Friday, July 31, 2009

Twitter: first impressions

Doesn't make any sense to me. I trawled around and see some people literally using it as some kind of IM-board: why would you choose such a cumbersome way to have conversations? So there's a whole bunch of RT and @so-and-so and back-and-forth-ness.

Others "tweet" every silly detail of their lives: I mean stuff like what they ate for dinner, how they are feeling sick etc. (There was even a series of "Tweets" on someone giving birth and the twitter-er "claiming" it as India's first Twitter baby!)

Some post equally mindless, inconsequential pics. I wonder what would happen to their irresistible urge to relay every detail of their lives if twitter charged by the character.

And all these words: tweeple, tweet, twitpic..I mean seriously, twitpic?

Then some post interesting links with a one line opinion and some intelligent or not-so-intelligent arguments ensue...now, if only those links and arguments were blogged: it would make it so much easier for non-tweeple to follow.

Some make witty comments on daily life that crack me up. Those are fun.

There are celebrity twitter-ers with fan-followings and people getting giddy with excitement when one of them responds to their tweets..

I admire the community-building aspect of any form of social networking, and twitter does that ..also think the underlying design is cool and simplistic- for example: hashtag a topic so that one can keep track of a trend, etc..quite cool without being overly complicated.

Other parts of it reek to me of exhibitionism and gross misuse and overuse- and has made me question everything I blog about myself: probably similarly exhibitionist, I think, but I maintain that I mainly blog to clear my head, vent, or keep track of events..and am still debating whether each of those defenses hold up for a twitter-er tweeting about stomach sickness or posting pics about great bargain deals they got while shopping at JC Penney.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Two concerts

Last weekend, my sister was accompanying her music teacher on stage at a concert here in the city. I am not exactly a Hindustani classical music enthusiast but of course went to watch my sister sing. I felt really proud and had this "she's my sister" grin on my face while she was up there, along with her classmates, doing a really good job performing to a very diverse audience including the hoity-toity East village crowd.

The concert was in a beautiful church, it was nice to see such a huge mix of westerners and indians at a hardcore Hindustani classical music concert. This hot swiss guy next to me was telling me about his interests in fusion music etc...all in all a nice time. They also had some awesome khana including some of the best sooji ka halwa I have eaten recently. So as I piled it on my plate, and was chatting with my sis and her classmate before they went up on stage, her classmate (high school kid) said "I wish I could eat like that, you know, but i can't eat well before singing". LOL. The same kid made up for it by telling me that I looked 25, so its all good.

The best part was that my sister came home with me that night, we cabbed it all the way as it was pretty late (yeah- a first in my poor-postdoc-book and deserves a mention ;))and stayed up gossiping until 4 am the next morning. My b-i-l and niece came over later that morning with brunch, I had a nice time playing silly games with my niece and enjoyed playing host to my sis and b-i-l for a change.

Yesterday, I went to an open air concert where Kailash. Kher was performing. It was a great setting- nice evening, beautiful park, people sitting out on blankets in the grass as well as a whole seating area with chairs etc. All this, and it was free! :) He gave a really energetic performance, again, a very mixed crowd and a great crowd! Everyone was up on their feet dancing and swaying to the music, and kher did a good job with his occasional quips directly translating from hindi to english that had us in splits. :)

Sitting out there in the park, watching kher and the other opening band Electro Morocco perform, brought back happy memories of my lutom days, where going to concerts was such a frequent treat. I remember cribbing on this blog during my Philly days, about not getting into it, and now here I am, glad for this reminder of how much fun live music and the wonderful atmosphere is, again. Looking forward to exploring more of this as long as the summer lasts.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Not just another rant..

Jabberwock rants ..and I can so totally empathise.

I barely use Facebook at all, but even I know that the vile thing keeps generating these sidebar reminders that tell you – starting at least four days in advance, so you can buy virtual sheep or eggs as gifts – whose birthday it is, and when. This makes it impossible, no matter how intently you try, to forget anyone’s birthday (except for those who are sensible enough not to include the date in their Profile details, like your truly). And these notifications are magnets for people who find it therapeutic to post a standard-form “Hey, happy birthday! Have a good one :) ” on the Facebook page of someone whom they’ve never met and never want to



Well, admittedly I found the link via Bongopondit's tweet, but I think it needs some good ol' blog-link-love.
Heh.

