SerenityThu, 16th Nov '17, 12:20 am::

I woke up this morning to find Naveen had opened multiple bags of dried fruits, chips, and candy and was arranging them on his little plastic table. I asked him why he was emptying entire bags on to the table instead of just eating a few pieces from a bag and he said because he wanted to put them on the table. He knows I won't buy his circular reasoning but he still leads with it. After a few minutes of prodding, he reasoned that once all the food was on his table, it was his and he could eat as much or as little of it as he wants. I assured him that he could do the same even if it was in the bags and he seemed to accept that at face value. I will find out tomorrow if he believed me or not.

I've noticed he is doing more and more things to assert some form of control over his surroundings. Whether it is the arrangement of pillows before bedtime or which books he wants us to read in which order, he is constantly trying to govern his world. Initially I thought it was just random choices or him being fussy but now I can definitely spot a pattern in his requests. He wants a big pillow on the edge to prevent him from falling off the bed and he wants picture stories first and books with songs later on because the latter make him sleepy.

It was during one of his bedtime routines a few nights ago that I realized how important it was for him to feel like he was in control. The more he was in charge the more he behaved well and took responsibility for his actions. Frankly, that's pretty much all we want as adults too. Being in control of your own life and fate is one of the key ingredients to happiness.

My dry cough is back once again and disrupting my home and work life as always. Involuntary coughing is literally the opposite of control and barely an hour goes by without me hacking my lungs out at full volume. Obviously I am going to get the proper treatment but it is a painful, protracted process. Add to this some expensive medical issues, unexpected travel, and arbitrary work hours and you arrive at my complete lack of jurisdiction over my own life.

Just like my son, I grew up learning how to take charge of my life, from asserting control over my routines to fighting for command in school and work environments. And now I find myself at an unexpected juncture - reciting the Serenity Prayer to myself 5x a day because accepting that there are things I cannot control is surprisingly more difficult for me than chanting the try-try-till-you-succeed mantra that has fueled me all my life.

    "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."

I don't know how long things will be tough and seemingly out of control but it helps to have a loving family and tons of cuddly pets. I may not be able to direct this season of life but I can sure teach Naveen the words to The Lion Sleeps Tonight and for the moment, that's good enough.

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Then I saw her faceFri, 27th Oct '17, 10:45 pm::

Exactly ten years ago on this day I first laid my eyes on the woman who would become my wife. I wrote about that day long ago when I was but a young man. Today was the first time in years that I re-read that entry and it feels like I wrote it yesterday. So much has happened in the past decade since this beautiful woman walked into my life and all I can think of is how much more life Juliet and I still have to experience together. As we raise our son Naveen, we hope that someday he can have a couple of siblings to play with. We want to go to Galapagos to see the giant tortoises and see wild lemurs in Madagascar. We hope to have a real homestead someday where we'll raise a dozen dwarf goats with the help of our kids. And maybe one summer I will drive around the country with the whole family in a big RV.

Looking back, almost all of our wishes and dreams have already come true. She graduated at the top of her MS class, I became a work-from-home software consultant, we bought a nice house in a good neighborhood, climbed up a glacier in Alaska, found a great school for Naveen, and most of all, have supported each other through our toughest days. Now that I think about it, the only pending item on my wish-list is getting a high-pressure rain-shower in master bath. Pretty sure I'll check it off some time in the next ten years.

It was quite a coincidence that I even remembered today was the exact day. We were watching the new season of Stranger Things and during a scene shot in a cabin I turned to her to bring up our past trip to the Smoky Mountains. Maybe it was the lighting or how her hair just slightly covered her face but my mind suddenly flashed back to the very moment I first saw her a decade ago. If someone had told me that day that exactly ten years later I would be watching a scary show with her after we put our son to bed, I would have laughed at how ridiculous that sounded while secretly hoping for all of it to come true.

And then I saw her face. All of it had indeed come true.

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Safe, sound, and offlineTue, 12th Sep '17, 1:15 pm::

We are ok, our friends are ok, and our house is ok, just some minor yard/fence damage. My biggest fears did not pan out but Irma got really close and did a significant amount of damage in surrounding areas. We heard that a number of huge oak trees fell in our neighborhood but thankfully away from the houses. Most of our county is without electricity and Internet. We are waiting to drive back to Florida once we get power and clean water. Until then we have friends watching our house. I'm fairly certain I will write more once we return.

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Safe but not soundSat, 9th Sep '17, 3:05 am::

We left our house at 1am Thursday and drove 16 hours non-stop through back-country roads to a rental log-cabin in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. We are safe and have enough gas and supplies to last us weeks. Naveen was great during the drive and we all have been spending some much needed family-time together.

We're trying our best to act normal but I can't stop thinking about all of our friends back home. Almost everyone we know stayed back. And now there is Irma, a Category 5 Hurricane, headed straight for the west-coast of Florida. This feels unreal. A week ago Juliet took Naveen to Disney while I finished up some work and now the entire state of Florida is under a Hurricane warning, unsure of what is going to remain standing next week. This feels unreal. Four days ago Miami was supposed to be the epicenter of devastation and now it's going to be my county across the state. This feels unreal.

I am not worried for us. I am worried for literally everyone we know. It is one thing to hear about an acquaintance who got into an accident. It is entirely something else to watch weather announcements get morbid by the hour, as everyone who told me "Oh it's nothing" slowly admit "Maybe I should evacuate" to now saying "I am scared and don't know what to do."

People are telling me to be positive and hope for the best but all I see is a time bomb counting down. Unless Irma drastically changes direction or loses strength, catastrophe is imminent. I've been hoping I'm wrong for a week now but the storm continues to reinforce my worst fears. All my life I've hated being wrong but right now I am wishing harder than ever that I am wrong. It's only September but all I want for Christmas is running water, electricity, and functional roadways for all of Florida.

I'm safe but I'm pretty far from ok.

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EvacuatingWed, 6th Sep '17, 11:35 pm::

We are leaving in a few minutes, driving up straight to a cabin in North Carolina. We have someone taking care of the house and some pets that cannot travel safely on such a long drive. Right now there are three active hurricanes around Florida: Irma and Jose in the Atlantic and Katia in the Gulf of Mexico. While Tampa Bay is not directly in Irma's path, we live very close to the Gulf and our house and yard is barely 6-8 feet above sea level. If Irma somehow ends up on the west coast of Florida, staying would be catastrophic.

All we can hope is that Irma misses Florida and does not do much damage elsewhere. Here's hoping we are just being unnecessarily cautious and get an unplanned 7-day vacation in a log cabin instead of well, literally anything else.

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IrmaMon, 4th Sep '17, 11:30 pm::

Hurricane Irma is currently a Category 4 Hurricane with wind speeds of 140mph (225kmh) in the Atlantic Ocean. According to most of the spaghetti models, it will make landfall in South Florida on Sunday, September 10th. I've been in Florida for 13 years now. This is the most concerned I have ever been about a hurricane and I was seriously scared the first season of hurricanes I experienced when I moved here in 2004. I hope I am wrong about this one but I don't plan on finding out in a flooded house. We're planning to evacuate unless the storm suddenly loses steam or changes direction. I will post updates here as we find out more.

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Nine years just flew byThu, 27th Jul '17, 7:10 pm::

Can't believe how quickly time passed. I feel like Juliet and I just got married but that was nine years ago! We went on our 5th anniversary Alaskan cruise four years ago.

To celebrate our 9th anniversary this year, we did something completely different. We decided to thoroughly clean our porch together. It took five hours of cooperation, understanding, and hard work. While that sounds like a pretty boring way to celebrate an anniversary, I thought it was kind of cool. Had we tried this even 4 years ago, we'd have had 3 arguments, 2 hours of delay, and one big mess at the end. But I'm proud to report that our porch is clean without a single disagreement. Maybe that's what maturity and growing together is all about :)

Love you Juliet!

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Happy 60th Dad!Sun, 16th Jul '17, 2:00 am::

We had an amazing time in Kolkata, India last week celebrating my dad's 60th birthday. It was a very short but fun-filled trip and the memories we made will last a lifetime. Earlier this year my dad said that he wanted to come visit us in Florida for the summer but I wasn't too keen on that because that would mean he would be away from all of his friends and family on his 60th birthday. So instead I suggested that we have a party in India and invite everyone.

It took about 6 months of intense planning and organization (his favorite activities) and last week about 60 of his closest friends and family arrived at Sun City Resort in Mandarmoni for a weekend of fantastic food and fun activities. From private water-park hours to foot massages on the beach, he planned countless activities to entertain everyone from kids and young adults to my 85-year old grandmother. The only thing I didn't let him plan is the game show that my sister Roshni, my wife Juliet, and I put together for all the guests last Saturday evening.

Over the past 3-4 months, I developed a customizable game-show app that runs in any modern web browser, does not need internet access, and displays videos, gifs, and team score on a separate monitor that can be hooked up to a projector. During the main event, Juliet was controlling the app from a laptop while my sister and I were walking around the room with wireless mics, coordinating the games. The games could have easily been played without the app but having a big-screen that showed funny videos, played background music, and displayed team member names and scores enhanced the audience's experience. Kind of like how well-made PowerPoint presentation can improve a product demo.

We pitted our dad against our mom in a "Race to the Big 60" and played 7 rounds of games (6 of them made by Juliet, remainder by yours truly). During each round, 3-5 guests would randomly be selected to join my dad's team and similar number to my mom's. Then we would explain the rules, Juliet would start the timer, and the conference room would erupt into a pandemonium. I am so happy that every single guest excitedly got up to play and many were trying to influence the game play from the audience. While I would love to take credit for the extraordinary audience participation, looking back it is clear that the simple reason everyone was so excited to join in was because they love my dad and this was a celebration of his lifelong friendship, generosity, and genuine affection for everyone he has ever met.

Juliet and I spent a lot of time making each game and thinking about what we could add or remove to make it more exciting, not just for the players but also the audience. For instance, in the "Auditions for Indian Idol" game where 4 members of a team sing 20 songs out loud and their 5th team member standing 10 feet away has to identify the song, we gave all the members of the audience birthday noisemakers (whistles, horns etc.). What transpired during that game can only be described as raucous cacophony.

In the end, my mom's team won narrowly by 2 points. After the game, many of his friends took the mic and shared memories and stories about him. The most wonderful gift he received was from a friend's daughter-in-law Purvi - a beautiful album of family photos with handwritten notes by all of us. Juliet and I gave him a set of custom-etched Jenga blocks and asked the guests to write a few words on each block to remind them of their friendship and love when they play the game.

Beside the games and fun activities, this was a huge experience for us because it was Naveen's first trip to India and the first time I got to hold my sister's son Aayansh in my hands. And naturally, this was the first time Naveen and Aayansh met. There were lots of cute/funny incidents but my favorite is when Naveen woke up in the middle of the night and started to pat Aayansh's back just like I do when I try to put Naveen to sleep.

So much happened during the short time we were in India that it is impossible for me to write down everything. But the most important thing that happened is that my dad spent an exciting and memorable weekend with the people closest to him and I got to see him insanely happy.

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Choosing to be meTue, 6th Jun '17, 3:05 am::

As a kid, the most confusing thing for me was how adults behaved with other adults. Grown-ups were usually pretty nice to kids but it was clear that there were a lot of behind-the-scenes tallies running during their interactions with each other. From deciding which family members or friends should get an invite to determining the appropriate gift for someone, there sure were a lot of rules and regulations for being a proper adult. Naturally, I absorbed every bit of social etiquette and norm I was exposed to, so that I could easily navigate the adult world of adulthood like a proper adult. And turns out, it works out pretty alright.

Except when it doesn't. It turns out, not every situation I encounter as a grownup has an established handling procedure. Dinner-table seating arrangements? No problem! Trusted coworker shockingly spreading false gossip? No standard operating procedure that I could just follow. It took me a while to realize that how we handle situations that deviate from the typical social routine, is what really defines our true personality. We are defined by how we navigate uncharted waters. Until I realized this, I kept trying to apply skills I had previously learned to new situations, hoping for favorable outcomes. It worked out for me as well as a random coin toss - 50/50. I was not happy with this but it's the best I could do.

Then one day, during some heated discussion on what the proper course of action should be, I just said to myself "I will give more than I take because that is who I am and want to be." Suddenly, all of my dilemmas were resolved! I didn't have to worry about what the appropriate gift card amount would be for someone who may or may not have ever sent me a gift. I didn't have to worry if I should spend more effort helping someone who rarely helps me. I didn't need to keep running tallies of everything everyone ever did! I could just do what I can, when I can, based on how much I care about someone. Most importantly, I would rather do more than less because that's the kind of person I have chosen to be.

I realized that I could choose to be someone who does not do tit-for-tat. I could just decide to be someone who always gives more (money, time, love, attention) and does not care much about exact reciprocation. Of course relationship is a two way street but if I expect it to be equal all the time, then it's not a human connection, it is a business transaction. There are definitely some negatives to taking the give-more-take-less approach. The additional effort usually goes unnoticed and comes at a cost of time, money, and sleep. But it still works out better for me because it makes life so much simpler.

This is a failure of the Golden rule (treating others as one would wish to be treated) and happens because we underestimate what we get and overestimate what we give. Always giving more than I get resolves this nicely and saves me from headaches. Maybe I am foolish for not trying to maximize my net gain in every relationship but that's ok. I choose to be like this and will continue to do so until I decide otherwise. That's the best part about being an adult - you can choose the kind of person you want to be.

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This too shall passMon, 1st May '17, 1:15 pm::

I am having a hard time coming to terms with the passage of time. It's been 17 years since I moved to America, 13 since I moved to Florida, 9 since I got married, 5 since we moved to our current house, and 2 since our son was born. I feel like in the blink of an eye, those numbers will go up by a decade and I will be left wondering where all the time went and if I made the days count.

Things have been a bit rough last few months. My dry-cough returned in March and persisted until April, when I broke my left wrist (5th metacarpal fracture). I got surgery about 2 weeks ago and have had gnarly metal spikes poking out of my hand. Being a lefty, it has made things a bit difficult. Earlier this year we lost our cat Pearl and last night we lost our ever-so-loving Chihuahua Jack to old age.

Jack came into my life when Juliet moved in with me 9 years ago. He was Juliet's baby and she took him everywhere with her. Even though I was never a huge dog person, Jack became a part of my life and I grew to love him like my own child. I spent countless hours securing our fence so he wouldn't get lost in the neighborhood, installed cameras all around my house to find him when he inadvertently managed to do it anyway, setup a raised-loft in his cage for comfort and hygiene, and installed a heater on a separate electric circuit in the porch to keep him warm in the winter. Last night, with the help of my friend Carlos, we laid down Jack to rest. All of us, including his best friend Ladybug will miss him dearly.

I often tell myself "This too shall pass" when things are tough and remind myself the same exact thing to ground myself when life is great. But the one thing I never realized is that the more I say it, the more time passes and I never prepared myself for decades flying by.

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Today happenedMon, 27th Feb '17, 1:45 am::

Someday in the future when life feels unfair and unbearable, be it stress, sickness, or sorrow, I hope I read the words I am writing today. I wish to remind my distressed, distant self of not the most momentous days of my life but rather ones like today that were uneventful but warm, fleeting but nurturing. We spent the whole day at home, had nice home-cooked meals, took Naveen out to play in the backyard, cuddled our pets, briefly chatted with the neighbors, played a simple board game as a family of three, saw my buddy Arthur's new puppy on video-chat, watched a series of short comedy clips with Juliet, talked to my parents back in India, paid some bills, and finished up some work projects.

Nothing amazing or devastating happened today and that's the beauty of it. Days like today are the adult-equivalent of adolescent summer months that instantly fill us with fond nostalgia. As kids, boredom was the norm and so summer adventures were exciting. As a grownup, I expect to be perturbed every day and so days when nothing extraordinary, good or bad, happens are welcome. It doesn't matter if I am going to get a surprise refund or an unexpected bill, both mean I now have to deal with additional paperwork.

Dear Future Me: Our favorite days are like today when we simply exist and experience. You and I often forget what truly makes us happy and sometimes think that material success, fame, or even recognition matters to us. I want to remind you that the only thing that you and I really care about is spending time with people and creatures we love, preferably in nature. Maybe that is not always possible but remember, that is always the goal. No matter how you feel now, just remember that today happened. And even if seems impossible, it will happen again.

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Naveen - Year TwoSun, 5th Feb '17, 6:20 pm::

Can't believe Naveen is turning two this week! We took some family photos earlier this week and had a birthday party for him today. It was a blast. We're all just relaxing now. Back to normal routine tomorrow.

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Sun, 25th Dec '16, 1:55 am::

It's Christmas Day and things are finally alright. Last few months were hectic and I've barely had time to sit and relax. Our kitchen remodel project was completed earlier this month and we rearranged the living room furniture after that. The house is clean, the Christmas Tree is 🔥lit🔥, the family is asleep, and I just got done wrapping presents.

I'm looking forward to welcoming 2017 next weekend. 2016 was a grueling year personally and I hope the efforts I made throughout the year will come to fruition over the next decade. Not just work and house but also new relations and old friends. The year asked a lot out of me and I did my best to deliver. From weddings and galas to funerals and emergency room visits, this year had it all. I don't think there was a single week in the entire year when something awesome or awful didn't happen.

On the bright side, my sister had a health baby boy, Naveen joined a wonderful school, Juliet passed her boards with flying colors, and I mostly met my resolution of spending more time with the family. On the numerous not-so-bright days, I learned the value of pushing forward and doing what I needed to do without letting my emotions get in the way.

Even though there was no particular accomplishment this year that I can proudly list, I'm content with what I can best describe as my gradual increase in stoicism. Rushing both my kid and my wife to the ER on separate occasions while remaining calm and careful were experiences I hope to never go through again but I feel I came out of them stronger and better prepared (thankfully both ER visits ended up OK). Death of pets is never easy and I had to deal with more than my share of that this year. Add to this unexpected issues at work, emergencies of the social kind, and a never-ending list of paperwork, projects, appointments, and doctor's visits and you can see why I'm proud of just making it through the year without becoming an emotional wreck.

No matter what comes my way next year, I think I am better prepared to face it today than I was a year ago. And that's something I'm happy about. Here's to the passage of time!

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Mama!Wed, 9th Nov '16, 11:45 pm::

Congratulations to my sister Roshni and brother-in-law Aashish on the birth of their son Ayaansh! I am officially a "Mama" (Maternal Uncle in Gujarati) and Naveen finally has a cousin :) Not sure when but can't wait until we all meet for a fun family gathering.

This past weekend we attended my college friend Chris' wedding up north and traveled around Philadelphia. We stayed at my wonderful friend Megan's house and she took us to Schuylkill Center’s Wildlife Clinic. We went to museums, ate greasy food, and spent quite some time just walking around downtown Philly. My buddy Arthur came to visit us and we watched classic episodes of South Park. All in all, a fantastic weekend thanks to great friends. And as always, here are the photos.

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MotivationTue, 1st Nov '16, 2:20 am::

I find myself at an unexpected place in life. I am used to clawing my way out of problems when things go terribly wrong. I am familiar with waking up stressed every day and striving to stay focused amidst a score of distractions. But I am struggling to motivate myself to accomplish some big but necessary goals because things are already going according to plan.

In mathematical terms, when life's at -1, I know how to push for a +1 to arrive at a comfortable net 0. But now that life's at a chill 0 and I need to push it to +1, I am having a hard time propelling myself. Looking back at how difficult life was at -1, I am thankful that it has been at 0 for such a long stretch. But complacency kills even the mightiest and I am no exception.

We are getting our kitchen remodeled. Juliet and Naveen are healthy and doing well. My sister is days away from delivering her first child. And I have my hands full with work, personal projects, and social events. Literally nothing to complain about. And yet I find it difficult to motivate myself to get to the next level.

I spent some time thinking about the possible root causes but haven't arrived at any eye-opening conclusions yet but I did recall something from my college years that I'm going to try again. When I had to write a long paper but had no motivation to do in-depth research or write detailed arguments, I simply wrote a rough, inexact outline in one quick burst. Seeing an incomplete and potentially erroneous draft frustrated me enough to fix and expand small parts of it, slowly getting me closer to my final goal of a well-researched, comprehensive paper.

When it comes to my work of writing code, I think I'm going to quickly write a basic framework with an unacceptable number of bugs and gradually fix them until the number of bugs is acceptable. It sounds tongue-in-cheek but it's pretty much the motivation behind Exception-Driven Development. Why waste time writing code to avoid bugs that nobody will encounter when instead you can use that time and energy to fix the worst bugs and user issues?

I don't know if I'm going to wake up tomorrow pumped up to hack away at my computer but I do know that picking a better approach could help me concentrate even when my brain says "Eat some snacks and watch another episode on Netflix..." Here's to motivating myself!

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DiscoveryTue, 4th Oct '16, 11:45 pm::

As I celebrated my birthday with my family today, I tried to think of something profound about life, growth, and age but couldn't. I was living in the moment and there was nothing deep or touching I could confer with anyone. I can share my political views or opinions on economic policies instantly but I can't dredge up my own feelings and emotions without a lot of contemplation.

It's been like this for a few years now. For a while I thought it was just because I was living on autopilot doing all the routine things like work, chores, and child-care but lately I've realized it is something else - I am no longer a big mystery to myself. A large part of growing up is finding out who we really are. At age 18, I didn't know if I was the kind of person who puts family first or career first. At age 24, I didn't know if I wanted to stay in one place or travel around the world. At age 30, I didn't know if I would give up on my dreams and goals for an easy life or continue to work hard. Today I know the answers to those questions, as boring as they may sound: family-first, stay-in-one-place, and continue-to-work-hard.

I don't think these are choices that one can make; I believe these are innate traits one has to discover for themselves. You can't choose what makes you happy, you can only choose to accept it and be happy or reject it and be miserable. For years, I rejected the fact that I am a homebody and forced myself to travel a lot but it didn't make me as happy as I hoped it would. Only when I accepted that I am someone who likes being at home most of the time and occasionally likes to travel, did I start enjoying both being at home and traveling.

