Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One more pointless w.o.m.m before 2008 ends

1) So this whole thing about "What are you doing for 31st???" is a tad irritating. I've spent several New years eves just sleeping through it, being woken by my mom to eat cake at 12 midnight and going back to sleep. Growing up, I just found it basically impossible to stay awake past 10 pm, and didn't feel bad at all about missing out on the building party or stupid inane tv programs or whatever was the buzz around the midnight of 31st. Even after I came to the US, I recall at least one of more new years eves I just stayed awake like any normal day, took/made a few phone calls at the strike of 12 and went to bed. It was no biggie. Other times I had friends over, went out, braved crazy crowds and had a nice time too. But frankly, I think its quite over-rated, and totally not necessary.

2) Audience question: How many of you readers out there have attempted to set your friends up on a date? Were you yourself single when you did that? I know its a typical thing for a lot of people who're themselves involved in relationships to do, [perhaps stemming from plain and simple envy of your friend's happy and single status] but I am wondering how common it is for single people to set their friends up? Just wondering..

Happy New Year and all that...

First off, sorry for not responding to your comments to earlier posts. I have been busy with all kinds of stuff. and not in the right frame of mind. I will get to it eventually, when I've settled down a bit.

 Happy New Year to y'all. As I sit here with my chai and watch the snow flurries outside, I can't help reflect a bit. My biggest take home from 2008 is not just "Shit happens", but "shit will happen". :) And I'm not being all negative about life when I say that. I think my operating policy from now on is to expect stuff to go wrong. Life is, after all full of twists and turns and in there lies the fun.

I am also getting ready for my move, checking out apartments etc in newcity. I had my first culture shock when I went to check out a place to stay, lets just say it was a rude awakening. And a good sign of what to expect. Again, I'm going to grin and bear it. Because I'm in for a slew of such changes, compromises and settling for what I'd never have thought of. In the bargain, I get to work on something I'm excited about, with a seemingly nice boss, and get to leave the hell that was my workplace in Philly. Yeah! I'll take that. Plus, I get to live close by to people that matter. And several other fringe benefits this city offers when you can see past the dirt and grime. It's going to be another adventure.

The other very important lesson I learned (again) is not to beat myself up over eff ups. The extent of damage caused by that is worse than the actual eff-up. People screw up all the time, the key is to learn, pick up and move on. I know, oft-repeated words but I need the reiteration.

Finally I need to, really need to, really really need to learn efficiency and discipline. Cannot do without it going forth from here.

And life is a lot more than these momentary upsets. Spare a thought, some effort and possibly some money towards the truly lesser-privileged.

2008 brought a lot of good things too for me. Definitely neutralises a lot of the shit that happened. So there: shit will happen, valuable lessons will be learned and good things will come along. :)

Happy New Year all of you! :)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

W.o.m.m #35

Most of the time I get away with a lot of rubbish ranting to either (willing or unwilling) friends or to this blog. But today I want to throw in a little bit of perspective.

By the time my mom was 30, she had been through 3 pregnancies, lost one baby and was bringing up me and my sister in a nuclear family. She was running a household on a shoestring budget, seeing my parents through troubled financial times. And by that I don't mean missing out on luxuries like eating out or shopping for unnecessary stuff. More like getting by with essentials, being resourceful to manage with whatever money my dad brought in. And giving us the best of upbringings.

There were no blogs, no support groups, no nothing. No time to sit and belabor every single decision. Common sense, economics and lessons from senior women dictated most actions.

I am sure there are stories of several other struggles, bigger, longer than this. But this is the one that is closest to me.

Today I am 30, [Edited to add: I AM 30 does not mean I turn 30 today. If you are an astute follower of my blog, you should recall my turning 30 post. thu bevarse!] single, worry about complications to life that marriage might offer. The money I make is mine alone, with no encumbrances I have no need to budget. I have all the opportunities and resources to access, and I choose to dwell and waste time over the most insignificant issues. To the point that I often lose track of the big picture.

What a waste. I just have it too easy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

w.o.m.m. #34

Lots of random disconnected thoughts invading my head. Typical of a slightly stressful time with deadlines looming.

1) I've realised I've a huge fear of "finishing". Am in the process of tying up loose ends in my project here, and can't get myself to put the "final" stamps on things. Keep wanting to redo, wondering if I can repeat things, when its abundantly clear that a) NOBODY CARES and b) there is no time even if someone did. So why don't I just cut loose and let go? I've finishing issues and letting go issues. Some of the resistance to call something "Final" I think stems from lack of confidence in my own work. To keep thinking it can be improved upon. Have struggled with this lesson earlier, every time I had to submit a paper and then finally with my dissertation. I must not let it do me in again. I should learn that this is an ever-evolving process, and the claims I make are right within the framework I present them in. So long as I'm not making over-reaching claims, I am correct, and that is that. And that is all I have the ability to do right now. And all I need to.

