Monday, November 23, 2009

No cake for me!

Woe is me!! The birthday party I went to this past weekend had three yummy looking cakes set out. I cut myself a huge chunk of the ice-cream cake which looked like it had a thick layer of ice cream on the top- that turned out to be 5 inch thick frosting. It was yuck. Then today at the cafeteria they were giving out free pieces of cake with a meal and of course I grabbed a box and came to the table beaming while precariously balancing the cake, my plate of food and glass of water without a tray. Free cake? I was in heaven. I just ate the cake and it tasted horrible. Perhaps even stale. A good lesson in what to say next time when offered free cake in a cafeteria. "No, thanks". Not beaming and grabbing as if one can't believe the stroke of luck. Eugh. I cannot believe this is happening to me. :( :( I seem to have gotten some really really bad cake streak going on.

When I go to India I am going to eat cassatta. mmmmmmmmmmmm

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekend that was

I had to go to a friend's son's birthday party this weekend. Clueless about what to get a 9 year old, I decided to stop by Toys R Us and simply pick up whatever gizmo is the latest rage with 9 year old boys these days.

Then I got really late because of various tiny mishaps at home so as I wearily made my way to the train station near my place, I decided to walk into one of these local stores near the station..those very desi-looking "All-purpose" gift stores that have all kinds of wares. I really didn't expect to find anything there, but decided to give it a shot. I was super-thrilled to find this. When I was a kid, one of the neighbour kids (also featured here) had this game (his dad got him from the US), and I remember going to his house to play it with him all the time. It is a two person game where each one gets to place all kinds of war-ships (Tankers, submarines etc.) on a grid, and the other person has to guess the placement and effectively take the ships down. It was so much fun! The whole flood of memories came back- of me running off to Tinku's house, envying his fancy american game, and us playing enthusiastically and keeping score. Later my dad showed me how we could play it using paper and pencil even if we didn't have the fancy board set. It wasn't as much fun of course, but still worked. :)

So I happily picked it up and bought some gift-wrap paper to wrap it in. I asked the guy if he would lend me supplies so I could wrap it there. He was a sweet desi guy that instead offered to wrap it up for me, (Remember the good old days when you walk to the roadside store and the "uncle" wraps up the present in this loud ugly "marble" paper, free of cost??? :)). Of course I had to pay for the gift wrap here but at least there was no "Gift wrap section"on the 12th floor where you leave your gift, pay $10, get a receipt, and have it wrapped in all kind of fancy paper and put in a big ass paper-bag (another $2) , all to be torn apart by the kid in a matter of seconds. This desi uncle neatly cut only as much paper would be necessary to wrap the box, nicely wrapped it up and also offered to hold back the rest of the paper for me so I could pick it up later as I was going on the train then.

I was super kicked by this little gift-buying experience- such a contrast to the time I went to Toys R Us to pick my niece a gift and was just totally overwhelmed with all these choices that I had no clue and wanted to run out of the store.

The star gift of the evening, however, was this gizmo a friend got the birthday boy. Poor little battleship cannot compete with these for sure so I know that my chances at being "cool aunty TGFI" are fast dipping, instead I'm pretty sure I'm getting slotted into "Weird boring aunty TGFI". :/.

In other news, I came up with an awesome strategy over the weekend. Allow me.

In telugu weddings, one of the rituals involves the bride sitting demurely inside a basket, while her maamas (mother's brothers) lift that basket. When my sister got married, ten years ago, she was a demure slim young bride, and my uncles did this quite effortlessly.

Ahem, enter TGFI. I think I have just got my ticket out of a traditional wedding ceremony! My plan is to stuff my face until I get to India next week, and the parents drop all plans of traditional wedding after taking one look at me, in the best interests of my uncles.

What you think eh?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wedding negotiations

The marriage talks have started in my house. How many people know of "Simple" indian weddings? I am not even referring to opulent ostentatious weddings here as the alternative, but talking about a simple, private marriage ceremony with just the immediate family, followed by reception where all friends and family are invited?

That's the kind of wedding I'd like to have, ideally.