There is still a lot about myself I don't know but most of it is about how I would deal with adversities that I have not yet faced. From dealing with my kid's future teenage angst to health issues I could have later in life, there is much I will have to discover about myself as I age. Until then, I prefer to ponder over the joyous unknowns - how I will react when Naveen writes his first computer program, what will I tell Juliet after she cooks the first meal in our soon-to-be-remodeled kitchen later this year, what will I do when I get the news of my sister's first baby in the next few weeks?

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Naveen's first day at schoolWed, 7th Sep '16, 9:00 pm::

Yesterday Naveen had his first day at Saint Paul's in their brand new Early Learning Center. While we were very happy with his old daycare, we loved the infant to middle school education track at Saint Paul's. He is already running around his new classroom making friends and reorganizing the baskets of toys.

We spent the Labor Day weekend in Orlando and Naveen got to visit Disney World for the first time. He's too young to remember it but Juliet and I had fun taking him all over the park. And after all, isn't that what it's all about?

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BeliefsMon, 22nd Aug '16, 1:35 am::

I fully expect everything that follows to be a long meandering brain dump of multiple subjects connected by nothing but my mental model of how the world works. Usually when I write about something other than my day-to-day routine, I treat it like a school essay and try to making a point with logical arguments. But what I've noticed is that behind my persuasive arguments is a set of core beliefs that rarely changes. And I'm not the only one. Behind almost everything I've read, heard, or seen are someone's core beliefs making a point. Listing and comparing our beliefs divides us. But discussing how our beliefs work, can help us communicate better.

Before we get to heart of our belief system, let's start with a simple opinion: The world is better/worse today than it was 20* years ago. You can rely on facts, anecdotes, or personal experiences to form an opinion on this statement. Maybe two decades ago you had a great job and cost of living was low. Or maybe you were in a bad relationship and felt stuck in life while today things are great. Your opinion is yours to have, share, defend, and sometimes change. But beneath the facts that bolster opinions or heartwarming experiences that sway them, are beliefs that seldom rely on numbers but predispose which facts and stories we listen to.

Do you believe the average person is good? If I randomly picked just ONE person out of the 7+ billion people on the planet, without seeing their face, would you trust them to return your lost wallet? Don't overthink this. Just ask yourself if you believe that to be true or false in the average case. Now ask yourself what you would do.

Do you believe the average person is lazy and unmotivated? In other words, if they could get just enough money to eat, live in a modest apartment, and afford the bare necessities of modern life, would they accept that life and quit their job or instead continue to work hard to get even further ahead in life? What would you do?

If you believe the average person is honest and hardworking, and feel the same way about yourself, realize that you are living in a world with other people who believe that while the average person (that includes you) is dishonest, lazy, and unmotivated, they themselves are good, industrious, and quite motivated. This isn't a comparison of who is right vs. who is wrong. This isn't about people having different beliefs. This is about people having contradictory beliefs about each other.

There is a famous exercise in Game Theory called the Prisoner's Dilemma (if you don't want to read about it, watch this video). In my mind, our beliefs about the goodness of an average human pits us against each other in a world-wide Prisoner's Dilemma where we all try to guess if everyone else is an honest, productive person and act accordingly. And that I think is what leads us to have differing opinions on whether the world is better or worse off today.

Our beliefs guide us to seek evidence, which helps us form our opinions. From a cold scientific, rational perspective, there is a very strict requirement for what constitutes evidence and so if you take that route, you will arrive at the currently accepted scientific consensus. But what if you believe that the scientists who came up with the conclusion that you find hard to stomach, were funded by organizations that benefit from the very conclusion? Certainly you wouldn't be wrong to believe this because there are countless examples of that. Well, then you find yourself questioning not just scientific research but news media, social media, education systems, governments, corporations, and pretty much every institution with power and means. And you would be in your right to be skeptical! Because if you believe there is corruption and greed at almost every level, you will find ample evidence to support it if you dig deep enough.

The difficulty in trying to comprehend the world today is that it is so big yet feels so small. With so many people, all things good and bad that could happen, happen daily. And with the world being so connected, we can find evidence of almost anything to match our beliefs - logical or not. The world as a whole did not know about the Nanking Massacre or Armenian Genocide for decades. Yet news of a single hero giving up his life to save others spread around the world within hours last year.

There are just too many nuanced and seemingly conflicting facts in every single aspect of our life for us to weed through. So regardless of what scientific, political, and economic theories we study, we tend to believe in some core things that cannot be easily quantified, justified, or articulated. Beliefs about race, gender, and religion are strengthened by events that we experience, which motivates us to seek additional examples to reinforce our beliefs. If you believe that women with same experience and skills are paid less than men for the same jobs, then you can find ample evidence to defend it. You may even support laws to curb the injustice. Or you might believe the wage gap is a myth with evidence to the contrary.

I have friends and family on both sides of almost every issue and what's interesting to me is how rarely does evidence change anyone's opinions. Evidence contrary to our beliefs is either an immaterial exception or further proof that the opposition is grasping at straws to maintain their lie. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the 2016 US Presidential elections. Whether you support Clinton, Trump, any of the 3rd party candidates, or none of them, your beliefs are what their campaigns are piggybacking on.

On the economic front, Trump is fueled by the opinions that illegal immigration and Obamacare are the primary cause of hardship for most Americans today. Many in the media mock these openly without trying to understand why people feel this way. Beneath these opinions are the beliefs that people who break the law do not deserve amnesty and that we are better off when we can make the financial and healthcare decisions for ourselves and our families without the Government's mandate. The former is about Government not presently doing its job to stop illegal immigration and the latter is about the Government overstepping its authority. In other words, Government is doing more bad than good. While we can come up with arguments for and against these beliefs, realize that these are not purely academic ideologies we are arguing about but rather what they believe is necessary for the good of their community, country, and world.

Similarly, on the economic front, Bernie was fueled by the opinion that decades of rigged economic policies by the richest of the rich are the primary cause of Americans' hardships. Beneath this opinion is the belief that sound Government policies can curb corporate greed, or in other words, a belief that Government can do good. Clinton is fueled by the opinion that political obstruction preventing Obama from enacting the necessary policies is the primary cause and she is the one who can fix it. This is a mix of both the beliefs - people who believe that Government that can do good being impeded by others who believe that Government cannot do good.

I'd imagine that your belief in Government being capable of doing good or not is partially derived from whether you believe that people are good or not. I say partially because even if you believe the average person is honest, you might believe they don't work in the public sector for long, thereby making Government corrupt by attrition. The reason I keep bringing these types of beliefs up repeatedly is because there is no way to prove them either way - they really are something you have to accept on faith alone. With millions of people working for the Government, you can easily find evidence to prove any stance. So what you rely on is your belief that there are or aren't enough good people in public sector to help steer the country in what you believe is the right direction.

I have avoided listing my own beliefs and opinions because my point wasn't to convince you to see things my way. My point was to show that the world is so noisy, there is no point in blaring more noise at people who disagree with us. But instead, listen to the muted melody lost in the cacophony. Even the person you most vehemently disagree with has core beliefs you can rightly respect if you only cut through the mountain of opinionated drivel.

* I picked 20 years because there is more variability of viewpoints in that. Would be boring to compare today to 2 years ago (not enough time) or 200 years (only for history buffs).

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Random news appearanceMon, 18th Jul '16, 9:55 pm::

We were on an impromptu local TV news segment this weekend, mainly Juliet. We didn't get anything at the auction but it was fun to bid items up real high and not have to pay. Check out the video here. This was both Naveen and my first TV appearance. Juliet was in a medical news segment last year through her work.

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Now and thisTue, 12th Jul '16, 1:30 am::

I don't usually miss the past and rarely do I compare my present to the days bygone as if things are somehow worse now. Growing up, I always wanted to just grow up. Now that I'm done growing up, I think I made the right call. As wonderful as my childhood summer vacations were, I don't pine to go back to simpler days. I like now and this.

I like the present not because of what I possess or have done. I like the present because I no longer have the harrowing urge to prove myself. My entire childhood and youth was driven by the excruciating compulsion to prove my skills and abilities. Whether it be classroom, computers, or even the odd running trail, I felt an obligation to better myself and beat my past performance.

For years, I believed that the only reason I kept improving is because I kept pushing myself constantly. But the last couple of years have led me to believe otherwise. Self-improvement by persistence is not the same thing as self-improvement by pressure. All my life I conflated the two, causing me to accept the negativity of stress, neurosis, and disappointment in myself as natural companion of development. Thankfully, that was only in my mind.

I don't know what freed me from the obsession to prove myself but it couldn't have happened at a better point in my life. I am now learning more about the fields I am interested in than ever before. I am spending more time with my wife and son than I imagined I would before he was born. I am thoroughly enjoying my work and hopefully writing better code than I did in the decades past. And I am not doing this by forcing myself. I am merely doing it by casual repetition without any expectations. I like now and this.

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Eye of the stormFri, 24th Jun '16, 12:00 am::

You know that feeling when you've been driving in the rain for what seems like hours and you suddenly pass under a bridge or an overpass and for a brief moment in time, everything seems peaceful? That's how I feel right now with zero emails in my inbox. For the first time in many months, I have no emails that I need to respond to or take action against. This ephemeral feeling of calmness is why I even remembered to share my thoughts here.

This year has been busier than most. In addition to email-replying and toddler-chasing, my waking moments have been consumed by family-tending, friends-attending, and money-extending. During the few hours I have to myself each week, I swim, pet our animals, and watch space videos on YouTube. A hundred years ago we thought our Milky Way Galaxy was all there is. And now we are "listening" to black-holes colliding a billion light-years away in a universe that might as well be infinite.

When my inbox has 27 emails nagging me to code this or submit that, documentaries about our ever-expanding universe help me realize my tiny, trifling place in the universe. Knowing that I am forever caught in this tug-of-war between family, friends, and coworkers who need me to do things and a universe that doesn't care if our sun goes red giant, surprisingly helps me calm down. News about politics and economy ruin my sleep if I start to care too much. So now Britain voted to leave the EU. It will slightly and indirectly affect me, along with the rest of the world. But you know what else could impact me and everyone else even more? Solar flares that can fry all of our satellites and shutdown our electric grid! Suddenly a few unanswered emails don't seem so bad, do they?

I don't think Hubble, Einstein, or Feynman unraveled the mysteries of the universe just so I could lower my stress but it sure works wonders. Maybe I should write a book on how to maintain a good work-life balance: Work hard, play with your kids, and watch videos about the 10 billion trillion trillion carat space diamond and 10 billion billion billion liters of space alcohol.

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Sat, 14th May '16, 2:20 am::

Today I went paddleboarding for the first time when we went to the local beach for one of Juliet's friend's husband's birthday party. The Gulf is finally warm enough to swim in and Naveen had a blast playing on the sand as waves came ashore. Before we went to the beach, I played table-tennis with my dad for an hour and then jumped in the pool for a couple of hours. Six hours of Florida fun in a single day!

Tomorrow my mom's brother, Ruskin Mama, and his family are flying down to Tampa. We'll hopefully go to some touristy places and get some pre-summer shopping done. It was cold for far too long. I'm glad summer is almost here.

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Tue, 3rd May '16, 4:50 pm::

We just watched The Jungle Book. Even before Naveen was born, we nicknamed him Mowgli. When Juliet was pregnant, I'd often ask her how she and Mowgli were doing. Watching the younger Mowgli in the movie interact with Bagheera the panther for the first time reminded me of Naveen when he first started petting our cats. We loved the movie and I'm sure we'll buy it so Naveen can watch it a hundred times once he's old enough to enjoy movies. Oh yeah, he was at daycare when we watched the movie. Toddlers shouldn't be watching movies.

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Thu, 28th Apr '16, 12:20 am::

We just got back from a week-long vacation in Chincoteague Island in Virginia. Here are the photos.

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Mon, 22nd Feb '16, 11:20 pm::

The weather has been gorgeous here in Florida for the past few days and we're making the most of it. Naveen is just over a year old now and has become relatively adept at walking so we can finally do more outdoors activities. Juliet takes him to the local park regularly and today I joined them. We didn't go out much last week because she was sick with a seasonal bug so we were all happy to be out today.

Naveen is learning to talk and babbles a lot whenever he is excited. He has started to point at things and looks at his big colorful beach ball whenever I yell "Ball!" It's amazing to see him learn new things by the day. Last week he was scared of slides and today he was pushing himself down them repeatedly.

My parents are coming back to stay with us next month and I know they are counting down the days. We can't wait for them to see Naveen walking and talking. And Juliet and I could probably use another romantic weekend by the beach.

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Happy TwosdayTue, 2nd Feb '16, 1:20 pm::

Today is 2/2, which is two twos. It's a Tuesday, and the year (2,16) consists of only powers of two. It's also threesday: 33rd day of the year with 333 days left in this leap year, so 33/333.

It's a beautiful day outside here in sunny Florida and my bird Echo has been singing non-stop all morning. After a whole month of cold weather with heavy rainfall during which our roof started leaking, our porch got smelly, and my son, wife, and I got sick multiple times with different annoying seasonal bugs, things appear to be going back to normal. The roofing guy just left after making the necessary fixes, the porch smell has all but disappeared, and I haven't coughed once in 24 hours.

It may seem trifling but annoyances like these add to my stress and my mind keeps dwelling on them until I do something about them. But since most of these take time to resolve, there's not much I can to do except wait. That is until I found out a way to trick my mind. I came up with two simple lists: Chaos and Fun. I spent a few minutes and added a bunch of things to my fun list - solving puzzles, playing Wii U, visiting nature parks etc. Then I added everything that was bothering me to the Chaos list - Roof leak, porch smell, my cough, unfinished paperwork that I keep pushing off etc.

Now, whenever something repeatedly bugs me and causes me stress, I immediately add it to the Chaos list and then, pick something from the Fun list to do next. The last thing that stressed me out was the mess of electric cables in our living room, compounded by my frayed laptop charger cord. I'm trying to work and the cords keep getting in the way and my laptop keeps losing charge. So I added "living room electric cords" to my Chaos list and instantly felt happy that I realized it was just an annoyance, not some life-altering trauma. Then I thumbed down the Fun list and picked something I'd like to do next: "Write a blog entry". And here I am, not stressing about electric cords but instead sharing this one trick I found that can make your life just as glorious as mine.

If you are like me and live by a Todo list or detailed calendar, the Chaos and Fun lists easily merge into the daily routine. When I notice something is causing tiny amount of chaos in my life and add it to the Chaos list, I also immediately make a note in my Todo list to fix it at some point in the near future. This way, come Thursday, when I might not be in the middle of being stressed out by electric cords, I can actually solve that problem with an open mind i.e. buy new cords or move furniture around to organize the cables etc.

I call this a mind trick because I am definitely trying to trick my mind into feeling happy and less stressed even though sometimes it feels there is chaos all around me. It works for me for multiple reasons. The moment I note it down, I feel like I did something positive right away, especially if I add the fix-it-task to my Todo list. Then doing something from the Fun list immediately distracts me from whatever it was that bothered me. And I can freely allow myself to be distracted because the thing that was bothering me is not lost in the fog of my mind but rather in an organized list that I can review later. And the best part is reviewing the Chaos list later. I've been jotting things down into my Chaos list for about a year now and despite things feeling completely chaotic all year with our newborn, family, social events, pets, and house issues, the list has never had more than 7 items simultaneously. Compared to my Fun list with double the items, the chaos seems minor. And that's the entire point of this - clear my mind of the repeated annoyances and make handling them seem almost trivial.

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Hurts every timeMon, 25th Jan '16, 11:20 pm::

This isn't the first time I am uncomfortably waiting for one of our aging pets to slowly drift off into everlasting sleep and if I have learned anything, it is that it hurts every single time. Milly, my favorite prairie dog, is breathing her last breaths tonight. She's been my favorite since we got her and she always replied to my calls. Every time I would pass her, I would shout "eeeek!" and she would immediately reply back "eeeek!" To her, I was one of her people and to me, she was family.

Here she is in the front, happily digging and burrowing, just the way I want to remember forever. Good night sweet Milly.

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Baby's Day OutThu, 31st Dec '15, 11:30 pm::

Today was a fantastic end to 2015. I spent the entire day outdoors with Naveen. We went to a local nature preserve and saw a variety of birds, fish, crabs, and even a few water snakes. We took a nice long walk on the boardwalk and then played in the children's playground. Afterwards, we had some ice cream to cool off, followed by a lazy, hour-long lunch at a local Cuban deli. Post-lunch, we met up with my friends Kelly and Chris at the beach for some sun and sand. Their son Cameron is slightly older than Naveen and the kids played in the sand while us parents kept them from eating it. Once Naveen had his fill of the beach, we drove home, cleaned up, and got ready for a nap. Just then Juliet came home from work and as soon as Naveen heard his mommy, he forgot all about the nap.

Last week I took a few days off from coding so we could have a relaxing Christmas with family. We put up our Christmas tree earlier this month and spent quite a few evenings reading to the baby by its soft light. We recently bought a Nintendo Wii U and Juliet and I have been playing lots of mini-games after we put the baby to sleep each night. We're coming up with a new routine that works for all three of us and while it's taking some effort to get used to, it's definitely much better than the crazy, no-sleep life we had for most of this year.

I don't have any major resolutions for 2016 but I do want to keep up the progress I've made this year with my health, leisure, and social life. So instead of a specific goal like "go to gym 5 times a week", I just want to keep being active, attend more parties/events, take more vacations, and overall get better at planning how to spend the little free time I have.

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Secret WeddingsTue, 22nd Dec '15, 11:55 am::

Congrats to all three different friends of ours who got secretly married to their long-term boyfriends/girlfriends in the past few days! Two of the happily married couples are still not making their marriages public for family reasons so I can't even mention them here. That leaves my college buddy Tony to capture the limelight. He married his long-term girlfriend Olya on Saturday and shared the news with everyone after the ceremony. Congrats!!! We were so happy to meet Olya earlier this year at our baby shower and wish you guys a happy, loving life ahead.

Another close friend of mine told me recently that he is going to have a court-marriage next month, while the public wedding ceremony might not be until a year later. Last year two other couples we know did the same thing. Having eloped ourselves in 2008 after an impromptu hush-hush wedding, I'm surprised that we are not alone anymore. In the last five years, more of our friends eloped or quietly got married than had a typical wedding with guests, invitations, and receptions.

It is possible that our circle of friends is an odd exception and there has been no change in wedding behavior. But looking at the societal and financial aspects of life in the 2010s, the trend seems very clear. People in committed relationships still want to get married. No change in that. There are a lot of tax and legal benefits. And the titles "Husband/Wife" carry more social prestige than "boyfriend/girlfriend." But more and more people no longer want to make a big deal out of it, regardless of their age, financial situation, or social circles. For centuries people have had weddings befitting their wealth - the rich have grandiose weddings, the poor keep it simple, and everyone else somewhere in between. But now I see even relatively well-off couples from wealthy families opting for a quick 2-minute court wedding with no reception.

The good thing to come out of all this is that no longer must everyone be required to have the exact same things in every wedding. Let's see the variations I have encountered from happily married couples:

  • Sign the marriage certificate locally without fanfare, elope to a pretty place for pictures/honeymoon (our method)
  • Get secretly married before December-end for tax purposes, have a big wedding and/or reception with family and friends later
  • Get secretly married before December-end for tax purposes, announce on Facebook after professional photos are ready, no wedding/reception
  • Sign the marriage certificate and don't tell anyone except your closest friends because if your family finds out, there will be a lot of drama and heartbreak
  • Have a fun wedding/reception following all of the traditions
  • Have a fun wedding/reception without any of the traditions
  • Have a court-wedding with just your friends
  • Have a court-wedding with just your parents/siblings
  • Have multiple weddings - one for legal purpose, one for destination, one for religious/family

In the long-term, it doesn't matter if you had a blast at your wedding or if it was full of awkward family issues or even if you just signed a piece of paper and went to work the next day. What matters is how the rest of your marriage works out. So to all of my married couples, good luck with that!

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Season of lightsFri, 18th Dec '15, 3:15 pm::

When we moved into this house 3 years ago, I replaced most of the heavily used incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) to reduce our electric bill. But regardless of the brand, vendor, or quality of CFL bulbs I bought, they kept going bad in 6-12 months and I ended up using incandescent bulbs in more places than I wanted. So for years now we've had a mix of incandescent and CFL lights all over the house. A few months ago I estimated that over $100/month of our electric bill was just due to the tons of bulbs (candelabra and regular), recessed lights, and halogen lights!

A small 60w bulb left on at all times will use $70/year in electricity! Replace that with an equally bright CFL and while it only uses $20/year in electricity, in my experience there's a good chance the bulb will blow out within a year. But replace that with a $2.44 LED and the cost goes down to just $10/year and the LED is guaranteed to work for at least 3 years non-stop.

Last month I started the slow and tedious process of converting every single light in our house to LED. I spent about $300 and replaced every single light except for candelabra bulbs and some fluorescent tubes. I'm waiting for a good deal (hopefully under $500) to replace all the candelabra bulbs. Since we rarely use the fluorescent tubes and plan on replacing them with recessed lights in a few years, I don't see the value in switching them over to LED right now.

Once I am done replacing the candelabra bulbs, I estimate that lighting will cost under $20/month. This means the LED lights will pay for themselves in a year! After that we save $1000/year in electric bills, have a much brighter house, and I rarely have to change bulbs again. Next year I plan on buying a prelit LED Christmas Tree too. I love living in the future!

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Mario!Fri, 18th Dec '15, 3:20 am::

After years of discussing that we should buy a gaming console, this week we finally bought Nintendo Wii U. Juliet and I are not fans of first-person-shooters or fast-paced action games. I've always loved puzzles and she likes games that keep you moving so the Wii U was a perfect fit for us. We bought a really neat puzzle game called Art of Balance that I love and we'll probably get Wii Fit U so she can try out the different fitness programs. She refuses to play Wii bowling with me anymore (I won our first and only game) and instead wants to keep playing Mario Kart (she won 5 out of 6 rounds).

The last 10 months with the baby and the 9 months prior have changed our life so much that we forgot what our normal routine was. Now that Naveen is growing from an infant into a toddler, it is becoming easier to take care of him, giving us a little more free time to play video games or just relax after he's gone to bed. We have quite a few chores / home projects lined up before the end of the year but hopefully after that, we will get to spend more time doing fun things.

