Sunday, January 31, 2010

Woe is me!

This neighbour seems to have followed me from Philly. I am now getting to hear "ek ladki ko dekhaaa to...o.." and other melancholy strains from the apartment above me.

This time, I am armed. Kar chiggy wiggy ... :)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The office

So I got a new baymate. I was looking forward to an addition to the lab who is non-chinese speaking so I'd have some company. Baymate speaks great english, but is not that chatty either. But, I hope, nothing a few post-doc beer socials can't ice-break. My major problem is that baymate, with all her color-coded-organized-ness and discipline seems to have come here purely to make me feel like scum of earth. I am convinced that that is her sole purpose in joining my lab, working in my bay! First of all, she shows up to work before 8 am. I mean, c'mon already. And she has a 30 min drive, while I live right down the street and saunter in at 10 AM. She has arranged all her papers and notebooks in color-coded folders and what not. I am sure the pages are sorted by date, time, experiment, and god knows what else. She has a neatly placed stapler and 3-hole punch sitting in the same place even after she has used it umpteen times, as the sound of that 3-hole punch is beginning to get on my nerves. So while my desk looks like it will come down any minute with the weight of papers dumped on it in the most imbalanced fashion, hers is pristine and clean and always looks tip-top. She is calm, cool, collected and super-efficient. I, on the other hand, continue to talk to myself at my untidy desk and find myself making an appointment with a shrink soon to take care of the rapidly developing complex. :)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Yesterday's news

Yesterday I canceled my paper subscription, and today, as I was putting away the unread paper, I am celebrating my first newspaper-free guilt-free day. :) For almost a year, I have been getting the newspaper delivered home. It started off as a welcome gift from B when I came to this city, and I continued it as I loved waking up, going to my doorstep and picking up the paper and reading the NYT with my chai. To follow well-written and not-so-well-written pieces. To discuss them with B. To do the crossword together in the evenings, or on the subway. I realized that I was particularly enjoying the business section- may be because I wouldn't seek that kind of news online, but it was informative and educative to read about when available. The paper also served as great company during my lunchtime alone, or during long train rides. And of course, the Science Times on Tuesdays remained my favourite part. Anyway, over time, I got busier, there was no company to do the crossword with, and I guess my interest started waning. Mornings became busier and get-up-and-go and lunchtimes got rushed or filled up with India phone calls. I sometimes got to the paper only in the evening, when I would've already read the main news online. Somedays I never even got to it, and just unwrapped it and put it away. I was only left guilty that I wasn't reading the paper. So I decided to cancel my subscription, which was dirt cheap as it is. Each time I called the NYT customer service, I got suckered into retaining my subscription: they kept tempting me with 50% off deals and what not, and I meekly submitted, not wanting to let go of what had been a fun tradition, and yet, continuing to guilt-trip over unread papers. Thankfully, I stopped getting it over the weekends because I was rarely home on weekends and Friday supplements pretty much gave me enough reading material to read over the weekend.

The turning point came when the newspaper delivery guy stopped bringing my paper upstairs to my doorstep, instead just left it outside at the building entrance or near the mailboxes downstairs. Which meant I picked it up on my way to lab, and would get to it only in the evenings. Kind of took away all the joy of finding the paper at my doorstep and reading it first thing in the morning. When I tried to find out why, apparently he did that because he had trouble finding parking on my street and couldn't come upstairs. Although that sounds atrocious- delivery trucks are double parked all the time- my conscience didn't allow me to protest this whole-heartedly, mainly because I wasn't even reading the paper diligently.

When I called up customer service, they said that their policy was "fling at doorstep" policy, and not necessarily bring it up to apartments, however they could put in a request that I wanted it at my doorstep and ensure that it was done. I felt like it was not worth causing the delivery person grief, especially when I was barely reading the paper. So finally, I just stood my ground and cancelled my subscription. I feel liberated from all that guilt, but strangely enough, want to open up yesterday's paper and read it now. :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yay me!

I received my W2 in the mail yesterday. I came home, and e-filed right away using Turbo tax (free for federal tax filing). This is the first time ever in the last nine years I was so good about filing taxes. I am super kicked! :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

WOMM

I am sharing this in an almost orkutian testimonial way- an old friend I reconnected with wrote to me that I have a unique quality of not holding against good friends some of the really stupid/annoying/hurtful things they said/did to me. I am having such shitty days in lab and in life, that this brightened up my day like no other. Said friend is also guilty of one or two of those stupid things, as I am sure I am too. But I am glad (in a really non-self-righteous way- although there's no way of saying such a thing non-self-righteously-heh) that I was the "bigger" person, metaphorically speaking. In spite of all that went on between us that led to us dropping out of touch, I always thought of her fondly and she is a part of some of my really happy memories. I couldn't wait to share the news of my upcoming marriage with her and it feels great to finally catch up after all these years.

