Friday, March 31, 2006

Quiz time!

No not the intellectual, mind bending variety but the less brain power consuming types which makes them perfect for yours truly.

How much of you is owned by your blog?

I got this.

43.75 %

My weblog owns 43.75 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?

43.75% of me is owned by my blog! That leaves a little more than 50% for research. I hope my boss is not reading this.

Are You A Hit-Obsessed Weblogger?

Here I got the following.

45 points is in the 40 through 59 precent
TYPE U (HIT-UNDECIDED). You have a healthy number of readers that you'd like to maintain but you don't think you can keep them happy all the time. It bothers you when your weblog gets less hits than usual. You know there are things you can do to increase hits to your weblog but you just don't think you're desperate enough to actually try it.

This result was spooky. How does the damn quiz know that I have a healthy amount of readers. Are they tracking me? What does it mean by healthy? Who or what in MEI is healthy (in mind, spirit or otherwise) anyways ?


I do not believe in signs (you know like if you see a white pigeon when you leave the house, then your work will be successful or when you see a dead leaf fultterring down then you know that whatever new project you start will be not work etc). If you do believe in signs and you are trying to cross disciplines, then you will love this.

Is this a sign from above that greater interaction between biology and physics will tell us the secret to the life, universe and everything?

What is this wondrous sign? A DNA nebula!

This a actually a nebula that is shaped like DNA. Like some divine Aprils Fool's day joke on physicists.

There is also an explanation for this phenomenon.

Morris hypothesizes that the wave traveling up the magnetic field lines and creating the double helix nebula is a disk of gas at its base, made to spin by the gravity of the black hole at the center of our galaxy. The double strands of the nebula are created by the dumbbell-like structure of the spinning disk, which concentrates the magnetic field lines in two areas, he said—otherwise, the nebula would be cylindrical.

The original article is here and the link is from one of my favourite blogs.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Sometimes you come across a picture that is perfect. In earlier times you would probably ask the person who took the picture for the negative, get one photograph processed for yourself and then you would stick it in your album.

In these 'modern' times what do you do? Why, bloggit of course!

Here is a picture taken by S.C.J. on a recent trip to Mahabaleshwar. A pretty pink rose.

Personally though I like yellow flowers more. There are a row of pretty yellow hibuscus near the entrance of my institute. It feels wonderful to see them every morning. They make my day. Everyday. (Now doesn't that sound like a bad ad for coffee. Ugh!)I must get over my laziness, buy a camera and photograph them sometime.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Intrigue is in the air

[As usual, I exaggerate. So take this with a bucketful of salt]

The annual MEI(My Esteemed Institute) quiz contest is coming up. Very exciting. It is the highlight of the MEI social calendar in large part due to the person who conducts the quiz, with great flair.

What is more interesting to the social observer is the political intrigue that goes on to form a team before the quiz. For a quiz you need a team. When it becomes a team then the people you associate with becomes more important than you. It’s not a question of being the best it is more about getting into a team which has good people. This requires more politics than the stuff that happens at the Parliament every four years or so. Indeed the intrigue is so thick at MEI these days that you could cut it with a knife.

There are furious machinations going on at this point. The best quizzers get several offers. [Clarification: Yours truly is not one of them.]

Some offers can be very very spooky like a SMS at midnight from a number you don’t know. “Will you be a part of our team?” It asks cryptically. Then you ask equally surreptitiously “That depends on who is in your team.” Of course once you identify the number you know the answer to that question already. But this is just to stall the situation for a little time so that you know which are the other teams being made, who are in them and what are your chances of getting into the better ones.

The music and the current affairs are two important sections in the quiz and there are people who specialise in these things. Hence the next questions.

Negotiator 1: Who is the music guy?

Negotiator 2: We have E.W.

1: That guy cannot differentiate between Ayyan Ali Khan and Amjad Ali Khan. He is tone-deaf!

2: Who is the current affairs guy?

1: R. D.

2: A girl? For current affairs. No way! Might as well not take part. We need a guy. Get T.L*.

1: Can’t

2: Then I cant either. I will not join unless T.L.* is associated with it.

