Sunday, May 30, 2010

W.O.M.M

Sigh. I am feeling tired and drained. Sometimes all your efforts to remain positive and cheerful and practical just get sapped- and you face this gaping in-your-face negativity that you don't know how to deal with. Life is like that, I guess.

As is wont of the see-saw that is life, things have been looking up in my lab-life. Got some exciting data and while it is not novel or something that hasn't been reported already, the cool thing is that it was generated in our lab and I taught myself the analysis from scratch- a very transferable skill that I have picked up and hope to master in the coming months. And a very enjoyable skill too- given all the high-throughput methods out there, I think it is important to be able to analyse data, know the finer tweaks of such analysis, to make the best of the data and interpret reams of results into that prized "candidate list". And it is such fun to get the first peeks at such data and be able to make sense out of it. Also, being informed about the downstream analysis helps you plan experiments more wisely. So yeah- I am kicked about the little but hard-earned successes I've had at work.

Things are also slightly stirring on the job-search front. I have at least one "informational interview" lined up for when I visit India for the wedding. At a time when most applications and cvs don't even get seen or acknowledged by companies, I feel happy about this. I am also seeing a lot many more ads out there by Indian Co.s in pharma/life-science than I ever saw before. That is also a good sign. I have more or less decided to go the industry way to start with, and, if I'm really unhappy, then consider academia at a later point, once I have given industry a shot. I feel like this is the best time for me to branch out of academia.

Today I am going to go out, soak in the sun and enjoy the city with a very close friend who is visiting. Part of me doesn't want to burden our one day together by unloading all of my worries and sob stories on him, another part of me knows that will happen, and knows he will make me feel a lot lighter about all of it. Most of me is just excited to get to see him and explore the city with him. Yeah! :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

AT & T really does suck

Update again: AT & T called me later in the day and told me they had canceled my account and taken care of the charges. I have yet to see a check, but I hope it is in the mail.


So update: I called AT&T this morning again, to disconnect my service with them. They start by trying to talk me out of it, and mention that my last bill was only $65! I say, yeah, that's $65 for not using your service at all! I was with Metro PCS all of last month.

Then, the lady says, well, that means your port wasn't completed properly and that should be a good enough indication for you about your new service provider.

I tell her that I have talked to them and they say they did everything necessary and this is the third time I'm calling AT&T and they are telling me that it is my new carrier's fault that my old account is not cancelled.

While AT&T is looking into it and keeping me on hold, having me listen to their wonderful music and advertisement, I call up Metro PCS using a separate phone.

I get the same shpeil from Metro PCS- "we did everything and transferred the port on 14th April".

Then At&T comes back on line- I am talking to both customer reps simultaneously and have them on speaker so they can hear each other. At this point I ask Metro PCS, short of taking both these companies to court, since both of you claim its not your fault, what else can I do to not have to pay two cell phone bills for the same month for the same number?"

Metro PCS says "You need to call AT&T" and lo and behold,

AT&T says "Er.. I looked into it and it seems like it was a fault at our end".

Seriously? It took me 3 hour-long phone calls to get you to see that?

And then, I am given a ticket, and told that I will be refunded all charges.

And then, they still have the gall to try to talk me into coming back to AT&T. In the same phone conversation where they first blame the other company, then admit it is a "Technical error" at their end, they then try to talk me into coming back to them!

Times of India reporters and AT&T technical/customer support all need to go get a dose of that thing called shame.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Effing AT&T

update

Over a month ago, I switched my service from ATT to Metro PCS. Now that move in itself was a stupid move in some ways. Metro PCS coverage sucks and a few a days after the switch I went to D.C. for 5 days and had absolutely ZERO signal everywhere. So I was phone-less for the entire duration and had to use to public phones and random strangers phones to make and keep plans that I had to meet up with people while in D.C.

Inspite of that, I stuck to MetroPCS- mainly because it is so cheap, and the signal is fairly decent while I am in my home city. It's $45 for unlimited calls and texts- and given all the texting I do to India (ATT would charge $0.25 per intl text) and I was forced to use the higher rate plan with ATT given all the daytime talking I did to India. With Metro PCS I was saving over $30 a month, and I put that towards getting myself vonage. For the most, I was very pleased with all of these and saving whatever little money I was. And, I wasn't overpaying for a service which I could get for lesser.

Of course, nothing is so simple in life. MetroPCS said that once they ported my number over from ATT (which would take 24 - 72 hours to complete) my ATT account would get canceled. A month later, I still get a bill from ATT. Go figure! I call up ATT, and they say Metro PCS needs to do something to complete the port. A whole effing month later?! WTF. Of course Metro PCS throws the ball back to ATT and the story goes on.

