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Category: art

06/28/08 11:07 - 71ºF - ID#44815

The Genome-Wide Global Dance

Dances bring people together.
So do LD blocks and HapMaps.

An inspirational cross-continent dance video with a number of analogies in genetics that I won't bore you with. :)
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Permalink: The_Genome_Wide_Global_Dance.html
Words: 75
Location: Buffalo, NY
Last Modified: 11/09/11 08:14

Category: art

06/25/08 10:51 - 68ºF - ID#44781

The TinyPliny Avatarolution

Almost everyone has a story about their avatars - those 125 X 150 pixels of online identification that stay with your readers through the thick and thin of your posts. Since my posts have dropped to the extreme triviality level of picking arguments about comic book fonts and posting pie-charts from arcane web-gadgets that nobody uses, I am under some pressure here. The immediate challenge is to achieve the nadir of triviality and set the bar even lower for the most trivial post on (e:strip). This entry to the "Who-wants-to-be-most-trivial?-I-DO!"-contest is the nausea, triumph, obsession, and nitpickiness-filled story of the evolution of my 18750 pixels. Start holding your breath, the lower boundaries of a tonload of totally unnecessary fluff are about to waft your way.

Anyone who has walked through the Cancer Cell Center (CCC) at Roswell, and has even a fractionally functional olfactory apparatus, can recall the all-pervasive sickly and somewhat homely smell that hangs about in that building. I have heard people make all sort of wild guesses about the source of this smell, ranging from imported transatlantic ducks being slaughtered alive in the building to cell-culture media rotting away to yuck-tastic glory. When your imagination is not up-to-creative-snuff with the almost-hallucinogenic peak of glory that your companions seem to have, you usually have three choices: a) Accept the most entertaining conjecture and hurry away from CCC, b) Make a mental note to not recall the smell while you are eating your lunch and hurry away from CCC and c) Decide in an unhinged moment that you will find out the source of that yucky smell and thrust your already unimaginative mind into the deeper doldrums of absolute, annoying and certain knowledge.

Needless to say, I took the third route. (Now, don't tell me you didn't see this coming!!) Though the exact source of the CCC smell still remains elusive, I do have a fair idea... and also my very own avatar. If you cannot see the relationship between between the last assertion and the rest of the sentence, then I guess you can safely assume that you are sane. (Yeah, breathe slow. You can cancel that shrink appointment today.)

Late last year I took the "Working with the Laboratory Mouse" course in the Animal Lab Facility in the CCC/Library building. It was then that the sickly smell hit me full force. It invaded my senses and took over whatever grey matter I had left, when I got out of the stairwell and headed toward the Animal Lab Facility. At this point, countless crime novelists over centuries might have hastily scribbled, "The realization dawned on her." Since these cool novelists were not around to make their erudite observations, I took on the responsibility of playing up EUREKA moment by shouting, not the eponymous "EUREKA!" but the painfully obvious, "IT'S THE MICE!!!". I quite understand why the veterinarian of the facility smiles in sympathy at me even after all these days. I earned the smile in extreme style.

I spent the better part of the practical training sniffing around the facility in what I thought was a discreet and sophisticated manner. But unfortunately, my discreetness was mis-interpreted as an incipient cold and a precautionary mask was thrust into my hands. Being masked put a damper on my detection capabilities and thus the mystery of the exact source of the omnipresent smell remains thus.

I came home, and did what any disappointed graduate student would do - wikisurf. I discovered fascinating details about the life and times of numerous members of the rodent family, hit the wikimedia commons road and fell in love with this magnificent image of the wood mouse.


I resized it and adopted it as my 18-odd-k pixels of online fame. Days passed, and at a party someone remarked that seeing a mouse reminded them of me (actually, they didn't really say this, but my brain came to this euphoric interpretation). My avatar had finally arrived! It was thus time to embellish it with idiosyncratic accessories. I chose a starred neck-tie. As any movie enthusiast would agree, drawing montages are always rolled out to the background of music. My music of choice for the nitpicky tale of avatarolution is the genre better known to the mainstream listeners as rap and to the classicist snobs as poetry.

With ball-point ink and felt-tip pen, I fell to sketching
But captured with a flash, it didn't look so fetching


Under lamplight the eyes were perfectly beady and filled with vice ((e:libertad,41910))
But I had an issue with brightness and I said, "No Dice!"


