Jun 26, 2009

Banning the burqa is not the solution, but it's a start

French President Sarkozy recently reignited the debate over the burqa or the veil that some Muslim women wear. He said that the
...burqa is not a religious sign. It is a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.
I disagree with the French president...but only with the second part of this quote. But first, let me preface my argument with my own thoughts on the the burqa, also spelled as burka and may be referred to as the hijab or the chador as well. (In this post, I am referring only to the complete head to toe burqa, with perhaps a slit or netting for the eyes. In this outfit, the face is not visible. The headscarf is something very different, and is what some women in my family back home in Pakistan wear.)

I believe that the burqa really is a construct of a misogynistic and feudal society. And there is no doubting the fact that Islamic societies have suppressed the rights of women for as long as one can remember. The cause of this evil (and it really is evil...) is not Islam, however, because Islam was meant to be the cure. In its purest form, Islamic teachings do make valiant efforts to raise the status of women, but these teachings have fallen to deaf ears. The real reason in my opinion, is illiteracy, and the fact that Islam spread like wildfire through lands that were already pagan, uneducated, and heavily misogynistic. Islam was meant to heal these ancient feudal lands of this backbreaking curse on women, but has instead become associated with women's rights violations. But that is the past, yet today things have not changed much. Therefore, in this day and age, Islamic leaders and followers deserve the blame for the imbalance of power between the sexes.

Moreover, I don't see how the burqa helps a woman as I believe it disconnects her from society at large, especially Western society. And it is unfortunate that it is mostly Western leadership that is denouncing the veil. Jack Straw, the former British foreign Minister once wrote that, "wearing the full veil was bound to make better, positive relations between the two communities more difficult". This careful statement is completely true, and besides the obvious community aspects, the head to toe covering must be unbearably uncomfortable. I can not fathom how a woman enjoys wearing something completely covering her up and is barely able to walk. It's also a safety issue. I've seen women driving with their faces covered, and its obvious to see that their peripheral vision is limited. That's just as dangerous as driving with your eyes closed.

However, even after all this, I believe it is the right of any woman to decide whether she wants to wear a burqa or not. We must recognize the fact that not all women wear the veil on their own free will. Let's not be naive here. There is immense pressure on women to wear the veil, especially if her community at large wears it. In fact most women don't even have the choice to NOT wear the veil. In these situations, both the Islamic leadership and the country in question, must provide avenues for discussion, and safety for the woman who decides against the burqa. If women choose not to wear the veil, then they should be allowed to do so, with adequate protection from their community and country. I believe the President Sarkozy should communicate with Muslim leadership in his country and convey such a point. Banning the veil outright, and imposing his belief system on another person is just plain wrong, to quote my brother.

Muslims (mostly men) around the world have been incensed with the French president's stance. They all believe that Muslim women must have the right to choose to wear the burqa. That's no problem. But these same Muslims must realize that they must provide their women with the right to NOT choose to wear the burqa as well. And that's really where the problem stems. President Sarkozy recognizes that Muslims societies are not willing to give up this stranglehold on women and what they wear. Wearing the burqa has become such an integral part of Muslim societies that people don't realize that its not an Islamic practice in the first place. And even if some sects believe that it is a integral practice, then they must allow their women the choose to wear it or not. And it is these women that must be protected. The issue isn't Jack Straw or President Sarkozy being racists against Islam, but the problem is that Islamic societies are unwilling to change and unwilling to remove the sexist policies of their uneducated, pagan past.

Jun 10, 2009

New 'words' in the English language are stupid

So the Global Language Monitor just announced that the number of words in the English language exceeded 1 million this morning at 10:22am. Since it's 11am right now, most people would incorrectly deduce that I was awaiting this event with bated breath. Well, actually the millionth word was added according to Stratford-on Avon Time so I'm about 5 hours behind and slightly less of a loser.

Anyway, I think some of the new words are ridiculous. The millionth word is actually 'web 2.0' meaning "
The next generation of web products and services, coming soon to a browser near you". Firstly, isn't that a word and a number? And secondly do we really need to add such a silly word to our vocabulary.

The stupidity doesn't end here. Some of the words that lost out by not becoming the millionth word are:
Jai Ho!, N00b, Slumdog, Cloud Computing, Carbon Neutral, Slow Food, Octomom etc.

