Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Weekend in D.C.

I went to my first conference since I started this post doc. It was a mixed bag. I did not feel the euphoria or flush of all that information overload and exciting science that I always felt at conferences. Here it was a bigger effort at trying to understand and grasp what was going on, mostly because it was a specialist meeting, and most talks did not start with any background. They dived right into the topic, and seven months later, I am still trying to get a handle on the jargon in this field. I saw this coming, and I meant to do some more reading and homework but just didn't get the time. But that is okay. I learned a lot of stuff. More than one talk had people trying to do what I'm doing in the lab, and they made it amply clear how difficult it was. I hope my boss was listening. I felt oddly reassured. I got some trouble-shooting tips from these people and hope those will help in the lab. The bossman gave a talk in which he presented some of my data and that was a really nice feeling. It's quite something to see your work being primped and presented by someone else. It also served as a good plug to my poster and I had a good number of visitors so that was nice.

Besides that, there was fancy hotel room accommodation, free drinks, tipsy professor stories and breakfast in bed on the last day since my roomie and i were pretty smashed the previous night and decided against setting alarms to wake up early the next morning. That, actually was the best part. :)

My roomie was a grad student, and i got to give her grad school and advisor gyaan enjoying the feeling of being on the other side of it now, being able to go and chat up profs and big name people without feeling intimidated etc.

I also managed to commit my customary faux pas by meeting one of the big names in my field, with whom we'd been collaborating for a while, and asking him who he was since his name badge was turned over. Jeez! He had also been chairing that morning session so I wish I was more tactful. My Ph.D advisor had given me this advice, to look up these big peoples' (Atleast the ones you may have been communicating with) photos on their websites before going to a meeting. It's a very good piece of advice, that of course I forgot about until after.

Oh and the _most_ annoying part of my trip? I boarded the amtrak to D.C after three days and nights of poster-stress and sleep-deprivation. I was simply ready to crash and sleep on the train. The train was full, and of course, I managed to get a seat near this young girl with an annoying nasal voice who had just returned from some kind of exchange program in the Phillipines. She just got back into the country about twelve hours ago, and was hoping to catch up and have fun with folks that weekend. She didn't have any plans as such, but was going out with her roomie and her parents for dinner since her roomie had graduated. Her experience in a foreign country was so surreal. It was hard to describe. And now as she sat on the train, watching suburbia go by, she found it hard to believe she was back.

How do I know all that? Because annoying-nasal-twang-voice-woman insisted on calling Everyone she knew to tell them this. So I got to hear this shpeil over and over and over and over. Just you imagine that. I don't think it was mere coincidence that whoever she called didn't answer and she had to leave the same voice mail message on about a dozen or more assorted peoples' answering machines. Jhejhus.

The few hours of extra time I had in D.C., I got a nice and non-touristy D.C. tour from a friend. I got to take the subway metro around which I totally loved doing. I also got to hail a cab on the street and bill it to my advisor, which I also loved doing. :) Rosslyn downtown, a three min. escalator ride (yeah really!) Freedom park. Teddy Roosevelt Island and a walk around Chinatown constituted this unconventional tour. The Roosevelt island is this wonderful green oasis bang in the middle of busy traffic, across the Potomac. The river, the greenery, the bike trails, the smell of the woods and dirt, all of it took me on a mini-nostalgia trip to lutom, where I spent several lovely evenings walking on the bridge avoiding other peoples dogs or biking on the dirt trails or just sitting and taking in the quiet and peace. It was the first time since leaving lutom I was so strongly reminded of it. The calm and quiet was really welcome after the harried few days leading to my trip, so it was all in all lovely.

Now I'm back at work. Quite refreshed, happy, but still slightly stressed. The next few weekends are going to be pretty packed: between friends visiting, trips and conferences, I have something or the other planned every weekend until the end of June. That is pretty crazy. It means I have to maximise the little time I have at work, get things done, and have fun every weekend. Yay. :)

P.S: On popular demand i've hataoed word verification. That despite the rubbish spam I get and more importantly, at the cost of missing out on gems like this one.

15 comments:

ferret said...

yayy!

a d.c. local said...

enjoy reading your blog a lot. glad you had a nice time in d.c. I was wondering where you had been, and you were right in the neck of my woods. :)

Sakshi said...

Good to see you back. And maybe things at work will be less stressful.