One of the advices I got, was that the wedding is the parents' prerogative, and if they want to go and spend all their hard-earned money on booking a hall, having day(s)-long ceremonies, feed the guests, put up out-of-towners, then you should just simply defer and let them do it.

It just doesn't sit right with me. There's money being wasted that could be put to much better use, to either charity or even the newly-weds embarking on their new life together. For foreseeable and unforseen medical expenses that will crop up. And, there's perpetuating this ideology that marriages are supposed to drain you of your finances just to put up a good show. And finally there's all the complications that come with it. Gifting, jewelry, clothes. Gosh. The very thought makes me tired. My parents don't have spare money sitting around, B and I are in low-paying careers as it is and make very little, save even lesser. Yet, my parents (mainly my mom) will not agree to a simple, practical, no-frills marriage.

At the same time, I have realised how hard it is to argue with my parents about these things. I guess it's difficult for the parents/grandparents to come to terms with the fact that the bride and groom are 31-year olds with an opinion of their own as against the old times when they just took charge and the bride and groom went along, not knowing any better or not caring.

Sometimes I think a quiet registered marriage in the county courthouse would've been the best way to go.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yeah baby!

It's not like I got any paper published. Heck- I don't even have any in prep or in anywhere near. But this is as sweet a victory. I got a check in the mail today for two hundred and forty dollars from the medical clinic. The cost of having to see a doctor at this clinic when I had just moved into this city and didn't have my insurance papers, although I was covered by my employer. Then I had to fill out tons of paper work to claim the money. After one round of endless chasing, Blue effing Cross Blue effing Shield then sent the money to the medical clinic instead of me, because apparently that's how they are set up to pay. Yes, the money I paid in cash, from my pocket, gets "reimbursed" to the clinic. Then I had to spend another few months co-ordinating between the insurance co and the clinic, badger and stalk the clinic, until I finally received my check today. In between, of course, the usual happened with my forms "getting lost in mail", getting "mangled by fax machine" and god knows what else. If I hadn't kept up, taken down names and kept detailed notes I know for sure I'd never have gotten my money back.

Two hundred and forty dollars. I can't believe I had to work so hard for it. Twice.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weird day

Today has been all sorts of busy and weird. I come home in the evening, had bags of groceries with me so set them down, and find that my apartment door is ajar. I experienced some deja vu thanks to this so I stepped back to check the door, it indeed was my apartment.

I was dead sure I closed it behind me while leaving. I was honestly a bit spooked by now, so I left and went back downstairs to check with the security- who was away on a smoke break or whatever. I bumped into my neighbour who said she had been in and out of her apartment in the daytime and didn't notice my door open. So I called the cops, and told them I was afraid of going back into my apartment. They came, checked out my place and it was all ok. Frankly, the only thing of value in my apartment is Kalia, my macbook. Kalia was right there where I had left him. The cops went through all the closets in the house (and there a bunch of them) and by this point my worry had shifted to how messy my apartment was and how these random cops were being privy to it. :)

They left advising me to change my lock and keeping my fire escape grill closed.

The only other explanation I can come up with is that the super came in to check on a leak or something and left it open. But the super really only comes in after I leave him at least 3 nasty notes complaining about something- and he always leaves a note in the door every time he's in the apt. - and none of that was there this time.

I am still slightly disturbed by the whole thing. I hope I wake up to some easy explanation tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Political correctness/ legalities aside,

If someone (who comes across as outgoing, perhaps a tad defensive) reveals in a job interview that they have been through a divorce, do you think its inevitable that it will raise flags about their personality/get-along-ableness etc.? Do you think its fair? And, and, and do you think the reaction to a divorced male versus divorced female job candidate would be different?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Counting down

I have decided to take the much needed break and make a quick trip to India. Will leave over thanksgiving and come back in two weeks. So I have 12 days between now and the time I plan to leave. 12 days to clean up apartment and get it into order, to work like crazy and get experiments up to speed, to book a ticket, to do some shopping and packing.

Its a much needed but I'm still not sure if it's a wholly deserved break, work-wise. I am not at a breaking point now- I am more at a point where things are beginning to pick up. But I've realised, that in my kind of work, there's never a definite breaking point. For the first time I have decided to let work take a backseat and ask for a break unashamedly. I don't think I'll ever feel ready to take a break, so I'm just going to take one anyway.