You get the idea. Some of these words are slang, some are movie titles, and some are words in an another language. Now of course I understand that many words like veranda, chutney, kama sutra, actually originate in foreign languages, but that process took decades. In fact, a large majority of native English speakers know these words and use them in every day language. I obviously don't agree that the majority should know the word before it is officially incorporated (and by no means is the Global Language Monitor official), but there needs to be a lower limit as well. Where a certain proportion of the population needs to understand the meaning. After all, the only thing "Jai ho!" has going for it, is a Pussycat Dolls remix.

I'm not alone in finding this silly. According to their website, a number of linguists disagree with putting a number on words in a language...
Linguists believe that there is no way to count words, since the nature of what a word is, itself, is in dispute. Hence you cannot count what you cannot define. More so, even attempting to take a measure of the language is to be condemned.
Well, I'm certainly no linguist or expert in the matter, but I'm interested to see what my friends in linguistics think about this...


Jun 4, 2009

Protein folding and docking on the Playstation

Folding@home, as most people in the field would know, is the massively distributed protein folding simulation. As far as I remember, users around the globe can download a screen saver and contribute their idle computer processors to aid explicit (and recently implicit) solvent simulations of proteins folding and/or misfolding. Understanding this process is therapeutically important, as I have pointed out in an earlier post.Recently, a friend of mine mentioned that people had begun using Playstation consoles as a more than adequate substitute for expensive, and cumbersome nodes which are commonly used in computer clusters. The reason for this is that modern games require such heavy graphics and processor power, that the Playstations are computationally very efficient. Moreover, due to their popularity, the cost of a single Playstation is quite cheap, and the technology is very well developed. It makes sense that scientists involved in biological simulations have caught on. Folding@home and Sony have recently got together, making even idle Playstations useful.

It's not just protein folding, but the powerful playstations can be used for other computationally demanding assignments such as ligand docking. I just read that Simbiosys has released a version of their docking software for the PS3.

To lower the cost and power consumption typically associated with compound-library-screening programs, SimBioSys has also released eHiTS Lightning. This package combines the 2009 eHiTS software with IBM's Cell/B.E. chip multiprocessor, found in the Sony PlayStation 3, to achieve a 10-fold increase in computational speed. The PlayStation 3 hardware (shown) replaces some of the expensive computer infrastructure required for virtual screening programs, opening up computer-aided drug design to smaller companies previously unable to afford it.
Pretty damn cool!

May 26, 2009

Roku rocks! Netflix streaming video, right to my television!

When Netflix launched their video streaming service, I was ecstatic. Being able to watch a movie on my computer anytime I wanted to, was spectacular convenient. And having been part of a generation, who are more than used to watching movies on our tiny laptops, this form of media delivery, with its smaller screens, overheating laptops on our laps, and terrible sound, did not bother me at all. (On a side note, I still remember how shocked I was to see commercials while watching Family Guy for the first time on TV. The reason being, I was part of the vast number of people who had only seen Family Guy and other shows like it via P2P networks.) Of course the convenience of instantly watching needs to be offset by something, and that something is a reduced library of movies and shows which can be watched instantly. So Netflix doesn't offer its full range of media, but it still lets you watch about 50,000+ things. And it's unlimited viewing via streaming for $8.99 a month.

Sp recently my brother told me about his latest purchase, the Roku player.This player streams the available Netflix movies and shows via the Internet right to your television. It can use your wireless Internet as well, is sometimes in high definition depending on the movie, and moreover, it requires no subscription, just a one time cost of $99, plus of course a monthly Netflix subscription. However, I would buy the HDMI cable from Amazon or something, as its about 10 times cheaper than buying it from the Roku website.

Anyway, I love this device. It's so much better to watch stuff on my television than on my laptop. Plus some movies are in HD, so the picture is a lot better. And the amount of shows available are more than enough for someone like me, who is always about 5 seasons behind everything. Plus I'm into independent and art house movies, and recently I've been obsessed with re-watching the classics, so I'm more than happy with the variety that Netflix and Roku provide. The Roku player for streaming Netflix movies is one of the most affordable and useful pieces of tech out there right now. I can't see myself ever living without one.

