Tuesday, December 29

Reminisce

यादों का साथ छोड़ भी नहीं सकते
यादों को मिटा भी नहीं सकते
इन यादों का भी क्या कहना,
कम्बक्त पीछा नहीं छोड़ते


Think of all those good and bad memories and just before you leave this year to take on the new one, spend a few quiet moments to learn from them. Learn from them to make yours' and others' lives better.

Wednesday, December 16

Have you watched CNN lately?

I am not a CNN-watcher, in fact I hate them-I think they do a poor job of news reporting. They borrow most of their stuff from you tube anyway so why bother with CNN. Anyway that is not what this post is about- recently on one of rare CNN watching sessions (might I add that such sessions last hardly a minute or two), there was this advert. An advert about "Made in China" products, promoting that Made in China actually means Made with China (don't worry even if they take over the world, they would do it politely, placing adverts first!)
So here it goes, watch the video here (I do think that this advert is well made, if only it were an ad for something else I like)

And yeah you guessed it right, the Chinese Government paid for it, and the ads first came out on CNN-Asia (that was not long ago actually). You can read about it here or here.

Well played Beijing, spending millions to make sure your low-quality products are out of your hands and into the consumers'

Monday, December 7

Do you bond?

Want people to trust you more or want to make an impression on your first date- try this!


This picture is from here


For someone like me who is in love with the subject of social bonding but not have had the time to stay up to date with it, this seminar was perfect.


Larry Young started his seminar with an introduction to monogamy. Did you know that while ~90% of bird species are monogamous, less than 5% of mammals exhibit monogamy? Anyway his talk focused on molecules oxytocin and vasopressin. They are both hormones and neurotransmitters. If you do not already know, oxytocin is a key hormone in stimlating milk ejection when a baby feeds and stimulating uterine contractions during birth. While these aspects of oxytocin have been quite well characterized, recently it has been shown to be involved in establishing maternal instincts and pair bonding nature (Larry Young studies the neurobiology of pair bonding in prairie voles).


I thought he made an interesting evolutionary correlation by suggesting that in females pair bonding is an extension or adaptation of the maternal instincts while in males it is more an adaptation of territorial behaviour that is controlled by vasopressin, a hormone that is very similar to oxytocin. Males have more of vasopressin which is associated with their territorial and aggressive behaviours. If you paid attention in your high school biology class, you would know vasopressin as the antidiuretic hormone (ADH).


He showed data to support his argument- basically in prairie vole females that bond there is more oxytocin and in males there is more vasopressin. There are all correlative confirmations. An interesting conclusion comes from a study where they made mice which lacked oxytocin and showed that these mice suffer from something that is known as "social amnesia". David Adam has this to say about that study in Nature News-


"Love is chemical and so, it seems, is remembering it. Male mice missing certain brain proteins cannot recall which females they have had sex with. The forgetful fellas can blame this unfortunate amnesia on their DNA: a missing gene means their 'social' memory fails them."


Yet another interesting paper by Kosfeld and others, suggests that oxytocin plays a role in trust in humans, I know it just gets better and better. They put their subjects in to two groups- investor and trustee, basically a financial situation. The subjects were either sprayed with oxytocin or a placebo. Below is a part of their abstract (their work was published in Nature, 2005)


"Trust pervades human societies. Trust is indispensable in friendship, love, families and organizations, and plays a key role in economic exchange and politics. In the absence of trust among trading partners, market transactions break down. In the absence of trust in a country's institutions and leaders, political legitimacy breaks down. Much recent evidence indicates that trust contributes to economic, political and social success. Little is known, however, about the biological basis of trust among humans. Here we show that intranasal administration of oxytocin, a neuropeptide that plays a key role in social attachment and affiliation in non-human mammals, causes a substantial increase in trust among humans, thereby greatly increasing the benefits from social interactions."


I liked Young's talk for one more reason- he was FUNNY!



Having commitment issues, trust issues- the be-it-all-have-it-all hormone might be your way to go.
Better yet banking folks should spray us all with it, may be then we would begin to trust the world financial institutions better! Well a few companies (check the link from the first sentence of this post) have already capitalized on it- a typical capitalistic attitude- BEWARE! Remember it definitely is not the know-all-end-all of this issue, if you wait just a few more years there might be a super-enhanced version of "Liquid Trust" for y'all to try!

Wednesday, December 2

Thanksgiving Holiday on I-95

This Thanksgiving holiday was fun in its own way. Thursday night after a party a friend's place, the wise guy and I decided to take a trip down south. We left that night, stayed at West Haven for the night and reached New Jersey the next morning (of course I must say we started with getting lost- the wise guy could not remember his way out of Boston!). We had great food cooked by the friend's wife  in Jew Jersey. We ended with some shopping. Well $100 bucks is all we spent, so we certainly did not become a statistic for black friday shopping! The next morning we left for Delaware to see the little one, we left around 11AM. And this is where our adventure starts with all traffic stopped for about 2 hrs on I-95 about 30 minutes from the Delaware bridge. It was an adventure because I had never before seen people taking a stroll on I-95, not just them- some even took their dogs out for a walk. There was a family playing ball and a couple romancing ahead of us. There were men who could not control their urge and that is definitely a first in this country! I think pictures speak a thousand words, don't they?





Check the north bound route guys, how annoying is it to see others just whiz past you!

I had fun until we started to move and go past the reason for our delay- a completely charred trailer, I think it would be a feat if the driver of that truck managed to survive this crash,...you can read more about the crash here.

Wait, it did not stop there- once we were past the accident, we breezed through to the friend's place. We reached their community and then called them to ask for their house number- guess what neither the husband nor the wife picked up their phones. Okay, so what should we do? we decided to eat (such long delays and empty stomach does not bode well at all with me!)- okay eat where? this place seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully someone actually had their shop open. Believe me when I say a grilled cheese sandwich had not tasted so good ever before. But thankfully once we were done with our sammies, we were able to get hold of the friends and got to see the little ones (friends' son and  the brother's daughter)!



We only stayed for an hour or so, we had to leave for Philadelphia to meet another friend. We reached Philadelphia in an easy-breezy-45minutes. We stayed overnight at her place. A good night's rest made only a slight difference for our what seemed like eternal drive back to Boston!
In the end it was all good because we did get to meet so our friends. Well I am back in Boston and back in action again!
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Thursday, November 19

A cool crisp morning

I love such mornings- I walk out the door expecting it to be cold and freezing (it is November already!), but lo and behold- it was a beautiful cool crisp morning. It was very refreshing and I felt awake the moment the cool breeze hit my moisturizer-laden face! It brought back memories of my time in Delhi, it used to be fun getting into a crisp white shirt (crisp as how this morning seemed) and a green skirt accessorized with a tie, a half-sweater and what then seemed like a beautiful green blazer/ woolen coat. It also took me back to Pilani where while summers were dreadful (I would even skip classes to stay indoors), the winters were just absolutely forgiving. It was fun when you could not see what was just a few yards away in front of you while you were riding your bicycle because a severe fog had rolled in that morning. Occasionally, I even rode the bicycle with my book open, as a last ditch effort at cramming for an 8'o clock exam.
Anyway it already feels like Friday today, I don't know why but it beats me that tomorrow I have to get to work but hey may be it will be just as pretty it was this morning!