Next week, we're planning on doing a number of fun family things - decorate tree ornaments with baby, visit museums / theme parks, and go kayaking. It is way too warm right now and looks like it will be 81F/28C on Christmas Day! So instead of making snow angels, maybe we'll jump into a river.

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Life updatesSat, 12th Dec '15, 10:45 pm::

This was a very private year for me. From the birth of my son to my family and friends visiting us, 2015 was all about real-life social connections and nurturing relationships. Most of the time, I kept the going-ons private and offline. We took probably 5000 photos of my son but posted only a handful of them online.

This was a year of learning and doing for me, very little introspection or relaxation. I could have easily made more time for kayaking (which is when I do most of my contemplation about life) but I just didn't want to. Maybe because I'm still learning how to be a good parent or maybe because of social obligations, but I didn't make much time for myself. Most of the year I was in autopilot mode, simply doing what I needed to without overthinking my actions or the reasons behind them.

This was a year without creativity for me and I don't want to repeat this again in my life. I can't look back at this year and proudly say "I made that" about anything. I don't regret a moment I spent with my loved ones instead of making something cool but I do know that I get my energy and drive from making, not consuming. So in the long run, I need to be more creative to keep myself sane.

This was a year when I came to terms with life, death, and everything in between. From insurance policies to prolonged illness, from baby's first words to news of a friend's death, this year drove home the point that I am smack dab in the middle of adulthood, accepting everything life throws at me. A few years ago I would lose my wits dealing with the ups and downs of routine life but the roller-coaster of this year makes the past turmoils seem almost smooth sailing. Apparently, this year I also started using a lot of conflated metaphors. I plan to put a stop to that right after this sentence.

This was a loving year for me. While not much changed in my career, finances, or social-standing, I have never felt so connected and loved by the people in my life. Juliet is an unbelievably loving mother and wife, my parents and sister are always there to talk to me about anything (especially Naveen), and my friends and coworkers have been so supportive all year. There was no drama, no guilt trips, no awkward social situations all year. It's been a wonderful year people-wise and I couldn't be more thankful for it.

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Health Insurance in the USMon, 2nd Nov '15, 9:40 am::

Now that the health insurance open enrollment period has officially started, it is time for me to decide how sick my son and I plan on being between January 1st and December 31st of 2016.

If I decide that we will not fall sick, get injured, or use any emergency medical care, then I will go with cheapest insurance plan where I can have a Health-Savings-Account. For us here in Tampa Bay Florida, the cost is $400/month and we have to bear 100% of all medical costs up to $12900/year before insurance pays anything. This means if we both get really sick, even though we decided well in advance not to, we will pay a total of $17700 for the year for the insurance plan and out-of-pocket medical costs.

If I decide that one or both of us will fall moderately sick and have to see our doctors a few times but still not get in an accident, require an operation, or be rushed to the Emergency Room, then I will buy a Silver Plan that costs about $500/month and we only have to pay $30 to see our primary doctors and $75 to see most specialists. If we decide to change our mind in the future and get into an unscheduled accident or choose to get a major surgery without planning in advance, we will pay a total of $17200 for the year for the insurance plan and out-of-pocket medical costs.

If I decide that one or both of us will fall severely ill, get in an accident, require an operation, or be frequently rushed to the Emergency Room, then I will buy a Gold Plan that costs about $585/month and we only have to pay $10 to see our primary doctors and $40 to see most specialists. When we finally get into our scheduled accident or elect for major surgery, we will pay a total of $17000 for the year for the insurance plan and out-of-pocket medical costs.

The beauty of the health insurance market is that it doesn't matter how correctly I decide my future health conditions, the worst case condition is about the same for almost all the plans - between $15000 and $20000 per year for a 35 year old male and his 9 month old son. That is, if both my son and I are in a major accident or we get sick for a prolonged time and require hospitalization, we will pay about the same amount regardless of the insurance plan I pick.

Deciding the best case is what health insurance is all about. If I correctly decide that we will not have to go to the hospital all year and we stick to our decision no matter what, we only pay the low monthly cost of $400 and can squirrel away over $6000 into a Health-Savings-Account, which we can use in a later year when we decide to get sick or be injured. Too bad, only the lower cost plans enable you to save into a Health-Savings-Account. If I incorrectly decide that we will get a little sick and see an ENT or two a few times but instead we remain perfectly healthy throughout the year, then I just wasted $100/month in extra insurance that I didn't use and cannot get back.

You might have read all of the above and wondered why I keep using the word 'decide' instead of 'guess' or 'predict'. That is because I use guess and predict to denote market risk, where you can gain or lose depending on how the future turns out, for example the stock market or even elections. You can make educated guesses and predict the outcome. But I feel very dirty trying to bet on the health of my infant son. Of the thousands of spreadsheets I have made in my life, the only one that made me feel sick to my core is the one in which I had four different rows of his predicted health, the best-suited insurance plans, and the corresponding premiums.

By definition, a health insurance market with competing insurance agencies requires me to take a gamble on our future health. But from my son's point of view, I am not gambling. I am deciding. I am deciding whether I should pay higher monthly insurance premium or not. If I do, we don't have to wonder if his fever is high enough to go to doctor - we can just go if he feels warm enough because it only costs us $10 to see the pediatrician. But if I decide to opt for a low premium plan, then going to the doctor costs $125 every time and we don't want to do that unless it is a real medical issue.

There is now a financial incentive for everyone to diagnose themselves. The more you want to diagnose yourself, the lower the cost of your health insurance plan will be, especially since the worst-case is about the same for all the plans. So yes, I am 'deciding' if we plan on being healthy or not next year. The cheaper plans that don't cover anything until you first pay over $12000 in medical costs, require you to self-diagnose everything and work well for healthy people who won't need to go to doctors. The expensive plans make doctors visits cheaper so you rarely have to second guess yourself and work well for people who have health issues. What I am deciding now is which group I want to belong to next year. Once I have that answer, then I have to make sure my doctor, my son's doctor, and most of the specialists we have seen (e.g. ENT) accept the specific plan from the selected insurance company.

And that my friends is why it takes me a month to decide.

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Sat, 10th Oct '15, 12:15 pm::

Juliet is on a 4-day trip with her coworkers, leaving the baby in my care. I got most of my tech work done earlier in the week, giving me ample time to look after Naveen. I have been doing chores non-stop since 8am this morning and I still have a lot of things to do. I cleaned, watered, and fed the zoo outside, changed and fed Naveen, installed a new steam dryer, video-conferenced with my parents, took out the trash, put Naveen to sleep, cleaned the porch and gym, cleaned the duck pond, emptied the dishwasher, filed a week's worth of paperwork, and readied food for both of us. Next up is feeding the baby after he wakes up and getting him ready for my friend's birthday party tonight. Tomorrow I'll probably have a similar list of chores.

Life without the wife is pretty tough. I miss her so much. Even Naveen misses her because he keeps looking around for her when he's playing with me. Last night was especially tough because he's teething and kept waking up every 15-20 minutes in pain. I gave him some numbing-gel that Juliet bought and then he finally feel asleep.

Juliet comes back Monday morning. Can't wait!

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Level 35Sun, 4th Oct '15, 12:15 am::

For the past two years, I have been rounding my age to 35 anytime someone asks. For the next 12 months, I will be accurate when I say 35. Then for 2 more years, I will be incorrect again when I continue to say 35. Probably around age 38, I will incorrectly start saying that I'm 40. My actual age felt like a big deal all my life until I turned 30. Suddenly after that, it stopped being important.

Now the age I care about is my son's. He's turning 8 months this week and is a shining example of curiosity, giggles, and chubbiness. Since his day-care was closed for a Teacher's event on Friday, he spent the day at home with me. It's definitely a lot of work to keep him busy, fed, and clean but it is great to see the progress and development. He's already saying Mama/Baba and trying to walk. All I'm waiting for now is for him to start playing with some of the toys I love, like legos, puzzles, construction sets etc.

Speaking of toys, I spent quite a few hours yesterday and today playing with Juliet's amazing birthday gift to me - Ozobot. I usually don't like getting tech gifts because I am super picky with my gadgets. But she did her homework well with this one. These little robots will follow any colored line on a flat surface and change colors, direction, and speed based on the marking on the lines. It's like a real-life Pac-Man robot!

Over the last two months, I have started to take better care of myself. I am regularly exercising, taking walks, eating healthier (esp. avoiding junk food), and doing lots of simple things to reduce my stress level. It's taken a while but I am finally feeling relaxed and getting some decent sleep after years of craziness. I know I'm going to need my strength the moment Naveen starts walking :)

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ChangesFri, 3rd Jul '15, 12:50 am::

Tonight is a big night - it's the first time our son Naveen is sleeping in his crib in the nursery. He's already rolling and sitting up on his own and I'm fairly certain he will start crawling in a matter of weeks. My parents have continued to be amazing and we will all (including Naveen) miss them a lot when they go back to India later this month.

Once they leave, life changes for me. Instead of hiring a nanny or sending him to daycare immediately, I am going to be taking care of him during the day when Juliet is at work. I already do most of my work later in the evening when fewer users are online so I don't think my work schedule will be impacted much. But waking up early in the mornings when Juliet leaves for work is going to be hard. I am planning on having a good, fun routine for us and will hopefully stick to it until he's ready for daycare. As worried as I am about handling the new responsibility, I am tremendously excited about doing new activities with him every day. We have yet to go on the Pinellas Trail! Or the beach!

I don't plan on making this a daddy-blog - it's just a blog about my life and right now the focus is the baby. And I gotta admit, having a baby has changed me in ways I could not have imagined. Things that used to bother me to no end, are slowly becoming non-issues and sometimes even pleasant - like interruptions during programming. I used to hate it when someone interrupted me in the middle of work or activity. But if I hear the baby cry, I pay attention immediately - whether I just sat down to work or almost finished. Most of the time it only takes a few minutes to feed/change him so it is often a welcome break from hours of non-stop coding.

Another drastic change I've noticed is that I have nearly stopped procrastinating. All my life I've done things at the last moment and never expected to change because that's just who I was. But now? I jump on to every chore at the first chance I get - be it changing my life insurance policy or emptying the trash. I've been wondering why I suddenly feel obligated to do my chores without delay and I can't come up with a rational reason. It's just something that happened over the last few months without me realizing. And it feels wonderful :)

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Many firstsSat, 16th May '15, 10:30 pm::

Today was the first time my son picked up a toy on his own and played with it for a while. He also attended his first party - Rebecca's Graduation from Nursing School! Congrats Becca! My parents have now been here for a little over a month and neither Juliet nor I can imagine a life for Naveen without them being present everyday. We're so happy that they extended their stay and will be with us for two more months. Here's Naveen holding his first toy ever:

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Entire worldTue, 24th Mar '15, 1:45 am::

I still can't believe I'm a dad now. It's been over six weeks and both Juliet and I are getting back into the routine of normal life but every few hours we take a step back and go "Wow! We have a child now." My parents had me at a much younger age so it is a bit different to compare our becoming-a-parent experiences. When I was born, there was no robotic space-ship swing or constant health monitoring.

Throughout the pregnancy, delivery, and now Naveen's infancy, I haven't made any specific plans or goals about anything. Juliet's been taking charge of planning everything from his crib setup to feeding schedule. All I have done is made myself available to her and the baby 24/7, doing anything they need. While that sounds easy on the surface, it is anything but, especially because I've always been the take-charge kind of person myself. I have my own ideas and opinions on almost everything but from the moment we found out that Juliet was pregnant, I suddenly felt like my goal was to support and provide instead of plan and decide.

After the first few days of Naveen's birth we realized how critical sleep was for both of us. I need at least 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. She needs about 8 hours but can handle waking up a couple of times. After a bit of trial and error, we ended up with a schedule that has worked for over a month now. She takes care of him from 6am-8pm and I take over after 8pm until 6am. She gets to sleep at least 8 hours in between and I get about 5-7 hours of sleep before I start getting tech support phone calls. It's not a perfect system nor is it sustainable in the long-term but it works for us, for now.

In a few weeks my parents will be here and Naveen will start sleeping longer than 3 hours at a stretch. So we'll come up with a new routine. Then just when we're all getting used to it, Juliet will go back to work. Then after a month of another new routine, my parents will return back to India. Then we might get a nanny. Or I might reduce my work-hours over the summer to take care of him myself. Then we might put him in day care. And all of this is just in the first six months of his life.

I can't even think beyond the next few weeks at this point. That's why I'm glad Juliet's taken charge. I'd rather not worry about every doctor's visit or baby development tracking. And I kind of like staying up all night in the living room with the lights dimmed while Naveen sleeps right next to or on me. I'm listening (via headphones at low volume) to nature and science documentaries playing on my iPad all night as I code away peacefully. Every few hours I take a small break to feed, change, and soothe him.

I was pretty concerned before he was born about my role in his early life. I was never worried about being a good role model and teacher once he starts walking and talking but I did not know how I'd be able to help out Juliet while he was still a baby. But surprisingly, everything just came naturally. I don't mean I innately know how to feed, bathe, or clothe a baby - Juliet had to show me all of that (multiple times). I mean it just felt natural to me that this is what I'm supposed to do.

Before he was born, I kept thinking that I will only feel like a real father once he starts playing with toys or climbing trees, so I just have to make it through the first few years and then the fun will start. And now, I don't even want this night to end because he's resting on my chest, snuggling like I am his entire world.

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Just over a fortnightSun, 22nd Feb '15, 5:25 pm::

Finally after over two weeks, I got to sleep non-stop for 7 hours tonight. Juliet still hasn't slept for more than 3-4 hours once since Naveen's birth. Meanwhile, it's all easy livin' for the kid:

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Naveen's First WeekSat, 14th Feb '15, 3:30 pm::

It's been only a week since baby Naveen was born but already, our whole world has changed. We are both singing nursery rhymes, barely sleeping, and learning how to calm the baby. Here are some photos from Naveen's first week.

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Baby Naveen MehtaSat, 7th Feb '15, 2:55 pm::

Happiest announcement of my life: Baby Naveen Mehta born today at noon weighing 6lb 15oz! Both mom and the baby are doing well. He's got my hair, eyelashes, and hands. He's got Juliet's cheeks, complexion, and mannerisms. The name "Naveen" means "new" or "novel" in my mother tongue Gujarati.

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Sat, 31st Jan '15, 10:25 pm::

Juliet's doing well and despite her early contractions over the past couple of weeks, the baby remains snugly comfortable inside her belly. Though her due date is still 3+ weeks away, I'm not sure we'll have to wait that long. As for me, my old dry cough has returned and I've been coughing non-stop for the past 6 weeks. None of the meds I've taken have helped and I'm going to see my doctor again this week. Thankfully I'm not contagious, just miserable.

So because of my cough and Juliet's contractions, we've been spending almost all of our time at home. The good thing is that this has given us enough time to set up the baby room and clean out the house. We have the bassinet, crib, changing table, car seats, stroller, and most of the nursery all ready. Just waiting for the baby boy now :)

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Baby ShowerMon, 19th Jan '15, 7:30 pm::

Yesterday we had a blast at our baby shower, superbly organized and planned by Juliet's friend Rebecca. Here are the awesome photos taken by my buddy Arthur.

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The year in which I try to make things not too seriousFri, 2nd Jan '15, 2:25 am::

My life over the past few years has become far from simple. The work I was doing started to get pretty hard and things at home turned serious once my wife began to grow a baby inside her. I feel I have gotten used to everything taking more and more of my time and power just so it is done right. I have never tried to be perfect, but as I grow older, I find myself wanting things to be done my way.

At first, I did not have a way. I just wanted to get things done. So I had to find a way and along that way, I slipped and fell many times. After doing this many a time, I learned that it was important to look before I put my foot down. Then I learned to put my foot down only on dry ground, not wet floor. Then I learned to slow down when climbing down stairs even if they are dry. Then I learned to hold the handles on the side in case someone else was running down and pushed me.

My fear of falling has turned me into a funny old man who takes too long to find where to put his foot down, only walks on dry ground, slowly, and holds on to the handles just so he doesn't fall. Believe it or not, this is the road I made for myself as I learned how to get things done without slipping and falling.

Why am I talking about this now and thinking about such things? Because for the past few months, I have lost a lot of sleep wondering how I will ever show my son all the wonders of this world without him being confused all the time about everything. My grown up life is anything but simple. It has taken me many years to figure out which boxes to fill on what pieces of paper and which keys to push in what order. And I am still learning how to talk to people when things go seriously wrong and when to open my mouth and when to keep it shut.

Growing up has not been easy. Learning has not been easy. Everyone around me keeps telling me how little sleep I will get once I have a child. So if everyone is telling the truth, raising a child, even if it is the best thing in life, will not be easy. What has me worried is that my life, which is already so full of worry, will get even more busy and hard.

That's why I have decided to be simple. I don't mean I still stop working on hard problems or stop filling out the different boxes on important pieces of paper. By simple I mean I will spend more time doing small, easy things that take me back to a life when I did not worry so much. I will spend more time in the kitchen, I will spend more time in the park, and I will spend more time doing things that do not need a computer. These are the things I need to do so I can raise a child.

My problem all this time has been that doing simple things, makes me feel like I am not going to have enough time to do work (both computer and paper work), which causes me to worry about money and keeping my promises. So I avoid doing simple things that could take time away from work. I now realize that that is the true cause of my life becoming so crazy and confusing. I only do things that are not simple! Of course my life has become nothing but simple.

There is no way to suddenly make my work and home life simple. That's not how life works. But the nice thing about a day is that there are only 24 hours and if I spend four or six of them doing simple, happy things with my wife and child, life will start to feel and slowly become simple and happy. Of course the things that worry me will never go away. But starting now, I will stop fighting them every waking hour. It's time for me to smell the roses, make some breakfast, and change a baby.

And to show that I can do simple, I wrote this entire piece using nothing but simple words from a table of only ten-hundred most used words. If you don't believe me, check it out yourself by going here: The Up-Goer-Five. If you have read anything I wrote in the past, I hope now you understand why this piece reads like it was written by a ten year old.

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Mon, 1st Dec '14, 12:40 pm::

Happy December! 2014 is almost over and our lives have never been busier. Ever since my parents left in early November, we have been busy with planning and organizing for the baby - redoing the master bathroom so we have a proper bathtub, emptying out my office and converting it to a nursery, cleaning out the garage and attic to make storage space for toys, cradles, and clothes.

Juliet is doing well and so is the baby. I love her nesting instinct because it's making her donate/dispose old clothes and furniture. Since our house has lots of storage, we've gotten into the habit of just saving everything. I finally broke my habit when my dad helped me organize all of my paperwork and I threw away years of accumulated junk. Juliet is getting into that mode now and I couldn't be more supportive.

Things will continue to be busy right up into Christmas. If all goes according to plans, we'll have the master bath and baby room ready by then, with plenty of space in garage and attic. After all the house projects are done, we're hoping to take a short weekend away from home and relax one last time before the baby arrives.

Many of my friends have shared their experience of becoming a parent with me and they are all so different. Despite the 8-hour long class on "Preparing for Childbirth" we took last weekend, I still have no idea what to expect and how it's all going to work out. All I know is that I know nothing. Hopefully in a few months, I will start to learn all over again.

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Thu, 6th Nov '14, 12:35 pm::

After two months of staying with us, my parents left today. We had a great time traveling around Florida and just spending time with each other. They got used to our home zoo and Juliet and I got used to having nightly dinner chats with them. Now the house is back to being empty but only for a few more months! Juliet is doing well and the baby-boy-in-belly is quite active. With the due date getting closer and holidays coming up, life's going to get a lot busier for both of us.

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Spicy Fluffy BirthdaySat, 4th Oct '14, 6:50 pm::

I had a very exciting and eventful birthday. We had a late breakfast at the Vinoy and lazily walked over to the International Curry Festival where we had delicious Indian and Thai food over the course of a few hours. Then we went antiquing, followed by an hour at the SPCA, petting kittens and rabbits. We got home and Juliet and my parents had cake ready for me. Lots of people I know complain about getting older but I love it. Here's looking forward to another year!

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How about Mowgli? No? Tarzan? Simba? George-of-the-jungle?Mon, 22nd Sep '14, 11:00 pm::

Today we found out that we're going to have a baby boy!!! Juliet is doing well and so is the future baby boy. We took my parents to dinner, along with our friends Rebecca and Carlos and revealed the baby's "blue" theme via a delicious cake.

While Juliet has been super cheerful all day, my parents and I are admittedly speechless. Juliet asked me why I didn't seem as excited as her and all I could say was that I don't know how to express a lifetime's worth of prospective happiness in a single day. I'm used to being happy about a toy here and a kitten there. How does one express the sheer infinite joy of everything that awaits us in a singular emotion?

My parents are staying with us for 6 weeks, then leaving for India, and returning back in January 2015. My grandma will be here in a month and stay with us for 2 weeks. I would love for her to return back in January with my parents but at her age, I don't know if 32 hours of travel each way is doable. Here's hoping she gets to meet her great-grandson someday soon. In the meantime, I'm going to make sure Juliet stays relaxed, stress-free, and healthy.

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Fri, 12th Sep '14, 11:10 am::

Last Saturday, my parents & uncle/aunt arrived in Tampa. This was the first time my parents have been to the US since I came here in July 2000. They're all on a 7-day cruise right now to Jamaica and Mexico and my parents will stay with us for a couple of months afterwards. This is the first time in 15 years that my parents will be present for my birthday. Also, we haven't spent this much time together except for the 45-day vacation I took to India in the summer 2002.

Apparently I had put my blog on hold back then because I was having too much fun in real life (and also because dial-up sucked in 2002). Now I wish I hadn't, as I only have vague memories of what we did over that month and a half. Good thing broadband is ubiquitous now. Even if we do mostly mundane stuff, I hope to write it down for posterity.

Since my parents left for the cruise within a day of arrival, we didn't get much time for activities. Those will happen in the upcoming weeks. Though I did manage to wedge in a fun airboat ride in the Everglades for everyone just before I dropped them off to the cruise terminal. And best of all, they got to see our home zoo with all of the critters.

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Arriving February 2015!Thu, 21st Aug '14, 3:50 pm::

Good news everyone! Juliet is 13 weeks pregnant now and we are very excited. My parents are coming to visit us in a few weeks and we hope to spend a lot of family time together.