Movie recommendation: The Man from Earth

"The Man from Earth" is a fantastic science fiction movie touching upon arguably the most sensitive topic known to man, religion. The screen play is brilliant and though its a short film, it is unnervingly captivating, and does not come off in any way, as cheesy or ridiculous. The story is about a protagonist professor, John Oldman, who is leaving the university he works at and moving away, out of the blue. When pressed by his friends as to why he is leaving, he reveals for the first time to anyone, that he is actually about 14,000 years old and was once a caveman, and since he doesn't age, he needs to keep on moving along from one point to another every 10 years or so, to avoid suspicion. Thus the entire movie is an intellectual discourse amongst the skeptical guests at his going away party. These guests include a historian, a biologist, an anthropologist, an archaeologist and a religious scholar and they all grapple with the remote possibility that someone might actually be able to live this long, yet have no way to prove it, be a part of history as well, and more importantly, be a religious figure. In a shocking twist, Oldman reveals that he became a follower of Buddha after meeting him in India. After Buddha's death, he decided to spread Buddha's teachings of tolerence and peace and travelled across the world preaching. People didn't listen to him, they spited him and so on and eventually they crucified him. But John just let his muscles relax and pretended to die, using meditation he had learned while traveling through India. His audience is flabbergasted as, incredibly, Oldman had just claimed to actually be Jesus Christ!
Anyway, I certainly cannot explain this movie as well as wikipedia or the movie itself, so I'm not going to even going to try. But I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys science fiction, or who thinks about religion and the meaning of life. At the very least, this movie has the ability to spark discussions.

I certainly felt this movie was thought-provoking, I was frightened at some points, inspired at others, but at the end, I was aching to talk to someone about it.

May 10, 2009

Community targeted advertisements - Only in New Jersey...

Check out this flier I got in the mail the other day. I was so amused to read "TASTE KI BAAT HAI!" on top. I was even more surprised to see that it was from McDonald's, who are currently in the midst of promoting their new coffee drinks.

So for those of you who don't speak Urdu, "TASTE KI BAAT HAI!" means something like "It's about the taste".

I guess they probably found me through my name. But the concept of targeted advertising is quite interesting nevertheless. I don't know if community targeted advertisements are supposed to work better than just ones in plain English, but one thing is for certain. This can only happen in New Jersey!

Apr 19, 2009

Recent op-eds about Pakistan paint a dire picture

Recent op-eds in various newspapers have painted a terribly dire picture of Pakistan's current situation and future prospects. The opinion pieces that one reads every once in a while about Pakistan, aren't usually particularly rosy, but this sudden clumping of articles over the past few weeks is worrisome as the situation gets progressively worse.

The stranglehold of the Taliban in the northwest, the flogging of a peasant girl, and the peace treaty with Taliban forces have dominated headlines, sparked debate, and have caught the elite in Pakistan and the bourgeoisie by surprise. However the news item that bothered me the most, and if true, will be the biggest threat to the country's stability, is the possible Talibanization of Punjab, which is the heart of Pakistan. A recent New York Times article entitled, "United Militants Threaten Pakistan's Populous Heart" reported the following:

Telltale signs of creeping militancy abound in a belt of towns and villages near here that a reporter visited last week. Militants have gained strength considerably in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan, which is a gateway both to Taliban-controlled areas and the heart of Punjab, the police and local residents say. Many were terrified. Some villages, just north of here, are so deeply infiltrated by militants that they are already considered no-go zones by their neighbors.

In at least five towns in southern and western Punjab, including the midsize hub of Multan, barber shops, music stores and Internet cafes offensive to the militants’ strict interpretation of Islam have received threats. Traditional ceremonies that include drumming and dancing have been halted in some areas. Hard-line ideologues have addressed large crowds to push their idea of Islamic revolution. Sectarian attacks, dormant here since the 1990s, have erupted once again.

Sadly, the Taliban are exposing one of the biggest weaknesses in Pakistan, and that is the disconnect between the peasants and the ruling class. They are simply providing these peasants an alternative rule. Pakistani feudal lords and the government have had a stranglehold on the livelihoods of the poor, leaving them frustrated and aching for change. The Taliban are simply filling the void.

...people complain that landowners and local politicians have done nothing to stop the advance and, in some cases, even assist the militants by giving money to some of the religious schools.