Saturday, November 14

Farmville- a quest

Farmville- seems like everyone is doing it! Since I have not even a faintest idea as to why someone would want to play this game or what turns them on when it comes to this game, I decided to do a bit of digging. An important mission, might I add, to restore my sanity. Thankfully NPR had a short segment on it today, that helped and then of course this is why the wide world of the internet exists!
For one, Farmville is THE most popular game on FB with nearly 63 million users (what is it with this game!). One basically manages a virtual farm is all- plant, grow, harvest that kind of thing . May be if these 63 million users did some of their own actual farming instead of spending time playing a game...
Quite interestingly- the games comes free of charge but you do have to use REAL money in order to buy more land and large equipment like tractors (tractors cost 20 bucks a pop). Apparently the creator of this game (and a few others on FB), Mark Pincus has been raking profits even amidst these tough times (yeah, go figure...).
Well as for me, I do not think I can spend any more of my time ducking in a virtual world (I personally feel that I spend too much time on the internet!). So Farmville or any other ville avatars- good luck and beware of the black sheep.

Thursday, November 12

Chennai mazhai


My mom has been growing her own betel leaves (she loves them like they are her own).


Rain beautiful rain in Chennai- you know what I love about it most and what I wish I could photograph- மண் வாசனை, I remember when I was a little girl (actually even now..) I constantly pester my mom to make me something that smelled like the earth just before it rains!


Criminal wastage of precious rain water in Chennai- people are not concerned about it nor do they care (well neither does the Govt., useless TN government).


These are my grandma's favorite flowers (it has been her favorite for the longest time now), I forget what they are called (she has a name for it). Since they are patti's favorite they are my favorite too! Look at how luscious it is, oh the bright green and the pink flowers...
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Wednesday, October 21

Give me blue...

A time will come when no one will want the red ones anymore- check this out

Friday, October 9

Half of a Yellow Sun

A book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


The book  is the second book I think by this author, her first one called Purple Hibiscus (which I have not laid my hands on yet) won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize. The story narrated by 13-year old Ugwu (houseboy of an ambitious professor, Odenigbo) is set during the Biafran war. The story is about love, war, ambitions and hopes. Every character has a role to play in the book- the twin sisters Olanna and Kainene, their lives with Odenigbo and Richard respectively, Ugwu and his various escapades into his fantasies, the sisters' parents, Odenigbo's mother and his diverse group of friends, every single one of them are important in the book and I love this about the book. 
While there is nothing pleasant about the Biafran War (or any war for that matter), the author has brought out not just the unpleasantness of the war but has also been able to describe the complicated lives of her characters both prior to and during the war very beautifully. In fact at one point I thought I was one of her characters (something I felt when I read Atwood's book), Ugwu's narration seemed matter-of-factly (yet unarguably powerful), seemed like you belonged in the scene with him. 


A bit about the War

Biafra was an unrecognized secessionist state that existed between the years 1967-1970 (the country dominated by the Igbos separated from Nigeria a few years after its independence from the English). While early on the Biafran army did make some progress, the Nigerian army struck back more powerfully and their key strategy was to close down key routes. This led to starvation and hence numerous deaths, and as with most other wars children were the worst affected. 
You can read a lot of stuff online- just google either about the war or its effects. NY times  had an article on the conditions in Nigeria 20 years after the war and BBC had this to say 30 years after the war (they seem to have interviewed Chief Ojukwu, the head of the Eastern region of Nigeria, who in 1967 declared the Republic of Biafra).


To me the most striking thing from the book is when Ugwu writes about Starvation in his own book, it brings out those tears!

Friday, October 2

Who are Jon and Kate

or now should I ask who is Kate? It has been bothering me ever since the news media has been hijacked by Jon and Kate- and I ask to myself who are these people and what are they so famous for? Initially my reaction was  "Of course, these were celebrity Hollywood couple that I had never heard of"- makes sense right. No, it does not, these are just some random couple who had 8 children through artificial insemination procedures and that is the reason they are famous- they are parents of 8 children and for reasons known only to them they decided to let the cameras into their daily lives!
Initially their show aired on Discovery health and now their show is one highest rated shows on TLC. Now that raises the question- who on earth watches a family take of their children? Surely my mother would not have wanted anyone watching her raise her children (sorry ma, but am sure some of her terror tactics would have led to boos from people). Apparently these guys give tips on raising 8 children and I guess since they have that many they automatically become the best at their jobs!
I really loved this article on American spectator about this show, talking about how hard it is to stay away from such these shows. Two days ago I had no clue about who these people were and now I am in their lives too. I can proudly share with you these few facts- Jon and Kate are separated, Jon has been dropped from the show and Kate is set to air another show next year. In all this melee there is never a talk about the 8 children, I guess there were just means to fame.

PS I was just kidding about me in their lives people, I could not bring myself to even try watching it! And the other thing that annoys me- Larry King interviewed Kate, why on earth, I wonder?!

Tuesday, September 22

The Blind Assassin- a review

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood- I would definitely call it a masterpiece. My only issue with the book- I did not totally enjoy the Sci-fi part (the novel within the novel). The book is masterfully written, the characters are gradually developed- Iris and Laura Chase, their pathetic father (one of the characters I did not like), Richard Griffen and his sister Winifred (the evil ones- I consider them both to be equally bad!), and the darling Reenie. To me the most elusive yet interesting character was that of Laura Chase and actually to an extent Iris Chase, who is the narrator. Iris Chase is married to Richard Griffen and in the book she is putting her memories down on paper for her granddaughter Sabrina (who she has not seen in ages) to read.
Atwood made sure that her readers do no put the book down until they finish. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something beautiful, her words can capture your heart and mind (My eyes even swelled up once or twice during the read).
I leave you with some of her words from the book (various parts of the book)

“What fabrications they are, mothers. Scarecrows, wax dolls for us to stick pins into, crude diagrams. We deny them an existence of their own, we make them up to suit ourselves — our own hungers, our own wishes, our own deficiencies. Now that I’ve been one myself, I know”

“A hot wind was blowing around my head, the strands of my hair lifting and swirling in it, like ink spilled in water.”

"Beginnings are sudden, but also insidious. They creep up on you sideways, they keep to the shadows, they lurk unrecognized. Then, later, they spring."

Enjoy!!

