Monday, August 31, 2009

There actually exist some people

that are entirely devoid of a sense of humor. These are wonderful people with hearts of gold - but they just don't get it. At first I thought it was me- when every light-hearted statement of mine would be returned with a rationalization, or when every dirty joke I made would be killed by some reason or, even worse, a quizzical ?? expression. Having witnessed this reception to other peoples' jokes too, I now know for sure its not me. It is them. They are just inherently deficient, and yes, I refuse to waste any more of my awesome jokes around them.

I wonder how they get by life without such a basic trait?


Sunday, August 30, 2009

The weekend that was

Was great. It morphed from a sulky rainy friday to a sunny saturday. I had to drag myself out of the house given my rotten mood, but I had no choice but to go to this wedding. A small very private ceremony. A very pretty bride and and a smiling groom by her side. A dozen friends of the couple. Vows exchanged and the couple was married within minutes. The lady mayor who conducted it was a really friendly person, accommodating our loudness and also offering to take photos of us with the several different cameras that were being toted. I was really expecting a staid mayor and a more formal, clinical process, but the whole thing was actually very nice and warm. Some informal photo-sessions in picturesque downtown. A fun-filled lunch and wine and good food and all that good stuff. This was far from your typical desi wedding, but had all the elements of mirth, warmth and happiness without the unnecessary frills. There was no stressed out family, no overbearing photographer, no cheesy photo-albums to show for it. And oh, No gift registry either! :) I liked it very much- I have always been against the expectation-laden and big money-spending fest that weddings often tend to be. This was pretty close to my idea of a nice private ceremony- with a few modifications that would involve a temple in India instead of a court, include my immediate family (and consequently exclude the wine. :p) etc.

It also fulfilled some of my wedding-craving -after having missed all my friends' weddings over the years. it was nice to finally attend the wedding of a close friend, to be part of the celebrations of their big day. And even though it was amidst a bunch of people that I didn't know- they all made for very nice and friendly company, which I think was largely a function of the wonderful people the bride and groom are. Cheers to the happy couple!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

One of those days

Of feeling tired and despondent. And managing to stop just in time before the self-pity-party takes over.

Shit happens, life is like that, things get better, eventually.

In the meantime- focus on the positives, remember all the good things you have, take charge and sally forth! :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Losing out on serendipity

My sister is a social media dinosaur of sorts. She never had an orkut, won't get a facebook, and doesn't know what twitter is. She reads blogs though, thank god for that.

When I tried to convince her to get a facebook - show her how much fun it was reconnecting with old school friends, finding out what they're upto, visiting a place and getting dope on it before going there..her response was "some things should just be left to chance - randomly bumping into a school friend will be so much more fun than "facebook" ".

Here's Damon Darlin making a similar point in the NYT. It's ironic that he talks about the development of algorithms to "recreate serendipity" !

Just like most personal blogging is losing its charm for me now, and updating inane updates on facebook has stopped being funny about right when it started, I think I've made a head start into avoiding personal twitters- the only ones that I keep track of are ones a handful of people whose opinions i'm curious about and link interesting things, and those of organizations and groups that I am a part of, that help me keep track of their events, publications, etc. That stuff is handy and helps me keep abreast of a variety of things on a single platform. Even then, it can be a lot, and I have learned to just not be compelled to click on each and every link that someone else posts.

Most have gone through or are still going through the phase of welcoming this information deluge with open arms, taking in all of it, wanting more, and finding it hard to say no. Eventually everyone gets saturated at some point, learns to distill all this content, pare it down using whatever parameters they choose, and strike a balance of sorts. Perhaps people like my sister are doing well to stay away from deluge now, and wait until the hype dies down so that- for eg. "mindless tweets" only occupy 4% of twitter, the system attains some kind of equilibrium, appropriate apps are worked out that help one access this information overload in more manageable ways.

I hate good-byes

Said good-bye to another friend today who is leaving the city for a great opportunity elsewhere. She's a relatively new "friend", but it sucks to see her go- I have had a great time getting to know her. I was looking forward to hanging out with her, exploring the city and imbibing some of her wonderful qualities that I find really hard to come by.

