January 30, 2009

January 24, 2009

Cheeky Quotes..

..inform me:
Many a man in love with a dimple makes the mistake of marrying the whole
girl. -Stephen Leacock
I should remember this, given my own fascination with dimples.

January 20, 2009

It's that time of year...again

Every year in later part of June our group organizes affiliates meeting in which all of us present our annual progress. It's the time for our sponsors to evaluate us and make decisions about funding. Needless to say it's a very important meeting as it's directly connected to our scholarships.

Every year our adviser send us an email around this time, reminding us the importance of the meeting. I understand the importance of this meeting as well as the pressure on him to show results. And every year the few weeks after his mail are the most productive weeks for our group. Most of the research in our group is done in these few weeks.

Yesterday we got his mail. It said:
By February 1, I need each of you to send a description of the papers that you plan to have ready for the report volume.

For each paper, put together 4 or 5 sentences describing the problem, approach, and type of results that you are aiming for.

I want to remind you that these are tough economic times. The University and our sponsoring companies are making cutbacks in their budgets, some of which are causing us to lose funding. It also means that the companies might be offering fewer jobs. The best thing that I can suggest you do protect yourself is to produce excellent research -- lots of results, excellent and rigorous science, and meticulously written papers. I feel quite a bit of pressure from the tight funding, and I intend to share that pressure with you. There won't be any free rides.

Please make the best of the next few days to think carefully about your work, and how to maximize your progress. Be a good manager of your effort. Don't waste time stuck on a problem, and don't think that "waiting for data" or "waiting for samples" is an excuse.
You can only imagine the reaction of this mail. Every one in the group was seen working hard on their computers/in the lab today. No loitering, no gossiping, no coffee breaks. The silence was dense. Stress lines can be seen on every face.

And they tell me I needn't worry about current economic crisis. I live in safe academia cocoon. Only if they knew the stresses of a student life! Hopefully I will be blogging a bit more regularly now, you know in the break times of the sleepless nights.

January 18, 2009

Tagged..well, sort of

A friend tagged me on Facebook. According to the rules:
Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.
I am not sure that I will reproduce this on Facebook and let 124 acquaintances of mine know these random facts about me. But I thought it was worth writing a post on. More so because this is the first time someone has tagged me. So here it goes. 25 random things about me though I think I might have mentioned these about myself sometime or the other:

1. I love colors. My childhood dream was to be independent and earn money so that I can buy all sorts of coloring mediums: color pencils, sketch pen, water colors, oil pastels...anything and everything that can be used to color a blank canvas or a blank paper. It's amazing how one can turn a blank piece of paper in this beautiful piece of art based on his or her imagination.

2. Another childhood dream was to be a photographer with National Geographic magzine. That one crashed when I saw the living conditions for the job on Discovery. This guy on Discovery was visiting China and he actually ate a cockroach! Sorry. Can't do that.

3. I love Maths. And, more importantly, I am good at it. Okay, may be not as good as a Maths' Ph.D. but still not bad for a Geophysicist.

4. I am addicted to exercising. Honestly. I need to have some form of exercise or sports in my life. Otherwise I am sick and depressed, and you don't want to be with me, trust me. I am worse than those drug addicts during these periods of my life.

5. My two favorite historic figures are Chanakya and Gandhi, in that order. I admire both of them for their political shrewdness and economic astuteness. In simpler words, I like them because they were so cunning and still quiet noble. A rare combination.

6. My favorite fictional figure is Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastián d'Anconia from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. He is my biggest crush ever. My heart skips a beat every time his name appears in the book. Every Single Time.

7. I doodle. A lot. I am a restless soul. I need to do something to keep myself busy especially in a boring class or seminar. I have doodled on napkins, table cloths and even on my hand.

8. I hate parties or rather any kind of social gathering. I don't like small talks and fake smiles that I have to put on for such occasions. It's very tiring.

9. I can sleep up to 18 hours non-stop. After that I am usually too hungry and thirsty to sleep. But once those requirements are satisfied, I can sleep another 18 hours. I don't understand the meaning of word insomnia.

10. I wish I was a bit more graceful. But for some reason Grace and I don't get along too well. Guess I am too tomboyish for her.

11. I have watched movie Deewar (Amitabh Bachchan) thrice and haven't been able to watch it's end either of these times. I just can't bear the fact that Amitabh Bachchan is going to die in the end. I don't like tragedies.

12. I am big fan of Bindis. I have my own personal Bindi collection comprising of 100s of different shape, style and length of bindis. The only restriction being: they all are black in color. And I love wearing them too. Obviously.

13. I love the smell of first rain. Especially after the scorching hot days.

14. I smoked when I was 9 years old. For a week. Now I can't bear the smell of cigratte. But I do understand the urge for smoking and that release of tension when one smokes.

