July 24, 2011

Lost in time

"All those moments
will be lost
in time
like
tears in rain.

Time to die."

Blade Runner (1982; final cut)

May 13, 2011

SENNA



Friday the 13th of May. Barbican.
Opening Night of the 2011 London International Documentary Festival.

Senna (2010) is a feature documentary based on the life of one of Formula1's greatest driver - Ayrton Senna. Directed by Asif Kapadia, and written by Manish Pandey, this documentary is an extensively well-researched and edited movie, capturing the brilliant driving, dramatic races, controversy and politics surrounding his fierce rivalry with Alain Prost, stardom in his native Brazil, personal crisis leading up to the ill-fated 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, and the belief of a man bent on racing ever faster as a driver and constantly improving himself as a person.

Featuring previously unseen archival footage from Bernie Eccleston's private archive collection among others, and a tantalising score by Antonio Pinto, it's a must watch for those who appreciate the sport of Formula1, and even those who don't.

"It was pure driving, pure racing, and that makes me happy." - Senna.

February 11, 2010

Listen you fuckers. You screwheads. Here's a man who would not take it anymore. Who would not let...Listen you fuckers. You screwheads. Here's a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit. Here's someone who stood up. Here is...

November 27, 2009

04:29

friday night. broken social scene. lonesome tonight. missed opera. mouse king and nutcracker. no, thank you. lazy winters. leftover chicken. random internet. facebook. keep working. stay busy. stay sane. old pictures. new day. half-past three. alarm set for eight. why o' why. pachauri talks at 9am. global warming. cold souls. peter somogyi says science is creativity. hmmm. and, learn only to be content. am i? definitely maybe. neurogliaform cells rock. volume transmission. paper rejected. another submission. $1000 for a colour image. science is the business. hunger pangs. turkish delight. no more sweets. where is the spice. music on. counting crows. a long december. sigh, yeah. dylan now. people are crazy. times are strange. i'm locked in tight. i'm out of range. i used to care. but things have changed. how true. why are you always smiling. 'cause its all so fuckin' hysterical.

August 22, 2009

EduCare


EduCare is an educational and career consultancy dedicated to providing comprehensive help and career guidance to undergraduate and high school students.

As a promotional offer, we are not charging for your very first query. You can choose to pay as little or as much as you want, as long as you offer to write a testimonial for us!

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EduCare on Facebook


June 25, 2009

ASSC Student Essay Contest


The Student Committee of the Association for the Scientific Studies of Consciousness (ASSC) is pleased to announce an essay contest open to all students. There are 6 topics to choose from, to be assessed by some of the leading philosophers and scientists in the field of consciousness research. To top it all, the winning entries will be published in the ASSC journal, 'PSYCHE'!!!
So get started, the deadline for receiving entries is Aug. 31, 2009.

For full details, click the image above.

June 13, 2009

Charity run


I've decided to run 10km for the charity, Pratham UK which is the British chapter of 'Pratham', an Indian NGO committed to eradicating child illiteracy in India.

All your donations will go towards supporting Pratham's activities in India. You can help by sponsoring me here -



June 07, 2009

Today has been OK

I'd like to be a bit more regular at blogging. Not just to detail my latest culinary experiment or disaster, but to take some time each day to pen my thoughts and experiences of each day. This blog to me is like a diary and though I've the option to make it accessible only to myself, I guess the point is to share with the unknown reader my experiences and learn a thing or two on the way.

This was the first weekend in ages when I felt productive. I think that the concept of a weekend should be re-evaluated. It's taken as a two-day holiday and a time to relax and indulge in your favourite activity or pastime, which I also agree with but if we take it as a zero-work weekend, then Monday feels all the more worse and we experience the Monday morning blues. However, I guess for those working long hours in banks et al., there is no other way than to maximize the spare time during the weekend.

The transition from a holiday and back to work is what makes going to work on Mondays difficult. However, if we take the weekend as a progression of the week and be productive in a relaxed manner, come Monday morning, one may not feel so out of sync. I did just that this weekend, and for the first time I was efficient at it. For each weekend, I draw up a list of things to do (including domestic chores) and see how I perform. If I underperform, I do feel a little bad but generally take it easy as it's just a weekend. However, on the rare occasion when I actually manage to fit in all the things over the two days, it makes me feel buoyant and productive. What I'm arguing for here, is to have decent productivity levels over the entire week with an agreeable dip on the weekend rather than striving for the absolute maximum during the week and absolute minimum during the weekend.

So my list for this weekend included watching the F1 qualifying on Saturday, the race and the French Open men's finals on Sunday, posting on this blog, reading and some other things. However, as the weekend is officially over at two past twelve now, I didn't manage to read a single paper that I had set myself to do. Though I do feel bad, but what the heck, I'm not actually supposed to work on weekends, so I feel fine. And by taking care of the unavoidable trivialities, one would have more time to focus on work during the week.

P.S. The title is taken from Emiliana Torrini's delightful song of the same name from the album, 'Fisherman's Woman'

May 15, 2009

la première curry

1.
Well, never mind the facebook crap. In short, I wanted to say that writing on my blog feels a lot better than updating my status on facebook. I wouldn't dare venture beyond facebook and starting sending out tweets as well. Though technology is said to bring us closer, within six degrees of any random person on the face of the planet, like the trucks warn in India, I 'keep distance'. Too much of it, and you forget how to enjoy the simple joys of life. So, f*** book and face life, rather than face book and f*** your life away. Unfortunately, it has become a necessary evil and a fruitless diversion to escape from boredom but we're all equally competing in this dead rubber.

2.
Which brings me to the title of this post, almost three weeks after I'd written the above paragraph. My first chicken curry! A proud moment of my amateur and experimental culinary times; I thought I should record this moment at my blog.

But before we get to the chicken, let me start from the beginning and give a background to how the chicken came to be cooked in the first place. It was an awful Saturday, the kind where you'd rather wish you were working instead of having a day off on a dull day like today. In fact, it actually did make me go to the lab! For the fast internet rather than work. I watched Vettel finally pip the Brawns for the pole position at the Turkish GP, then saw Svetlana and Dinara giving their post-match speeches (and also saw Steffi Graf, pretty as ever; invited to give away the trophies to the finalists) and finally saw the penultimate episode of this season's Apprentice. It was a good sporting weekend with the Turkish GP and Federer on the verge of creating history at Roland Garros.

Coming back to food, I hadn't eaten (or cooked) anything special the last few days. And I was really in the mood to eat something nice. The last I made was stir fry noodles which didn't turn out as well as I'd like. Clueless as to what to eat, I started dreaming and my thoughts went to back to home, when every weekend that I'd come back from the DCE hostel, I'd get to savour something special, my favourite being biryani. And suddenly I really started craving biryani. And the urge became stronger when I walked past the neighbourhood Farmers' Market and saw fresh seafood paella being served. So I bought chicken and came back home around 5pm.