My friend Tony created the glorious announcement image above from photos taken with the help of our friend Kelly. We took individual photos of all of our animals and even balanced diapers and baby powder bottle on the back of our tortoises.

While no animals were harmed in the making of this image, I was peed on, pooped on, spat on, licked, clawed, gnawed, and thoroughly scratched while helping Kelly and Juliet take all of the individual animal photos. I'm not complaining though. I think of it as training to be a parent.

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Good bye CookieSun, 17th Aug '14, 11:45 pm::

Our beloved cat Cookie passed away tonight. He had been Juliet's little boy since his birth over a decade ago. Six years ago, he met my cats Giga and Tera and taught them how to be more cat-like. Before meeting him, my cats were lazy, fat, and afraid of the outdoors. A few months of spending time with Cookie and my cats started climbing trees. Cookie was a perfect cat and always came running to us whenever we called out his name. He loved playing with our puppies and roamed the neighborhood making feline friends. We are going to miss him so much! RIP Cookie :-(

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Happy Decade Giga & Tera!Fri, 8th Aug '14, 11:25 pm::

My cats Giga & Tera are officially 10 years old today. They shall enjoy a feast of treats and lots of cuddles.

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Six years!Sun, 27th Jul '14, 11:35 pm::

We celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary by having a nice relaxing day and a scrumptious dinner at Spoto's Grill 131. Yesterday, we unexpectedly ended up at a petting zoo in North Tampa where Juliet got to feed a baby possum. Now that I think about it, in the last six years, we've ended up at a lot of places unexpectedly. Restaurants, antique shops, flea markets, parks. Usually I plan almost everything in advance so it's fun to get a bit of unexpectedness every now and then.

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For posterity and beyondMon, 14th Jul '14, 10:35 pm::

Earlier today, Juliet and I were trying to remember the exact date something happened last year. We narrowed it down to a specific week and then figured out the specific date because we knew it was a Friday. It takes a lot of effort to remember past events, mundane or momentous, from just a year ago, let alone a decade. That's part of the reason I love writing this 'blog. Once I say "Today I went to the animal shelter and got two kittens" or "My car hit 33,333 miles yesterday at 1:23pm", it is remembered forever. This Saturday, Juliet took my car to go shopping with her friend and hit 111,111 miles. Thanks to technology, I can store irrelevant bits of information like this until the end of time. But not all bits are so trivial.

Four years ago, today was a day of mourning for my family when my paternal grandpa passed away. I wrote a few words about how I felt and have re-read them every year on this day. Almost a decade ago I wrote about the death of my maternal grandpa and the memories I had of visiting him during summer vacations. Sad or happy, exciting or dull, all I'm doing is writing down memories before I forget them.

Sometimes I don't write important details because I may not be ready to share it with anyone but I still like to write a bit so maybe later I can refer to it. The day I met Juliet, I wrote "Today turned out to be yet another unusual day" without even mentioning her. Eight months later, when she flew off to London to meet my parents, I harkened back to that unusual day when we crossed paths and set in motion the Universe's plans to create the cuddliest home zoo ever. Who knows what's going to happen in the future but it feels good to write things down so that some day, we can look back on a particular day and re-live it, even for a brief moment.

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A sunny decade laterMon, 23rd Jun '14, 12:25 am::

What a busy weekend we had! Juliet and I are both halfway between introverted and extroverted. We love entertaining friends and family but we can only do that comfortably in small groups for a few hours at a time. We have been trying to plan a 50-60 people party at our house for three months now but have not made any progress yet. While we haven't been able to pick a date due to circumstances beyond our control (landscaping guys took too long, house projects got delayed because of damaged shipments etc.), I think even if everything was lined up perfectly, we would still be hesitant to get started because we're just not the big-party-for-no-reason kind of people.

In the meantime, we have been inviting all of our friends to come visit us any time they want. Coincidentally, a dozen folks visited us this weekend and it was awesome. It felt like Diwali back in India! My godson Jackson, his mom, and his cousin visited us Saturday morning so they could play with our home zoo. Then my buddy Brian came over for some serious table-tennis time, followed by Juliet's friend Karen and her three kids. Sunday morning my friend from Philadelphia Megan and her husband Chris dropped by to spend an idle day by the pool. In the evening, our friends Cary and Laura stopped by to bid us farewell before they move to Arizona this coming week.

Ten years and a week ago, I moved to Florida with the help of my buddy Arthur. For the past week, I have been trying to come up with something meaningful to write about the whole decade that passed by - words of wisdom, lessons learned, top 10 most embarrassing moments - anything to summarize the ten years of life I have built here. But now I realize that is pointless because it doesn't matter if I'm still driving the same car I bought in 2004 (I am!) or gained weight (15lbs/7kgs, mostly due to my awesome beard) or have lost friends or made new ones (who hasn't?). Life happens to all of us and while I made mistakes and learned or didn't learn from them, so did everyone else in their own respective lives. All I know is that ten years ago I was alone in the whole state of Florida and this weekend I couldn't find one minute of alone time to write this entry.

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You have no email. Enjoy your day!Wed, 11th Jun '14, 12:05 am::

I used to fear ending up with a life where I would have a full, busy schedule. I was and still remain fiercely against living an eventful life where a lot of things happen every day. If a scheduling genie was granting three wishes, I would ask for (1) my email/voicemail inbox to be always empty (2) my to-do list to contain only one important item per day, and (3) absolutely no preset meetings or appointments.

Since I have not yet met a scheduling genie, my life continues to be a constant barrage of planned and unplanned events, tasks, commitments, and projects. Something is always going on. Be it house projects, work deadlines, or social obligations, there is something new happening every day. I have to maintain detailed to-do lists, from "server deployment plan" to "garage cleanup list" just so I can keep up with everything.

I am living the exact life that I feared.

But it's ok. I am getting a lot done in the meantime and I am slowly working towards a life that is closer to my ideals of doing just one thing and doing it right. Be it work or play, I avoid distractions and interruptions. I have never been a fan of multitasking. I don't check my phone when I'm having dinner or plan dinner when I'm on a conference call. Even though I am not in a position to live the idyllic leisurely life I want right now, I will never going to stop trying. I truly believe that nothing is more productive and beneficial than distraction-free single-minded focus, be it in work or play, business or charity. And a full, busy schedule is the antithesis of that.

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Just one ticket pleaseSat, 24th May '14, 12:00 am::

In 2008, Iron Man I came out. I really wanted to go see it. I asked a few friends and nobody could make it. I asked coworkers and nobody could make it. I got bold and asked out a cute girl I knew and she couldn't go either. I went home and went to sleep early because I was so distraught. Over 7 billion people on this planet, a million of them in my own town, and not a single person wanted to go watch a movie with me.

But then suddenly out of nowhere, I thought, "Hey I can just go by myself. It's 10pm, late enough that chances of any embarrassing run-ins will be low, but not so late that I'll be late for work tomorrow." So I go out of bed, dressed up like I was going out with friends, bought a single ticket, and enjoyed the movie thoroughly. As I drove home, I called my best friend to say how great the movie was and that he should definitely see it. Next day I talked about the movie with my other friends and coworkers. I was constantly scared of them asking me "Who did you go see it with?" but surprisingly, nobody asked me.

Without realizing it, I had overcome my fear of rejection. The next day I told the same cute girl that I was going to the local mall and she should meet me there. She liked how confident I was and said why not. We had a great time at the mall and met up more often later. Soon she moved in with me, then we got engaged, then we got married. It's been the happiest six years of my life and I don't think any of that would have happened without that single ticket to Iron Man I.

I decided to write this down because I came across someone else online who didn't have a friend to go to the movies with.

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Wed, 7th May '14, 1:10 am::

We went to my old college friend Michele's wedding this weekend and had a great time. I'll post the photos soon.

Right now, we're in the middle of a lot of house projects: reorganize garage, level backyard, setup goat area, fix up bathrooms, and lots of minor upgrades. As soon as the goat area is ready, I'll share the pics.

Life's pretty busy with a lot of different things lately. Other than coding projects that keep me up all night, I've been dealing with a lot of boring but important paperwork for insurance, health, travel, and financial planning. I calculated that we pay more for insurance than any other expense except for taxes. We have home hazard insurance, flood insurance, mortgage insurance, health insurance, term life insurance, accidental life insurance, disability insurance, professional liability insurance, and auto insurance. On top of that, we pay for cellphone insurance (which I've availed of twice already thanks to my recklessness), pet health plans, and travel insurance for every trip we take.

Speaking of travel, now that I'm a US Citizen, I have to apply for a visa to travel back home to India and the paperwork for that is surprisingly exhaustive. I'm hoping that my schedule will become a bit more relaxed over the next few months once I've dealt with all of these tasks. Until then, it's just one thing on top of another every day.

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This is NOT meSun, 20th Apr '14, 2:55 pm::

I don't know who this guy is but he is making me question my existence more than Descartes or Nietzsche ever did. For the first time in my life, I have found a doppelganger. Well, it was actually Juliet wondering what I was doing on a beach without her. It appears we both spend quality time on beaches flailing our arms around, wear garish clothing, sport a manly beard, and refuse to bow down to the tyranny of barbershops. To you Sir, I say "Congrats on being almost like me!"

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The Goats have arrived: Marco & PoloMon, 14th Apr '14, 7:50 pm::

After years of waiting since our first encounter with Nigerian Dwarf Goats, we picked up our own baby goats this weekend! World, meet Marco & Polo!

They constantly call out to each other when separated. Hence the names: Marco - Polo. Marco's the older black & white baby goat and Polo is the little waffles-colored kid.

The first four photos are from two weeks ago when we first saw them at a farm up north and the rest are from this weekend at our house. Right now, they're staying in a make-shift enclosure in the porch. Over the next few weeks, we'll setup a nice shelter for them next to the Prairie Dog and Rabbit enclosures in the backyard, and build a protection fence around the whole area so they can safely chomp grass all day.

I also uploaded the pics from our weekend trip to see family in Utah last month.

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Enchanted!Sat, 5th Apr '14, 12:55 am::

Tonight, we went to see the comedy musical show Disenchanted with our friends Cary and Laura at the Straz Center in Tampa. I knew it was going to be funny but I had no idea it was going to be utterly hilarious. The play is a sarcastic take on the Disney's Magic Kingdom universe, comically yet bitterly mocking tropes like damsel in distress, prince charming, once upon a time, and happily ever after.

While I had read many positive reviews of the show prior to the ticket purchase, I expected the quality of the performance to be mediocre. Instead I was blown away by how beautiful the artists' voices were and how well the live orchestra performed. The lighting, sound, set design, and costume design were very well done, and although the theater and stage were small, it felt no different from any big budget Broadway show.

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Guess whatSat, 5th Apr '14, 12:40 am::

Take a look at this cellphone photo I took at my friend Rick's house, peeking directly into his telescope. Try to guess what it is. Scroll down for the answer.

It's the sun through a special solar filter. You can clearly see the sunspots as the dark smudges.

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Building an awesome home surveillance systemTue, 1st Apr '14, 12:10 am::

During the first year of moving into our house, we focused on function: fix what's broken, replace what can't be fixed, and make everything work as best as possible. The second year we focused on necessary furnishing and organization: bedroom sets, dining table, floor mats and so on. The third year we're splitting the upgrades - Juliet's in charge of paintings and decor and I'm geeking out on home automation and surveillance. I'm quite happy with the technical decisions I've made so far and would like to share what's worked for me:

Home Network: The cheapest, easiest, and most reliable way of controlling all the different systems in your home is over the good ol' LAN. Since every system in my house was going to be controlled via the LAN, the first thing I did was buy a powerful router: Netgear WNDR4500. In addition to having 4 Gigabit ports, the WNDR4500 supports dual band WiFi at 2.4ghz (usually 802.11g - good: long range, every WiFi device supports it; bad: all your neighbors use it, microwaves interfere with it) and 5ghz (usually 802.11n - good: better speed, less noise; bad: shorter range, only supported on latest devices). Connected to the router is my cable modem, couple of TP-LINK Gigabit switches and a TP-LINK Gigabit Power-Over-Ethernet (PoE) switch. If you want a solid home network, make sure all your core switches support 10/100/1000mbps and only use CAT5e or CAT6 cables. All my wired devices are connected to the TP-LINK Gigabit switches. The TP-LINK Gigabit PoE switch is connected to all of my wireless access points.

Wireless Access Points: Even though my router has very good WiFi connectivity, it does not cover my entire house and definitely not the yard. We installed four EnGenius EAP600 units around the house and porch so that almost every corner of my house gets blanketed with perfect signal strength. The EAP600 gets power from the Ethernet so mounting it on the ceiling is a very simple step if you have easy attic access. The best thing about EAP600 is that in addition to supporting dual-band WiFi at 2.4ghz and 5ghz, it supports band steering, "a technology that detects whether or not the wireless client is dual-band capable, and if it is, it will push the client to connect to the less congested 5GHz network." This means my iPad and laptops that support 5ghz automatically connect on that frequency while my older devices continue to work on 2.4ghz. The best part is that there is a single wireless network (SSID) to connect to. Having a good wireless network is necessary if you want to view the surveillance videos from anywhere in the house on any device.

Devices: Speaking of devices, I am absolutely in love with my iPad Mini Retina and highly recommend it as the remote control for your entire house. I find the regular iPad too bulky and the iPhone/iPod too small to operate. I can't speak for or against any Android or Windows tablets as I don't know if the software I use is available on those platforms. As for the hardware to record my 12 camera feeds, I went with something unconventional - an Acer Travelmate P6 laptop that was on sale! I set it up to never go to sleep, operate with the lid closed, and removed all unnecessary software since it was going to use a lot of CPU/RAM 24/7. Believe it or not, a modern laptop with Core i3 and Gigabit Ethernet is more than capable of recording 12+ cameras. Best part is I can hide the laptop somewhere inconspicuous for added security and not worry about it being a target itself. Only problem with a laptop is storage. While 500 GB ought to be enough for a week's worth of video for 4 cameras, it barely records two days worth from my 12 cameras.

Storage: I attached the Acer laptop to my Synology DS211J NAS. I cannot profess my love for the Synology brand enough. I've bought, setup, maintained, and troubleshooted probably 30 different brands of network-attached-storage devices in the last decade and absolutely NOTHING comes even close in performance, price, quality, and robustness to Synology - not even products 3-5x more expensive. Even the low-end DS211J version is very reliable and works great for home backups, media sharing, and in this case, recording video footage. Pop-in a couple of 2TB drives, create a shared folder, map the shared folder in Windows, and drive S: is now ready to store two weeks of videos!

Software: Before I arrived at the current laptop, storage, and software solution, I spent months trying out various software (both free and commercial) and hardware (plug PCs, mini PCs, even VMs). My requirements were pretty fixed from the start: (1) Must work on iPad and iPhone (2) Must work from inside and outside the house (3) Must support at least 12 cameras (4) Cost under $500 in software/device licenses (5) Must allow real-time video and easy playback of recorded footage. While I came across many different solutions, the one that worked best is the free-for-personal-use video monitoring software Genius Vision NVR. It only took minutes to install on the Acer laptop and barely 30 minutes to configure to record all footage from all 12 cameras. It has companion apps for the iPad and iPhone and has decent security to make sure nobody can access my cameras without the right credentials. When adding the cameras to Genius, make sure you name each camera channel properly because there's no way to change them later and the iOS apps automatically sort the cameras based on the channel name. Since you cannot rearrange the cameras on the iOS apps, you really want to get the order correct beforehand. I prefixed my camera channels with 01, 02 etc. to get my desired sort order. Once Genius was configured properly, I opened a random port on my WNDR4500 firewall and made it point to the laptop's IP and Genius port 3557. On the iPad and our iPhones, I added two NVRs (a) At Home (b) Away from Home. The At Home connection points to the internal LAN IP of the Acer and Away from Home points to my WAN IP. Since my ISP rarely changes that, it is not a big deal for me to update that if necessary. I could've used a dynamic DNS service but oddly enough, most of the popular ones are no longer free and the ones that are, I don't know well enough to trust.

Video Surveillance - IP Cameras: Having used many different IP cameras in the past, I knew this was going to be difficult. I wanted 12 identical cameras that worked perfectly in day and night, in full brightness and pitch dark. Nearly all of my cameras face East or West and so it was critical that as daylight fades away the infrared mode kick in automatically and vice versa at sunrise. Additionally I wanted outdoor PoE cameras that could handle moderate rain, high humidity and temperature changes. Weeks of research led me to try out Dahua IPC-HFW2100 (IP66) and I can honestly say that I am pleasantly surprised at how well they work and meet all of my requirements. I must add that configuring them was a pain times twelve and that without this Amazon review, I would not have been able to setup the RTSP stream necessary for Genius Vision NVR. Make sure you get an IP camera that supports NTP and point it to pool.ntp.org or another NTP server so that you never have to worry about the camera's internal clock, which is usually displayed on every stream. If you setup the camera to overlay the current time on the stream, you can immediately tell if any camera stream is frozen by just looking at the on-screen clock.

PoE Switch: I highly recommend getting PoE cameras so that you only need a single cable to the camera instead of power adapter and electric sockets everywhere. In terms of performance and reliability, PoE will always beat WiFi + power adapter. Problem with PoE is that the switches are usually expensive. Most PoE switches with 8 ports only have 4 PoE ports. I did not want to buy 3-4 PoE switches and instead got a BV Tech 16 port / 100Mb PoE switch. I was originally quiet worried about having just a single 100 Megabit cable connect all of my 12 cameras but believe it or not, it has worked quiet well. Even if all of my cameras are streaming at 4Mb/s, that is still under 50Mb/s, well below the theoretical capacity of a 100Mb switch. The best part is that since this device has individual switches to turn on/off the power to each port, I can use it to reboot any camera without unplugging the Ethernet cable.

It has taken me a good six months to plan, budget, purchase, test, and deploy all of the above and finally I feel content with it. I would like to setup Genius Vision NVR to record on motion detection instead of bulk 24/7 recording but that will take a lot of tweaking for each camera. Regardless, we now have a system that we can access from anywhere in the world and it works as well as any professionally installed solution that would cost 4x as much.

Other than the surveillance project, I've also replaced all of our regular A/C thermostats with CyberStat WiFi thermostats that Juliet and I can control from our phones. No more wondering if we left the bedroom heating on while we go on a weekend trip - we can check it and change it from anywhere with Internet access! Next up, I'm thinking of installing electric switches that can be controlled from the Internet and of course in person. And then some day, I plan on writing an algorithm to control colored LED lights in our living room based on a variety of factors.

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Last minute heroicsSat, 15th Mar '14, 1:05 am::

I don't remember a single instance in my academic life when I finished my homework well in advance of the due date. Yet surprisingly, I can't recall being late for any assignment unless I had a serious excuse. For as long as I can remember, I have always scheduled my homework to be completed just moments before it was due. Or in other words, I have always waited until the last possible moment to get started. You might think that this negative personality trait is sooner or later going to get me into serious trouble. I'm not cocky enough to deny that possibility but due to the reasons I list below, I highly doubt it.

While the disciplined students and obedient employees were working on their big projects months in advance, pacing themselves cautiously, providing adequate buffer zones in case of problems, I was learning how to improvise at the last minute, regardless of the subject matter at hand. While they were trying their very best, I was unknowingly learning how to ration the resources I had (time and energy) while delivering my desired quality of work. On the surface, this makes me look like someone who does just enough to get by but nothing could be further from the truth. Not only have I always aimed for the best results, I have forever challenged myself to be more ambitious. It is that innate desire to do more things juxtaposed with my inherent laziness to do no more things that has fine tuned my ability to "just wing it".

I am not writing all of this to show off my improvisational skills but rather to encourage the last minute heroes to continue procrastinating tasks as long as they do not miss the deadlines. I spent my school and college years participating in many different activities and programs simultaneously, waiting to do everything until just before the cutoff time. The amount of self-inflicted guilt I bore for not being more disciplined was demoralizing and unjust, especially since the results of my efforts were almost always top quality. I made myself feel bad for not following the path I was told was "right", even though I was surrounded by disciplined students who took weeks to write their essays and ended up receiving lower grades than the papers I wrote in the final two hours.

It was not until I joined the workforce over a decade ago that I realized that my lifetime of last minute heroics had prepared me to excel in the face of impossible deadlines. In school, you get four months to do your research, collaborate with your classmates, and design your presentation. In real life, you get pulled from an already-delayed project you're working on, to take over an urgent do-or-die assignment that you know is a bad idea in the first place. Given that situation, would you rather be the disciplined student who needs a four month plan to accomplish anything substantial or the champion of procrastination who has been living on the edge all their life?

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Thu, 27th Feb '14, 11:20 pm::

After five years of having sub-par Valentine's Days due to work, school, and non-fun travels, we finally decided to do something memorable this year. We flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico and spent the weekend traveling around in Santa Fe. Here are the pictures.

A little over three years ago I went to Santa Fe with my buddies and fell in love with the air, landscape, and relaxed life. So it was a pleasure to visit the town again, this time with Juliet. In addition to window-shopping around Santa Fe's famous Plaza, we climbed up 120 feet into the thousand year old cliff dwellings in the nearby Bandelier National Monument.

The last thing we did before we returned home, was a limo tour of the shooting locations of the TV show Breaking Bad in Albuquerque. We're both fans of the show and waited for every episode with bated breath. If you ever find yourself in Albuquerque and love Breaking Bad, I highly recommend taking the Breaking Bad Experience Tour.

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Enjoying the boringTue, 14th Jan '14, 4:00 pm::

I am taking a break from coding (because one of my meds is giving me very painful migraines) and instead of watching a funny movie or exciting TV show, I found myself transfixed on month-old recorded videos of the local "Code Enforcement Board" proceedings on St. Pete TV.

The mission of the Codes Compliance Assistance Department of St. Petersburg is to maintain the quality and extend the life of existing housing, to stabilize neighborhoods and to protect the public. As I understand, the Code Enforcement Board rules on violations of building codes and gives fines when the violations are not rectified in the allotted time.

