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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: ,

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…

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Saad is a contestant on JEOPARDY! [part 1]

July 4, 2010 25 comments

(I updated the entry on July 8 to provide more detail about what you don’t get to see on TV.)

The Essentials

What: watch JEOPARDY!

In the 2nd commercial break, everyone gets their photo taken with the man.

Date: Monday, July 12

Time: check your local listings

This blog post [part 1] describes (a) the lead-up to how I ended up being a contestant on Jeopardy! and (b) my experiences at the studio in Los Angeles.  After the show airs on July 12, I will post [part 2] describing my in-game thoughts.  To get the [part 2] post by email, use the link on the right sidebar “Sign up to receive email notification of new posts!”

The Lead-up

Becoming a contestant on Jeopardy! was a happy accident, because I didn’t know the online test even existed until January 2008. I had driven from Nashville to New Mexico for an internship and I was staying with my friend Guillaume while I searched for my own place to stay. His wife, Raea, told us that the online test would be open that time, so I decided to try it with them. All I remember is that the test questions went by quickly. Four months later, I received an automated email inviting me to an audition in Dallas the following month. The timing for the audition was not great, because I was presenting at a conference in Phoenix the day before and would have to fly out very early the day of the audition. Inevitably, I overslept and got to see my plane back away from the gate, but luckily I got on the next plane and was able to grab a quick lunch before getting to the audition site.

There were several parts to the audition. We started by completing interview fact sheets and being photographed with a Polaroid camera by the Jeopardy! staff. Next was another test, this time written. Finally, we stood at the front of the room, three at a time, and played a mock game. In the game portion, I struggled with the buzzer, reaching a point where I just wanted to ring in first. I remember buzzing in at least once with no notion of the correct answer, happy only to get the timing correct. After the game portion, the contestants were interviewed by the staff including one producer, Maggie. I thought I did better on this part (thanks, in big part, to having started Toastmasters three months earlier) but nothing about my game play suggested that I could compete on the actual show. On top of that, I thought I looked frazzled from my travel. I figured that I had no chance of passing this stage. They told us that we would be placed in a contestant pool for 18 months, and if we didn’t hear from them in that time, I inferred that things ended there. Read more…

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