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.