Word for word, the above paragraph qualifies as the top candidate for the most boring thing I have ever written on my 'blog and I've written some seriously bland material on the housing-bubble and financial crisis. Yet here I sit, completely captivated by video of a board room with seven administrators, hearing one case of violation after another. For each case, a code enforcement officer takes the stand under oath and reads out a case number, name of the accused, and the violations. The violations are everything from shattered windows and broken fences to operating unlicensed restaurants in residential zones.

What impressed me was that everyone from the enforcement officers and board members right down to the accused homeowners were so rational, logical, and frank. Unlike the fake TV judges with over the top stories about domestic skirmishes, this is real life and even though no major crimes are committed, there is so much at stake for the homeowners and community. And unlike courtroom cases where there is a lot of he-said-she-said interpersonal conflict and drama, homeowners end up facing the Code Enforcement Board when for some reason or other, they fail to take care of property, paperwork, and procedures. In simpler terms, instead of resolving playground fights, this is the grownup version of why Johnny didn't do his homework.

In one instance, a homeowner did not take care of a fallen tree that was partially blocking the road. One of the neighbors filed a complaint with the city, and rightly so. The city did an investigation and sent a notice to the homeowner, giving him a month to fix it - a pretty fair action. The homeowner ends up in the board room because he did not take care of the tree after a month. Now we hear his side of the story. He said a large section of the tree was touching live electric cables. The electric company was scheduled to take care of that but they haven't. The board then unanimously gave him another 60 days to take care of the tree, more than enough time to resolve the issue with the electric company. While this sounds fairly routine, the homeowner sounded pretty frustrated because all of this was beyond his control. He didn't cause the tree to fall, he cannot clear it because it is touching electric cables, he had a hard time getting in touch with the electric company, and here he was, being dragged into board room on a regular work day.

Unlike the hundred "This can happen to you!!!" stories we hear about in the media, this is the one that can most likely happen to me. And it is hard to find someone to blame in this. The electric company probably has thousands of such cases to deal with after every thunderstorm, the neighbors don't want to hit the tree while driving, the homeowner isn't going to risk getting electrocuted cutting the tree himself. The city officers did the right thing in investigating it and the board did the right thing in extending the period. While I have no background information on the board members, each of them who asked a question or made a statement, did it politely, clearly, and without any prejudice. This is not some all-powerful "board" who's judging the poor citizenry. This is just regular people making rational decisions and hard choices for the good of the community.

However, sometimes you do feel bad for the accused. This guy (actual screenshot below) was being charged with operating an unlicensed barbeque grill in a commercial zone. Come on guys! Let the man cook in peace!

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On my own scheduleThu, 9th Jan '14, 8:10 am::

I am currently running an unintentional experiment with my sleep cycle that very few grownups with responsibilities have the luxury of attempting. Since I've had a bad cough for more than a few weeks now, I've stopped worrying about anything except getting better. As a result, I stopped trying to go to bed at a set time or waking up with an alarm. I stay up as long as I want, I sleep as much as I want, I take as many naps as I need, and I code whenever I feel like.

Yesterday I woke up at noon, ate my first and only meal at 6pm, fell asleep at 7.30pm, woke up at 1.30am, and coded until 7am. I am a bit sleepy now and will fall asleep soon but I am in no hurry to do any work, chores, or sleep. Since physical exertion makes me cough, I've been pretty lethargic. Here's some interesting things I realized:

1) Freedom from guilt is refreshing! Not feeling guilty for sleeping in until 2pm or watching cartoons from 3pm until 1am is elating. Far too often we live our lives in a certain way because that's how we are supposed to. As long as I am not dropping the ball on my responsibilities (bills, social commitments, work projects etc.), there is no reason for me to feel guilty.

2) 24-hour cycle is definitely not for me. In fact, my sleep cycle isn't even periodic. It's very random. Some days I've stayed up 20 hours without feeling tired and some days I've slept 16 hours. My only concern has been feeling good. Obviously being sick and taking cough medicine skews how I feel and how often I want to sleep/stay-up but even on the days I barely took medications, I would fall asleep at 4pm only to wake up at 9pm for absolutely no reason.

3) I am procrastinating less! Technically, I am not procrastinating at all since I have no schedule so whenever I do anything, it is done on time. I do have some self-imposed deadlines but they are not stringent. Being able to meet them while still living on a completely carefree schedule feels wonderful.

4) I am listening to my body - more so than ever. I am not fighting my urge to sleep or eat or stretch. While this means I don't have to eat my meals at a set time, it also means not ignoring that I am hungry at 4am. Instead of forcing myself to do things because it's time, I'm waiting to feel hungry or thirsty before I eat or drink. The revelation to me is that this hunger feels very different from the "it's 12pm so it's lunch time" hunger. This is definitely a sample size of one issue but I feel like I am eating the proper amount I need instead of over- or under-eating like I generally end up doing when I wait too long to eat or have to eat much sooner than I want to.

I'm not trying to hack my body into doing anything fancy. I just want to stop being miserable and my condition has improved considerably over the last week. I don't plan on living like this forever though I have to admit, the psychological benefit of this carefree-ness during a typical grouchy period of sickness has kept my spirits high throughout. Next time I'm sick, I'm going to do this for sure.

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On the 10th day of ChristmasMon, 23rd Dec '13, 5:25 pm::

My Christmas gift to Juliet this year was a real-life encounter with a Capuchin monkey at our house! Enjoy the photos.

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US CitizenshipMon, 9th Dec '13, 11:00 pm::

As of today, I am a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. I had my oath ceremony today in Tampa and was joined by my wife Juliet, her mother, and our close friend Carlos. Due to delays in mail delivery, we found out just two days ago that my oath ceremony was to be held today. I was looking forward to inviting more people to attend but the short notice put a kibosh on that idea. After the oath ceremony, we went to the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate. Then we came home, I took a four hour nap, ate some more cheesecake and Mac & Cheese, and watched The Simpsons for three hours straight. All in all, a pretty standard American day.

On a more serious note, I am looking forward to getting my first jury summons. While a vast number of people hate being summoned for jury duty, I love the idea that the common man still gets to play a role in the judicial system. I also registered to vote today, so now I'm responsible for 0.0000000000285714% of everything the US government does.

On an even more serious note, this was a day of mixed emotions for me. As jubilant and proud as I was to become an American today, I was also humbled by the thought that I will now have to surrender my Indian passport and renounce my Indian citizenship since the Indian Constitution does not recognize dual citizenship. My Indian passport has been one of my most prized possessions, literally a proof of my identity. I've used it to prove who I am at every US Visa and immigration interview, every driver's license renewal, every mortgage signing, and even when we applied for a marriage license. While I haven't traveled much internationally to miss the various visa stamps, I will miss the "Home" address of Calcutta (now called Kolkata) on the second page of my passport, where my parents still live. Even though I've been a Permanent Resident (greencard holder) in the US for many years now, my passport still said my "home" was in India.

The flip-side of this is that I will soon get a shiny new US passport, enabling us to travel to many more countries around the world with minimal restrictions. The only countries I have been to is India, Nepal, United States, Canada, and Mexico. Now Juliet will finally get a chance to feed more interesting animals around the world!

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Our duck & tortoise preserveTue, 26th Nov '13, 12:50 pm::

I've spent almost the entire year planning, designing, and repeatedly modifying the duck and tortoise area you see in the photo below. I worked with my wonderful neighbor Bevv (who did the initial design), my handyman Dan and my lawn expert Chris to build it all.

We have a large Sulcata tortoise (Lola) who lives with the two ducks (Peek & Poke). Here are the major structures:

Fence: The back portion is just a typical fence with a stained wooden 1" trim on the top, everything held up straight by 8ft 4x4s. The side and front edges are 4x4s piled on top of each other, with 6ft iron rods drilled straight down through them with concrete at the base. Then we piled up dirt on the outside and planted a variety of greens. Since the ducks kept jumping out and chased our small Chihuahuas around the whole yard, I added the wooden criss-crossed trellis around the front. A primary reason for making the fence solid is that it prevents the tortoise from trying to scale it.

Enclosure: They all sleep in together in the wood enclosure built by Dan (towards the bottom left of the picture). The enclosure is heated by infrared bulbs on thermostat set to turn on at 70F. The enclosure has a front-flap that can be raised up with a simple pulley and hooked on the side to keep it open during the day. At night I just lower it. There is also a back flap that you can open up like the trunk of a typical sedan and we use that to fill up water/food. Also very useful when I want to hose out everything. There is a small mesh on one side of the enclosure to make sure it doesn't get too hot in the summer. If it gets too cold, I can put a small blanket on it to keep the warmth in.

Pond: This was the most difficult thing to get right and I spent more time, money, and effort on it than anything else. Initially we had one of those pretty koi-style ponds with a big pump and filter as you can . I was prepared to deal with duck poop but I had no idea what the tortoise had in store for me. The tortoise ate grass all day and clogged the pump, filter, and pipes so bad we had to scrape the entire pond and rebuild. The pond you see now has a simple gravity drain. It is a large stagnant pond which gently slopes to the back. There is a 4" PVC pipe that drains everything out towards the back of the yard. There is a single heavy-duty valve that I can access without getting into the duck area which empties the pond within 30 seconds. I hose off any messes on the pond, close the valve, and refill. Takes about 10 minutes. The ducks and tortoises get fresh water and I barely have to do any work to keep it clean. I'm pretty sure I can use the drained material as fertilizer around the yard.

Plants/ground-cover: These I left up to Chris. We tried typical sod in the middle but the tortoise kept eating that instead of her food. Also the ducks made a mess everywhere. So we opted for pine-straws and lots of small shrubs. We planted Jasmine on the outside of the front fence and bunch of other flowering plants like Lily of the Nile. The planters will hopefully grow long enough to cover the back fence soon.

We got the ducks last Christmas and I have spent the entire year getting this area setup just right. The ducks are SO happy and the tortoise is very active too. While I may not have done much work with my own hands, I came up with all the little solutions for each tiny problem and trust me there were many. We wanted our critters to live as close to their natural habitats as possible and I think we got it pretty close.

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Fri, 22nd Nov '13, 3:40 pm::

Life's been pretty busy and eventful lately. I passed the United States citizenship interview last week and will soon be able to vote in elections (though not run for the President of United States position). I rented a tuxedo for the first time in my life yesterday and will be wearing it for our friends Billy & Lisa's wedding tomorrow. I went to his bachelor party this weekend in St. Augustine and had a great time. We're hosting our first Thanksgiving dinner next week with friends and family. We've spent the past two years fixing up our house and finally after a new air conditioner and pool pump/motor, I feel we're about done. We even bought a long carpet for our hallway and a replacement oven for our kitchen last week. I think it's about time we had a big house party!

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Fri, 25th Oct '13, 2:45 am::

It's finally getting cold here in Florida. Past few winters, I spent a lot of time bringing the tortoises and other critters indoors during cold nights and taking them out on sunny days. Each time I brought them in, I spent a lot of time cleaning their indoor enclosures daily. After getting tired of that earlier this year, I decided to modernize my zoo and bought four infrared heat lamps with reflectors and two thermostats. Though it was hooked up months ago, today is the first time I turned the system on and I'm ecstatic to say it's working perfectly!

The tortoises and ducks are being kept warm at 70F-80F (20-25C) in their outdoor enclosures and I don't have to wake up at odd hours in the night and early morning to check up on them. I made sure that the lamps were installed at a safe height and the circuitry was completely sheltered from rain. Additionally, since these are infrared lamps, they don't shine bright or interfere with the animals' sleeping cycles.

In the large scale of things, putting a couple of lamps is not a big deal but the relief I get from not having to worry about the temperature each night is worth it. Of course, tonight I've been behaving like a kid and keep checking the heat lamps every few hours just so I can feel giddy whenever I sense the warmth on my hands.

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Fast-food analogy for the US Government ShutdownTue, 1st Oct '13, 11:40 am::

If you have been confused about the US Government Shutdown, here's an overly simplified fast-food analogy of the situation courtesy of reddit:

  • "Alright so to confirm, we'll be getting one party size pepperoni and mushroom pizza with olives, right?"
  • "WAIT NO! I DON'T WANT OLIVES!"
  • "But we all agreed that we wanted olives."
  • "WELL NOT US!"

And so the U.S. shut down every Pizza Hut until an agreement could be made. Those who shutdown the Pizza Huts still get pizza. Note that olives were voted on as something that should go on the pizza three years ago, but then some new guys showed up to the party and decided to be stubborn about the olives and refused to accept the olives unless you took the cheese, sauce and bread off the pizza.

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Economic impact of Arbitrary National HolidaysSun, 29th Sep '13, 2:45 pm::

While making plans for Thanksgiving, I just realized this year it falls on November 28th. As Thanksgiving is celebrated on fourth Thursday of November in the US, the latest it can occur is indeed November 28th (1st November being a Friday). Since 1990 this is only the fourth Thanksgiving to fall on November 28th. The next one will be in 2019.

People usually start shopping for Christmas gifts after Thanksgiving. The later Thanksgiving falls, the less time there is for shopping. The earliest Thanksgiving can occur is on November 22nd, almost a week earlier. Number of potential shopping days range from 26 (November 28th) to 32 (November 22nd). Since the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the busiest shopping period for almost all retailers and e-commerce companies, reducing the duration by 20% can have one of two effects: (1) average sales/day go up because people still need to buy all the gifts or (2) average sales/day remain stagnant because people don't have enough time/money to buy all the gifts, reducing sales. Adjusting for typical business cycles, it would be interesting to see whether (1) or (2) happens.

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Fri, 13th Sep '13, 2:40 pm::

Life's going on as usual down here in Florida. I've been keeping myself busy with a variety of computer, house, and home zoo projects. Now that Juliet has a predictable work schedule, we've been spending a lot more time together doing typical married-couple things. We went to the farmer's market on Saturday and bought fresh fruits and vegetables. We're cooking more at home and living a pretty healthy lifestyle (except for my late night programming sessions).

I've already written about not writing more often before so no point in repeating myself but it's not the lack of time that has kept me from updating my 'blog - it's my state of mind. There are just too many things I can write about but don't know if I should even bother. Had Snowden, Syria, or Sequester happened a decade ago, I would've written numerous passages elucidating my thoughts and expressing my cynicism on every topic. But now it feels pointless to write about things I have no direct involvement in. Everyone is getting their news from the Internet today, no point in being one more source of textual drivel.

Even though we are all affected by the news indirectly, my opinion on each matter no longer compels me to stand up on a pulpit and yell them out loud for everyone to hear. My opinions have not gotten any milder, just my desire to voice them publicly. I wonder if this has anything to do with age/maturity or rather my current lifestyle, which is very laid back and full of non-stressful creative outlets. Do I (a) spend an hour writing about what the morality of doing X is, (b) go out for an evening walk with the missus, or (c) build a gravity-drain for the duck pond so it is easier to clean up? I used to choose (a) but now I'm choosing (b) and (c) a lot more often.

In a way, I am happy I don't have much to write about lately. It means everything is alright within and without my head. And if I really feel like typing furiously at the keyboard, I'll avoid online debates and channel that energy into writing something positive on my 'blog. Till next time!

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Fri, 9th Aug '13, 2:55 am::

We got back home late last night after a two week vacation to celebrate our fifth wedding Anniversary. We went on a weeklong cruise to Alaska and then spent nearly a week in Seattle and neighboring areas. Here are the Alaska/Seattle photos.

I also finally uploaded the photos from our trip to India last year.

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Five years!Tue, 23rd Jul '13, 12:15 pm::

Exactly five years ago today, Juliet and I got married. The past five years have been a dream come true. Our life together is everything I ever wanted and beyond. We're celebrating our anniversary this weekend so for now, all of my plans remain a secret. It's going to be marvelous!

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This week at the home zooSun, 7th Jul '13, 9:50 pm::

Last week, my friend Brian brought his African Grey parrot Marley to our house. We are taking care of Marley until Brian returns from vacation. Marley is staying in our porch and keeping the dogs, cats, and me thoroughly entertained. Throughout the day, he whistles and I whistle back. He has even tricked me a few times by reproducing my phone's ring tone and the home security alarm's door-open beeps.

Speaking of birds, the ducks are getting quite devious. Despite being flightless ducks, they have managed to escape their habitat almost every day this week to chase the dogs. Yes, our ducks routinely glide out of their enclosure in order to scare the living daylights out of our Chihuahuas. While they do not actually hurt the dogs and just chase them playfully, it scares the dogs and we had to put a stop to it. Sunday before last I raised the height of their enclosure fence to three feet and after a week of no trouble, they figured out that if they took a running start and flapped their wings hard enough, they could just about clear the fence. So today I finally did what I have been trying my best to avoid - trim their flight feathers a.k.a. wing clipping. This makes them unable to gain altitude while still allowing them to glide down safely from a perch.

The problem with having animals as pets is you face moral dilemmas on a nearly daily basis. From the very question of whether we should even "own" animals and keep them locked up in our domiciles to how much money should you spend to prolong the life of a loved pet, a pet owner constantly has to walk the fine line between what is humane and what is not. I thought that with time, my views about pet ownership would change but surprisingly have remained the same despite the 18 critters we have (19 until Marley goes back home).

I do not believe in caging any free, wild creature, whether it is a common duck or a rare chameleon. Nature belongs in nature. I am vehemently against private ownership of exotic animals solely for entertainment purposes. However, I am perfectly ok with some exceptions - well cared for animals in nature preserves, rescue habitats, and limited number of good quality zoos. The three simple reasons for the exceptions are education, rehabilitation, and rehoming. Since our babies are re-homed from local animal shelters or pet-owners who could not take care of them, I have no qualms about giving rent-free residence to 3 cats, 2 dogs, 4 tortoises, 2 prairie dogs, 5 rabbits, and 2 ducks.

Now that we have a veritable collection of mostly-tame wildlings, it is imperative that we take care of them to the best of our abilities even if appears unnatural at first glance. Sometimes that means separating the two boy bunnies because they keep fighting and sometimes that means trimming the feathers of ducks to prevent them from hurting themselves and our other pets. Don't worry, trimming the feathers is painless for the ducks and they grow back just like our nails.

One thing we never try to do is change their nature. Prairie dogs like to dig. Ducks like to swim. Dogs like to bark. Cats like to scratch. And Marley likes to whistle. It would be inhumane to force an animal to go against their natural instinct just because it is inconvenient for us humans. We have worked hard to ensure that each of our pets has the perfect habitat to best suit their natural environment. And every now and then, they surprise us. Herbert and Phyllis the tortoises love eating purple flowers from the Petunia plants that we planted for shade. Prairie dogs love climbing high up on the metal mesh we used to build their enclosure. And Lola the tortoise loves swimming in the duck pond.

Every day is a zoo day. Here's a photo of Marley & Me:

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Fri, 28th Jun '13, 12:15 pm::

I have been pretty quiet lately, not just on my 'blog but also socially. While things have been quite busy between research, work projects, and house projects, my silence has not been for a want of time. Over the years, I've scheduled my life so that I have ample time to relax and unwind every day. I think my recent taciturn attitude has more to do with a gradual but noticeable change in my mindset about life, legacy, and lore.

When I started this 'blog over a decade ago, I had an exuberant desire to share, contribute, talk, discuss, and vent. I don't think my enthusiasm has waned but rather my definition of what it means to share. Sharing no longer means uploading photos, videos, and stories online. Sharing means giving someone a wonderful memory. Whether it is a small gift or a fun-filled weekend driving around Florida, I am just happy to be there with my loved ones.

I think the only reason I still continue to write my 'blog is because I've never forced myself to write. I write when I want to and because I want to. It is not an obligation to the world but an outlet for me. Today, after over a month, I felt the urge to spew some drivel and here you are, sportingly bearing every word of it. Here's hoping the fodder for my next update will be genuine excitement and not ennui.

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My new heroesSun, 19th May '13, 6:35 pm::

Over time my heroes have changed. My heroes are no longer the Einstein or Buffetts of the world. While my younger self was forever in awe of larger-than-life personas of famous scientists, entrepreneurs, and sportsmen, I nevertheless found it uncomfortable and disingenuous to try to be like them. Instead, the people who most inspire me now are the ones who are at peace with themselves and continue to improve the world in their own unique way. I don't aspire to be famous or wealthy, not because I feel like I can't, but because I'm not willing to pay the price for them.

So it warms my heart when I come across a new hero. Meet Prof. Yitang Zhang. Toiling away for years on his own, he recently made a significant breakthrough towards solving one of the most unyielding prime number conjectures:

    "As details of his work have emerged, it has become clear that Zhang achieved his result not via a radically new approach to the problem, but by applying existing methods with great perseverance... Zhang said he feels no resentment about the relative obscurity of his career thus far. “My mind is very peaceful. I don’t care so much about the money, or the honor,” he said. “I like to be very quiet and keep working by myself.”

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We built a zoo!Mon, 15th Apr '13, 12:05 am::

Now that spring is here, I've been spending a lot more time on house projects than coding marathons. With the help of my handyman Dan, last week we built a custom bonsai table for Juliet. Our wonderful neighbor Bevv designed our new tortoise and duck area earlier this year. Last weekend, I finally designed the perfect house for the big tortoise and the ducks and Dan built it yesterday.

This week I'm going to setup a small waterfall and filter in the duck pond with my lawn guy Chris' help. We're also going to add rocks, driftwood, and heat-lamps to the enclosures for our prairie dogs, rabbits, and tortoises. Within a week or so, I'm pretty sure we'll have a real-life mini-zoo right in our backyard with five-star accommodations for all of our critters. I'll post photos within a week or two at most.

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Thu, 4th Apr '13, 4:35 pm::

The #1 reason I love playing table tennis is that my perception of time slows down drastically. I thought I just practiced for about 5 minutes playing against my table tennis robot but turns out it was 20 minutes. When I exercise on the elliptical or lift weights, it's the opposite - working out for 5 minutes feels like 20 minutes. This past weekend a few of our friends stayed over and we played table tennis all night and it felt barely an hour had passed. We estimated it was over five hours of play combined.

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How to make life easierTue, 19th Mar '13, 12:35 pm::

I took me a long time to realize that all of us live the same life. No matter what happens to us on the outside, on the inside, all of us have dreams, fears, and emotions. Even the grumpy teacher who was always giving you a hard time and never showed a sign of empathy. Even your grandma and your annoying coworker. Even Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg. On the outside, people may be good or bad, famous or unknown, rich or poor, beautiful or homely, entertaining or boring. But on the inside, we're more or less wired to experience the same types of feelings to varying degrees of amplitude - happiness, sorrow, self-doubt, ecstasy, and countless others that make us feel 'human.' My fear of failure is no different than yours, your aspirations to do good are same as mine, and our desire to be fondly remembered is why many of us hope to be grandparents some day.

