Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Today I visited an ophthalmologist who cleared off my fears about the degeneration of my eyes. These fears are something that will last me entire life and tie me to the aprons of the ophthalmologists forever. Anyway, as my eyes were dilated for medical examination, crippling me at all other usual works of a day, I had ample free time to take random trips to various other weblogs. Here I found a humorous post on what they say a Bra flinging story. In case you stumble upon this page but missed this one, may like to read the tale. I found this rocking.

Monday, August 29, 2005

My readers might have already noticed that the real life characters who find places in my blogs are referred to by their initials to hide their real identities. In fact, this Akash Sen is also my penname. Writing under pseudonym and keeping secret the identities of the characters give me plenty of courage to write freely without bothering about being held accountable for that. Writing is neither my profession nor a passion. There are scores of assorted feelings that wriggle in my mind, crawl up and down, turn and twist and finally implode, shredding the inside of me, without any outward signs. The end result is an invisible lump stuck in the throat blocking the flow of oxygen making breathing difficult. The lump is in urgent need to be removed before it grows bigger and takes my life. I feel the gradual melting of the rock while I pick up the threads of the mass one at a time and lay them on the pages of my blog. Thus this amazing medicinal effect of blogging has thoroughly defeated my ambition to be very popular in the blogspere by writing on hot topics. Poor me.

Well. Today I bought the air ticket to Canada by making full payment to the travel agent expecting that the visa would be ready on time and there won't be any other exigencies forcing me to cancel or postpone the journey. As this is a cheap ticket, the refund for cancellation is zero and the postponement of the flight entails a huge extra cost. Decision to go into such deals was not hasty and taken after a very careful examination of the above undesirable possibilities. Still, as the deal was finally struck irrevocably, the fear of losing my hard earned money is looming large in my mind. This is too much to expect that the money be reimbursed if the trip is canceled. Apart from that, wastage of resources whoever the possessor is, makes me again wriggle in discomfort. I have to remain calm for almost a month to see what happens finally.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Oh. What a hectic time I went through on the last few days. A flurry of activity. Completely non-academic, boring, dull and a drudgery. Hell!!! Did not even manage time to stitch together some bits of mind to pour all my disgust, agony, bitterness on blogrolls. They are all littered on the floor, fragmented, sore and raw. Anyone who has had applied for a Canadian Temporary Resident Visa in the past, ought to remember the annoying questions that are included in the application form (the feeling may be funny depending on the mood you are in). Among other questions about your family and relatives (even if they are not at all connected with the proposed trip nor have they ever lived in Canada) the one that irritates you the most is on the number of children of your siblings. Am I supposed to know all these to qualify for a visa to Canada? So I called home and shook my brother out of sleep and asked him about all his illegitimate children that he had hid from us. The application form also warns that, in case of discrepant answers, you may be refused a visa, if not this time then may be the next time. Now, what if my brother lies to me about all his clandestine affairs? What if my brother denies the paternity of the grandson of the prime minister of Canada? Is it justified that I be denied a healthy research collaboration with some other even-minded Canadians because of a few paranoid monkeys.

To add salt to injury another unexpected problem, that sprang up today, cost me a bit of time and at a time looked to have no way out at all. The audit committee served me a notice that, unless I submit a few invoices in the original, the reimbursement of a few payments that I made on my earlier Australian trip, would never be cleared. Anyway, this is rather a long story of how I succeeded in cracking this deadlock very quickly (thanks to European professionalism) and felt futile satisfaction for something useless.

Anyway, on the academic front, seem to have got an interesting result. When such things do happen, it is required to complete the work as fast as possible and announce them lest the ownership of the work may change hands (I myself had some painful experience of such kind). It is a rat race folks and the state-of-the-art of the field changes every second. However, I need some serious help from my student with programming to flesh out that result to make it suitable for presentation, but he seems to have taken to the woods. I did not see him at his desk for the last couple of days. I have to be a little strict with him. He might have taken me for granted, something which is completely unacceptable to me.

Well. And a different kind of research project involving algebraic attacks that I started a month ago is now put on backburner amidst these visa, university registration and all such bloody menial stuffs. The first phase of this project has to be finished by the end of September. By hook or by crook.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

OK. Now I'm at my desk in the office. The work at the International office that I expected to be mammoth did not take long. But the work is now half complete. It is expected to be complete to the point of my satisfaction (may be beyond that) tomorrow. However, there is still a cloud of doubt about the whole issue because of the conflicting opinions of many people on the matter. To speculate anything about bureaucratic affairs is foolish. Let's see what happen tomorrow. On the health front, got an appointment with an ophthalmologist next Tuesday 10-45 a.m. Hopefully the examination of the eyes will not reveal any condition.

