Category: Academia


  • I met with the professor yesterday, and he sure as hell cannot produce a single cohesive sentence in English. I am a bit disappointed that I would not get a writing buddy, but what the hell, a prof is a prof is a prof.
  • My longterm undergrad student came back from vacationing in Indonesia. He brought me 4 pounds of fresh prime coffee beans! I love that guy!
  • I have to finish off a report by this evening and I have not started yet. So its going to be a lot of writing today.
  • Spoke to my dad last evening after a gap of about 3 weeks. There are some interesting and good developments on the business front, but I am keeping my fingers crossed till I see something materialize out of all this.

New Minion

QoH has given me a new minion to work with, and the best part is that he is a TENURED PROFESSOR! Yes, you read it right. I am going to have a tenured professor work under me! This professor is on a sabbatical to our lab and is from an Asian university. QoH does not have time to work with him, so he has given me the task of working with the professor and planning his sabbatical. I am hyper excited about this. I have had undergrads, Master’s students, and PhD candidates work for me before, but never a tenured professor. This is going to be fun! I am meeting with him on Monday, so keep tuned.

Working in SFO



I am spending the week in San Francisco at one our project sponsor’s sites. I am learning a new technology from the guys who invented it, so its really cool. Today we took the tour of the site with a senior R&D guy, and it was absolutely amazing. The complexity of their operations was something I hadn’t quite expected or fathomed. Towards the end of the day it occured to me that if I were to build this company today, it didn’t stand a chance. No venture capitalist would invest in so many diverse technologies to give the unbeatable edge it has over its competitors today. Considering it is an industry leader, and has remained so for the last 15 years or so, there is clearly something wrong with the VC models that we are following. The VCs are looking for that silver bullet without considering the fact that any bullet could be the silver bullet if they invested in getting the right situations. Why are VCs so risk averse? On one hand, we realistically cannot expect them to dole out billions in good faith and hope, on the other the few millions they part with is not adequate to build up any kind of engineering advantage that can sustain competitive development. No wonder all the engineers are so disillusioned about starting out on their own. Is there a solution to this problem that I am not aware of?

The Research Delusion

Desert Mirage

[Image from Dan Kimble]

The last 7 hours was spent writing up a proposal for QoH which is to be submitted to an industry partner. This proposal was being written in consultation with a lab mate of mine who is now part of the work force. We argued and debated pretty much every single thing on the proposal which is great and is exactly what scientific writing is about. It was not until the end of the day that I dawned on me that how little of “actual” research is involved. The whole thing is more about developing a product for industrial use with minimal risk than it was about research. Every effort of mine to include some new aspect, any new aspect, was met with resistance.

Most of the funding our lab gets is from industrial partners and nearly 99% of our research is application based, so I am not in total denial about the need of industrial partner. In the past we at least made a perfunctory dabs at research here and there, but with this new proposal we just gave up on the whole thing. I am certain that this proposal is going to get funded, and I am equally certain that I, in clear conscience, cannot work on it. I understand the need to lower standards for sake of survival, but when is enough enough?

When did the engineering academia stop being the bed of new tech2nology and start being the outsourced R&D wing of product development?

This, that, and the other

Things have been pretty good these days and I am enjoying my time in the sun for however long it might last.

  • QoH and I are on great terms. I am working at my pre-depression† levels. I never thought I would say this, but I am actually quite satisfied with my work. Of course, I am still lazy every now and then, but then who isn’t? ūüôā
  • I have to find a new apartment by the end of this month. It has been 4 years since I had last moved, and things have changed quite a bit. Finding a new place within my budget is more like a treasure hunt.
  • I have not been dating for a while now, and I am actually OK with it.† It might have something to do with the fact that I have raised my bar quite a bit.
  • My dear darling laptop finally crapped out.† American Express is returning the total cost of the laptop under its buyer’s assurance program. Just when you start to think all banks are soul-less jerks, they do something sweet like this. aawww.

