May, 2010

A Quick Encounter with My Ex-Boss

I have been told many stories by my colleagues of their encounters with former colleagues and bosses. They’re typically awkward and a rare few deviate from the formal pleasantries. Which isn’t a bad thing of course.

This morning queuing up to pay for my breakfast – which today unusually involves a fruit in the form of a banana (and I know one reader would be jumping up and down reading this) – I bumped into the first project manager I worked with four years ago. It was actually a pleasant surprise as I thought he was out of town, and more so than that he was a really good project manager, one who certainly did not engage in eight hour meetings.

In any case, after the customary pleasantries, he said “So, you’re a photographer now!”. I was a bit surprised till I remembered that some while ago I updated my LinkedIn to be a photographer.

And I did look the part, today. He looked smart and professional, with his clean shave and crisp suit. I on the other hand, was wearing five year old jeans (shocking), a really bad bright red t-shirt better suited as a mop (it has a friggin hole in it), a beard I haven’t trimmed in three weeks (and haven’t had a clean shave a month before) which looks even worse than the one on my LinkedIn, a Channel 4 Radio cap I “won” by calling up the radio host and demanding I get a cap and a mug, and, worst of all, white socks. The sportswear kind.

If you always thought I’m a fashion disaster, today I’m Fashion Chernobyl.

Although I’m not a pro photog and have not been paid for any photo shoot, frankly, I felt really proud. And that is a good end to a morbidly depressing week and a great start to a fantastic weekend.

Why I HATE Maths

Maths. It’s one of those subjects that strictly revolves around a love or hate reltionship: You’re either wired to love it or you’re not.

From what I have seen, most of my friends love maths because, according to them, solving a linear equations is like mental masturbation. They’re entitled to that and I have absolutely nothing against them, as long as they don’t try to inseminate my life with their shit.

I myself, if confronted with such a linear or polynomial problem, would resort to my iPhone.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am sure Maths has its uses, like waterboarding, and clearly it is the key selling point for calculators and Microsoft Excel (the latter of which can also replace waterboarding).

A little overdue history: I studied under the British system – that’s O and A Levels – and things were going well pre-O-Level years. Things were so good, in fact, I remember vividly in 8th grade I used to help students with their class problems after the teacher explains the lesson. In fact he got used to explaining rather quickly to sit down the remainder of the class while I jump from desk to desk helping students out with their Maths problems.

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Then, by 9th grade, my life became a nightmare as my school rotated, within one year, five different maths teachers. That blew everyone off-course, and suddenly trigonometry stopped making sense. I managed, however, to pass, like most others.

By then I was required to “pick my future” – the medical field or the engineering field, and I picked medical. I wanted to be either a micro biologist or a geneticist. Out with all other subjects, I studied biology and chemistry, exclusively, and in excruciating detail, up to college.

Two buildings fell in New York and my parents decided not to ship me internationally, so they sent me close by to the UAE, and undertook computer science.

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Now keep in mind my last exposure to Maths was 9th grade.

I struggled valiantly in college, I even almost failed PRE-Calculus, completely failed Calculus I and barely made it in Calculus II. The only reason I managed to pass Computational Methods (a course where you apply a formula 40 times) is because my professor’s daughter passed away before the final and he explicitly told us that he doesn’t want to see us in the following semester.

The only course I got a grade that’s not a C in Math was Discrete. Somehow it made perfect sense and I managed a B+.

So the question that begs to be asked: How did I manage to survive?

Simple!

Instead of investing energy of trying to understand differentiation and integration, I managed to be able to deduce answers through observation. How I did this was as follows. I would look at solved problems in the book and through the notes. I would then form in my head a visual presentation of the symbols and the numbers. I then look at the next step in the solution, and visually map the symbols and transform the numbers from formula A to formula B. I do this with the next step, then the next.

I practice solving problems that are similar, using visual mapping to solve instead of actual how-to. I would look at different kinds of problems, with different number of variables and length, and make a mental map of how formulas transform.

Once in an exam my mind mapping failed, as there was an extra variable that I was unable to map. After mapping what I could, I came to a step and wrote in the exam: “imagine this chunk of formula is represented as X”. And then I continued solving LOL! I got partial marks and a smiley face on that paper.

And this is my short story of why I hate maths. And statistics of course, though I doubt that subject makes sense to anyone.

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