15. I collect fridge-magnets. I buy a lot of magnets everywhere I go. One side of our mighty fridge is filled with all the magnets I have collected in last four years.

16. I don't like chocolates. It's too bitter for my taste.

17. I don't drink coffee or tea. Though I drink a lot of water.

18. I love 'Friends'. I have original DVDs for the entire series (Yes all the ten seasons).

17. I want to own a house with a big kitchen. Also a big closet like the one in 'Sex and the City' movie (picture below).

Okay, may be that's too much to ask but still I want a big closet.

18. I have always wanted to go for cross-continent drive in a Mitsubishi Pajero with a Hasselblad 3DII and Bose Media System. A friend will be nice too.

19. I like guys in Indian dresses; kurta-pajama or sherwanis and a nice pagdi too (not the bright and shiny ones but nice and sober). A tilak on forehead just completes the charm.

20. I love dimples on the cheek. I think I have crush on any guy, no matter who he is, who has a dimple on his cheek. The most prominent one in the list is John Abraham with his dazzling smile.

21. Check patterned clothes are my weakness. I simply love shirts, tops, skirts or any kind of dress made of check patterned cloth.

22. I can't stand the smell of Paan (an exquisite beetle-leaf preparation). It's an irony as Banaras is my birth place.

23. I share my Birthday with Jane Austen (though not the same year) and I am very proud of that.

24. I hate flying. I get air sick fairly easily so I can't eat during the flight which makes it even worse. I wish they develop some molecular transport system like the ones in Star Treks. You can beam in and out in matter of seconds without going through the agonizing flights.

25. I am very bad at replying back to people's mail, scraps or online comments. I am just too lazy. I have tried time and again to be more socially active but somehow I don't have it in me to be so...

Finally finished. As for tagging, I don't want to tag 25 people but will tag few friends. So here it goes: Viji, Gopal, Nikhil, Sudipta and Viji again.

Enjoying A Beautiful Day...

...in Stanford. Needless to say why I love this place! A nice 22 C temp in January with beautiful sun like this is hard to beat..

January 16, 2009

Unsung Hero

Today morning when I opened my Facebook account, there were approximately 3-4 people hailing Chesley B. Sullenberger III as a hero. Some people became his fan on Facebook. Washington Post, New York Times, BBC have stories about the event as their main head lines.

And then I came across this story.

Lasantha Wickramatunga, the chief editor of The Sunday Leader, a Sri Lankan newspaper, was shot dead last week near Colombo. Not that it hasn't been in news, just not as prominent as it should be. I am not trying to undermine the achievement of the pilot for saving the lives of his passenger. Just trying to pay tribute to a real hero.

There have been attempts on Lasantha's life and he knew there will be further attempts. So he wrote this editorial to be published if one of those attempts are successful. It's a long editorial but worth reading. It is one of the most heart-touching, eye-watering and still a fair assessment of current situation of Sri Lanka. (Okay, I cried.). Just to quote a small part of it:
...For this I - and my family - have now paid the price that I have long known I will one day have to pay. I am - and have always been - ready for that. I have done nothing to prevent this outcome: no security, no precautions. I want my murderer to know that I am not a coward like he is, hiding behind human shields while condemning thousands of innocents to death. What am I among so many? It has long been written that my life would be taken, and by whom. All that remains to be written is when.

That The Sunday Leader will continue fighting the good fight, too, is written. For I did not fight this fight alone. Many more of us have to be - and will be - killed before The Leader is laid to rest. I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland. I also hope it will open the eyes of your President to the fact that however many are slaughtered in the name of patriotism, the human spirit will endure and flourish. Not all the Rajapakses combined can kill that.

People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted. An example that has inspired me throughout my career in journalism has been that of the German theologian, Martin Niem”ller. In his youth he was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler. As Nazism took hold in Germany, however, he saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. Niem”ller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. While incarcerated, Niem”ller wrote a poem that, from the first time I read it in my teenage years, stuck hauntingly in my mind:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: The Leader is there for you, be you Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, low-caste, homosexual, dissident or disabled. Its staff will fight on, unbowed and unafraid, with the courage to which you have become accustomed. Do not take that commitment for granted. Let there be no doubt that whatever sacrifices we journalists make, they are not made for our own glory or enrichment: they are made for you. Whether you deserve their sacrifice is another matter. As for me, God knows I tried.

January 14, 2009


My facial bones has been distorted, or so says my doctor. I went to see her for pain in left ear. It turns out that in my sleep I grind my teeth (supposedly due to stress or disturbed sleep) hence causing the inflammation of the joint connecting the temporal bones to the mandible. Sounds cool? Okay, okay, in simpler terms, the joint of ear and jaw is distorted (towards left). It has a cool name too: temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. Though I don't know how to pronounce it yet. I need to learn that.

