Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It is sinking (in) part 2

Next step to really drive home that you are moving out? Putting up your items for sale. After a lot of procrastinating I finally posted my stuff this morning and already have people fighting over my stuff (or so I'd like to believe). :) I was stressing out about not being able to get rid of all my stuff but turns out that if you mark down your stuff there's always several poor post-docs who have just moved in and want it . As of now I am saving numbers in my cellphone with names such as table, chair, bookshelf. :) The phone has been ringing non stop and the new mail icon is bouncing endlessly on my mac. Stay tuned for stories of bidding wars, cat-fights and what not at the home of TGFI. Yay! exciting!

ETA: Of course, it could also end like this

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It is sinking

in. :-) I remember writing a similar post when I was leaving Lutom. Well, here I am again.

My lab threw me a farewell lunch today. They gave me a nice present and cards with the sweetest things written in them, including "life of the lab" and "the gap will be felt". My boss said lots of nice things about me - calling me the provocateur of the lab, (hastening to add that he meant it in a good way) and saying he was sure I would go places and that I should always maintain my curiosity and spirits and smarts. And I stood grinning through it all, no attempt at modestly accepting praise. I don't know why I did that. He ended with something to the effect of "you've done some great work and it should make a great paper" or something, and I actually found myself saying "I know" at the end of his little eulogy. What is wrong with me?

It took a nice party and yummy cake for it to finally kick in that this is it. My bench and desk cannot continue to look the way they do- they need to be adopting that "Cleaned out" appearance soon. Then I went back to the bench to plan my experiments for my final two days. A huge panic attack set in. I guess a small part of me really wants to be able to finish each and every little thing before I leave, even though I know that is not possible. Thats when I realised that I will need one whole day just to organise my data and hand over my stuff to the guy who will continue my work. So I have decided to slow down on the experiments front- the last ditch efforts aren't really going to do much, as someone else has to anyway step in to fill in the blanks. So I'm better off investing my time in leaving a well organized to do list and boxes for my lab mate to take over.

I barely stumbled past my panic attack that pretty much paralyzed me into doing nothing the rest of the evening. Went out with a friend for dinner and felt a lot better. I have a plan, and all that is left is for me to whole-heartedly accept that I will not be finishing the project, admit to myself that I chose life over work this one time, and that is OK. Labmate will fill in the blanks for me, and the paper will have an additional trailing author. No big deal. My work is done. It's time for me to move on.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Acts of desperation

I caved in and bought the 5 quarters from ebay, to complete my coin collection. Still haven't confirmed the purchase, not sure how I feel about it. :(. How do hardcore collectors feel about purchasing stuff to add to their collection as against really "collecting" ?

decisions..decisions.. :p

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Am in for another sleepless night worrying about what lies ahead. Each transformation the next phase in my life is going to take on seems more challenging than the other. What is it that nags me the most: R2I? R2I professional? Wife? Daughter-in-law? None of the above. The role that worries me the most is that of a "caregiver" to my FIL. And in some sense to my husband too, who is taking the brunt of the blow of his dad's situation. B tells me how, the other day, his dad was ruing about why he ended up with a problem involving memory loss when he'd much rather have chosen diabetes or B.P over it. I can almost feel that pain that might've provoked that thought. Met up with an old buddy of mine few months ago, who had just lost his dad to Alzheimer's. He told me that there was absolutely no way to sugar coat the long arduous journey I was in for. And this when he lived away from his dad and saw his mom single-handedly care for his dad. Sigh.

B's strategy is to somehow learn to deal with it all, while celebrating the small joys of life. I hope that works for us.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On being efficient at work

I've realised the single-most deterrent that slows me down at work is dragging my feet on tasks I feel I should've done earlier. So when I'm finally getting down to doing them, I'm still stalling, wondering, regretting why I didn't do it before. Instead of just putting my head down and plowing forth. 

The second time-waster is my terrible inability to switch gears between projects- even different experiments within the same project. Pulling my mind out of one and transporting it to another.

These are two issues I have been working on in the last leg of this post-doc, frankly because at this point I didn't have the luxury of time. I've improved at both, even if marginally. The solution to the first was to just convince myself that indeed, NOW was the best time to be doing it, not earlier. That is simple to do, just needs constant reminding to get rid of the self-doubt and remorse. The second was harder to get under control. One thing that helped was a lot better organization and some disciplined habits of note keeping. At the end of each experiment, I write out my TODO NEXT while it is still fresh in my head. I put this in a sticky on top of the notebook for that project. So that, I am able to tell, at a glance, where I am on each project, and what is the next immediate experiment I need to do for it when I revisit it, and not have to rewrap my brain over the past few experiments to see what is going on with it. Lately, I've gotten even more disciplined and keep a HUGE running table, checkmarking various steps as I have completed them. The table has gotten a bit out of control, but its a visual tool and saves me time in the long run.

