March 11, 2008

The Break

I am overwhelmed with work at the moment so the creative sector of the brain has become, let's say, very inactive as you can deduce from the quality of recent posts. So instead of keep writing pieces with no structural integrity or any kind of integrity what-so-ever, I am taking a short break. I hope I will be back soon.

Meanwhile if some creative bug bit me, I might take a break from the break and write something, otherwise I will see you in some near future...

P.S.: From past experiences, its hard to keep me from writing so I guess I will be back before you know it. Somehow, when the compulsion of writing or, for that matter, doing any work is taken off, you can and want to do that work and do it more efficiently. Human mind is a weird place, I say.

March 10, 2008


Writing a paper is pain. And when you have to follow a specific formatting, it becomes worse. I am currently working on 5 papers to be written by end of this week in two different formatting sets.

One set of paper is going for our group's annual report to be printed for group's sponsor meeting in June. The standard formatting paper, and the subject of this post, provided by our group staff for the purpose is very amusing. For example, the example table format in the paper reads:

Table 1: Example Table.

Research Time vs. Results



How to Improve Results



Keep going



Coffee + fresh air


What’s the results?

Heard about girl/boyfriend and commitment?

Now some one in our group staff had a pretty good sense of humor (this format has been passed along for a long time one knows who wrote it originally.). It makes me smile within the chaos of trying to fit the table/figure within a single page with their titles and all those normal pains. Another example:


Moos, D. and Nolen-Hoeksema, R., 1989, How to annoy busy researchers with trivial pursuits: Psychobabel Today, 1, 63-64.

How can you remain mad after this? It doesn't make the task easier but it surely help improving the mood...

March 7, 2008


Whatever field you work in, at times its so difficult to step back from it and understand the point of the person outside that field of expertise. At times its really amusing to talk about your field to someone who has no clue about your field. Few experiences of yours truly, for your entertainment.

So this day I was talking to a friend who happened to be in HR (she was new to Oil industry) and we were talking about how oil is explored and produced etc. I guess I was going a bit high-fi with the terms when I started explaining her about seismic exploration and differences between exploration wells and development wells. She asked very basic question: 'So when you explore for oil, why do you guys are so worried about the rock properties?'. For the benefit of those who, like her, think that there is a swimming pool of oil in the subsurface in between the rocks from where we drain the oil: There is no pool. Oil exist in the pore space (tiny spaces between the grains of different minerals in rocks) between the porous rocks like sandstones or limestones. Its not possible to have a void in middle of rocks at that depth for the oil to have its own private pool. The gravity won't take it. It will collapse. The weight of all the rocks above actually consolidate even the porous rocks.

Second incident is from a field trip. So we (a group of three from our company) were on a Geological field trip in Rajasthan . Our main office in India was in Chennai while we were working on an oil exploration project in Rajasthan. Since it was still in exploration stage so we went for looking at some rocks (which meant we took some rock samples(pieces of rocks broken from outcrops/mountains or bigger rocks in middle of nowhere..yes thats we do.)) in order to figure out future exploration direction. The driver with us was a young man who was very good at his work. He drove us around for three days. On the evening of third day, just before we were leaving, he asks very shyly, 'Can you ask you something didi?".
"Sure go ahead." I said.
"Why do you guys came all over here to collect rocks? Don't you get enough rocks in Chennai?"
Oh well. I didn't even know how to start answering that question.
(I hope you guys understand that we were looking for oil in Rajasthan so have to look at rocks in Rajasthan.)

The best one is from my friend. Her husband is a chemist by profession. So one day she was discussing about her research when she was trying to figure out the seismic (acoustic) velocity (a physical property used for identifying subsurface (subsurface: the surface beneath the ground)) in coal. Usually we refer the acoustic velocity in any material/rock as its seismic velocity or simply its velocity (not accurate way but thats the jargon of the field). She was going on about how can she get the velocity of coal from the data she has. Her husband very innocently answers her, "Well that will depend on means of transportation and the velocity with which the driver is driving." And honestly he was right. Thats what will give the velocity OF the coal. Though not the velocity of seismic waves (or acoustic waves) IN the coal.

I know these are very technical jokes pertaining to my field of work and sadly there aren't many that work in this field, unlike IT industry. But incident like these does make us step back once in a while and laugh at ourselves. How ridiculous we should look or sound to people from outside world! Imagine someone collecting rocks from middle of nowhere and carrying it as a prized possession!