“The government is useless,” said Mr. Ali, the local landlord. “They live happy, secure lives in Lahore. Their children study abroad. They only come here to contest elections.”

The police are left alone to stop the advance. But in Punjab, as in much of the rest of Pakistan, they are spread unevenly, with little presence in rural areas. Out of 160,000 police officers in Punjab, fewer than 60,000 are posted in rural areas, leaving frontier stations in districts virtually unprotected, police officials said.

Locals feel helpless. When a 15-year-old boy vanished from a madrasa in a village near here recently — his classmates said to go on jihad — his uncle could not afford to go look for him, let alone confront the powerful men who run the madrasa.

“We are simple people,” the man said. “What can we do?”

I've always felt that what Pakistan needs is a revolution from the ground up. With the poor standing up to the feudal lords, fighting for better pay, for better schools and job opportunities for their children. I just wish it wasn't in concordance with the Taliban. Armchair Pakistani's like myself, aren't the only ones worried. According to the following article, entitled, "Pakistan on course to becoming Islamist State", Western intelligence officials agree that Talibanization is spreading fast.

"The place is beyond redemption," said a Pentagon adviser who asked not to be further identified so he could speak freely. "I don't see any plausible scenario under which the present government or its most likely successor will mobilize the economic, political and security resources to push back this rising tide of violence.

"I think Pakistan is moving toward a situation where the extremists control virtually all of the countryside and the government controls only the urban centers," he continued. "If you look out 10 years, I think the government will be overrun by Islamic militants."

That pessimistic view of Pakistan's future has been bolstered by Islamabad's surrender this week for the first time of areas outside the frontier tribal region to Pakistan's Taliban movement and by a growing militant infiltration of Karachi , the nation's financial center, and the industrial and political heartland province of Punjab, in part to evade U.S. drone strikes in the tribal belt.

The Taliban aren't the only ones that are feeding off the discontent sweeping the masses. A recent Atlantic piece talks about the discontent Baluchi's and summarizes that...

With its “Islamic” nuclear bomb, Taliban- and al-Qaeda-infested borderlands, dysfunctional cities, and feuding ethnic groups, Pakistan may well be the world’s most dangerous country, a nuclear Yugoslavia-in-the-making. One key to its fate is the future of Gwadar, a strategic port whose development will either unlock the riches of Central Asia, or plunge Pakistan into a savage, and potentially terminal, civil war.
...and ends with a short interview with a Baluchi freedom fighter who is determined to gain Baluchi autonomy and rid the province of Pakistani influence...

Nisar Baluch was the warm-up to Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, the chief of the Marri tribe of Baluch, a man who had been engaged in combat with government forces off and on for 50 years, and whose son had recently been killed by Pakistani troops. Marri greeted me in his Karachi villa, with massive exterior walls, giant plants, and ornate furniture. He was old and wizened, and walked with a cane. Marri spoke a precise, hesitant, whispering English that, combined with his robe and beige topee and the setting, gave him a certain charisma.

“If we keep fighting,” he told me gently, “we will ignite an intifada like the Palestinians’. It is the cause of my optimism that the young generation of Baluch will sustain a guerrilla war. Pakistan is not eternal. It is not likely to last. The British Empire, Pakistan, Burma—these have all been temporary creations.

“After Bangladesh left Pakistan,” Marri continued, in his mild and lecturing tone, “the only dynamic left within this country was the imperialist power of the Punjabi army. East Bengal was the most important element in Pakistan. The Bengalis were numerous enough to take on the Punjabis, but they seceded. Now the only option left for the Baluch is to fight.” He liked and trusted no one in Pakistan who was not Baluch, he told me.

And what about Punjabi overtures to make amends with the Baluch?, I asked.

“We say to these Punjabis”—still in his sweet, regal voice—“‘Leave us alone. Get lost. We don’t need your direction, your brotherliness.’ If Punjab continues to occupy us with the help of the American imperialists, then eventually our name will be nowhere in the soil.”

Marri explained that Baluchistan overlaps three countries—Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan—and would eventually triumph, as the central governments of all those lands weakened. Gwadar, in his view, was just the latest Punjabi plot that would prove temporary. The Baluch would bomb the roads and pipelines leading out of the town.