Friday, July 24, 2009

W O M M

I just od-ed on chocolate. I feel so much better and a bit sick all at the same time. :)

I find it amusing how people react to an R2I-er (return-er-to-india). Anything the R2I-er might complain, or even plain comment about is met with "Oh what a US-return!" or "C'mon, this is India,.." or "quit complaining..". While its perfectly ok for either a local or a foreigner to make the same complaints/comments.

Having lived abroad for eight years now, I am fully aware that going back and readjusting to life in India is not going to be easy. I am sure everyone who does that is. But nobody can prepare fully for the experience, and however much mentally prepared one is, the re-acquainting phase will be long and full of curve balls. It is only natural to react to the deficiencies in the system, until a point when you reach the "chalta hai" attitude nirvana.

I booked my tickets to Chicago. Yay! I am very excited, and hope to make use of all the awesome suggestions you folks left for me.

I joined twitter. I will be a silent observer for now..so don't find myself tweeting yet. I need to make long verbose points a la W O M M not 130 character-ones.

I am determined to pick myself up and run with the flow, make the best of choices I made for myself. GO TGFI! :)

Monday, I plan to visit the gym.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Doctor doctor

Just the other day, I was in a discussion with a bunch of people about how its so hard to get a doctors appointment in this country, and how every time you call up either a specialist or a general physician, the wait time can be anything from 3 months to 3 weeks. I've lived in very doctor-concentrated areas and once out of desperation remember calling every doctor in my network within a 10 mile radius just to get an immediate appointment, but it was always the same story. At least here they have the concept of walk-ins, in Philly they didn't even have that.

As a doctor in the group pointed out, the reasons for this could be pretty complex, but when you're at the receiving end of such systems, it doesn't come easy to appreciate "the other side".

Today my dad in hyd tells me how, since my mom's skin condition had escalated recently, they decided to change treatments. He found the name of a dermatologist who is supposed to be really good. But he was also advised to get there by 4 AM to get a "number". My dad woke up at 2 am to get to the clinic by 4 am. Here, he was supposed to collect his "number", and if it was within 30, he could go back home and bring my mom later that morning, and there would be a good chance that the doctor would see her. When my dad reached, the numbers being handed were in the 30s, and there were 15 people in the line ahead of my dad. He was advised to forget about it and try again next week. So he came back home.

Of course, the difference between systems in India and US is even more complex and so would be the reasons for this kind of crowding, but it just made me realize again how desperate we get in matters in health and trying to find relief for ourselves or our loved ones: and then left me wondering if places like this dermatologist in hyderabad could actually adopt an appointment system that wouldn't have people clamoring in a line at 4 AM.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

W O M M

Been a really crappy week- well, we're just mid-week at this point, so I am hoping the worst is past and things get better from here on.

I don't know where I stand work-wise: things are moving slowly: sometimes I stress about the fact that I'm not stressed enough at work! I know, thats ridiculous, thankfully I'm quick to realise that and move on. I guess the reason for these passing thoughts is those afternoons of down-time, when I have nothing to do besides reading, and I start getting restless. I have decided to do what always worked for me in the past: make my daily to-do list, and once i have done everything on it, be satisfied and call it a day.

The hardest question to answer about your science: so why is your method/work better than whatever is already out there? (and there's a lot!). I am new to this, since my ph.d. was actually in a niche area- very few people cared about it and hence worked on it. Human cancer is a whole different story. That's the question that brings me down, until I can find a convincing enough answer for it.

I was thinking back to what was possibly the worst phase in my life: my post-doc days in Philly win hands down. Especially the time when things were beginning to unfold, when I was beginning to realize what a mess I was in, and how I should've heeded to instinct earlier. I am glad I left when I did, but it has definitely taken its toll on my confidence, enthusiasm for science, academia, and general direction in life. I doubt my expectations of myself now, and that is not easy to reconcile with. I am afraid I am becoming just another bitter post doc.


On the other hand, I am proud of myself for getting through all of that and for getting out of it. I am glad for all the friends and support network I had around me back then.

Anyways, a migraine induced afternoon nap always inspires such sad ass posts. Tomorrow is a new day, and things will be infinitely better once I get some sleep and lose the headache.

I really shouldn't be watching Rakhi ka Swayamvar, but ...somebody..staaaap me!

If I thought being vulnerable was difficult, its even harder to deal with another person's vulnerabilities. I hope that I do a good job of dealing with them.