This blog friend (who said she was returning to blogging and all that jazz) alerted me to a yoga workshop in my neck of the woods..- so I made the two hour trek because I really needed some yoga in my life. Now who eats dinner just 30 mins before a yoga workshop? A very hungry me, that's who. The workshop was called "Subtle tools of yoga" so I hoped the yoga would also be subtle and easy to do on a full stomach. :p Well- I lucked out, this is the first yoga workshop I have been to that did not involve any kind of convolution of limbs or stretching of muscles I didn't know existed. They talked all about the mind-breath-body connection, did a few breathing exercises, but mostly demonstrated the importance of breath as an indicator of our state of mind and body. The importance of feeding our mind with good thoughts all the time. Sure, well-known facts by now, but we all could use reminders like these. My mantra has been, since then, to convert every negative thought to a positive one. It's been 24 hours now and I have succeeded in applying it to several situations already - including a couple unpleasant ones that had me frothing and fuming at the start. I am so happy I went and I hope to continue practising what I learned there.

OK I had a lot more stuff to blog about but I can't stop yawning and really need to get to lab early tomorrow. Over and out.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

confession

In my copious amounts of spare time, I lurk on facebook and guffaw and make fun (in my head) of other peoples' cheesy or just (unintentionally) hilarious pics. I've this mean streak in me I guess...and the only reason I want my sis to get on facebook is because she's wonderful company for such nonsense.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

W O M M

Slow tuesday. I woke up early and could have gotten an early start but...just chose to get lazy instead. I think the 3-day weekend is spilling over. :)

I had a great weekend. Caught up with so many friends- that alone had a very re-energizing effect on me. I also bought one-and-a-half gifts, going with my resolution. I am quite excited about how the gift buying shaped up.

Don't know why there is that lingering sadness to my day then. There are things that bother me that I try to push away because I can do nothing about them. I guess I should at least acknowledge that they bother me- might reduce some of the helplessness I feel in some ways..We tend to rationalize everything that is beyond our control just to help get us through it- there is no choice but to go along, right? But once in a while its okay to throw up your hands and say this effing sucks and I wish I had it better.

My get up and go mantra is playing so I will get moving...I wanna chiggy wiggy.....:)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The perfect gift

just like the perfect dissertation, doesn't exist. And I face similar paralysis when it comes to buying a present for really close friends, as I did when I had to turn in my dissertation. It has to pass my own long list of high standards: should be something utilitarian, should be something they will like, should not be cliched, should be this that and the other. The result- the dissertation just doesn't get done- I mean, the gift just doesn't get given. Unlike postponing the submission which is also accompanied by remorse and frustration, I do enjoy dwelling on gift choosing to some extent. But it also gets tedious after a while, not to mention the fact that the job just remains undone.

So my new year resolution (a bit late) is to give these close friends their gifts- even if they are cliched, common and do not fit all my standards (or theirs?) i'm going with the idea that its the thought that counts, and plenty thought has gone with no action here!

Audience question: what was the best birthday/wedding/graduation present you got? Not things which have deeper meaning (like something good for sentimental reasons but cannot be translated to different contexts) but gifts that were good just on their own steam?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bheja fry ho gaya

TEXT HAITI TO 90999 TO DONATE $10 TO THE RED CROSS TOWARDS A RELIEF FUND. This works superbly- they charge the $10 to your phone bill. So no credit card number entering, nothing. You send the text, reply to a follow up message to confirm, and that's it. Of course, it's a pain if you want to donate more than $10, but for starters, at least do it in this extremely simple way.

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There was a time the burn-out period set in after weeks of intense work, all-nighters, exams etc. Clearly I am aging because I've had a crazy week- that only involved 12-hour work days, no nights, no exams no nothing, but I cannot think clearly anymore. I've been doing the lab-bed-lab routine for a few days now- enjoyed it while it lasted, pretty much working off the rush and anticipation that an experiment would work. Well it didn't, but I am one baby step closer and need a break now. Realized that when I got off the wrong floor off the elevator this morning, and while ending phone conversations with no recollection of what was spoken.

