Tag Archives: several times

Sadananda Gowda’s Set-up in South Bangalore

Ever since D V Sadananda Gowda became chief minister of Karnataka not so long ago, we residents of KR Road have been subjected to the holdup of the KR Road-SouthEnd Road signal several times a day. The convoy for which traffic is held up is huge, leading us to believe that it can’t belong to anyone but the chief minister. However, the chief minister’s house is in Milk Colony near Malleswaram, so what is he doing in South Bangalore? We wonder if a chinna veetu exists!

Relationships and the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma

It was around this time last year that something snapped, and things have never been the same again. Until then, whenever she threw some tantrums, or we had some fight, I’d always give her the benefit of doubt, and unconditionally apologise, and make an effort to bring the relationship back on track. But since then, I don’t feel the same kind of sympathy for her. I don’t feel “paapa” for her like I used to , and have questioned myself several times as to why I even aoplogise, and not expect her to do that.

The optimal strategy for Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma has been shown to be a strategy called “Tit for tat”. To explain the problem, you play a series of games against an “opponent”, and in each iteration, each of you choose to either “cooperate” or “defect”. For each combination of choices, there is a certain payoff. The payoff looks similar to this, though the exact numbers might be different. In this table, the first value refers to the first player’s payoff and the second represents the second player’s.

Player 1/ Player 2 Co-operate Defect
Co-operate 1 / 1 2 / 0
Defect 0 / 2 0.5/ 0.5

So you play this game several times, and your earnings are totalled. There was a tournament for computer programs playing this game sometime in the 1960s, where the winner was “tit for tat”. According to this strategy, you start by co-operating in the first iteration, and in every successive iteration you copy what your opponent did in the previous iteration. Notice that if both players choose this strategy, both will co-operate in perpetuity, and have identical payoffs.

Relationships can be modelled as an iterated prisoner’s dilemma. You can either choose to be nice to your partner (co-operate) for which you get a steady return, or you can choose to be nasty (defect), in which case you get a superior payoff if your partner continues to be nice. If both of you are nasty simultaneously both of you end up getting inferior payoffs (as shown by the Defect-Defect box in the above matrix).

Early on in the relationship, I was very keen to make things work and did my best to prevent it from falling into any abyss. I played the “Gandhi strategy”, where irrespective of her play, I simply co-operated. The idea there was that whenever she defected, she would feel sympathy for my co-operative position and switch back to co-operate.

So something snapped sometime around this time last year, which led me to change my strategy. I wasn’t going to be Gandhi anymore. I wasn’t going to unconditionally defect, either. I switched to playing tit-for-tat. You can see from the above table that when both players are playing tit-for-tat, you can get into a long (and extremely suboptimal) sequence of defect-defects. And that is what happened to us. We started getting into long sequences of suboptimality, when we would fight way more than what is required to sustain a relationship. Thankfully it never got so bad as to ruin the relationship.

Periodically, both of us would try to break the rut, and try to give the relationship a stimulus. We would play  the co-operate card, and given both of us were playing tit-for-tat we’d be back to normal (Co-operate – Co-operate). Soon we learnt that long defect-defect sequences are bad for both of us, so we would quickly break the strategy and co-operate and get things back on track. We weren’t playing pure tit-for-tat any more. There was a small randomness in our behaviour when we’d suddenly go crazy and defect. In the course of the year, we got formally engaged, and then we got married, and we’ve continued to play this randomized tit-for-tat strategy. And the payoffs have been a roller coaster.

Today I lost it. She randomly pulled out the defect card twice in the course of the day, and that made me go mad. While in earlier circumstances I’d wait a few iterations before I started to defect myself, something snapped today. I pulled out the defect card too. Maybe for the first time ever, I hung up on her. Do I regret it? Perhaps I do. I don’t want to get into a prolonged defect-defect sequence now.

And I hope one of us manages to give the relationship enough of a stimulus in the coming days to put us on a sustained co-operate co-operate path.

Ganeshana Madhuve and Challenge Gopalakrishna

Scenes from these two movies were enacted out at our wedding.

So in certain cultures (such as my wife’s; this isn’t practiced in my mother’s house at least) there is a uniform that brides need to wear – a white or off-white sari with a red border. I think this uniform is there in my father’s family also, but I’m not sure. I’m sure this is not there on my mother’s side.