My favourite two cliched lines:"This too shall pass" and "All for the best"..I continue to believe in them with unwavering faith :)

So is twitter the lazy blogger's answer? I am seeing that a lot of bloggers I enjoyed reading don't blog any more, but have turned to twitter to post one-line summaries of what could've been at least para-long posts. Does this mean that bloggers don't really like to write, just need a platform to voice their opinion? Hmm?

So I am actually considering getting a twitter account, just to follow all you lazy bums that won't write decent posts on your blogs anymore. Pah.

There was a time I used to abhor the idea of facebook: mostly the idea of people throwing inanimate and animate objects at each other etc. I also abhorred orkut before that. I got on the both the bandwagons, managed to stay out of the cow-throwing activities and enjoy them for being a great medium to rediscover old friends and keep in touch. And network. I am now slowly trying to convince my sister to get on FB. If and when she eventually does, I'll consider it a personal victory. :)

Over and out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Exhausted

A fun weekend and a crappy ending to it. I am tired from the lack of sleep and allergy issues or I don't know what it is. Hating lab and no patience for anybody's nonsense. I should just snap out of it and do what I need to get done and see me through the day, but I really want to go back to bed and sleep. Pah. I am going to start keeping a dairy of sorts (private, do not worry) to correlate this skin-breaking-out-into-horrible-rashes-all night episodes with my diet/stress/other exposures. I have never been able to put a finger on what triggers them..and its high time I find out..or get a grip and see a doctor.

I am very tired and grumpy. :(

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chicago.

Will be in Chicago for a weekend mid August. Mostly to city-see and meet up with one of my closest grad school buddies H. Suggestions invited: what to do, what not to do, etc. etc. Will probably spend a day by myself and a day with H.


I guess if I had to be more specific: Don't want to spend too much $$, don't want to do museums because of limited time. I like being outside. Want to see the city, do some touristy things but some off-beat suggestions would be nice. Am vegetarian, and also, eating will not be focus (as much as possible ;) ). No, don't want to shop and don't want to go to that desi street in as much as I've heard so much about it. This is too short a trip for that.


Thanks in advance. :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On interpreting scientific literature

My current PI sometimes worries me with his complete lack of faith in the published word. While I understand that it is up to the reader to critically evaluate any published paper: understand the methods, the figures and play devil's advocate to check if they included all controls and made proportionate claims, I still treat published work with a certain amount of faith and belief. My PI seems to lack any such belief. Everytime I tell him about a detail related to what we do in the lab, he retorts with "How do you know?". And when I cite the paper he disregards it. It doesn't matter if its a well-known group or an obscure group, a good journal or not. It is true, that a lot of what we do is subject to slightly different interpretations depending on the methods used to get there. And then, the human system is not that straightforward. What holds in a certain cell-type might not in another and what happens in the human body is not always reproduced accurately in lab culture. But, these are all caveats that are going to always be there. No single study can be the absolute answer to all questions, they are all but pieces of the puzzle. But if my PI were to be believed, all the stuff published is suspect and to be eyed with a huge dose of cynicism.

What worries me the most is how thorough is he when he goes up to submit a paper, if he has such a low opinion of peer review?

Then again, I have been in a lab where results of experiments performed just once were submitted and accepted for publication, and non-reproducible forever after that. So I guess I shouldn't be so surprised at my PI's lack of trust. It's just a bit disconcerting, though.

More on badly delivered talks

Vent

Just got out of a talk. The abstract of which promised some very exciting methods and results. They are also published in high-profile journals, so that added to the credibility. The talk was delivered in a horrible fashion. Small, publication size pictures that nobody at the back could read, even in the small conference room. The speakers style was very very car-salesman-y and less scientific. He was a Ph.D with several years experience  from the industry, and perhaps asked for some of the hostility from the audience because of his style of talking. It was SO off-putting. Just greasy, hand-waving, grandiose-exuding. I must say, I have seen a lot of academics talk with similar grandiose hand-waving too, but minus the car-salesman part. In which one tries to foist their product on you, by giving vague answers to your questions and pointing out to some other unrelated plus point of the product when you ask about a certain deficiency. If this had been pegged as as a sales promotion, I wouldn't have minded so much, I would have got in with a different mindset. But it was pegged as a scientific talk. All questions raised in the audience were answered in a tangential vague way. Several people just took their cookies and coffee and walked out. I wish I did too. GAH.