 I do think I my note-book keeping skills have improved ALOT since my grad school days. I kept terrible notes in grad school. I wrote down every detail of the experiments I did, but it was all one huge single story book. :) There was no demarcation of different projects, different experiments nothing. No table of contents, no page numbers.

In my first post-doc lab I saw this superbly organized post-doc. She had a running excel spreadsheet table of contents, and a simultaneous hand-written one for each project. Each project of course, had separate note books. Every page was numbered. At the end of each day she updated her table of contents both on the computer and in hand. This way she could easily search through electronically if she was looking for something. 

Each page in her notebook had a set template. PAGE NUMBER, DATE, AIM, MATERIALS AND METHODS, RESULTS, CONCLUSION. She didn't necessarily repeat M&M for the same kinds of experiments, just said "Refer protocol #x". There was separate binder of protocols, and these protocols were numbered. 

Every project similarly had a different folder on the computer. So that, any analyses she did, figures she generated went into that folder. There was never a stray file on her desktop without a home labeled with an uninformative name like CANON4355.TIF. :) 

I have tried my best to emulate her ever since. Admittedly, I didn't get too far with my electronic table of contents- mainly because I have never had that discipline of sitting down at the same time each day at the end of the day and updating it. For her, it was an inbuilt habit. From 4:45 to 5:00 pm, that's what she did. Her day was planned accordingly. I have realised that just like exercise, keeping good notes is also something one has to invest in daily, we cannot let it pile up and take care of it all at once.

Then there is the added complication of good note-book keeping today when you do a lot of data analyses, write scripts, generate data sets, tables, etc. This my Ph.D. Mentor taught me to do well. To treat each run in the unix box as an experiment itself. To keep track of parameters used, operations carried out, a strict convention of filenaming (Not test, test2, test3). 

I want to continue working on this, and getting better at it at my new job, wherever that will be.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

4 out of 7

Not too shabby after all. I made this list almost two years ago ..and I just got back from a crazy last minute impulse trip to CA. It wasn't' the ambitious trip I had outlined when I wrote that post, but I still managed to pack a lot into my 3 day trip, thanks to my superly enthusiastic friend.

I still have to blog about these trips: Chicago, Lutom, The GC and now sunny California. I have some drafts in my folder that I have to get around to cleaning up. I want to, to record how wonderful each of them were. Will do eventually.

For now, I am just so happy I finally managed to go to California, after all the yearning. I am so glad I made it happen. Yeah!

From Wiki: Half Dome is a granite dome in Yosemite National Park, located in northeastern Mariposa County, California, at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley — possibly Yosemite's most familiar rock formation. The granite crest rises more than 4,737 ft (1,444 m) above the valley floor.....Half Dome is nearly as whole as it ever was. The impression from the valley floor that this is a round dome which has lost its northwest half is an illusion.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Once again, I am having trouble interpreting data in an article and I write to the authors. There have been several other cases where my email was just simply never responded to, even after multiple attempts. Asking for things as basic as primer sequences. This time the authors come back to us in a long winded way and simply say the raw data is not available. How can that be possible? The last time I wasn't satisfied with authors responses (after advice from a comment on this blog) I posted a comment on the journal website. The main author (big man in the field) of the article got back to my boss with a clearly unhappy email saying I was creating an extra hassle for them because now they had to respond to my comments on the website.

There has got to be some retribution for people whose published work cannot stand the trials of other people following their work. Both the reviewers and the main authors need to be able to explain such deficiencies. I guess nobody has the time.

Friday, June 10, 2011

south dakota

I'm desperately trying to fill up my US States quarter collection. In the past several months, I have never seen a South Dakota quarter. Do they exist? Other than the territories, SD is the only quarter I am missing. Has anyone seen one?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Note to self: Lessons in politics

* Sometimes, when your boss is being stubborn and refuses to concede to your point, you just have to let go. Even if you know that you are right, and you have all the empirical evidence to prove your point. Do not make it your agenda. Instead, give in, and then subtly let the further evidence (After doing what he wants you to do), make your point. Several weeks and months later, he will be telling you what you told him in that same room weeks ago. Minus all that effort that you have put in. That gets frustrating. But do not say I told you so. Feign the same wonderment and surprise that he feels, and ask him what he would suggest one does. Nod.

* Learn to read between the lines. ALOT. People may be super nice and polite in your face, and then continuously use underhanded ways of giving you a hard time because of whatever grudge they nurse. Basically, do not be fooled by niceties.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


Life is all kinds of crazy right now. My data is finally begin to pour in, and it is very exciting! The kinds that has me at the edge of my seat, working late, sometimes too excited to even function properly. Yeah, I still don't know what most of it means, but it is exciting to just see the result of all that hard work, even if in files that are several MB huge and need some nifty programming skills to extract the information I need. Even better that I have some of those skills, so I'm plugging away, and generating pretty pie charts and bar graphs and what not. I hope it all comes together as a nice story. It plain sucks that I don't have enough time to see this story through its end. But the kinds of ends I want to take it through will take another 2 years. :)

Time is ticking though. And as much as this is fun, I need to be able to work faster, move quicker, and get a sizeable amount done in the next 3 weeks. I don't know how I'll do it. I hate the discouraging drone of my boss who keeps reminding me that I don't have enough time to do all that I need to do for the paper. Essentially hinting that I stay longer. It's like grad school all over again, the only difference being that he doesn't have to sign a dotted line for me to leave, so I am going to leave when I want to.

