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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Switching from the Chair to the Bed

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The Fall ACS meeting, held in Washington DC, is over and I can get back to breathing. The CINF program at the meeting was excellent (but I’m biased) with a variety of symposia. Notable amongst them was the Herman Skolnik symposium, honoring this years Herman Skolnik awardee, Yvonne Martin. Of all the talks, two that caught my eye. Jonathan Goodmans’ talk showed the first case of an InChI key collision, which appears to have been confirmed by ChemSpider and Symyx. The second talk was by Anthony Nicholls of OpenEye at the Herman Skolnik symposium. He discussed the issue of ‘hyperparametric modeling’, i.e., the fact that many types of models ranging from QSAR to molecular dynamics and ab initio methods are over paarmetrized. While this problem is very obvious in QSAR modeling (hence feature selection), the implicit parametrization in things like force fields, ab initio methods is not always obvious. He also discussed issues with model validation techniques such as cross-validation and y-scrambling and suggested techniques that might be better to assess a model. In essence he suggests that we will be more rigorous about model quality when we start assesing the “risk” of a bad model, rather than just how well the model fits the data (which can obviously be misleading). While these ideas are not brand new, the examples and the presentation were eye opening. The last talk in General Papers on Thursday was also quite interesting – B.-Y. Jin spoke about topological rules defining the structures of various nanotube and fullerene structures and how he had been constructing them as bead models. Examples of them can be found on his blog .

I was also involved in organizing a symposium on scripting and programming with COMP. We initially feared that the topic might be too geeky, but we were pleasntly surprised by the size of the audience. We had speakers talking about their favorite languages and how they do modeling and cheminformatics using them. I spoke about R and rcdk – which turned out to be so hot that we were interrupted by a fire alarm (three times!)

On the social events side of things, it was good to meet up with old friends and make new ones. CINF hosted a number of receptions, all excellent. A dinner for CINF functionaries was held at Zaytinya – a Mediterranean tapas restaurant. All I can say is: mindblowing! I had never realized that shrimp and dill could be such a killer combination. The Blue Obelisk dinner was held at PS7, serving eclectic American cuisine. The food was nice, though the service wasn’t too great.

But I have a few days to rest, after which I’ll get on to the San Francisco program (which I must say, is looking very cool)

Written by Rajarshi Guha

August 20th, 2009 at 11:51 pm

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Back from the Mountains and the Desert

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Got back from the ACS meeting in Salt Lake City. As usual, quite a hectic week, more so this time since this was the first meeting in which I was Program Chair for CINF. With the exception of a few glitches, I think it went well – especially our first talk given via Skype! Met up with lots of people, old friends and new, and got lots of input for future programming – very interesting stuff coming up in the next few meetings.

Blue Obelisk Dinner

Blue Obelisk Dinner

I must recommend the Hotel Monaco -  a boutique hotel, slightly expensive but very good value (excellent rooms, free wireless access, complimentary wine tasting). Also across the road was Seigfrieds Deli, which served very good German cuisine. We also had a Blue Obelisk meeting at Martine – which served great tapas (and their dipping olive oil was the best I’ve ever had).

After the meeting, I met up with my wife in Las Vegas (not a place I’d like to visit again) and then headed to Death Valley for two days. Such a short time is not enough to do justice to the place. The landscape is  both breathtaking and humbling. Luckily it wasn’t scorching yet, but we worked up a good sweat on some hikes. It still amazes me that life will find a way to survive in extreme conditions – I had always thought of Death Valley as desolate, but in fact, it teems with life. I suppose I’ll have to visit the Gobi or Atacama to experience real desolation.

Written by Rajarshi Guha

March 30th, 2009 at 7:59 pm

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The Wonders of a Cast Iron Skillet

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Being fond of cooking, I’ve tended to collect recipes, utensils and gadgets. One thing that had been missing was a cast iron skillet. I’d been hearing about the wonders of these (naturally non-stick over time, holds heat, evenly distributes heat) for a long time and have been disillusioned with the non-stick stuff (though a small non-stick pan for eggs is handy). So we finally decided to pick up a Lodge cast iron skillet. Though it’s sold as pre-seasoned, we seasoned it once before use.

Our first attempt at using it was to make pan seared steak for Christmas lunch, using directions (1, 2)  from Alton Brown. A juicy 12 oz ribeye, seasoned with kosher salt and coarse ground pepper. Seared for 90 s on the oven top and then put into a 500F oven for 3 minutes each side resulted in a beautiful medium steak. While the steak was resting, we put together a simple sauce with red wine, shallots and the brown bits from the pan.

The result was heavenly! Looks like cooking will be fun with the new skillet.

steak1

Written by Rajarshi Guha

December 26th, 2008 at 8:15 pm

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