I have also gone to other speakers from the industry who gave very balanced, scientific and insightful talks. So I don't want to paint them all with the same wide brush here. I'm just annoyed and want my hour back. When someone asks if your method can pick up small differences, and you say.."Only god can explain those small differences" I want to throw up. I just walked out at that point myself.




Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I have crossed over to the dark side

I never understood why people put so much emphasis on getting hooked. To me, being single has always been as much as a lifestyle choice, as being in a relationship. I have seen people badly want it: want the companionship, want it as the next phase in their lives, want the TLC, or whatever being in a relationship gave them that single life didn't. I don't really remember feeling that way..which is not to say I wasn't out there, looking for my own potential mate. I did my bit and so did my parents. I was lucky in that my parents were mostly understanding about letting me do it my way, giving me my space and letting me take my time. It never became an urgent priority for me, so between phases of diligent searching (online and offline) and phases of utter disgust for the mate-finding system as it stands, especially in the Indian context, I just trudged along.

It's about a year now since I started seeing someone. The timeline is hazy though- not clear when we graduated from meeting/testing the waters to seriously dating etc. I've been sharing the news with several friends over time, and the happy/excited/relieved(!) reactions make me feel warm and as if I've achieved something. :) It only seemed fit then to share such a significant news on this blog..I decided to publish a post I wrote way back in August, but found it too personal to post then. It's a bit weird now to me reading such an old post, but its nice to be reminded of how far I've come in this relationship thingy, and why it might be such a special thing, after all. So here goes!

------Cut back to Aug 08------

I'm seeing someone. A guy who made the cut. So I guess I sorta kinda took a small leap. Small step for most people, but acknowledging a relationship is definitely a big step in my book. The decision was gradual and not easy at all. To shake myself off from my happy-uninvolved status to actually let someone through all the walls I had erected around myself was a lot of work. Its still work in progress..but I am liking it. In the beginning there were fun times, the nervous excitement and soon enough came the apprehensions and self-doubt. Predictably, I stopped it in its tracks..afraid that it was all going too fast-even after a good few months. I found that I'd rather go the whole hog than walk on egg-shells. I want the freedom to take liberties, to give, to expect, to enjoy the ride without having to impose checks. And I've met someone who has made it all appealing. In spite of all my cynicism and fear of being involved, I've come to realise that I don't have it in me to be restrained or hold back when it comes to emotions and relationships. Probably why it is always that much harder for me each time. So I let go a bit. I decided to count on my gut instinct for watching my back while I just went ahead and enjoyed myself.

Its been fun. Heady. Interesting. I am embarrassed to say I have had my moments of giggly, girlish bashfulness and excitement while discussing it with my sister and a couple close friends. They are all shocked at me. But thankfully, that doesn't go on too long.

Planning my work life now, because I can't cop out of every date due to last-minute work is going to be hard to get used to. You can blow off friends every now and then (they just stop inviting you eventually), cancel on yourself all the time, but when its a hot dude, you don't want to cancel. :p So I guess this enforcement of some organisation in my life is a very welcome change. Being answerable to another is not easy. Accommodating and making plans keeping another person in mind is very hard! I have, for the longest time, been a get-up-and-go-as-I-wish person, making my own plans, fiercely guarding my independence. The emotional entanglements are the hardest. But often they just feel like the natural next step. So I'm playing along, letting go, a little bit at a time. And seeing where it takes me..

Seriously planning a future together with someone is downright scary. So we are not going there yet. Except very subtly. It's both presumptuous and not at the same time. There are still moments I think its not late yet, I can drop everything and run out the door. Go back to my uncomplicated uninvolved life. For what? I ask myself? So I can procrastinate endlessly and live in chaos again? Yeah..there's a certain freedom to that chaos..but there's more to life than that freedom and unfettered independence...and I think I'm beginning to appreciate that all over again. That, and the chocolates. And someone to enjoy my cooking. And the ability to be unreasonable and get away with it. :) And yeah..other assorted fringe and not-so-fringe benefits of being in a relationship. ;) And as far as the fear of getting hurt goes, that does pop up every now and then. Those times I tell myself that I've seen worse, and I can deal with it much better now. But nothing comes easy, and this is something I am willing to work for, to take risks, to put myself out there.

OMG OMG OMG! she said "relationship"! THRICE! *faints*

---------------
:)

Monday, July 13, 2009

W O M M

I think I've made my peace with whatever was weighing down on me..sort of proud of myself for such a quick comeback. Yay!

