Monthly Archives: April 2008

Complicated Versus Complex

Today, during our research group meeting I heard and learned a new concept. The new thing I learned is that there is a difference between complicated and complex systems. And it is studied in many fields, health science, business, computer science, and many others.

In a nutshell,complicated means not simple, but ultimately knowable. Power plants, cars, computers are examples of complicated systems. Complex means not simple and never fully knowable because it is not predictable. Genomes, ecosystems, stock markets, the weather and society are all examples of complex systems – large aggregations of many smaller interacting parts. These parts may be species, investors, air particles or individuals [link]

Publish or Perish

My recent addiction is WordPress‘s “blog stat”. As if I need more distractions in my life. On the earlier days, mid 90s, I had Tetris to blame and to less extent Pokemon, the video game not the character. Recently, my addictions are FreeCell, FaceBook, Outlook, my Dell x50 pocket PC, JordanBlogs (stop posting please), and NetFlix’s “Your Queue” (It is a list of the customer’s movies that he wishes to watch. Netflix will send these DVDs one by one. NetFlix is by far, one of the best man made creation ever. Maybe not the best but it is the coolest idea and service). All these add it to blogging.

Anyway, this “Blog Stat” thing is a real pain. I check it at least twice a day to see how many people read my blog. Maybe I will not care if I have many people reading my blog but only two or three people reading my posts is not that satisfying.

In the academia, “Publish or perish” is in the heart of every dedicated researcher. A scientist or a researcher without publications is like a car without a gas (i.e., useless) . Publish or perish concept is important for graduate students and very important for scientists in the beginning of their career. But, later this concept will not advance them or their career because it is not about publishing only, it is about how many other scientists cited them and how many benefited from their publications. During my Masters I was very proud of myself because I published five conference papers and two journal papers. I thought this was a big achievement. Although, some of my papers were published in some top conferences and journals none of my publications were cited.

Now, as a PhD student I know it is not about just publishing, or better put it is quality not quantity. I have few more publications while doing my PhD but I am only proud of one because finally some people are citing my work, and some others are emailing me for some advice.

Writing something that makes people enjoy reading it or finding it useful is what makes a successful blogger. I am not that one yet but I hope to be one some day.

The Etiquette of Using Cellular

Don’t

1. Continuously calling people if they don’t answer

Why some people insist in calling my cell phone continuously more than three times without leaving any voice mail. In one case, someone called me TWELVE times in a span of less than an hour. It wasn’t important nor was it urgent. He just wanted to see if I am at home. But seriously, if you call someone and he didn’t answer his cell phone leave him a voice mail. Insisting on repeatedly calling him will not force him to answer if his phone is turned off, or he is busy, or he is sleeping, or any of the other million reasons why he is not able to answer his phone.

2. Consider public places as your living room and make multiple calls

While setting in my favorite place in town (i.e., Panera Bread) minding my own business a middle-aged woman decided to call everyone listed in her phonebook. Not to be surprised by the cost of her calls, some phone carries provide free calls between their subscribers. In each conversation call she asked about kids, work, family, etc. For those who were lucky enough not to answer her call she left them about 60-seconds long voice mail.

3. Interrupt a conversation to answer your cell phone

Some people answer their phone calls during a conversation without hesitation or even saying “excuse me”. What is it in cellular conversation that makes it more important and more urgent than any normal one-to-one civilized conversation?

4. Talk for ever

If you plan to talk for more than 5 or 10 minutes ask the other person if he is free or if he has time for a long chat.

5. Forget to turn off your cell phone in worship places

Without being judgmental, if you decided to change the ring tone to some loud rap music or to a song by a sexy Lebanese voice MAKE SURE to turn off your cell phone before you enter the mosque.

6. Answer your phone in a movie theater

Seriously, why you want to answer the phone in the theater? Try one of the following: 1) not to answer the phone, 2) send back a text message, or 3) go out and answer the phone if it is more important than you enjoying the movie and not disturbing others.

Do

1. Lower you voice or step away when speaking on your cell phone in a public place

If you want to make a phone call or answer your phone, in a public place, there is no need that the entire people around you to hear your conversation. Be advised that people tend to raise their voices when speaking on phones. In addition, if you are in a public place what make you think that anyone care about your phone call. If you are with a group and want to answer your mobile excuses your self for couple of minutes. This way, you can speak freely and not interrupt the other people in your group.

2. Ask to use your mobile (in some situations) – no harm in asking

If you are in a formal meeting and you are expecting an important call tell your boss that you may receive a phone call during the meeting and you have to answer it. This way your boss will value your courtesy of appreciating his time by asking permission to answer your phone (even if your call was just a plan to where to spend the evening with your friends).

One day, I was at one of the coffeehouses here in town enjoying my coffee under the sun. I was studying with few books and papers scattered all over the table. I was the only customer setting outside the café. A young lady came and set in a table near me. After sometime she told me that she is going to make some phone calls and she hopes that her calls will not disturb me. I smiled and told her no harm. I was so amazed by the magnitude of courtesy this young lady has.