Must not fear finish! Must embrace and celebrate finish! :)

2) Been thinking about other confusing and absolutely unrelated issues too. Like marriage. And having a baby. I've had a very strong maternal/nurturing instinct in me for the longest time. Now I see my sister and b-i-l struggle with daily issues of bringing up my niece, and hold up a relationship, a life together and it all strikes to me as extremely challenging and makes me wonder if I can ever pull it off. If I even want to. I guess seven-odd years of living by myself, for myself (long distance relationships being a "convenience" at that) have made me very comfortable and possessive of my life as my own. It is, after all, the only way I've known, so I'm pretty clueless about any other way. I feel like singlehood offers one set of challenges and married life a different set. It's hard to qualify which is better than the other. Atleast singlehood is reassuring in that whatever challenges come your way, you only have to think of yourself. There is only one variable in the equation, one opinion, one individual at stake. Selfish. yes. But safe. And bereft of so many complications that the alternative presents.

It doesn't help that in order to actively resist the social imposition that "well-wishers" have thrown at me time and again about "finding someone", I've built up a very strong defense against the implied necessity of having to share your life with someone. I strongly uphold the notion that while it's nice to be able to share your life with a special someone, it is, at the end of the day a lifestyle choice as much as staying single is, and not an absolute necessity as most people have you believe.

And so when I sit back and think of it all, the single life strongly beckons, as a very attractive alternative.

Garbled thoughts. Will be readdressed. Right now I'm listening to some awesome santoor by Pt. Shivkumar Sharma to calm my nerves, and looking forward to playing pretend games with my niece. :).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

W.O.M.M #33

I recall making such resolves before (and not sticking to it), but I'm going to try once more.

On several occasions, I've let people get away with being snarky and nasty to me, either because I felt any more nastiness on my part would be futile, or because I didn't deem them important enough to retaliate, or because they were too important to me, and hence I didn't take the nastiness along with its implied mean-ness, just let it slide as a good friend having a bad day.

Not a good policy in any case. So from now on, I'm going to return snark for snark, nastiness for nastiness, immaturity for immaturity. Let's see how that goes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Grinning and bearing it

I can't wait to get out of my current place. This last week is going to be excruciatingly painful. What makes it worse is the superficial niceness of certain a**holes that I could totally do without. But if there's something I'd like to take away from this experience, its this art- of being able to mask my feelings and pretend like I care. I am learning to grin and smile affectedly when all I want to do is give one tight slaP.


Monday, December 22, 2008

The kind of sh*! that gets my goat

Tens of thousands of children in Bangalore miss out on their polio vaccine due to mass hysteria caused by some unfounded rumour of death of children due to the vaccine. Ruining all the effort that goes into campaigning and organising a vaccination drive. TV media of course, does their bit to propagate the rumour-mongering.

TOI link here

World Cafe Live and NYSC

So as the lone suggestion came from a local to this post (although i know from my past sitemeter obsession that there are more than one locals that read this blog) (*glares in the general direction of philly IP addresses*) I went to World Cafe Live on Thursday night to check out some good live music.

Now, WCL happens to be home to another memory, that of meeting up with this blog buddy and an awesome evening spent, blossiping and catching up with the counts on election eve last month. :). However, there was no music that night thanks to election mania.

This past Thursday night a party was just clearing out as we went in, so the bar area was very noisy in the beginning with folks all tanked up post-happy hour. But we got some really good seats across from the stage, at a perfect viewing and hearing distance. There were five artists on stage, each of them independent artists and they went about one after the other playing their stuff and they went around the circle 3 or 4 times. Some I liked, some were not my type, but something for everyone, I imagine. They were a part of the New York Songwriters Circle, an interesting concept I just learned about.

WCL itself is pricey , the food was good although not much to choose from for vegetarians. The place is kinda upscale, folks were dressed up. The drinks were awesome. I had this yummy strawberry shortcake something that was simply de-lish. The sound system was nice and it was a pretty nice setting to sit back, relax and enjoy a good performance. The noisy crowd at the bar pretty soon quieted down when the artists were introduced and began singing. The best part is the location, just a stones throw from the train station so we could catch most of the show and make our last train home.

I had a very nice and cosy evening. It was, however very unlike my past live music experiences, though, which were primarily in small town lutom, where the crowds were more intimate, the music and artists much more familiar, and the whole idea was just no-frills-good music and little else. Of course, a lot of that came from being there for so long and identifying the local artists I enjoyed going to on a regular basis, so that is that.