Poor my mom will be devastated. Her only daughter. Her only single daughter. With facial distortion. Who will marry her now? May be it's better to spare my mom with this detail. Hopefully she won't notice anything. At least I couldn't notice anything. I stood in front of mirror for 1/2 hour trying to see the distortion. May be I should measure it using scale on some of my recent photos versus the old photos. I should be able to quantify the distortion that way...oops, sorry..geek in me got carried away.

Anyway, I am supposed to put a heat pack on my face (I am not joking) for relaxing the muscles. A rare experience, that will be. I am off to do so in any case. Anything to stop the distortion further.

I always thought it would be fun to have a brand new face every decade or so (honestly don't you get bored of looking at the same face in the mirror every day. Day after day. For years together.) but I don't want to lose my current face either (pun intended). It's good enough as it is. It's part of my identity. Mission 'Save Face' commences today.

January 12, 2009

Rich = Spoiled?

Does being rich necessarily means being spoiled prince/princess? I understand if you say that about Paris Hilton and likes but making it a general conclusion, don't you think? I was reading a CNN about Alexandra Penny (a New York based writer) who lost her life saving in Madoff scam. She wrote her experience in a blog called "The Bag Lady Papers" on TheDailyBeast.com.

She lost her life saving in the scam. I agree that she isn't penniless and not in as bad situation as many others but telling her that she has no right to feel angry about the scandal is not fair. It was her hard-earned money. As she puts it:

"I've never been given a dollar. I never took alimony. I never inherited any money. So, sure, well, who else earned it? Me."

So if you earned a lot of money, does that mean you become spoiled princess? She worked hard all of her life and lost it in her old age due to some scamming idiot. I think she has every right to feel angry and express it. No matter what those stupid commentators on her blog might say.

January 8, 2009

Tortured Soul

Writing a CV and attending an interview are the two most hated tasks in my list.

I am not an extrovert. I am pretty private person actually. I am not very good with words. Or rather I am not diplomatic. I am too honest for my own good. I can't pretend. Does that mean I can't work? Or that I am not a good team member? I don't think so. Once, somehow, if, I get through these two task and get a job, I am one of the best employee. All my previous employer says so. But I am always lost when it comes to CVs and interviews. I am not sure how to represent myself. May be I am a bit too modest for my own good. All these processes just baffles me.

What do they want from me? Why do they go through all this? Don't take me if you don't want to, but why torture?

Yeah you got it. I am writing CVs these days. Hate it, Hate it and Hate it immensly. And that's not it. I have to "use my network" now. Send this idiotic document to everyone I know, met or seen. Whatever happened to simpler times and selfless friendships...

January 6, 2009

Temperature range

Modified from XKCD.com (Click to enlarge)

Sadly enough, I experienced almost the entire range (from 40 C to -2 C) of temperature in 2008. I was in Southern California for summer and I was in Scotland for winters. Just my luck :(


..with too much time on hand. They actually solved these problems from a comic strip and posted the results on the web (click here for solutions). The "problem" comic strip is shown below:

From: xkcd.com (Click to enlarge)

First Day...

...in office. This year, I mean. And I had two presents waiting for me with two cards. First one was an adorable gift from a friend for my B'day and second was a chocolate bar from our group for Christmas. A great way to start work in new year, don't you think? Yeah, yeah I won't get a gift a day for rest of the year but it did help getting over with the Monday Blues or rather First-Day-Of-Work Blues.

I became strangely nostalgic when I reached the campus today morning. The resolution of finishing up my research this year and graduate next year seemed so absurd at that time. Why exactly do I want to leave this sanctuary and go in the real world? Especially with all it's current crisis. Everything in this real world seems to be collapsing. It feels like an apocalypse there. And it feels so safe in here. And still, strangely enough, I do want to finish my Ph.D. and start working. I can't make sense out of this one. Does this happen to everyone towards the end? The fear of unknown weakens while the lure of unknown strengthens? Weird...especially considering the current crisis, it should be the other way round but it isn't. Completely weird.

January 3, 2009

My Holidays

My New Year Resolutions

- Blog regularly.
- Eat healthy.
- Start writing my thesis this year.
Okay I am already behind on all of them. This is the 3rd day of Jan and I haven't written a single post. I have been eating junk for past three days and I am no way near the end of my Ph.D. . I have excuses, I mean genuine reasons for all of them. Biggest reason being: Me Lazy, Me No Work. But there is still time to make amendments so starting tomorrow I will follow all of them...

Oh yeah, BTW, Happy New Year. Hopefully your new year resolutions are better followed than mine.