So I call back ATT and explained the situation to them- After a 45 minute phone call, they tell me they can't cancel my account- and Metro PCS needs to do it! What the fuck is that supposed to mean? The account is with ATT and I am calling them and asking them to cancel it- and they tell me they cannot do it! Beyond ridiculous. I finally had them refund last month's payment (Which went out automatically from my credit card) and de-linked that credit card. After all this, they were still unable to cancel my account.

So I call ATT again, and this time, simply say- I am calling to cancel my account. This time the guy takes on a sympathetic tone and asks me "Oh- do you know anyone who can take up the responsibility of payment from you?" What the fuck? I asked him what he meant by that and he says "Well- do you know anyone who would need a phone and you can transfer your phone to them so they can keep the account" and then asks me if I would like to talk to someone about a more affordable rate plan. Cancel my goddamn account and take your stupid crap elsewhere!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On the Toilet paper Of India

For all these years I have been in the US, I had TOI's home page on my bookmarks, and read it the first thing in the morning- it was my source of news from India- and it stuck on simply for historical reasons - it was the paper we used to get at home in India when I left India 8- plus years ago. It's not that i didn't notice how it had greatly deteriorated over the years. I did, I cringed, I ranted. But perhaps the effect was lesser online than if I was seeing all that crap in reams of paper in newsprint. My father had stopped subscribing to it by then in India. I just kept on- one of those things you just don't bother changing.

B hates the paper with a passion. He refuses to subscribe to any newspaper in India and refuses to watch any news channel. When I rave and rant about stuff I read about - via blogs or that I saw first hand - on TOI or NDTV or whatever- B is mostly blissfully unaware of it. I poked fun at him - told him he'd never know what was happening if he didn't see the news, however crappy it might be. But he did just fine.  And always pointed out that by reading the rag, watching clips on Youtube, I was giving hits to all these people whose work was so loathsome and comprised the very dregs of reporting, if you could call it that. Then there even came an article on TOI's front page that talked about how they had the most hits and were the most widely read english newspaper or something. And I realised I had contributed to a good fraction them, as I often revisited some horrible coverage on TOI - mostly out of horror and disbelief.

The Mangalore air crash coverage was the last straw for me. The article in which a bunch of reporters purport that one of the airhostesses might have "had a hunch" of the tragedy because of a "chilling message" that was her "last update" on her "Social networking site". It made me want to barf. And it is truly shameful that so called reporters will stoop so low, manipulate the words of someone who just died in a horrible tragedy, to just sensationalize news. There is no shred of responsibility or ethics in that front paged article let alone any quality research. It got over two hundred comments pointing out their shoddy research- and the factual incorrectness of it- but no attempt was made at retracting it or taking it down. What is most infuriating is how they have no accountability whatsoever.

And just when I was about to add to one more page count by checking again to see whether the article was still there or not, I decided to stop it. No more TOI for me. I deleted their link from my bookmarks and replaced it with The Hindu, to get my daily dose of news from India. And I urge you all, who rant and rave about pathetic coverage- to do just that. Stop paying for subscriptions, stop contributing to their hit counts online. All the raving and ranting and fisking is falling on deaf ears. Only a real significant reduction in their revenue will be heard by them. And that starts with each one of us.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

This mothers day business

Question to all you readers out there- how many of you, that grew up in India, and around my age group (er..like 25 or older ;) ) celebrate mothers day in India? Do you give your mom something or, if you're a parent (in India), organise something for yourself or your wife on this day (May 9th) ?

I never grew up with this concept. I began noticing it in the recent years and wrote it off as an American holiday. My niece and sister celebrate it, but then my niece was born in the U.S. and it makes complete sense for her to do it.

But a couple years ago my dad asked us why we didn't wish our mom for it, and that she was waiting for us to call/wish. I was taken aback. In all honesty I couldn't get myself to do it. I gave my mom my shpeil of not believing in this, it was a hallmark holiday etc. and only had relevance in the U.S. But I felt slightly guilty. Sometimes, it calls for budging on our convictions if it is simple enough and makes another person happy, right? I am not so sure. I didn't wish my mom today either. I casually mentioned that my friend's son did something sweet for her for mothers day. Then ended up wondering about the whole thing again.

And so I wrote this post. Humor me, will you?

ETA: While we're on the topic: a friend's 9 year old son made a very cute card for his mom, with a nice pink flower crafted on the top and a cute little rhyme on the inside that said stuff like "Take a break from mopping, go shopping, go catch your favourite show, while i help out with the chores ..etc" So I asked the kid- this is very sweet- when are you going to do all of this for your mom- and he nonchalantly replies "Oh- all that is just written for fun- I don't have to do it".