But I've struck that one off my list, and in style too, so on to other stuff on the list like packing and writing. Sigh.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More on alternative careers in science

When I was in grad school, a professor held a class called "Non traditional careers in the life sciences". Each student picked a non-traditional career option and found a few people in it, interviewed them, we had a questionnaire we prepared in the class and all of us got these questionnaires answered by whoever we were interviewing. It had questions like job satisfaction, pay, what the work involves, how to get in, etc. etc.

I am in the process of packing and moving and hope to unearth my notes from that class. It was a good way to get a feel about what else is out there. Will post more when I find those notes. But I just remembered what a great idea the class was. Any one who's ever going to be in academia or is already in, must think of conducting a class like this. Grad students in the life sciences, may be you could suggest this to a suitable prof.

On asking for help early on when stuck

1) No, it doesn't make you look foolish.

2) You'd look foolish if you didn't take advantage of resources and tried to be heroic. Time is paramount. Never forget that.

3) Nobody is going to actually do your job for you. They will just give suggestions.

4) Be prepared to trust the help you get and take it seriously. For whatever its worth, even if it doesn't answer your question entirely.

5) Asking for help stimulates discussion. You learn a lot, and its fun to discuss this stuff with people who like talking about it.

6) Involving others also means a pressure to get the task done quickly, rather than drag your feet over it in isolation and be buried in complications you don't understand.

7) In the end, there will always be a part you will have to figure out by yourself, you can get your kicks from that.

8) (Obvious but) Reaching out for help speeds things up exponentially. I just wrote to folks from my old lab last night about trouble I was having with some analysis (At PhdAdvisor's behest). I already got a reply from one of them this morning. The fact that he spent time with my stuff at 1 am last night makes me feel so thankful. And while I was sleeping, someone who knows this stuff helped move it forth a great deal.

One of the many lessons I've learned the hard way.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Good live music in Philly

TODO this weekend: In the midst of all the packing, organizing, lab work, blah blah blah, I want to go check out a nice live band (classic rock/jazz/alt) in this city before I leave. I crave for some live music, haven't had any since I got here, and I can't leave without getting at least a taste of it.

Any locals that read and want to recommend? Please do so!

TIA

QOTD

"Happiness is the best revenge"


My inner vengeful scorpio is going to work hard on being very happy from now on.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What do i want to do eventually?

My renewed highest priority goal during my next stint is not to publish, find ground-breaking discoveries, write a proposal, or anything. It is, to aggressively research, explore and find out what I want to do for a living. If its bench science, then in what capacity? If not, then what? I will brainstorm on this time and again, and want to remind myself not to lose sight of this goal. For every idea I want to explore how feasible it is, how to go about it, what it would entail to get a job in that field.

Some of the ideas I got are

* Research associate type position
* Creating teaching tools for science students (very exciting..what prospects?)
* Mentoring students, teaching positions..
* Industry R & D
* Science communication, outreach, liaison..work for scientific organisations..

Feel free to add in comments

Friday, December 12, 2008

Self-tagged

From LVV. A few of her answers have been blatantly copied to save my carpals and tunnels. I have no work to do, a slight buzz and hence all this blog diarrhea.

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? No. But my name has a beautiful meaning. I love it!

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? Few days ago. (It's a monthly ritual) (I know, TMI)

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? Yeah actually.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH? Dahi chawal, lemon rice.

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? No

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Hell yeah!

7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Not on my life.

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes. WTF.

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Did.

10.WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? I've no such thing.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? No.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Chocolate. I want! Now!

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Umm..what they say, accent.

15. RED OR PINK? Red

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? Procrastination, I can be disorganised. Yeah. me too.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST ? My friend M. Miss her a lot. Very often.

18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? Whoever wants to.

19. WHAT COLOR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? None right now. But all I have are browns, blacks and a pair of white sneakers.

20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Biscotti.

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Cricket creaking.

22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Sky blue.

23. FAVORITE SMELLS? Freshly baked bread, lab smells, earth after rain.

24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? B.L.

25. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? What a stupid q. pass.

26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? None whatsoever.

27. HAIR COLOUR? Black. (with greying streaks :/)

28. EYE COLOR? Black

29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? No

30. FAVORITE FOOD? Gulab jamun, paneer anything, idli sambar.

31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings

32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Dard-e-disco. :)

33. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? White with pink and blue pin stripes

34. SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer!

35. HUGS OR KISSES? Hugs. Huge warm tight hugs. I want. :(

36. FAVORITE DESSERT? GJ.

37. MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? ??

38. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND? ??

