Monday, July 28, 2008

Endurance

I've never lost to temptation simply because I never fight it. Especially the one to be sarcastic. Humor is not my thing at all. Sarcasm is the dull, blunt sword I use to cut through stupid or humor-requiring or awkward moments. But something tells me I am overdoing it. Maybe my friends actually believing what I say as a sarcastic response is indicative that my delivery royally sucks.

A conversation between Ann and me:-

"Dude, what are you wearing?"

"Me?" (Which is a silly question considering that we're the only ones in the room)

"No dude, not you. The invisible man behind you who's my fashion guru."

"Really?" (Whips around to see if someone is actually there, again a silly move considering that the man is supposed to be invisible)


This is when it occured to me that maybe I am not getting the intonation right. Maybe the sarcasm has saturated my dialogues so much that people are actually failing to notice it. Its almost insulting to have someone not detect the sarcasm and doubly so when they don't see the intended humor in it.
It hurts, it really does.

I dream... I dream of a better world... where chickens can cross roads and not have their motives questioned.

Color: Orange
Song: Dum diddy do



Monday, July 21, 2008

Pardon the parallax please.

I've had the most interesting weekend with the most interesting group of people. Seven of us, six different countries. And I can certify that India, China, Taiwan, Germany, Italy and Korea get along incredibly well. :D
Communication is not a problem thanks to English. But then I'm amazed at a German's ability to take a simple word and contort it into something that sounds like a guy with bronchitis breaking into a cough while gargling. Case in point: the German "version" of the name Charles is a sound similar to Khhhaazvlksjghz. Until then, German was a cool language. Germany was a cool country. German cars were awesome. German dudes were desirable. German dessert was the awesomest.
Post-Khhhaazvlksjghz, my entire fascination with Germany has turned into a focused effort of trying not to spit/spray/bathe-neighborhood-with-saliva when speaking the language. It's warfare, I tell you. Sheer brilliance. In those concentration camps, they probably put the guy in a pit and spoke German to him for 10 minutes and the guy drowned in saliva.

No offense to any German reading this. I still largely adore the country and hope to visit it some day. But please pardon the parallax generated when I'm learning your father tongue. :)

Ich liebe dich!

Color: Black, red and yellow :D
Song: Du hast

Friday, July 11, 2008

PIc your words

I distinctly remember this free physics class on a Wednesday when I was in first year of college. We were each asked to speak for five minutes about someone who had inspired us, whose contributions to the world we thought significant and important. Two weeks before that Wednesday, I had read an article in Reader's Digest about how much the scientific world had progressed fifty years since the discovery of the double helix in 1953. There was also a short interview with James Watson. I'd never had a hero before, someone I wanted to be like, but James Watson had impressed me. I scribbled some notes before I went behind the podium and gave a short talk about James Watson, what he had done and how much of an impact it had had on science, and on me.

Four years later, as a graduate student, when I first stepped on to the campus of Cold Spring Harbor Labs and someone told me that James Watson lived down Bungtown road, I was hyper. I frequently spotted the Nobel laureate in the Winship bar, in post-doctoral candidate seminars, sometimes asking questions I never understood and once a while driving around in his shiny car. Over the next one year, the image of the hero I portrayed in my five minute extempore those years back slowly degenerated into a senile old man with no regard for others' feelings. Maybe I judge him too harshly, but that is all that I have witnessed of this great scientist.

Political correctness is one thing, but to outrightly shun races, call someone unintelligent and make random conclusions from non-existent data is plain unacceptable. The first digression from the image was when I realized that the questions he asked in the seminars were not non-understandable, they were irrelevant. The statements he made about African people being less intelligent and that having a possible genetic explanation were shoddy and utterly baseless. But what triggered me to write this post was mostly what he said at a recent URP meeting (Undergraduate Research Program). I don't know if my writing my opinions on my blog is politically incorrect (PIc). But I suppose they aren't any more PIc than what Jim Watson had to say as an answer to some of the questions the URPs asked him. Totally unrelated to what the questions was (as the URP related to me) Watson actually announced that~
"Nothing good has come of Asia in the last 2000 years."