Thursday, September 17

A tale of YIM 2009, Boston

YIM or otherwise known as young investigator meet (this is the second such meeting, first one was held earlier this year in SFO) provides a setting for young investigators (mainly postdocs) working in the US to meet and greet the faculty members from a variety of institutes (mostly biology related) in India. This meeting was essentially to talk to people about the new initiatives that are being undertaken on behalf of the Govt of India to further the scientific agenda (sort of put India on science road map, at least in terms of life science research). One of the main initiative is described here and Martha Gray was one of the organizers of the meet organized this past weekend in Boston. The meeting started with open session of Friday (afternoon) and there were closed sessions held on Saturday and Sunday.
At the open session, the faculty members from India gave brief introductions to "what and how things are changing" nothing so elaborate of course and then people could ask questions. There were a variety of questions ranging from reservation issues when it comes to faculty hiring to the application forms that need to be sent via the snail-mail!
The next day began the closed sessions, for which one had to be selected (I was an observer, please do not ask me what it means, I guess I was supposed to observe). Now here is where I have issues (not all negative I assure you). I will try my best to enumerate them and of course keep this civil. Oh if you want only/mostly positive feedback, you can check the facebook page. I must also tell you that I do appreciate every bit of effort that has gone into the organization of this event- however

1. Two things that struck me- one, there were only 3 or 4 women speakers out of a total of 22 (does this mean many women candidates did not apply, I applied and I was chosen to be an observer!) and two, some of the speakers were either directly or indirectly connected to one of the organizers (Happens everywhere, so why not!)

2. There was no mention of the students who will actually be doing the work- how are they selected, how many students does a PI get, how good are the students in general, how motivated are they and how much effort do they normally put in (I have seen some of the best and the worst students, trust me it is important!)

3. While it might be hard to recruit someone in just two days, it sure looked like a recruitment fair to me (that is fair, am not complaining about it- just wanted to point it out). It did annoy me somewhat especially because I did not know what the hell I was doing there- I was not talking which meant I could not showcase what I have done or been doing. I felt like I sat there "observing" how other people got recruited!! But I must add a word of caution- I am of the shy type and would not venture into "networking" mode ever unless I know the person (in which case I am not sure if it can be called networking at all and I am sure I am going to lose out on opportunities on account of this)

4. I would have liked to hear the faculty present their work before everyone else (to get an idea of how well they are doing) but they did give talks on Sunday for which I could not go as I was sick!!

5. Of the 8 talks I attended on Saturday, I liked may be one (I thought they were not good talks, could have been much better). What irritated me even more was the fact that no one had the appropriate number of slides for a 10-min presentation (may be one guy did)!

6. They kept talking about change and being a part of that change and making a difference and all, but my question is- as the newest member of the institution, how can I bring about any change or difference, why would the underdogs listen to someone junior (hierarchy still exists, does'nt it?), in fact much junior to them? And Satyajith Rath put it- you should join not because you want to make a difference but because you think it is something comparable to other top institutes from which you might get an offer. While I agree for the most part- they are two different career goals at least initially, so that statement is something to think about and is something that might influence peoples' decisions.

7. Some of the seemingly interesting panels could have been held during the open sessions -like the panel on "setting up a lab"

8. It was not totally clear as to what the selection process was for the closed sessions- there were quite a few of the speakers who already seemed to have established some sort of contacts with the Indian faculty.

9. I still do not understand why I was chosen and chosen as an observer!!

One thing , actually two things you could not miss- everyone seemed enthusiastic about the whole thing which was nice and there seems to be a ton of money, which is super-nice!!

Monday, September 14

This is scary

Did you see this on BBC, quite scary work on shower heads. Stop showering, what could be next?!
On another note, Federer lost US open!

Wednesday, September 9

The Congress booed....

Did you all hear that- the Congress booed when Mr. Obama said that the health reform bill does not extend to illegal immigrants. Nancy Pelosi seemed to give an expression of "WTF is going on?"! (I want to say to the booers "Smile, you are on national television!!!")
The President kept harping on the fact that nothing would change for people who are happy with their coverage, that a public option will keep the competition healthy and so on. He has made a lot of promises- he said that he would not sign a bill that "adds even one dime to the deficit". But I wonder where the money is going to come from- curbing the wastage in the existing health care system is what he proposes (he would have mentioned this at least thrice in his speech). He did touch upon the much needed (I think!) malpractice reform, doctors should not withheld care because of they are scared they might be sued!
I agree that the system needs to change, I also wonder as to how far ahead into future can you predict things. At this point any bill would be better than nothing and would definitely be a huge step up!! Just do it folks...

PS He never once denied the-pulling-the-plug-on-grandma bit! I am sure Sarah Palin would do that bit for him though.

Friday, August 21

wannabe consultant, anyone?

Yesterday I went for this interesting presentation from McKinsey and Co. organized by the postdoctoral affairs office. I was totally blown away by the fact that Biology PhD's like me need not rule out a shot at consultancy. Pretty cool eh! In fact the guy who gave the presentation (Associate whoever, cannot remember his title but he is one step closer to being a partner) used to be a postdoc in a stem cell lab right here at Harvard. Well I just wanted to put it out there for everyone else that there is this option of working as a consultant for Mckinsey. Apparently you would be called an APD consultant (which means you have an advanced professional degree) and you join as an associate. You go through an interview process and if you do get in you go through a mini MBA program for about 3 weeks at some fancy resort somewhere in Australia!
So that is it... check it out may be one of you might be interested.

Thursday, August 13

Just one more reason to legalize

....well legalize pot folks! Check this article here in BBC that talks about the effects of cannabis on bones (very preliminary findings, might I add). I must admit that I am not sure still as to where my loyalties lie in this issue. But for now I think I will keep taking my calcium supplements that in turn will hopefully control my urge for some good pot....oh yeah!
If you want to know more about this - check here.

Saturday, August 8

Three cups of tea- a lone man on a mission

Three cups of tea is about a larger than life man who went about building schools across various parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Reading this book about Greg Mortenson has been very inspirational- a lone man with a lot of will can pretty much do anything otherwise how could it be possible that someone who goes to climb K2 ends up building schools in the remote parts of "forbidden" lands! The very first project he completed was out of sheer will and goodwill of a few people, especially Dr.Hoerni, was a bridge to the village by name Korphe (a village in the Balti mountains). The book also describes the trust, loyalty, respect and friendship that Greg shared with the Korphe village chief and many other such tribal leaders. His journey from the climb to the creation of Central Asia Institute is all in that book.

So if you are looking for some inspiration, read this book!

Friday, July 31

Steinbeck mania

"It is true that we are weak and sick and ugly and quarrelsome but if that is all we ever were, we would millenniums ago have disappeared from the face of the earth"- John Steinbeck

I do not know why but I have this burning desire to read Steinbeck's Grapes of wrath or may be Of mice and men again, what can I say!