Friday, August 19, 2005

During summer the department takes on a very melancholy look as the day gradually drags along past noontime; all undergraduate students are on vacation, research staffs and the teachers are also reaping their holidays, accumulated over the year, maybe at some exotic sea resorts or in the mountains or forests, the remaining few also decamp as the sun glides down against the sky. However, I never felt any urge to make the best use of my holidays by compulsively going to sea beaches or mountains and so on. Any forceful subjection drives my soul out of breath, I feel pain deep inside.

Its six o'clock now. Yesterday, one of my old friends who now lives in Canada once again requested me to visit their university for four to six weeks this fall. Last time I did not show much interest as I was not certain about many practical aspects of this invitation as well as my own benefits in such interactions. However, his last email about that offer sounded really prospective and I decided not to miss out on that. Although there are still some hitches to that. Firstly, my boss , who is now on vacation, may not allow me to be absent here for such a long time. Secondly, my visa expires during the period of the proposed visit. So in this short time I have to make arrangements for the renewal of visa which entails a lot of red tape. Thirdly, I will have to remain detached (connected only on emails) from my student for those 4 to 6 weeks -- something which is, perhaps, not morally justified. And fourthly, if my paper is selected for publication at the conference (about which I talked earlier) then I will have to again pack up and rush as soon as I come back. Do all these contribute to a peaceful life which is extremely necessary for the kind of job I do?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A few things have changed in our office; so suddenly that you will not fail to notice it. The first thing is that, after being in the state of dormancy for a long time, the office is now bubbling with life with as many as three living people striking keyboards at the same time. In fact, there are four. The fourth one had gone off on a very sacred mission. To preach religion in a country quite a long distance away from here. He is the guy coming straight out of the recent Rushdie book Shalimar the clown, where the protagonist was thoroughly brainwashed by the religious clerics, except the extremist ways adopted by the hero. And also, my friend is extremely gentle, indisputably honest and absolutely loyal to his faith, not to mention a downright kind soul who would always stop by my house to enquire about my well being if I was absent at the lab for a few successive days. To be frank, he is the only true religious fanatic that I came across in my life; pure, uncorrupted and unquestioning devotion to the edicts of a religion. If my readers are tempted to fit this person into the frame of a violent radicalized Muslim then they are terribly mistaken. This person is a fundamentalist Christian who, for example, has thrown off Darwinian theories without any doubt as it is considered blasphemous in the Bible. I cannot relate the religious side of him to his professional side which requires tremendous amount of logical skills, scientific knowledge and openness of mind, to say the least. This is not an exaggeration to mention that, considering his young age, his professional successes are not only above average but also quite enviable. This person is not at his desk for the last few days and is expected back from his religious mission next Monday. I am looking forward to the accounts of his trip in his own version.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Blogging is an enriching pastime for the expatriates who live in self-imposed social quarantine. For me, the social life has reduced to only a few occasional visits to a Turkish restaurant for dinner, mostly on Fridays, with a couple of like minded pals, followed by short aimless strolls around some relatively obscure corners in this university town. No way I am complaining about this social estrangement. On the contrary, I sometimes feel a sense of relief that, at last, I was able to shun all these addictive provocations decisively. Once again remember that this is self-imposed. Sounds like a masochist? Just the opposite. There is a number of reasons for this apparently weird bent of mind. To give a few clues; firstly, from a large number of heart singeing experiences in the past I, somewhat, have convinced myself that I am a social boor who has a genius for upsetting otherwise very congenial social climates into stormy whirlwinds, inviting uncalled for mental stresses and heady emotional turbulences. Such revelations compounded with the change of priorities in life pushed me to take up a position of a social nihilist. But there are still traces of doubts in my mind as to whether a human being can really live, with all his senses functioning normally, in complete isolation form the mainstream society. Amidst this dilemma, this blogspehere emerged like a Good Samaritan.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

