Thursday, October 12, 2006

aPleasant Surprise(s)

We come across acronyms on a daily basis. Notable examples are BBC in UK, MJ in US, UNSW in Australia, PRC for China, and UMNO, MCA, MIC, etc. in Malaysia. Even friends. I have one who is called JJ, my son has another, AJ. And one famous son of Singapore is LKY. Or maybe those are initials, not acronyms.

Then there is 3BT, Three Beautiful Things, a blog I chanced upon not too long ago, wherein the blogger records everyday three things that have given her pleasure. That got me thinking.

While “Going Global” is topical, it seems an overkill to use it twice (alpha and beta, this one), especially when the two bloggers are one, me. So in the same vein, I would like to register daily happenings that I’ve personally experienced, not vicariously, that are a pleasant surprise, to me.

However, I do not want to peg a number to it as life is too whimsical to be bound by any set number (otherwise it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?). So I will let nature take its own course. Hence, surprise(s), meaning it could be just one, uno, ichi, or plural as in a few, several, a score, but with a finite bound, injecting a dose of reality so to speak.

As for frequency, I’m not inclined toward giving it a schedule too, be it daily, weekly, fortnightly, etc. I want it to be spontaneous, a spur-of-the-moment reaction. At the same time, I want it to be a revelation, a lesson to be learned.

My first (or rather two, but read on) pleasant surprise has quite a lengthy gestation period stretching over days. You see, I work using a computer, primarily doing mathematical modeling of physical phenomena in the water environment, at the coast. In a nutshell, physical laws describing water motion in the real world are transformed into discretized equations that apply to the computational (imaginary) domain comprising small spaces and elements. Then the awesome number crunching power of computers is used to solve these equations using a variety of algorithms. The solutions are then exported to represent the real world behavior so that humans can gauge the extent of their interventions.

Now I’ve just recently upgraded my computer to leverage on the recent enhancements in computer RAM and clock speed. Since day 1, this new computer has been behaving quite moodily. In the middle of an operation, the screen would go blank, followed by a double beep, then it would reboot itself. Sometimes a blue screen would ensue, giving dire warning that something has misbehaved.

I often do overnight run for a relatively large model. But it became a guessing game whether the computer would hum along to completion, or it would be ready to reboot come next morning. If the latter, a check on the log file would reveal that the computer has decided to abort at the wee hours of the morning when the job at hand was only half done.

But the computer has never failed to reboot. So I kind of got used to its idiosyncratic behavior. The conditioning is not unlike that of the proverbial frog in a slow boiling pot. So as the day went by, more and more data and results are stored in the computer, the idea of backing up being left at the back burner.

Then early this Monday, as I had just completed a computer run, the computer went through what by now has become a routine rigor mortis. Nonchalantly, I depressed the “on” switch and expected the computer to come to life, again, in a few seconds. But no, the Windows would not come on after the perfunctory horizontal strobe-like light motion typical of Windows starting up. Instead, the initialization was short-circuited to the beginning again, and the scenario repeated. This recycling of starting ritual continued unabated, each time giving up, I could almost sense, at the same spot of the script.

This can’t be happening. A pang of panic suddenly struck me. What if the harddisk is corrupted? My months of hard work forever locked in a flimsy disk of silica with no hope of recovery. The in-house computer experts were summoned and diagnosis made. A bad sector problem? A software glitch (all fingers seemed to point to the 64bit Windows XP)? Or a faulty cable connection?

The harddisk diagnostics only said inconsistencies in the drive. Trying to reinstall Windows (booted from the CD-ROM) proved futile as no drive was detected. I went home with a heavy heart, blaming myself for not heeding the signs that the computer was giving me all this while. As if the computer was able to sense the premature knockout and was busy beseeching for intervention while warding off the inevitable.

But at home I took everything in stride and put up a brave front, even accompanying my wife to a Buddhist talk by a visiting Master monk as I’ve earlier promised. Then the first pleasant surprise came. The theme of the talk is about the relation between the material world and our conscious inner world. The change in our inner world is brought about by our reaction to changes in the material world. Thus we are constantly in battle against extraneous thoughts that invade our mind.

In my case, I was happily engaged in my work two days ago. Then something happened to the computer. But I’m still me, the same me who still churns out the same quality of work, my ability to contribute not compromised in any way at all. There and then I felt like a big load was lifted off my chest. Serenity reigned over me, and I felt that the world has never been more beautiful, more compassionate, and more forgiving.

Then this morning my computer guy told me that the data on the supposedly corrupted harddisk was intact. And by connecting it to another computer as a slave drive, I was able to access and download the data, a slow process no doubt but none is lost.

So two pleasant surprises in a row. While mindful of the Master’s exhortation that we should maintain an even keel in life’s journey, I think I could allow myself the luxury of feeling smug on how things turned out. But just for that fleeting second.

Lest you think I’ve made a spelling error in the blog title, it is deliberate. The prefix “a” here does not connote “anti” as in atypical, but rather used in the context of algebra to mean an unknown such as let “a” be the number of apples John brought to school at the start of solving a word problem.

So for my first post, “a” equals two. Otherwise it’s a priori unbeknownst to anyone, present company included.

So there you go, my new blog title. Yeah!


Daniel said...

aPleasant Surprise(s)
This is brandable! I like this hook so much!

We depend much on 11100101 but sometimes they can turn on us. My BlogFeast faces the same threat, though I am able to bring it back to live everytime, but the problem gets bigger and bigger, so I take it as a challenge and way in life, and hope it will not outchallenge me. Now I am backing my database up more often.

"The change in our inner world is brought about by our reaction to changes in the material world."
I have also learned that our inner world controls the outer world. I believe the former is the fact, while the latter just demonstrate the possibility of our believe changing the course of our life.

To "battle against extraneous thoughts that invade our mind", I look at the pictures~~ whee~~

Say Lee said...

Yup, your destiny is in your own hands.

As Buddha wisely advised:

"Use the inner world to change the outer world, and not vice versa."

CY said...

OH. *enlightened* Well duh Dad, not everyone is mathematically inclined! Although I must say, it is a rather clever idea.

On another note, I finally found out what it is that you do at work! Mathematical models of physical phenomena in the water environment... Sounds (kind of) interesting. Heehee. Glad to hear your data was safe! That is a good lesson, too, from the Buddhist meeting.