Unless someone was buried underground with ear plugs on and a frozen brain, they wouldn't make a statement like that. If I quote too many examples it would sound like I am defending my continent. I've had to defend India under many circumstances, especially from people who have this image of my country as a place that has elephants and snakes all over the streets and dancers swaying to music all day long. But since most of us know what Asia as a continent means to the rest of the world, I'll just state what I think is the recent biggest achievement in science. Yamanaka's reprogramming of differentiated cells into stem cells is a wow paper that everyone doing science must read.
That said, I am in need of a new role model. My boss is someone I hope to be like when I am his age. Dignified, extremely brilliant, passionate, respected and loved.

Go NKT!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jelly fish smoke trails :)

Lovely golden cascades exploded in the skies well synchronized with Star Spangled banner but there wasn't one American-looking person in sight. The fourth of July celebrations always leave me in awe of patriotism in the States. I was just reading the post I wrote on last years gala. Last year I was watching the Macy's fireworks over the Manhattan skyline from a State Park in NJ. This year was at Jones Beach, equally spectacular.
Patriotism in India (in my view) is a solemn and revered concept. We stand in silence when the Anthem plays, and there is something soulful about it. I'm not saying its not in the States but it comes across as a more joyous occasion here. A loud, colorful parade of who they are, and how important they are to the world. It almost makes me want to say they are smug, but they aren't there yet. They know the power they have over the rest of the world and they know the power the rest of the world has over them. It's a fine balance act that they are doing now.

Still, standing there with thousands of immigrants watching America's finest fireworks light up the night sky and leaving behind the most interesting smoke trails (jelly fish people chasing each other), I couldn't help but think that if this was my country's jubilee, then I'd have cried a little for all those who fought for our freedom and made it possible for India to be.

Jai Hind!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Organ-ization

I personally dread lab meetings. For many reasons, starting with having to exhibit attention and interest in work at 9.30 on a sleepy Wednesday morning. It is even worse if you are the one presenting. You know everyone has a calculator in the back of their heads, punching away at who has more data, if the data (or lack thereof) is acceptable, if the boss is going to approve of it, watching for any slips. And you have to fight all these mental odds, keep composure and seem like you know what you are talking about.
I know my labmates would laugh if they read this post saying - nah, no one is doing that. We're all here to learn.
Yes, I agree. We are all here to learn. But there is always an invisible race. Always the pressure to perform. I see my peers worrying sick because their bosses don't push them and I almost want to tell them that its good that they don't have it. :D
But nothing makes you work harder until you sync your footsteps to the clicks on that calculator.
Nothing rings in your head like your boss asking "So, whats happening with your experiments?".
Nothing motivates you as much as a colleague's successful lab meeting.
And nothing depresses you as much as the miserable failure of yours. :|

Lab meetings must be made illegal else they must be offered with free pills or an option to be institutionalized.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Epiphany

Irony. Most writers strive to have it in their text, but it comes to you naturally.

Lines from a book I read recently that left me pondering about a lot of things in life. If what I do makes sense given the things that are plaguing the rest of the world, if what I do even makes sense to me, if I should consider career alternatives that make more sense in the "political world" and others on similar lines.

For as long as I remember, nothing but science has intrigued me. The only books I can't put down are fiction, old English literature, non-fiction, biographies and biology textbooks. The thing they all have in common is the question - how does the story end? Which is why I thought I'd be alright in science. Because that is what scientists do, find story endings. And those endings start off new stories whose endings need to be found and that is what people mean when they say "I've a career in science".
I thought I could have a career in science. I was reasonably good at math and to some extent gifted with languages. But I still chose science. And I've never wondered until today if I made a mistake.
Grad school does that to you I guess. Makes you second guess your choices. But its also probably an unfair generalization. I've seen people be humbled by grad school and people who've used it as a stepping stone to get to better places and do bigger things in life.
It depends on who you are and who you are with.
If you are motivated and capable of learning on your own, then you'll survive no matter where. Then grad school is just a building to you that gives you a degree.
If you are motivated but need a teacher, then it depends on who you are with. If that person is willing to teach you even when you are stupid, then you'll make it out of grad school unscathed. If they are busy and expect you to raise yourself, then you'll start a blog worrying if you made the wrong career choices. :)

More on grad life coming up!