Thursday, July 30

STORIES OLD AND NEW- 2

कथा, नई और पुरानी -२
She landed in Delhi from a far away land as a naive confused little child. The first of day of school was terrifying- she had to fit in, she had to make friends, there was so much to do. She was just a little girl. All her worries faded the moment he met her, the moment he took her hand and showed her around the school. We would be together forever, she thought. Soon he was her best friend. They laughed together, ate together and much to the dismay of his mother, he would always spend time with her at her house. One day much to their chagrin, her mother announced that a move to a new place was in order (you know one of those government agencies that keep transferring their employees once every few years). She was heart-broken and furious. She could not feel anything any more, she felt like her world came crumbling down on her and now rested on her little shoulders. What would she do without him- her best friend? They won't be together forever afterall, she would muse to herself. She pleaded with her mother, teary-eyed, she would say- "ma, let us not move, let us just be here", "what about my friend?", "how can I live without him?", "माँ, क्या उसको भी ले जायेंगे अपने साथ?". She knew they had to go, that she would have to leave him and go- but she was just a little girl, she was not supposed to bear separations like these. Yes indeed-they did move to a new place, and after many such moves, she let go of him or at least she thought she did. She did not write to him, she did not talk to him- he was gone from her life. It did sadden her the first few years but it is amazing what time can do- she had grown into a beautiful young teenager and she now had other "best" friends in her life. I am sure somewhere deep in her heart, he was still present. Otherwise she would not have recognized him at the park, she would not have frozen in time- he approached her rather quickly, so quickly that she could not get a hold of herself, so quickly that she let out a gasp and tears started flowing down those cheeks bringing down all the make-up, the make-up that her best friends had taken so long to adorn her face with.

Wednesday, July 29

Miracles, do you say

She stood there alone in the meadow amidst the wild flowers that were in full bloom. She seemed pensive, the flowers did not cheer her as they normally do. "What should she do?"- that was the one question she kept asking herself. She loved them both dearly and wanted to be with both of them. But the time has finally come, the time to choose one and only one. How did it happen so quickly? The questions outnumbered any answers she could come up with. She has taken to the much trodden path of trading reality for something as exquisite as being in a meadow pregnant with colorful blooms. As though somehow being there would miraculously help her decide. The day went by and she simply stared. The day was drawing to a close, she had to head back home just as the birds were returning to their nests. She took one good look at the sun going down and gasped- she now knew exactly which one it was going to be...

Sunday, July 19

How can I forget about Potter movie

Yes yes....thanks to O & I at Harvard, a lot of us got to watch the movie even before it got released!!! Yippee....
I really liked the movie despite missing a few important and interesting things from the 6th book. Ron was quite funny, and as usual my favorite Hermoine did not disappoint me! I am so glad I saw it..and loved it too!!

Thursday, July 16

What about free speech?

So a leader (Rita Bhaguni of Congress) issued such a statement about rape compensation policy in Uttar Pradesh (the great Mayawati's government!)
"She said rape victims should offer to compensate state chief minister Mayawati were she ever raped herself."
Her house was burnt down apparently and she was arrested-
for what
"charged specifically with making provocative statements creating "disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will" between people of different castes or communities."
Oh my GOD!!!!! Are you kidding me- how did this take a casteist twist? Is there anything in India that will not boil down to caste (well when the irresponsible crooks called politicians can castify education, they can do anything?) I mean she said something (stupid or not), her house got burnt and she GETS arrested. What about the thing called freedom of speech or don't we have any of those any more in our land?
How are we ever going to get better as a nation if we pin everything to religion and caste?

PS I sincerely wish there would be some day when men and women forget the existence of religions and caste. May be we could mass-erase the 6 billion (and counting...) memories of religion on this earth...!

Tuesday, July 14

this is really absurd

This is a bit of totally unsupported theory (this is excessive even for me who does not question the existence of media conspiracies!). This was a rediff article/slideshow (slash whatever!)

"Why India is an ideal target for the Chinese

To offset this adverse scenario, while overtly pretending to side with the West, the Chinese covertly ordered their other proxy, North Korea, to test underground nuclear explosion and carry out trials of missiles that threaten Japan and South Korea."

While the comments seem nonsensical, no one seems to be bothered about this allegation about China covertly ordering N.Korea, I mean there is no basis for this piece of news Rediff article writer!!! Agreed there is a lot going on between the two countries for one China is the major food supplier to N.Korea but still if you are writing a piece of article for media that millions are going to read you should at least get your facts right or the very least- put a warning saying "not all that is written is true, some may be theories or hypotheses!"

Saturday, July 11

July 4th

July 4th was mostly a usual day except for two things- I did not have much work in the lab and we watched the fireworks from the roof terrace of a friend's apartment. That day I lost any hope at all of Boston getting warmer. It was freezing that night (pretty cold and windy!) Come on it is July, should we be sweltering around this time of the year.
Well that aside I do make hoo-hahs about fireworks, how many of those have I seen during Diwali!! But it was nice to get some good pictures which I did not take by the way- Ashok did!

Wednesday, July 8

Allegations....

This was on Nature medicine recent issue

Nature Medicine 15, 723 (2009)

Indian universities face misconduct allegations

Killugudi Jayaraman

A report by the Times of India newspaper alleging that admissions to medical school might have been sold for money at two private institutions has stirred controversy in India. The newspaper has said it caught officials on tape demanding as much as Rs 4 million ($80,000) for admission to medical degree programs without providing receipts.

In the wake of these allegations, the country's education ministry has ordered an official probe into the claims. The two institutions, Sri Ramachandra University and Sree Balaji Medical College, affiliated with Bharat University—both in the south Indian state of Tamilnadu—risk derecognition if found guilty, education ministry spokesperson Mamta Verma told Nature Medicine.

Dayanand Dongaonkar, secretary general of the Association of Indian Universities in New Delhi is waiting for the outcome of the probe, saying that "we will decide about what action to take on our members once the government investigation is over."

Ramachandra University's vice chancellor S. Rangaswami did not reply to request for comments. The university has an ongoing research alliance with Harvard University in the US.

"We have been in contact with the leadership of Sri Ramachandra University, with which we have a professional services agreement, and have expressed our wish to see the matter resolved in appropriate fashion," says Chris Railey, director of communications and marketing for Partners Harvard Medical International.

Balaji College, the newspaper found from the college's website, was chaired by S. Jagathrakshakan, a junior minister in the government.

But after the exposé his name reportedly disappeared from the website. Nature Medicine was unable to reach S. Jagathrakshakan for comment.

The admission scam has prompted the education ministry to review the functioning of 123 universities, including 55 medical colleges that obtained the 'deemed status' in last five years."

I do not believe that this is the first time SRMC has done this. Back in the time when I was applying for a medical seat I was also asked to pay a sum. Now I really hope (I think it would probably remain one because such institutions are capable of doing what it takes to keep their name and remember money matters!) that these colleges lose their recognition not because they did not give me a seat (duh...) but because good education should not be borne out of corruption. Cannot believe Harvard has tie-ups with such universities but then how would they know about the internal goings-on.