OTOH I'm happy for her for all the good things this move brings to her..and plan on visiting her sometime..hopefully.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Why primary care doctors are fed up" (from cnn.com)

I have always bitched about what a pain it is to be able to get relatively immediate care for non-trivial yet non-emergency heath issues in this country, drawing from a series of bad personal experiences and several anecdotal ones. This commentary by a PCP in California drew my attention to the "other" side, a side that my medico friends have often tried to make. Until recently, I wasn't even able to recognize that the doctors are also inconvenienced by and as opposed to the the tiresome health-insurance nexus as patients are.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/08/25/harris.primary.care.doctor/index.html.

Quoted from there:
"..........How many times has an anxious patient come in demanding an endoscopy who I examined and then decided to treat less invasively for three to four weeks first? Few of these patients are happy no matter how many times I explain that it is reasonable to treat their reflux symptoms for several weeks before endoscopy.  This delay in referral has led to many tense moments in the last 20 years. The cost savings to the system is thousands of dollars each and every time I am willing to make the call and go with the treatment. My reward is about $55 from Medicare and private health insurers........."

I am at work now, so will perhaps update this post with more of my comments at a later point. Just wanted to set a place-holder for it..In the meantime, comments space is open for discussion (As always ;))






Thursday, August 20, 2009

W O M M

I made the awesom-est idlies for dinner last night. So yeah, it was out of a mix (MTR rava idli mix- they already come with chopped cashews and what not-yum.) - just added lots of fresh finely chopped kothmir (cilantro) and sour dahi and it was ready to cook. Wish I had sambar but ..another time.

So I think my tummy hurts this morning from overeating. :)

Highlights of this past weekend:

Open air roadside cafe in the city : getting slightly tipsy over a really strong Long island iced tea..with my sister! Its a big deal for me because my sister doesn't drink and i've always felt conscious about drinking around her- in fact I'd never done this before until now. My sis was super-cool putting up with my tipsiness and turns out that was another self-imposed hang up of mine.

Got another friend to meet her and was also excited about hanging out with them together. Most people who have met my sister really like her right away-she's a very no-nonsense-tell-it-like-it-is bindaas fun person (and i really couldn't care bout those that might not have liked her..) - so i've always enjoyed introducing my friends to her. It only gets problematic when people go "OMG you two are so alike"- neither of us considers that a compliment. :)

Waiter-with-a-slight-attitude- who was immediately taken down by 3 girls :)

The beach with my niece. Building sand-castles with my niece and other kids. Playing cricket. Sitting in the sand and reading a book. The only thing that struck me was severe paucity of hot shirtless guys. Stupid family beach.

Getting court-martialed by a grand-aunt about my marriage. It then struck to me that single girls who live near family might have to go through this kind of crap of so often- in many ways they may have also learned the tricks to deal with it- it was just off-putting and left a bad taste in my mouth.

Overall fun weekend. the week has been very busy..and..not really as productive. Need to rethink my project- and am so out of ideas. :/ Will give it a renewed shot today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

QOTD

"Look, it's hard enough without you also beating yourself up. ".

From Ms PhD's blog. So true. So true.

The one outstanding quality my PhD Advisor had was an unbeatable optimism. I am far from there- I am, in fact, very cynical and constantly being hard on myself. I'm going to try every day to be a little less negative and a little more positive about myself, my abilities and my career goals.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dwight Schrute's philosophy

“Whenever I'm about to do something, I think, ‘Would an idiot do that?’ And if they would, I do not do that thing.”


I think a lot more people should follow this. :p

:D Please to hulu The Office for more such gems...and lots of laughs.



