Saturday, September 17, 2011

Church and Bar

A comparison between the local church and the neighborhood bar.

At both places:
people come looking for fellowship;
people go there because others know their name;
people want to go where they are accepted;
people want to go where their spirits will be lifted;
people are united around one theme;
people gather where there is music.

Like a priest, the bartender serves by listening to people's troubles.

The differences are profound.

The bar is centered on booze and the church is centered around Jesus Christ.

The bar offers a way to escape problems. The church offers a way to face them, get through them, and overcome them.

The spirit inside the bar lowers one's guard when it comes to temptation and sin. The spirit of the true church encourages people to turn away from sin and turn towards God.

The bar may be a substitute for the environment of the church, but it never comes close to providing the meaning and purpose found in a Christ-centered church.

Food for thought: 
Are you more enthusiastic heading towards the church or the bar?


Friday, September 16, 2011

Bonus - another dilemma

Since we are talking about dilemma, let me share another problem - the gentleman's dilemma.

A guy meets a beautiful girl at a party and are chatting, sitting at a table.  After couple of drinks, they feel hungry.  There are two kinds of sandwiches at the party - veggie and turkey.

The guy is about to go grab some sandwich and asks the girl, "Do you want me to get you some sandwich?"

"Sure," says the girl.

"What do you want - veggie or turkey?, asks the guy.

To which, the girl smiles and says, "Hmm, I don't know."

"Ok," says the guy and walks towards the catering area.

It's during this walk the guy faces the dilema.  What kind of sandwich does she want? How many? He has to decipher the woman's mysterious mind and act accordingly. This is where it sets apart between an ordinary guy and a gentleman. His trivial choice will have non-trivial consequences. Being a gentleman, he should succeed in using his keys to open the girl's mind and impress her.

Before him are few choices.

Option 1: She did not have a choice.  So get the same thing he is picking - either a veggie or a turkey.

Option 2: Get one veggie and one turkey.  Let her make the choice first and eat the other. But, this choice could potentially deprive the guy of his choice since he was the one who wanted to eat in the first place.

Option 3: Pick one for himself - say, turkey.  Then grab one turkey and one veggie for her - that way, she has a choice to make, and will be pleased.

Option 4: Pick two veggie and two turkey.  It will remove any ambiguity regarding her choice, and will pose the least amount of risk.  She will be pleased with too much to eat.

I would go with option 3.

Additionally, I would also consider the following:

(a) a guy should avoid picking too many sandwiches - thus avoiding wastage of food and making an optimal selection.  Option 3 allows him to carry just three, which is optimal.

(b) a guy should know that girls will not eat too much food at a formal setting, as opposed to guys who eat till their heart is full - strengthening the case of carrying one sandwich for her.  Once again, this leans towards option 3.

(c) presentation of the sandwich is important - carry it in a plate.

(d) he should remember to pick a napkin to go along with it - to demonstrate thoughtfulness.

(e) grab a glass of water - try to pick a glass instead of a plastic cup.  A glass looks classy.

(f) remember a straw to go with the water - this will avoid her lips touching the glass.  It will also help her lipstick to stay intact - demonstrates care.

Other things to be conscious about while dining with her include: taking relatively smaller bites - since he is in a conversation, leaving the napkin semi-folded on the left side after the meal, not allowing his plate to be cleared until she is done etc..etc.., fall beyond the scope of this article and therefore not discussed here.

These are the thoughts that should go through a gentleman's mind from the time he gets up and walks towards the sandwich area. I could only think of these many factors right now.  There could be variations to this solution.  If you have anything better, I would like to hear them. If any female reader has any other suggestions to the 'gentleman's dilemma', please feel free to let me know by commenting below.


Laila Majnu

Recently, I was reviewing some of the most memorable, genuine, intriguing, intense and passionate love stories throughout the history of mankind. I was curious in learning the extend to which those lovers with such 'big hearts' go to express their love towards each other.  That's when I came across Laila Majnu, along with few notable others.

Love is known to be an overwhelming, all-consuming, intense passion. But just how intense can love be? No one knows the answer. Examples of such a love are rare. But whenever one talks about the depth of love, the intensity of passion, two names almost immediately come to mind- Laila Majnu.

The love story of Laila and Majnu is a very famous one and is no less than a legend. Even today, people know them as Laila Majnu; the "and" in between is missing. They were two in flesh, but one in spirit. It is based on the real story of a young man called Qays ibn al-Mullawah from the northern Arabian Peninsula, in the Umayyad era during the 7th century. The love story of "Laila Majnu" is an eternal one albeit a tragic one.

