Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tickets please.

What do I do for fun? I work.
And what do I do at work then? I have fun.

Being on Long Island without a car can be rather boring. People who can live their lives by the bus and train schedule set by transport offices that simply don't understand that people want to travel east and west at all times in the day will probably survive here. But me, I don't think I'd last.
Here are the "facts".
I live in the middle of Long Island, thirty miles east is my university and thirty miles west is NYC. In the morning, there is a massive temporary migration westward toward New York City from all over LI. And in the evening, the Wall Street/Connecticut/Midtown birdies fly back to their east nests. The transport offices safely assume that no one wants to go east in the morning (unless it is ridiculously early in the morning or too early in the noon) and no one wants to go west in the evening.
Hence, I got this splendid piece of machinery that has been the favorite relief area for many aerial beings for the past year and whose every part Pepboys has seen inside out. Literally. I shouldn't be complaining since it is fairly trouble free most of the year and is satisfied with cheap fuel once a week.
So one would be lead to believe that cars are the solution to transport issues on LI.
Hardly.

With a car, not only you spend thrice as much money on general items (insurance and fuel not included) but you also spend exactly the same amount of time finding a parking spot as you did driving to work, eventually parking in the farthest spot the university has. Even the cops don't know the spot exists so you can't get a ticket. Busier mornings see me parking in paid lots without enough change for the machine, getting tickets that I will appeal giving the most outrageous reasons. All the parking tickets I've paid in the last year are actually worth a small fortune back in India.
In winters, you spend a good hour in the morning shoveling your drive way to be able to get your car out, then shoving the snow off your car so that you can get into it and finally coax it to move with small nudges of the accelerator down the slippery local road. In the summer, your car doubles up as an oven where you can put the cheese on the bagel and leave it on the passenger side seat; breakfast will be ready in minutes (this summer I am going to try and make a pizza). You don't need a travel mug to carry your coffee either. Your car is the travel mug.

But all that given, I have a fairly eventless drive on the highway making it to work in thirty minutes while laughing at the westbound, slow-moving parking lot on the other side.

Color: Iridium
Song: Sasuraal genda phool

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bizzaro world

Being in an automobile accident is a strange feeling. One minute you are driving, then next minute you are not. Everything is blank and you are wondering why the hell you did what you did. At exactly the point when you are done, you realize a hundred better ways to do it. Graduate life is that way too. Life is that way too. A strange feeling.

We bring ourselves to accommodate so many things in a day. Inexplicably huge bills, unfair judgments, living away from home, calling America home, losing a week's worth of work by tripping on your shoelaces, unyielding people, yielding people, a messy kitchen, inadequate NY drivers, indifferent professors, incompetent AT&T staff, overzealous scientists (not the good kind), laptops that will freeze when you need them the most, lines that will be long when you have the least time, inconsiderate undergrads, expensive food that comes in pretentious portions, weighing scale numbers.
But somethings are just like a mismatched transplant organ. They don't fit into the scheme of your bodily function because rejection comes from your own immune system. The immune system that you built with years of playing in dirt, by eating tasteless green vegetables and chalk, by leaving wounds unattended and by associating with people that have the most contagious coughs and poxes will fight an excruciatingly painful battle that it will eventually lose to immunosuppressants. We build emotional immune systems too the same way. With years of playing in the vicinity of school yard bullies and show offs, by eating truth and lies, by leaving fights with friends unattended and by associating with people that have the most contagious cynicism and critique. This system too has been challenged with many an antigen (short for antipathy-generating), some that it remembers and fights against effectively second time around, some that usually come back with unrecognizable mutations and some that haunt it forever. The biggest rejection that this immune system will exhibit is the loss of a loved one. There are no drugs to make this bearable, there is no transplant that can make it better and no matter how frequent the occurrence, the acceptability is nil.
The effect is permanent and the amputation is visible.

Song: And so it is (Damien Rice)
Color: Sea green

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

0th.

So I found my groove in the unlikeliest of places. Pittsburgh. Sometime on my way to Duquesne Incline and back, I realized that I wanted to write (again). Not necessarily about my trip itself, but just write. It is like how I realized suddenly on my twenty-fourth birthday that all I ever want to do on a daily basis is science. It keeps me content, fidgety, thinking and constantly evaluating my intelligence.
That said, I'm going to pick up right where I left off.

The Zeroth Law of Graduatics.

I am not a lazy person. I am not an active person either. I classify myself as somewhat productive albeit capable of more. I would like to think I am a little above above-average. How much above, I don't know. When I take an IQ test, instead of focusing on the questions themselves, I invest time in prayers toward falling in the genius category. Needless to say, for the last five years I've been stuck at 131. The upper limit for the above average category is 130. That puts me just past the line in the Intelligent category.
This is a very unsettling place to be in. If I worked a little less hard, then I'd be above average. But if I worked a littler harder then I am settling deeper into "Intelligence".
This phenomenon is called Performance limbo.
That is where I am. And that is where my data is. When I look for reproducibility, my data is repeatable within the acceptable limits. But more often than not, on the upper end of the limit. If the acceptable limit is ±5%, then mine is most likely to be close to 5% error. I know people who will say 6% is also acceptable. Some might consider error bars close to 7, 8 and 9 too. I think until it is single digit, people might consider it to be valid data. But if it hits 10%, then it mostly needs another data set. So there is an allowed error limit for the allowed error. And so on.
This window of acceptability is so vague. So unacceptably vague.
What we need is a law of limits. For IQ ranges, for error bars, Speed limits, BAC limits, "Normal" behavior.
The Law of Limits states that the allowed variation in the allowed error is the same fraction as the allowed error itself. The decimal till which such error can be calculated is numerically equal to the allowed error expressed as a percentage rounded to the nearest whole number.

This is also known as the Zeroth law of Graduatics.

Color: Black and Gold
Song: Paper planes