There will always be some amount of prevailing blues/nostalgia/missing someone who had gotten to be a very integral part of my life: of subway rides, city-exploring, visits and day-to-day life-events. But such is life: and that seems acceptable to me, now.

I am still torn between understanding how much "effort" one must put in a long distance relationship, and how much should be just left alone, to take whichever course it takes.

Was reminded by different people in different contexts that I have been admired by them for my foresight and maturity. Lapped up all of that and appreciate the votes of confidence. :)

Some good summer days have finally shown up! Am enjoying walking about the city, figuring out the subways and streets.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Listless

I love making lists. I make lists of things-to-do, things-to-buy, things-to-tell-someone, places-to-see, etc. etc. etc. Then I like to categorize, prioritize, all that fun stuff. Google docs takes all of this mania to a whole new level. I love it! :)

I made a to-do/to-see list with B* starting from my days in Philly. We managed to finish most of it, but then it was time for me to leave Philly. We promised ourselves we'd go back and finish the things that were left on the list. But I was moving to a much more exciting city, and the Philly list faded pretty quickly.

Since I moved here, we got a new list that was rapidly evolving. The past 5 months, we went down the list, off the list and came back to the list. This time it was B's turn to move out: not just out of this city, but out of the country. We began to attack the list with a new sense of urgency. Prioritizing, labeling and categorizing like there's no tomorrow. (OK, that was just me). When it came down to the precious last couple weekends, we decided to let it all go. We picked people over places, impulse over plans, and ended up allotting time to do nothing instead of planning something. I am glad for all the things we left undone, that let us do all the things we ended up doing, and made them that much more special.

*: I guess B needs some introduction on this blog, perhaps sometime soon I will get around to it. :p

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Cab driver conversation

Cab driver: So you are from India?
Me: Yes, Mumbai, big city, blah..
Cab driver: So I hear the trains are very crowded there in the subway
Me: Yes, absolutely, especially during peak hours..blah..
Cab driver: Well, you need passenger pushers, like they have in Tokyo.
Me: What? (the f**k?)
Cab driver: Yeah, look it up on YouTube! Passenger pushers in Japan.

This is what I find.

So much WTF-ness.

Cake

So there was a birthday yesterday in the lab, which I missed because I was out. I came to work today and D told me she saved me a piece of the cake : it was in the fridge, and marked with my name. I go there to find a huge chunk of cake (chocolate /mocha layers) saved for me. Either everyone in the lab simply loves me or everyone except D is hating me right now, as I stuff my face with this heavenly goodness.

w.o.m.m

Right now, I have a multitude of thoughts firing off in all directions.

Depending on who I am talking to, they get to hear a slice of the chaos in my head: whether it is simply "these chocolates are awesome" or more disorganized, tangled thoughts.

Invariably, the people whose opinions I seek and respect are the ones that are close to me. Often, the same people care about you too much to be able to carry forth a discussion without turning it into a heated argument. You know they're looking out for you, but all you want to have is a calm discussion, and be able to take something back from it. If you listen closely, and filter out the noise, you will find it.

I think I'm going to just hibernate for a bit, and not think of life issues. Nothing of importance will happen over the next few days or weeks, anyway.

Let me go solve my fascinating PCR question now.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

sap

So its actually possible, when you're feeling down and out, to see sadness and "sad face emoticons"  in everything around you. In lab equipment, in trees, from the window overlooking a bright sunny day...

heh.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

W.O.M.M

Learning to just let go and say no.

Pleasantly surprised with understanding that comes from the most unexpected quarters.

Tired of repeating this experiment for the nth time

On the other hand, thank god for science. what would i do if i didn't have fascinating gene-regulation questions to occupy my thoughts?

Hate the conflicting emotions i am going through right now. Trying to get through the days by just keeping things normal. Would love to indulge in a bit of wishful thinking if only to see me through the rough patches, but another part of me won't let me invest in any hope.

Que sera sera. Whatever will be, will be.

I like how my lab celebrates birthdays here. Its cute and sincere.

Sick of the bloody rain.

Sick of my bad knee, of hobbling around like an old woman. Bah.

Wishing badly for another place, another time, other people.

I recently got chided for "Being difficult". That's a first for me. Either I'm just a very agreeable angel person or nobody has had the balls to call me difficult until now. ;)
Anyhoo I found that I enjoyed it: being difficult and being called difficult. Hmmmm. :)

I am going to go home for lunch. Eat achaar and dahi rice. That should take care of my current pissed-off state of mind.