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Another good friend is leaving town. It sucks. Her place was my home away from home in some sense. As in, it was closer than going to my sisters place. :) (I am spoilt like that). I might not have gone there often, but it was the psychological comfort of being able to, whenever I felt like -knowing that her husband would make me chai or a stiff drink, and she would humor me and remind me of life-lessons I tend to forget. She is moving on to better things so I am happy for her, but it really sucks that she's going away :(. It is also becoming the theme these days, people are moving cities and countries, following jobs and careers. Geographical comfort zones are fast disappearing.

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Long distance relationships are hard, but evolve in their own special way, and that can be fun to experience and observe. B came up with this awesome idea of a "book date", - wherein we both pick up a book and read it together, discussing it as we go along. We've decided to start with Shantaram, and I'm loving this idea. So much better than us fighting over the same book. :)

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I have joined the ranks of people that whine because their phone message wishing someone a happy birthday was not returned while the birthday-celebrator took time to personally respond to each and every wish on facebook. Boo.

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B, a recent R2I, often complains about the utter lack of work ethic and systems in Mumbai. Sometimes I feel like I am living in a similar set up. It took me 2 weeks of calling/requesting/harassing the maintenance staff at my workplace to get someone to come and fix the lights over my bay. Even then, they did a slipshod job and things are still not fixed properly. What with it getting dark by 4 pm, it has become a serious problem at work. And don't even get me started on the utter lack of any initiative to do things at the doctor's office. All they had to do was get an authorization from my insurance company and schedule an MRI for me- and they dragged their feet over that and only after I repeatedly called, followed up, cross-checked with all parties involved, I got that done. And today, again I get a call about it saying some piece of paper is missing and they cannot do it without that. Bloody inefficiency all over the place.

OK, so much for bheja fry I need to shut the laptop and really relax now. :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Chiggy Wiggy

Now who doesn't absolutely love this song? Whatever. you have terrible taste if you don't simply enjoy chiggy wiggy.

As for me, its my wake up and get ready to go to lab song in the morning, and today, since I got the mp3 from Ms Taggart (albeit whilst being judged for it), I have it on loop on my iTouch.

Speaking of the iTouch- I'm late to this party too, resisted buying an overpriced mp3 player for the longest time, but finally caved in- but is it really true that if, I want to upload just one song to my iTouch  library I cannot do it without wiping out whatever is there and re-uploading (re-syncing) all the damn songs? Is that really true? I find that kind of shitty design very hard to believe. There's got to be a way of adding just one single song to the existing library, no?

In other news, meri shaadi pakki ho gayi- as in, we've a date-based on the stars aligning and stuff. I am excited about being married to B. I also don't feel any of the trepidation/fear I once felt about being married, etc. It really feels like the natural next step and it feels good to feel pure excitement and happy anticipation for married life. I've definitely come a long way from being the commitment-phobe I was. Yeah!

The wedding is going to be a half-day affair in my hometown - a regular social wedding with a hall booked and all of family and friends invited (~300 ppl?).  I am willingly succumbing to my mom's wishes and plan on doing it smilingly. But it will be a strictly traditional wedding- which means no mehendi ceremony and no sangeet (and no "cocktail night") and no all of that because that is not a part of Andhra tradition, although becoming alarmingly common to do even in Andhra. Thankfully my parents were on board with me as far as having a "no-frills" social wedding. I do seem to be disappointing people by not being excited about the wedding per se - as in the dressing up and the jewelry and all of that.I am really counting on my mom and sister to do all this kind of stuff. I was told that I absolutely have to be present to get blouses stitched, so that's all I'm gearing up for.  No, I have not been thinking of this day since I was 8 and I'm not even thinking about it now. It's really nice that I am away from home and can waltz in a couple weeks before the wedding, buy three or four saris, get the blouses stitched and thats it. :) Get married and go honeymoon in some romantic place. That's all I'm thinking of. Please don't burst my bubble. :)

I wanna chiggy wiggy....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

yo-yo

Just yesterday, I was feeling very happy and at peace with my decision of wrapping up my current postdoc by Dec and returning to India. Nothing specific caused that sense of ease- may be it was a culmination of ruminations going on in my head for days and weeks on end, weighing the pros and cons. Most days, my brain is going through a series of flow-charts- if this happens then that, if that were to happen then this..etc etc. This is the way I hash out scientific ideas, and was unconsciously applying it to my life too. :) But yesterday, I felt like I could give it all a rest.

