My last post was written on 29th April and it’s 31st of July today. So it has been about three months since i last wrote for the blog. It’s not like i didn’t have anything to say. I have a folder named ‘blog’ on my desktop and it has a number of unfinished manuscripts in it. I just didn’t feel like completing any of them. After a long lapse such as the recent one, i feel like i owe my readers an explanation for why i disappeared.
It’s a long story. In a nutshell, I don’t like uncertainty and that was the second name of my life the last couple of months. Things have settled down now, so i have a clearer vision of what things are going to be like for the next few months. I like being informed. No surprises for me, thank you.
Talking of the long lapse, i feel a little uncomfortable about the words i choose to cut the ice. It’s just like riding a bicycle after you’ve been out of practice for a while. In such situations, the best strategy is to talk about the weather or how you spent your day. For warm up, I prefer the latter ( in case you are intrigued by the former, Yahoo Weather is your friend ).
I arrived in California a day before yesterday on the 29th of July. My first impression was: everything is so bright and sunny. My second impression was: contrary to the popular belief, this place is not so warm after all. My adviser during MS, Dr Ali Khayam and two ex-students of NUST, Usman and Mobin, came to receive me. Dr Ali was kind enough to show us around San Francisco. I was particularly smitten by the Golden Gate bridge. Grand is the word for it. We also took some pictures there. I was much inclined to delete them but spared them for their historical significance. I don’t know whether it was exhaustion, (fresh) home-sickness, the cruel and cold bay wind, the fact that i had lost my hair clip on the plane, the fact that i decided to wear glasses instead of lens or any combination of these, but i ended up looking downright ugly in every single picture.
I spent Monday settling down and trying to understand the alien world around me. I opened Google Maps and used it to highlight important places on a paper map. It was fairly easy. To put theory into practice, i took a stroll and got a general idea of the basic geography.
Today, I went to ICSI, my workplace for the first time. ICSI is home to some of the brightest and most accomplished security researchers. I have read their papers and watched their presentations with great admiration in the past. I was super excited about meeting them in person. I was pleasantly surprised that they were all so down to earth, cheerful and helpful. They have hi-tea sort of thing on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was nice to see people from America, India, Pakistan, Germany and God knows which other countries socialize with each other in perfect harmony. I didn’t have much work to do today. Before starting a new project, i meticulously organize my files; so i headed on operation computer-cleanup. As the clean-up is complete, i am officially ready to start working on my new project.
On the fifteen minutes walk back home, i was thinking whether i will be able to meet the expectations of such accomplished colleagues. Especially at this time when i am barely starting, it’s fair to say that the prospect is a little intimidating. With the heavy backpack hanging down my tired shoulders, i kept walking, counting my disadvantages at each block that i crossed. Center Street: I know C++ but i have never done a full-fledged project in C/C++. Addison Street: The guy in the office had some very impressive books on his shelf, i should have at least skimmed through Knuths programming books. University Avenue: But the ‘guy in the office’ is close to finishing his PhD, i am a grad fresh out of school, you have to give me that. Berkeley Way: With the kind of routine research students have, there is no chance in hell that i will finish Knuth’s books in the next 5 years. Hearst Avenue: Why did Knuth write three volumes of the book? One was ok, but three? Why, Why, Why? Delaware Street: I type with two fingers, typing speed is slow and slowness increases exponentially if someone happens to be looking while i am typing. Picasso Street: This isn’t a typing contest, silly.
Home is almost here. I stop on the footsteps and look back. It was a rather long way back home, particularly with the 10 kg bag on my back. Yesterday, i had severe back ache, thanks to my backpack. Today, it doesn’t seem like a great deal. Tomorrow, it will become a habit. I didn’t like Berkeley the first day i came here. I felt like everyone on the street is out to kidnap me the first chance they get. At night, i couldn’t sleep as my mind was lit by disgusting scenes from movies about serial-killers i watched years ago. But last night i slept well, though i kept the light on. Tonight, there is a good chance that i will turn off the light. I don’t give up — ever. And i know as long as i don’t, i’ll get there ( even though i type with two fingers ! ).
Na shawad nasib-e-dushman ke shawad halaak-e-teghad
Sar-e-dostaan salamat, ke tu khanjar azmayii
May the rival never get a chance to be your victim;
I am alive and willing,
So spin your sabres and sharpen your daggers, O Killer.