Thursday, October 18, 2007

On being cynical

When I joined the insti, the fifth/sixth years were this hallowed tribe you could make out from the others. They were always worried, always serious, never smiled. They did talk to you occasionally to give you advice like “go home more often” or “time flies like an arrow” or something more practical “if your flies don’t mate, sing to them.” (huh??). Some lost their temper on the silliest of things – like when I overshot my time and then invaded into theirs on the confocal microscope or when a lizard entered the culture room. ("Get it out! Get it out! It will eat my flies. I have to finish in two months!")

Something about the hard phd life that makes them like that I used to think. Now I am beginning to wonder whether I am like that too.

Lets see. In the past ten days I have..

Intensely worried - check
Never smiled or laughed - no.
Screamed at junior - check
Screamed at junior for no reason - check
Given unsolicited advice - check (this was about fly mating, for the record.)
Been in a bad mood - check (but that was because of a hangover. That does not count, does it?)

Not bad. 4 and a half out of 6. I pass!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

MEI stories

Things you must do to be grep ('geekily hep') in MEI

1) Music - Must profess a love for Pink Floyd, Bob Marley or Leonard Cohen. Denver is too pedestrian and Billy Joel is too 'whatever'. Britney Spears and her ilk is definitely a no-no. Though Eminem will do if you can say something suitably clever about his lyrics. To be truly eclectic you can say jazz. But pure classical rules as always.

2) Books - non-fiction - Must have read all of the following books - selfish gene, blindwatchmaker, nobel dreams, tao of physics. Reading them means being able to discuss them or trash them with sentences that begin with "looking at it like a scientist........"

3) Movies - Must have watched (and enjoyed in an explainable, virtue extolling kind of way) a movie in a foreign language - Russian sci-fi, French romance, Irani social commentary, Japanese anime, or Spanish fantasy.
4) TV- Must watch one or more of the following series and profess and undying love for them - Star Trek, Heroes, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, IT crowd or something more geeky. On the animation side, South park or Simpsons but then you will have discuss their social relevance.

6) Books - science fiction - Terry Patchett, Isaac Asimov or you might want to say Ray Bradbury just to show your predeliction for the dark side of things. Non-science fiction - late 19th century fiction if you want to be differently different, or something dense like Nietzsche, Chekhov or Chaucer. Say "I like Rowling" and you will be wandering in the dreary desert sands of MEI social wilderness for years.

5) Graphic novels. They are the IN thing these days. Persepolis is a good start though Sarnath Banerjee is a close second due to his bong connection.

7) OS - "Never judge a book by its cover, a man by his shoes or a geek by his operating system.", so said a wise man. but who listens to wise men anyways? Be warned, you WILL be judged by your OS. You must know UNIX/LINUX or at least pretend to use it even if you cannot use the command terminal and prefer a mouse. OSX is a close second. Mention Windows XP you will be summarily eliminated from the conversation. Vista and you might as well jump into the sea.

8) Dress - dress is everything. This has to be carefully casual. A hopelessly crinkled kurta or shorts. Just to show the world that you are so fracking devoted to your science that you dont have the time to dress properly. Maroon is currently very much in style, replacing black as the t-shirt colour of choice. However, at any given time in MEI there will be at least one maroon or black shirt in a gathering of 5 or more people.

9) Must espouse some social cause, which is a good thing.

10) Must be a blogger or a blogger to be. The latter mainly means reading blogs.

11) Should be able to discuss the pros and cons of the iPhone versus the Blackberry versus any other PDA, even if you have never seen them. All this within hours of their release. Time is critical. If you discuss it before release you will be labelled jobless, if you discuss it the next day it will be yesterdays news. Literally.

This combined with a healthy dose of the relevant recent research in your field of interest and are all set to tackled the behe'mouths' of MEI.

The very idea of 'grepness' involves refusing to be defined. So these very things might just be non-grep tomorrow. You have been warned.