Have a nice weekend y'all. I'm in a super mood just because I got ALL the things done on my to do list today. yay!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

W O M M

I've had a rough day- just brain-dead from all of it. Analysing my data, setting up new experiments "verry verry carefully taking extra care not to mess up" and arguing with the bossman. Nothing personal to the arguments, but just underlined to me, once again, some very fundamentally different schools of thought. I wish my lab mates were more vocal- at least contribute to the argument- but they are all just bloody yes-men. That irritates me more. They are all hard-working, meticulous scientists, but don't really care about discussions. They just sit there, putting on a face of irritation at the amount of time the meeting is taking.

I decided to go to the gym in the evening...after mustering up all the willpower etc.-reach the gym only to remember that I forgot my id and they won't let me in. Csme home and am sitting here, drinking a beer instead. :/ I badly feel like going and kicking a wall or something but don't want rectangle toe problem.

I am meeting more non-science people now more than ever. 6 years in grad school and everyone around you was in the same boat, and my year in Philly didn't see me socialize beyond work-folks. I am enjoying meeting all these different people now..but its always weird in the beginning- people ask me what I do, and I say "I'm a scientist" and then have to deal with raised eyebrows and oohs and undeserved awe. Someone even once said "Oooh I've never met a scientist before"- making me feel like I had to stand up and show that I have two legs and hands- 5 digits per limb, like anyone else. I have not figured the best reaction to this- trying to tell them that its no big deal and that there are 300 other struggling souls like me in my university alone won't help..it just looks like I'm "being modest" and that's even worse. I mostly just undergo a minute of cringing while I wait for the oohs to pass over. Or sometimes i just quietly say, "Yeah, its cool, I love what I do". Finally I decided to use this to my advantage- on some days that I don't feel like getting out of bed and to the lab, I repeat these reactions in my head- tell myself I am so coool and manage to eke out a semi-productive day.

I spend several days in a row without any interpersonal interaction. I hate that. Am trying to buddy up to random hallway folks but its not going too far. Now I'm going to try my neighbours. They seem like a cool couple. The security guard knows me by face though, and she always smiles at me, and asked me the other day why I was taking the elevator (this was during my bad-knee days) since she has noticed that I always take the stairs. :) See- its just simple stuff like that - but I thrive on such interactions. Also, one of the random smile-in-the-hallway people noticed I got my haircut and commented on it. Stuff like that makes me happy.

I think I'm going to go on a cleaning spree now..dishes..laundry..and that will pep me up some.

Also my new deterrent for shopping is the reminder that one day, in the near future, I will be packing all my stuff in 2 bags, each not to weigh more than 23 kg, and one small cabin bag. Is this going to make it? Is it worth it otherwise? That solves all problems. I am "discovering" new clothes now stashed away in my boxes that I might as well wear.

What's up with that?

How come all doofus-looking guys end up with good looking women ? Look around you: in everyday life- and you'll find the cutest / prettiest girls with guys that don't even come close. How does that happen?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Milestones

Six months at this lab! How have I done? I delivered 2 tangibles: One analysis which the boss needed within weeks and I had to learn how to do it from scratch. I had a lot of fun doing it and glad I added that skill to my repertoire. The second is an assay the lab is in dire need of but has put on the back-burner for all the crankiness it involved. It's a simple assay, but wrought with quirks. I waded through it patiently, and meticulously, went through lot of back-and-forth-ness and just now finished standardizing the assay. We'll run it through our samples soon and know its utility then.

Besides the tangibles, I have picked up a couple techniques, gotten a reasonable hold on the literature in this field or at least a reasonable idea of how vast the literature is and how to tackle it.

I wish I had a more solid plan for the next year. I don't. I need to carve out minimum publishable unit, and work towards it. I also need to get multiplexing some assays to save time. So far, attempts have only confounded things and given rise to cross-contamination. But I feel a bit more confident now, so I should give it another shot.

I think I did ok. Not great, not bad, just ok. There is always room for improvement and I'm trying not to be my usual worst critic here.