Plus it won't be long before Pakistan's allies desert it. The central government needs to prioritize and the army needs to stop focusing on India as its primary target. Frustration in the US is rising. A recent Boston Globe article talks about Pakistan juggling between supported the Taliban in order to keep getting aid, and pretending to chase after them as well.

The ISI's puppet show in Afghanistan enables Pakistan to prevent not only India but also Iran and Russia from gaining too much of a foothold in Afghanistan. The double game also brings Pakistan $1 billion a year in military aid from the United States.

This is how the game works: The army and the ISI hunt down Al Qaeda figures for the United States and have no compunctions about striking hard against Islamist radicals who want to seize power in Pakistan. These actions make Pakistan a valued US ally in the war on terror. But at the same time, Pakistan has an interest in keeping the jihadist pot boiling in Afghanistan. As long as the Taliban and kindred groups are in the field, American military aid continues coming in, and India is kept at bay.

It's a sad situation and I can't find the words to bind together all these articles because there is truth to all of them. Things are spiraling out of control. I've always defended Pakistan's status as a "failed state"....but I fear that it is beyond failure now.

Apr 18, 2009

Why do snakes keep escaping inside planes?

If you're going to carry snakes on a plane, then wouldn't it be advisable to put them in a secure container? Turns out last week, some pythons escaped on a Qantas Airways flight!

The snakes, just six inches long, were among 12 Stimson's pythons being flown from Alice Springs to Melbourne. At first it was thought the reptiles may have been eaten by the other snakes, but this was discounted after they were weighed on landing. Passengers were transferred to other aircraft. The jet was fumigated but the snakes' bodies are yet to be found. "They're not endangered so a decision was made to fumigate...if these snakes turn up they will be very much dead snakes," David Epstein of Qantas said.
Let's hope they find them alive.

But the questions remain unanswered: How do these damn creatures keep escaping? And secondly, why do we feel the need to keep transporting snakes on planes? This isn't the first time snakes have escaped. I've talked about this a few years back!

By now you must realize that I like talking about snakes a lot. But I don't really like them. In fact, I'm terrified of them. I think being surrounded by snakes is as awful a death as being surrounded by sharks. But I find these critters fascinating, because for some oddball reason, snake movies rock! I'm sorry, fans of Jaws, but shark movies do not rock. Read my top 10 snake movies list (it's actually just 8!) for convincing evidence.

Apr 15, 2009

My thoughts on the retired Indian colonel's letter to General Kayani

I'm in two minds about the suggestions in this letter outlined by retired Indian colonel, Harish Puri. Colonel Puri like most of us, is horrified by flogging of a teenage girl, within the borders of Pakistan. He writes...
...the video of the teenager being flogged represents an even more abject surrender by the Pakistani Army. The surrender in 1971, though humiliating, was not disgraceful. This time around, sir, what happened on your watch was something no Army commander should have to live through. The girl could have been your own daughter, or mine.
However, I'm not shocked by the imposition of Sharia law in the northwest to appease the Talibanesque community that resides there. After all, we've had Sharia based law in all of Pakistan during the 80's. And that area has never really been under the control of the central government.
I, like most like-minded individuals wouldn't mind seeing the Taliban blasted into the sky. However, that's not going to cure the disease. The ideal situation would be to provide security for the people of this region, allow them to live their lives WITHOUT the Taliban influence, and gradually weed out ignorance that spawns them, with education. The army can definitely help with security for schools, infrastructure and provide stability to the region.

But the onus is upon the educated citizens of Pakistan, the middle class, the urban elite. They have to stand up in unison, against the influence of the Taliban, against possible future military intervention in the political arena, and aggressively towards focusing on the education and of our women and children. At least the Indian colonel sees a glimmer of hope....
But in the gloom and the ignominy, the average Pakistani citizen has shown us that there is hope yet. The lawyers, the media, have all refused to buckle even under direct threats. It took the Taliban no less than 32 bullets to still the voice of a brave journalist. Yes, there is hope – but why don't we hear the same language from you? Look to these brave hearts, sir – and maybe we shall see the tide turn. Our prayers are with you, and the hapless people of Swat.

Mar 30, 2009

Ever heard of the female shopping cycle?

