Saturday, 25 March 2017

Things I didn't think I could like OR Let's try it!

I am in my mid-thirties and I think I should start straightening my stories and lessons I will tell all the children around me who think of me as an old man.

Life is weird, and we have very limited rationality about what we may or may not like. Most often we may be forced to make decisions based on this limited rationality, since cost of gathering intelligence, wisdom, and sampling may be too high, but if you have no choice in the matter and are thrown into an unknown, don't be too judgie-wudgie, or if you can afford to try and test, I highly recommend it! Here are a few case studies in what I mean.

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I couldn't ever imagine myself thinking, 'that coffee is not strong enough', but that is indeed a thought that has crossed my mind often in the six months or so.

It's dark, it's bitter, it's hipster, it's expensive, and most Americans like it: what's there to like about coffee? Well, the Tamil know how to brew it and drink it in style. It would be a lie to say I started liking it due to the Tamil though, I started liking it due to its association with a person I admire and love. I loved her ritual of AeroPress®™, choosing and buying coffees from different places, the whole shebang. Sometimes I would make coffee for her before she woke up, to gain a few brew-nie points. Lovely associations!

Well, now I like coffee for itself and enjoy it at least 5 days a week, without sugar or milk, as bitter and dark as it gets.

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In 2011, anyone who suggested I should run, would have received an all knowing smirk from me. I knew for sure, that if I could choose to do a workout it would be weight lifting and would not involve anything even close to running in any form. Not even bicycling. 

 But circumstances led me to run. Mostly because it is cheap and accessible: doesn't need any special gear or planned space. It started with 10 mins everyday in Mar 2012, and soon I was running 30 or so minutes on the streets of towns villages and cities wherever work took me: Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Khammam, Madurai, Pondicherry, Puna, and Shimogga. In a few months it was 5 km, then 10 kilometers and then half marathons(21.1 km). 

It was clear that I have found true love. We worked hard towards the relationship: running and I, and we are in it for the long run. True enough, in 2016 I ran four marathons (422 km), a few 30 km, and numerous  half marathons, trails, city roads, all kinds of stuff. Now I have my sight set on an ultra marathon 72 km in Leh, and on the way to it, a 50 km trail run.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Known unknowns

"As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. "
  - Donald Rumsfeld.

Same concerns on reality and information is asked in useful contexts in other places, such as the book Mostly Harmless Econometrics.

When I moved out of my humble context as a school teacher in a mid-sized town in Northern India, for a further education in public policy in Singapore and then New York, I did not know much about Rumsfeld or Angrist or their famous confusions, but those were not the only things I did not know, I did not know many things I did not even know.

Whenever I thought, "oh now I get it" I would see how much I do not know and how many holes there are in my perfectly good enough thinking. Very humbling. Now, that I am in the third year of my PhD and have passed my oral exams, my prof.s think of me differently. They act differently. I got the bees and birds talk from my advisor the other day, when he told me my career path and choices. I think the tables have turned. Now I am not just the one asking questions, I am the one who is supposed to supply answers.

So here I am in search of known unknowns, something that I can measure, something I can inform the policy with, something of value to the community, rummaging through ideas and paper, rejecting dozens of original ideas every day. Very humbling.