1: Where is the hacker***?

And so it goes on the furious haggling in some cases till minutes before the quiz starts and in some cases involving exchange of several bottles of intoxicating liquids.

[* - the legendary quizee who had won all the quizzes he participated in when he was a student.
*** - hacker - This is the guy who will try to break into the quizmaster’s computer. Of course this has never happened so far. But that does not mean it can’t right?]

Then you have to make major decisions regarding where your loyalties lie – with the department, your friends or to the person from whom you want that little piece of programming done that will save you a week’s work.

After all this you have to confront your labmates who are forming their own team. First reaction is open hostility.

Labmate: WTF? Samu? How dare you not join us and form a team with someone else? THEM? They are not even from the same departement!

Me: Sorry but they are asked first. When force does not work, they try to invoke pity.

LM : You left us for them. You ditched us. How could you? Then they make faces like a baby seals about to be slaughtered. And you imagine that a tear does slid down their face so you actually start feeling guilty.

Me: I am sorry yaar! Next year I promise. This ends with threats of violence.

LB: Next time next time, you come to us to get that fly stock that that you killed by mistake. Their hand inches toward the scalpel they use to dissect flies. Yikes! You exit the lab before a murder is committed.

Of course after all these machinations, time and again it has been proved that the most rag-tag team formed at the last minute is the one that takes the prize but that dearies is another story and for another day.

Side note: For those still in the Holi mood, hop over to Kate's blog for a near-accurate description of how I spent my day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Cheapo 6

Random surfing brought me to this interesting post about an international conference that was held at My Esteemed Institute recently.

People were begging me to do a post on the the Ayaan Ali Khan concert and the President of India's visit to My Esteemed Institute (that were associated with the conference) but that guys post presents the whole thing from a very unique viewpoint.

For the record I don't agree with what he says. I agree more with Kate and Nikhil.

Another one for the record, the questions after the President's talk were not staged.

Isn't the Internet a very powerful thing?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sabka Katega!

One advantage/disadvantage of being brought up in the Middle East was that there was nothing that you could identify with. Your cultural input was either the uber-americanised cartoons where they had pizzas for lunch or Indian films where the only reason people went to college was to find life partners. You as a 13-year-old N.R.I. did not fit in anywhere.

So many years wandering in this wilderness of life trying to figure out why Whigfield sang 'saturday night and I like the way you move....' (Back where I lived, in the middle east friday was the weekly holiday. Saturday was the first day of the week so I thought she was having a crush on her office mate or something)

When George Micheal crooned "Last christmas I gave you my heart....." the juxtaposition of joy and un-joy was lost on this Confused Desi.

In the Middle East, there are only three seasons - hot, very hot and unbearable. July and August were the worst months of the year - scorching hot! Autumn - never heard of it. In such a place, the following legendary lines made no sense at all.

No warm july
No harvest moon to light one tender august night
No autumn breeze
No falling leaves
Not even time for birds to fly to southern skies
No libra sun
No halloween

The first person whose music resonated with me was Apache Indian. When he rapped "Sweet like Jalebi..." in Arranged Marriage my heart truly sang with him.

Recently, something like that happened again. Every second line I heard I could identify with. I was going yes that is me and I know someone like that and then that too.....

That was this group called the BodhiTree - a band from XLRI, Jamshedpur. First the bad points, they could do a little polishing and their lyrics need to be more focussed. Three songs I liked.

1) Sabka katega! What a great motto for a Ph.D. and is fast becoming a lab anthem. I agree very much with the second line of the second stanza.

2) Too many potatoes. This is about the preponderence of potatoes in the hostel menu. In MEI(My Esteemed Institute), we can replace potatoes with green peas. One intrepid day the MEI cooks managed to serve peas pulao, mixed veg(with green peas) and kheema(also with green peas) at the same time! Methinks, they have something illegal going with a green peas trader.

3) Xl ki kudiyan I cant get the damn song out of my head! Sometimes I find myself replacing Kudiyan with Profs and XL with MEI to make something like this.