George Costanza’ Colliding Worlds

This post might be out of time but today I watched a rerun episode of Seinfeld show on TBS. I am not going to write how many times I watched this show, let us just say “many times”. Anyway, today’s episode was “The Pool Guy”. I had to search for the script of this episode and luckily I found this.

I liked very much the colliding worlds theory

JERRY: Hey, why don’t cha ask Susan?
ELAINE: George’s Susan?
JERRY: Yeah.
ELAINE: Yeah. Why not Susan. I should be friends with Susan. Of course! Susan! Oh! OK, I’ll see you guys. Huh. (rushes out the door.)
KRAMER: That’s gunna be trouble.
JERRY: Why?
KRAMER: Jerry, don’t you see? This world here, this is George’s sanctuary. If Susan
comes into contact with this world, his world’s collide. You know what happens then?

… [later on the show]

GEORGE: Ah you have no idea of the magnitude of this thing. If she is allowed to
infiltrate this world, then George Costanza as you know him, Ceases to Exist! You see,
right now, I have Relationship George, but there is also Independent George. That’s the
George you know, the George you grew up with — Movie George, Coffee shop George,
Liar George, Bawdy George.
JERRY: I, I love that George.
GEORGE: Me Too! And he’s Dying Jerry! If Relationship George walks through this
door, he will Kill Independent George! A George, divided against itself, Cannot Stand!

Life in the US – Bank of America

I am Bank of America (BoA) customer for more than five years. It was my first bank since I came to the US and still it is. Although they are known to hold one of the highest customer service complaints, they are very good in online banking. I pay all my bills through their online banking and it is really easy and efficient. Other things they provide in their online banking are writing electronic checks and transfer funds to other BoA customers for free.

Because fund transfer is faster than writing an electronic check, my friend decided to pay me back some money he owed me by fund transfer as we both are BoA customers. To transfer money you need the bank account and the address for the recipient. I sent him all the information but he was unable to finish the transaction because BoA could not find my name in its database as a customer! After many failure trials I decided to go to the bank to solve this problem. Here is what happened:

BoA assistant: How may I help you?

Jaraad: Someone tried to transfer money to my account but was unable to do so because the bank could not find my name!

BoA assistant: This operation is available to citizens only.

Jaraad: I am not a citizen and I use this service very frequently.

BoA assistant: He needs to have work permit social security number.

Jaraad: He does have working permit.

BoA assistant: It seems he enters your information wrong.

Jaraad: No, because I sent him all the information through email and told him to copy and paste it. I doubled check the information everything is correct.

BoA assistant: He needs to go to the bank and see the (I forgot the exact name but it has to do with getting help from there) for help.

Obviously, this assistant has no experience with such problem. Don’t you think it is stupid to accept people’s money and not allow them to do certain transactions? Anyway, because I thought he has no idea what he was talking about I decided to seek a second opinion. My next assistant was a more experienced female assistant. The conversation between us was exactly the same as the previous one.

In summary, [at least] two BoA employees don’t know that their non-US-citizen customers can use the online transfer fund!!!

Common sense is not a common sense

I heard this from a friend “Common sense is not a common sense.” It doesn’t matter from where he heard it or read it, it made my life easier. People don’t react to the same action the same way everyone else does. For example, you expect people to be quite in libraries and movie theaters. You may even go beyond this by believing that it is common sense for people to be quite in these places. Yet, you still see and hear people answering their phones in libraries and movie theaters.

As a graduate teaching assistant I hold weekly office hours. Some of the assignments the instructor gives to the students are due in two or three weeks. When a student comes in the last week of the homework submission I expect the student to at least have started with the project or read the material related from the text book. Yet, because common sense is not a common sense some students wants to finish three weeks worth of work in one office hour.

Another thing I heard is from a program I watched on the TV. “It is not what you know it is what you can prove.” Unlike many societies outside the US were the higher authority has the final word, here in the US he needs to prove what he knows. For example, a teacher can’t claim that his student cheated without a proof. In many other places it is the teacher’s word against the student’s word.

Outsourcing Law Firms

Seema Sharma, left, 23 of Kashmir and Leena Dixit, 42 of Maharashtra at their desks at Mindcrest Legal Outsourcing in Pune, India.
Michael Rubenstein / Redux for TIME

Fact:
Law-firm partners bill at a national average of $318 per hr. and at $550 per hr. at large New York City firms, according to a 2007 survey by Altman Weil, a legal-consulting company. Starting salaries for attorneys at some large firms now stand at $160,000.

Pros:
Atlas Legal Research, an outsourcing company based in Irving, Texas, uses lawyers in India to provide the service for $60 per hr.

Cons:
Outsourcing worries some experts because the ethical rules that bind U.S. attorneys have no force in India. “Lawyers are being seduced by the business end of outsourcing and are not being concerned enough with the ethical issues it’s raising. I’m deeply troubled that outsourcing companies do not understand the scope of a lawyer’s duty to confidentiality, nor are they familiar with conflict-of-interest rules,” says Mary C. Daly, dean of St. John’s University School of Law in New York City.

Source: Time Magazine. April 14, 2008