Saturday, August 30, 2008


It s been 12 days since I last blogged and a lot has happened over this time. I know 12 days is an awfully long time but I had good reason. Last weekend, someone broke into my apartment and made away with my laptop. The funniest part about it is that it happened the evening after they had just finished telling us, at orientation, to watch our belongings and lock our doors. What they failed to tell us is that we should also watch out for thieves who cut away screens and pry windows open. The theft could not have come at a worse time. School starts in a few days and I absolutely need a laptop, not only for my class work, but also for my TA duties. Money is tight right now and I am still trying to come up with a way to finance another PC. Luckily, I had just backed up most of my files a month before moving, but I still lost about 3 weeks worth of my undergraduate research. I hate to give the impression that my new school is unsafe (the police were actually very helpful. They took pictures of the break in and also had a detective do a follow-up the next day) but coming from a school where you could leave your laptop unattended and still find it at the same place, this will take a while to get used to.

Other than my unfortunate incident, the days have pretty much been taken up with orientation. It’s amazing how much information they feed you and expect you to remember. After 6 days of those torturous orientation sessions, I knew I was pretty much at my breaking point. Yesterday, as if to make up for all they had made us go through, they decided to feed us at the departmental welcome barbecue. I am sure I would be a very happy TA, if they had those barbecues every Friday.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What were they thinking?

The last couple of days have been a blur. I moved into my new school apartment on Friday, and I have spent the last two days trying to settle in and getting acquainted with the area. So far, I have been able to get my new school ID done and I also met with the departmental staff for my orientation package. Yesterday, I rode the bus to the mall where I did some shopping for groceries and stuff (it is alarming how fast I am spending money and it is only day two!). I don’t know what to think of my new school, I am yet to meet any other students in my department other than the graduate RA who helped me check in. Orientation does not start till Wednesday, so I have at least one day to myself before the madness begins. My plan is to try having everything sorted out before orientation starts and hopefully, I might get some time leftover to catch up with my gym work which has been in neglect for several days now.

In other news, I was looking through my orientation package tonight and everything looked standard until I came to my TA assignment course. That is when I hit some major panic. I have been rather apprehensive about the whole TA’ship thing since I have never really done anything of the sort. After talking to a few graduate students, I was reassured that most TA assignments are normally for lower level classes and labs. So you can imagine my shock and disbelief when I found that I have been assigned as TA to a senior level class. There has got to be a mistake because honestly, I don’t know what they were thinking. For starters, it is basically acknowledged in my field that the class I am supposed to TA is probably the hardest class you will ever have to go through at the undergraduate level. Even to this day, I am still trying to understand some of those concepts. I still remember the day my class had its last exam in the course. The exam had been a comprehensive, standardized one and the results were terrible. We really didn’t care. As far as we were concerned, the ordeal was over and we could move on with our lives. I have never been so drunk as I was that evening. So to imagine I have to go through all that again, in addition to providing solace and advice to suffering undergraduates, just feels wrong. Tomorrow, early in the morning, I am going to head over to school and see whether I can find out from the departmental secretary what the deal is. Hopefully, it is just an over sight.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Money Issues

I am sorry I have not been in here much in the last couple of days. I have spent the last week packing and running up and down, trying to tie up loose ends as I get ready to leave this town that has been my home for the last four years. You don’t get to realize how much you have gotten attached to a place until you have to leave it. Now that I am getting ready to start school, I can’t help thinking of the familiarity of life that I am leaving behind.
This last week, I also realized that my finances are in a pretty sorry state. There are several reasons why this has me worried. One is the fact that I am moving to a new town to start graduate school and I don’t know what the cost of relocation is going to be. Two is the depressing thought that we don’t get our first paychecks until late September. Three is that every time I get email from my new department, it has to be about some orientation fee that we are required to pay that is not covered in the offer package. What is especially annoying about this is that some of these fees had been waived in the initial orientation package that the graduate school sent us. So it is like all over a sudden, when you are just thinking you have your budget figured out, you get this email telling you that you are supposed to cough out another extra couple of dollars. Why?!
Anyway, I hit the road tomorrow, early in the morning. I don’t have to check in till Friday so I plan on spending Wednesday night and Thursday visiting with a friend and his parents.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My Junk-Loving Ways