Also, have to work on convincing my parents to "allow me" to spend a week in bombay with B before I go to hyd. I really don't know how best to do this. At 31, and having lived on my own for 8-9 years now I find it ridiculous that I have to ask for permission or possibly lie or fudge the truth to my parents so I can spend some quality time with the boyfriend. This is another first for me. In the past, I've always put my parents and their sensibilities first, wanted to be totally true to them, and possibly ended up jeopardizing relationships.The fact that my parents are mostly very open, supportive and trusting of me only makes it harder to deal with this conflict. It's been a lot easier to live life on my terms in the US- I reconciled to what they don't know won't hurt them- but going to India for all of two weeks and trying to negotiate for all this is going to be a challenge.


I remember the time I went back to India in 2007, just after I graduated. I was going to hyd for the first time since my parents had moved there. I sprung upon them my newfangled blog-friends who were going to be at the airport in hyd, and wanted to spend my first weekend in hyd with them. I was really not expecting my parents- especially my mom- to be too happy with this- [My mom has never been a fan of me spending overnights at friends etc.] - going off for a weekend with friends they never knew of- as soon as I landed in the city?. But my parents were awesome. There was not even a protest-they just wanted me to go and have a good time. (It's a different thing that my mom called me on the said friends' phones every few hours :)) -But I still remember what a blast that weekend was, and what a wonderful way it was for me to begin to accept the fact that hyd was my new home.

Although, when you say "Boyfriend" its really not the same and there's a completely different set of alarms going off in mom's head, but I was just reminded of how good sports my parents were, when I was really not expecting it.

In any case, the next few days are going to be exciting, very busy and there will be lots to look forward to. I'm already working the other list-of things to do while in india- I'm excited and hope dearly that things work out and go smoothly.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

W O M M

I've gone from tired to irritated to stressed to happy to tired to irritated...in the last twelve hours- gosh- I'm not able to keep up with myself anymore!

Just being nice is not always enough. Things need to get done.

Sometimes I wish I was better at standing my ground. Sometimes I give in..-by being "too nice" for whatever reason. I need to stop doing that. Once I've made my feelings clear, there's no need to feel bad or apologetic about them- when the person then offers to straighten things up, I should just let them do it.

I have to wake up early tomorrow. I signed up to help someone out with something and for some reason have no inclination to do it any more. I don't know why. I hope I feel better and more enthu tomorrow.

A long distance relationship is a lot of effort. Sometimes, it gets tiring. One gets tired of the missing, of the trying to keep up with one another, of the staying in touch. Of the helpless feelings of wondering when and how the long distance will end. Of trying to treat things delicately because ugly fights over long distance are really not fun. Of being mature and patient. Because one has been the exact opposite of that and knows that doesn't help. But if the very problem is not going to go away, may be childish kicking and screaming at least serves some short-term appeasement.

Another deja vu that has been bugging me of late is something at work. Most signs point to something else but my over-alert self sees potential danger and conflict in even the smallest hints.

My only "amway friend" called me the other day. She told me she missed me and thought of me often. Are you freakin kidding me?

I think I need a break. Today my neighbour chided me for coming back so late from work. :) But I really don't do this everyday, today was unusual.

Need to go sleep. Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

small, sweet victory

Who doesn't absolutely HATE it when the vending machine swallows up your money and doesn't return change or some such malfunction. It irritates me like no other. May be because of the simultaneous snack deprivation associated with the moment..or the thought that I'm overpaying for a piece of candy as it is, and then lose more money...and as a frequent vending machine user I have had several such moments.