And thank you for removing that bleedy wv.

passerby-from-boston said...

listening to nasal voices and giggly talk when you are super tired can be a pain ...
amtrak has a quiet car (usually the very first car in the train)... which is what it is supposed to be... "quiet ..." without cell phones etc... check that out next time!

sd said...

I must confess that I hate going to conferences - both the travelling and the "networking" aspects totally spoils the fun of discussing actual research.

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

ferret.
the things i do. :)

dc local,
thanks for stopping by! :)

sakshi,
don't know about less stress..but yeah, i think i'm getting there.

bostonian passerby,
ah! i didn't know about that. thanks for telling me. next time will check it out.

sd,
really??? i actually love the travel, and the networking is okay..i don't mind it..but i don't thrive on it either..

Pri said...

ooh you like happy in my hort too? isnt it adorable? you should watch the movie. not as terrible as everyone claims it is. i've seen worse.

mazhalai said...

you missed awesome samosas too :(

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

pri,
i louu that saang.

mazhalai,
you know what, i thought about your comment when i was in dc..but was really pressed for time..may be next time..

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GuNs said...

:) Fun post this. I like it.
I don't like the part about the woman you sat next to though. If someone wants to tell someone else that they had a great time, it is none of MY bloody business, is it? Even if that person is sitting next to me in a bus/train/flight. If people started taking notice/offence to everything we spoke, I am sure we would not be able to speak anything at all in public places. I mean, I am sure you talking about your Ph.D. dissertation to your friend could probably be 10x times as irritating to your neighbour.

I believe as long as I maintain general decorum and I'm not disturbing the person next to me by shouting at the top of my voice or I'm taking care to see that I'm not in a silent carriage (there are such special carriages in trains here in the UK), I'd say if you have a problem with me speaking, I've got two words for you...

:)

Please, I don't mean any offence to you. I just didn't like the judging other people thingie. Its your blog so you can write what you want and I'm only commenting sincerely instead of writing fake praise.

-PeAcE
--WiTh
---GuNs

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

GuNs,
No offence taken at all. I do not subscribe to the "my blog my wish" theory (unless its a hardcore rant the only motive being to vent) and welcome dissent that is not personal. So thanks for sharing your opinion.

A public space is shared by many people and its simple manners to show some consideration for others and limit personal conversations. Talking in a loud (ok, the woman wasn't screaming but she was heard 4 rows away) voice on the phone (for almost an hour) is intrusive behaviour to others. Yes, if i sat and talked about my dissertation to a friend on the phone it would be 10x irritating, which is why I don't! If I have to take a call in a public place (restaurants, public transport etc) I make sure I keep it short and keep my voice low.

I agree with you about choosing a silent car - I'll give you that. (Apparently they have them here too, I just didn't know until someone left a comment here). Under normal circumstances, I perhaps would've been less intolerant of this, but I was desperate for some sleep and couldn't get it thanks to this incessant chatter.

That said, I am surprised at how some people think its perfectly okay to carry on lengthy personal conversations in public on the phone (Even if in a low voice, there's a limit to that). You are subjecting a whole bunch of strangers to your conversation, whether they want to listen or not. I don't see how that is okay, its unfortunate that is becoming like that these days with the rampant cellphone culture.

And finally, I wasn' t the only one peeved by that woman..everyone sitting within earshot (4 rows on either side) were getting sick of it. Can you imagine the cacophony if each one of us picked up our cellphones and made casual phone calls to our friends and tried to talk over each others voices?

GuNs said...

[:)]I understand, I understand. It is indeed irritating, I know. I have been pretty irritated sometimes myself. The difference is that I understand that getting irritated is really "MY" problem, not theirs. They are not committing an offence. It might be against proper etiquette to make long conversations in public space but you never know the priority until you can establish a context.

Imagine if my Mom or dad ever went to the USA on their first ever foreign visit and they're excited enough to call home and tell about every little thing they saw new in the new country. I wouldn't want them to get told off by some stuck-up b*****d sitting two rows away from him.

Give the girl minimal respect of NOT mentioning her on your blog. You can choose to be irritated but as I said, that was YOUR problem and she may choose to splash her conversation around to the world but you don't have any right to do that.

Confronted by such a situation, I would merely change my seat or smile and bear the agony. Probably get earplugs to convey a subtle message but in NO WAY whatsoever merit it enough importance to put it on my blog.

-PeAcE
--WiTh
---GuNs

Anonymous said...

OMG--- Peace with Guns..were you the girl sitting next to TGFI...so sarry!!!!

GuNs said...

Ha ha ha. Why are you anonymous?