39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Waiterrant, White Tiger

40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Ahem its a trackpad.

41. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? The Office. ROFL.

43. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Beatles

44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME??? The US of A.

45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Many.

46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Small town in A.P.

47. WHOSE ANSWERS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING BACK? Everyone

Calm after storm

Things have a way of working themselves out, they say. Cliched, yes. But quite true. After a little over 3 months of apply apply no reply (I had totally written to, followed up, and done all those things one is supposed to do..to 60 odd labs) in the span of a single week I had 3 near offers. I traveled to lab #1 to interview, got the offer, came back to Philly, took care of an experiment, went to lab #2 for a second interview (they had offered me the post earlier), was almost ready to make up my mind, and while at lab #2 I get a phone call from lab #3 with a near-offer. Rented a car and drove all the way to lab #3, because I had to convey my decision to lab #2 by the next day, and didn't want to lose out on lab #3 without giving it a complete fight. Returned to Philly from this crazy exhausting travel and made up my mind on the Amtrak on my way back.

I had been belaboring this decision for quite a while. I knew I'd get the offer from lab #1, and when I heard from lab #2, I spent all my time obsessing the choice. To the point of making me sick. Then all of a sudden I found myself driving a rental car on a 4 hour drive to go interview with #3. For a decision I was obsessing over for so many days and in all that excel-spreadsheet glory, I would have just one night to make up my mind regarding #3. When I was telling my baymate how that was one of the craziest things I ever did, she retorted with "What, crazier than jumping off a plane or into a ravine?". Heh. I think yeah, crazier.

I am finally going with #2.

A good decision-making trick my Ph.D advisor had taught me was to pretend that you've made up your mind, sleep over it and see how it rests with you for the next day or so. I played that game with #1 and #2 , and definitely felt much more at ease with #2. The interview with #3 eliminated it right there, so that kept things from getting any more complicated.

The honest truth is that I wouldn't have gone for either #1, #2 or #3 were this last year, and were I interviewing fresh out of grad school, and were I not desperate enough to leave my current place. I'd be looking for a bigger name, a more experienced advisor. But then, when I had a choice last year, I picked this current place that fit all those criteria, and it didn't work out too well for me.

And now, #1, #2 and #3 are what I had to work with this time around. So lets see how this pans out.

I've good feelings. And after several weeks, today I feel calm. And happy.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Someday..

Someday, I hope to be very successful in whatever it is that I am doing..finding a cure for a deadly disease or making sense of a tiny biological event in the cell..and I hope to look back on this very rocky past several months and be able to think of it fondly, proudly, think of it as my testing time, and how I made it out with minimum damage, helped by lots of love, TLC, support, good advice and willing listening ears.

Someday.

For now, I go forth with cautious optimism. A new beginning is in sight for me. A new city, a new post-doc position, a new puzzle to solve.

Yay! I can't help be excited.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

One of the smarter things I did

was video-taping my defense-talk. It was the most polished talk I ever gave, and watching it now makes me feel so good about myself!

And yeah, reading that post too. :)

And I was lucky I had D who did such a good, professional job of taping it. I must write him soon and ask how he's doing.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Stuff

I'm so tired. I did nothing of consequence the past 4 - 5 days. Except deal with a horrible sore throat that morphed into a racking cough and fever. I feel like shit. All I want to do is sleep, and even that is difficult thanks to the cough.

Workwise, I have the emptiest feelings ever. I drag myself to the lab, just to do the bare minimum to keep the cell lines alive. I couldn't care less about my experiments, how they turn out, trouble-shooting...reading..nothing! Nothing holds my interest any more. Ever since it became clear that I was going to leave, I have just totally given up. Its a liberating feeling and a slightly sad one. I wish I could be more resilient. But it seems like I choose not to. For someone who identified mostly with work, this is a very empty feeling. And along with losing interest in science, I find that I lose interest in everything else too..the books I am reading, blog-hopping, cooking, everything.

Am desperately hoping for a new beginning. The equivalent of shaking off the dust from my sheets and starting afresh. But in these tough times, It's a bit much to expect..and the opportunity is still as elusive as ever.

But as far as the job hunt goes, I am still optimistic. And oddly very aware of my strengths that make me a good candidate. I just need to seize the next opportunity that comes by and make it work for me.

In the meantime, I should temporarily shake off the dust from the current situation and make the best of what I can salvage here. At the very least, its healthy and will keep me agile and busy, rather than make my brain rot and fester in self-pity parties. I've had enough and more of those, and they get old soon.