In general, how well we do on the outside, determines how we feel on the inside. Promotion at work makes us happy and being sick makes us sad. If you have the determination and courage, you'll work hard to make the outside better so you can feel good on the inside. That's why we work hard enough to afford our own place and not have to deal with loud roommates. That's why we get an education, move to a new city, get a job, and buy a house. We're all just trying to improve our lives on the outside so that we can have peace and satisfaction on the inside.

The problem is that inside all of us lives a very greedy being with a never-ending appetite for more. There are two ways to feed this beast. One is what most people typically do - feed it with 'more' from the outside. Buy a bigger house, get a second doctorate degree, strive to be famous, or seek public office. All of these are perfectly acceptable ambitions but they require a lot of sacrifices and tend to make life pretty difficult for a long period of time. But there is another way to feed the beast within and it can be a never-ending source of happiness, patience, encouragement, and dedication: Passion.

If you are passionate about something, and I mean genuinely passionate, things like career, hobbies, and goals become a lot simpler. You don't have to worry if college A is better than college B or employer X is better than employer Y because as long as you get to indulge in your passions, you'll be happy, you'll keep learning, and you'll keep getting better. Having a passion does not necessarily make you happier or more successful than those without, but it does give you an edge. Not everyone can have rich parents, right connections, good looks, or affable personality. But anyone can be passionate about anything.

You don't have to be passionate about your career or field of study but it certainly helps. I wouldn't be a programmer if I did not thoroughly enjoy programming. I've been programming for two decades and I'm just as excited about building something new today as I was before the web was invented. I've been fortunate enough to not have too many personal disasters and calamities but I can say that throughout the years, no matter how good or bad things have been, I could always get lost in my world of programming and forget about the world, at least temporarily. My escapes gave me the strength and tools I needed to push myself in the real world and make my outside and inside life better without having to rely solely on external input. Some have defined that as introversion. Others have said that I was lucky to have found my passion so early in life. I don't like to assign labels or attribute to fortune the choices we make naturally. All I know is that being truly passionate about something makes life easier and a lot of fun.

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St. Louis, MissouriSun, 3rd Mar '13, 12:35 am::

Juliet and I have been working for just over a year without a decent break. So we were looking forward to our trip to St. Louis, Missouri. We just got back and here are the vacation photos. Her idea of a good vacation is lots of fun activities. Mine involves sitting back in a comfy chair and reading a book in a room with a view. Suffice to say, we did it both ways.

We went to Gateway Arch, Forest Park (St. Louis Zoo, Art Museum, Science Center), City Museum, and Fox Theater (Book of Mormon on tour). I read The Information while gazing at the river and Arch. We got a private show at the Science Center Planetarium and a private tour of Tree Kangaroos and Butterfly Atrium because we were the only ones there. We let Doctor Fish nibble on our fingers and slid down monster slides at City Museum. We played slots at Lumiere Casino and had delicious Peruvian and Thai food. We went shopping and walked around the downtown. I slept in late most mornings while she attended her medical conference. She watched HGTV in the evening while I did some work.

It was a very relaxing four-day vacation, because even though we did a lot of sightseeing, the entire experience was quite stress-free. Our flights were smooth, our hotel upgraded us to the premium Arch-view room at no cost, we got free entrances to almost all the exhibits because we were the only visitors, we had no wait times at restaurants, and everything was close enough to walk or drive within minutes. I'd love to revisit St. Louis in the future when the weather is a bit nicer. At the end of this month, we're going to Atlanta for a friend's wedding. Hopefully it will be warmer.

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Sun, 10th Feb '13, 11:40 pm::

Yesterday I ran an unexpected half-marathon, completely unprepared. My friend Arthur signed up for an ultramarathon near Gainesville, FL and I drove up to crew for him on Friday. After completing 50 miles, his pace slowed down and he asked if I could keep him company until he finished 100 km (62.1 miles). While I haven't run a mile in years, I figured it wouldn't be so bad, after all I was accompanying someone who had already run 50 miles non-stop. I figured wrong. I had the wrong clothes, my shoes were not meant for trail running, and I hadn't been eating or drinking properly all day since I was driving back and forth between aid-stations to check up on him. While it was no walk in the park, we kept a good pace and he finished 100 km in 16 hours 45 minutes.

Almost immediately after the race, we got in my car and I started driving back home. I drove through the night and got home early morning today. We rested until noon and watched movies all day. He's flying back tomorrow and then it's life back to normal. Except my legs are still pretty sore from the unplanned half-marathon.

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KType is now RocketKeys!Thu, 31st Jan '13, 3:35 pm::

Little over three years ago, I took a long walk and came back determined to build KType - a tool to help people with speech disabilities. It took over a year of intense independent research and development but I finally released KType Pro in late 2011. I went to India in early 2012 and beta-tested it with the inspiration behind KType - my cousin Keval - who took mere minutes to start typing full words and sentences. Eight-months later, I released KType Free to help spread the word. Throughout the process, I received unbelievable amount of support from my wife, family, friends, and even complete strangers. Best of all, I regularly received words of encouragement from actual users and their families.

In October 2012, I was contacted by a brilliant researcher-turned-CEO, Alex Levy, whose company MyVoice develops "life-changing aids for people with speech and language disabilities." Over the years I met numerous developers, speech-therapy experts, and families of people with speech disabilities and I always had a difficult time explaining to them what KType really was. Yet from the very first minute of our conversation, it was clear to me that Alex truly understood what I was trying to do with KType and he could explain the app better than I ever could. Wasting no time, I flew up to Canada the next weekend to plan the future of KType and to attend my first Halloween party.

Since my return from Canada, I worked with Alex and his team on releasing the new version of KType. I am so happy to say that KType is now RocketKeys, part of the MyVoice family of apps, and available in the Apple App Store. Tomorrow, I'm driving up to Orlando, where Alex and his team are exhibiting RocketKeys at the Assistive Technology Industry Association 2013 Conference. From what Alex tells me, we have a very popular booth in a prime location, so I should be prepared to talk to attendees all day non-stop. I can't wait!

Three years ago when I decided to change my entire life around and take such a huge career, financial, and social risk, I asked my wife what her thoughts were. Without a blink, she replied "Do it." I told her to take some time to think clearly about it because it could mean lots of personal stress and financial difficulties. She immediately said "You'll figure it out. I'm not worried." For a while, I thought she was just being nice or didn't want to discourage me by saying anything negative but now I realize, she was just being honest. She truly did believe that I would figure it all out even though at that time, I had no experience in the assistive technology industry, had never built an Apple iPhone/iPad app, had never done multi-year independent research, had no experience in building prediction engines, and had absolutely no support from anyone in the field.

It took a few years but she was right, I slowly figured it all out. And she supported me the whole time in the most-likely-to-make-Chirag-succeed-way, by telling me that "it doesn't sound too difficult for you." There are two surefire ways to encourage someone: (1) tell them it is impossible (2) tell them it is trivial. The latter works better on me because when everyone tells me it is impossible, at least I have an excuse when I fail, like when I ran just 50 miles instead of the 100 miles that I signed up for. But when someone says it is too easy for me, my ego won't let me quit, no matter how difficult it really is.

I have no idea what the future holds but I know I couldn't have gotten here without my wife's support. Juliet, I love you and hope you're ready for my next big project after this :)

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Mon, 21st Jan '13, 9:20 pm::

We're building a pet enclosure in our backyard so that our tortoises and ducks can roam freely. One of our neighbors came up with the actual design and it includes a small wading pond and lots of ferns. We're planning on adding heat lamps to keep the critters warm when it's cold outside. I will post lots of photos of our mini-zoo once it's ready. I can't wait!

Update: Here's a short video of our ducks wobbling around in the backyard. Towards the end of the clip, you can see the ducks and the cats together and behind them is the new enclosure still under construction.

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Looking aroundTue, 15th Jan '13, 1:10 am::

2013 is off to a pretty crappy start. It started with lots of computer issues and sleepless nights, followed by the tragic death of a brilliant hacker. Then while I was in the middle of a bureaucratic paperwork hell, I got the shocking news of the untimely death of a close family friend in India.

In situations like these, you can't help but reevaluate your life's priorities. Should you work hard and save for a better future or should you make the best of today because who knows what's going to happen tomorrow? Even if you believe that it should be a balanced mix of both short-term and long-term goals, should you give up some of your long-term principles to make your loved ones slightly happier in the short-term? The problem isn't that these are hard questions to answer. The problem is that no matter what answer you come up with, life has a way of shaking the foundations of all of your assumptions, bringing you back to square one all over again.

Philosophical musings of such existential nature essentially boil down to the eternal question, "What's the point of it all?" While the question is communal, the answer is deeply personal. A few years ago, I resolved to answer this question for myself with the stipulation that no matter what happens in life, my answer shouldn't have to change. After all, if there is a point to life, it can't change just because I gained weight or lost my savings. I pondered over what makes me happy, what makes me excited, and what motivates me the most. No matter what "purpose of my life" I came up with, it seemed temporary. "Computer programming?" Who knows what's going to happen in a decade. "Raising a family?" Certainly, but it seems too generic and more of a commandment than an ultimate purpose. "Be the best at X?" Seems too selfish and if I lose my ability to do X for any reason, not a long-term answer.

After thinking about this question for days on end, I finally came up with a very simple answer that initially seems vague and pretentious but in fact has stood the test of time quite well. My purpose in life is to help others. That's it. I'll join you in saying that on the surface, it reeks of platitude and sounds patronizing. But the more I live through good times and bad, the more my resolve to fulfill this purpose strengthens. And it answers the hardest questions in life so beautifully. What's the point of it all? To help others. How do I handle tragedies? By helping others. Why do bad things happen to good people? Who knows, let's help them first!

While I can say I have found my calling, I haven't found the best means to achieve it yet. I can't afford to make generous donations to charities and I'm not the kind of person who feeds the homeless in soup kitchens. There are a million people who are more passionate about helping others directly like that than I am. What I am passionate about is building tools to help others. KType was my first serious attempt at that but it is far from my last.

Every time I hear something that makes me sad and start to question the meaning of life, I tell myself that the answer for me, is to help others. It seems like a feedback loop of perverse incentives but the sadder I get, the more determined I become to help others. My newfound defense mechanism against problems without solutions (tragedies, trauma, grief) is not to look inward but around. I don't know if that is a good thing or not but so far it's working - instead of being morose, I'm learning to be more empathic.

With condolences to the family of the recently departed Sudhakar Bhai Sampat, I remain hopeful that his memories will live on for years to come.

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This is what it's all aboutWed, 2nd Jan '13, 11:55 pm::

A review of KType I received today:

    "Thanks to Chirag Mehta for this wonderful app. I've searched high and low for a speech machine for my cousin who has Huntington's Disease. This is the only one I tried that my cousin wants to use. It's simple, customizable, reliable, and the word prediction feature is so fast and right on that it's almost spooky. As a rule, my cousin can say an 8-word sentence with only 12-15 keystrokes. This app also has a feature to customize for people with unsteady hands. As my cousin continues to lose her motor skills, she will be able to continue to speak with this same app."

For the past month, I've been working hard on the next version of KType with a brilliant team of developers and can't wait until it is officially launched.

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A good year for learningSun, 30th Dec '12, 9:00 pm::

Instead of making new resolutions for 2013, I'm sticking with my goals for 2012 - keep on learning. Earlier this year I decided to learn as many different things as interest me - both in depth and breadth. I had no specific target in mind and let my curiosity roam free. Along the way I learned new programming languages, design patterns, and frameworks. I spent weeks digging into the history of the Middle-East conflict and petroleum extraction processes. I learned how to solve the Rubik's Cube in under 3 minutes. I watched hundreds of hours of videos on topics ranging from bio-mechanical engineering and sociology to linguistics and quantum electrodynamics.

I don't think my new-found understanding of how to efficiently compare nucleotide sequences is going to come in handy during my next database project but it makes me realize how much there is to know and how little I still do. I feel I know one percent of one percent of an iota of a minuscule amount of things that are knowable in my own field of computer science. And I know a millionth of that when it comes to biology, astronomy, or art history.

I've been programming since I was ten. During my over two decades of programming, I have spent countless hours digging into everything from transliteration and linear programming to network services and video encoding. Yet I have barely touched the surface of computer vision, neural networks, natural language processing, or machine learning. I have yet to build my own robots! 2013 is going to be the year I learn a lot more things. And I'm looking forward to it more than ever. Happy New Year!

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Bank Error in Your FavorSat, 8th Dec '12, 1:20 pm::

It's a gorgeous winter day here in Florida. Perfect weather, sunny skies, and best of all, someone else made a mistake in my favor. I went to the county services to file some paperwork and they made a mistake. Since they could not reverse the transaction, they offered to provide me two future services at no charge. Now I don't go around looking for free deals or figure out ways to beat the system; not worth the effort in most cases. But I do appreciate those "Bank Error in Your Favor. Collect $200" instances because more often than not, the error is not in my favor and I have to waste a lot of time correcting someone else's fault.

On the topic of fault, having written quite a few business software applications, I have a tremendous amount of empathy for clerical workers and customer service personnel. Not just because they have to face irate customers and frantic callers on a daily basis but rather because their fault is not usually theirs. I do not blame the clerk today for processing my paperwork incorrectly when she clicked A instead of B. All humans make mistakes. I fault the developers of the system who do not provide her a way to fix the mistake by reversing the transaction with minimal effort.

In defense of the developers, it is not always easy to build an "undo" transaction in every system and there is a significant cost associated with reversing entries that have already been posted. Instead of having just two types of transactions "purchase" and "sales", you now need two more - "purchase return" and "sales return". If you were selling ID tags with serial numbers, now you need "undo issue" and "undo payment" transactions. These additional types of transactions have to be included in every screen, journal, table, and report, increasing the cost of development.

Since I have yet to come across a software development project with infinite budget, usually the features that get cut are the ones that would help reverse human errors. Instead of paying for an expensive undo button, administrators prefer to provide additional training to the users so they do not make mistakes. But humans always make mistakes. And when they cannot fix it, the feeling of helplessness causes low morale, irritability, and overall loss in productivity. If you see a long line and stressed out customer service personnel, be nice to them because the fault is most likely not entirely theirs, even when they type 3 instead of 2.

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Introducing the Glorious Game of Scrabble-Ping-PongTue, 27th Nov '12, 12:25 pm::

Last night we invented the Glorious Game of Scrabble-Ping-Pong. Similar to the famed sport of Chess-Boxing but far less painful, Scrabble-Ping-Pong is a game of speed, quick thinking, and real-time strategy.

The Rules of Scrabble-Ping-Pong are as follows:

  1. Round 1: Two alternating moves of Scrabble per player.
  2. Round 2: Five serves of Ping-Pong per player.
  3. First player to get 200 points in Scrabble OR 25 points in Ping-Pong is declared the winner.
  4. Alternate between rounds of Scrabble and Ping-Pong until either player wins.
  5. Local rules of Scrabble and Ping-Pong apply.
  6. Each move in Scrabble is timed and given at most 2 minutes.
  7. No breaks or rest intervals between rounds of Scrabble and Ping-Pong.
  8. Live scoreboard must be clearly visible to both players at all times to enable dynamic strategizing.
  9. In case of a tie in one game, the winner is declared based on the other game.
  10. In case of a tie in both games, feel free to make up your own tie-breakers.

Our scoreboard from last night, colorfully filled-in by Juliet, is shown below:

Here's our Scrabble board:

I can't wait till the next Glorious Game of Scrabble-Ping-Pong!

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Airboat ride in Everglades City, FLFri, 23rd Nov '12, 2:05 am::

Last week Juliet and I took a short vacation to Marco Island, FL. We went on another airboat ride, this time in Everglades City, FL:

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Voting with sugarTue, 6th Nov '12, 12:55 pm::

Today is the US Election day and since I can't vote yet, I've decided to cast my ballot in a more delicious way. A local bakery here in Florida: Frida's Cafe is selling Obama and Romney cookies. According to the owner Frida, their election day cookie sales correctly predicted the elections in 2000, 2004, and 2008. I can't wait till Juliet gets home so we can go "vote". After the election results come in tonight, I will post if their cookie-sales-based predictions were correct or not.

Edit at 11:50pm: Frida's cookie sales predicted Obama won (Obama 2750 cookies, Romney 2470 cookies). And now all the TV channels are calling the election a victory for Obama. So Frida's cookie sales continue their successful streak of prediction.

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My first HalloweenWed, 31st Oct '12, 12:10 am::

I went to Canada for the first-time in my life this past Friday. I would have loved to take Juliet with me along for the ride but she was on-call all weekend and couldn't change her schedule. I went to Toronto to plan the future of KType and figure out a way to reach significantly more people. It's too early to say anything now but I'm very optimistic about the long-term impact of the research I put into creating KType.

I also went to my first Halloween Party this weekend and more importantly, I dressed up in a costume for the first-time in my adult life. I went as (Ultimate) Nick Fury from the Marvel comics. Please excuse the poor lighting but here I am hanging out with Iron Man and Captain America:

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KType progress reportFri, 12th Oct '12, 5:25 pm::

I released KType Free a couple of months ago and it has been gaining traction steadily ever since. I'm getting regular feedback from SLPs around the world with feature requests, usage questions, and suggestions for improvement. Pat Mervine, a well-known SLP who runs Speaking of Speech forums, shared it with her followers and someone even pinned it.

Today I came across a wonderful video showing the film critic Roger Ebert using a powerful new communication app called TalkRocket Go by MyVoice. Roger Ebert lost his voice in 2006 after a jaw surgery and it is endearing to hear him "speak" using technology. This is why I wake up every day and stay up all night programming.

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Getting nostalgicFri, 28th Sep '12, 4:15 pm::

I like to get nostalgic often, not because I miss good ol' days but because I want to refresh my memory. If you never look back to the past, the memories will slowly fade away. Every time I recollect something from the past, I strengthen my memory of it and can recall it again in the future with ease. The problem with refreshing memories of wonderful forgotten experiences is that they are already forgotten! How do you recall that which you don't remember you once experienced?

I've noticed that I start to remember long-forgotten events precisely when I am making new memorable events. Last week I went to a conference where the host used a handheld Tibetan Singing Bowl to beckon the audience and it reminded me of a trip to Darjeeling that I took with my family over fifteen years ago where I got to play these bowls myself. We even bought a bell that you could play by brushing the striker around the circumference instead of hitting the metal. A couple of months ago I was setting up our new bunny cage and I had an instant flashback to 1991, when I volunteered at my boarding school to clean the bunny cage, so I could avoid mandatory early morning lectures.

Obviously not all forgotten memories are wondrous stories of glorious times had. Sometimes as I'm falling asleep, my brain starts flashing Chirag's Top 100 Most Embarrassing Moments videos, from the time I broke my dad's friend's accounting software system to the time I told another kayaker that I've been paddling for years and promptly flipped over in the middle of the ocean. My brain (and sometimes my wife) does a phenomenal job at making sure I never forget these unflattering moments. That's why I actively try to remember the other times when I didn't make a complete fool of myself so that when I grow old, my past won't seem like a series of gaffes and uncomfortably silent moments.

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Surgery and ProgrammingFri, 14th Sep '12, 1:10 pm::

If you've ever wondered what life is like in the Mehta household, it is sort of like this video: Doctor and Ice Cream Tester.

After watching the video, Juliet immediately changed her daily "Honey! I'm home!" greeting. Now she comes home after a long day of hard-work doing surgeries and asks me, "How was your day at the ice-cream factory?" Cracks me up each time, especially since it's mostly true. I sit on my sofa with my legs up, typing code away all day - sometimes making things red and green in Excel, sometimes making rectangles more rounded. And yet every other day she'll hear me complain about everything from restrictive software licenses and DRM to crappy Internet connection and the never-ending torrent of user errors.

She just pats me on the head and says "Wow! They ran out of Strawberry flavor? That must be torture..."

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My superpowerThu, 6th Sep '12, 10:45 am::

I have discovered that I have a superpower. I can cause rains and thunderstorms! I say this with full confidence because of the last five times I have filled up my pool with not-so-free water, it has rained within 12 hours. Last night I filled the pool after over a week of no rains. I checked the weather forecast beforehand and there was no chance of precipitation. It's raining so hard right now, the pool is overflowing.

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Labor Day vacationMon, 3rd Sep '12, 7:45 pm::

For the Labor Day weekend, Juliet and I went to a cute little resort in Lake Wales, FL called Chalet Suzanne. We also went to Bok Tower Gardens and Spook Hill. Here's our photos.

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Theoretical Math! What is it good for? Absolutely everything!Thu, 23rd Aug '12, 3:15 pm::

We are all accustomed to electronics getting cheaper and smaller over time, as if companies magically shrink down their components. We just assume that smart folks in white coats inside R&D labs turn on their supercomputers and swipe away on their 4D neural network interfaces really really hard and suddenly the bulky, costly components within all electronic devices can be replaced with a cheaper, smaller parts. In reality, each and every change from a larger part to smaller part is made possible by scientific breakthroughs in physics, material science, and sometimes even math.

Do you remember cellphones from a decade ago? With their pointy antennas and bulky size? What happened to that antenna? Math happened! Or in this case, space-filling curves. Most people have seen fractals - they are shapes that can be subdivided into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a smaller copy of the whole - the more you zoom in, the more complex the design gets. While they make cool desktop wallpapers, most people don't think much about them. Turns out, their intrinsic self-similar design makes some of them (called space-filling curves) a perfect shape to capture electromagnetic signals, specifically wideband and multiband radio signals.

So instead of pointy antennas, cellphones now have tiny, embedded fractal antennas in them. These antennas can operate with good-to-excellent performance at many different frequencies simultaneously due to their fractal shape. Instead of inventing a brand new material or industrial process to shrink down the size of the antenna, scientists applied math to figure out the best shape for a really tiny antenna that can still get good reception.

