Thursday, September 06, 2007

an unconstrained life.




The sound of the waves as they hit the rocks was probably the only thing that we could hear for miles. A foggy drive along California's northern coast in the twilight zone was the closest I've been to complete peace in a long time. When you keep driving as you attempt to leave the world you know behind, its exactly those thoughts that fill your mind again.

If the absence of light is darkness, then what is the absence of darkness?

It sure isnt light.

I work with numbers, with money, with bits, with ones and zeroes. Some can be big, some as tiny as the tenth of a percent. Most people begin to wonder, so whats the big deal, you add a one and you subtract a 10, you will get an answer.

The only tricky part is to get the right answer.

I work with optimization. For people unfamiliar with how optimization works, think of it as trying to solve an equation, find that one unique combination of variables that finally gives you the right answer and also are right themselves.

Which is what you have constraints for. Value 'A' cannot be greater than 10 and Value 'B' must always be decreasing for each run. Within the space of these constraints you have to find the best possible answer for your equation.

It need not be the right one. It just has to be closest to the right one. The only one possible.

Now every once in a while, I get frustrated with the process. Why go through the whole chicanery of trying to find something better when what you have is although not the exact right answer but close to it.

Why that additional effort?

John says because nothing else is right. Except for that one solution closest to the right one.

I've been here a few months and I've seen John work harder than many people in my earlier company put together. It has to be right, he says. I try to keep pace.

The effort he puts to get the constraints working and get everything else right cannot be believed unless seen.

But over lunch when he tells me about his life, on how he worked for his Phd. or how he has four kids, one girl and three boys and how he went through his divorce six years ago and when he tells me about his ex-wife, I just cannot help wondering how someone who can be passionate about the constraints in a math problem, can't control the constraints in his own life.

Or maybe its just an American thing, where life has to be experimented with absolutely no constraints, something that surprises and scares me a bit. He is possibly 45, now has a German girl friend and goes plays the piano every Wednesday at a club. He also tells me his daughter is now in Medical School, and what inspired her was working with the peace corps in Guatemala where she met and lived in with a doctor for a year ( Indian, he notes, looking at me) and how they broke off soon after.

All constraints gone to dogs.

Which is something I dont think is worth comproming for me in real life. I dont really bother over a math problem. This is real life, not some cruel joke. The effort you put in to make things work here, within the constraints of whats possible is what gets you to that perfect solution.

and I dont think I need a Phd to understand that. All I need to be is sane.

1 Comments:

Blogger AdHocQuirks said...

i agree with you here. good post.

2:31 PM  

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