More R ..rrrr..

Melinda reminded me that I needed to get part II done. We were allowed to write to the professor or the Research Assistant or refer to Google as the case may be for the assignment.

Opening the package was a great deal as my laptop stopped working the minute I started running R on it. So a laptop was borrowed from the library. I quickly found out that the library laptop did not have any software uploaded on it other than MS Office. I tried downloading R on it but the ubiquitous message popped up that I had no administrative rights to download or run new software on it.

Then began a lengthy process of calling IT and asking them to do the needful. IT in my university is always on call and always attending calls- so I got a late response. When they did, there was further delay in getting the software as the technician went to attend to other calls amid dealing with my software issues- finally it got done.

There were three questions on the assignment and each had 3-4 sub questions and all of them required us running the program and then interpreting the results. I tried running each chunk of the code( the code was already provided in the software)- it should have run like clockwork but the package gave error messages every few seconds. After half a day of battling with the computer, I decided to ask for help and emailed the Assistant, who promptly replied. Following her advice, I ran the first chunk and it ran.

I imagined the rest of the chunks would be smooth sailing too. At every step of the program, there were hitches and error messages. When I got through one question, the next problem started. Called RA again but she didn’t reply- it was Sunday. So I emailed the instructor who said, write to the RA.

The RA finally wrote back on Monday( due date of the assignment) that she would not help through email as she had helped a lot of people during teaching hours, which she hosts once a week on Wednesday for an hour. ( I had missed that time obviously). Turns out the students went to her to complete their homework and got them all submitted on time.

I didn’t. Finally, with no other go, I did what I could and submitted before the due time.

I await the results. I have now decided to master this R thing.

No amount of R should defeat a 50 year old student if she wants to learn it, don’t you agree ?


After last week’s wonderful get together, one with Anne and another with a Moroccan friend on Saturday, the rest of the week was spent in figuring out R. Yes, this is the new statistical software used for data analysis – SPSS is out and SAS is on the brink of going out. They say STATA might stay for a bit but R is the next gen software everyone needs to know about.

Well, being behind the times, I hadn’t heard about this till a few weeks back. The 2 year program students of my degree, had R classes all through Fall- since mine was an Accelerated program, it was thought that SAS would serve us well( not knowing can’t say, why).

Anyway, now I am in a course that is on public health surveillance. And the course only works with R and without any lab work. All R use is in the classroom, where we follow along with the tutor.

You can imagine how my life was after I returned from home in January. I did not even know how to open a file in R. Most of every class, after the lecture part, I spend trying to get R to run on my antique laptop. I haven’t used laptops much in my life as I always had access to desktops and sometimes with multiple screens. In the US, all teaching is done via laptops- I can understand why people panic when they misplace their laptops- their life is dependent on these machines.

Anyway, last weekend we had to work on a homework using R and of course, I had no idea how to do it- doing R was bad enough, we were expected to analyse and critique our findings.

Of course, being who I am, I procrastinated, hoping the assignment would go away. It was due by Monday afternoon. Late Sunday, I had gotten through barely one third of the assignment.

And then I decided to call in the experts- working with other students was banned and we were allowed to send emails to the instructor or the research assistant for the class. ( Part 1)

More visitors

The day after Anne and John’s visit, we had a famous person visiting our campus. Global health department were hosting a politician who had interest in health- Senator John Kerry. I have always been an admirer of the Senator’s policies and the way he showed maturity in various situations. So of course I went to his talk.

The talk focused on the US handling of the AIDS issue and then the Ebola crises and surprisingly criticized the Corona Virus shut down of world economy in a way that suggested that if the decision making powers were with others, many things would have been handled differently.

To great rounds of applause, the Senator went ahead with answering questions.

Picture taken from a great distance as I was in the last row

First experience with a US politician in the same room as me.

LOLs- Lots of laughs

Yesterday was one day I laughed – a lot.

How could a busy, excessively worked graduate student laugh so much – it could not be the classes or the weather.

Yesterday I had visitors – from across the mountains, and far away. In fact four days of driving away.

I experienced selfless love from two who two visitors who practice Christian love in real life.

Fellow blogger Anne and husband John drove from their mountain home to visit .

Classes finished by 4 pm yesterday- Thursday. My visitors dropped in about 5 pm. There was a small delay while I tried to locate Anne. I found her waiting in front of the Medical library a few doors away from my dorm.

Anne and Susie- our first meeting ever

You can see the happiness on both our faces. Doesn’t Anne look beautiful ?

John drove up a few minutes later and we drove around town to locate a place to eat. Having never explored beyond the Downtown area and not having eaten out much, I was not of much help.

But John and Anne, seasoned travellers that they were, took me on a journey to the Greater town area and to a diner that looked comfortable and welcoming.

Their selection of restaurants was fabulous.

We sat there for hours eating, talking and laughing. We laughed so much. We had so much to talk about. John had the most wonderful stories and experiences from his work in New York and it was obvious that he enjoyed human beings and interactions and could make any encounter interesting. I learnt so much from him, being a history fan – John is a history buff- he knew American history, English History( we are taught that in school being from a former British colony)- and Western European history( he knew so much more than our school syllabus of the two world wars and the Industrial revolution)- I wish I had had more time to talk with him- he was a great history teacher.

Enjoying ourselves- John on the side

It was like Christmas all over again and Valentine’s day altogether- Anne and John were my Christmas gifts and Valentines all rolled into one.

John and Anne know so much about music, church music, church history, the Bible, places, people they have met on life’s journey together. John ends his sentences to Anne with “dear”- I have only read this in books and Anne calls him “hon”. Aren’t they a lovely couple ?

Happy laughing times

We continued our conversation in their motel- yes, they stayed overnight in our University town and left early this morning. And in the hotel room, we discussed my classes and the how and why of my course structure and how politics affects the curriculum of the university- how my course is so contemporary as to reflect political ideologies and leanings and correctness- sometimes even to get a few “claps” from the students. This was serious discussion but it made a lot of sense to me when it was all over- all the weeks of learning about climate change, and race and other “contemporary topics”.

The trip back to my dorm was adventurous as we lost our way- you would think I would know my way home once I entered the precincts of the University- sadly I could not find my way back. John has a photographic memory for directions and roads . Anne helped him with her knowledge of gadgets and maps. We got to the dorm around 10:15 pm.

Hugs and messages for our families followed. Needless to say, I enjoyed my visit – you could say, it was the highlight of my stay in the USA- I experienced firsthand Christian love- in -action- love that would bring a couple from over mountains in search of a lonely, expatriate , other nationality, other race, other ethnic background, thickly accented woman, to shower her with selfless blessings, filling her heart and soul with a warm fuzzy feeling that will last her all the days of her life. (When I feel lonely, I am going to think back on this day )

John and Anne, you made memories for me- stories to tell my grandchildren- should they come, some day. I hope you will come to Kerala and can see the river bed where the largest Asian Christian convention takes place every year. John -thank you for driving Anne all the way, the knowledge you shared and for being a kindred spirit, and Anne- thank you for being my friend.

Rainy February

When I came here last year, I fully expected to get snowed in from December to April. Whether it is that a desert wind blew here or something else, we have had very few days of snowy weather here, even in December, even in January and now, even in February.

It has rained more than it has snowed- of course, the rain is better than the snow to walk in- of course a student has to always walk- the walks are inevitable.

This term has been a lot more relaxing for me, perhaps because I found my niche or groove. I have time to read other books. Regular class requires no books as most readings are online and from journal articles.