Anyway, Priyanka was in her uniform, in the “bride’s room” doing “gowri pooje” that is supposed to be done before a girl gets married. There were several other women around, and for the wedding, they had all chosen to wear their own wedding saris – white or off-white with a red border. This included mostly Priyanka’s aunts and cousins and one of my aunts.

So there is this scene in Ganeshana maduve where Ganesha (YG Rao) is told that the girl in red sari is Shruti (his “pen lover”). And he goes into the bride’s room to find that everyone there was in a red sari, so he has no clue in figuring out who Shruti is. Similarly, if someone had come to the bride’s room searching for one particular woman who was in the white-red uniform, they would’ve been thoroughly confused indeed.

Then there is this scene that is oft-repeated in the other classic Anantnag starrer Challenge Gopalakrishna (I’m not able to find the link on youtube). Whenever Gopalakrishna’s dad abuses him, he reminds him of his lineage. (translating) “Being the great-grandson of Justice Gopalakrishna (loud temple gong), being the grandson of Major Radhakrishna (another loud temple gong), being the son of Rotarian Muralikrishna (yet another gong) you dare to behave like this… “. This scene is played out several times in the movie, and towards the latter half, as soon as Mukhyamantri Chandru utters “Justice Gopalakrishna”, Anantnag runs.

So as part of the wedding rituals, the bride and groom are anointed as Lakshmi and Narayana (the gods). So while I was being anointed such, the priest chanted “Venkataramanasharma nautram, Suryanarayanasharma poutram, Shashidharasharma putram Shri Karthika Sharma … ” and similarly for Priyanka (that way I got to know her great-grandfather’s name). The first couple of times it was ok. But when this bit came up later on in the rituals, we couldn’t help but burst out laughing. Thankfully there were no temple gongs to punctuate the recital.

I’m not sure if Lakshmi and Narayana are supposed to laugh.

NED Open

Happened today in three places. Chennai went in the morning, Bombay early in the afternoon and here in Bangalore in the evening. As part of the introduction to the finls we had written “if you are satisfied with the questions kindly let us know. If not, write to us in civil language and we will look into it”. I would encourage you to use the comments thread on this post to do the same.

Some personal comments at the end of it:

  • It’s insanely tiring for a single quizmaster to do a quiz this long (72 questions + LVC in finals). I can hardly talk right now and was shouting myself hoarse towards the end of the quiz (and as if it wasn’t bad enough, there was a tiebreaker to be conducted)
  • 72 questions plus a LVC is way to long for finals. True to the nomenclature of the quiz, I noticed several teams and part of the audience put NED towards the end. That it was late in the evening did matter i think. But again thinking about it, isn’t it fair that people put NED at the NED quiz?
  • One art I need to become better at is in terms of dividing points between teams in cases of partial answers. But then the problem there is however you do it, some team is bound to crib
  • Given it was such a long quiz, I was quite low on energy towards the end so probably did a worse job of point distribution, funda explanation etc. than I could have done
  • One needs to recognize that the concept of the LVC has been designed with an intention to irritate, and so some teams are bound to get pissed with it. As long as the audience enjoys you are good
  • One mistake I did (and I did this several times) was to continue wiht a question even after one team had given a “good enough” answer, and then finally give points tothe team that had originally given the “good enough” answer. This both wasted time as well as pissed people off
  • At the end of the quiz i was feeling so damn tired that all I wanted to do wsa to go to Dewar’s wine shop on St Marks Road and buy myself a bottle of Amrut Fusion and finish it off. But then, NED happened.

FabIndia Koramangala

There are very few clothing stores that I can say I’m in love with. There are very few stores where I feel like buying a large proportion of merchandise on display whenever I visit it. There are very few stores where just the atmosphere makes you buy much more than you had planned to. And it’s a pity that on two of my visits to the store, I bought nothing.

I haven’t been to too many FabIndia stores outside Bangalore (only a handful of stores in Gurgaon and maybe one in Delhi) but having shopped a few times at the FabIndia store in Koramangala, I feel distinctly underwhelmed whenever i go to any other outlet. Having been several times to this beautifully designed house, I find FabIndia outlets housed in less spectacular buildings sad. Of course there have been times (including two days ago) when I’ve shopped at other outlets but the experience simply doesn’t come close.

The first time I went to the store was some four or five years back when Anuroop wanted to check out kurtas. I think we went there on Bunty’s recommendation but I remember that I hadn’t bought anything. I had quickly made amends for it a couple of months later when I bought a couple of shirts, and then a year later when I bought a dozen shirts at one go!