Another significant milestone is that its a month since B left. B is the boyfriend, and since everyone has all sorts of affectionate names for their significant others on their blogs, I've been toying with R2IWCQW. (Returned-To-India-Who-Cant-Quit-Whining) :) but then I'm also hoping that B doesn't live up to that name for too much longer. :)

I think I'm doing pretty ok coping with this separation- something we had seen coming, but still hoping to avoid until the very end. Then again, stuff like this hits you only when you actually begin dealing with it. Work, friends, family and me have kept me busy and occupied. There's email/chat and what not to bridge the gap some. There has been a lot of deja vu: of reminders of past efforts made in long distance relationships: in finding cheap ways to call, trying to reconcile to the time-difference, trying to deal with the lack of someone in person.. etc. etc. Its interesting to see how I have things so much better now: in terms of money, access to technology, and plain and simple maturity levels. :) Things are going well in this department, and I see that as a testimony to the strength of our relationship.

Alright, am going to get to work..over and out!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Trips I want to make before I leave the US

Much as I love to travel, I realized that all through grad school, I really never traveled unless it was coupled with a conference or organized by someone else. When it is left to me, I pretty much cop out at the last minute making excuses of work or money. No more of that now, there is so much I have yet to see here, and now that I may be seeing an end to my stay here, its time to make that list. So here goes, a very do-able (over a year or so?) list.

1 Chicago

2 The West Coast! : Ideally: Redwood forests, SF, Yosemite, LA, SD (otherwise a certain blogger may kill me) and Joshua Tree. Whew! May be this will be my exit trip from the US, after I leave my job and don't have to worry about length of the holiday.

3. The Grand Canyon.

4. Dallas, Houston, Lubbock (Never been to Texas, and some of my close friends live there)

5. Lutom: just to go back to one time.

6. Cincinnati : To meet, hang out with and get drunk with S just like the good old days. To do the trip with my friend that we had often thought about and planned.

7. Yellowstone National Park

I think that's it. If I had to make my absolute essential list, this would be it. And I am starting with Chicago in a couple weeks. yay!

Monday, August 03, 2009

W O M M

I had a great weekend. The parents of S, my best friend growing up, came here to visit me. It was a lot of fun meeting up with them, my sis and other colony friends. I enjoyed hosting them and showing them around, and eating awesome poha made by aunty. :). More than anything, the fact that they came here, all the way, just to meet us and spend quality time with us meant a lot.

I have a really really bad migraine now. I should just go see a doctor. I should. really. My reluctance to see a doctor reminds me of my mom and is very annoying. :(

I find it annoying when you try to cook in the kitchen and the people you're cooking for keep saying "What are you doing for so long! Don't trouble yourself! Don't do all this!" I know it comes from a well-meaning intent but its very annoying. First of all, one might actually like the cooking and stuff. Second of all, unless one does it, how is it going to materialize? I mean seriously, what other way is there? :/

I also got over some of my fear of driving in this city. Not completely, but took baby steps. Kicked about that. Hope I keep it up.

I missed S and my parents in all the melee. Wish they were here.

I am happy for the ability to take myself lightly. I think its a much needed life-skill.

I am thankful for my elder sister and a very balanced upbringing. I think my grounded-ness is mostly due to them.

There actually exist people like Michael Scott. So obnoxious, they shouldn't be allowed to behave the way they do.

One of my closest buddies from undergrad is getting married in October. He has given me 3 months notice: to prepare and try to make it. I am working towards it.

I think my not being able to make it to any of my friends' weddings is a bigger loss to me than the fact that nobody may be able to make it to mine..whenever that might be.

No, no, no wedding bells in the horizon for me,...but, whenever I get married, I want it to be a simple private temple wedding with immediate family. May be a gathering/party of sorts later with close friends and family. I wonder if I can pull that off.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Question

Esp to any readers in Bombay, or any R2I-ers reading this blog. (R2I = Returned to India)

How easy/hard is it for a single 30-something professional who has just returned to India after living abroad for a while to be able to rent a flat on his own in suburban mumbai..without having his immediate family or people around to vouch for him not being a serial killer/ rapist/druggie/thief or psycho or whatever?

Any experiences/tips/ etc?