Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Power Of Bullshit

Bullshitting, or technically speaking, the art of effective presentation aided by tools like exaggeration, right tone and facial features, big words and sometimes even bluffing, is much more important to the academic or technical field than one might think, as I came to know here through some seminars I attended recently.

All through college, I was used to seeing people who were good at bullshitting get away with their hurdles like project presentations, seminars , and most importantly, EXAMS, despite having not an ounce of technical content in their work. Theres also the other type of people, who know their stuff, and have content, but do not know how to put it well. They might put in more content than the former type of people, but the former type still has longer answers, more slides, bigger explanations, better diagrams. So the end result usually goes in favour of the bullshitter-who-knows-nothing than the Know-it-all-who-cant-bullshit.

(Comic strip courtesy phdcomics.com Check it out, theyre really awesome.)

Even at our major project presentations, we learnt that learning to speak confident, project your tone even though you dint really know what you were saying, presenting slides clearly, fully and in laymans terms, were of utmost importance to the profs. What you did in the project did matter, content was important, but it was nothing compared to the big presentation.

At a Ph.D confirmation of my friend X recently here, I learnt that the same applies to the whole academic community. My friend X : it was clear X had got results, fairly good findings in the field. But despite this, it was a hard time for X at the end, almost got screwed by the panel. Why? If my views are right, X lacked in presenting his views clearly. The panel was very much like what we had at NITC : Profs waiting to ask qusetions to screw the students. The questions asked were also similar : If u present one method, they ask if you have explored the other methods and why not, etc. X presented ok, not so forcefully, and neither could he answer his questions in a glamorous way or in laymans terms. He couldnt add the masala. He didnt look confident enough. And remember, these are the very principles of project presentation we learnt at NITC.

So people, next time you hear a guy and say "That guy is full of bullshit..", remember, that guy just might be closer to a Ph.D than you think :-).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Friday Syndrome

How many times have we got up on a Friday and thought "Oh Hell, the weekend is here, I might as well take leave today..". Or thought "I cant wait to be free.. " or "I must make plans for the weekend" or something like that. Friday - The last working day of the week, and the best of all too. I have come to notice this mental pattern, and we dubbed it the 'Friday Syndrome'.

It was common for us in College and even here in NTU, to consider Friday as an early start to the weekend. For that reason Friday is not like any other weekday, it is generally the least productive. Half the time is spent in deciding what to do for the weekend. People generally leave early on Fridays to get an early start to their weekends.

And yea, in college, most people used to bunk Fridays totally. In which case their weekend started one day before, and it used to become a 'Thursday syndrome' :-).

Ofcourse, everyone must be acquainted with "Monday syndrome" . The "I hate Mondays" feeling or "Monday-moodoffs" - Monday being the first working day always gets to be the worst. In particular, Monday first-hours were our most hated moments in life. The only thing worse used to be post-lunch sessions on Monday :-). Sometimes, an early manifestation of Monday syndrome appears on Sunday night, in which case the thought goes like "Oh my God, the weekend is over, now tomorrow its back to slogging our ass off again... Groooaaannn.. ".. I think I hate this syndrome even more than Monday (it would probably be "Sunday evening syndrome")

Anyways, so here I am on a Friday, hallucinating(/hoping/wishing) that despite being a working day, my weekend has already started off, and so I should start off my weekly posting :-)..

Monday, August 18, 2008

Open Office 3.Rocks !!

I'm hearing news about Open Office 3 beta version ! And the reports are so unbelievably great !

Open Office, the best Office suite in the world, has now further entrenched its position by blasting away with its 3rd version. Some hi-fi news about OO :

1. The presentation tool Impress is now way too cool, probably has beaten the best in the field. OO Impress even has Apple Keynote's functionality of multiple screens projection and next screen prompt etc.

2. OO owns PDF files as if they made it ! You can now handle and edit pdf files just like an office document !

3. OO can open Word 2007 files ! If the reader is aware from my previous posts on the OOXML controversy, you will understand the cream of the joke is on Microsoft. Because the latest Word format (.docx, .pptx etc) are not open formats, and thus their formatting/processing are not supposed to be known to anyone except Microsoft ! Well, nothing is impossible for the Open source community eh.. they have virtually hacked into Microsoft Words own format!

4. Open.office.Calc has superb features like Optimisation and Solving !

Just Cant Wait to get my hands on it. Well, what are you waiting for? Go


Friday, August 15, 2008

Independence.. is still to be fought for..

Happy Independence Day to All!! May this great nation achieve greater heights still.. May we own this century, like we rocked the world thousands of years ago once..

There's a national flag hoisting at the Indian Embassy of Singapore here.. Might be able to see it if i wake up at 6 tomorrow.. In other words, I wont be able to see it :-)..

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What is Research

That test tube you see on the left. Dont you feel it represents the term "Research" quite well more than anything else? Well nothing could be more wrong.