Friday, May 07, 2010

WOMM

I am  learning that one of the first steps to coping with a long-distance relationship and all that it brings with it is acknowledging the fact that it is hard, and it affects my daily life. For the longest time I tried to insist that I shouldn't let this LDR affect my performance at work. My constant argument used to be: it should be just the same as it was before I met B. I lived alone, worked hard, did well, and was generally happy. I could accommodate for the blues, the missing etc. etc. but not for it to influence with my performance in any significant way or make its way into all parts of my life.

But it has. Things add up. While I used to enjoy cooking earlier, after cooking together with B, one of our favourite things to do, it plain sucks to go into the kitchen and cook for myself. So I avoid it everyday, feel miserable and loserly about it, bring migraines upon myself, and finally drag myself to eat some rubbish and make it through the night. Rinse and repeat everyday. All the while feeling like such a failure at this very simple act of making myself a meal.

On nice sunny fridays like this, it sucks to watch everyone hurry up and leave work looking forward to spending their evenings and weekends with their significant others, while I have no fun plans. I always maintained that the city is a great place to hang out for one alone, but I have done enough of it now. I tried making some friends but haven't gotten too far with that- heck- these days I am not too great at even keeping the ones I have, so I might as well give up on that project too.

Then, I am regularly disappointed in myself at work, never able to live up to my own lofty standards- and not sure what it is that drags me down and eats into my motivation on a daily basis.

But now I realise the need to accept that not being with B is contributing to a large part of my overall unhappiness and that it will influence all aspects of my life. So if I factor in this setback, and cut myself some slack, I might actually do better and feel better, instead of insisting that I need to be performing at my optimal levels and mad at myself for not being able to do it.

----
I stumbled upon these lines by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Perls and they rang a bell...Indeed - all the times I have found another it has been beautiful- and the times I have not - it can't be helped, can it? That's that.

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
If not, it can't be helped.


---
I have a happy doctor story to share for a change. I met my knee doctor and explained to her that coming in for physical therapy every few days was proving to be a huge drain on my finances thanks to my stupid insurance and high copay. She totally sympathised with me, so had the physical therapist come in and teach me some exercises I could do unsupervised in gym, suggested some substitutes for some of the equipment they used in the clinic, and asked me to keep at it 4 days a week. It feels great to have such a positive experience.

--
"Woh sari ka blouse diya tha tailoring ke liye- ready hai kya?" - when I uttered these words, they rang of marriage preparations like no other. :)

--

Thursday, May 06, 2010

General rant

If you are really serious about the job search business, it has to show. I think its very very common knowledge that a boilerplate resume (Addressed to "dear sir or madam" - when the job ad has the name of a contact person) and cover letter don't work. If you, with a Masters degree under your belt don't know that, I really don't know what to say. Turns out that you do know that, but are plain lazy to do any better. Don't waste my time asking for tips or help then. Just like you did a year ago. Nothing irritates me more than someone trying to find a job but totally unwilling to put in the required effort- which, in today's climate, is a lot. Because I know people that are pulling out all stops, doing all the networking/googling/revising they can to better their chances but still finding it frustratingly hard. And then there's people who just want a job to fall in their laps and refuse to make any extra effort. Seriously?


Monday, May 03, 2010

Questions for any post-docs in India

When I decided to plan my R2I, to follow B, one of the things I said I would NOT do is go back to India to do another post-doc. I would have invested 3 years as a post-doc here by then and it just seemed like a huge step down to me, money-wise, and status-wise. I was also super clear that I wanted to get into industry so a post-doc was irrelevant.

I am strongly reconsidering academia now. May be it's a passing phase, may be the conference I went to has messed with my head- and these confusions merit a whole different post in themselves- but I want to do some homework about post-doc-ing in India.

It is apparent to me that I won't make the cut to faculty positions in India with my current CV. So, then, that makes doing another post-doc something I may have to look into. I am wording all these statements with heavy caution because I am really loath to doing another post-doc, and especially so in India. But if there are any post-docs out there - post-docs in India - esp. in Life Sciences-, who read this blog, I'd really appreciate it if you could tell me a few things: either as comments here or an email to trillian26@gmail.com. I will respect your anonymity. Some of the questions I have:

1) How long do the post-docs last in India?
2) Where does the funding come from?
3) What do you get paid?
4) How much independence do you have in your project?
5) And what percentage of people who do a post-doc there go on and get into faculty positions in India?
6) Do they get absorbed by the same institution or is that not encouraged?

Thanks in advance..