Saturday, July 4

Seemantham


So this Sunday was my friend's சீமந்தம். The family had gone to the temple early in the morning to finish up the rituals after which they came back home. The womenfolk then adorned my pregnant friend with bangles (her choice of color of course and we get a set of bangles for ourselves too...yippee!!) after which was the much awaited FOOD.. which was delicious by the way (it was a mixture of home-made and minerva-made food).
But there are few interesting things about the whole ritual that was performed at the wee hours of dawn in the temple. Check this out, although here they do not clearly explain the importance of certain processes. I also found this piece here

"Seemantham is performed during the period between the fifth and the eighth months of pregnancy. The specific materials used during this Samskara, that are for the lady only, are, the quill of a porcupine, an ear of ripe paddy and some Udumbara leaves. Manthrams are intended to purify the foetus and to request Brahma, Agni, Raga (Rika), Vishnu, Soman and Ganga to protect it, to make the delivery smooth and to make the son intelligent. The main deity invoked is Raga or Rika, the presiding deity of the full-moon. The implications of the manthrams are: that the pregnancy should be fruitful; the child should be endowed with sharp and penetrating intellect (like the sharp quill of the porcupine). The child should be beautiful like the full-moon. The gist of the main mantra is: "I beseech the goddess Raga(Rika). May she make this ceremony blameless. May my son be endowed with sharp intellect." In some regions music is added. Also sometimes the ladies are asked to sing: "Be a mother of heroic sons" thus creating a heroic atmosphere. The mother fasts and keeps silent after the ceremony till night time when the stars become visible. At the close of the ceremony she touches a male calf, symbolizing a son. At the time of
pregnancy this is performed for the health and wealth of baby and also for normal delivery.
The unique aspects are parting of the hair, udagasanti, homam, valaigappu, and touching a male calf. The most important part is the udagasAnti. After the sactification of the jalam, the expectant mother is asked to bath in this
sanctified water to remove doshAs."


The thing that annoyed me- the mantras all seem to glorify male heirs. I thought mantras and shlokas were beyond gender and I have a huge amount of respect for these (I love chanting mantras- gives me immense peace)- well it just went down a notch, unless the interpretations from these websites are wrong and may be a Sanskrit scholar can clarify it!

Thursday, July 2

wow..really

Check this piece of news!
I guess it must sad for the Shah's descendants especially during history lessons- I mean come on, the guy has money and power and these people are left with all but a tea stall in Calcutta. Pretty tough!!

Tuesday, June 30

That was one hell of a weekend

The week ended somewhat like this-
Pack an entire apartment-Friday all day
Movers move our stuff to new place-Sat 8AM to almost noon
(bear in mind-no food was chowed down during these hours)
Quick burrito at Qdoba
Leave for old house- pick up camera bag and something else (already forgotten what it was- never mind!)
Leave for airport in the hope to catch the 2:30 flight to BWI, that will remain a hope for the next 6 hours (there have been huge delays for unexplained reasons)
Reach BWI around 9PM-eat and sleep
Wake up 6:30AM
Leave for rockville- attend the சீமந்தம் , eat all day
Leave for Greenbelt at 9:45PM
Sleep and leave for airport at 4:30AM
The adventure did not stop there- our flight at 6:30AM, left on time but in mid-air the pilot found a minor technical anomaly and brought us back to BWI. We finally landed at 11AM
Yeah BWI to Boston- almost 5 hours!!!

BOO HOO to the airline industry...

Tuesday, June 16

Go back in time

I have this fantasy- I guarantee that it is an absurd one indeed. So I want to go back in time and live the Victorian life (may be pre-victorian, oh only about 300 years or so. Well if I can go back in time, I sure can live for 300 yrs). Well not just Victorian but the period between 17th and early 20th centuries right until after the second world war. Come on have you not read Austen, Dostoyevsky (both technically pre-victorian!), Dickens, Bronte sisters, Lewis Caroll, Virginia Woolf, Hemingway and many more great writers (by no means have I read all these authors). What strikes me most when I read these authors- gaiety and expanse of that era, the sheer etiquette and quiet strength adorned by the women (not to mention the beautiful gowns and the oh-so-horrendous corsets underneath), constantly pensive social reformers and great thinkers, poverty and wars of that era. This is the idea I have of the centuries that predates ours. It will be so much fun to be dancing around in ballrooms, so much fun when the sole purpose of a woman or a man's life is to find a suitable spouse (I am not sad at all that, that is not true anymore folks!), not so much fun when wars were waged and the upper class seemed completely ignorant of it, not so much fun when people were deposed of their lands and had to settle in places that did not belong to them.
Anyway it is not like it is going to happen....my only solace- there are millions of books of which I could become the characters.
Ciao..off to la-la land!

Friday, June 12

Nine years later

It had happened unexpectedly. Of course one does not expect such things to happen, do they? The night of June 10th 2000, after a hearty dinner at my mum's cousin's place- we left for home by different modes, since there were so many of us. My sister and I on her TVS, with me driving it- pretty mundane isn't it? Except it was not and am sure since I am writing this and not my sister you all can guess what might have happened. She had just turned 18 that April and we were just getting closer putting behind our sibling rivalries, yeah it had indeed taken me 20 odd years to accept that she is a part of my being, that she is me only a few a few years younger. I loved and hated her fiercely as a teen, took a long time to resolve my emotions (well what do you expect, I was a child and apparently not a smart one at that). I normally don't talk about it- but we (the family) talk about her as though she still exists and we all converse with her in the depths of darkness. Me for instance, I strongly believe that she is my guardian angel.
In retrospect, I do wish I had some sense back then to go through some sort of trauma therapy as a family. It is quite interesting psychologically that it is not just me with an intense survivor's guilt (which unarguably affects my everyday life) but my parents and my grandma all have their own reasons for why they could not see it coming....and why her and not them!
Nine years now and my biggest fear- I might not remember her as I grow old, I might not remember her laugh after a good joke, the twinkle in her eyes after a successful prank or her tears after a not-so-well-done exam.
We love you and we miss you sweetheart!

Friday, June 5

Check this headlines

This is what comes up under the "India" tab in TOI
"oh my god, I am coming down with WTF-where-is-my-daily-movie syndrome" (LOL)

It has been ages since I even bothered to check TOI but somehow today I am feeling sappy (I remember TOI from BITS!). Anyway nothing much has changed with the paper- if this is the headline news...

Thursday, June 4

Imminent

This article is on the latest Outlook India about how water crisis in drier parts of the Indian subcontinent has led to violence. I am quoting the excerpt below directly from this article.

"What is the Centre planning to do about the crisis? T. Ramaswami, secretary, science and technology, says the August deadline is unrealistic. "This problem can't be solved in months," he says. "For the past three weeks, the science and technology ministry, with 15 partner ministries, has been holding meetings. One solution can't be applied countrywide. It has to be a national effort and everyone has to contribute."

No offence Mr. Ramaswami but for as long as I can remember this issue has not gotten past the meeting stage (just like most other issues, so I am not sure why this would be any more important than the other important issues that the government refuses to deal with or deals with by way of organizing periodic meetings!). Shame on us sir!