I feel very out of control of things right now. Million things buzzing in my head all the time. There's so much more I want to do, science-wise and life-wise. There's so much more I want to stuff into my 21 kg suitcases. Then I take a deep breath and remind myself, that there is also a whole new world out there, full off possibilities that I am just going to embark on. So what if it is lined with smog dust corruption and what not. It is a whole new world alright. :) I can buy more books, accumulate more junk, travel more, and do more science. And all of this with the guy I married a year back. That adds a completely new spin on things.

I have decided not to live the principled life in India. I will grease whatever palms need to be greased to get my gas, phone and other connections. I think I will simply have to assume that it is part of the costs. I will not fight with the autowallah everyday over the fare. At least until I am settled in. I will pick my battles. I am not going there to clean up the system. I will do my bit to be a conscientious citizen, but will not expect the same integrity from others. Lets see how it goes.

Just when I thought I will never have to take another exam..

f you are new to Bangalore and dreaming of settling down here, you will have to pass the Std VII exam in less than one year and prove that you can read and write Kannada.

The Kannada Development Authority (KDA) has recommended that the state government bring out a legislation to get non-Kannadigas in Karnataka to clear the basic Kannada examinations. The KDA, headed by MLC ‘Mukhyamantri’ Chandru, submitted its recommendations to the state government on Monday.

Heh. A terrible pic to accompany the rest of this story here

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Skeletons in my closet

So today I overcame my fears and finally attacked the closet I was dreading to go into. It had boxes that I shipped/moved from my grad school days to my first post-doc days to my second post-doc (here) without ever opening. Now I open, and throw throw throw like a heartless bitch. These are mostly research articles- god knows why I didn't dump them in Lutom before leaving. I guess its mostly because they have my highlighting and notes all over them. Many of them were seminal papers in the field I did my Ph.D. in, many of them I spent hours poring over - sitting in the library, in cafes, on my bed- while preparing for my qualifiers, while writing my thesis, many of them formed the basis of and contributed to a lot of my research ideas. They are a huge treasure for me- so what if I never go back and read them?

But all of that sentimentality is going to go out with today's installment of paper recycle trash. Let this post be the lone reminder of their memory. RIP, reams of research articles. You did mean a lot to me, and you will always live on, in pdf. :)

Then come the huge fat reference books. I had each of these brought over from India, one at a time, whenever someone was traveling to here. Each weigh anywhere between 3 to 5 kg. Put in the perspective of packing up into two 21 kg bags- I would only be able to take 4 or 5, assuming I dedicated 1 pc of luggage to them (which is basically not possible). Also, I never went back to them in all these years. The central dogma of molecular biology has been rewritten and modified several times after Genes V. The entirely xeroxed Janis Kuby bible for immunology has most of its pages faded- (25p xerox in chembur :) )so that is definitely going to be trashed. Others again, are precious because they taught me a lot of my fundamentals, I took great pleasure in acquiring my own printed copies of them instead of having to fight with others for the limited library copies in college, and well - when I bought them, they were expensive. But yeah, with a heavy heart, barring 2 or 3 (10 kg limit) I am going to donate these to the library. I used to imagine that I would be a professor one day, and all these tomes would be sitting in my bookcase in my office. :) / :(

Then there's the craziest collection of little bags I own. Little paper bags usually came with gifts etc. or some shopping. I don't know why I have held on to these. But they have gone in the "carry if I can" lot. They don't weigh much and I like re-using them when the need arises.

Then there's another crazy collection of travel-size soaps/shampoos etc. Again a result of crazy hoarding whenever I stayed in hotel rooms or last minute buying before going on a trip, and then not using for whatever reason. Yes yes, I pick these up from hotel rooms. I believe I have paid for them when I paid for the hotel room, and if I leave them, the hotel will throw them. I know, I may slightly delude myself there, but whatever. I like them. Now they are most probably going to goodwill, unless I can sneak them in. :(

The rest of the stuff was a lot easier to throw/recycle/give away. Mostly sheets/covers, room freshners, assorted junk. Some nice gifts from ex-boyfriends and such. I use a lot of these without any sentiment attached - they just became part of my life- but some remind me of specific times and moments and I never see myself using them. They also happen to be the nicest of the gifts and I haven't felt like throwing them either. Now they go to goodwill.

I still haven't figured out how to best recycle electronic crap like cellphones, chargers, modems, ethernet cables and keyboards. I don't want to simply junk them because I know they can be reused. Anyone with specific tips on where to recycle them? I will look up freecycle.

I need to proceed with operation throw in the most detached way, hence I blog to get the sentimental shit out of the way. :)