It has been almost a year since I took a long walk to determine the course for the rest of my life and I feel it's time for some retrospection. Last year, I decided to leave my promising job as the Director of IT at a fast-growing pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Florida so I could work on KType full-time. KType is my independent and self-funded research project to improve communication for people with speech & motor disabilities by creating low-cost, customizable software and hardware tools.
Giving up a rising career at a growing company was no easy decision for me and a part of me will always wonder what if I hadn't taken the road-less-traveled-by. When I started working on KType, Juliet was studying hard for her final semester at graduate school, we had tons of debt and barely any savings, and I had absolutely no idea if KType could even be built with the requirements I had in mind. A year later, Juliet is now a surgical PA having graduated at the top of her class, we have paid down our debt considerably and even saved a little, and I have a fully-functional KType prototype that I'm excited to have potential users try out very soon.
Though I am constantly making progress, I know I still have a long way to go. The primary goal of the KType project is to help others communicate and I feel disappointed in myself to say that despite a year's worth of R&D, I still haven't helped improve anyone's life yet. But that's going to change now. Over the next few weeks, I will reach out to local hospitals, special-needs schools, and nursing homes to find potential users for KType. Last year I resolved to make KType. This year I resolve to share KType.
To say that I am extremely nervous about all of this is an understatement. But if I can help even one person, I will consider KType to be a success. If you know someone who cannot speak nor type because of paralysis, injuries, ALS, cerebral palsy, muscle spasms, or other neurological causes, please feel free to contact me.
I like to notice patterns in everything - it's one of the few very things humans can still do markedly better than computers. One pattern I've noticed in news is the ever increasing number of headlines for "Al-Qaeda's No. 2 Leader Killed." I plotted this logarithmic graph based on the number of Google search results for the phrase.
High-frequency HijinksSat, 20th Aug '11, 7:03 pm::
I'm having way too much fun torturing my dear wife in the name of science. I'm working on the KType iPad app and need to figure out a reliable way to detect whenever an external button is pressed. Instead of requiring my users to touch the iPad screen, I want them to be able to press a physical button with their hand/foot/chin and register it as a click on the iPad app.
One of my initial ideas was to pair a low-cost bluetooth num-pad with the iPad and detect whenever a key is pressed. While it sort of works, there are some technical issues that cannot be resolved trivially. So I'm still looking for a better/cheaper way to detect from my iPad app that an external button has been pressed.
One idea I've considered exploring is high-frequency sound. It's easy to make a small battery-powered device that emits a specific high-frequency tone when pressed. If the iPad's microphone can detect this tone easily, then it can register a click. Of course, the sound must be inaudible to humans and pets but still be detectable by the iPad microphone. To test it out, I started playing these clips at a low volume.
I could hear 8kHz-16kHz sounds fine but not the 17kHz and above clips so I cranked up the volume all the way. Juliet started freaking out in the other room as she could clearly hear everything up to 20kHz. While it was hilarious to watch her get so flustered, it is also bad news for my research. It appears I might not be able to rely on high-frequency sound for input and need to keep looking for a better way.
Juliet and I went kayaking down the Weeki Wachee River with our friends Billy & Lisa on Sunday. We came across a rope swing and instantly forgot that we were grownups as you can see from the video. The video was shot using my iPhone 4 wrapped safely inside my DiCAPac WPH10 waterproof cover.
Here is my second attempt at taking a video underwater. Holding a camera steady in the midst of 2-3mph water current was pretty difficult.
My little sister has an impressive photography portfolio. And she just started about a year ago! I'm so proud of her :)
Juliet and I took a painting class today where we sipped on wine, ate some cheese, and painted a tiny bottle of wine being poured into a gigantic glass. Attached is the masterpiece by yours truly.
August 27, 2011 is the ten-year anniversary of Internet Explorer 6.
I just had to sign some PDF documents and send them back to a software vendor. I hate the entire process of printing, signing, scanning, and emailing or faxing so I decided to find the easiest and most reliable way to do it online. After an hour of searching, signing up for various online services, and testing out their PDF-signing tools, I have to say HelloFax.com wins hands-down.
I had a scan of my real signature on my computer so that made the process easier but HelloFax lets you create signatures using a mouse or email a photo of your signature from your phone. I signed up for the free account, uploaded the PDF, uploaded my signature, placed the signature on the document appropriately, typed today's date & my name, and clicked "I'm done!" HelloFax instantly emailed me the signed PDF and I emailed it back to the company. The entire process took just a few minutes and did not cost me anything. I would have most certainly paid them $1/fax had I needed to use fax instead of email today.
Last night I was telling Juliet about the stories of Vikram & Vaital that I grew up reading and watching on TV as a kid in India. Feeling that I didn't give her a good enough summary of the collection, I decided to look online and found something I didn't expect.
This is the part I knew: According to the stories, King Vikram promised a sorcerer that he would capture a vampire spirit, Vaital, who hangs from a tree in a desolate forest. Each time Vikram tries to capture the spirit, it tells a story that ends with a riddle. If the king knows the answer, he must answer and if he answers it correctly, the spirit would escape and return to his tree. If Vikram cannot answer the question correctly, the spirit consents to remain in captivity. King Vikram guessed the answer 24 times and the spirit flew away each time.
This is the part I learned today: On the twenty-fifth attempt, the spirit tells the story of a father and a son in the after-math of a devastating war. They find the queen and the princess alive in the chaos, and decide to take them home. In due time, the son marries the queen and the father marries the princess. Eventually, the son and the queen have a son, and the father and the princess have a daughter. The spirit asks what the relation between the two newborn children is. The question stumps Vikram. Satisfied, the spirit allows himself to be taken to the sorcerer.
In summary, the "I am my own grandpa" story is over a thousand years old and has roots in ancient Indian tales. And the Ray Stevens song based on the story is hilarious.
I wish I knew who the original author of this tale was so I could credit them. It is most definitely one of my favorite stories. Feel free to share.
The Parable of the Mexican Fisherman
A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
"Not very long," answered the Mexican.
"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.
The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs ... I have a full life."
The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.
"And after that?" asked the Mexican.
"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."
"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.
"Twenty, perhaps 25 years," replied the American.
"And after that?" the Mexican asked.
"Afterwards? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"
"Millions? Really? And after that?"
"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."