Today was a very interesting day at work, I got to speak to a doctor about the clinical aspects of some of the work we do and it was very fascinating and informative. I came back from the meeting with the usual high I have after such stimulating conversations...but all of a sudden a wave of depression has struck. I can't put a finger on it: may be because meeting with the doctor reiterated how I have a long way to get where I want to in my project, and I wonder if the next 10-11 months I have set for myself will be sufficient.  I am very sure that going to the next step in my career is not going to be greatly influenced by whether I spend 1 or 2 or 3 years at this post-doc. Having decided to pursue a career in industry, a post-doc doesn't count for much-I could pretty much leave now and go to India and I'd find the same job I'll find in a year from now. 

Why am I staying here for a year then? The honest truth is that I was simply  too scared to up and leave- and look like I had thrown it all away to follow my boyfriend. I was fed a constant stream of caution- from within and from outside. It is a big decision, and I was worried about regretting and being bitter. Although, there was this constant voice at the back of my head telling me that a year was not going to change much: this one year was not really the tipping point- the decision of R2I-ing or not - and therefore being with B or not was the real tipping point. If I had decided to be with B, marry him and all that,  it entailed moving to India. If I could find a good job now and move, it was just as well. But I gave in to the fear, decided to stay for a year and accomplish enough towards a paper by Dec 2010.

There were other, smaller influences though. For one, a year gives me comfortable time period to position myself -network, research and land the best job I can in India. So that's a real, practical advantage of this one year period. Secondly, having quit my Philly post-doc after a year of achieving nothing, I felt like I needed a successful post-doc stint just to prove to myself that I was capable of doing good science, that my Philly experience was just one bad phase, and not indicative of what I could or could not achieve as a scientist. This post-doc has served that well- I have a good post-doc mentor and am regaining my confidence. I spent time developing and writing up a research plan and applied to several post-doc fellowships few months ago and became successful in getting one- a tangible achievement that I very much needed to boost my morale.

Today things have changed in that it seems like I will be spending the next several months just doing grunt work needed to get to the next point in my project  meaning that by Dec 2010 I will still be nowhere near the semblance of a paper.  The thought of investing my energies for the next few months in the grunt work, and then not being around to reap the benefits of it, is what is bringing me down. There is no getting around this grunt phase- what I was given to believe was a matter of a few weeks is now turning out to be a laborious process involving all this standardization and trial and error thats easily going to run into a few months.

At the same time I am steadily reaching a point of increasing investment in my work here, and it is going to be hard to pry myself away from it come December. That is the addictive and consuming nature of the work we do - It is something I was very aware would happen, and I am going through it now.

Then I remind myself of how I had gotten very attached to my Ph.D. project and was having trouble coming to terms with graduating, even when I was ready on all other counts. I remember telling myself how more can always be done, but there were better things to be achieved by graduating. In this case, the question of whether a better career move awaits is debatable. On the one hand, it's going to be a real job. However, it will be in India and therefore runs the risk of not being as intellectually satisfying research-wise. However, better things do await, life-wise. How badly do I want one over the other? I don't know: its hard to decide because until very recently, work was life. Now there's more to life and I am having the problem of plenty, in a twisted way.

Just when I was feeling settled with my decision, the boat is rocked. I guess this thing is going to yo-yo for a long time to come. With time, things will happen, including may be a miracle, and help me go forth with my plans the way they pan out.

In the meantime I can continue to do what I am doing: "accelerate" this post-doc the best I can and research opportunities in India so I know what I will be getting into. On that note, I am pleased with the way my networking plan is taking shape, I am talking to relevant people and getting very good advice and acting on it. So that's one thing that moving in the right direction, and I am really happy I went to all those job-search/ career-development seminars I went to that teach you how to do this stuff..there is definitely something to learn here, especially because grad school teaches you none of it.

I also realized - in the process of writing this post - that there are ways I can make my effort at the grunt work count- may be come up with some authorship agreement with my boss so that my contribution is accounted for even if I don't stay behind to complete the analyses on the samples. Yeah- that already makes me feel better and less negative.  That is why blogging is a good thing. :)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Vada Pav

I had to resort to blogging to get this out of my system. Had a terrible nightmare last night. In which I was traveling with family by train in India, and at some stop everyone gets vada pav except me. By the time its my turn, the guy is out of vada pavs! Very disturbing dream. I go after him, risking missing my train, to see if he has any left over and the only vadas left are stale and have some mold on them. :(

So I have to eat salad instead!!

Mummmmmmyyyyyyyy! :(

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year

The blog is probably going to go hibernate for a bit. Blogging is beginning to lose its charm for me. But I know I'll be back the next time I feel like venting. Until then, ..thanks for reading, commenting, commiserating...it has been that much more fun because of your inputs.

Happy New Year y'all!