However, upon returning I was faced with a sink full of misery (dishes) and it turned me off and lost the enthusiasm to cook then. So, I munched some celery sticks and forgot all about biryani. The evening went past slowly and I had some ParleG biscuits to keep my hunger away. It was 10pm in no time, and though I remembered the chicken I was in no mood to cook. However, hungry I was, and if I could cook tonight, I wouldn't have to cook again tomorrow. Thus, I got up and took out and cleaned the pressure cooker (a customary item, part of my 45kg luggage on my first trip to the UK). I have no oven, and a whole year had passed since I last used the cooker (only once) so I needed to understand how to cook chicken in it. I googled, naturally, and sifted useful information from three related chicken recipes. Though the chicken was already packaged in a paste of sundried tomatoes and lemon, I decided to add the traditional spices of chilli and turmeric and a dash of fresh lemon juice. Before that though I had slaved away cutting a huge onion into fine bits. It was time to get my hands dirty and I proceeded to mix all the spices and onions with the chicken. I heated the cooker, added olive oil and then fried some of the fresh onion before adding the chicken. Even at this moment, I wasn't sure whether I would be having a roast or a curry but when I saw the leftover onions and marinade, I decided on the latter. I added some tomato puree, a few cloves, cinnamon sticks and cardamom and made a fine broth, mixing it in water. After five or so minutes, when the chicken had fried a bit, I added the broth and closed the lid of the pressure cooker. I was unsure about operating the cooker and read the instructions thrice over. I was scared to be honest, more so as the blaring sound of the whistle shattered the silence of my room, and I was petrified if too much pressure built up, it would explore in my face! At the same time, I put a packet of rice to boil, so that atleast I would have rice and curry, if not biryani. I added some celery leaves to add a touch of green and by half past eleven, a grand meal was ready -



April 29, 2009

La première des amis (The first friends) part I:

It was past one late in the night. The laptop stared at me (an undeniable breathing and living creature in today's world separated by six degrees and my world of limited, non-virtual social connections 360 degrees apart), and I called out to it with its replacement keyboard. Its own keyboard was injured when it first flew across the oceans cramped in the same space as a box of 'kaju burfi' (sweet made of milk and cashewnuts), extra sweaters and lots of documents and xerox copies of even more. And it never uttered a vowel again. In the first few days of my new life in the United Kingdom, I needed it to speak and help me call home ("Teki phone home", as my mother would remind me every now and then) and tackle strange new emails in my university email inbox. A more devoted friend, I have not, these past two years.

It had made new friends faster than I could here in Oxford. Facebook was the friend he visited most. I was also invited a few times in the beginning of their new found friendship and soon we all became close buddies. Me, laptop and facebook. Such great times we had. Winters of doom and gloom came and went by, and we huddled together and kept each other warm. Soon it came to be that wherever laptop and I went, facebook followed us. It was not that he did not have his own friend circle. Oh, friends he had plenty but he was like a master mind who could organize his days and nights equally between his many mistresses. We became as inseparable as the three legs of a tripod.

He introduced us to many of his friends, who came from many different places and spoke different languages. He would even organize many a get-together and party with his friends and systematically capture photographic evidence to remind us of those pleasant days in Switzerland, pub crawls and bops in Oxford, and meetings with friends who we met for the first and last time, through him. A reliable and gregarious friend facebook was. He would keep an eye out for everyone and care for everyone he knew like his own flesh and blood.

He had somehow even met my old friends and told them about me, and brought us back in touch again. Happy memories are made of these! O! Facebook was so full of life and vigour! Always up for a drink at the pub or a lecture at the business school or even to support a social cause. More than anything else, he loved to gossip. Always full of news about everyone. It would amaze me as to how could he possibly manage to keep abreast of the latest news about all his friends. I likened his mind to a supercomputer with dedicated servers for each friend he knew. He was slowly everywhere and knew almost everybody, even people of older generations. Such popularity simply couldn't go unnoticed, and soon his name was in everyone's good books.


[to be continued]



January 20, 2009

A time for change


MC Yogi - 'Vote for Hope'
(This song is available for free download here)


Now that millions of Americans have voted for hope, culminating in Barack Obama being sworn in today as the 44th President of the United States of America, let's see if Obama can bring about the change he promised and if indeed, a brighter day will come...(fingers crossed)



December 13, 2008

Diary of a dull day


Friday, 12th December:

Though I think it has been nearly ten days since I last wrote on the blog, it feels like it has been ages ago. That is the problem with too much procrastination – you tend to have a hazy memory of things you did when you were supposed to do some meaningful work. I think I went on and on about how I finished the project I had been working on for generations of lab rats. Now it is thankfully behind me.

This week started with a holiday. Such bliss. I spent half the day in London walking and talking with a good high school friend from Delhi who had come to Europe on a trip of a life time as an exchange student and toured virtually the entire Schengen space in three months time. And I haven’t even been to Bath despite living here for more than a year. The other half of the day was spent on the Oxford tube and at the Victoria terminal where I patiently waited for my bus and discovered the absolutely delightful food from Wasabi. I did pay a visit to the lab at the end of the day, close to 9pm, and lo and behold, I had to bump into Il on his way out. I told him about my memorable Monday and wished him good night.

Tuesday was spent analyzing a case of spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents (sIPSCs) from a NGFC. Wednesday, I was supposed to do an experiment, but I did not. Thursday, I was confident I’d do one, but bad health came in the way (thanks to the horribly cold weather and going for a walk in just a shirt and an open overcoat). So I made a deal with Il that on Friday, I’d definitely do an experiment if I feel well else I will analyze El’s old data that we unearthed recently. And not surprisingly I did not feel too well on Friday. But it did feel good to wake up past noon. So to make up for the unusual slackness on my part, I spent four consecutive hours (from 1 to 5pm) analyzing four cases of NGFC-sIPSCs in the selected chemical. Only then did I go out to the corner shop and reward myself with a chicken and roast vegetables panini. Checked out some new movie trailers at Apple’s website. Definitely want to watch Christian Bale as John Connor in Terminator Salvation (“The end begins”).

From then on, my day deteriorated and took a turn for the worst. While people who work 9 to 5 everyday were looking forward to another Friday night of fun and drunken revelry, I felt strangely listless with no fucking clue of what to do tonight. Yesterday, I had discovered a very good progressive/indie rock band called the ‘Pineapple Thief’ and what was more serendipitous was that they were playing a gig tonight at the Jericho Tavern (JT). Last night I was ecstatic about attending this gig. But tonight, as the hour drew closer, and listlessness spilled over every synapse in my brain, I could not even muster the will to walk those fifteen minutes to JT. What a loser I am.

But honestly, it was one of those moments, where you have no energy, motivation, or enthusiasm (all admirable qualities that grad schools look out for) for anything remotely interesting and when nothing can give you more comfort and solace than listening Radiohead. Or more appropriately Floyd's 'A momentary lapse of reason'. I even declined an offer to go out and have a drink in the pub with T2 and other friends from the Unit. A gin and tonic might have done the trick, but I had already desensitized all my GABAA receptors with incurable ennui that even 40% vol. alcohol would have had no effect. To top that, I further declined another offer to chill with a friend and watch a movie or two. Now that I look back, I could have had a splendid Friday night but instead I killed and buried every chance I got. The way Bill's brother buried the Bride in Kill Bill 2.