The only other time I went there without purchasing anything was yesterday morning, when I was visiting the store after a gap of some two or three years. The first thought was one of guilt – of having shopped in a less spectacular Fabindia store (the one at Kathriguppe) just the previous night, and then as I got over it I got overwhelmed with the variety on display. I suddenly got afraid that I might over-spend and made a dash for the exit.

I wasn’t gone for too long, though, as I returned in the evening with Priyanka, and this time we discovered something even more spectacular – something that I had completely missed during my hajaar earlier visits - the store cafe. The brownie was decent, and the coffee was just about ok, but that didn’t matter one bit. Once again, it was the atmosphere at play, and that the coffee shop had in plenty.

It’s something like a small arena. If you can perform some visual art (say a play or a dance) in a five feet square area, this is just the place for you! All around the 5×5 “well” (which is full of pebbles) are stone benches, at different levels. Cushions have been placed on some arbitrary benches, and we understood that that’s where it was supposed to sit. There wsa some music that I didn’t quite recognized but was quite pleasant, and the wooden trays in which the waiter brought our coffees were also beautiful – I might have bought something like that from the store had I been in a spendthrift mood yesterday!

If you are in Bangalore and are interested in cotton clothes you should definitely check out this store sometime. It’s in Koramangala, in the extension of the intermediate ring road. Make sure you go there leisurely, for there is plenty to see and buy (the inventory is about six times as much as that of an “ordinary” FabIndia store). And while you are there, do visit the cafe and lounge around there for a while. And think about Priyanka and me while you are there.

Arranged Scissors 13 – Pruning

Q: How do you carve an elephant?
A: Take a large stone and remove from it all that doesn’t look like an elephant

– Ancient Indian proverb, as told to us by Prof C Pandu Rangan during the Design of Algorithms course

As I had explained in a post a long time ago, this whole business of louvvu and marriage and all such follows a “Monte Carlo approach“. When you ask yourself the question “Do I want a long-term gene-propagating relationship with her?” , the answer is one of “No” or “Maybe”. Irrespective of how decisive you are, or how perceptive you are, it is impossible for you to answer that question with a “Yes” with 100% confidence.

Now, in Computer Science, the way this is tackled is by running the algorithm a large number of times. If you run the algo several times, and the answer is “Maybe” in each iteration, then you can put an upper bound on the probability that the answer is “No”. And with high confidence (though not 100%) you can say “Probably yes”. This is reflected in louvvu also – you meet several times, implicitly evaluate each other on several counts, and keep asking yourselves this question. And when both of you have asked yourselves this question enough times, and both have gotten consistent maybes, you go ahead and marry (of course, there is the measurement aspect also that is involved).

Now, the deal with the arranged marriage market is that you aren’t allowed to have too many meetings. In fact, in the traditional model, the “darshan” lasts only for some 10-15 mins. In extreme cases it’s just a photo but let’s leave that out of the analysis. In modern times, people have been pushing to get more time, and to get more opportunities to run iterations of the algo. Even then, the number of iterations you are allowed is bounded, which puts an upper bound on the confidence with which you can say yes, and also gives fewer opportunity for “noes”.

Management is about finding a creative solution to a system of contradictory constraints
– Prof Ramnath Narayanswamy, IIMB

So one way to deal with this situation I’ve described is by what can be approximately called “pruning”. In each meeting, you will need to maximize the opportunity of detecting a “no”. Suppose that in a normal “louvvu date”, the probability of a “no” is 50% (random number pulled out of thin air). What you will need to do in order to maximize information out of an “arranged date” (yes, that concept exists now) is to raise this probability of a “no” to a higher number, say 60% (again pulled out of thing air).

If you can design your interaction so as to increase the probability of detecting a no, then you will be able to extract more information out of a limited number of meetings. When the a priori rejection rate per date is 50%, you will need at least 5 meetings with consistent “maybes” in order to say “yes” with a confidence of over 50% (I’m too lazy to explain the math here), and this is assuming that the information you gather in one particular iteration is independent of all information gathered in previous iterations.

(In fact, considering that the amount of incremental information gathered in each subsequent iteration is a decreasing function, the actual number of meetings required is much more)

Now, if you raise the a priori probability of rejection in one particular iteration to 60%, then you will need only 4 independent iterations in order to say “yes” with a confidence of over 95% (and this again is by assuming independence).