Laila was a beautiful girl born in a rich family. Being no less than a princess, she was expected to marry a wealthy boy and live in grandeur and splendor. But love is born from the heart; it knows no rules. Laila fell in love with Qays and he too loved her dearly. Qays was a poet and belonged to the same tribe as Laila. He composed splendid love poems and dedicated them to his lady-love, telling in them his love for her and mentioning her name often. Qays' friends knew about his affair with Laila and they often teased and made fun of his love. But such taunts had no effect on Qays. He was deeply in love with Laila and it was her thoughts alone that possesed his mind for all time.

Few lines Qays wrote goes like:

I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla
And I kiss this wall and that wall
It’s not Love of the houses that has taken my heart
But of the One who dwells in those houses.

It had been for quite sometime that Qays toyed with the idea of seeking Laila's hand in marriage from her parents. One day, he went up to them and put the big question before them.

But Qays was a poor lad. And when he asked for Laila's hand in marriage, her father promptly refused him as he didn't want her daughter to marry below her status. It would mean a scandal for Laila according to Arab traditions.

As fate would have it, the two lovers were banished from seeing each other. Soon after, Laila's parents married her off to a wealthy man and she went on to live in a big mansion.

When Qays heard of her marriage he was heartbroken. He fled the tribe camp and wandered in the surrounding desert. His family eventually gave up on his return and left food for him in the wilderrness. He could sometimes be seen reciting poetry to himself or writing Laila's name in the sand with a stick. Day and night, he pined for her.

Laila was no better. Seperated from Qays, she was shattered in mind, body and spirit. Not long afterwards, in 688 AD, she moved to Iraq with her husband, where she fell ill and died eventually.

When Qays' friends came to know about Laila's death, they went looking for him all over to give him the news. But they could not find him.

Not much later, their search for him came to an end. Qays was found dead in the wilderness near Laila's grave. On a rock near the grave, he had carved three verses of poetry, which are the last three verses ascribed to him.

Qays went mad for his love; for this reason he came to be called "Majnu", or "Majnun Layla", which means "Driven mad by Layla".

Another variation on the tale tells of Layla and Majnu meeting in school. Majnu fell in love with Layla and was captivated by her. The school master would beat Majnu for paying attention to Layla instead of his school work. When asked to write 'Allah', Majnu would write 'Layla' instead. Majnu got into trouble for this sort of behavior and was punished by the school master.

However, upon some sort of magic, whenever Majnu was beaten, Layla would bleed for his wounds. Word reached their households and their families feuded. Separated at childhood, Layla and Majnu met again in their youth. Layla's brother, Tabrez, would not let Layla shame the family name by marrying Majnu. Tabrez and Majnu quarreled; stricken with madness over Layla, Majnu murdered Tabrez.

Word reached the village and Majnu was arrested. He was sentenced to be stoned to death by the villagers.

Here is an old Hindi song describing this scene (with English captions).

Layla could not bear it and agreed to marry another man if Majnu would be kept safe from harm in exile. Layla got married but her heart longed for Majnu.

Hearing this, Layla's husband rode with his men to the desert towards Majnu. He challenged Majnu to the death. It is said that the instant Layla's husband's sword pierced Majnu's heart, Layla collapsed in her home. Layla and Majnu were said to be buried next to each other as her husband and their fathers prayed to their afterlife. Myth has it, Layla and Majnu met again in heaven, where they loved forever.

This 19 minute video is a Hindi play describing this version of the story - good watch (no captions, though).

Such a love is hard to find today. So if ever you love someone, try to love like these two did. It is their love affair that has made Laila Majnu immortal in the accounts of great love stories.

Even today, lovers swear by the name of Laila Majnu - without the "and" in between.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Baby care instructions

Certain human behavior - 2

Hopefully you had a chance to read the earlier article, 'Certain human behavior - 1.  If not, please read that before reading any further.

Today, let's look at another problem called, 'The Prisoners' Dilemma.' I have tried to keep mathematical equations to a minimum. Here is the situation:

Two men are arrested, but the police do not possess enough information for an arrest. Following the separation of the two men, the police offer both a similar deal- if one testifies against his partner (defects), and the other stays quiet (cooperates), the betrayer goes free and the cooperator receives the full one-year sentence. If both remain silent, both are sentenced to only one month in jail for a minor charge. If each 'rats out' the other, each receives a three-month sentence. Each prisoner must choose to either betray or remain silent; the decision of each is kept quiet. What should they do?

This video was put together for an economics course, where 2 businesses compete each other.

This 3 minute short video tells us how the prisoners behave. Pay close attention to the very last sentence.

Yes, they were smart, individually.  But....

Coming up:
In our next post, let's look at another practical example of how friends could behave.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I liked this video the very first time I watched - really thought provoking and inspirational.

Worth watching one more time :-)



An immigrant guy comes to America with his wife. The wife, after talking to her new friends learned that organic vegetables are the best and tries to educate her husband.  One evening, she asks him to pick up few organic vegetables from Kroger.