MEI ke Profs bade bade smart
Hai meri tauba tauba
Theory bhi mardiyan, Fundae bhi mardiyan,
Theory bhi mardiyan, Fundae bhi mardiyan,
Fundae bhi mardiyan bade bade wrong!
Hai meri tauba tauba

Go listen!

(Link shamelessly stolen from VW! Picture taken from here.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Requiem for a Dream

(The following was written after consuming a bottle of feni. If you believe even half an iota of this stuff, you need to get you head checked, mate!)

Just finished a terrible book called Memoirs of a Geisha. (Also saw a movie by the same name but that was so bad that it is not even worth discussing). Anyways, the interesting thing in Japanese culture is their intricate system of bows. Deep bow for someone who is elder/more revered than you, middling bow for less revered and slight friendly bow for peers.

How wonderful that you can classify all people you know into different degrees of a bow? Pity that we don’t have that in our culture.

Or maybe such a thing does exist. Herein, follows a classification of the people that a normal MEI(My Esteemed research Institute) student** comes in contact with and how he/she may deal with them.

1) The boss - seeing and then running away in the opposite direction.

One of the advantages of being in the fourth year is that by now you have perfected the fine art of sensing where your boss is and finding something infinitely more urgent to attend to in the opposite direction. This is to avoid potentially career-threatening situations that begin like this
Boss: Have you started that uber-crucial experiment that will get us that nature paper?
You: Actually….ummm…aaahhh…

2) Labmates - Big smile. Then stop and say a few words.

This is for people in your lab. Of course the main reason for such joviality is to get truthful answers to the crucial questions "Is the boss in the lab?" And "Did the boss ask for me?"

3) Department mates. Big smile and maybe a few words.

This is for members of the department. You never know what reagent you have to borrow from them and who will make the next batch of best competent cells (which are worth more than gold in mol bio work and the Lord in his infinite wisdom hath blessth very few with the ability to maketh them). Or you may need to use some precious instrument that only their boss can afford.

4) Friends. Then a hand wave around the shoulder area. And smile but no teeth showing.

This is for people who you know from other departments, who of course you are never going to need during the course of your experiments but who are friends. No no not friends in the normal world sense with jokes, laughter, shared interests, shared passions and stimulating conversation. Friends in the MEI(My Esteemed Institute) sense that is people you have played badminton with maybe once or have had lunch with them maybe half a once.

5) Batchmates etc. Then the slightest of hand waves but much lower than shoulder maybe around the waist. Very slight almost-not-there smile.

Those you have to tolerate for the sake of tolerating. You know the saying. God gives us batchmates. Thank God we can choose our friends. [Edit: this does not mean that my batchmates are weird in anyway. They are extremely nice people.] [Edit 2: The previous edit had nothing to do with the fact that half of the guys in my batch look like they could break a concrete slab into two with one arm if provoked.]

6) Pesky juniors and competitors - the MEI stare/sneer

This is the perfect combination of disinterest mixed with just the right level of contempt so as not to be insulting. It is for those pesky juniors who think that MEI is just a college and that everyone here is their friend. Not true. In MEI even acquaintanceship has to be earned and as for friendship see point number four. This can also be used effectively with people who due to some fault of theirs (unknowing or otherwise) ruined your experiments some time ago. Be warned. Some recipients of the perfect MEI stare/sneer never recover and are left with deep psychological scars for the rest of their life.

7) Others No reaction.

This is easy for people whom you don’t know. But it takes a lot of effort to keep a straight face when you pass some of the characters that inhabit the MEI campus like the guy who made an ass out of himself at Gokul the other night when he got drunk and asked the waiter “thoku kya?” ,or the biology babe who talks to her flies (and even has names for some of them!), or the astrophysicist who believes that the Big Bang happened when Brahma sneezed, or the chemistry guy who watches Kyunki Saas bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi on the sly. There should not be one flicker of laughter, disgust or any other reaction on passing them. Not one. Because an emotion would acknowledge their idiosyncrasy and science thrives on idiosyncrasies. Therefore this no reaction is the look that requires the greatest control of the facial muscles and the greatest mental strength to accomplish.

** - There is no such thing as a normal MEI student!