En Route

It’s 4 a.m. and I am huddled on the floor in the Las Vegas airport, monopolizing the last remaining power outlet, my belongings fanned about me in a three foot radius. Why, you ask? You could ask it again.

It is such a surreal state of affairs. And this place does not help. There is something rather sleazy about lone persons sitting in front of slot machines at unearthly hours, something unsettling about the oblong, motionless bodies sprawled out on the waiting benches, something utterly goofy about sitting here, writing in my blog, nibbling on a small bit of melted chocolate that someone gave me before I left, which is the last vestige of food in this forlorn neck of the woods.

I have only myself to blame. Thursday morning I woke up early, studied all day for an exam, took the exam, ran home to pack, spent the rest of the evening schwenking with my friends along the Saar, all the way until five in the morning, at which point three of my friends walked me to the train station and off I went to my next big adventure. So far, so good.

I had a long 8 hour flight into Philadelphia, but something along the way must have flipped in my brain because at the gate for the next flight to Phoenix, they sent out a call for volunteers to give up their seat in exchange for a free round-trip ticket to anywhere in the continental US, as well as free hotel accommodations if you didn’t manage to get a later flight that day. I remember someone telling me that this was a great way to get a chance to travel if the opportunity ever came up. So I figured it didn’t hurt to ask.

They told me I could get a re-route through Vegas and be in San Jose only a few hours later. This sounded like a great deal, so I stood back as everyone rushed to fill the plane, then headed over to customer service to change my itinerary. I had no problems getting a new ticket, as well as my free trip voucher and a free meal for that evening in the airport. The trouble came later on. They were late boarding the flight to Las Vegas because they were cleaning the plane, and in the meantime and out of nowhere, storms rolled over Philly. Sigh. My brother’s wedding had to be fudged due to storms in Philadelphia. I should have known.

We were more than two hours late leaving the runway. When we arrived in Las Vegas, all of our connections had, of course, long departed, and we were ushered down to the ticketing counter to revise our plans. We were welcomed with a mile-long line of people hoping to do the same thing. Two hours later, my only option is a flight leaving at 10 a.m. to San Francisco, no free hotel bed just because the time constraint would make it impractical, and I still have to pick up my bags in San Jose. There is some consolation, however: I get to fly first-class as it was the last seat available.

At this point I just feel giddy with the lack of proper sleep and real food. I wandered the halls, hearing snatches of rants here and there from people who vow never to fly US Airways again, and all I can do is smother my giggles over my own nuttiness.

And pray, almost devoutedly, to be safe in bed soon.


If I were a classifier, I’d be a maximum entropy model.

Most of the time, one tries to make decisions that result in the least amount of entropy and which are clear indicators of what the future might hold. Our experience is our data.

But then comes the paradox: better performance is gained by classifying only what you really know, and preserving the maximum amount of uncertainty about what you do not. Favoring the unpredictable. Admitting the outliers.

Coming to Germany was a result of this. Even the weather in Saarland tells me so. Just as in winter, the Saarland cannot seem to make up her mind about the season. One minute, she is sure it is summer, blasting us with a sultry sun. The next, it is certainly winter and she releases a tempestuous deluge. Both are short-lived. At least her conviction shows at these times and the periods of indecision are few. Gives me something to look forward to.

My Half Marathon

Runners at the Front
A few weeks ago, some of my friends and one of my flatmates signed up to run in a race in Dillingen. They told me it was a half marathon and asked if I wanted to join. I respectfully declined.

But then one guy dropped out. And I found out it was only a 5k run. (I had run, and won a 5k, once before in my life). And that if they didn’t find a fourth person, they wouldn’t be qualified as a team and would have to resort to cheating.

So at 4 o’clock, when it was clear that no one else would run with them, I showed up and agreed to do it, if they didn’t mind. The shirt fit, I ran off to grab my shoes, and we were on the train by 5.

Nine thousand racers, a torrential downpour just before the gun went off, town citizens cheering from their windows. It was amazing. I could not but revel in it: the exhilaration of feeling your body perform, the evident happiness in the faces of those around you who have the same stretch to cross, the giant mud-puddles that some would holler about and avoid and others would splash right through knowing that those behind would follow..

In the end, I managed to finish the race in under 40 minutes, which I was quite happy with, considering I haven’t run longer than twenty minutes in the past year, and not at all in the past few weeks. It was also stiff competition for us seeing as they entered the all-male category and I was supposed to be a young man named Mohammad Abdel. On the other hand, one of the guys on the team never got a scoring for some reason, so we don’t actually have a team placement. Oh well, twas all worth it to me.

Still, for anyone who needs proof, you can find our scores under ‘Computer Geeks 1’ at http://results.davengo.com/index.php. Remember to look for Mohammad..

UPDATE: I just posted all the pictures here.