I remember the first time I went to the department of Earth-Science and found the Rock museum which they actually lock during the holidays and night times. 'Who will steal rocks?', I used to wonder. Now I know better. Wouldn't you steal (figuratively speaking, of course) the rock having Gold ore/diamonds in it?

P.S.: Did I ever mention that I used to work for an oil industry before joining the Ph.D.? Don't ask me why I decided to give up the life of luxury, business class travels, no looking at price tags to become a grad student. I have been trying to find that answer ever since I joined! Anyway, the first two incidents pertain to that wonderful life while the last one is from this life.

March 6, 2008

Energy and Environment

I have been meeting a lot of new people lately, mainly because I am searching for a new room-mate. And obviously the conversation comes to our area of research. Somehow every time I mention oil, the reaction is more of a shock or something similar. I can't name that expression.

Usually people ask me, isn't oil prospecting old fashioned? Or you work for alternate energy or just the oil prospecting? Somehow the idea of someone working for oil industry is monstrous for them. It always comes to, 'Oh so you will earn big money.' And somehow its not meant as a compliment. You know for them, I am part of the industry who doesn't care about the environment and obviously the root cause of recent wars and problems in the world is oil industry. And then comes the conclusion, at times more explicitly than others, oil is evil. I have been taking this beating for a while now and never respond to those nice people to check their beliefs before they start preaching them.

What do you think will happen to world if the oil industry stop working right now? I don't think either of those so-called environment-friendly people would want that. And talking about the alternative energy, don't these so called environment friendly people have problems with them too. Here is a list of alternative energies, they so fondly talk about:

1. Nuclear Power Plants: One of the most efficient way to produce energy but you know the risks and impacts. Honestly, I would go for oil instead of nuclear anyday.

2. Hydro-electric power plants: Remember Narmada Bachchao Andolan? Medha Patkar? Building dams would mean land usage and that would mean displacing people from those areas, in case you live in highly populated country like India. Yes, I agree, its bad if you consider the locals and the lives of people getting displaced. And since I never believed in sacrifices so I wouldn't say that they should be sacrificed for the benefits of others. I am just listing the problems faced by each "alternative resources".

3. Wind mills: Pretty clean way to produce energy. Problems locals have with wind-mills? To start with, you can't just place windmills anywhere and expect it to work. You need to have certain amount of wind energy in that place in order for it to work. Now the problems with wind-mills that they can be a bit noisy and hence people don't like them around their place. So the "Wind-farms" has to be setup at places with less population density, usually in rural areas. Though I don't see many places in India to be like that.

Anyways, second problem that environmentalist has with wind mills is that birds are sucked in and killed by these wind mills. Yep you got it right. Birds. Killed by wind-mills. Problem. Protests. Honestly, I can't make myself sympathize with the birds here. Though I can understand if the farmers have problems if the population of predatory birds like owls etc is decreasing as it will have an impact on rodent population and hence a headache for them. In any case, if you compare the figures of birds killed by wind-mills per year with the ones that fly/strike into a window and die (yes they do that), its pretty low.

(Image from : Sibley
Click to enlarge

The last problem that people have with windmills is that they ruin the landscape. There has been talk of putting windmills towards the shore of west coast of US. The shore lines, as you know, has very good wind energy that can be utilized but that will ruin the landscape.

4. Solar Energy: Not as good a resource as it varies drastically from year to year, season to season and day to day as well as region to region. But again the problems are similar as wind-mills, landscape, land-usage and to some extent if birds get near those mirrors, they will be roasted alive.

So basically if you consider the environmentalists and their demands, don't you think we should go back to live in caves and not impact the environment at all? Even fire poses a hazard to environment, so lets go back to times before man discovered the fire. We will save the Earth.

Don't take me wrong. I am not against all the environmental issues. It hurts me pretty bad whenever I think about the way they torch the natural gas in Africa and other places just because they don't have any means to store and transport it. Its such a big waste, not to mention a source of green-house gases. I don't like what oil-spills do to the environment either. I don't like the way US consumes 25% of petroleum production of the world when it has only 2% of world's population. These issues should be considered and worked on. Not the landscapes and bird population.

Anyway, coming back to oil industry being evil. May be before we finish the oil we will have a combination alternative resources to take its place but right now we can't afford to do that. It forms our major energy resource at the moment. And our work in oil industry, besides making profit and earning money, is to find and extract oil from Earth so that you have electricity in your homes. So that your food and other products reach you from the rural parts of the country. So that the industries have energy and they can produce your computers, your clothes..practically everything and then transport them to you. Can you imagine what will happen if oil industry stops right now? Do you really think the environment issues associated with oil industry are as big?