So today I went up to the machine and got into a similar fight with it when it wouldn't return my dollar bill and the snack I wanted was out-  and this sweet looking guy in a tie was standing behind me. I asked him in a slightly irritated tone if he wanted something and he said no, and tried to step away so he didn't seem like he was rushing me- and then I explained to him about how the machine wouldn't return my dollar back. He said "Oh" and then tried to jimmy the return button, when it didn't work, he fished into his coat and got out a big bunch of keys and unlocked the machine and took out my dollar bill from the stack of bills the machine amasses and gave it to me. Oh my god-he was the vending machine guy! this totally made my day- I could've hugged him. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

W O M M

OK: number one pet peeve of the day:

when people try to call you (its not an emergency and i'm no doctor anyway) , and, upon finding your phone engaged or no answer, KEEP ON CALLING CONTINUOUSLY FOR THE NEXT FIFTEEN MINUTES. Like its some stupid hotline and there's a prize at the end. Then, after all that, when you finally return their call, they will tell you "Arre! Kidhar hai tu..kab se try kar raha hai ...."

LEAVE A MESSAGE. AND LEAVE ME ALONE. DO NOT KEEP PRESSING REDIAL LIKE ITS A GAME.

Ok this has happened very often- my mom also does it- she will call twice in the span of 10 - 15 mins and then get all panicky and stuff. gah.

I don't have much else on my mind actually. heh. :) Feels so much better to get that out though.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Audience question (for the male readers out there)

If the woman you're going to marry asks you to tag along her last name to yours, so that both of you end up with the same hyphenated surname, how would you respond?

A) I'll do it if you want me to / if it means so much to you/ if I have to / if you withhold sex if I don't
B) No , its simply complicated. Are we going to be Mr and Mrs Patel (girl's last name)-Krishnan (guy's last name) or Krishnan-Patel or what?
C) No, I never asked you to change your name either
D) No, its not worth two people changing their names, why don't you just become Patel-Krishnan and that's the last name we give our kid too
E) An enthusiastic, yes! let's do it!  :)
F) Other (describe your answer please)

And while you're at it, please also explain how you will deal with kids names in each case?? Because that's one of the biggest factors in changing names, identifying a family, etc.


For the female readers out there, how many think this is a non-issue, and the current common resolution to this (I see most women retain their maiden surnames and add their husband's last name to it, the kid gets a hyphenated last name-but actually the mom's name ends up as a middle name and the dad's name ends up as last name) is just fine?

For the record, one of my classmates in grad school tagged his wife's last name to his- so they both were Shah-Patels. ( in which Patel would be the girl's last name). All the girls thought his guy was the coolest guy evar and all the guys hated him for doing this. :)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Shout out to visitor from bangalore news agency

Somebody from a bangalore news agency IP visits this blog sometimes..I was wondering if you could help me out with a personal favour?

Please email me at trillian26@gmail.com if you read this.

TIA :)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

On the veracity and accuracy of published work.

I had blogged earlier about how I was slightly surprised and concerned by my P.I's attitude towards literature, and his lack of faith in it. I am now beginning to see why.

While I am not naive, I admit to being slightly idealistic, and expecting others to adhere to strong scientific standards as I would. Therefore, I would expect, that if a study says it has performed a certain analysis and found something, within that framework, I expect that to be a carefully analysed and reported set of results- even if restricted to the data and conditions the authors used. There really should be no room for ambiguity once you start looking at the data in the context of that paper alone. And if there is, it should be pointed out in the paper. If the authors miss it, I expect peer-review to catch it.

I spent the past few days trying to make sense of a huge study, published in 2006 in the journal PLOS Medicine The list of authors has a handful of big names on it, and the paper itself is one of the first large-scale studies of its kind in its sub-field with some very promising findings, that can very well serve as a starting point for several other investigators such as me.

When I downloaded all the supplementary data (this is data that is not published in the main text of the journal to save on space) and tried to cross-compare different analyses within the paper, a lot of findings were not holding up. This is not to say that the data was wrong or falsified, but that statements made did not match up to the data shown, and several inconsistencies spanned the paper.

Because of the scale of the study,  badly organized and labelled figures and lots of discordance within the published paper, I spent days just making sense of all of it and putting it down in a way I could understand and explain to my P.I. Thats when things began popping up that didn't make sense or were confusing.  I wrote to the first author who responded that I was over-interpreting the data and there were some caveats (that weren't spelled out in the paper). If I set that aside, other discrepancies still existed- and when I pressed some more, leaving out all my interpretation and simply quoting the paper and his data;  I was told that  the individual experiments in the paper spanned a period of 3 to 4 years and during which genome builds/ chip annotations had changed and hence the discordance.  Hence, some aspects were indeed confusing and my best bet was to re-do the analysis to find what I needed, and that is why the raw data files were provided with the paper.