At least we had one great visionary among us who (yes Mahakavi Bharatiyar) talked about water distribution systems when the country was still struggling to be free from British reins.

வங்கத்தில் ஓடி வரும் நீரின் மிகையால், வையத்து நாடுகளில் பயிர் செய்யுவோம்

We can keep arguing about technicalities of better ways of ensuring single person receives that he or she needs but at some point the thing called action needs to be taken too (hell I don't even think there are arguments at such so-called meetings). It is a pity that while states like Andhra and Orissa drown in excess water every year, the regions of Rajasthan and Tamilnadu drown in their own dried, caked lands due to lack of just that- Water!

Thursday, May 28

Do the dance!

Watch this video, first alex and now snowball.
What do you see- well a parrot gone crazy, yes...but also the fact that the bird moves its body to the different beats it hears- it is called rhythmic entrainment, which us humans took pride of as a unique gift bestowed only upon us. Clearly how much more egotistical can we get. Apparently we are not so unique anymore...
Anyway scientifically it is a very interesting aspect because apparently there are no videos of dogs or other mammalian pets doing the moves!

Here is what the author of the dispatch section had to say

" it also raises fascinating questions about the species that aren't on the list. The most obvious gaps are domesticated animals like dogs or horses: despite their pervasive exposure to music, not a single convincing demonstration of mammalian pet dancing was found. This negative evidence supports the everyday observation that dogs can't dance, and the outstanding question is why not. What is lacking?

Another group conspicuous by its absence are nonhuman primates. The absence of any true ‘dancing chimpanzees’ is surprising, not just because chimpanzees are our closest relatives but because they naturally engage in ‘drumming’ in the wild [7]. Chimpanzees often drum with their hands or feet on rainforest trees in the wild, generating far-carrying, quasi-rhythmic signals. Similarly, gorillas beat their bodies, and occasionally objects, with a rough ‘beat’. Thus, our nearest living cousins exhibit a behaviour suggesting that some form of propensity to drum was present in our common ancestor, making the lack of evidence for ape entrainment surprising. But given that most humans do not interact with chimpanzees regularly, and that most chimpanzee owners (in entertainment or science) do not post videos online, this negative evidence does not yet provide compelling evidence of absence. An open mind concerning apes remains warranted."

Biology of Music: Another One Bites the Dust, Volume 19, Issue 10, 26 May 2009, Pages R403-R404

They also go on to acknowledge the fact that one cannot rule out the possibility that pet-dancing may simply have not been uploaded to YouTube! Nevertheless it is an interesting evolutionary question. So next time you see your pet dancing away to rock and roll music, film it and put it on YouTube, someone might actually use it for something useful!

Below are the references of the two papers

A.D. Patel, J.R. Iversen, M.R. Bregman and I. Schulz, Experimental evidence for synchronization to a musical beat in a nonhuman animal, Curr. Biol. 19 (2009), pp. 827–830.

A. Schachner, T.F. Brady, I.M. Pepperberg and M.D. Hauser, Entrainment to music requires vocal mimicry: Evidence from non-human animals, Curr. Biol. 19 (2009), pp. 831–836.


Monday, May 25

Looking to rent..

I had to obviously write about it when I saw it, "Rent a room in someone else's life?" That statement is big, innit. The character Sai in "The Inheritance of Loss" ruses about this when she sees she has missed out on some grand childhood. To me it is big because I feel it sometimes, when I see people who are smarter, more creative, much more nicer and have a distinct identities (Note: need not be anyone famous, I use my discretion to define these values!!). But think about it- how cool would it be to rent, even for just a little while, a room in someone else's life!!

Tuesday, May 19

What am I

What am I? I think about this more often these days, you know. What do people mean when they say "I am an Indian or I am American or whatever". I mean are they identifying who they are with where they are from? I am not belittling the fact that where you are shapes you up as a person but that cannot be the whole story, can it? May be it does but for me that is not all. I don't think I can associate a country and its traditions with who I am, it is mostly a mixture of the ideals, principles, and traditions that I have garnered from various parts of the world. Of course some by being in those parts of the world and some, you may not believe it to be true, some from books I have read over the years. What is interesting is that I have taken this thought a step that has led to me being more and more saddened by the existence of boundaries between countries. I don't understand why we need them. I know I know, governance issues, cultural issues, and whatever other issues one can think of....but I can still wonder about it, can't I? Is it that hard of people from a gamut of cultures and geographical locations to be together....won't it be fun? We can learn so much...think about it!!!

Thursday, May 7

A beautiful read

Rebecca- a beautiful read indeed. But I must admit I read half of the book yesterday while I doted on the first half for about a month, not because I was in love with it or anything, might I add! Somehow there seems to have been a "I-can't-believe-so-much-detail" threshold that I never crossed in the first half or may be because I was too dumb to understand the beauty of Daphne Du Maurier's writing. Contrary to the first few hundred pages, the second half of the book was amazing. In fact, yesterday, there were parts of the book where I was almost in tears. It is a romance-mystery novel of sorts. Although the book is just ridden with too many words (duh..!!) there were a lot of catchy, interesting and rhetorical phrases. Like this one below

"I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end."

My verdict: go ahead it is a masterfully crafted suspense novel but you have to bear through the first 100 pages!!

Wednesday, May 6

Guys seriously why could'nt you?

Guys, come on! Why could'nt I get a job like this? Anyway this led me to think- what are some of the best jobs around, like living on an island and making friends? Let me know if you can think of any- may be I can switch my profession!

Tuesday, April 28

Insect love

Normally I would not say I love insects, but one look at his gallery- I am in love with these scary monsters!

Thursday, April 23

Earth day was yesterday folks

If you Earth day is something that was instituted very recently, you are wrong. April 22nd was declared the Earth day in 1970 in the US. It is mostly celebrated as Earth week these days. The International Earth Day is different and is celebrated on March 21st, the equinox day. Whichever day or week it is, I am really proud that Harvard is really big on reduce, reuse, recycle policy and I am proud of myself because I don't throw anything that can be recycled or reused (no, I am serious, not even the tiniest scrap of paper gets thrown in the trash). In fact Harvard does much better than a lot of other universities. So do Boston and Cambridge- these cities are far more advanced in terms of their sustenance policies than most other.
Quick diversion here: I am proud of my parents too because they are big on the three Rs so much so that my dad made a usable mug out of a milk bottle!
For some of us, it might not mean anything at all. But think about it- how hard is it really to recycle folks? Plastic recycling can be harder because there are codes but paper, come on!!! We all can do that much at least for our part.
The other thing I believe everyone can do is to plant SOMETHING, ANYTHING really! I live in an apartment and would love to have a big (or small really, अरे कुछ भी चलेगा भैया) garden But I have decided it is too hard for me to not have green living things as my pets so decided to grow my own apartment garden. Since space is a limitation I am not planting a lot, obviously. But the big question now- will the seeds I sowed, germinate?!
People do so many creative things though- be it Dervaes's homestead in Pasadena, CA or the brainchild of Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer, Terracycle Inc.
To me Earth day or Earth week is just a reminder about how beautiful this place we live in is and it also reminds me that I do not have to hike or trek along the thousands of trails spread across various parks to enjoy the bounty that is nature.