The guy, who hardly goes grocery shopping, stops at the nearest Kroger.  Mind you - he is not the 'shopping kind.' He goes to the vegetable section and forgets the word, 'organic.' Irritated that he cannot find the vegetables in the produce section, he grabbed an old, tired looking employee and said, “These vegetables are for my wife and have to be all natural. Have they been sprayed with any poisonous chemicals?”

The produce guy looked at the guy for few seconds and said, “No Sir. You’ll have to do that yourself.”


Certain human behavior - 1

Recently, a question sparked my interest, "How can people make wrong decisions, one after the other?"

While doing research, I found more about it and learned how certain people can poison the entire game.  During my college days, we had a subject called Operations Research wherein we learned something called Game Theory. It was mostly applying mathematical solutions to real life problems. I used to be very good at solving those Game Theory problems.  Now, during my research, it turns out that the topic about stupidity is classified under the Game Theory.

Let me give you a small introduction about Game Theory and prepare you first, before diving in.  Game theory reflects calculated circumstances (games) where a person’s success is based upon the choices of others.

All of us, we've heard, "Life is a game of chess" - true. We have to make our moves strategically in order to win a game. Many factors play in and more the evidence, the better off we are in winning the game.

Let's watch this charlie brown video. Charlie does not trust Lucy.  Now, Lucy is asking Charlie to come kick a football, while she hold it.

Click here to watch the video (I could not embed it here, since embedding is disabled for this video). Transcript of the video below:

Lucy: Say Charlie Brown, I’ve got a football. How about practicing a few placekicks? I’ll hold the ball, and you come running and kick it.

Charlie Brown: Oh brother. I don’t mind your dishonesty, half as much as I mind your opinion of me. You must think I am stupid [to fall for this gag again].

Lucy: Oh, come on Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown: No.

Lucy: I’ll hold it steady.

Charlie Brown: No.

Lucy: Please!

Charlie Brown: You just want me to come running up to kick that ball so you can pull it away and see me lying flat on my back and kill myself.

Lucy: This time you can trust me. See, here is a signed document testifying that I promise not to pull it away.

Charlie Brown: It is signed! It’s a signed document. I guess if you have a signed document in your possession, you can’t go wrong. This year I am really going to kick that football.

[runs up to kick the ball, but Lucy pulls it away and he falls flat on his back]. AARG!

Lucy: Peculiar thing about this document–it was never notarized.

Back to Game Theory:

Historically, Lucy's promises were never credible even though they appeared to be.  If Charlie was a rational thinker, he would have looked into past incidents and not fallen prey to Lucy.  Today, 'this document was never notarized' was Lucy's loophole/excuse.

Mathematically, here is how we draw the game tree:

Charlie has two choices - either to accept or reject Lucy's offer.  If he rejects, then the game is over and he walks away without falling down.

If Charlie accepts, then Lucy has a choice - she can either hold the ball or pull it away.

We can use the idea of thinking ahead (backwards induction) to solve the game. If Charlie accepts, then we think about what Lucy would choose. Based on historical experience, it is obvious that Lucy prefers to pull the ball away. This will happen whenever Charlie accepts. And so, Charlie must reject the offer if he wants to be safe, and pain-free.

However, Charlie never appropriately uses backwards induction. He is always tricked into thinking that Lucy will somehow hold the ball. Unfortunately he never learns and makes the same mistake over and over.

Now you get the idea - and have some info on Game Theory.

Let's look at another problem now - it's called the 'Battle of the Sexes'. Here is the problem:

A couple agreed to go out and enjoy their evening, but cannot settle whether they will be attending the opera or a football match. The husband wants to go for the football game.  The wife would like to go to the opera. Both would prefer to go to the same place together, rather than different ones.

I never understood the complexity and gravity of this problem while in college.  Back then, I thought, "Hmm... a wife would listen to each and every word the husband says, without any disagreement."

Let's make the solution simple this time - just watch the video. Here is the link - in case the video is broken.

Here, in this video, the wife's strategy of commitment and buying tickets for both works in her favor.

Click here, to see the mathematical explanation of the problem.  Ignore the equations and notice how they consider various factors while solving it.  This is how we would have solved it, back in college considering all steps/angles and showing them using charts, graphs and equations. In this solution, negotiations backed by threat solved the problem. The woman's superior negotiation skills (and cute looks) tips payoffs in her favor :-)

You now have a better idea about Game Theory and hopefully see the complexity.  Most humans do all these calculations in their head and arrive at answers/conclusions. Would you blame me, if I used my office whiteboard to simulate real-life situations from our society, to make predictions/analysis?

We will look at few other Game Theory problems and cover the topic of people making wrong decisions.