Saturday, August 29, 2009

Help! Neverending days of Summer!

A plan to watch a historic outdoor 70th anniversary screening of Gone with the Wind got washed out with the thunderstorms, so we ended up watching "500 days of Summer" at Carolina Theater. I wish that had got washed out with a late summer thunderstorm too.

Here is how the story goes:

Boy meets girl.
Girl has different expectations of relationship.
Boy has different expectations of relationship.
But he makes out with her anyway because he is in Love. And for any Bollywood fans out there, there is even a group song and dance sequence with an animated cartoon birdie perched on Boy's shoulder. He has a Spring in his step, because he fell for Summer!

Girl says I told you so and gets married to someone else.
Boy keeps moping.
And moping.
And moping.
And moping.
And moping.
And thinks about all the oh-so-cute things (playing pretend house in Ikea?!) they did when they were together.
And then he mopes again.
And thinks again about all the oh-so-cute things they did when they were together.
And mopes.
And mopes.
Oh sorry, I need to finish this neverending story, don't I?
One day he meets Girl again, and has the aha moment (he wasn't THE ONE!).
The End.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday, Friday at the FIP.

My favorite part of Friday is going to the breakfasts that are held by the Fitzpatrick Institute of Photonics (FIP, for short), of which our research group is a part.

Now, graduate researchers are a breed that are to be read, not to be seen. Who knew, or would believe, that our department for example, had more grad students than undergrads? They are hidden away in labs, offices and cleanrooms and such. But come Friday, two very diligent grad students put together a lovely spread of coffee, muffins, biscuits and fruits in the atrium, and magically, there is a crowd. Of grad students. And post doctoral researchers. And a few professors (who can get over themselves!).

Sure, some folks just come grab the grub and head back wordlessly straight to their offices. I have seen some students, and even a postdoc who pile up five plates of food, make three trips back and forth from their office, making arrangements for lunch, dinner and then breakfast for Saturday, without a word to the people around them. Then there is the other lot who don't even step out of their offices. The very thought of possible socializing seems to paralyze them and chain them to their desks.

As for the rest, the saner of the lot, for the ones who come and hang out, the atmosphere is light, the conversation refreshingly rambling. Sometimes a technical poster is displayed for discussion. It may just be an excuse for giving an academic sheen to a social get-together, but it is well worth it. And there are discussions. Once, we came up with a detailed outline for a technical poster to describe the etching of a macro-cavity in pulverized silicon dioxide (dig a hole in the sand, you bozo!)

45 minutes later, the place is empty, but it is a lovely start to the weekend.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"In recognition of

Lotstodo GradStudent's invaluable service to the community of American and world scientists by making lasers that
1. Saved the world
2. Made clean water available to all
3. Ended all hunger and poverty
4. Turned all 6.779 billion inhabitants into happy world-citizens
5. And most importantly, elevated the status of the lowly grad student to one of the mighty Atlas' who did not shrug ,

I, Barack Hussain Obama, President of the United States of America, by the powers vested in me by the constitution of the United States of America, confer upon Lotstodo GradStudent honorary citizenship of this country."

Wha....the....? After all the nightmares I have been having (heck, I am a graduate student, I am supposed to have nightmares!)...this dream was a refreshing change.

Addendum: So am I desperately looking to get American citizenship? Nope. Nope. It was only a weird dream, refreshing only because of its content, not that the outcome is a citizenship!

And so, what is YOUR name?

What would you do if a guy in a muscle shirt , with a most elaborately shaved pattern of scrolls and curls on his chin and sideburns, comes to you with a swaggering gait, points to the top button of his slightly frayed jeans peeping through a heavily ornate belt buckle, and say: "Look here, look here. What is your name?"

Scream for help?
Slap the man?
Pretend to be deaf and dumb and walk on?
Run in the opposite direction?

Looking at my (I imagine) ashen face, he turned and looked around, pointed to some string wound around a basket, and repeated: "Look here, look here. What is your name? Spanish?"