But like the Bride, I was sure that I would get out of the coffin sooner or later, the question was when? I walked back home and bought a chocolate bar and a pack of Twining's Earl Grey aromatic tea to cheer me up. The t good news was that the tea worked and I decided to do something constructive, like watching a movie. Something to go with tonight’s mood. I scanned my DVD rack and opted for ‘Lost in Translation’. And needless to say, the movie was just what the doc prescribed, or would have, if I were the doc, which I was anyways. I have always been in love with Scarlett Johansson since I first saw the movie, and more so with her character, ‘Charlotte’. Now there’s a lot I could write about the movie, but as a tidal wave of sleep is washing over me (which is just what Bob and Charlotte needed in their magnificent Park Hyatt rooms, and the lack of which brought them together in the first place), I will stop and hit the sack.

Well, at least writing about a boring day has its merits in inducing a good night's sleep.

December 04, 2008

Lab Diaries - Day 8

Wednesday, 3rd December -

Even though Monday and Tuesday were interesting days at the lab in their own right, but because I was too lazy to record the day’s victories and tragedies, joys and sorrows, hopes and despairs, I will get on with Wednesday. In a nutshell, I still did not perform any experiment on these days. Monday was a strangely uneventful day (yeah, you can guess that by now), as I don’t seem to recollect anything from that day. I think I had told Il that I would do an experiment My dairy says ‘Experiment’ at the top but it was struck off, so I can reliably say that I had at least expressed the desire to work on Monday. But by the time I reached the lab (~1pm), it was too late to proceed in that direction. Too bad! So, I got down to doing the same shit as everyday and by 7pm, I had enough and decided to go home instead of going for the Univ Quiz Squad practice at St. John’s from 9-11pm. It was too cold to stay out so late. I had made up my mind to not do an experiment even on Tuesday as I wanted to attend the Romanes lecture by Prof. Mohammad Yunus, founder of the revolutionary Grameen Bank and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 at the Sheldonian Theatre. It was an interesting and motivating talk, as you’d come to expect from the man. The theme was the same as his talks I heard on iTunes U, but it was significantly different from them as talked about the need to help the poor even more and create more social businesses in light of the current financial crisis, which even though it affected the rich, the poor are the worst hit as always. I spent most of the day going through different job sites and even applied for a couple of them. By the end of the day, Il was curious (“kuurioous”) to know if he could hope for some action in the lab the next day. I said yeah, it’s time.

To set the record straight, the last experiment I did was on the 21st of November. A good twelve days in the past, or a third of a month ago. The experiments of that day brought to an end, a successful end if I may say so, to a relentless pursuit of the autapses of neurogliaform cells (NGFCs). In an ideal world, I would have got this set of data by August, and reported my results in my second Master’s dissertation. But I had to learn about the rigours and frustrations of a research career, so I would consider myself lucky to get the data three months late. Luck had a great hand to play in it, as I will explain to you. So sometime in October, I was repeating these experiments and something happened which caused the acquisition software to crash, and the patch clamp amplifier to die. Anyhow, the amplifier was sent to Germany for repair and there was nothing I could do on that rig for some time to come. So Il suggested that I should switch the now vacant ‘Rig 2’ (which was being used by Diva Evari at the same time I was on Rig 1) and try doing paired recordings of NGFCs instead of single cell recordings. Except on one rare occasion, I did not manage to get a stable pair, and thus looked at the single cell recordings. And almost always, those NGFCs had an autapse! And when I’d go for a single NGFC, it would not yield an autapse. I had to go through the tiring process of trying to patch a pair of NGFCs, and only when I had appeased the Gods of GABAergic interneurons (GoGi) by doing so, would I be blessed with an autapse in one of the single cells. Thus, the project that I had started working on the 28th of April reached its culmination on the 21st of November. A week shy of seven months! That’s how life passes by in the lab…

Back to today and the new set of experiments. I remember sleeping after 1am last night, with a rather heavy stomach (thanks to a delightful dish of curried chicken and char sui courtesy the kind Chinese lady at the Chinese takeaway close to my home). But, I don’t know what went wrong after the next six hours that I woke up at ~7.15am. And the sky was clear and far from being foggy as predicted. I tried to go back to sleep again but something was amiss, I just could not. Maybe it was a call from the GoGi which I could not refuse to answer. And I knew that M1 was going to do an experiment around 10am, I decided to go to the lab early to do the dissection and use the vibratome and be done by the time she arrived. And that’s just what I did! I reached the lab at 8.25 am, when there was no one else other than St, the Unit’s cleaner. So early that even all the offices were unlocked. And as a bonus, you get to pee in freshly cleaned toilets and surprise your colleagues!

I prepared the ACSF and cutting solutions for the first time since August, as I had got used to getting ready made solutions courtesy Rx and M1. Everything went fine and smooth, ‘as smooth as a baby’s bottom’ (That’s the expression Chuck Yeager used when he became the first person to break the sound barrier flying the Bell X1 at Mach 1). A couple of hours later (and an early lunch consisting of falafel and houmous in a spinach baguette), I prepared the internal solutions, control solutions and proceeded to patch my first cell of the day. M1 came by and decided to watch the patch master at work. And it worked; it was a good seal albeit with an unsteady baseline. But since beggars can’t be choosers, and you only patch once, and never say ‘patch’ again, I played the waiting game and hoped for the best. From then on, NGFCs came on easy and by the end of the day I had recorded four NGFCs and fixed the slices for anatomical processing. More work for Rx. Well, I’ll help her out a bit; in return for some nice Austrian sweets! By the time I cleaned the rig and the containers, it was 7pm.

The other highlight of the day (other than me being at work) was that T4’s paper was finally published, after a gestation period of more than a year. We congratulated her on finally getting her baby out of her belly. I wonder how it really feels to finally see one's work in print after years of waiting. There is a long time to go before I can personally talk about that.

Half an hour later, I was out of the lab, and accompanied T2 to Sainsbury’s. We discussed how little PhD students are paid; just a tad more you’d get as a sales assistant working 40 hours a week. And his general belief that I am always at work in the lab! Wait till he reads my blog (I’ll spread the word after this post). It’s all about how to look busy, (ala Slackenerny) if not about how to ‘Get busy living, or get busy dying’ (in the lab) -



P.S. In case you've noticed I completely ignored Friday, no I don't do a four day week, but I was not in the lab most of the day. Instead I was at the Magdalen College School, observing and assisting Maths lessons to students from the third to the sixth form. It was the most interesting day of the week and I'll write about it later, independently of the lab diaries series.


