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The Dining Table

September 21, 2012 6 comments

During my tour of apartments as I was moving to Cleveland, I saw a dining table made by attaching four legs to a panel door and covering the top with glass to create a level surface. I decided to build one for myself, and instead of a funky pastel color and clips to hold the glass in place, I wanted to design something more elegant. Here is the result:

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Here are some photos of the work in progress, starting with the door as purchased from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore:

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Categories: Life Tags: ,

I Wish I’d Written This

January 14, 2012 1 comment

On a hill by the Mississippi where Chippewas camped two generations ago, a girl stood in relief against the cornflower blue of Northern sky. She saw no Indians now; she saw flour-mills and the blinking windows of skyscrapers in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Nor was she thinking of squaws and portages, and the Yankee fur-traders whose shadows were all about her. She was meditating upon walnut fudge, the plays of Brieux, the reasons why heels run over, and the fact that the chemistry instructor had stared at the new coiffure which concealed her ears.

A breeze which had crossed a thousand miles of wheat-lands bellied her taffeta skirt in a line so graceful, so full of animation and moving beauty, that the heart of a chance watcher on the lower road tightened to wistfulness over her quality of suspended freedom. She lifted her arms, she leaned back against the wind, her skirt dipped and flared, a lock blew wild. A girl on a hilltop; credulous, plastic, young; drinking the air as she longed to drink life. The eternal aching comedy of expectant youth.

It is Carol Milford, fleeing for an hour from Blodgett College.

The days of pioneering, of lassies in sunbonnets, and bears killed with axes in piney clearings, are deader now than Camelot; and a rebellious girl is the spirit of that bewildered empire called the American Middlewest.

– The opening passage of Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

Things I learned in Sweden – part 2

November 11, 2011 4 comments

4) Drinking more coffee than ever before: To say coffee is big in Sweden is an understatement. I’d say it’s one of the irreplaceable threads in the social fabric there. Two folks can discuss anything, so long as coffee’s been offered and accepted 🙂 If you have a day full of meetings, my thought is to select the espresso shot from the machine. The smaller volume of liquid will save you from repeated bathroom trips.

5) Meaningful relaxation: Interestingly, when you go to a coffee shop over there, you don’t see people studying. No laptops. (Working all afternoon in a cafe while hunched over that single coffee you grudgingly paid for – a most American phenomenon!) I was never a study-in-cafe type in the U.S. but being over there certainly nurtured my love for going into places that serve cake and pie along with their coffee… in the company of friends… to have actual conversations.

6) Identifying ways to create value: I was extremely fortunate to complement my research work with a program on how to commercialize new technologies originating in research. During the program, I got to actually develop some new partnerships along the way of testing one of my ideas on graphene dispersions. (I won’t go into the details here; I did give a presentation about it in Stockholm last month – watch it if you’re interested.) The great thing about doing this program was (a) the new thought processes I absorbed and can implement for future ideas, and (b) discovering that I find this new area of work – related to technology transfer, not the same as basic research – super interesting, challenging, and worth pursuing further. And of course, (c) getting introduced to a fantastic mentor who wasn’t hesitant to share wisdom from his broad life and business experiences. Thanks, Sten.

I’m going to end here. This is by no means an all-inclusive list. For example, I learned plenty of other good and useful things from my colleagues at Uppsala University. But those are for only me to savor, right now.

The first part of my list is here.

[Picture: This cat lived at our house. She came to me for all her head-scratching needs. Yes, even in the bathroom sink.]

Things I learned in Sweden

November 4, 2011 3 comments

This is a list, in no particular order… of some things I learned and skills I cultivated during my 14 months living and working in Sweden.

1) Playing acoustic guitar. A winter with 4 hours of daylight means you need to have a good indoor hobby. Glad I picked up the guitar in October last year. Thanks for the tips, Josef and Gunnar. And Raili, thanks for letting my guitar accompany your ukelele at xmas.

2) Cooking without recipes. Having a properly stocked kitchen means you can experiment and not fear mistakes. Also, doing more chemistry at my job somehow led me to think about various cooking techniques in terms of heat and water distribution, for example, and a better understanding of what exactly was happening inside the pot or pan. And, thanks, Farid, for keeping such a lagom kitchen.

3) The Swedish language. My first month in Uppsala, my pronunciation was so bad, I would ask for something in Swedish at the store, to have the clerk reply to me in English. Thanks, Daniel, for all the useful social phrases; Henrik, for all the stuff I’ve asked for help with translating at work and over gchat (cumin, coriander, what?); and, the municipal gov’t, for covering the cost of the Sfi language course. What a difference it makes when a trained teacher explains the nuances of pronunciation to you. I felt I turned a corner in the winter, when I called a restaurant and booked a table, entirely in Swedish. And then again this summer, in Copenhagen, having an extensive conversation with a Swedish-speaking Dane in a noisy bar. So I try to keep up with the language. And thus, thanks go to each one of you who continues to tolerate my suboptimal listening comprehension during our Skype calls. Vad sa du? Igen?

… It’s getting late, so I will write the rest of my list in a second post, sometime soon, while the thoughts are still fresh and interesting!

[Photograph: I took it in Smögen, on the west coast of Sweden, when I was there for a workshop last summer]

Wrapping up the Jeopardy! experience (with help from Twitter)

July 19, 2010 4 comments

I want to use this post to make some closing remarks on the whole Jeopardy! contestant experience, because the response I’ve received, from a wide spectrum of folks starting with friends and old classmates all the way to Jeopardy! fans on Twitter, has been TREMENDOUS. After my own thoughts, I’ll showcase some of the comments that made me laugh, smile, and/or cringe…

First, I am amazed how many people watch the show and still remember me! Even before it finished airing, I started getting messages from people I hadn’t talked to in years: “Saad, is that you on there?” I know I would be pretty surprised and excited if I saw an old acquaintance on TV, too!

For me, the most meaningful aspect of appearing on the show has been sharing this experience with the people I know. (Yes, this assessment takes into consideration the prize money, too.) Many of you wrote to me that you were watching with your families or other friends, and had those folks cheering for someone who’s a complete stranger to them. First, it’s awesome that you did this. Second, it makes me especially glad that I won, because while it’s cool to have a friend on TV, the excitement from that alone dissipates fairly quickly… you want something to high-five and holler about at the end!

Again, super-thanks to everyone who watched and cheered for me last week. I’ve learned some of you are huge fans of the show, and I appreciate the commentary on my appearance. Now, I leave you with actual posts from Twitter users. (Note: these posts are presented without editing or censoring, and keep in mind, too, that some people truly do say the first thing that comes to mind.) Read more…

Categories: Life Tags: , ,

Day 2 on Jeopardy!

July 13, 2010 13 comments

This is another in a series of posts about my experiences as a Jeopardy! contestant. Previously, I wrote about how I got there and my thoughts on the first game I played. Here, I write about the second game I played.

**SPOILER ALERT: Details of Tuesday, July 13 game appear below** Read more…

Categories: Life Tags: ,

Saad is a contestant on JEOPARDY! [part 2 w. In-Game Thoughts]

July 12, 2010 29 comments

Welcome back! In my last post, I described the lead-up to becoming a contestant on Jeopardy! including a section about what you don’t see on tv. Here, I will provide a “director’s cut” with my thoughts during the game.

By the time of my game, I wasn’t concerned about its outcome because just being at the studio as a contestant for a whole day made for an unforgettable experience, one that I knew I would be telling friends about for a long time.

**SPOILER ALERT** Everything after this point will reveal actual details from the game. Read more…

Categories: Life Tags: ,
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