While I understand the dynamic nature of sequence data and chip design, I would expect that such discordance, when reported in a single paper, would be addressed by the authors as the paper is published, and it should not be left to the reader to have to spend precious hours poring over the data trying to make sense of it, engage in communications with the author, and then, eventually, be told to download the raw data and re-analyse it in order to find the answers to their questions.

Even if the authors did a bad job presenting their work in a careless and possibly wrong way (I won't know until i re-analyse ,and I'll be damned if I waste any more of my time on that), what role does peer-review serve? Finally, the scientific community suffers because of time spent in following wrong leads that were not thoroughly researched in the first place and high profile, high impact journals actually publish what is essentially incorrect or invalidated information.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

work woes

So the other day I had an epiphany of sorts in the middle of the night and woke up and wrote a long rambling email about it to my boss- explaining how I thought one of the basic ideas in my project was flawed. Thankfully I didn't send it, because it wouldn't make any sense. Instead I haunted his office all day and as soon as he made an entry I burst out with my fears.

Turns out I had very good reason to be concerned. But the boss said that this was one of the limitations of our set up and its kind of the un-written assumption that everyone operates on for lack of anything better. It was like having that parent-child talk of "we have to make do with what we can get". Sigh.

Then yesterday I stormed into his office once more and went into rant mode- about how I thought I was chasing a unicorn or pot of gold or whatever metaphor u want to use for something that probably exists in only our fantasies. Again he gave me a patient listen, had another talk that almost sounded like a shrink session to me, and suggested that I explore other projects if I wanted, but not to give up on this yet. And admitted that yes, it was hard, and harder than it seemed.

I am not against doing difficult things- heck - that is where the challenge lies. However, I have been a bit burned by my previous post-doc and clearly a lot more cautious now- about trusting boss people who do not have your interests in mind, about chasing pet theories of others, and, above all, about wasting precious time without a back-up or more feasible project running simultaneously. And the worst part is, I began this project thinking it was reasonably straightforward- and that is why it is more frustrating that this is not moving forward. This was the easy-peesy project I had in mind- the other "Back up" is actually harder!

So I have decided to give this two more weeks. Step it up, test the hypothesis on several candidates at once, and see if even one emerges as a promising candidate. In two weeks, if I have spent all my time and not gotten a single lead, I am going to start pushing this on to the back burner and move on to the other project, which also I need to step up.

The good part is, at least, my boss is receptive to my concerns, respects my professional opinion, and is not entirely bereft interest in my well-being. Thats the only good thing I could glean from all of this.

Sigh. Onward and upward.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The weekend that was

Was awesome. Until now. But I am not going to let one annoying thing spoil all the fun I had. So I am recording the fun part here.

1) Surprised my sis, b-i-l and niece by showing up there for Halloween. Took my niece trick/treating. It was all so much fun.

2) Gained an hour overnight. This has never failed to make me super happy- all these seven years.

3) Met up with my cool pilot friend and my best friend from school who just got back after a vacation. Was fun to hang out in the city, go shopping etc. with CPF and simply a huge relief to have BFFS back in town. Yay!

Nothing works like your girlfriends telling you that you've put on weight. Woe is me! But I have started yoga and eating right so hopefully will fix this problem. Meantime, sample this conversation

CPF: You've put on weight, tgfi.
BFfS: Ya, I also thought so, I was going to say but didn't.
Fat TGFI: Yeah, I know I know. CPF already pointed it out earlier
BFfS: Shouldn't you be losing wt, what with boyfriend gone and all that
Fat yet gracious TGFI: Anyways, both of you have lost weight
CPF: Are you kidding me...blah blah...
BFfS-absolutely-lacking-in-grace/tact-dept: Yeah, thats how it seems when you gain weight- everyone else appears as if they have lost weight.

With friends like these....:)

4) presents :)