December 01, 2008

Lab Diaries - Day 4:


Thursday, 27th November –


Before I start boring you with details of another lacklustre day at the lab, I would like to rewind to early this night. I could not sleep; I was not having nightmares, not yet (the worst nightmare would be a life sentence to be served in the lab), but I just couldn’t shut my mind off for the night. So I kept thinking. Introspecting. And a couple of points hit . When I realized what I’d written and (actually) done the past three days, I sort of felt ashamed that I did not do any “real” (or experimental) work this week and don't plan on doing any either. To make my current situation clear, I am working on an honorary basis. But recently Il talked again to the D (when I came to the lab really late) and he decided to pay for my accommodation. I was pleasantly surprised to hear this when I came late that day, and Il sat down next to me and told me that I’d struck bronze (no one really strikes gold in research). So last night, I started to feel guilty that I was not being sincere. Well for what I’m being paid, I can afford to be insincere seven days out of ten. Anyhow, the feeling of guilt was there.

But that’s what I realized. That money is not the point. I was being renumerated for Il’s and D’s faith in my ability and I should work hard to maintain that faith (I’m an Indian, can’t help it) . It dawned upon me that part of the reason why I was being as lazy as a sloth’s ass was that I was trying to measure my work in terms of monetary compensation. And forgot that in neuroscience, its not the buck that counts, but the brain that matters, yours and mine and most importantly the lab animals'. And things sort of fell into place and I felt blissful. The kind of bliss that is rare in a research career anyways (the kind of bliss you feel when you get data after months of trials and tribulations, when a paper is published after years of haggling with the referees, and so on and so forth). And I decided that next week, I’d do at least 3 experiments (Yours sincerely).


The second realization was that I don’t think that any other career could be as exciting and frustrating, as stimulating and dull, as multidisciplinary and focussed, as multicultural and Hungarian, as collaborative and independent as neuroscientific research. Just by writing about my day at the lab over the past three days, I’ve realized how interesting life in the lab can be. I never know what I’ll write for the next day! Even though I have a project to work upon, if you observe life as it passes by in the lab, it can be as varied and unpredictable as a woman having her periods. It’s true that maybe I can’t think beyond a research career (forgive my limited imagination) but anything is better than a 9 to 5 desk job, or a job dictated by the opening and closing times of international stock exchanges.


Now that I’ve wasted half a thousand words on last night’s dreams (only half of the dreams, to be honest), let’s get on with today. I was in and out of the lab today– that would be the abstract. I had volunteered to take part in a couple of experiments – one psychiatric, the other cognitive. I was up by 11am, and scurried to the lab by 12.15pm to check my email (I don’t have internet at home, and sadly do not catch the university’s wireless service) before heading off to the Warneford Hospital for a 1 o’clock appointment. I had to fill in more than a dozen questionnaires about how am I feeling, how I felt the past week, how do you feel about the future and so on. The interesting bit came when I was instructed to watch a twenty two minute long video containing traumatic and depressing clips and then quantify my feelings by placing a mark on a straight line. The only interesting clip was from 'The Shawshank Redemption' (I was amazed to see it being used for psychiatric research) starting from the moment where Brooks releases Jake and is let off from Shawshank; his loneliness in his new life outside prison; sleepless nights marred with nightmares; and eventually his decision and act of ending his life. Of course, there was a filler task in between where I sat like the red headed guy from the Sherlock Holmes’ adventure – “The Case of the Red Headed League” and scanned a home encyclopaedia of sorts to find answers to questions which the experimenter had no interest in knowing. It could have been very irritating but as I realized that this task was just to buy time before I answer questions about the video clip (thirty minutes after viewing), I was calm, but very very hungry.


Finally the torture was over, and I took the bus back to the High Street and bought a baguette from everybody’s favourite corner shop on Holywell Street before going back to the lab. I had barely finished my lunch that it was time to pop over to the Experimental Psychology department next door for the other experiment. This one was to prepare me for the kind of tasks I would repeat in an fMRI scanner this Sunday. I managed to survive this one somehow, (I would rather not talk about it) and ran back to the lab to breathe again.


Once back, Il briefed me on the experiments he wanted me to do to clarify certain doubts raised by collaborators on the manuscript. Of course, his manner of request was both polite and politically correct. Finally, I got the opportunity to spend quality time with the world wide web. Mumbai was still in a state of terror and unrest; they managed to put out the fire at Taj Palace but not the fire burning in a billion Indian hearts. And the fire’s spreading, across borders and seas, engulfing the world in a united rage against terrorism.


And then strangely enough, the fire alarm in the department went off, alerting us to the danger of the real thing. That brought another day in the lab to an abrupt end, much like the hundreds of lives back in Mumbai.


I like this picture in today's TOI as it symbolizes that we Indians stand united against terror and our spirit is truly unbreakable -


November 27, 2008

Lab Diaries - Day 3

Wednesday, 26th November -

Cutting a long story short, I woke up at 1 something. Though I was woken up by a call from El at 10am, I promptly went back to sleep. I think heavy dinners take a toll on me. And two meals a day even more. Took a long comforting shower, had toast and I was off to the lab. Thankfully, today was warmer than yesterday. It must have been 2.40pm or so when I stepped into the office. Il greeted me warmly and told me he’d submitted my second letter of recommendation for UCSD. I’ve noted that Il is warmer than usual when I come in very late, possibly thinking that I’m not happy with my current situation. Works well for me! Nothing exciting in my inbox today and no facebook notifications either. A clear indication that we’ve hit the middle of the week and things are slow and time is dragging for everyone.

Took care of a few administrative stuff, went to the lab to greet my fellow friends in distress. All were busy at work. That’s how a lab should be. Satisfied, I went back to the office and had a rather long discussion with Il about my current work, plans for next week, Christmas, future PhD plans, and funding options for non-Europeans and non-British like me.

I was acting as T4’s spy today as she was out rowing on the Isis. Let her know of Il’s movements and went back to the UCSD application. Registered my third referee, and printed instructions on how to write an SOP. Logged off and went back to sitesurfing – was glad to know that Dhoni’s team beat the Brits again; I don’t care about Indian cricket, or even cricket since Lara’s retirement, but it gives me sadistic pleasure to see England lose to India.

Started listening to Steve Wozniak’s talk, the one he gave at ‘Silicon Valley comes to Oxford 2007’. That took me ‘iTunes U’ from where I’d got it in the first place. Checked out ‘UChannel’ extensively thoroughly, and downloaded 960.2 Mb of talks by people like Professors Paul Krugman, Mohammad Yunus, Jeffrey Sachs and Christof Koch and a number of lectures focusing on India by P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Ram Jethmalani, and VS Naipaul among others.

The plan to watch ‘Changeling’ had to be dropped as Odeon Cinemas had retracted their ‘2 for 1’ offer for students. Clear evidence that even the cinemas are reeling from the credit crunch, and how it affects students like you and me. 'Changeling' is definitely not a movie I’d willingly pay six pounds to watch. Of course there are exceptions like the ‘Dark Knight’ which I have seen four times now. I will increase the count when its DVD releases on 8th December.