Aahaa, THREAD. This man, who just walked into this fabric store, only needs to buy some sewing thread.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Green is the new green

I was reading up a little about green laser diodes thanks to a news article that came through a professional discussion group, and lo and behold, I just find that Photonics Spotlight (check blog link on right) talking about the same topic.

Seems like periodically, there is a synergy of ideas regarding both fundamental science and applications, a convergence of efforts, a maturing of technology, and one then has the next "surge" in the field.

Of course, for the uninitiated, here green laser diodes refer to the color of light emitted, rather than the environmental aspect of it. But we know that semiconductor based lighting sources are head and shoulders above incandescents and CFLs in efficiency, so they indeed are green.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Why do some men have to grunt and groan at 92 decibels doing their bench presses?
And then walk around strutting their stuff?

2 bench presses followed by a half-hour strut through the weight room.
That don't impress me much.

At my desk, in my chair, hello computer!

Just like Phaedrus fears water, I fear computer simulations. I don't hate it, I just fear it.

And competing with that are the following fears:
1. Fear of feeling unproductive, aka, I haven't made a real device in the cleanroom in the last 4 weeks.
2. Fear of not having real data by testing a real device.
3. Fear of not being able to get anything useful out of the simulations in a short amount of time.
4. Fear of disappointing the Big Boss by not being able to get anything useful out of the simulations in a short amount of time.
5. Fear of not comprehending why the heck these simulations seem to behave the way they do.

I am happy to report that I have temporarily overcome some of these fears and have been tied to my desk and chair for 8-10 hours a day like millions of people who earn their bread by staring at a computer screen, and rediscovered a few things:
1. Ha, I don't have to necessarily wear long trousers to protect my legs, because I am not going to the clean room. It sure makes a variation in my daily (imaginary) fashion statement. I remember last year, when I was going through a similar simulatory phase at least 3 colleagues who I do not talk to on a regular basis stopped to ask me why I was wearing a skirt (!!).
2. Suddenly, numerous people seem to complement me on my "new" hairstyle, aka "not tied up and pressed flat against the scalp like Princess Leah". Courtesy, the same as above.
3. Telecommute, aka the joy of working wearing your PJs. Unfortunately, PJs are also very conducive to plopping on the bed and going off to sleep in the middle of the day when you are frustrated with the (non) results of your computer simulation.

How are the simulations going, you may ask? Uh, I'll let you know after I have napped a bit.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

"Back" up

Piyali is in UK right now, and too much of sightseeing = back pain and sciatica, and extreme pain during any change in movement: standing up, turning, walking. I have seen her living with daily excruciating back pain for the past 15 years. The diagnoses have been many: slipped disc, osteoperosis, and a crazy number of others. Tractions, exercising, vitamin D injections, and what not, seem to have no effect. The primary treatment other than surgery for her seems to be exercise to keep the back flexible and reduce weight, but how does one do that if one can hardly stand? Lower back pain is one of the most common ailments out there, and the number of therapies that are present are mindboggling. But equally suspicious are the rates of success, the side effects, the temporary nature of the treatments in some cases.
Recently, I came across a unique back pain website, which seems to clear up at least some of the myths around back pain. While I am not yet sure what will work for Piyali, at least I have a better idea of what will not work. For example, I had no idea that chiropractic school was such a huge sham. Not that I have ever been to a chiropractor (we don't really have an equivalent of this in India), but the extent to which many of them are ill-trained and ill-equipped is scary.
On the other hand, I am hoping to see more about the efficacy of ozone discectomy in a future post , which interestingly, is available in India but still not in the States.
Maybe some form of discectomy or an epidural that would allow pain relief for a few months for her to get started with an exercise regimen maybe in order. Kal, my friend who is a physical therapist suggested this. Wierd, but I don't know why no doctor till now has suggested that, and it seems like a really good idea.
So currently I am on a mission to find out more and hopefully, help Piyali work with a doctor in a more informed way when she gets back to India.

Ironically, the way I keep my back in shape is by doing the yoga exercises Piyali taught me. Since she is an artist, I have nice figure drawings for each of the asanas, so I don't forget how they are done. And she can't do them because she is in too much of pain.