Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Terror attacks in Mumbai

Hope you and yours are doing okay.

There's thanksgiving holiday cheer all around me in the lab. Then I open up my browser to this news. Sent out a bunch of smses. I heard back from some of my close friends back home. Still waiting to hear about others, some that work in those very hotels.

Such a horrible senseless act. Shame on those bastards.

Prayers for all those in danger or affected.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

W.o.m.m. #32

I miss M. Sometimes nobody else can substitute for that non-judgmental listening understanding ear and laughing company.

As I am writing this post, tubes sit on ice waiting to be processed. And I find myself telling them..I don't care about you, you little pieces of DNA. I don't care if you disintegrate, die, or stick to a complex I can never pull you out of. I just don't care anymore. How about that, eh?

Realised how good that feels.

Also just realised it's not entirely true. A small part of me does care. So I shall go rescue them to appease that small part of me.

But if they don't make it yet again this time most of me won't care. So there.

How we cling on to advice from all and sundry in moments of confusion. Must always remember, that each person's advice comes from a certain perspective..there is really no such thing as unbiased opinion, they are all influenced by whatever experiences that shape that person....and that may not apply to us in totality..or sometimes even remotely.

Blog therapy is awesome. I was in such a funk since this afternoon..and suddenly I feel fine.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I have yet to read the book

And I'm already inspired.

After reading about Lilavati's daughters on Abi's blog, I had my dad buy me the book. He just received it from his friend in Bangalore and I got one of those 6 AM smses from him this morning: "Call when you can". I was asleep, then busy, then preoccupied with all that I have going on and decided to wait until I was in a better frame of mind to call him. He calls me in a couple hours..and says he hasn't put the book down since he got it in the afternoon, and can't wait to discuss it with me! His enthusiasm has traversed the trans-atlantic phone call and its such a pity I couldn't continue discussing it with him.
"Follow your dream", he said, "and don't let anything hold you back. Thats what this book is all about. I can't wait to send it to you- who can I send it with?"

The best way to start my day today.

Update: My dad has been having me call him and reading out parts of various awe-inspiring and very real stories from the book ever since. I think I am going to end up "reading" it via the phone before it gets here. :) Thanks, Abi. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Just having a hmm moment here. Not sure how I feel about certain things. Not sure it warrants any further discussion. Just hmm.


P.S: I just realized that hmm can be a great way to resolve so many issues. Hmm it away and no more discuss! If only every niggling thought afforded that kind of indifference.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

W.O.M.M #31

1) I need to remind myself to let go. Everyone's entitled to their share of feeling wronged, sense of entitlement, grudges, petty hang ups, whatever. I don't have to go about fixing it all. I shouldn't even try. Especially when I don't know what it is. A little bit of indifference/distance/detachment is good.

2) Deep breaths. May be yoga even. Now's a good time.

3) No more pizza. for a year.
I don't eat pizza too much, to be honest. But on the rare occasion I do, it makes me sick. ugh. I think all those years of free pizza lunch, free pizza seminar, free pizza whatever in grad school are catching up.

4) I was seriously considering a trip that won't happen. Bummer. On the other hand, I have this slight fear that if I go to India now I might just not want to come back. Ever.

5) This is a nice city. But the lack of friends and all the unhappiness at work have resulted in me having absolutely no attachment for the city after having lived here over a year. I'm excited about the prospect of moving to a new place. One thing I am hopefully going to do wherever I go next is to buy a car and get a life of sorts.


"The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven."

-Milton, Paradise Lost

Now that I have to do this all over again

I'm on the job market again. This first post-doc has been largely unhappy, unproductive and overall miserable. It's partly me, mostly the boss ;), and over all just "not the right fit". But if there's one thing life has taught me, it is the importance of getting out of a bad situation earlier than later. So I decided its best to cut my losses and leave, rather than get into a comfortable non-productive zone or kill myself trying too hard to make it work.

How did I go wrong in picking this place? What am I doing this time round to make sure it won't happen again?

Well, there are no guarantees. But to ensure that my next stint is a happier one, I have decided to pay attention to the following

1) DO Not get carried away by glamour. I did when I picked this place.

2) Do not start off with two high risk projects. Plan such that one project is in my area of expertise, the other can be a discovery/broadening horizons/learning new techniques experience.

3) Find a mentor I'll like. I knew there were personality "quirks" about bossman before I joined this place. I thought I could "deal" with it. Clearly, I couldn't. I found it very difficult to go up to him and get help mostly because I couldn't stand him and worse, couldn't trust him. Even though he was of little help the few times I did reach out, not going to him often enough has definitely hurt me. Moral of story: the smallest whiff of negativity, difficult personality, etc. should be a blaring sign to keep away. Call it paranoia, but there are enough nice people out there to have to settle to work with a difficult person.

4) Be really incisive an finding out if past experiments (even if they have been published by the lab..its time to wake up and smell the coffee..) have been reproduced by others. I spent a year chasing something I was told was "done by others"..when I have finally come to learn, piece by piece, that nobody could ever get this exact experiment to work, besides that one successful attempt that got published. Definitely not a good choice for my first project.

5) Find out what a lab technician's responsibilities are. I always thought that they were responsible for overall upkeep of lab and making sure things run smoothly. It is not always the case. Often, especially in mid-size to big labs, they have full blown projects of their own, and the lab running smoothly depends on collective effort of all. Which often translates to empty cartons when you go to reach in for that pack of tubes or plates, and a few conscientious people doing all the grunt work. If you're one of those, bitterness sets in soon.