So a recent study has linked shopping splurges to the menstrual cycle. It claims that...
...In the ten days before their periods begin women are more likely to make extravagant impulse buys, according to researchers. Psychologists believe that shopping sprees could be a way for premenstrual women to deal with the negative emotions created by their hormonal changes.

For the study 443 women were asked about their shopping patterns. The 153 women in the sample who were in the later stages of their menstrual cycle tended to have less control of their spending.

Professor Karen Pine of Hertfordshire University, who led the survey, told the Daily Mail: "Spending was less controlled, more impulsive and more excessive for women in the luteal phase [the days immediately before their period].

"The spending behaviour tends to be a reaction to intense emotions. They are feeling very stressed or depressed and are more likely to go shopping to cheer themselves up and using it to regulate emotions."

She added: "It is also a socially sanctioned way to deal with emotional overload compared to turning to drink or drugs.

"If women are worried about their spending behaviour then they should avoid going shopping at the end of their menstrual cycle."

Hmm. I always wondered why women at the shopping mall seem so perplexed!

I'm temporarily deactivating myself from facebook

I love facebook, but I'm addicted to it. I literally log on to it first thing in the morning and it's always the last thing I check before sleeping. Even while procrastinating during work or day dreaming or while watching tv, I subconsciously log on and start browsing the facebook profiles, notes and pictures of people, most of whom I don't really care about, nor will I ever meet...ever again in life. Its really sad.

I really need to focus in the next few months, so I'm going to do a little experiment here and deactivate myself temporarily from facebook. (Interesting to note that I think its not possible to delete ones account, which is kind of wierd and a little dangerous.)

Anyway, so let's see how long this experiment lasts and how productive I am. I certainly hope I'm a lot more productive. I'll still keep on blogging though, so the 3 people who follow my blog are still entertained. Woo hoo!

How has it been thus far? Well, too early to tell as today is my first day without facebook. It hasn't even been 24 hours since I deactivated my account, and I'm already having withdrawal effects. There seriously must be some medical term for Internet addition. If not, it needs to be considered. So I've been to the site 3 times before realizing that I can't log on. Of those 3 times, I plugged in my user name and password once before realizing it. This is madness!

Mar 24, 2009

Rutgers tuition amongst the highest for public universities - but is it worth it?

The undergraduate tuition at Rutgers University is notoriously high, but a recent report by California's Post secondary Education Commission caught my eye. This report compares fees at California's educational institutions, with those around the country and at the top of list, lies Rutgers, Newark (though a quick check at the Rutgers, New Brunswick website will tell you that the other campuses have around the same cost). This is a sad state of affairs for New Jersey, and its bound to get worse as Gov. Corzine is again reducing the amount of funding for Rutgers.

On the bright side, Rutgers has been prepared for this for a while now, and already has one of the lowest operating costs in the country. According to this news article...
Somehow, Rutgers has managed to survive thus far with its name and its glitter fully intact, even in the face of the sliding state figures. It's a wonder, when school leaders have had to cut hundreds of classes and positions. Or when tuition has soared by more than 10 percent in certain years. Or when one realizes that New Jersey now ranks in the bottom 10 states in tax funds spent for operating expenses of higher education per $1,000 of personal income, with a rate below $5.50; the U.S. median is $7.50.
Moreover, the education is still worth it. A recent study by SmartMoney.com debating the pros and cons of private colleges vs public colleges using a measure called 'payback' indicated that payback at most public universities is a lot higher than private colleges. This payback takes into account the higher cost of education at these private universities. The website just lists the top 5 public universities, but Rutgers admissions has the list of top 10, because its ranked 6 on that list. This is pretty cool and I've posted a picture of the list.

Mar 22, 2009

It's all about the numbers - landing an interview by pumping out your resume

A friend of mine recently commented about how she didn't land an interview for some internship that she applied to. It was disappointing, naturally, but what I couldn't figure out was why she applied to just a handful of internships. After all, from the human resources point of view, it really is all about the numbers, regardless of how well the economy is doing (Although obviously, in better economic times, you are more likely to get interviewed).