Tweaked brightness and contrast in PAINT.NET
A software so free that it is not a financial threat


At this point it lacked a certain punch
The oil paint and ink filters gave it the furry scrunch.


But alas, it didn't gel well with (e:strip) so I tinted it red.
However, in the comments background it looked rather dead.


The magic wand and colour inversion came to my rescue
OH NO! I had neglected the neck-tie with the stars askew


Added the sparklies and lightened it up a bit
Behold the 18750 pixels of the TinyPliny image-split.


But those 18750 pixels make it so hard to see
The eye on the right, won't you agree?


Looking out my window I found the perfect antidote
The rich blue of summer skies with a hint of creosote.


'Twas too much of colour and one too many alteration
Got sick of 'em all and opted for a modified third iteration.

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Permalink: The_TinyPliny_Avatarolution.html
Words: 975
Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: music

06/23/08 11:48 - 65ºF - ID#44764

The Chaotic Red Musical Pie

Not surprisingly, my daily airplay breaks down into quite a heavy dose of metal of various flavours along with a smattering of other genres:


My "open mind index" that apparently measures how open-minded I am when it comes to music is 102.


To get this silly graph, you need to:

a) have a profile
b) have played and scrobbled a sizeable chunk of music
c) Go here: and enter your profile name, type in the security code and choose your preferred colour craziness.

And Voila, your musical tastes are neatly broken down into a pie-chart in eleven different colour schemes ranging from tame to frank-epileptic-fit inducing. The epidemiologist in me cannot help but plot a population musical-taste study with such detailed statistics...

Happing Musickuming! :)

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Permalink: The_Chaotic_Red_Musical_Pie.html
Words: 132
Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: art

06/21/08 10:22 - 73ºF - ID#44737

Oh, how I missed this...

I need to sketch graffiti.


Does Buffalo have an official free-to-all-artists graffiti wall?

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Permalink: Oh_how_I_missed_this_.html
Words: 15
Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: whine

06/19/08 04:03 - 62ºF - ID#44721

The Comic Sans Font.

This question is for the designers and the typographers among you. Why is it that you hate the comic sans font so much? It is the only font that is extremely legible at small sizes, is pleasant to look at and can be read without giving one a headache, and yet there seems to be this almost virulent bunch of people who are hell-bent on eliminating this happy font from the web. Why is that?

I don't find any logic in several of their arguments:
1. It is ugly: How can such a legible font be "ugly". The word "ugly" implies loathsomeness and annoyance - both of which, are far away from your mind when you read text typed in comic sans. It's so darn easy to read it. No effort is required to make out what the alphabets are. It's so eye-friendly.

2. It's inappropriately used in varied contexts: How do you define inappropriate? Who defined what is formal and what is informal? Fonts are not equivalent to clothes, that analogy never works. Is eye-friendliness and ease of reading only meant for kids? What happens to us as adults? Do we intentionally want to ruin our moods and eyesights by being forced to read fonts that don't even have breathing whitespace?

3. It's ill-designed: Again, which font is the "best-designed" according to you? Why is it that only the designers complain ad-nauseum about this beautiful down-to-earth font and the general "lay-public" uniformly love it? Why can't typography be user-friendly instead of being snob-friendly?

I ask you, all you people heading to the Typography convention next month, here in Buffalo. Give me some logical arguments and not snob statements as to why I should not use this font. I sent out two international reports to the scientific community using this font and none of them had any problems with it. I even found a LaTeX version of the comic sans font! Why do you view it as a fly in the typographic ointment? I swear I shall be sneering at you if you say its a "kid font" because being an adult does not mean you punish your eyes!
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Permalink: The_Comic_Sans_Font_.html
Words: 356
Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: goals

06/17/08 10:57 - 54ºF - ID#44686

A year in retrospect

It's exactly 365+1 days since I physically moved to Buffalo. It's time to list the the ten things I hate the most about myself (and want to try to eliminate this year in Buffalo.)

1. Unwarranted Snobbery.
2. Occasional rude behaviour.
3. Cutting into people's speech
4. Crazy Multitasking
5. Poor time management and not finishing tasks on time.
6. Confused explanations.
7. Saying the first thing that comes to my mind.
8. Sticking with damaging influences
9. Identifying priorities and then not taking action.
10. Eating out too much

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Permalink: A_year_in_retrospect.html
Words: 81
Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: goals

06/15/08 01:13 - 72ºF - ID#44655

Low Wall Vaulting

My daily route from home to office includes jumping down a low concrete wall around 3.5 feet deep. I am fascinated by this particular wall. It has gradually grown to a point where I am conscious of the irrationality of it all. Nevertheless, I cannot get rid of this jumping OCD. It saves me a whole minute of having to go around the wall, like civilized folk might. Instead, I take wild pleasure in leaping off the damn thing every single day.