FOR ME EVERYDAY IS EARTH DAY FOLKS AND I AM PROUD OF THAT!!


PS I must say in this tech age, I have not encountered a slower site than Terracycle Inc. I hope they read this post and get a better page that loads faster!
Wow yesterday was all gloomy post, today all earthy...seriously this must be mid-life crisis...

Wednesday, April 22

Meltdown

While the world is facing a financial meltdown, I think I am facing an existential meltdown. Well maybe meltdown is a strong word- may be I could call it existential crisis. You know the usual- "நான் ஏன் பிறந்தேன்" (I think that is the correct spelling in Tamil- it means why was I born, used to be our favorite phrase in BITS) type issues. So I am a great believer of a few things, among those are these two "every person is here for a reason- you just have to find out for yourself what yours is" and "everything that happens, happens for a reason".
But I find myself in this whirlpool of incessant thoughts about "what I should be doing?"
I thought science is what I should be doing but something has changed (well me getting really excited about good science and great research minds has not been tarnished yet!) and I don't feel like I belong! But I feel like I don't belong anywhere. I am at a stage in my career now where I have to decide on something and ACT on it. I am failing at the first step, decision-making. Here I am wavering about it all, thought this ended like ten years ago! Its asking the question "what should I become when I grow up?" all over again and that feels strange.
I think I will play along, ponder over such questions and hope that once it is actually time to make the big decisions, everything will miraculously fall into place.

PS Aha..picture is worth a thousand words, so now will you believe me?!! May be this might be what others call "mid-life crisis"?!

Wednesday, April 8

Yeaah..go ahead replace us

Beware we will all be soon replaced by machines or may be perhaps we can sit back and relax while we let robots like Adam do our experiments for us (smell a long vacation here). Adam has been developed by Amanda Clare's group in the UK. He can come up with hypothesis and test them too. How cool is that people?! But he still needs somebody to add more lab consumables and of course clean the waste he generates. May be I should get an Adam- since he can perform all those things that I am doing right now.

Ross D. King, Jem Rowland, Stephen G. Oliver, Michael Young, Wayne Aubrey, Emma Byrne, Maria Liakata, Magdalena Markham, Pinar Pir, Larisa N. Soldatova, Andrew Sparkes, Kenneth E. Whelan, and Amanda Clare (3 April 2009)
Science 324 (5923), 85. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1165620]

Tuesday, April 7

Close proximity

What do you do when you are in close proximity to people like her? She is only 4 years older than I am and she already features in the top 100 living geniuses (see the article here). She is one of the three women who graduated summa cum laude from Harvard Medical School. You can read her profile in
Science 25 April 2008: Vol. 320. no. 5875, pp. 442 - 443, DOI: 10.1126/science.320.5875.442
Her foray into stardom came about when she found a novel way to identify targets for positive selection during the course of evolution. It is a pretty neat technique, although the math part goes over my head.

PS I am mediocre but at least I am not surrounded by it! Here I am, can't even get a PCR to work...

Friday, April 3

Schadenfreude, hope not

Schadenfreude is a German word that describes the pleasure that one derives from others misfortunes. It is very closely related to envy. In this nice paper, the authors show that despite the two emotions being correlated they activate different regions of the brain. While envy activates neural connections related to pain, sch.. activates the reward center of the brain. But can anything be ever so simple.....of course not. The authors show the interplay between social pains and pleasures.

Taken from
Matthew D. Lieberman and Naomi I. Eisenberger (13 February 2009)
Science 323 (5916), 890. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1170008]
Analyses of brain activity reveal a link between social and physical pains and pleasures.

"If maintaining one's social value is a need like other physical needs, then the greater the pain caused by negative social comparisons, the greater the pleasure in response to seeing the comparison target socially devalued (schadenfreude). The authors found that greater envy and dACC activity in response to a negative social comparison was associated with greater schadenfreude and ventral striatum activity when learning of that comparison target's subsequent downfall."

Basically what it means is if you envy someone, you get greater pleasure when misfortune strikes them. In fact Leiberman and Eisenberger think of this as something akin to physical needs such as food when you are hungry! What is even more interesting is the fact that the brain is treating things as important as lack of food and water similar to social pains such as envy. Now why would that be?

If you have access you should read the article (don't worry if you don't understand much of it) and for people who
are not used to neuroscience jargon, you should read the perspectives that is referenced above.

Hidehiko Takahashi, Motoichiro Kato, Masato Matsuura, Dean Mobbs, Tetsuya Suhara, and Yoshiro Okubo (13 February 2009) Science 323 (5916), 937. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1165604]
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/323/5916/937

Tuesday, March 31

Time well spent with friends

This weekend, my time was well spent with friends. We were all very cheery, cheery to the point of being hysterical, I am guessing it is because of the baby boom. Yeah...I am so excited, and I ought to be, a friend of mine is pregnant. I surely exposed everyone to my dual neigh-cum-laughter, really I used to laugh hysterically and usually it used to sound more like a horse's neigh. Life changes so fast, one minute you think "well that is it for now, no BIG changes" and then boom there is the jolt again! If I feel that way, I can sure understand how the soon-to-be parents might feel. What was interesting was each of us had our own vices to teach to the newborn, including the "mum n dad"- Ashok wants to give it shots of tequilla, another friend wants to pick it up and spank it. So we will have to wait and watch how the kid grows up despite our presence!!
For now we are all super-charged when it comes to this couple...and of course the would-be mom gets the say in most matters.

Tuesday, March 24

Que pasa amigos?


Last weekend we were in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It reminded me of home junta. Warm weather, fruiting mango trees, coconut trees, hibiscus and other beautiful flowering plants of the tropics, people strewn about in roadside stalls doing absolutely nothing, traffic, the houses...everything reminded me of home. It was an interesting blend of India and US.
So the trip began with a bit of a drama- we landed 15 minutes or 60 miles away from San Juan at St. Thomas. We were not aware of the fact that our flight was just going to stand in the airport for 2 hrs and we were not going to be allowed to get out of the aircraft. Oh well, we did get to SJ eventually! Thankfully that was the only drama!
We spent a day traveling to El Yunque (took a really small hike to some random waterfalls) rain forest and then to Fajardo (Seven seas beach). It was a very quite place but weather played a spoiled-sport, as I was settling to take a nap under a tree, it began to rain....
Well that was that, after randomly driving around we got to Condado, where we stayed. The evening was spent walking around the area. Next day we did have a good plan. But like all good plans ours was busted too...we spent nearly an hour waiting for our burgers (Worst service at Chicago burgers in Old San Juan) that were not even worth the wait!!! I liked old San juan- had a very spanish feel to it. The image on the right is the fort at old SJ, again built by the spaniards, essentially a fort to protect the city.The streets were narrow and the buildings were beautiful. My only crib: I could not go around the city more and do some shopping.
We spent the rest of the day at the beach (Isla Verde), I found a spot under the shade and took a wonderful nap. There was just enough breeze and just enough sun!!
That evening there was some sort of a festival going on- which we did enjoy along with some decent chinese take-out. Called it a night around 11PM.....had an early flight to catch the next morning