I decided to have a cup of tea, and then looked at local sites for any temporary jobs. Then, went upstairs to the lab for a chat. T2 was busy with anatomy and Rx with ordering lab consumables. Rx offered some sweets and I gladly accepted and took them downstairs with me. T4 was back after narrowly losing out in their first race. T2 told me about the ‘Fetish Bop’ at Balliol this Saturday and T4 about a formal dinner at St. John’s the next day. Recorded the weekend social plans in my diary and went back to work. Once Il left for home, T4 and I talked about rowing and checked out some youtube videos on ‘catching a crab’. Before shutting the computer off, I read about the shootings in Mumbai. Horrible thing to happen in a city so full of life and hope.

My low-key day at the lab was soon over and I headed home. Decided against another kebab van dinner and ended up having Mumbai Pav Bhaji (one of those ‘heat and eat’ packets) with amply buttered pita bread. Did my laundry which I was too lazy to do over the weekend. Switched on the TV for a while and was amused to watch how this country creates celebrities out of useless people like Peter Andre, Katie Price, Myleene Klass, Kerri Katona and the likes; just by watching them do silly antics, shed fake tears and bitch about each other in the jungles of Australia. England’s slogan seems to be – “If you’re not a celebrity, get out of here.”

This brings to mind the Camera Obscura song – ‘Let’s get out of this country’ with the following words which ring so true, more so now than ever before –

“What does the city have to offer me?
I just can’t see
I just can’t see."

November 26, 2008

Lab Diaries - Day 2


Tuesday, 25th November -

As I stated yesterday, Tuesday demanded an early start from me. At 9.15am, I had to be in the Experimental Psychology department to complete a set of memory tests for a student’s PhD project. As before, I woke up, not when the alarm rang (7.45am), but fortunately in another ten minutes due to the din created by the weekly waste and recycling collection trucks while collecting glass bottles (rinsed - this is important detail) from people’s green recycling boxes. The recycling and waste collection service in the UK is an elaborate and systematic process, whereby waste has to be clearly sorted into green and blue boxes or bins. Back at home in Delhi, we disposed off waste into green bins for biodegradable and organic waste and blue bins for plastics and the likes. However, I could not care more and tie all the rubbish in a polybag from Sainsbury’s or Co-op (I carry a cloth bag to buy stuff from supermarkets and nick their polybags for my dustbin) and throw it into the public bin at the end of my street.

Right, so back to the experiment. I reached on time, and had to wait for another 10-15 mins for S to arrive and set up the tests. It always happens, when you’re on time, the GMT turns back by the same duration. Anyhow, the experiments tested memory retention and recall for different objects such as people’s names, random words, ambiguous shapes, and finally a series of 20 training and 80 test trials based on recalling weird insect or monster like shapes, the kind that Scooby and Shaggy used to run from. Thankfully, we had a tea break in between and an hour later I pocketed my well earned five quid and headed for the lab.

Once in the lab, I performed my daily mail-ly ablutions and got down to work. One of my referees had already submitted her online letter of recommendation for my application to the Graduate Program in Neuroscience at UCSD and I realized that I needed to get working on the Statement of Purpose (SOP). I filled in other trivial details they always ask, and read the notes of guidance on how to write an SOP. For my selected major, they want 2500 words of bullshit. Will have to work on it over the weekend, and submit before the deadline on Monday. Same as last year; I was writing my SOP a couple of hours before the deadline. I hope that similar efforts results in a similar outcome, i.e., a rejection accompanied by a sincere letter of apology from the Admissions office. Given the state of limbo I’m in, I am not sure if I will celebrate an offer of admission, for then I'd be doomed to be a lab rat for the next six years.

Very soon, it was noon and time for the Tuesday seminar. Today was special, as it was the first of the new lecture series on Anatomical Neuropharmacology. After a long introduction to the history of impressive neuropharmacological research being done at the Unit and the Department, the distinguished speaker got on with his wonderful and insightful data and research. Another hour dedicated to science. Now it was time for the post seminar lunch. TANSTAAFL is a popular acronym which stands for “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. If there was no free food, half of the graduate population would die of starvation and lack of motivation! Anyhow, even though the talk was special, the food wasn’t. But I still helped myself to it.

After that, I accompanied El for lunch as he was working during the seminar. T4 called and joined us. We walked to the city centre and would have gone on talking and walking in the direction of Bath, till El halted and turned left for the ‘Covered Market’. El got his salad lunch, T4 got her Vitamin C pills and latte, and I got my walk and whiff of cold, freshly frozen air, blowing in from the north. Once back in the department, we headed for the common room and I prepared a cup of Earl Grey to feel warm again.

3pm, back in the lab, El and I got working on incorporating my data into an existing figure. The new data made the old data statistically significant compared to the control, and I was happy. I was happier for the fact that I won’t have to do this set of experiments again unless the referees demand for more. A few more discussions followed and soon it was 5pm. Time for me to go for Table Tennis trials for my college. I was back in the lab within an hour, and will be playing for Balliol again in the next Cuppers tournament. I had promised to help El with an online verbal screening test for his job application at a management consultancy firm. T2 also joined in and El proceeded to complete the test without any external help. With the test out of way, it was 7pm already. I decided against an early dinner and worked online for a bit. I forgot to start my SOP, talked to a friend for ten minutes, booked tomorrow evening for watching Angelina Jolie in ‘Changeling’ or Sam Rockwell in ‘Choke’ and then walked back home. Decided in favour of not cooking tonight and settled for another kebab van dinner. Watched ManUtd play Villareal while nibbling chips and chicken. Still have the manuscript to read and comment upon. But got down to writing for the blog instead. 00:37am and I’m finally done with it.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Preliminary analysis suggests that the experiment is not working yet. If it was successful, I would be ‘more interested in my work’ and would have read the manuscript before writing this blog post. However, somewhere along this chain of thought, I realized that if I wasn’t working in the lab, I wouldn’t have anything interesting to write about. Nor the time to spare and write a thousand words on the same.

Yours in life and lab,

November 24, 2008

Lab Diaries - Day 1

"It would be good for you if you divert attention to creative field like writing poetry or painting. It would bring the desired change and thus increasing interest in work."

------------------------------------------------------------------

That's my weekly career forecast for this week, courtesy MonsterIndia. They don't send me notices of any employer interest in my job profile, just career forecast I never bother about. It’s not that I'm looking for a job. either. It's all a vicious pointless circle. Except that this time I thought I should really act upon the forecast and do some creative work that might make my work more "interesting". Yeah, I am losing interest in my work. Or don’t have any, or very little, or next to nothing, or I just pretend to be interested. 'Interesting work' should be at the top in a list of best oxymorons along with 'Microsoft Works' and 'Pretty ugly'.