The best part? The specific space-filling curve used in fractal antennas is called a Minkowski Island, named after the 19th century German mathematician Hermann Minkowski, one of Albert Einstein's teachers. Minkowski realized that the special theory of relativity, introduced by Einstein in 1905, could be best understood in a four dimensional space, now known as "Minkowski spacetime", in which time and space are not separated entities but intermingled in a four dimensional space-time. So not only did Minkowski help make GPS, in-car navigation, and science fiction about breaking the space-time continuum possible, application of his theoretical studies in fractals now makes it possible for people to have good cellphone reception without pointy antennas. Take that Edison!

While it is easy to understand why applied sciences and engineering disciplines need to be funded and studied, it is harder to justify the study of abstract theories because practical applications can take decades or even centuries! After all, why should you care that topologically speaking, a coffee mug is the same thing as a donut (or a ring)? Today, you may not. In twenty years, application of topology in 3D printing could revolutionize the entire manufacturing industry around the world.

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KType FreeSun, 12th Aug '12, 7:25 pm::

After months of coding, I finally released KType Free. If you have an iPad, you should download it right away. The free version is identical to KType Pro, except for the voice quality. For KType Free, I used the freely available OpenEars library which embeds the CMU Flite text-to-speech engine. For KType Pro, released over six months ago, I licensed a commercial text-to-speech engine that offers realistic human voices.

With the release of KType Free, I'm hoping that those who cannot afford the cost KType Pro's superior audio quality, can still benefit from all the other features that KType offers. Additionally, now people can try out the KType interface at no cost and if they like it, upgrade to the Pro version for better voice quality.

It's been less than a day since KType Free has been available on the Apple iPad AppStore and I've already got tons of downloads and emails from potential users! Over the next few weeks, I want to make tutorials and get in touch with more potential users.

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Thu, 9th Aug '12, 6:30 pm::

For the first time in my life, I solved a Rubik's Cube! I used the algorithm described here. Now, I practice.

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The worst and the best of humanity summed up in a single front-page imageMon, 6th Aug '12, 8:25 am::

In a span of just twelve hours yesterday, I witnessed the worst of humanity in the form of bigoted hateful violence against innocent civilians and the best of humanity when NASA's MSL / Curiosity rover finally landed on MARS after flawlessly executing the most complex landing sequence ever devised.

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This is why 3D printers are awesomeSat, 4th Aug '12, 2:20 am::

Thu, 2nd Aug '12, 11:10 am::

In a little over three days, NASA's one-ton Curiosity rover will land on Mars. Though the world is pretty blasé about machines landing on other worlds and trotting about year after year, Curiosity's risky maneuver during the final seven minutes of landing is so extraordinary, it seems utterly impossible. Here's a video explanation of what the final "seven minutes of terror" of the Mars Curiosity landing will be.

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Wed, 18th Jul '12, 10:20 pm::

I'm getting a health checkup tomorrow morning for insurance purposes. They have asked me to not eat anything during the 12 hours prior to the checkup. Usually, I get so caught up with programming that I forget to eat all day. Last week I unintentionally fasted for two days straight when I was busy trying to learn a new programming language.

And yet all I can think about for the past three hours is food. I'm not even hungry! I had a large bowl of mixed vegetable stir-fry just four hours ago and still feel full. But knowing that I am not allowed to eat anything makes me want to eat everything. I can't wait till the checkup is over. Then I'll probably eat something to celebrate the end of my forced fast and then forget about food because I'll be busy programming all day.

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An essay about my wife written using simple words and short sentencesTue, 10th Jul '12, 11:45 pm::

My wife's name is Juliet. She is taller than me. She likes feeding animals and playing boardgames. I like to travel with her. Sometimes we go to see movies. She falls asleep on sofa when we watch movies at home.

She has to go to work every day. She likes doing surgery but I think she likes shopping more. I like it when she makes me yummy food. She does not like it when I smell bad. So she makes me shower every day. She tells me "I love you" every morning. She calls me many times during the day.

She likes arts and crafts. She makes pretty things with beads and paint. She gives lots of gifts to everyone. She makes squeaky noises when I tickle her. Her favorite cat is Cookie. Cookie also makes squeaky noises but only when he is hungry. Juliet makes up funny songs when I am sad. I give her lots of hugs when she is sad. I like to make her laugh. She is my favoritest person in the whole world.

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TornadoSun, 24th Jun '12, 10:45 pm::

Watching a tornado lift large pieces of wood 40 feet into the air and head directly towards you and your house is pretty scary. Earlier today, Juliet and I were assessing the rising water-level from Tropical Storm Debby when suddenly we noticed huge chunks of wood and debris rise up from behind our neighbor's yard, headed straight for us. I thought it was just a gust of wind till Juliet exclaimed "Honey! It's a tornado!" We rushed into our hallway bathroom and waited till the howling noise was gone.

After a few minutes, I went to check the animals and the backyard. Before the tornado hit, we had stowed away all of our animals in secure carriers and thankfully, they were all fine. The pool, which was previously just overflowing with water but relatively debris-free, was full of broken branches. I ran over to our front yard and found that one of the smaller trees had been snapped in half. The roof appears to be undamaged. All in all, nothing that an hour or two of yard work can't fix. Maybe $50 in labor and material.

However, I still can't seem to shake the feeling of that sudden rush of blood to my head when I saw a real-life tornado just 30 feet away from me, headed straight for my house. The coast isn't clear yet as meteorologists are predicting at least two more days of tropical storm weather. Until then, we're hunkering down and staying safe.

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Sun, 24th Jun '12, 3:15 pm::

Tropical Storm Debby has caused over 5 inches of rainfall in the last 24 hours here in Largo, FL. Our pool is full to the brim and backyard looks like a rainforest. I've been waiting for the rains for months now but I think I've had my fill after this torrential downpour.

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iTunes Match download error - AppleScript solutionSat, 16th Jun '12, 12:45 pm::

This blog entry is for those who are trying to re-download their entire iTunes Match library on OS X for any reason and getting tons of errors like "This item cannot be downloaded: The item you have requested is not available for download", "There was a problem downloading. An unknown error occured (11111). Please check that the connection to the network is active and try again." When the error message pops up, iTunes stops downloading any more files and if you are like me and have thousands of songs queued up to be downloaded, manually having to click the "Ok" button will take weeks or months. Here's my solution to at least downloading the other files:

1. Create a new blank AppleScript and save it to your desktop as "iTunes-Enter.app" via File > Save. Make sure the File Format is set to Application and check the "Stay Open" option. The script will not work without this.

2. Copy-paste the following code into the AppleScript Editor:

on idle
  tell application "System Events"
tell process "iTunes"
if (count of windows) > 1 then
set frontmost to true
key code 36
end if
end tell
end tell
return 2
end idle

3. Save the file and close all windows except for iTunes. Make sure only one iTunes window is open and begin your downloads.

4. Double-click the iTunes-Enter.app icon on your desktop.

5. Sit back and watch as all the iTunes error messages are clicked automatically. I recommend you don't try to multi-task while this is going on because iTunes will be brought to focus any time there is an error message.

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Dietary adviceTue, 12th Jun '12, 11:10 am::

Nutrition science or the study of diet, has the biggest bikeshedding problem that I know of. To paraphrase, if you go before the Board of Directors and ask for 1.5 Billion dollars to build a Nuclear Reactor, no one will review or discuss the details of the plant. They will assume that experts have been over every inch of the plans, and not want to look foolish by asking a silly question. However, if you ask the same group to approve a 30 dollar expenditure for lumber with which to build a bikeshed, then be prepared for a 45 minute discussion about all aspects of the Bikeshed, including the color of the paint.

Nobody tries to argue with a cardiologist about the workings of the heart. Nobody tries to debate a neuroscientist on the function of the hippocampus. But everybody and their mom has an opinion on what a healthy, balanced diet is just because they own a stove and have been eating all their lives. Over the past century, scientists around the world have identified the following foods as both good and bad: coffee, oil, butter, sugar, salt, wine, beer, carbs, cheese, dry fruits, eggs, meat, seafood, and almost everything in your fridge right now. Consequently, nobody can be certain what is healthy to eat, especially when each individual's needs are taken into consideration. This confusion makes it possible for entirely new industries to flourish - diet advice, dietary supplements, nutrition media (books, documentaries, web sites, apps), ready-to-eat meals, weight-loss, and organic food.

Take a step back and realize that if people actually knew what was healthy for them, none of those industries would be booming now. The problem is that everyone involved in these industries is ready to dispense dietary advice along with the purchase of their product. Everyone has an opinion on whether cheese is good for you or bad. The reason scientific research seems to be conflicting is because of poor journalism. No scientist in their right mind would come out and say "Don't eat butter!" What they do say is "In a study of 125 middle-age men with sedentary lifestyles and a history of hypertension, we found that reducing daily consumption of butter for 3 months, lowers blood pressure by 10%." Media gets hold of this research and suddenly we get "Butter is bad for you!" and "Is there something on your toast that will kill you?"

The vague definition of healthy diet that I prescribe to, comes from MichaelPollan: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I avoid almost all discussions about diet beyond that because the specifics vary for every single person. A newborn baby with a genetic disorder might not be able to handle plant fiber. A young adult on the rowing team will need more food, including eggs, salts, and sugar than someone of equal body size and metabolism rate who spends all day relaxing indoors. Sugar has different effect on different people and so does fat, cheese, wine, and every other food stuff. We are all slightly different and so maybe your body needs more potassium than mine. That does not mean the effects are entirely different. If you and I both eat four large pizzas a day for three months, we will both be pretty similarly unhealthy with increased weight, higher cholesterol, and possibly scurvy.

So should you put olive oil in your vegetables or go without? Your wish. Just don't listen to anyone who claims to know the exact answer for your specific needs because they don't. Would you ask someone "should I buy a new sofa?" when they don't know your home layout, existing seating arrangement, bank balance, or lifestyle? Then what gives them the authority to tell you what goes into your belly?

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Forget about it...Tue, 29th May '12, 11:50 pm::

I was watching Stargate Atlantis earlier today and came across this quote: "I try not to let the things I can't change bother me." I think our own minds bother us a lot more than the words and action of others. Hearing a hurtful taunt or a snide remark takes a mere moment but replaying that incident over and over in our mind can hurt us for months and years.

I've become pretty good at letting go of negative thoughts and feelings over the years but the quote reminded me that there is still room for me to grow. While I'm pretty impervious to social pressures and drama, I'm still not good at forgetting things I don't want to remember which in turn means I continue to be bothered by things I cannot change.

I think that is because I continue to assign a strong emotional value to memories, regardless of whether they are positive or negative. The less emotional emphasis I place on an incident or action, the faster it slips out of my mind. Reminds me of the Fight Club quip: "The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide."

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Jungle Book HomeWed, 16th May '12, 4:00 pm::

Today I learned that Rabbits and Prairie Dogs are extremely territorial. Sit back and read the tale of how I found that out first-hand.

A little over a week ago, we got two adult Prairie Dogs. Having taken care of them for some time now, I know one of them is very friendly (named Willy) while the other one is very shy (named Nilly). Nilly can get a bit bitey if you try to play with her so Juliet and I are very careful around her. As I was making my afternoon arounds in the backyard, feeding and tending to our home zoo, I notice the friendlier one, Willy was on his feet, barking loudly and biting the cage wires. I walked up to his cage and he started rubbing his head under my fingers. I opened up his cage to pet him and he gently walked over my arm, moving towards my shoulder. Since I haven't played with him outside of his cage much, I thought now might be a good time to let him feel comfortable around me.

I locked him back in his cage, walked over to the big walk-in bunny cage, made sure Buttercup the bunny was sitting quietly in her little bunny hutch, out of the view, and brought Willy into the bunny cage. Willy suddenly got all excited at finding dirt under his feet and started sniffing around. I was starting to feel quite pleased with myself when suddenly, he stood up on his two feet like Prairie Dogs often do and started barking and yelping at me. I tried to pet him but he kept lunging at my hands. Now Buttercup, hearing all the commotion, got out and pounced towards Willy. Picture me, a grown-ass man on a Wednesday afternoon, trying to separate a rabbit from biting a Prairie Dog and vice-versa. Now I know why people sit in front of computers in cozy offices all day - no hissing animals trying to bite everything around them!

I kept separating them, then tried to calm Willy down, when all of a sudden he would bark, and Buttercup would rush out of her hutch again. This went on for about fifteen minutes, by which time I ran out of breath and my back started hurting from bending up and down constantly. I knew there was no way Willy was going to let me pick him up and put him back in his cage.

So I devised a plan. I would bring a little sleeping bed from his cage and put it in the bunny cage to make him feel at home. I carefully got Buttercup to go hide in her hutch, while I nudged Willy into the furthest corner away from Buttercup. Now that there was some distance between the two, I opened the bunny cage door, rushed to the Prairie Dog cage, got Willy's bed, and hurried back into the bunny cage before the two started something again. Fortunately, upon seeing his bed, Willy calmed down, but not enough to let me get near him. Now I had to find a way to pick him up along with the bed without being torn into shreds.

I know! Thick plastic gloves! Once again I put the bunny in her hutch, and moved Willy and his sleeping bed to the corner. Then I darted across the backyard at full speed, jumping over the cats relaxing by the pool, into the back porch, where I struggled to unclasp the bungee cord securing the doors of the cat food cabinet, inside which I keep a spare pair of thick plastic gloves. I pulled those out of the cabinet, ran straight across the yard yelling "NOOOOOO" at the top of my lungs to Buttercup, who was now inching cautiously towards Willy. Just a second before Buttercup was ready to leap, I swung the door open into the cage, effectively barricading her from Willy. Now began my yellow-gloved dance of calming Willy down.

I didn't wear the gloves fully, leaving a good two-to-three inches of finger-tips hanging empty so if Willy bit it, I wouldn't get hurt. Oddly enough, he did not mind being petted by the soft empty glove tips but anytime I tried to hold him in my grasp, he fought back. After about ten minutes, he got used to the glove enough that I could pet him. Then before he noticed, I quickly picked his bed up, four feet high above the ground - high enough that he wouldn't jump. So naturally, he tried to jump right into my face but having learned my lessons when handling sugar gliders and even small kittens in the past, I managed to maintain a safe distance between Willy and my face. With my other hand, I slowly opened the bunny cage, walked out, gently closed the bunny cage (without being able to lock it shut), and rushed over to the Prairie Dog cage, opened it up and let Willy in.

Within five seconds, he was rubbing his head against my hand, and kept doing that even after I took the gloves off. He was back to being the sweetest thing ever. Meanwhile, Giga the boy cat was readying himself to get into the cat-attack mode at Buttercup because she was trying to get out of the bunny cage. I immediately closed the Prairie Dog cage, ran towards Giga to chase him away, and locked the bunny cage. I walked back to the Prairie Dog cage, tightened the lock to make sure it was secure and then finally trudged my way into the back porch.

And there she was, my girl kitty Tera - sitting on the floor, hastily chomping down days worth of cat food, having pushed down the sealed container from the cabinet on to the ground, scattering food pellets all over the floor. Within seconds, Cookie and Giga joined her in the unexpected feast. I'm living Jungle Book meets Night at the Museum!

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It's ok to be wrongWed, 16th May '12, 10:15 am::

I like people who can say "I'm sorry" when it's their fault or if they're wrong, regardless of the severity of the matter. While most people are polite enough to apologize if they step on your toe, very few will admit they gave you the incorrect information, even if it's just among friends or something as trivial as the name of a movie actor.

I'm the first person to admit I was wrong as soon as I realize it. It's not a big deal - nobody's perfect and we all make mistakes. So I'm always amused when people blatantly try to save face and continue to escalate the lie in order to avoid just saying "oops my bad!" Sigh.

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Animal HouseSun, 6th May '12, 8:05 pm::

Now that we're settled into our new house, we've started setting up nicer, long-term habitats for all of our pets. We setup a big cage for the bunny a week ago and today setup a strong, covered enclosure for our Sulcata tortoises. We just got two adult Black-tailed Prairie Dogs today and will be moving them to a big cage this week.

Most of our pets are either rescues or adopted from Craigslist because the owners couldn't take care of them. As of right now, we have exactly a dozen pets: Three cats (Giga, Tera, Cookie), two Chihuahuas (Jack, Ladybug), three tortoises (Herbert, Phyllis, Rosie), two Prairie Dogs (Willy, Nilly), one rabbit (Buttercup), and one tiny fish (Steve). Since all of our pets are tiny (Giga is the largest at 12 lbs), it's not really a lot of work to take care of them and the cost of food and supplies is pretty low too.

And in return for taking care of them, they give us unconditional love and cuteness. Except for Tera. Her love is conditional and based on how hungry she is. But that's alright. I'm like that too.

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Mon, 16th Apr '12, 1:05 pm::

My cousin Priya visited us this weekend and we had a blast travelling all over Central Florida. We went to Universal Studios - Harry Potter, sipped wine at John's Pass, kayaked down the Weeki Wachee river, visited the Salvador Dali Museum in downtown St. Petersburg, took a stroll through Florida Botanical Gardens, and got our feet wet at Indian Rocks Beach. Here's the photo gallery.

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Wed, 4th Apr '12, 2:33 pm::

If you love languages, dictionaries, or word-tools, check out Ultralingua's monthly newsletter.

They just featured my web & iPad/iPhone app 'Tip of My Tongue' in their April 2012 newsletter under the 'Tools to Try' section. In addition to neat language tools, they often interview polyglots, linguists, and logophiles. If you like planting eggcorns in garden path sentences, give them a shot.

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New mission in lifeThu, 29th Mar '12, 2:50 pm::

I have a new mission in life - spread the word about KType to the whole world. One would think that being technical, I would use some sort of affiliate-marketing search-engine funnel-optimizing analytics-dashboard to let everyone know how useful and accessible KType is but after much consideration, I have taken the old over-exuberant-salesman route - I'm making phone calls! Instead of getting better search-engine placements to directly attract end-users, I want doctors, speech-therapists, and non-profit organizations to recommend KType to users who might benefit from it.

One of the best ways for me to do that is to contact the Assistive Technology Device Loan Programs for all the US States and offer them fully-functional copies of KType at no cost. Users with speech/motor disabilities can borrow iPads preloaded with KType from their state organizations and try the app out for up to 30 days. I'm also offering to train (over the phone at present) any potential users and their caretakers at no charge. Since most organizations already have funds preallocated for iPads, there is no additional cost to them to offer KType.

It is a very time-consuming process but I think it will ensure long-term growth of KType. While I would like to take out magazine ads and rent trade-show booths someday, for now I just want to find potential users and work with them to improve the app. I know it worked for my cousin Keval (the K in KType) but I don't certifiably know if it works for individuals with stroke, cerebral palsy, or ALS.

If you would like to help, suggest Assistive Technology organizations, speech-therapists, and medical caregivers that I can directly contact. Or better yet, ask them to check out the KType Demo.

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Amazon.com - A Programmer's RantFri, 16th Mar '12, 4:07 pm::

Amazon.com, we need to talk. I love your service. I happily pay $79/year for Amazon Prime to get free shipping and on-demand video rentals. I buy something from you every week and spend thousands each year on Prime Eligible products. I even used your EC2 AWS service when I had to crunch through a lot of data during my research for KType. So it hurts me to tell you that you have the worst product sort and filter interface that I have ever used. Not because you do not have enough features or the interface is confusing or bland, but because you do it wrong. Here's what's wrong with a typical search on Amazon.com:

1) Incorrect sort order: I searched for 'cat food', filtered for only Prime-Eligible items, and sorted it by Price: High to Low as you can see in the first screenshot. I don't think $34.89 > $38.99 > $39.74. I understand that behind-the-scene, you are trying to calculate the lowest price offered either by you or a 3rd-party vendor and applying lots of complex calculations based on item characteristics, bulk quantity, and other parameters to make sure each item price is calculated correctly but that is not what I asked for. I said Prime-Eligible for a reason - I want to buy directly from you and I don't want to pay for shipping. Most of your 3rd-party vendors charge slightly lower than you but charge a lot for shipping. You need to ignore their prices when I choose "filter for prime-eligible, sort by price"

2) Broken filters: Why is the second item in the first screenshot even shown? At first glance, it doesn't have a price, it is not prime eligible, and it doesn't even seem to be sold directly by you. When I dug in, I found out that Amazon.com does sell this item directly, with free shipping for $42.84. If that is the case, then it should have said Prime-Eligible and shown up higher up in the sort order. Look at the second screenshot. I searched for new, Prime-Eligible 'tv remote' under $25. Why is the first item you show me priced at $69.95? What about the second and third item that are missing prices?

3) Unavailable sort: Why do I have to "Choose a Department to enable sorting"? Why do I have to decide if "disposable nitrile gloves" are categorized under "Health & Personal Care", "Home & Kitchen", "Automotive", "Industrial & Scientific", or "Patio, Lawn & Garden" by you or other 3rd-party vendors before I can sort by price or customer review? Especially since the same products show up in most of the departments. If external sites can do this using your API, why can't you?

It's 2012. Sorting and filtering at the most basic database operations. You created A9.com - a product search engine. You enable programmers around the world to use your servers at low-prices so they can build complex websites backed by your RDS and SimpleDB database services. You have some of the smartest developers around the world working for you. And yet I get frustrated every time I try to find something on your site. I can't be the only person who has a problem with the aforementioned issues. Can you please fix them so my cats don't go hungry? Think of the kittens!

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Mon, 12th Mar '12, 11:45 pm::

Today was our first real "normal" day at the new house where Juliet and I didn't unpack any boxes or run any house-related errands. After over four months of incessant negotiations with sellers, lenders, contractors, and vendors, I can finally get back to my regular routine. I had put many projects on hold since October and I'm really looking forward to start working on them again. Here's hoping for a productive summer!

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Thu, 1st Mar '12, 10:52 am::

Steel Inside Mount Bracket is very happy to see you.

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Wed, 29th Feb '12, 10:53 am::

As a programmer, no words bring me more joy than a user saying "I love it!", especially when I've been working tirelessly on a single project for months and it just went live. I got a fever, and the only prescription is more happy users!

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Mon, 20th Feb '12, 4:25 pm::

Back home safe and sound. All of my luggage arrived without any problems too.