I think that one needs to apply to tens of hundreds of jobs in order to get your resume even looked at, and this is how I have chosen to explain this:

Let's assume that the probability of you landing an interview for one job application is p. Therefore the probability of you not landing an interview is 1-p. And if you apply to n jobs, then the probability of you not landing any interview is (1-p)^n. And the probability of you landing at least one interview is 1 - (1-p)^n. So if I would want my chances of getting an interview to be more than 50%, the equation I would need to solve is: 1 - (1-p)^n > 0.5.

Simple enough. So let's select some random probabilities of getting an interview for p.

If the probability of getting an interview is = 0.1, then you need to send out 7 resumes in order guarantee yourself at least 1 interview.

Obviously 0.1 is a really high probability, unless you are a genius, so let's work with some more realistic ones.

if p = 0.01, then n needs to be 69 job applications.
if p = 0.001, then n needs to be 693 job applications.

Well, you get the idea. In order to maximize the chance of you landing an interview, you really need to pump out that resume to as many places as possible. Obviously this model is extremely simple, with several non-realistic assumptions, but I feel that, generally speaking, this idea holds true.

Sadly, since its not at all possible these days, we have to wait for 693 jobs to open up. And after that, we still need to ace the interview. And I don't have an probabilistic scenarios or models for that. That's all on you!

Mar 10, 2009

Money saving tips from crazy people

In these harsh economic times, saving money is on everyone's mind. Google is now moderating a website called 'Tip Jar' where it gathers tips from users and various websites. Readers can rank these tips and the ones that are ranked highest, obviously pop up first. A lot of them are quite sensible, but some near the bottom of the page are just plain stupid. I'll share the ones I find most amusing.
"Breast feed your children for the health benefits (to mother and child) and take the cost savings of not buying formula and bottles as an added bonus. Even with the costs of a breast pump and storage supplies, you'll still come out way ahead."

Health: "Using a cotton ball, apply vodka to your face as an astringent to cleanse the skin and tighten pores"

Tech: "Use google maps to create a cultural/contextual map of your community"

Misc: "Take the extra time to spell things correctly - it shows you care about who's reading what you've written. Grammar, spelling and punctuation are often overlooked when communicating via the Internet."

Misc: "Do not eat yellow snow."

Mar 8, 2009

Lack of unselfish attractive women driving force behind being single

A female friend of mine and I were talking about dating in broad terms and she mused upon the fact that one often sees an 'attractive' girl on the arm of an 'average' looking guy. She says its really rare to see a really good looking guy with an average looking girl. Her reasoning was that women are a lot less picky about a guy's looks. Guy's on the other hand, she claimed, are extremely picky and care more about the girls looks. We may argue as to what the reasons for this are, but one can't argue against this observable trend. Her observations are quite on the spot.

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and these are subjective terms of description, but one can make a few assumptions, build a simple model and see what the conclusions are. And if I offend anyone along the way...too bad.

  1. Attractive women prefer attractive men and average men equally
  2. Assume a global scale of attractiveness, with attractive and average the only two categories
  3. Random mixing of both sexes
  4. Complete mixing towards a steady state
  5. Maximum likelihood estimates of probabilities at equilibrium
  6. Let attractive girls be the driving force behind dating
Method and Results:
  • Let x be the proportion of attractive girls and y be the proportion of attractive boys
  • Upon complete mixing, x/2 attractive girls will be with attractive boys and x/2 with average boys.
  • y-x/2 attractive boys remain without a partner
  • y-x/2 average girls remain without a partner
  • If y-x/2 = 0, (i.e. no attractive single boys remain or no single average looking girls remain) x = 2y
Conclusions and discussion:

According to this model, if one wants the entire population to have a partner, then there needs to be twice as many pretty girls as attractive men. It seems that this inherent lack of 'pickiness' in girls is keeping average looking girls from finding a partner. If attractive girls were as selfish as attractive boys, then there wouldn't be any single people left over.

So where do homosexual people fit in to this model? Well, they don't really but one can see where they might be involved. According to this model, the only groups of people not with someone of the opposite sex are average looking girls and good looking men. And you know what they say about gay guys and lesbians. Maybe this model is on one extreme end, but reality is somewhere closer to this model than to a model which includes only dating within your league.