So, as a positive response to this forecast, I'm going to write about my work, at the lab, as a lab rat,
and maintain a lab diary. Along the lines of NY Times' infamous 'Sex diaries'. And analyze post-hoc if it really enhances my interest in work or makes me look like a nerd or just another lazy bastard to my readers. I don't mind any of these tags, so here is the bare truth -

Monday, 24 November -

I had registered to attend a series of talks and workshops at the 'Silicon Valley comes to Oxford 2008' event at the Said Business School. From 9am to 8.30pm. I was interested to listen to the founders of 'Second Life', 'LinkedIn', and 'Twitter' among others, so I set my alarm for 7am. Setting alarms for early morning starts is something I do very sincerely, as sincerely as in writing 'Yours sincerely' at the end of professional emails. The alarm never fails to ring, loud and clear, and I always fail to wake up. Corporate professionals may be used to 7am starts, but definitely not research assistants (RAs). My eyes opened first at 10.48am, and then duly shut again. The sequence repeated at 11.44am. I saw through the slanting windows in my attic room that the sun was out, and I decided to go the lab instead of being locked up in a room buzzing with corporate chatter. I put on some nice songs, to get me in the mood to get off my cosy bed and start a brand new day. Like Laura Veirs’ ‘Galaxies’ and Olivia Ruiz’s ‘J'traîne des pieds’. Switched on the tv while at it. Nothing interesting to keep me in bed a little longer -
'Loose Women' on ITV, another wildlife expert playing with rattlesnakes. Though Jada-Punkett Smith came on as a guest in some show to talk about her new role as the voice for the hippo in Madagascar 2, it got boring when she started talking about family life. 12.20pm, and I finally decided I had enough of the bed and got up. Brushed my teeth, saw the time was 12.30pm. Decided against having a shower in favour of turning up at the lab early. Well, atleast before lunchtime.

Left home, and walked to the lab. I prefer the alternate entrance to the Unit when I reach the lab after 12pm, and the main entrance, when am there by 9am. Not suprisingly, the alternate entrance has now become the preferred one. More so, as the lockers are on the way from the other route. No really. Once in the lab, I switched on the computer, and faithfully checked my gmail, webmail, facebook notifications, bbc newsfeed and orkut scraps which are thankfully rare. Can't keep up with multiple social networks.

I had a meeting with my supervisor at 2pm. As I had barely enough time to go out and get a baguette, I got a diet coke from the vending machine instead. Went through my hard-earned data (yeah, data not money), summarized my months of work into a single curve fitted with a double exponential, and discussed its physiological meaning. Tears of happiness should have welled up in my eyes, but I have now reached the point of no return (i.e., I don’t give a damn anymore). The data looked good, we all agreed. ‘All’ includes a PhD student as well, now a Dr., whose laziness in the first place resulted in an opportunity for me to contribute to this paper. The lesson being – a procrastinating PhD student’s laziness can result in the productive use of a motivated Master’s student. And because you don’t get the results in the four months of the lab rotation, you end up continuing as an RA to finally get that data.

Anyhow, the meeting finally ended by 6pm. Checked my inboxes again. I picked up from a link from a friend and ended up at Olympus Bioscapes Gallery. Downloaded several images and toyed with my desktop wallpaper for a while. Check out this larval 'brainbow' zebrafish image for a sample of the amazing collection of bioscapes. Then, read an article on how ordinary people on average do not enjoy more expensive wine as much as people with wine training, for whom the pleasure derived from tasting a good wine is positively correlated to its price. From there, I chanced upon another interesting page on a 'Dance your PhD' contest where grad students, postdocs, and professors ‘dance’ and express their PhD topics and research. If only one could dance out their thesis instead of writing thirty to fifty fucking thousand words!

Apart from this, I started writing this blog article and have hazy memory or actually no clue as to what I did in the next hour or so. Procrastination, what else?! And finally, I had a half hour chat with a finishing PhD student from the lab. We lab rats have to rely on each other for support (technical, statistical, editorial, social and motivational).

So, my day at the lab ended at 9pm, and I left from the main entrance for the weekly University Quiz Squad practice sessions. Well yeah, am a sucker for trivia. Left for home at 11pm, had chips from the local Kebab van for dinner and completed this blog post at 12.38am. Now, I have to get down to reading the manuscript and think of useful comments and criticisms. And then get some sleep for another early start tomorrow. No really!


November 15, 2008

Weekend blues

It is 1813 hours and pitch dark outside. I am here in the lab, illuminated by two tube lights, my table lamp and the computer monitor, of course.
Procrastinating online, as usual -

- Gmail (religiously delete alerts about events in Delhi even though I've reported it as spam; check jobs in biological sciences and psychology at jobs.ac.uk even though I've never applied for one and probably never will; remain invisible on google chat, its a rare day when I feel like having a chat);

- Oxford webmail (get no emails on weekends, but I check anyways);

- BBC iPlayer (just saw a University Challenge episode, might see more of Dragon's Den or 'How to solve a cryptic crossword', alas there's no 'Little Britain' episode I haven't seen yet);

- BBC Sports News (Federer's losing his Midas touch, Yuvraj's showing the Brits who's boss, Arsenal are losing sight of the Reds; my favourite West Indian cricket team lost another ODI series)

- iTunes (listen to an amazing playlist of eclectic rock on RadioParadise (RP) and note down songs and artists I like; check out their playlist)

- Facebook (note events in my diary even though its highly unlikely that I will attend them, check the latest status updates on my homepage, wish on someone's birthday, delete people I know from the 'People you may know' section, and of course the usual bit of 'networking');

- Oh, and finally, a friend's comment made me visit my blog and write some shit. So here I am...


The above might look like a research student's typically 'busy' day in the lab or it might be, as the case is, just another boring weekend. The sun was out today morning, and the entire British nation feels blessed and goes out shopping. Shopping for Christmas. It might be forty days away but not for the shops and the shoppers. Marks and Spencer's is all glitzy and shiny, as is their Christmas tree.

While the sun was out, I was cosy in my duvet, fast asleep till the nearby church's bells chimed twice. I was out in the pub last night, well it was Friday, so why not? And it had been more than a month since I had gin and Indian tonic water. How gin came to be mixed with tonic water is a piece of interesting trivia. A fellow neuronerd told me that British soldiers in India were often afflicted with malaria and the only remedy was to have quinine, which is used to make anti-malarial drugs. But since quinine in its native form was too offensive for the taste buds, someone came up with the idea of diluting it with gin, and voila, that was how gin and tonic water (which contains quinine) came to be.

Trivia apart, its been nearly three months since I last went to the Jericho Tavern, even though its minutes from my house. Its where Radiohead played their first gig, when they called themselves 'On a Friday'. Bob Marley's now beseeching us to "Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights" on RP. On a Friday night, this country's youth can't even stand straight. Binge drinking, beer guzzling bastards.

Now that I'm sober I can write again. I come to the lab on weekends to check my mail. Yeah, that's why. It's not that I'm expecting a jackpot in my mail but I don't have internet at home. My new room didn't have an existing wireless or broadband connection, and I just got used to it. As Mersault's mother said - "Eventually you get used to everything." I rather like it this way. If I had internet at home, I'd be doing the same shit from there. I don't want to turn my home into my lab!
Plus, I get to do more interesting things this way. I read more nowadays (read Adiga's Booker winner - 'The White Tiger', Camus' 'The Outsider', two PHD comic books by Jorge Cham of late and am currently on Gandhi's autobiography); watch more movies; check out new music; paint if I'm in the mood and clean my room if I'm absolutely bored.