This is why I hate packing: In the last four years, I have become a prominent fixture on the local garage sale scene. Have a broken toaster, or maybe a printer that dates back to the middle ages? No problem, I am sure I will find a way to put it to good use. As a result, I have accumulated all kind of junk, some whose history I can’t even recall. When I say junk, I am referring to the kind of pieces of metal and plastic that most people probably won’t give a second look, but for some reason I find so appealing that I have to bring them home with me. Now my junk loving ways are rewarding me with a mighty headache, as I try to figure out what to keep and what to discard. Unlike previous times when I could just throw all the junk in boxes and take it with me to my new apartment, this time round, I am not so lucky as I find myself having to move into a university apartment, with limited space.
But the whole process has not been devoid of fun, and an occasional moment of nostalgia. Yesterday, for example, I came across this journal that goes back to my freshman year of college and I spent an hour reminiscing those days of innocence. I realized that, in a good or bad way, depending on whom you ask, my core values have not changed much. I think that over the years though, I have become more cynical of life and less of the idealist that I once was.

Monday, August 4, 2008

This Last Weekend

The last three days have probably been the busiest of my summer vacation. All summer, I have been working on this paper, which my collaborators and I are hoping will get accepted in an upcoming journal issue. The project was part of my senior thesis and my adviser was of the impression that with a little more work, there was a chance that we could get the work published. The "little more work" has turned out be a whole summer worth of re-analyzing and re-evaluating the data. My collaborators in this have been my adviser and a former student of my adviser, who is just finishing his PhD at a different school. Due to the distance between the graduate student's school and my school, a lot of the collaboration has had to be done by e- mail. It was not until this last weekend that I finally got to meet him.
I had known about the meeting for a while, and while I was excited to finally have all of us in one room, it was a bit intimidating since I was fully aware of my standing in the academic hierarchy. The meeting ended up been a six-hour marathon and I found myself having to defend my analysis and conclusions with concrete data and references. My adviser and the graduate student were very supportive though, and since I will have done the bulk of the work by the time we submit the paper to be refereed, it was agreed that I should take first author.
Other than that, I start my packing this week and I can promise you right now, I am not too excited about all the junk I have to go through.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Poem a Day

I was watching “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” last night, and they had this poem that must be the funniest, nerdiest poem ever. Here is the text of the poem.
(Warning: spoiler!)

I’m sure that I will always be
A lonely number like root three

The three is all that’s good and right,
Why must my three keep out of sight
Beneath the vicious square root sign,
I wish instead I were a nine

For nine could thwart this evil trick,
with just some quick arithmetic

I know I’ll never see the sun, as 1.7321
Such is my reality, a sad irrationality

When hark! What is this I see,
Another square root of a three

As quietly co-waltzing by,
Together now we multiply
To form a number we prefer,
Rejoicing as an integer

We break free from our mortal bonds
With the wave of magic wands

Our square root signs become unglued
Your love for me has been renewed


In other news, I am happy to report that I finally got over my panic attack from the other day. I had begun to doubt my choice for graduate school, wondering whether I might have overlooked something crucial. These doubts had led to a full-blown panic attack. Well, maybe not so dramatic but I was pretty worried. After two shots of tequila though, I was able to calm myself down and reason it out. In my now calmer state, I rationalized that at the time I sent my one acceptance letter (and a few “ No, thanks but thank you for your consideration”), I had already weighed all the factors and decided that this school would provide me with the best opportunities to achieve my goals. I think with this reassurance, I am a lot happier now.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What if...?

Today has not been a very productive day. Okay, so I finally made my to-do list, but I was only halfway done before I got distracted.
Part of my distraction came from the fact that I am having some misgivings about my choice of graduate school, and I ended up spending a couple of hours digging up as much information as I could. As I mentioned previously, I did not get to visit my choice of graduate school before making my decision (I still plan to talk about this). Now I feel that I might have made a grievous mistake, especially considering the fact that I did visit some of the other schools that gave me offers. While my initial reasons for choosing this school, like a well-established research program in my area of interest and a strong faculty, still persist, I can’t help wondering whether I might have overlooked something and now it is too late to change things.
Maybe my fears are unfounded, but I guess only time will tell.