It took me a while to get addicted. I used to be the civilized around-the-low-wall-walker last July. By August, it dawned on me that I was being wimpy. More importantly, the extra minute of sleep I might earn from this simple gravity-friendly maneuver became very attractive. I took the plunge in early August and haven't stopped since then. I leapt in the sunlight, in the rain, in the snow and also on the ice (and nearly broke my knee when I slipped and skidded over the ice on my knees, propelled by the force of my leap, but that's beside the point now that its summer!)

In my 9 minute walk to my department, this is the high point I look forward to. It's almost like a drug. The wall beckons me to free-fall once more. Those 2 seconds are awesome. I transform into an astronaut repairing a space toilet on Mondays, a soldier jumping into the enemy trenches for a hostile ambush on Tuesdays, a long-distance marathon runner from Nigeria jumping into a final ditch before the victorious lap on Wednesdays, a showgirl on the set of a musical in a dramatic heart-wrenching moment on Thursdays and an adventurer jumping into treacherous quicksands in the amazon forests on Fridays. I can be whoever I want to be those couple seconds. There are no limits. Time stretches into the infinity of chaotic possibility.

But coming back home, it's a different story. I cannot vault the low wall. I just don't have the grace or the skill. It has tormented me for so many months now. I want to be able to vault over the thing with a one-armed maneuver like they do in the movies. For the thirty seconds that I walk around the wall, I gaze at it longingly and wish that I were able to vault it... every single day. This might seem like a tad bit unhinged of a life-goal but I checked and found that souls all over the interweb seem to have similar lofty goals.

There's even a DIY about it!!!

It's a nifty little move. First you put your hand over the fence/wall and hoist yourself up over it using your arm to balance your weight, swinging both your legs to the other side. Incredibly sexy. And I am nowhere close to being able to do it. Not for the lack of wishing, because I do *that* everyday. I think I need to start trying at least. The skinned wrists and palms will be worth every minute of the glory of being able vault the wall some day! Got any tips for me?? :)
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Permalink: Low_Wall_Vaulting.html
Words: 525
Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: cycling

06/10/08 09:42 - 65ºF - ID#44608

Bike sans Brakes

I have the prettiest bicycle on the entire planet. No... make that the sexiest bicycle in the entire solar system. It's coloured a rich striking blue of copper sulphate with a metallic sleek grey accent. It's an aerodynamically designed complex machine with precision gears and a derailleur that looks as if it might be a futuristic part that broke away from the Kibo module. You lay your eyes on it and you know that you just want to ride it.

ALAS, appearances can be deceptive. The deception, in this case, is that I (the most non-mechanically oriented freak there ever was and will be on the planet) put it together! That means that the brake pads are not evenly spaced from the wheel. They rub and grate on the wheel every time I try to cycle. The sound that emanates resembles a sickening friction rub of... well, a warped brake assembly. I have tried many many tricks and tactics to make them not behave in this bizarre manner but as can be expected, I am having no luck fixing them.

Does any (e:strip)per have a fair idea about how to rectify this brackish situation? Do they know of any person or establishment within walking distance of downtown (~2-3 miles) who can take a look at my bike and tell me what I need to do, without charging $45... oh, and is likely to be available on a Saturday or a Sunday??!!

My ghost-of-the-biking-future shall be eternally grateful for any ideas, hints, directions, general advice etc..

(**this is where you think of someone and enthusiastically type away comments to this post. NUDGE NUDGE. Ahem.**)
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Permalink: Bike_sans_Brakes.html
Words: 281
Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: office

06/09/08 11:52 - 79ºF - ID#44603

The Crazy Dragonfly Office Freakout

A HUMONGOUS blackish dragonfly flew into our office today morning. I had the official freakout of the year. I ran out promptly, slammed the door to the corridor and shut my officemate in the office with the ginormous dragonfly. I am SO not the ideal officemate. He probably hates me now. I couldn't help it!! Metallic loud buzzing coming from a HUGE insect that FLIES is very disconcerting. I believe I was reading about genomic mutations when it made its royal loud entry through the window. I admit that the subject matter may have had some effect on the insanity level of my freakout.

