Why you should probably do it

Seriously people, just do it.

Because if you don’t you’ll keep wondering. Should I have? What if I had and it made me feel better? What if I inspired others? Then everyone would have done it. I’d be a pioneer. What if Abercrombie made a brand of what I was wearing when I did it and distributed it poor hungry kids in Nigeria — you know — with some food.

English: The image of Abercrombie & Fitch today.

But they’d have to starve to wear it (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The worst is not doing it, because someone else might do it if you wait too long. If they do, your doing it means nothing. Well, it might mean piracy or plagiarism, but who knows—that shit is hard to prove. And if they do it, you’ll have to find something else that you want to do but aren’t doing — something else to obsess over, a different cost-benefit analysis. That’s not easy. Then you’re still the same person, but with another thing you’ve almost done. Almost doing is like not doing, but you’re the annoying not-doer who keeps talking about that which he is going to do, which is cool, if your friends are like that guy in that movie whose mind was like an etch a sketch every fifteen minutes. (By the way, there’s this incredibly dirty and funny joke that I can’t enjoy because I know the punchline, but he can, again and again.)

Memento (film)

…and the farmer says…damn it, where’s my polaroid? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

History is full of doers — the not-doers are eliminated for space-saving — and doers are full of history. Not-doers are full too, of other things. The best not-doer appears on the brink of doing all the time, without talking ad nauseam about it of course. Over time, the not-doers don’t reproduce, because that involves doing. So they’re weeded out. The doers remain. It takes a lot to be a not-doer. Doing ends up negating the not-doing. Depending on what you do, how much and with how much intensity, you can figure out how long you must not-do before convincingly appearing as a not-doer. Of course, appearing is doing, and that’s a conundrum.

Why would you not-do anyway? So you can plan more, think more, and maybe do it better later? But you won’t. Because you didn’t. Only you know why. None of those reasons will change. You’re not doing it better. You’re just better at not-doing, also you’re regaling people (not really) around campfires with stories of how good it’s gonna be when you finally do it — which it will be — it will be awesome. But you won’t do it. So it’s hypothetically awesome. Which is fine, but it takes a million hypothetical-awesomes to make an awesome. You can disagree with me on that, but to prove me wrong, you need calculations, which of course, involves doing. So you can never know, better trust me. If you can trust, without doing that is. When you do do, which you won’t, trust me, I hope you can…oh what’s the point? You’re never gonna do it.

Air Max 90 CL

They have the right idea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not saying you’re not equipped to do it. You probably are, who knows. Checking for qualifications requires me to do something. So I can’t know. Knowing involves doing, and doing what I need — to know — also needs doing. So I can never know if you can do. I’d like to give you the benefit of doubt, but that means I must do. In fact, even doubting is doing. So I can be certain. Being is not doing. Or it would have been “to do be or not to do be,” which let’s face it, (or not) is not quite as pithy.

Those who did things did them because they needed to be done. Now you’ll say that needing is doing too, but things can need. Things can’t do. So needing is not doing. QED. No I can’t translate that for you. You know why. But do you? Can you?

PhD comprehensive exams

Hi, all

Here I am hiding behind the tag of PhD comprehensive exams to justify my lack of posting on this blog. I thought today (as I was taking a break from studying), that I should share my preparation experience.

To the uninitiated, most PhD programs require the student to pass one or more exams called the comprehensive exams (comprehensives or comps for short). Some universities also call this the qualifiers (quals for short). Either way, once you’re done with these exams, you’re considered a doctoral candidate in most universities. In  my particular university, the comps come in two waves:

  1. Part A/B: This involves theoretical and applicative questions from every course taught to the students in my program. Every course! Whether you took it or not. As long as that course is being taught, you can expect questions from it. There will be some questions out-of-portion as well, mainly testing whether you can apply your knowledge and think on your feet.
  2. Part C/D: This is taken the next semester if you pass A/B. That is a big ‘if’ by the way. In this exam, they give you a research article and ask you to critique it. You must understand the article, question the research motives and methods, attack the rationality of the conclusions drawn from available data, and suggest ways of carrying the research forward. Of course, all this happens if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, they give you a part of the article, or sometimes just data that look like they were ripped off someone’s excel sheet. Then they ask you questions that require you to explore the ambit of your subject, all in one sitting session. That’s just Part C. In Part D, you are given some bottleneck questions in your subject and expected to solve them. Again, the idea is that they’re testing your approach to a problem, not so much the solution itself.


I would love to question the wisdom of testing a student’s qualification for a PhD program three years into his PhD program, but something tells me that’s not how the world works. Written qualifiers/comps tire me a lot, simply because while doing research, we completely lose touch with the idea of physically putting pen to paper. Many colleges have take-home quals which solves this problem, as the answer mostly needs to be typed not written.

In my school, each professor in the department puts in his questions, and the committee chooses ten of them. Of those, we need to do six. Of those, we need to pass five. Sounds easy right?

This reminds me of a biology professor I had in 11th standard who said that in older times, when the topper used to score 60%, all a good student had to do was to study hard and write a good paper. In today’s 99% times, a student needs to probe the psychology of the professor to determine what he wants from the question. Amen to that! From what I’ve heard, one needs to read a question and then decode whose question it is from the language and style. Then, one needs to tailor the answer to the proclivities of that person.

The trouble comes when one professor sets the question and another one grades it. Professors are of various types. Some like succinct answers and penalize you for making them read more than they have to. Others prefer you err on the side of caution lengthwise.

There is a luck factor associated with any exam. This factor seems to play the biggest role in the engineering exams at the University of Mumbai, as a friend of mine found to his dismay. His paper was cleared after re-evaluation, but no one can repay him for the months of depression, disbelief and ignominy. Of course, the people who knew him, used this negative result as a referendum on Mumbai University exam methods than his prowess in electronic engineering. My comps exam has a luck factor too: students who’ve spent months reading and reading for an exam can choke at the final moment like the South African cricket team. No matter how well one prepares, D-Day has it’s own plans.

My next blog post is definitely going to be after the exam (Nov 10th). Hopefully, it is on a positive note.