Feb 19, 2009

Link to whale evolution from land to sea was found in Pakistan

I was watching Morphed on National Geographic TV this evening. It's a 3 part series about evolution, strategically timed with Darwin's 200th birthday anniversary. I wasn't shocked to learn that whales evolved from land animals, given that they breathe air and are warm blooded mammals. But I was certainly surprised to learn that the missing links between whales and their land ancestors were found in Pakistan in the 80's, by a University of Michigan Paleontologist, Philip D. Gingerich. That animal is actually called a Pakicetus, believe it or not, named after the country itself. Pretty cool. This is what they were supposed to look like...

Anyway, Dr. Gingerich has visited Pakistan quite often over the past few years, collaborating with research faculty and publishing papers with them. His website has some pictures and details about their excursions in Pakistan. Plus, who doesn't like hearing about their country in a good light, especially one linked with a scientific breakthrough.

Feb 10, 2009

What? Blowing your nose is bad for you!

Apparently so...

Blowing one's nose to try and relieve nasal congestion, actually seems to increase and prolong congestion. This is according to a University of Virginia study reported in the NYTimes. They report:

Coughing and sneezing generated little if any pressure in the nasal cavities. But nose blowing generated enormous pressure — “equivalent to a person’s diastolic blood pressure reading,” Dr. Hendley said — and propelled mucus into the sinuses every time. Dr. Hendley said it was unclear whether this was harmful, but added that during sickness it could shoot viruses or bacteria into the sinuses, and possibly cause further infection.

So what are we to do?

The proper method is to blow one nostril at a time and to take decongestants, said Dr. Anil Kumar Lalwani, chairman of the department of otolaryngology at the New York University Langone Medical Center. This prevents a buildup of excess pressure.

Rutgers football ranked #1 in Big East and #25 overall

In an early, early (and very early) preseason ranking of all the college football programs in the country, ESPN has ranked Rutgers in the top 25, (no. 25 actually) and more importantly, the top team in the Big East.

Last year's disappointing 1-5 start is obviously not ringing in any one's minds because of the way Rutgers finished the season...with 7 straight wins, including a bowl game. I don't think we're better than West Virginia consistently just yet, but it's nice to see Rutgers getting some love. Last year, even though we lost to Pitt and WV, we were achingly close to turning the horrible start to the season around by beating them. The games were hard-fought and at that moment, I knew Rutgers would be able to compete with them on the same level in the future. In fact, last year, Scouts.com had our incoming class of 2009 ranked as high as #17, so things are looking up. Unfortunately, the incoming class is ranked #30 now, since a bunch of punks decided not to come to Rutgers. Anyway, I'm sure these rankings will change over the next 6 months, and Rutgers will undoubtedly be in and out of the top 25.

However, at the end of the day, I'm excited for 2009 and I think most of the Rutgers community can feel that change is in the air. With all the drama last year regarding the AD's firing, the stadium money, the horrible 1-5 start, and the 'under the table' payments to Schiano, we are ready to move on. And nothing helps cure some drama better than winning some games.

Jan 20, 2009

January 20th, 2009: The day that Barack Obama became president

Some cartoons that will remind me of this historic day...

...Thanks Tony!

Jan 1, 2009

President Bush read 40 books in 2008?

According to Karl Rove's column in the Wall Street Journal this morning, him and President Bush have an ongoing friendly reading competition over the past few years. That's very healthy on several fronts and having a sitting president with an interest in reading is impressive. But does President Bush really have such a voracious appetite for books? According to Rove, Bush has read a 186 books over the past 3 years! It's a little hard to believe considering what we think we know about the president from his mannerisms. His reading list from 2008 is as follows...
His reading this year included a heavy dose of history -- including David Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter," Rick Atkinson's "Day of Battle," Hugh Thomas's "Spanish Civil War," Stephen W. Sears's "Gettysburg" and David King's "Vienna 1814." There's also plenty of biography -- including U.S. Grant's "Personal Memoirs"; Jon Meacham's "American Lion"; James M. McPherson's "Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief" and Jacobo Timerman's "Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number."
That's certainly a heavy dose of history...

Anyway, if its true, then I am very surprised on two fronts. Firstly, I had no idea President Bush even read. He doesn't come off to me as a book worm. But 40 books or more a year? Though not impossible, my second gripe with this claim is how a president, of the United States no less, finds time to do that?

Either way, I'm embarrassed for myself. I need to catch up on my reading list.