Sunday, October 7, 2007

First Race ....

I just ran the Vibha 10K race this morning and crossing the finish line felt awesome. Now I must admit that I've never been a very active sportsman and its been ages that I've been involved in any athletic activity. After returning from India about three months ago, I was at a social low with all my Fall 2005 friends having graduated and me having moved to a new place. Work was not going very great either and I just felt that I needed to meet new people and create a new social circle to get over the loneliness. As luck would have it Asha a volunteer organisation in Austin held its first information session around the same time and I went to it just out of curiosity. Asha works for social causes in India and one of the ways in which it raises funds is by asking people to run for them and raise money for every mile they run. I thought this was a great idea and a wonderful way to do the little I could for a great cause.
Asha has collaborated with a marathon training academy named Rogue to train us for this marathon. And so began this biweekly ritual of attending the training with Rogue. What was most comforting was that there were many novices like me who had no experience of running until this time. For two months we've been working on increasing our stamina and endurance through a scientific training programme that deals with fitness, nutrition and primarily the actual run-training itself.
Today was the first race that we did and it was awesome to see so many other fellow runners doing either the 5K or the 10K. The first part of the run was a little hard but after about 3 miles I got into a good rhythm and after that it was nearly effortless. Having said that, somewhere close to the finish line (or when I thought it was about to finish) we were told that the 10Kers had to make another loop of about 1 mile before we got to that point. I must say that this was my psychological lowest during the race. However, I kept going up the slope, now with the sun glaring right into my face thinking of the finish line. 5 minutes later I was at it with people cheering me as I made it through the finish archway. It was a good feeling and the food that followed even better. Don't ask me about my timing and stuff, I am just happy that I made it thorough it. I'll be writing about this stuff again so may be I'll keep you updated on all that info and the progress of this venture at that time. Until then I'll ..... just keep running.. just keep running ....

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Last lecture of Randy Pausch

Last week I gave myself a reason to start blogging...this week was more about what to write to keep it going. Infact, I was contemplating on whether this blog should be issue-based or just some random stuff that I reflect upon everyday. I prefer the latter, not because there is a dearth of issues to talk about, but because I'd prefer to have some randomness in my other wise structured life as a grad student.
Anyway...has anyone checked out the Randy Pausch lecture on Youtube? Its by a professor at the CS dept. in Carnegie Mellon University who has been diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer and has about 4 months to live. In an attempt to leave a message for his three little kids about what their father stood for in his life, he delivered his "last lecture" at CMU and had it recorded. The lecture reminded me of the film Anand which was based on the protagonist being in a similar situation and what he chooses to do with his life. One of the most poignant statements Randy makes is "Its not important what cards you've received; you cannot change that, its how you play your hand". Its one of the most inspiring and profoundly stimulating lectures I have ever heard. I am so glad I clicked on the link that Rajeev (one of my school friends) sent me. Rajeev sends innumerable forwards and "do watch" links every week, and I don't always go by his advice. But, I am so glad I followed it this time. Like he said in the email, if this dosen't inspire you....nothing will. Very true. That is the only description I can think of for these videos. Do watch it; but only when you have some spare time at hand and you have no commitments immediately, because once you start you will want to watch all the 10 lectures of 10 min each. Not even the worry that someone might dump my clothes out of the drier in our common laundry room ( yeah thats possible here ....this is Texas !) could prevent me from taking a break from watching this. So watch it and let me know what you thought about it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday evening catharsis......

Okay, so its been a while since I've created this page. To be precise, it was the very same day that Orkut added this feature on its new interface. I had been contemplating on starting a blog for a while now. I guess I just wasn't motivated enough until ......until this evening.
So what was special about this evening? To begin with it was a Friday evening, I was the only one working in the lab late into the evening. My reaction was not working as I would have wanted it to (yeah I know .... it seldom does. Guess what? I trust Murphy too!) , what was supposed to be a flash column turned out to be slower than the gravity column we used to run in India. The column fret was much so that the nitrogen line shot up due to the pressure build-up and crashed onto one of the flasks that had 250ml of a fraction containing my precious compound in it. I managed to salvage as much as I could doing what we call a paper-towel extraction, which for the uninitiated means mopping-up all the stuff with paper-towels and washing down the paper-towels several times with solvent to get as much of your compound out of it as you can. At the end of all this I had a liter of solvent to rota-vap and a whole stack of dishes to clean before I could call it a day. If all the above chemist-prattle din't make any sense to you , lets just say that everything that could possibly go wrong did infact go wrong.
To be honest with you ever since I've been into research, I have had more that one such days ......days at the end of which you wonder why had you even got out of bed that morning. So its not like something extra-ordinary happened me when I say this, since I have had times when things go wrong for days in a row. When troubles come, they come not single spies, but, in battalions; Claudius says in Hamlet. But then there's something about research thats too compelling, some force that erases all previous bitterness and makes you go back to it the next day in firm belief that its not going to as bad as the previous ..... the same force that makes you watch a Yash-Raj flick, forgetting how dreadful the previous experience had been. I was returning home in the shuttle(which was late by 30 mins), sitting at the rear of the bus staring out of the window thinking of the days events, looking for some cathartic channel to vent my frustrations. I picked-up my cell phone to call a friend only to find that the battery was retrospect this was the only good thing that happened today, I ended-up sparing someone the misery of listening to my whinging !

So, smitten by misery I come home to a darkness-filled living room, turn on the lights and at that very moment some hitherto dormant neurons in my brain were activated and I had this burst of inspiration .............. to start blogging! I named the page Avartan, which in Indian Classical music is the periodic cycle of beats in which the melody is rendered. One 'avartan' ends and a new one begins......... tomorrow.