Oh yes, I forgot the war-aspect of oil. Do you think there were no wars in the world before oil was discovered? Or do you think there won't be disagreements in the world if we go for these alternative resources? Resource like water, nuclear can be very controversial. Remember Kaveri water dispute? Or recent Iran Nuclear development problems?

I don't think damning the oil industry is the solution here.

Also read Doom's Day.

P.S.: I know its a very haphazard post. There is no flow and may be I could have made it shorter but I didn't have enough time to do so. I guess you get the basic idea and my indignation here..

March 3, 2008


I always had an inferiority complex about my language skills, especially when it comes to English. I always consoled myself by reminding that English isn't my first language so its ok for me not to be skilled in the language. But at times, I meet people with their first and only language as English that makes me proud of my English skill. One sample:

I'm Jason Fishbain I am 32 years old and I currently live in martinez, but work at Intel. Since I will be moving if need be I have furniture, tables a couple couches and more a 52 inch HDTV.I recently lost my 7 yr old Basset Hound to stomach cancer, but still have an older Bloodhound, she's adorable and in fact she sleeps 20 hrs a day. As for me I will be working a full time IT job for Intel in Santa Clara I love animals you can c mine at If dogs aren't allowed I can have her stay with my friend. I'm very easy going and a civil rights activist during the 10 yrs or so I lived in Humboldt before moving to the bay almost a yr ago let me know whatcba think, I have a 215 recomendation and ideally would love to be able to utilize it


Honestly, my English (at least the writing skills) are much better than this. My grammar isn't as bad either. I at least use a "Period" every now and then.. :)

As for his mail, I am not sure about its purpose. Here are few logical conclusions that I can draw from his mail:

1. He love dogs. (Just a slight digression: Did he say that his dog sleep for 20 hours? I never had any pet but somehow I think that something is wrong with his dog...)
2. He is either very confused or very evasive.

Honestly, he has 215 recommendations and he wants to utilize it? I don't even know 215 people...

P.S.: I just noticed the name of the writer..FISHBAIN. I know I am a hypocrite making fun of someone else's name when I can't tolerate a single snide on mine but this is too good an opportunity to let go: Isn't there some thing FISHY about this mail? :)

March 2, 2008


Today I posted an ad for a new room-mate on Craigslist. Well Craigslist is a centralized network of online communities featuring free advertisements. People here usually prefer going through Craigslist while searching for housing etc. Anyways, so I posted the ad on craigslist with the subject line: "Female room-mate wanted for 2 BD Apt."

The craigslist refused to publish the ad on the grounds that it has discriminatory preferences . It actually told me:

Stating a discriminatory preference in a housing post is illegal, is prohibited on craigslist, and can be expensive:
  • you can be fined more than $10,000 for each discriminatory ad, plus damages in court, plus loss of license if you are a professional
  • avoid phrases which could be interpreted as discriminating by race/color/origin (e.g. 'hispanic area'), religion (e.g. 'christian home'), age / familial status (e.g. 'no kids'), disability, or sexual orientation
  • the words you choose can cost you - get the facts and avoid being prosecuted under fair housing law

I hope no one sues me if I refuse to have a male room-mate! Being politically correct is the buzz word of this era, isn't it? Funny World....

March 1, 2008

It's official..

...I don't know how to party. I don't seem to get the essence of "partying" to start with. How is getting drunk and making complete fool of yourself or passing out, FUN? Not that I haven't made complete fool of myself but usually its unintentional or may be because I am trying out something new. Or may be simply because I love doing whatever I am doing. At those times, I don't care AND I don't need to get drunk for that. But just simply getting drunk and making fool of yourself...I honestly don't get it.

I am simply trying to be a bit more social these days. But I think social "aptness" is not my cup of tea (or coffee, or coke, or whatever kind of beverage you prefer). I lasted an hour tonight. I am not trying it out again any time soon.

Anyways, I am back in my warm nice bed with the most romantic book ever. Yeah, yeah...I am a total social failure and I don't care anymore.

Though, since we are on the topic: How is social success or rather, social aptness, defined? Number of contacts? Number of parties you get invited to? Number of people who know you? Number of personal emails you receive in a day? Number of evenings you spend socializing? What is the barometer for measuring social success? Any ideas? And moreover, why is it so damn important?

P.S.: Sorry. I don't swear usually. At least, not since my college days. :)