Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bambai se aayi meri dost!

She couldn't have come at a worse time, and she couldn't have come at a better time.

My childhood best friend from bombay is visiting me this weekend. I'm neck deep in piled up work and heading to the lab now to get stuff done before she arrives. Once she comes, I'm only going to focus on having fun. With all the stress and the general downers the past few weeks have been throwing at me, even hearing her voice over a local phone call is more uplifting than anything else right now. I can't wait for her to come! :) And in spite of everything else, I can't wipe this grin off my face. :))

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tears for fears

Like a spoilt two year old she insists on having what she wants. Unreasonable and unwilling to accept a no. Unlike the 2 year old, she fully knows and understands why it can never be. And that makes it worse. And then she bawls to her heart's content, gets herself some chocolate and it makes everything better. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Patience

I seem to have a better hold on my impatience these days. I am very stressed, have a lot on my mind, and at such times, its easy for the smallest of things to cheese me off. However, of late, I have found a way to smile through the irritants that make their way through my instant messenger or real-life space. I grit my teeth, smile, make a joke, and move on. It's not as liberating as giving them a piece of my mind or sitting and ranting about them on the blog, but its weirdly cathartic in a different way. Because in my secret little world, I can sit back and laugh at them. The downside, however, is that they don't realize that their nosy-parker-ness/overfamiliarity/annoying unsolicited advice/ pathological desire to give out TMI  is irritating me. So they keep on irritating. 

Eventually they will get it. :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Aleurophobia meets commitment-phobia

and hence she cannot date a perfectly nice guy who owns a cat.
heh.

Reminder to self


<b>PLEASE APPLY FOR CANADA VISA</b>.

When I was in grad school,  I was once going to the U.K to attend a conference. As always, I was super-excited about the trip. Began planning months in advance. Where to go, what to do, who to visit. Scotland, London, trips were researched, tickets were booked, good friends who lived there were roped in, plans were made. Anticipation kept building up. Then what happened? About a couple weeks before my departure date, I remembered a small detail. I needed a UK visa and hadn't applied for one! I rushed and panicked and all that fun stuff, made two thousand and one calls to the embassy pleading and imploring to hasten my case, but this was neither death nor disaster. So they took their own sweet time, as embassies are wont to, and I got my visa a week after my ticket was scheduled for.

The plus is I hadn't missed the actual conference. I had planned to go a week in advance to do all this roaming around. Of course, all plans fell like a house of cards, money (in GBP, no less) was lost in canceling and rescheduling plane, train and tour tickets. Friends were disappointed. I just made it in time for the conference, and had an extra day to look around London or so. 

How could I be so stupid? I've done worse, so yeah. I am quite the wiz.

So I've made some of my plans for Canada, its almost like deja vu since I did a similar trip earlier, when I had a friend coming along and we pretty much synced all our preparations. So there was no scope of forgetting things like visa. This time, the detail actually slipped my mind until now. I better not "forget" now.

Monday, May 26, 2008

why i love this bulb

lol (Audio link) (nsfw)

Best weight loss / dieting tip evar

Step 1: Scavenge, hunt down and find all fattening food in the house. Ice cream, cookies, fried stuff etc. etc. If you don't have, buy and bring.

Step 2: Eat all of it. Clean. Like there's no tomorrow.

Step 3: Start diet now. Absence of any junk food in house should make it a lot easier. Yes?

Methinks this should be super-effective. I have just gone through iterations of Step 1 and 2. May be I'll get to step 3 soon. 

Friday, May 23, 2008

W.o.m.m #19

1) Still didn' t find my drive. But the long weekend is here. Thankfully my drive to have fun is going nowhere. :-)

2) I made my plans for Boston. YAY! Finally (Thanks to a tip off from this blogger friend) I made my bookings into Manchester airport (MHT). The RT costs me ~$180 (on southwest, which doesn't show up in priceline/kayak/orbitz searches but has really good deals)  including taxes, and they have a free shuttle from MHT into Sullivan square Boston. So hopefully it will all work out well.  

In retrospect, for all that time it will take, a 5 hr Amtrak train ride would have come up to the same, costs and time-wise. But, there were no convenient times available on Amtrak, and my return will be quicker by air so I can show up at work early enough on Monday. So its all cool. 

3) I had a chat with my boss yesterday. One in which he told me we need to set "goals and timelines". Basically politely telling me that I haven't gotten enough done. I can't help agree. So I will present him with a timeline for the next couple weeks and hope I stick to those. Even if his slight condescension disguised in that polite veneer irritated the sh!@ out of me, I am glad I had the chat. It should put me back on track, and i found at least someone is excited about my experiments. heh.

One of the things that seems to work when these extreme downtimes hit is to just take charge of things clinically, without getting too lost in the "i am a loser I suck I hate the world Nothing is going my way" whirlpool of self-destructive thoughts. So I am going about my list now, not thinking of the should'ves and could'ves and will/won't bes. 