For the last few days I have been quite regular at the lab, at least showed up in the morning, went for lunch to the cafeteria with my so sweet colleagues and also progressed a bit in my next research work. This change was brought about because of my student who joined our group a couple of days ago. He will work with me in one project which I had in mind for quite some time now. In case he feels demotivated by watching his irregular supervisor, I did effect some changes in my usual routine in order not to look slipshod. So you can see how much pain one can take when entrusted with responsibility. I will talk about this guy in somewhat detail very shortly; as of now it is too early to pass any judgment. Just one thing that I can't resist at this moment is that the chap is a serious type. Not a little. A lot. Not that I'm complaining. Another thing I must say that this guy is way more self-helped than I expected from a 22 year old landed in a foreign country for the first time.
Well. Coming to my own work. I am embarking on a different kind of work something that involves more mathematics and also calls for collaborative research. I am quite thrilled about that but desperately trying to play it cool because, by now, I am convinced that a romantic researcher is, at best, worthy of sympathy which is the last thing I would like to live with. What really matters in my field, which changes every single day, is how hot your work is. To rephrase it sophisticatedly the question is whether you are in the vanguard of the field or not, whether you are on the leading edge or not, whether you are on the bleeding edge or not.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Now I am fine-tuning the rejected paper for submission to a supposedly less competitive conference. The more I am dissecting the previous review reports the firmer is my conviction about the following things,

1) Only the abstract, the introduction, and the conclusion of an article are reviewed in the first round of the elimination process (unofficially).

2) It is the responsibility of the author to spoonfeed the reviewer.

3) An easily readable but relatively weak paper stands a better chance than a paper which is difficult to read but stronger.

The above illuminations were triggered by a comment made by one of the referees of my paper which helped me realize the strong sense of disappointment contained in an old Bengali saying

"Saat kando ramayon por-e Seeta kaar baap"

(I will try to find a suitable English translation for that. Never hesitate to post me if you have one.)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Now I'm going over the contents of the rejected paper once again and trying to tidy things up so that it looks neat. There is nothing I can do to enhance the technical contents of the paper. It is clear from the review reports that I was, at least, unable to make them understand some of my points, let alone elicit appreciations for them. This part of paper-writing is very tricky because the border line between emphasis and overemphasis depends on the referee's familiarity with the subject, general outlook on research etc. You may lose some points if you hammer in a particular point what you consider important when the reviewer finds that over-the-top. On the other hand, if you don't want to underscore some important points a few extra times in order not to be loud, the points may go overlooked by the reviewer all the way. Evaluation by only three 'experts' out of more than thirty odd members is always fraught with risks of unfairness. However, this is no excuse as this is the most practical solution to this whole conference process. Despite all such difficulties and competition there are many smart guys who consistently get papers accepted at the top conferences. I envy and, as well, salute them.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

There are many little surprises, your life is spiked with, that you would love to cherish in future. The moment I finished up the last post (yes exactly that moment, no dramatizing, believe me), my telephone trembled very suspiciously. As I put the receiver to my ear, it did not take any time for me to recognize the voice. It was S calling me from a public telephone booth 10 minutes bus-ride from my house. Nothing can surprise you more than this. But how crazy this fellow was to come directly from Paris to my place without making me aware of such whimsical plans. If I was not at home?

Anyway, S looked exactly the same as he was when I last saw him four years ago. Is he Peter Pan who never grows old? But one thing I must say that S looked somewhat weak and weary that was contrary to my expectation. Or maybe, he was very tired (what he promptly denied) from last few day's constant travel to various places.

But his rapid-fire 12 hours stay was too short to make up for the long separation. So we decided to sacrifice our sleep and talk all night to our heart's content and that's exactly what we did. And moreover the timing of S's flight required that he take an early morning train from my place to be in time. So we were awake all night and talked about various stuffs reminiscent of our old days. Then it became dawn and we realized that its time that he would prepare to depart. I accompanied him to the station and saw him off. S was then on his way home. It's all over like a flash of lightning.

P.S. BTW, at night after the dinner S had a few spells of stomach discharge which, for a while, made me and him as well, very nervous. But the uneasiness did not stay long.

Monday, August 01, 2005

S seems to have disappeared in the hullabaloo of Paris. The last time when I heard from him, he was preparing to head for Paris with a person whose identity was never revealed. He did not call me on Saturday as he promised the day before. I only hope they are fine.

Today I had a bad news, not that I'm very surprised or shocked. My paper submitted to one of the major conferences in my field, came rejected. The review comments were not all too bad but enough to seal my fate in this highly competitive conference. Every time I receive a rejection notification, I do some postmortem and try to learn from mistakes-- a good practise, some man of wisdom told in the past. This time is no different. Maybe I am making mistakes in learning from mistakes. I have to investigate this too.