It looked somewhat like this:

My department administrator was in the corridor for some reason and I dragged her into my office. I think I might have coerced her into climbing the table and chasing the dragonfly out the window using a yoghurt box (that smelled like some very good coffee from Guercio's, in case you were interested.)

After it left, I googled it and initially thought that it might have been the Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea), but a friend who saw it up close didn't notice any blue on its body or colourful markings.

OR it could be the Giant Dragonfly - Petalura gigantea. The article says that two species exist in North America. The picture above is from this page:

Or it could be this species from Malaysia - Tetragynacantha plagiata. Do you think someone brought it in their suitcase from somewhere??

It blows my mind on many levels.
a) That could have been an ENDANGERED species we chased out!!
b) It could have been a bonafide Malaysian or Australian insect!!
c) We could have caught it and donated it to the zoo/or the local insect greenhouse!!
d) Damn, that was ONE TOTALLY ridiculous officemate alienating freakout.
e) Yep. I still hate metallic buzzing flying HUGE insects. They can ONLY be one of these adjectives... NOT ALL!! That is just unfair! Arrgh.

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Permalink: The_Crazy_Dragonfly_Office_Freakout.html
Words: 365
Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: whine

06/08/08 12:42 - 75ºF - ID#44586

Dropping Sizes or Getting Vain?

Three years back, I didn't wear jeans or trousers on a daily basis. I never wore less than 3 colours at a time. My daily dress was a salwar kameez.

It's a sort of fluid adaptable dress that comes to your rescue if you want to be ultra formal or ultra casual. But then I became a grad student here in the US. The cultural change has been massive. I not only went the unkempt daily-jeans route, but also turned completely monocolour. I have no idea how this happened. I look at my wardrobe and all I can see is miles and miles of:

WHAT THE HELL?? I had all the colours in the rainbow and additionally, several other vivid and wild shades in my wardrobe. I seem to be trapped in blue-scale now, too fashion-unconscious to get out.

Anyway, that is only a tangential point of the story. (Yeah, leave it to me to start at a tangent!) With the change in attire, new hair-splitting avenues have popped up. I never had to deal with the alien concept of SIZES before.

Three years back, my idea of trousers was a multi-pleated billowing cotton/satin/silk salwar worn under a long kameez (hindi/urdu for shirt). I guess that explained why I ended up picking size 12 jeans and ended up looking like the next-door rap star/pimp in my first year here. I had enough of the whole hanging-by-mere-faith-and-nothing-else-on-your-booty style the next year and went for a comfortable size 10. Last christmas, I was still comfortable at 8. Yesterday, I found out that for a pair of shorts to fit well and not look like a tent and yet be comfortable, they need to be size 6.

Did I just drop SIX sizes over the past two years?????? Considering, my weight has been constantly hovering at same figure over these said two years, the size drop is highly suspect. Apart from my perception of what a trouser should be, nothing else has changed. I think it would be safe to say that I have been tricked by vanity sizing. After my initial fascination with the in-da-hood baggy style, I have been the same size. It is just called "10" at walmart, "8" at old navy and "6" at Dots. Does it then mean that the more "upscale" a shop gets the more abridged their size-chart? Are these stores pandering to the egos of their respective clienteles?

The sizing mystery doesn't end at clothes. It extends to shoes. I am 7.0 in timberland, 5.0 in Hush-Puppies, 5.5 in adidas and 6.0 in reebok. Does this in some way reflect the average shoe size of the customers of these shoe-brands? Are marketing ploys employed to carefully profile the average customer and make them feel better.. for eg. if you are a die-hard hiker, you probably don't want to be told that you have feet sized similar to a dainty Japanese lady across the planet.

Well, in all their planning, they obviously left me out. This crazy sizing is driving me nuts and I am confused like hell. I am like an electron at many different places - stretched out from sizes 6 to 10 and my feet are nebulous clouds of feet-matter from 5.5 to 7.0. I am not vain. I am a size-monster.


Hahahaa... if you thought I looked like the girl in the salwar kameez, the vain joke is on you, sucker!
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Permalink: Dropping_Sizes_or_Getting_Vain_.html
Words: 562
Location: Buffalo, NY



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