Over and out! Have a splendid weekend y'all! 


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Where it went?

I have lost the drive. It is the result of too many things to do, too much going wrong, and an "i don't know where to start" kind of overwhelm. I have stepped back, taken stock. But even having figured out where to start, I don't feel like starting.

I wish I had a choice. 

I wish I realised I don't. For real.

Sometimes when things don't go the way you want, you let it all go, till you hit rock bottom, and clamber your way up from there, when you know it can't get worse. 

I am beginning to get quite comfy in this rock bottom place.  

What do I want? Sochna padega.




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.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dr. D

So I have a full speed crush developing on this prof in my dept. He is my favourite kind of speaker: unassuming, cute, endearing accent who doesn't indulge in chest-thumping and grandiose statements while talking about his work. Instead, he lets the data do the talking, and credits the audience with the ability to appreciate it without spelling it out. Makes very elegant and simple presentations, without losing out on the science.  At the same time, he is excited about his work, quirky, funny, occasionally  indulges in thinking aloud at the podium, appreciates questions and admits to not knowing the answer if it is so. Generously credits his lab members and collaborators for all the work done. Every once in a while he rambles along, lost in thought. I find that incredibly cute. Of course too much rambling and hand-waving can be very frustrating, but he doesn't over do it.

Sigh and all. 

What Would You Do If You Knew You Couldn't Fail?

qotd

No more whining

Until next whiny post.
heh heh heh. :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

W.O.M.M #18 (thanks sd :) ).

Lots of assorted general whining follows.

S always chided me for listening to depressing music when I was down. (My love for desi dhinchaak was a well guarded secret then. :)).

Neither U2 nor desi dhinchaak. No music is helping right now. Perhaps I could use some S.:)

Or so I think.

I am having a spate of bad days. Some of it is my doing. Most of it I can fix. What I can't fix is not worth brooding over. I just need to remind myself of that and chug along.

Of all the domestic chores, the one I abhor the most is doing laundry in a public laundromat. I simply hate it. I hate having to lug the clothes down. Sometimes having to wait because all machines are being used. Queuing up. Going back down after an hour to move clothes to the drier. Going back again after an hour to bring it back up. Being worried about being late and someone else touching my clothes. AARGH. Or keeping someone waiting. Stuff falling on the floor by mistake. Not having enough quarters. Machine eating up quarters. All these things just make it annoying. So I put it off and put it off and put if off until..the situation turns into an emergency and I have no choice. Then the pressure of being forced to do it makes it even harder.

But i just did laundry. Because of all the tasks I had to do today, that was the least unappealing. And you know what, it wasn't so bad after all. May be I can get through the rest of the tasks too.

Why am I being such a whiny dolt? Why is it so hard for us to accept things? Why do we keep wishing/hoping otherwise when the truth is right there staring in our face? Why can't I let go? Why are some people so inconsiderate? Are they aiming to be mean? Are they so dumb or oblivious? Why do I let them get to me so much?

You don't get everything in life. Weigh your options. Pick a lane. Stick to it. Be true to yourself. And deal with it. Because shit happens. All the time.

If

you cannot change the bulb and align the lenses in a regular scope

then

you are not ready to graduate yet.

(in this lab)

kaamchor sab ke sab.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

w.o.m.m. #n+1

Its cold. In the middle of May. I am wearing two layers and socks at home. Hail the new weatherman: the landlord. Who had decided that winter is over and hence the heat is cut off. What gives? Rubbish nonsense.

Red chilli powder in cereal. Happens when you're sleep deprived, stressed, cold, grumpy, can't find your glasses and wake up hungry and preoccupied. And when you use same used yogurt containers to store everything.

It's not so bad actually. I see some potential, with a bit of tweaking of the recipe.

Tired. So tired. I want to crawl back into bed.

I sympathise with woes of working moms, but I DO NOT want to listen to my coworker's stories today. Teething baby, breastmilk yield, whatever. Please. Leave me alone!

Gotta go. Take 9 am reading. Life, bitch.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Post-doctoral life skill #1

I think one of the things one must train oneself for, is the ability to critically judge a project for its do-ability or its imminent doom. While in grad school, you have 5 -6 years to work things out.. projects often take a different route than what was proposed and you go along the newly carved route. The presence of a committee, annual committee meetings, etc. ensure that you are not getting lost down a path of no return. Post-doc life is different: mostly because you are no longer in the grad school "relaxed" pace or time frame, and also because you are much more responsible for your own progress or lack thereof. Your post-doc advisor assumes and entrusts you with the responsibility that comes with the Ph.D, and you are pretty much on your own.