I never quite fully understood what research was. Or how it worked. How did people think of new ideas just like that? How did they find it? Do all researchers work in labs doing experiements ? etc etc

That was until I met a cousin of mine who was doing research in IMSc Chennai. I was more shocked by the fact that his 'experiments' were all conducted in a closed room that resembled more a cubicle in an IT company than a laboratory !

In fact, in IMSc, all research which spans physics, maths and computer science is done by 'research scholars', much like you and me, in closed rooms like this with AC. I was also amazed by the easy life they led, the fact that they actually got paid while enjoying life researching.

Now I have a fuller idea of it. My research centre, or 'Office', as I call it, at NTU, is called CEMNET. Centre for Multimedia and Networking. And trust me the only multimedia and networking they have is the pc speakers and the Internet on the computers installed at every terminal :-)

Advanced simulation techniques, mathematical modelling techniques, data-gathering techniques, database management systems : these 4 things have made it possible to conduct 'experiments', or research, in 'labs' with nothing more than a computer terminal in front of you ! Its an amazing concept ! So the result? Im no longer a scientist in a white labcoat with glasses and test-tubes, but rather just a guy in front of a terminal with G-chat open most of the time :-)

Well things may not be that easy,because research is nevertheless the most challenging thing anyways because it does'nt ensure results. You'll never know if what you were working on for the past 4 years will be useful or existent. And if it clicks, you have a Ph.D. If you dont, well, you're an unlucky loser, thats all. And in the initial part of research, you have to do a looot of study, literature survey, to keep up to date in the latest research in these fields you are going into. That itself is a hard process that may take upto one year or more, from what I see. And yes, its still a continuous process even when you're researching something new, you still have to keep yourself abreast of the technology by reading.

So basically, thats my job at the Cemnet now :-) Nerd off, read read read, and find everything that is written in my field. And then research to find something new so I can add to that ! Signing off now..

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Kitchen Laboratory

If you're staying outside India, food will definitely be one of your major expenses. So under this assumption we started our research strongly in the kitchen lab (instead of the DSP lab where we were intended to do so :-) ), and have been cooking well for some time now.

Ofcourse, the main thing is that when u cook it, whatever it is, tastes good. Here are some pics of what turned up at our latest experiment. It was (supposed to be like) Sambhar saadam. Theres some potato fries for company too.

One thing I learnt after coming here, even more than my college life, was to respect Mom's cooking. The first day we experimented with Rice and one easy curry we took around 2.5 whole hours to cook it! Its better now, but now I understand how much our mothers put in for us just by cooking 1 or even 2 curries for us daily.

Anyways, I guess 4 years is a long time, I have quite a lot of papers to present in this vast unexplored world of cooking :-)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The One-Month-Smoking experiment

(Wow, I reached a half-century of posts last time! And I dint even know it! Ok I'm not coming up with Singapore chronicles part 2 yet cos I dont have any photos, but what I'll do is post a story from one of my college-memories.)

I referred to it as the "One-month" experiment with Tobacco. Smoking. There was a great deal of talk (and I'm sure all of you know this) that once u get addicted to smoking properly its very hard to stop it all of a sudden, and u can do it only gradually. So this guy at our college wanted to test it out. No names, sorry.

The experiment : Mr X decided to start smoking one fine day. Continuously. In chain fashion. Packs after packs per day. He would do this suddenly and continuously for one month. And then, at the end of 30 days, he would (attempt to) stop it fully! Just like that!

It was an experiment not only to test the addiction of tobacco but also the guys self-control. It was a bad idea, doing that with his own life and health. We were all critical.. What if the guy failed the expt and did get addicted?

As everyone knows, quitting smoking is hard both physically and mentally. Physically, a smoker who stops for even a day, will experience headaches, tirednes, restlessness, and even problems in going to the loo ! (courtesty : friends of mine) Mentally, its hell, really.. you cant keep your mind under control for its cravings, its just restless, and you even lose your mood and isolate yourself from friends. I think these are called the withdrawal symptoms.

I underestimated the power of tobacco myself once. The first time i tried it out I hated it and hence took an oath never to do it again. But amazingly after a few weeks i started fancying another smoke! And to be honest, the first one dint even give me a high and tasted particularly bad too! I was amazed at how tobacco had fooled me! Needless to say, I did have a few smokes after that, but it stopped with college anyways, well, I got from it what change I wanted by testing it.

The point is that Tobacco is a highly underestimated, misunderstood evil, which in my opinion is worse than alcohol but sometimes not feared as much even. No wonder its so badly common then. A recent documentary i saw rates tobacco as the number 9 most dangerous drug on the list. And it comes above Cannabis, Ecstasy and LSD ! And the worst part? Its out there still, so common, that you yourself have a passive puff sometimes..

Anyways, Good news. Because after all this, Mr.X passed the one-month Test ! He stopped smoking one fine day after 30 days ! So, well, I guess the situation is more hopeful than we think finally.