6) Just for me, I need to pick small labs. 3 to 5 people. Thats what works for me.

7) A relatively young mentor, still in the ascending phase of his/her career. They are motivated, and your interests are important to them. Avoid places with a clear revolving door policy and rapid turnover rate.

8) How do I ensure the decent personality bit? I am networking with old pals from my masters in India..or friends of friends..orkut and facebook to the rescue. Trying to find links to the labs I am applying. Writing to at least 3 people, preferably post-docs on the lab alumni list asking them if they'd recommend the lab, and about their experiences. [I did that when I joined here too, except I just heard back from one and it was a very positive reco]. If they have nothing positive to say besides "the lab is well funded", you know there can be issues.

9) Reach out to the people I know are looking out for me. I'm heading homewards now. Ph.DAdvisor and my old professors from lutom have been really supportive. Ph.D Adv has been forthcoming with suggestions of people I should write to who she knows will make good mentors..and I have a good reputation in my Ph.D field that make me a prize candidate there.

9) Work back my confidence and a positive attitude before I go interview again. The reassuring part is that people are remarkably understanding about a post-doc not working out. In my case, bossman also has a reputation of sorts so people that know him seem even less surprised about my situation.

10) I have learned a great deal out of this experience. Very important lessons and I think my first taste of real-world life. Its taken a good many weeks of depression, self-doubt, self-flogging, dissection and all that good stuff, but I have now come to believe its happened for a very good reason. Onward and Upward!

11) The market is tight right now. I have sent out over 60 applications, to labs all over, and heard back from a handful. (I started in October). But that is the name of the game. Another friend sent out a 100. And heard back from a few, and found a great position eventually. So there.

Monday, November 10, 2008

On optimists

Its easy to be optimistic, constantly pointing to the bright side, when you're listening to somebody else's woes. And don't get me wrong, its very nice and very important to have people do it when I'm wallowing in my own misery that's made to look worse than it is by my own mind.

But the ones that inspire and affect me the most are the ones that can constantly look at the brighter side when they're in a tight spot themselves. They don't let anything bring them down. They believe fully and completely that things will come around..and only focus their energies on the positive.

Its an amazing trait..and a very infectious attitude. Cheers to the forever-optimists, and I'm so glad I know a few of those. :)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thank god she doesn't read my blog.

So, like I posted in the earlier post, I found out that we could call the NYT and order a back-issue. When I did that, I was given a few options: of staying on hold for 27-45 mins, of leaving my number and having them call me in 27-45 mins, or of leaving my number and specifying a time for them to call me back. Way cool! I thought. And left my number for them to call me within 45 mins.

No call came. I had to turn my phone off after an hour since I was in a meeting. Of course, then 3 calls come from them and all I had was mechanical noise in my voice mail.

I call back the 1-888 number for back-issues, mentally prepared to go through the whole thing again. Instead, this time I get a recorded message saying that if one was specifically looking for the back-issue of Nov 5th, they were now available on the website at Else we could continue holding.

I had mixed feelings at this point. In one sense, I was very impressed with NYT and how they rose to the cause and made things to streamlined in a tech-savvy and efficient fashion. Another part of me didn't want the NYT that badly any more. If it was going to be on sale like some damn merchandise that anyone could get, it just seemed less special. In any case, I decided to go online and buy it.

I couldn't access the site for the longest time. Finally gave up. Tried a few times, and had the same problem. Soon after, instead of my browser just hanging, I began to get a message that read "We are experiencing high traffic volumes. Please try at another time. Don't worry, there are plenty of Nov 5th copies available".

Heh. So people were flooding the ordering website now. Think of the number of crazy people out there.


I decided to wait it out a day, counting on their promise that there were plenty copies.

In the meantime.. remember her? Yeah, her. So I have gotten really friendly with her over the months. Being a regular face in the library and one that always offers feedback, asks questions etc, we developed a good rapport. I approached her on Thursday and asked if she had a copy of yesterday's NYT. She showed me where the old newspapers for the week are stacked. I asked her what happened to them at the end of the week..she said they got recycled. Exercising some self-restraint so I didn't come off as some despo trying to get my hands on the paper only to e-bay it, I asked if I could have them instead. She willingly and happily agreed.

So now I have a copy each of the NYT, the WSJ AND the Philly Inquirer. Is that cool or what?? :)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The New York Times 5th November 08

If any of you kind readers can find a print edition of today's NYT and save it for me, I'll be forever indebted and also reimburse cost of paper (not the E-bayed ones for $20!) and postage. :p
Or if you're around here we could meet for a coffee, may be?


Update: Apparently you can back-order a copy from the NYT itself. Trying right now..

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

On finding the right response

I've been in difficult situations of late. Not knowing what would be the "Smart" thing to say, trying to protect my interests, dealing with sticky situations, risks, etc. I have also screwed up by being upfront and brash, so I have learned the hard way to take things slowly, think before responding, etc. I have been consulting with a few good friends, briefing them, taking their opinion. As one would imagine, opinions are conflicted, people come from various perspectives and not necessarily aligned with your own. I am tired of repeating my story to 2 or 3 different people, but I remind myself that one's gotta do what one's gotta do. I take in these different opinions, sit back, evaluate, and find myself coming full circle. Responding in exactly the way I'd have done in the first place: that is, to tell the truth. Be straightforward and frank. Because at the end of the day, its important to be open and honest in order to be understood.

Hope it works.