I am running late for a hair appointment, so more later. ūüôā

Work Update

I have not mentioned this before, but I am interning at a startup company this summer. Things are so much different compared to the industrial monster I used to intern for. For starters, I can count the total number of employees at this place on my fingers and still have some to pick my nose with. Second, I directly report to the CEO and COO. Of course in such a small place that does not mean much, but it is still cool to say that I report directly to the CEO. So here is the funny part. This company wants me to keep a time sheet. I need to log in every hour I spend on the job and mark it up to one of 7 activity classes. This ladies and gentlemen is the lamest idea ever! They first waste my time creating this sheet and then waste even more encoding this into some system no one is going to look at.

I have been working with QoH to get a major pharma company to sign up with our lab from some research project. A while ago they sent us 48 samples to do a blind study, which was all fine and dandy. Now they want us to use those results to predict some physical quality without any knowledge of the sample what so ever. WTF? This just cannot be done! Do these guys even know what they are talking about? I have an equal probability of picking out this week’s Lotto numbers as I have in predicting the properties. Anyways, I am going to have a lot of fun coming up with weird ass theories to rationalize my opinion and work in some many caveats that you can hold a whole parade in the holes in my theories.

This is going to be a busy and fun week.

The roll continues..

[Image from NASA]

  1. A new research sponsor has sent us some samples to test and I am incharge of them. So far the results have been good. Ofcourse then again, I am just 25% into the tests.
  2. Had to explain the results of my quals to 3 people from my department, and I think I have figured out a way to do it without freaking out.
  3. A report is due to QoH this evening, and I have not even started on it yet. I blame me.


  1. The experiment that eluded me was finally conquered! The results from today’s work just kicks butt in every which way possible.
  2. QoH’s request to the department to allow me to take my quals for the 3rd time was officially accepted.
  3. I won my first poker tournament table at a local poker club.
  4. I am genuinely happy satisfied with life for the first time in recent history.

10 Benefits of Rising Early, and How to Do It

Zen Habits has a very good post on this topic. I am reproducing the post here for convenience.


Every Friday is Happiness Friday on Zen Habits.

ďEarly to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wiseĒ – Ben Franklin, famously

ďPut no trust in the benefits to accrue from early rising, as set forth by the infatuated Franklin ÖĒ – Mark Twain

Recently, reader Rob asked me about my habit of waking at 4:30 a.m. each day, and asked me to write about the health benefits of rising early, which I thought was an excellent question. Unfortunately, there are none, that I know of.

However, there are a ton of other great benefits.

Now, let me first say that if you are a night owl, and that works for you, I think thatís great. Thereís no reason to change, especially if youíre happy with it. But for me, switching from being a night owl to an early riser (and yes, it is possible) has been a godsend. It has helped me in so many ways that Iíd never go back. Here are just a few:

  1. Greet the day. I love being able to get up, and greet a wonderful new day. I suggest creating a morning ritual that includes saying thanks for your blessings. Iím inspired by the Dalai Lama, who said, Ē Everyday, think as you wake up, Ďtoday I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.í ď
  2. Amazing start. I used to start my day by jumping out of bed, late as usual, and rushing to get myself and the kids ready, and rushing to drop them to school and come in to work late. I would walk into work, looking rumpled and barely awake, grumpy and behind everyone else. Not a great start to your day. Now, I have a renewing morning ritual, Iíve gotten so much done before 8 a.m., my kids are early and so am I, and by the time everyone else gets in to work, Iíve already gotten a head start. There is no better way to start off your day than to wake early, in my experience.
  3. Quietude. No kids yelling, no babies crying, no soccer balls, no cars, no television noise. The early morning hours are so peaceful, so quiet. Itís my favorite time of day. I truly enjoy that time of peace, that time to myself, when I can think, when I can read, when I can breathe.
  4. Sunrise. People who wake late miss one of the greatest feats of nature, repeated in full stereovision each and every day ó the rise of the sun. I love how the day slowly gets brighter, when the midnight blue turns to lighter blue, when the brilliant colors start to seep into the sky, when nature is painted in incredible colors. I like doing my early morning run during this time, and I look up at the sky as I run and say to the world, ďWhat a glorious day!Ē Really. I really do that. Corny, I know.
  5. Breakfast. Rise early and you actually have time for breakfast. Iím told itís one of the most important meals of the day. Without breakfast, your body is running on fumes until you are so hungry at lunchtime that you eat whatever unhealthy thing you can find. The fattier and sugarier, the betterier. But eat breakfast, and you are sated until later. Plus, eating breakfast while reading my book and drinking my coffee in the quiet of the morning is eminently more enjoyable than scarfing something down on the way to work, or at your desk.
  6. Exercise. There are other times to exercise besides the early morning, of course, but Iíve found that while exercising right after work is also very enjoyable, itís also liable to be canceled because of other things that come up. Morning exercise is virtually never canceled.
  7. Productivity. Mornings, for me at least, are the most productive time of day. I like to do some writing in the morning, when there are no distractions, before I check my email or blog stats. I get so much more done by starting on my work in the morning. Then, when evening rolls around, I have no work that I need to do, and I can spend it with family.
  8. Goal time. Got goals? Well, you should. And thereís no better time to review them and plan for them and do your goal tasks than first thing. You should have one goal that you want to accomplish this week. And every morning, you should decide what one thing you can do today to move yourself further towards that goal. And then, if possible, do that first thing in the morning.
  9. Commute. No one likes rush-hour traffic, except for Big Oil. Commute early, and the traffic is much lighter, and you get to work faster, and thus save yourself more time. Or better yet, commute by bike. (Or even better yet, work from home.)
  10. Appointments. Itís much easier to make those early appointments on time if you get up early. Showing up late for those appointments is a bad signal to the person youíre meeting. Showing up early will impress them. Plus, you get time to prepare.

