's OH SO annoying, I can see their thought wheels go, "what's with the lisp, and what's with the pricey email communication...weirdo!" having myself been at the receiving end of pretentious people with affected lisps. {{blargh!}} So before the folks disowned me, I told them about my toothache, which was the culprit behind my weird behaviour. Went to the dentist today, and he charged me an arm to tell me all about my "impacted wisdom tooth". I could have told him that for free, the damn thing was jutting into my cheek and hurting the hell out of me. So he refers me to a surgeon who will have to do the needful, and rid me of my only probable source of wisdom, AND a good chunk of my paltry income. The friendly customer service at my health insurance tells me in a cheerful voice that the only dental they will cover is "injury to a natural, healthy tooth due to damage caused by accident". Which means I have to get into a bar-fight of sorts to make them pay for my surgery. And believe-you-me, I can be provoked into one, given the right stimulus (and the right amount of whatever the bartender is serving). However, I really don't see such an opportunity presenting itself in the near vicinity. {{option crossed off list}}

As I do all the math, I figure that a flight ticket to India would work out more cost-effective. Especially if you factor in being at home, all the TLC from mom, and that cute dentist that lived down the street. (I hope he's still cute..) But well, that's indeed a fantasy..I reckon my supervisor would personally do the needful if I brought up the issue of taking off to go home to get teeth pulled.

{{siigh}} and as I relate my woes to my sister, she tells me how selfish I'm being to get my teeth pulled out. Selfish? huh? Well, she's the mother of a teething baby these days, and reminds me how much trouble our parents go through when we're teething as infants...only to have some of those teeth pulled out later. Hah! talk about perspective. So now I've to deal with the label of being pretentious, weird, the burden of being selfish, a fat dentist's bill...and fending for my poor self with a swollen jaw and a lisp that I'm beginning to hate the sound of! grrr...!

But the silver lining is a limited amount of 7,8-didehydro-4,5a-epoxy-3-methoxy-17- methylmorphinan-6a-ol phosphate (1:1) (salt) hemihydrate that the dentist gave me to tide me over the pain..rumour has it that I can also get some nitrous oxide if I want during the surgery. Hee hee hee. I bet I'll be quite the envy of my friends when I tell them that I have some of that "good stuff"..

TLC: Tender Love and Care!
7,8-didehydro-4,5a-epoxy-3-methoxy-17- methylmorphinan-6a-ol phosphate (1:1) (salt) hemihydrate.: codeine..a morphine derivative used as a pain reliever
nitrous oxide: laughing gas, used as an use as an anesthetic in clinical dentistry and medicine.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Procrastinators Anonymous is the name of the club i'm planning on starting. I think it'll be a great hit. We can meet like-minded procrastinators and exchange thoughts. Such an exchange can only fuel betterment of our ilk, as we learn more efficient ways of procrastinating, more creative excuses to put off, and nicer ways to justify our procrastinating. But this is going to be an elite group, so you need to prove yourself deserving of membership. If you've ever completed an assigment several hours before the deadline, you do not qualify, sorry. But if you know, and thrive in the thrill of slipping something in at the 11th hour, if you've stretched deadlines to the maximum stretchable limit, if you've anecdotal evidence of driving your car to block the fedex truck at 8 pm so that you can send your proposal in the last clearance of the day, you will be very welcome here, at P.A. If you know how it feels, to keep whiling away time, doing everything else but the one thing that needs immediate attention, and let that go on until you cannot do it anymore, P.A. would love to hear from you! If you often feel tempted to put on your c.v. "works best under stress" or "very productive last minute worker" we, at P.A. will empathise with those sentiments. If you've medical evidence- a propensity to ulcers, heart attack, etc. you can use those in your favour.
Any takers? I'll start working on this tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Nine down, none to go.


First P, then M. Then B and R. at once. Then C, then S. Then another S, then M, and now another S.
P was my very first roomie, and one of those rare roomies with whom I hit it off so well. Ended up being my friend, confidante and guide and free rides from wherever to wherever friend. M and the other M were my endless chai sessions that led to endless pot-luck dinners that led to endless arguments and boss-bitching sessions-friends. B was my partner in crime, everytime either of us were lazy to cook, we'd go out and spend money on good (bad) food. With two lazy people in the equation, you can figure out how often that happened. Well, we didn't just partake in criminal activities, tho. We we went together to the gym and on regular morning walks....unless either of us were feeling lazy and know how that goes..C- My late-night-outs in the lab friend, my personal shrink, and one that kept me laughing in splits, either at my own problems or at others. R- my drinking buddy, my "come-home i'll cook something" friend, and my "if you don't finish that assignment today i'll kill you friend". If not for her, I'd have never made it through bloody biochemistry. S #1 - another drinking, lets get-together and bitch about our bosses buddy. S #2 - the one who saw me through some of my best times and some of my worst- the one that i could count on to lift me up when I was down, to drag me away from the lab and get a life, one that knew when to say "hmm" and bitch along with me, one that ALWAYS made me feel good about myself. And S comisserator in writing and procrastinating, the only person here who talked to me in my mother-tongue and thus helped maintain a respectable fluency in the language inspite of being away from home for 5 years.

My closest friends, drinking-buddies, bitching-buddies- by a cruel twist of fate happened to be senior to me- and have all left town over a span of the last six months. I've had some great times with them, and great memories. Going to each of their thesis defenses, planning each of their send-off parties, has been a bitter-sweet experience, being proud and happy for them, while realising how sorely i'd miss them when they were gone.

P left last December, and S #3 left today. And as I sadly realise that my suddenly shrinking close friends' circle cannot shrink any more, something tells me that it's a sign. A sign for me to remind myself of the lessons learnt during their finishing experiences, take a leaf from each of their books, and prepare for my own exit. And that, is a happy thought!