I rather like being in the lab. It almost feels like home. Did I really say that? Fuck, I have to move on. I think I'm scared of moving on. I guess that's why I'm still doing research, and voluntarily at that. Science is a cruel bitch, that's one lesson I've learned. While I was slaving away day and night for my Master's project, I never got the results I wanted. And now that I'm doing the same experiments after my Master's course is over, I get the results, every single time I do an experiment! I don't know who to blame - not the poor juvenile rats, not my jovial supervisor, not the friendly technician nor my helpful labmates. And being the youngest in the lab doesn't help much either! Darn, that doesn't leave anyone. The equipment maybe? Yeah! Damn you, devil's apparatus!

But Oxford's a nice place to be, while you can afford it, that is. My time here will run out soon, but for the time being I'm really enjoying all that it has to offer. Notable speakers come from far and wide to give talks here, successful companies come for recruitment presentations (wine and aperitifs guaranteed, that brings me to student survival skill #1 - 'Thou shall know where free food is served'), many student societies and groups are active here and I still get do a bit of quizzing now and then. All's well except for the depressing weather, the feeling of cultural disorientation and being an outsider, lonely weekends and authentic Indian food (Not that I miss Indian food, but at least don't sell Bangladeshi tomato gooey as Indian curry and mislead the innocent Indians out there). But then again, freedom comes at a price. The freedom that comes with staying alone, away from home, in a foreign country.

Its 1935 hours now and Goldfrapp's singing a song called 'Utopia'. Does it really exist - well maybe, but definitely not here in the UK. In India? Maybe yes, maybe not. 1937 hours: I think I agree 'Utopia' is 'A deafening distance' away, like 'God is an Astronaut', the group behind this wonderful instrumental piece.

I think 'Utopia' or as I'd like to imagine, 'peace of mind', might be a deafening distance away, but its not somewhere out there, but inside us, each one of us, in our very essence.

As Slackenerny says, its nothing but a 'state of mind' -












2031 hours:
It's time for me to prepare for that state of mind. On Saturdays, I like to make up for lost sleep. Restoring the balance of nature, you see! I must leave to do my bit.

November 09, 2008

The Formula 1 2008 season

The result is out – Lewis Hamilton is the new F1 World Champion, even though he won it in the dying seconds of the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. Well, he is undoubtedly the new defending champion and the shining future of Formula 1. Of course, he deserves all the applause and I guess some respect from the shattered Brazilians and the embittered Spanish fans.

But does he really deserve to be called a worthy champion and a place amongst the ranks of Senna and Schumacher?

Well no, not yet. And certainly not, judging by the way he clinched, or rather scraped through to win the 2008 crown. In his favour, Hamilton is a man with sheer talent and speed and a lot of aggression and confidence behind the wheels of the McLaren Mercedes. What he has achieved in these two years as an F1 driver is unparalleled in its glorious history. In his first season, he was consistently at par, if not faster, than the then ruling world champion, Fernando Alonso and even he was taken aback and fiercely challenged by the young rookie. However, Hamilton has been a McL:aren bred driver since he was a young teenager and well groomed before he began his career with one of the top two cars in the field. F1 is about the man as well as the machine. Hamilton is undoubtedly fast, but he was also well placed to start his drive in a McLaren. Not many are lucky enough to secure their first drive in a top team. Schumacher started with Lotus, Alonso with Minardi, and Massa with Sauber I reckon if the highly impressive Sebastian Vettel was given a seat at Ferrari next year, he’d win the championship hands down and replace Hamliton as the youngest F1 world champion!

The car suited Hamilton a lot and he has worked well with the team to make it deliver more. He obviously has a great partnership with McLaren, and is cherished as a special member of the team, something which did not go down well with Alonso during his stint with them a year ago. So much so that Alonso left McLaren, breaking his contract with them, and returning to Renault and Flavio Briatore, who masterminded his two world championship victories. He is so embittered with his former team that he went on record to say that he’d like to help Massa win and prevent McLaren from securing the drivers title!

The 2008 F1 season has been nothing but scintillating from the very start with just a single point, the difference between the champion and the challenger. It was an incredibly competitive season which saw Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen, Alonso, Kovaleinen, Kubica and Vettel finishing in front of the chequered flag. All of them are real challengers for the next championship and just shows how far F1 has come and evolved since the days of the invincible Scbumacher. Heidfeld was also a regular podium finisher amongst new faces such as Glock, Piquet and Rosberg. The FIA deserves credit for implementing new tyre, engine and qualifying regulations that have resulted in a highly exciting season and dramatic finale at Interlagos in the last two years. Its not just to do with the rules but also the progress and development made by teams like BMW Sauber, Renault, Toro Rosso (with a Ferrari engine) and Toyota that has considerably raised the stakes and pose a realistic threat to the likes of Ferrari and McLaren.

However, Hamilton needs to win a championship in style and with greater confidence to be counted in the league of Alonso, who has all the hallmarks of a truly great world champion, and who beat Schumacher in a Ferrari to win his two championships. Moreover, Hamilton does not earn much respect from his fellow drivers. It maybe down to jealousy, but there is something in his manner and speech that does not reflect humility. And being British, he has already become a huge celebrity, and already came out with his autobiography titled ‘My Story’ at the age of 22?! The British have a culture of making celebrities out of no one, best example being people like Jade Goody who participated in Celebrity Big Brother, who became famous overnight, wrote an autobiography, and started selling her own perfume and merchandise! Hamilton though, deserves his celebrity status and a celebrity girlfriend in the name of Nicole Scherzinger, from the Pussy Cat Dolls. It was Massa who drove like a champion in the last race but was unlucky to lose out to Hamilton in the way he did. Hamilton and McLaren had a very conservative strategy and were in the end, just lucky to win the title. However, if the entire season is taken into account, luck has been a major factor, with Hamilton being unlucky with some of the penalties he received and Massa, with engine failures and errors in the pit lane. If, Glock had had a smoother pit stop and got back in the race higher up the grid with less traffic, he might have just hung on to 4th place and given the title to Massa.

Ultimately, I think, if you average out all the ifs and buts, Hamilton deserved to win the title, albeit by the margin of a single championship point. It’s good for F1 that Hamilton won, else it would have become even more difficult to win the championship in the succeeding years owing to stiff competition from other teams like BMW Sauber and the ever improving Alonso and the young challenger, Vettel. It would be very interesting to see how Hamilton defends his title and handles the pressure of being the reigning world champion.

May 26, 2008

Now I know, you'll be listening



"Impossible Germany
Unlikely Japan

But this is what love is for
To be out of place
Gorgeous and alone
Face to face."