There is no big secret to this ability to differentiate a doomed project from a truly attainable and realistic goal. It basically involves very very thorough reading of the literature (aim for breadth, rather than depth), striving to stay up to speed on current work (possible competitors, collaborators, ones that tried it and failed etc.) and then the ability to assimilate all the varied reading and posit your question/hypothesis/goals in this context. You must not only be able to evaluate factual loopholes in the science of what you aim to do, but also technical loopholes that will point to how difficult/easy/doable what you're planning to do is. We are all familiar with the breed of advisors that say "Just stick it in front of hfg (his favourite gene) and see what happens", really giving little thought to all the grunt work that goes behind "Sticking it in front of hfg".

It also really helps to discuss the project with labmates who've been around in the lab longer than you, and hence are aware of the limitations of the system and can give you good advice about feasibility. They can also warn you about potential potholes that are the "Boss's pet theory" zone.

Only when you have done a very good job with your homework, will the next step come easy. That is, having the confidence to stand up for yourself and tell your P.I that you don't think sticking it in front of hfg is such a good idea because of a. b and c. As long as you tell yourself that you are new to the field, don't understand too well what's going on, you are setting yourself up for several exploratory experiences. Which may be fun, which may be a good learning experience, but will not be the most optimum use of your time. When you present a well researched case to your adivsor, instead, sometimes, you may be able to argue your way out. Sometimes you may not. In that case, at least you will be prepared for what you're up against. So it always helps to do your homework well.

This is also why it is advised to write up a proposal early on in your post-doc and submit it to a funding agency. Whether or not you get the grant, you will have gone through the process of critically evaluating your own hypothesis/aims and might also be lucky to get an outside perspective.

The sooner you realise that you are stuck in a dead-end project (or one that the P.I just wants you to work out because its his pet theory and he was unable to find a bakra to buy it) the better. Whenever you discover it, you work towards cutting your losses. Hopefully, you have another "side project" and you begin investing more time in that one, or else you come up with an alternative hypothesis and start working on it. Oftentimes "failed" experiments tell you another story, and that story might serve as a new avenue. The key here is to keep your eyes and ears open, be able to detect signs early on and make a switch as soon as you can. And remind yourself that you are no longer in grad school. :)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

This trust frust

How does one trust another person? Is there a course offered somewhere? A trusting-for-dummies book I can buy?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Rhode Islanders and Bostonians

There's a couple who read this blog..I was wondering if I could get some suggestions for my upcoming trip to Boston. Flight tickets to Boston Logan are crazy expensive and it seems a lot cheaper to fly into Providence, RI. Now, renting a car from there to Boston is NOT an option. (We're staying in downtown Boston and will not use the car over the weekend).

So, my question is, can I get on a Peter Pan/Greyhound bus easily from Providence Airport or the commuter rail, or is there a shuttle type thing to take me into either downtown Boston or even Logan Airport? Has anyone done this?

Your input, anecdotal advice and any info will be much appreciated! Thanks! :)

Samosas

Somebody said samosas somewhere and I can't get them out of my head. We had some when I was in NJ weekend before last but they were terrible. Now I'm craving for good samosas.

And the fond memory of sitting in a car, outside a swanky restaurant somewhere along marine drive, and hogging on the best samosas ever wrapped in newspaper refuses to leave my head.

It's 3:32 am

And i find everything funny.

the experiments that are flopping, the data-desperation, the random occurrence, the spats with the bossman. All amuse.

*giggles at nothing in particular*

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Yes I can.

From misery emerges a small ray of hope. I am far from done with two tasks that have been giving me nightmares and my self-imposed deadlines are slowly morphing into the real deadlines.

Thats when I remind myself of all the times I thought I couldn't do it, I felt defeated, I hated myself, I hid from people, wondered why I picked this field, wallowed in misery. But the sooner I shook it off, overcame my fears and got back on track, the closer I got to finishing. And ultimately did finish. The paper, the proposal, the dissertation, the experiment..whatever it was.

The truth remains: I don't have a frikkin' choice. Sometimes I need to detach myself from the project, stop looking at it as a personal battle of sorts and simply think of it as "This is what I'm paid to do, I better crack it, and do a good job of it!". And that is all there is to it. No dramas.

So what's another painful and seemingly insurmountable challenge, eh? I can do this!

Its funny how sleep comes so easy when I'm stressed. It's my little escape zone. While I have problems falling asleep on regular days, at times like these, its hard to keep my eyes open. I plan for a short nap, which turns into a full fledged 2 hour long snorefest. Then I wake up and panic. Rinse and repeat. I remember doing this a lot when I was younger too. I'd set the alarm for some ungodly hour in the hope of waking up and studying on the day of the exam. I'd miss the alarms and wake up with only a hour left to go take the exam. My mom and sister always found me sitting on the bed, wailing that I had missed the alarm and had so much left to study, instead of bucking up and making best use of whatever little time there was left. So this isn't new to me either. :)