Ignore all the numbers I’ve put, none of them make sense. I’ve only given them to illustrate my point. The basic idea is that in an “arranged date”, you will need to design the interaction in order to “prune” as much as possible in one particular iteration. Yes, this same thing can be argued for normal louvvu also, but there I suppose the pleasure in the process compensates for larger number of iterations, and there is no external party putting constraints.

Compensation Etc.

For a change I’m keeping up a promise that I’ve made on my blog – I’m actually writing a follow-up post that I’d promised. In the past, I’ve guilty several times of promising to continue something in a follow-up post and then conveniently forgetting about it.

So I had mentioned in my last post that the word “compensation” as used to describe salary is not really misplaced. There has been a lot of debate on this topic. The opponents of the word have said that you aren’t losing an arm or a leg in order to be “compensated”. They say that you are only getting paid for the value you add, and so the use of the word “compensation” is plain wrong. I must admit I haven’t really bothered to read the arguments of the people who support the use of the word.

The basic fact: you work because you need the cash flow to fund the rest of your life.

I know a lot of career-minded folks among you will jump on me for this, but I stand by this. Just get down a little deeper, and ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Maybe you don’t get the kind of questions in your head that I normally do, and described in my previous post. Maybe your jobs have put you in the kind of comfort zone where you don’t really need to ask yourself such questions (I was in a similar state not too long back, I must admit). But I encourage you to make that effort and ask yourself this uncomfortable question. And it will be down to the money.

You might say that you are doing some stuff “for the sake of career development”. Rephrase that and you will find that you are doing that in expectation of higher future earnnigs. You might say that you are doing something because you want to “achieve something”. Dig deeper and you may find that you define the fruit of your achievement in monetary terms.

So where does “quality of work”, “impact on society”, “value add”, etc. all fit in? I know that in the not-so-distant past, I’ve also talked a lot about these things. I have rejected a number of potential job offers because I don’t like the “quality of work”. This definitely needs to be incorporated into the model, right?

The next basic fact: work is inherently unpleasant.

I don’t think I’ll spend too much time elaborating this here. Maybe I’ll explain this in the comments if you want. So this is where things like “quality of work”, “value add” etc. all fit in – they make work so much less unpleasant. For example, I enjoy spreadsheet modeling. So if my work involves a lot of spreadsheet modeling, I’ll feel so much less unpleasant doing it. Of course, what I am doing remains “work” and it has to be done, in a certain way by a certain day, and so it remains unpleasant. But the fact that I enjoy the core activity makes it less unpleasant.

Similarly, if you think that the work that you are doing gives you a sense of achievement, then it is as if you are doing a part of the work for yourself, and not for someone else, and thus need to be compensated less. “Compensated less”. So this is where it fits in. You get “compensated” because work is inherently unpleasant. You need some incentive to do the stuff that is inherently unpleasant. So you get compensated.

You may have to live in a city that is not your preferred choice – you need to get compensated for that. You may face an extremely long commute where you waste your time – you need to get compensated for that. You might have to work long hours which can intrude on your personal time – you need to get compensated for that. You may have to deal with lousy colleagues or customers, you need to get compensated for that. The list goes on. And if you think about it, a large part of the money that you get out of your work is just that – compensation. Compensation for your time, your effort, your mindspace, your willpower, etc.

So why work at all, you might ask. Go to basic fact one. You work because you need the money. You are in a certain job because you believe that after compensating for all your “sacrifices” for the job, it will leave you with some more money to fund your life. If you think that the money your job leaves you if you take out the “compensation” part of it is lower than what you need to sustain life, you need to question why you are doing that job.

Investment bankers (the inside the wall type) usually end up spending a lot of their time at work, and despite the reasonable bonuses they get, they might feel they are not being compensated enough. They are doing it because they expect that when they ultimately get promoted they will make enough and more to cover for all this unpleasantness. It is basically an “investment”. If, however, you think you are in a job where you are inadequately compensated but don’t see any hopes of significantly higher compensation in the future, you are cheating yourself by not looking for another job.

This also explains why it is a bad thing to compare your salary with your peers and your old classmates and then feel good or bad about it. No two people have the same needs. No two people find the same things unpleasant to the same degree. No two people make the same trade-offs. Comparing your salary with you peer gives little information.

On a closing note (I know it’s already monstrously long) I find the phrase “work-life balance” amusing. I think it is a construct brought about by the pigs so as to con the sheep into workign harder for them. There is no “balance” between life and work. Life is the master and work is the slave.

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