- Jeff Tweedey,
Wilco

February 06, 2008

NeuroTalisman

"Nothing gives life more purpose than the realization that every moment of consciousness is a precious and fragile gift."

- Steven Pinker

December 28, 2007

So this is Christmas, and what have you shopped?

There are at least two things you can't ignore in the U.K. in December - the cold, bitter weather and the Christmas sales.


Well, the Christmas shopping begins even before December arrives, that's what it has all frozen down to. The festive season unleashes a commercial extravaganza unlike anything I've seen back in India, with the Christmas spirit driving up to 40% of the annual sales of most shops and retail outlets. That is a mind boggling figure, and signifies the extent to which Christmas and shopping have become synonymous with each other. The shops, newspapers, and media has become such a powerful force in driving the commercial consciousness of the society towards exploiting the most out of these sales. Every ad on the telly makes you stop and think - "Wow, what a wonderful bargain that is." Well, who can blame the consumer if he falls prey?

I am no exception and got a good deal on a warm jumper to help me survive the winters. But, I must agree, that if it were not for the sales, I would not have been able to get some of the cherished stuff I managed to get my hands on -

1. U2 by U2 - down from 30 pounds to 5.
2. Oasis Definitely, and
3. R.E.M.'s single - What's the Frequency, Kenneth? at a clearance sale for 50p! (Do read the wikipedia entry on the above phrase)

But, Christmas came a few days early for me, when I saw Thom Yorke, the lead vocalist of Radiohead walk past me near Pusey House; I couldn't believe it was Him, whose vocals and music I resonate with the most. What amazed me more than anything else was that he was in plainclothes and not surrounded by any bodyguards, and appeared as normal as you and me, except for the fact that he is Thom Yorke! Given the fact that the band was formed in Oxford, and he currently lives here, I hope to bump into his path more often.

November 15, 2007

Lost 'In Rainbows'

No matter how much I loathe the British weather, the starch laden menus in the hall, the supermarket lifestyle to which I'm becoming a slave to, the one thing that I'll always love, apart from their tea, is their music. Period.

And the band that is currently dominating the airwaves in my room is Radiohead. Having no contracts with any record label, they owned complete ownership of their songs and the way they decided to distribute and give access to the songs of their new album - 'In Rainbows' is a truly novel experiment in the music industry.

The album was available for digital download on their website for any price that the customer would like to pay! Yes, that's the first thing I bought with my debit card. And even though I am not sure of the commercial success of this bold venture, what I can guarantee is that the album is another classic Radiohead masterpiece, and with songs reminescent of their masterful works like 'The Bends' and 'OK Computer'.

For a bright start to the day while on the bike to your department, or just to forget how cold and gloomy things are outside the window, lose yourself in the warmth and comfort of Radiohead.

July 26, 2007

Shawshank Redemption

Ratatouille



Ratatouille is a traditional Provençal vegetable dish that can be served as a meal on its own, accompanied by rice, potatoes or French bread, or as a side dish.

Recipe serves 3-4. Increase quantities to serve more, and add different vegetables as desired for variation.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 eggplant (aubergine)
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 zucchinis (courgettes) (cucumber also works well)
  • 6 medium tomatoes, ripe (juicy) and peeled
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Herbes de Provence to taste

Directions

  1. Put a large casserole on the stove on medium heat.
  2. Chop the onions and garlic. When the casserole is hot, add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom.
  3. Add the onions and garlic and brown.
  4. Chop the green pepper, zucchinis and eggplant. Add to the casserole. Stir from time to time.
  5. Peel the tomatoes. Dice them or cut them into quarters, add to the casserole.
  6. Five minutes later, check to see if the tomatoes have made enough juice to almost cover the vegetables - if so, perfect. If not, add water as needed (not too much).
  7. Add salt, pepper and Herbes de Provence to taste. In general, 1 tbsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper and 1 tbsp of the herbs will suffice.
  8. Cover the casserole and let simmer on low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Raging Bull

March 31, 2007

for some of my recent posts on things that make for interesting trivia, follow the link to Blog Obscura

November 08, 2006

When down
Escalate to the fifty-eighth floor
To look at ants

April 29, 2006

"Each year, as the mating season approaches, the male canary composes a new song to attract the female. The part of the canary's brain thought to be the neural basis for the production of songs grows substantially, forming neuron connections and expanding to more than twice its normal size. Presumably, the song pattern is established in the new neuronal circuits that form in this structure. After the mating season, the "song structure" in the brain atrophies or becomes much smaller. As this happens, the song is lost. The next year, as mating season approaches, the song strucure begins to grow again and the male canary composes a new song. In this extraordinary and specialized way the canary brain provides a structural basis for learning: it grows an entire new set of circuits."

April 15, 2006

Salvador Dali in the kitchen...

Not long ago, Time Magazine came up with a 'Time 100: The Next Wave', a compilation of the top innovators in the world. And the list happened to feature a 'Gastronomic Innovator', a Catalan Chef by the name of Ferran Adria! I happened to be watching BBC today at the right time, else I would never have realized that creating food is quite an art in itself! Now, this is one guy who has taken this art to consummate levels and is now heralded as a virtuoso in the field.

This is what wikipedia has to say about him:

Ferran Adrià Acosta is a Catalan cook born 14 May 1962 in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain) famed head chef of El Bulli Restaurant in Roses, on the Costa Brava, Catalonia (Spain).

Ferran Adrià started cooking in 1980 due to his job as dishwasher at the Hotel Playafels on Ibiza. Later the chef de cuisine taught him the traditional Spanish cuisine. Adrià then became an exponent of the so-called 'Molecular gastronomy', boldly experimenting with new technologies and unexpected textures and flavors. El Bulli is only open from April to September, Adrià spends the other six months of the year perfecting recipes in his laboratory/workshop, 'El Taller', in Barcelona. He is famous for his thirty course gourmet menu as a synthesis of the arts.

Today he is considered one of the best chefs in the world and holds rank 2 in the European Restaurant Ranking.

El Bulli has 3 Michelin stars and is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the world. In 2005 it was ranked second in the Restaurant Top 50, and it attained the top spot in 2006, displacing The Fat Duck in England.



El Bulli:
From the first taste of the apéritif offered at El Bulli — a frozen gin with hot lemon fizz — you know this is no ordinary restaurant. In fact, many claim El Bulli, operated by Michelin three-star Spanish chef Ferrán Adria, is the best restaurant in Europe and quite possibly the world. Few globally renowned restaurants are more out of the way than this one — it sits at the end of a narrow mountain road 100 miles north of Barcelona along Spain's beautifully rugged Costa Brava, near the town of Roses. Still, adventurous food lovers from around the world book reservations a year in advance.

Open only from the end of March through the end of September, El Bulli, which is named for the English bulldog, serves about 50 diners per evening — many of whom have traveled halfway around the globe to partake in the experience. The kitchen, with 30 staff members collaborating on Adria's creations, is almost as crowded as the dining room.

This page has more on him plus few of his own recipes...