How to Become an Early Riser

  • Donít make drastic changes. Start slowly, by waking just 15-30 minutes earlier than usual. Get used to this for a few days. Then cut back another 15 minutes. Do this gradually until you get to your goal time.
  • Allow yourself to sleep earlier. You might be used to staying up late, perhaps watching TV or surfing the Internet. But if you continue this habit, while trying to get up earlier, sooner or later one is going to give. And if it is the early rising that gives, then you will crash and sleep late and have to start over. I suggest going to bed earlier, even if you donít think youíll sleep, and read while in bed. If youíre really tired, you just might fall asleep much sooner than you think.
  • Put your alarm clock far from you bed. If itís right next to your bed, youíll shut it off or hit snooze. Never hit snooze. If itís far from your bed, you have to get up out of bed to shut it off. By then, youíre up. Now you just have to stay up.
  • Go out of the bedroom as soon as you shut off the alarm. Donít allow yourself to rationalize going back to bed. Just force yourself to go out of the room. My habit is to stumble into the bathroom and go pee. By the time Iíve done that, and flushed the toilet and washed my hands and looked at my ugly mug in the mirror, Iím awake enough to face the day.
  • Do not rationalize. If you allow your brain to talk you out of getting up early, youíll never do it. Donít make getting back in bed an option.
  • Have a good reason. Set something to do early in the morning thatís important. This reason will motivate you to get up. I like to write in the morning, so thatís my reason. Also, when Iím done with that, I like to read all of your comments!
  • Make waking up early a reward. Yes, it might seem at first that youíre forcing yourself to do something hard, but if you make it pleasurable, soon you will look forward to waking up early. A good reward is to make a hot cup of coffee or tea and read a book. Other rewards might be a tasty treat for breakfast (smoothies! yum!) or watching the sunrise, or meditating. Find something thatís pleasurable for you, and allow yourself to do it as part of your morning routine.
  • Take advantage of all that extra time. Donít wake up an hour or two early just to read your blogs, unless thatís a major goal of yours. Donít wake up early and waste that extra time. Get a jump start on your day! I like to use that time to get a head start on preparing my kidsí lunches, on planning for the rest of the day (when I set my MITs), on exercising or meditating, and on reading. By the time 6:30 rolls around, Iíve done more than many people do the entire day.

Friday Roundup

[Image from NASA APOD]

  • My mood is beyond low and I think it is the going off meds that is responsible.
  • Spent 7 hours in the lab running experiments and in the end the results were inconclusive. Have to go through my data again and see if anything can be salvaged.
  • My post-work euphoria was conspicuously absent and was replaced by unfound sorrow.
  • A co-worker I used to like working with a lot, irritated the hell out of me.
  • Turned down a weekend no-strings attached sex.