Tuesday, March 10

A lab of almost 100

Wow, I have only heard about Bob Langer cursorily. He has about 80 people in a lab that spans about 1300 sq. m. at MIT.He is almost 60 years old and has a CV that is about 75 pages long. He has received several awards including the 2008 Millennium Prize. Nature has this to say about him. Boy, at almost 60 years of age, that man is quite something. I was truly awed, not as much as I was when I read "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman" (this was when I fell in love with Richard P. Feynman). What was interesting and amusing to me in that profile by Nature- at the end of the day "on his way home, he stops for an ice cream — coffee chip frozen yoghurt with hot fudge sauce". Goes to show how important stopping to enjoy a cup of icecream is- no matter how successful you are!

On redaction

Onion had this to say about redaction of documents by the CIA. Pretty cool, I thought!

Monday, March 9

The BIG read

In April 2003, BBC launched a search for England's best loved book, you the most popular read if you will. English loved the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's mega-book was the best-loved book.
I have not read Lord of the Rings or any other book pre- and post- LoR by Tolkien (I loved the movies though!). Anyway I was intrigued by this list and decided to see how much of those books have I read- (I must say I got this idea from here although the BBC actual book list seems to be modified a bit). I took a look at the original list and guess what I have read only 34 of those 100 books. Ow, when am I ever going to finish reading especially when my reading list already has a back log of about 30 books. That list is the one that seems to be expanding at an alarming rate!
See below for the list, and do let me know how many you have read and what you liked best.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen-X
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling-X
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee-X
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell-X
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger-X
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens-X
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott-X
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy-X
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell-X
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling-X
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling-X
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling-X
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck-X
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll-X
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez-X
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens-X
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson-X
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen-X
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald-X
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas-X
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell-X
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens-X
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck-X
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy-X
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth-X
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky-X
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden-X
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding-X
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding-X
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy-X
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo-X
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho-X
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer-X
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez-X
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

Thursday, March 5

Bacteria are the best indeed

Two weeks ago, there was a talk by Bonnie Bassler (Priceton University). Her talk was absolutely great- she was extremely energetic, enthusiastic and seemed very passionate about her work. She also seemed to absolutely love bacteria. When I listen to a talk I want to hear the speaker's passion for his or her work show in their talks. I cannot stand talks that are drab no matter how good the person might be. Just does not give a good impression you see.
She spoke about quorum sensing in bacteria and I was blown away by how the concept of multicellularity may not be new at all.
But I do have questions about it- while the bacteria produce auto-inducer(s) specific to their own species (say a regional language) and a common auto-inducer (universal language) made across a wide variety of bacteria, the evolutionary aspect of why bacteria need such a mechanism is unclear to me, especially if they are invovled in only one downstream signaling process.

Wednesday, February 25

We were not this bad, what happened

Obesity cases have been steadily rising in the Indian subcontinent. The consumption of processed foods and fatty goodies are on the rise and, therefore, unarguably so is obesity. We were doing alright all these years, what happened? You walk into a mall in any Indian city, you would be drawn to the same sugary, fatty junk that we have now deemed "not healthy" here in the western world. Things like donuts, potatoes drenched in oil and many more unhealthy products are flooding the Indian households. It would not be fair if I just blamed it on the foods, we are becoming a LAZY bunch people! Not only do we not go out and actively exercise, even the little we did around the house has been replaced. What with so much domestic help and all...

The good thing here in the US is that a lot of the people are very conscious and awareness about obesity as a real health issue is ever-increasing.

I am not sure how best to warn people of the dangers of such a rapidly changing lifestyle. But people please if you read this post, educate your friends and family so they can educate their friends and family and hopefully we can make people realize that by slightly modifying our eating and exercising habits we can actually lead healthier lives.

PS You can read this article and this one to learn at least a little more about obesity in India. Not that a lot of research is going on right now.

Friday, February 13

You are not alone...

I find this amusing and annoying at the same time, I understand when you work you want to left alone but science is all about mingling- sharing ideas, sharing crazy hypotheses, sharing work space and more. I think science would have remained rudimentary if the iPOD was discovered 200 years ago. I am not sure I can embrace the idea of come to the lab, turn your iPOD on and do whatever it is that you might be doing- surfing the net, working on an experiment or reading papers. My old lab was different that way and I liked it- we did not flaunt the "oh-look-wires-coming-out-of-me and so glued to my ears I cannot take it off" thingies. We talked incessantly, our thoughts constantly collided with one another giving rise to better experiments, we would badger the newbies in the lab calling it the "we would love to get to know you" phase.
This iPOD fetish might have something to do with being in a big lab, your bench spaces themselves are so far apart that there is very limited extent of interaction.
Anyway, I think as scientists we should limit the use of such devices- use it albiet sparingly, at least when at work. I am just a fly on the wall but I hope I am making sense here. I think this is not just true about science, you walk on the road all you can see are people either talking to themselves (back in the old days we used to think such people had the crazies!), or talking to a cell phone or concentrating on the music that is playing right into their heads.
So long people...man is a social being afterall, is he not?

Friday, January 30

Start your day GRUMPY...

This morning something odd happened- well it might not be that unusual but it seemed a bit unnerving to me anyway. We came to the car parked on a busy road (especially crazy at 9:00 in the morning). He got in to drive while I waited for him to pull out of the icy mess and give me some space to get in. Incidentally he did not see the bicyclist. She thought he was going to stop for her but he did not see her. She was yelling out "stop for the bicyclist" but of course he did not hear her. He pulled out really slowly, while she also kept at it- and all that happened was she stumbled a bit. Okay mistake probably was his- I don't know, she saw him driving and not stopping and so she decided not to stop either... anyway she got really worked up and started screaming like crazy. Things like "Jacka**, can't you stop for a bicyclist" and much more. So nothing odd about it, right?
Well, while she yelling I was watching her in awe. I could not understand how someone could actually be so grumpy early in the morning. I mean come on, how do you yell like that with such loathing in the morning. After a presumably good night's rest, Yyou wake up, have coffee and breakfast, wash, get dressed and leave for whatever it is that you are going to do for the rest of the day. Amidst all these things what happens that makes you crabby like that? Then what happens to the rest of your day? May be she is going through something genuine...
I sure felt sorry for the next person that came in her way.
I cannot fathom such emotions, can you?