Thursday, March 28, 2013

I really do try not to whine much!

And the remedy is to keep oneself totally busy. But at times like these, when the lab is nearly empty, people are packing up and going, having achieved something in their day, you just have to sit back, and reflect on all the hours wasted, and how your own day went.

And so I will. [talk about evidence establishment for whining].

Anyway, I was the under-dog today. I had a group meeting where people were talking! These were all senior students who wanted to help me out. Kind looks and helpful suggestions were flying all around. The group meeting was actually about something totally different, but somehow, the topic came up to me and how my research is just not getting started. And what I could/could not do about it. And what are the next steps I should take. And how I shouldn't give up. And should go to senior students for help. And just... START things on my own.

I suppose I should be really grateful, and I suppose I am. But it just doesn't sit well with me that our educational system and lack of concrete thought when choosing an undergrad program - could be so... pity-inducing.

You should have seen the kindly looks I got. My heart feels like a Google server is on top of it.

All in all, some take-away lessons from this experience are:

1. You should never believe fellow students/family when they tell you "You're a good student MashAllah".
2. You should never make an undergrad program choice based on how cool "Satellite Communications" seems to be.
3. If you're going in a core CS PhD program in a world-class university, do spend a year bringing your background up to the mark if you don't have a CS background. It will save you eons of embarrassment.

The one thing this program (if I ever finish it) has taught me: Humility. Utter, humility.

Which is a really good thing, in my opinion :). But it doesn't help your self-esteem one single bit.

Life, in short, is not great at the moment.

May Allah Help and Guide us all, Ameen. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Second thoughts ...

I just read a blog by a Muslimah who is not a Muslimah anymore. She wore a niqaab once, in her life, worked in the Muslim community for about ten years, and gradually, got convinced that Islam is not the solution, in fact, religion is not the solution.

That's a pretty huge decision to make about life.

Not surprisingly, her "coming out of the religious closet" upset me. How can a person be so oblivious to the blinding flash of truth right in front of their eyes? You only have to look around yourself, to appreciate the marvelous design all around you. Evolutionary biology may explain the natural variation in living organisms, but really, they don't explain the source of those variations.

Anyway, this is one long-standing debate between athiests and believers. We have a debate on "Does God Exist" on campus coming up in April's first week. I hope to go. But as always, I will come outside feeling unsettled in my heart. Alhamdulillah I have not experienced any second thoughts on THAT issue (this just came up because I just read that sad blog post), but I have experienced feeling unsettled because of the blatant rejection of something very obvious.

My second thoughts are (oh-what-a-surprise) on my life choices. The path I have chosen to take. I came to America. I started doing a PhD.

What I could have done, instead:

1. Taken online courses in Islamic sciences and become a scholar
2. Done editing jobs for a publishing house which publishes Islamic translated books from Arabic to English.
3. Learnt Arabic

Instead, I am:
1. Continually involved in doing something I am not very good at. Reason: I don't have CS background. I did my MS in it, but how did I do that, I have no idea.
2. Trying to catch up on my lack of proper background by doing CS61A : "The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs" - something, every undergrad does when they start out their CS undergrad. [and I have a list of other subjects lined up like Algorithms, which I have to take].
3. Unless I improve my background, I am unable to go forward in research. Why, you may ask: Because any paper I read, just stays in my brain. The tools to implement that paper is not with me. I  am not a C++ programmer, and the field I am in, requires usage of a fast programming language like C++ to get things done.
4. MATLAB is just not working out for me. As I mentioned, MATLAB can work with maybe a few images, but when you talk about a large collection of videos, unfortunately, there is only one choice. C++.

So this is the current situation. I am nearly a year into my program, and the only progress I have made is to find out a huge list of things I don't know, and need to catch up on.

I guess it didn't help today when somebody I trust pointed out: "You should really have gone into something you are good at - like journalism".

If this comment is coming from somebody I trust, I trust that it's well-meant and not meant as a snide remark.

That's what worries me.

What if I am completely in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing, aiming for the wrong aim.

The least we could do...

Is to learn from them...

Israel fires into Syria after Golan attack on troops

(Reuters) - Israel said it fired into Syria on Sunday and destroyed a machinegun position in the Golan Heights from where shots had been fired at Israeli soldiers in a further spillover of the Syrian civil war along a tense front.

It was not immediately clear whether Israel held Syrian troops or rebels responsible for what a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said had been a deliberate attack on Israeli patrols in the occupied territory.

Israeli forces "destroyed a Syrian machine gun nest that fired twice in the last 24 hours on Israeli patrols operating to safeguard the border," the spokesman, Ofir Gendelman, said on his Twitter page.
Shells have fallen several times inside Israeli-controlled territory during Syria's civil war. Some of the incidents have drawn Israeli return fire.

Syria's southern provinces bordering Jordan and Israel have become an increasingly significant battleground as the capital Damascus - in Syria's south - comes into play and President Bashar al-Assad's forces fight hard to prevent rebel advances.

The Israeli military said one of its vehicles was hit late on Saturday by shooting from across the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line on the Golan Heights, but no one was hurt.
Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, said, "Our understanding is that it wasn't stray fire."

After a second incident on Sunday, Israeli soldiers "responded with accurate fire toward the Syrian post from which they were fired on", the military said.

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement that Israel viewed shooting from Syria "with severity" and would not allow "the Syrian army or any other element to violate Israeli sovereignty by firing at our territory".

 ------------------ Source: Reuters ---------
The above statement which I have set in bold and italicized, shows how they treat a single fire towards their territory. If only, the Muslim countries could show this passion for their nations and lands, where regular drone strikes kill their civilians.

If only the Muslim armies could learn from this army, which - not only warned verbally - but struck back at the Syrian place where the fire of shells came from.

I am not condoning the Israeli attacks (mind), I am merely appreciating the way they view their sovereignty of their land... and how meekly we submit to the missile attacks that rain down on our nations, be it Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia (who knows which muslim country is next).

On a side note: One of the things I missed hearing from Imran Khan on 23rd March (at his jalsa) was a promise to end the drone strikes in this country. Please correct me if I missed it. I surely hope it was a mistake on my part, and not an omission on his.

So long folks.