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Sun, 19th Feb '12, 7:45 am::

Flying back to Florida tonight after spending an exciting, family-fun filled three weeks in India. Should be home in about 31-32 hours from now.

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KType - First UseSun, 12th Feb '12, 2:26 pm::

After 18 months of research, learning, and coding, tonight was the first real-world test of the KType iPad app and I couldn't be happier at the result. My cousin Keval was very happy to 'say' something on his own!

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Indian GPSThu, 2nd Feb '12, 6:07 pm::

We're driving 250 miles from Varca, Goa to Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra today and really need a GPS to navigate. It will take about 8 hours to drive over the hilly, back-country roads and writing down the 94 steps of directions won't help. I have my iPhone but the data plan is exorbitantly expensive so I can't use Maps on it normally. My parents have a USB mobile internet device but it doesn't work with my Macbook Air or iPhone. Thankfully, it does work with the new Windows 7 laptop I bought for my mom. So after some jury rigging, here's my Indian GPS solution:

Connect the USB mobile internet device to the Windows 7 laptop, share the connection using Ad-Hoc wifi, and turn off the screen to save battery. Connect a USB power cable from my iPhone to Macbook Air, that also has the screen off. This should hopefully ensure a day's worth of uninterrupted power and internet access to my phone. Then use the iPhone Maps app to navigate till we reach destination. In case of failure, stop and ask any trucker or motorcyclist for directions. They usually know the way to the next town over, if not more. *fingers crossed*

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Wed, 1st Feb '12, 5:58 pm::

Yours truly and KType got a mention in this Slate article about improving the computer keyboard.

    Caps lock has to go...
    Perhaps it should have occurred to me years ago, but it wasn't until recently that I fully realized that everybody hates something about their computer keyboard. I was in the company of several family...

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Trivial Jibber-jabberSat, 28th Jan '12, 7:49 am::

I can't wait to see my family again. It's been over a year and a half since I last saw them. Since then we've all personally gone through many major life changes - from my grandpa passing away and my dad's significant health improvements to my sister moving to Mumbai and Juliet becoming a Surgical PA. We talk on the phone and Skype almost daily so I don't think we missed any major events but it's the small things that I look forward to hearing about in person.

On a day-to-day basis, I feel time passes really, really slowly. We're still getting work done in the new house and so many things remain for us to fix and deal with. But in aggregate, it flies and stops for nobody. I feel like I just moved to the US, just graduated, just moved to Florida, just started working at my first real job, just got married, just adopted a zoo-full of pets, just bought two houses, and just started working on KType.

Funny how summarizing a decade-worth of life lived into a single sentence makes me realize how often I deal with things that will never make it into the summary for the next decade. Does it really matter if I spend an extra $50 for low-sone, high CFM exhaust fans for the new house or should I just get the run-of-the-mill model? In the long term, who cares! But when I see my family, that is exactly the kind of conversations I hope to have with them. I'm tired of discussing life-changing events with them on the phone. It's time for trivial jibber-jabber.

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Email is homeworkMon, 16th Jan '12, 11:38 pm::

People who know me well, know that I am not a big fan of email. Email is people from all over the world assigning me homework. I rarely get emails saying "Hey Chirag... Nice Abs!" Most of the emails that I receive, add tasks to my never-ending todo list, even if it's something as simple as me having to respond with "No, thanks." I think email is great for automated messages (shipping notifications, e-bills, invoices etc.) and business communication (gotta have timestamped proof!). But for personal messages longer than 10 words, I prefer a phone call because it is so much more direct, thoughtful, near-impossible to misinterpret, and best of all, conclusive. I'm a big fan of instant messaging too because of the immediate two-way communication.

Lots of people these days avoid phone calls as they consider them to be imposing - after all, someone from across the world is causing you to pause the movie, get up from the sofa, and pick up the phone to say "I'll call you later." Instead, they prefer to send an email or text/sms because then you can respond at your convenience. Problem is, the backlog of email and text/sms puts the onus on to you to respond back. Unread emails continuously accumulate and stare at you every single day until you hit reply. Missed phone calls simply mean the caller has to try calling you again, at a later time.

I know most everyone will defend emails saying "You just have to follow Getting-Things-Done management" or "Only check emails twice a day." But just think about it. How many times have you said "Man, I have so many emails to deal with!" vs. "Man, I have so many missed phone calls that others might call me about in the future!" I guess if you are running away from bill collectors, the latter is a real problem but otherwise, most everyone I know laments about the hundreds to even thousands of unread and un-responded emails. Nobody complains about the phone calls they didn't pick up and were not obliged to call back (unless the caller left an important voicemail).

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I'm an osmotic learnerWed, 4th Jan '12, 1:31 am::

I often encounter people who say "I am a visual person" and hence need to see things (like user interface, photographs, videos) in order to understand what I'm trying to explain. They usually say this when I ask them to "imagine the left 25% of the screen has a list of people and the right 75% contains the list of email subjects."

I'm not asking them to imagine something unfamiliar like riding into equatorial sunset of Mars on a goliath slug-whale wearing a sombrero. I'm not asking them to visualize something complex like a 4D hypercube intersecting a torus. Everyone I talk to has seen what a list of people looks like and a list of email subjects looks like. I'm simply asking them to imagine what they would look like when displayed side-by-side on a screen.

And it's not just visualizing computer interfaces. I receive similar responses when I ask people to visualize furniture being rearranged, building dimensions being altered, colors being changed, and even instructions being followed in a different order. The fact that people have a hard time imagining is unimaginable to me!

I don't know why others can't visualize. But I can try to explain why I've never had difficulty in visualizing almost anything, including a Martian sunset.

  1. I read lots of books as a kid, mostly about things that I could not possible see in person - fictional lands, foreign countries, distant galaxies, superhuman beings, impenetrable forests, and tons of magic. While I love watching sci-fi and fantasy movies, they do not help you imagine or expand your mind. Reading a book does.
  2. Nobody told me I was a visual learner, aural learner, textual learner, active learner, passive learner, or anything but a typical human adolescent. I read text, deciphered diagrams, and listened to lectures. There was no 3D animation of the solar system on a computer to help me visualize how the planets revolved around the Sun while still rotating on their axes. If I didn't understand something, I was not given academic labels as crutches to hold on to for the rest of my life. I was told to try again. Moreover, research shows that catering to "learning styles" is not helpful i.e. dividing students into visual-learners and aural-learners and showing presentations and visual demonstrations to the former and giving audio lectures to the latter does not improve learning.
  3. I always thought that being able to quickly understand what people were trying to explain was a very positive trait and something I should actively try to do in all situations. If someone says they got into a car accident because as they pulled out of a parking lot, a vehicle coming up the road changed lanes and side-swiped their car, it is best not to ask them to draw a diagram for visual clarification.

I think the biggest reason why even grown-ups I encounter continue to have a hard time visualizing concepts, models, and strategies is because nobody has told them that everyone should be able to do that. If you're in a meeting and the boss says "I can't add 3 to 7 because I am a numeric person", everyone will gasp. But if they say "I can't picture 3 more icons to the right of the seven icons already in the toolbar because I am a visual person", nobody will flinch. In fact, the helpful ones among us will offer to do a mockup immediately after the meeting, thus reinforcing the belief that it is ok to not have the ability to imagine. Let's stop doing that.

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Buying our dream homeWed, 21st Dec '11, 11:59 pm::

After over a year of searching and two long months of waiting, we finally closed on our new house today. Over the next few weeks, we'll get the leaky roof fixed, carpet replaced with tiles, wallpaper replaced with fresh paint, and most of the old electric fixtures upgraded. I'm super excited about the screened back-porch as I'll probably sit there all day and code.

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Wed, 21st Dec '11, 11:17 am::

We're buying our dream home later today. And the wait is killing me. All I can think of is the line from Doctor Who: "Is this how time normally passes..."

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KType v1.0 released!Mon, 19th Dec '11, 2:26 am::

KType v1.0 is finally live on the App Store! I just finished updating the website with the list of features.

If you know anyone who could benefit from the app, feel free to contact me and I will provide a promo code to get the app at no charge. My plan for 2012 is to work with as many end-users as possible to make KType more accessible. Over the next few weeks, I will create video tutorials on how to configure and use the app.

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Sat, 10th Dec '11, 12:17 pm::

Turn on the speakers and play this video a few times with eyes closed. Then turn off speakers, open your eyes and watch it a few times. Then turn on the speakers and watch it until your mind is blown away.

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KType submittedFri, 9th Dec '11, 3:05 am::

After 14 months of effort, I just finished version 1.0 of KType and submitted it to the Apple AppStore. Here's hoping it passes their review soon.

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Hammer vs. ScrewdriverMon, 5th Dec '11, 12:42 am::

I don't understand why techies judge each other on their choice of platforms. I took part in the Global Day of Code Retreat 2011 yesterday and spent 8 exciting hours programming in various languages with lots of different programmers. It was a great learning experience but I was constantly jeered at for using a "toy" Macbook Air instead of a "real" Windows or Linux laptop. At other times when I've carried a Windows laptop, I've been treated like I was a corporate sellout and not a true programmer.

I love the look on their faces when I tell them I manage 80 Windows boxes, 30 Windows servers, 20 Linux servers, and write software for Windows, Linux, and Macs on a daily basis. I program user-friendly front-ends and heavy-duty backends. I make web apps and I make desktop apps. I make mobile software and I make browser extensions. I write code that talks to databases and I write code that talks to hardware. I deploy to Arduino and I deploy to Amazon/AWS. I go down to bitblt'ing and I go up beyond design patterns. I use Excel and I use LibreOffice. I use vi(m) and I use emacs. I use IDEs and I use text-editors. I code in CoffeeScript and I code in C. I write VBA macros and I write Lisp macros. I use GUI and I use command-line.

I simply use the best tool for the job. Without context, every tool, language, software, and platform choice can be deemed unwise or inefficient. No good can come out of mocking someone for coding in PHP instead of Python or using Blackberry instead of Android. I try to learn every single thing I can because even if in the end I decide not to code in Ruby for now, I can walk away knowing what it would be perfect for and what it wouldn't be appropriate for.

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Fri, 2nd Dec '11, 11:18 pm::

The latest update of my iPad/iPhone/iPod app: Tip of My Tongue is now on the Apple Appstore. Tip of my Tongue makes it very easy to find words that you just can't seem to recall. It contains a list of 125,000 words and you do not need Internet-access for searching through the word list.

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Thu, 1st Dec '11, 11:58 pm::

I have way too many network devices at home.

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My kid will go to Starfleet AcademyWed, 30th Nov '11, 11:14 am::

Imagine a spherical cow in a perfectly competitive market of commodity widgets. That is, ignore intricate details like job satisfaction, industry regulations, and personal pride and prejudices.

Now let the lifetime income of a college graduate be A, high school graduate/dropout be B. Thus the lifetime income benefit of going to college is A-B. If college tuition < A-B, you go to college. Otherwise it is smarter to not go to college. For the past century, tuition has been lower than the lifetime income benefit of going to college so it is rational to go to college if you can make it happen. But tuition has been steadily rising and A-B has been constantly falling. Someday in the future, tuition > A-B and depending on your major/field of study, this might already be true.

For decades now, rational parents have been saving up for their children's college education. It is better to equip the kids with the right tools so they can earn more money in their lifetime than just giving them a lumpsum inheritance that they might squander. But if tuition > A-B, college education is economically inefficient and inheritance seems like the logical choice.

This isn't new. This is exactly what happened before 1950s, before the public was sold the dream that the only way to success is higher education. It is certainly true that in fields of science and engineering, higher education corresponds with higher standards of living and will remain so for the foreseeable future. But if tuition for a BA in Marketing is higher than the lifetime financial benefits that the degree brings, it makes economic sense to forgo the degree. Today, it might still be worth it but 15 years from now, the situation will not be the same.

If you're a parent, you should still save up for your kids but they might not use the funds towards a college education but a downpayment on a house or investment in their own business. To people today who have been raised believing that college degree is a must, this will seem appalling. But if tuition > A-B, it will simply be rational.

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Mon, 28th Nov '11, 11:44 pm::

Amazon refunded me $75 because price dropped significantly on something I bought two days ago. They no longer offer price-drop guarantees on their products so kudos to their Customer Service team for making an exception. As I'm too lazy to go shopping at retail stores, I end up buying everything on Amazon, from toothpaste and batteries to pet-food and jewelry. No wonder my Mint.com account says that on average I spend over $160/month on Amazon!

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Sun, 27th Nov '11, 11:40 pm::

I had been pretty stressed with tons of projects over the past few weeks and finally got a chance to relax a bit over the Thanksgiving holiday. I ate a lot of delicious food, slept in late every morning, added finishing touches to KType source code, worked on a bunch of pending projects & reports, and watched two full seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I also did most of the shopping for our upcoming trip to India. I can't wait to see my family! It's only been a year and a half since I saw them but it feels like a decade. Just counting down the days now.

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KType for iPadSat, 19th Nov '11, 9:37 pm::

KType for iPad: Product Demo (try the HD version if you have the bandwidth)

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Sat, 19th Nov '11, 9:36 pm::

My jury-rigged setup for the KType Product Demo video shoot.

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Sat, 12th Nov '11, 12:18 pm::

I don't know why but I could watch two robots playing ping-pong all day. I can't wait for the International Robot Ping-Ping Championship 2020.

    Robot plays table tennis (vs Robot, vs Human)
    A humanoid robot system for table tennis playing developed by Zhejiang University, China was recently reported by Chinese media. The system consists of two humanoid robots. Each robot is 55kg in weight, 160cm in height and has 30 Degrees of freedom. This demo shows a rally between these two robots which last 176 strokes(about 2.5 minutes). This video also shows that one humanoid robot can rally with a human player with various ball speed and can strike the ball using either forehand or backhand.

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Making a product demoSat, 12th Nov '11, 11:55 am::

I'm making a product demo for KType and wanted to study some examples of well-designed demos before I got started. I'm looking for products that aren't straight-forward (buy plane tickets on your phone) but rather have slightly difficult to explain concepts (home media server that provides playlist sharing and wifi media-streaming without DRM issues). I want to learn how they've taken a complex idea and managed to explain the core concept in a few dialogs or slides.

KType is one of the many software projects out there to help people with speech disabilities. Saying that it "helps people with speech disabilities communicate better" doesn't really drive home the point. There are a hundred apps and devices that try to do the same. What sets it apart is that it is built for unsteady hands and works well even when the user has difficulty in using the iPad touchscreen. In addition to the tons of neat features (make your own keyboard, intelligent suggestions/word-completion), KType is simple enough that anyone can customize it. It is easy for me to write a paragraph extolling the virtues and features of KType but it is really difficult to compress that down to 60-90 seconds of digestible, non-boring video.

After going through hundreds of demos, here are some that I liked for one reason or another (please excuse the lack of capitalization/spelling in my raw notes below):

ipad-app demos:
early edition - http://vimeo.com/30786501
paperlinked - http://vimeo.com/15369816
qwiki - http://vimeo.com/22633007
flying books - http://vimeo.com/25833596

media-sharing/viewing:
goab - http://vimeo.com/21386019
soundcloud - http://vimeo.com/31084756
reader - http://vimeo.com/27194571
sugarsync - SugarSync - Access All Your Data Anytime.
mediarover - MediaRover Product Demo
boxee - Boxee - Media Center

software-as-a-service:
emailcenter - http://www.emailcenterpro.com/video.php
appointment+ - Appointment-Plus Product Demo

big-company:
salesforce - Salesforce.com: Sales Cloud Demo
cisco click - Give a Click to Change the World
ms crm - Microsoft CRM Product Demo

accessibility:
iportal morse - iPortal Accessibility demo
my first aac - My First AAC Demo

actual use:
ebay - eBay iPad App Demo Video
mixrank - MixRank Overview
exacqvision - exacqVision iPad app

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Handling Unintentional Multi-Touch Input for KTypeSat, 5th Nov '11, 11:22 am::

I just wrote a short article on how KType deals with the problem of more than one finger unintentionally touching the screen at the same time. It's a real problem for users with unsteady hands because while they try to point with their index or middle finger, their thumb or side of palm keeps touching the screen and dislocates the cursor position. I included lots of diagrams to explain the problem and the solution. Let me know what you think.

It's been almost a year since I hashed out the basic user interface and list of required features for KType. Last night I finished writing the remaining features. I will publish KType version 1.0 in the Apple AppStore after I thoroughly test all the features over the next two weeks. Over the next few months, I will be making instructional videos and updating the KType.net website with FAQs, How-Tos, and support information. It's finally happening! I'm so excited :)

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You are welcome, World.Thu, 3rd Nov '11, 4:14 pm::

When preparing my daily meals, I try to maximize the formula: (taste * healthfulness) / (time * cost)

I want to eat delicious and healthy meals while spending as little money and time preparing it as possible. Those who like to cook, do not mind spending 45 minutes preparing a meal that takes 15 minutes to eat but I do not condone such inefficiencies. After a decade of preparing my own food, I have finally optimized my formula to the point where I can share it publicly for the good of mankind.

One can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), two tomatoes, four sweet peppers, and eight leaves of cilantro make for an exponentially filling lunch while providing ample nourishment. I just chop & mix things up and microwave it for 90 seconds. Certainly there are a hundred ways I could have done it better (cook on stove, avoid canned food, grow my own tomatoes etc.) but that would raise the time and cost factors without significantly increasing the taste or health benefits, thereby lowering the overall score. You are welcome, World.

Edit: I should mention that I add a lot of different spices based on my mood. I don't like bland food.

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Fri, 28th Oct '11, 8:14 am::

The difference between buying and shopping is planning. If you know what you want, you go to the store and buy it. If you don't know what you want, you go shopping.

Once you've decided what you want to buy, you choose the best place to buy it from. This ensures (a) you get what you want, in terms of quality and (b) you get it at the value you want, in terms of cost and service.

When you go shopping, you let each vendor suggest to you which items you should buy. While you might get the level of quality, cost, and service you want, you can never be certain. It is easy for marketers to influence your expectations when you don't know what it is that you're actually looking for. They can change your perception on the level of quality and service you should seek and the sale price you should be comfortable with.

If you want to be an average marketer, influence my expectations. If you want to be a great marketer, influence my planning.

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Tue, 25th Oct '11, 2:40 pm::

KType brochures designed by my sister Roshni. I just received a shipment of 500 brochures printed by UPrinting.com. The quality looks amazing. So excited! Will soon be handing these out to doctors, speech therapists, and others in the accessibility & special-needs field. Working on the KType iPad app non-stop this week.

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Sat, 15th Oct '11, 4:54 pm::

"What sets the brave apart from the timid is how we handle change. If nothing ever changed, there would be no seasons, no rain, and no butterflies. While change is inevitable, love is indestructible. You have within and without you a never-ending stream of love, courage, and hope... "

I wrote the above for a close friend's kid who is going through some personal trauma. I felt the excerpt above is universal enough to share it with everyone here.

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Sun, 9th Oct '11, 11:59 am::

The United States of Movies:

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Wed, 5th Oct '11, 11:09 pm::

Every singe story on the front page of Hacker News right now is in memory of Steve Jobs. Rest in peace.

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Tue, 4th Oct '11, 9:24 am::

Juliet took me surprise (indoor) rock-climbing with friends for my birthday on Saturday. Check out the pics.

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Fri, 23rd Sep '11, 11:31 am::

"We cannot explain the observed effect in terms of known systematic uncertainties. There, the measurement indicates a neutrino velocity higher than the speed of light."

I just watched the live webcast by CERN discussing the years of research that lead to the conclusion that neutrinos travel slightly faster than photons i.e. faster-than-light travel (BBC article). This is why I love science. The scientists aren't saying they broke the light-speed barrier. They're showing all of their work to the world and inviting everyone to pick it apart and prove them wrong.

They measured the time it took neutrinos to cover a distance of 500 miles and it turned out to be about 60 nano-seconds less than it would take light to cover the same distance. To make sure that they didn't have any measurement errors, they took into account the rotation of the Earth, change in curvature of the surface of Earth due to the position of the Moon, continental drift due to earthquakes or other natural events, and movement of Earth through space. They also took into account all equipment and experimental delays and possible systematic uncertainties. They made sure no outliers were affecting the sampling average. After considering everything that could cause incorrect measurement, they conclude that the neutrinos are moving faster than the speed of light.

If a flaw is found in their research or experiments, it will further strengthen the speed-of-light as the ultimate barrier to speed. If other scientists can validate the research and conclude that it is indeed true, then it will be a major discovery. Unfortunately, it does not mean warp-drives from Star Trek.

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Mon, 19th Sep '11, 10:45 am::

Google Body is neat. May not work in all browsers just yet. Works in Chrome.

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Sat, 10th Sep '11, 7:10 pm::

I've been working on designing the public-facing KType.net website the past few days. The site doesn't have to be complete until the KType iPad app is launched (hopefully by the end of 2011) but I wanted to get the design/theme planned so I could use the similar layout for brochures, presentations, and other literature. All suggestions and criticisms welcome.

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Sat, 10th Sep '11, 4:36 pm::

I just realized that I live in a peninsula in a peninsula in a peninsula. My neighborhood of Bay Pines is a peninsula within the Pinellas County which is a peninsula in the state of Florida which is a large peninsula.

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Weekend in the Garden of Good and EvilTue, 6th Sep '11, 12:54 am::

Juliet and I went to Savannah, Georgia this Labor Day Weekend with our friend Sandra and her daughter (our goddaughter) and here are the photos. I had visited Savannah twice before to see my friend Vu but it wasn't until this weekend that I took the time to fully appreciate the city's cultural and socio-political origins.

After a wonderful walk through the Oatland Island Wildlife Center on Sunday, the girls went shopping around Ellis Square while I decided to read some short stories and poetry by the fountains. I came across one of the most haunting poems I've ever read - Seven Twilights by Conrad Aiken and felt compelled to dig deeper into his life. He was born in Savannah in 1889 and when he was a small boy, his father killed his mother and committed suicide himself. This tragedy had a profound impact on his development and writings. Saturday night we took a "ghost tour" around the city during which our guide told us about numerous Savannah residents who had tragically died of malaria or spousal-abuse centuries ago and haunt the old houses to this day. The Aiken name was missing from the roster, though the writing thoroughly conveyed the message.

With a huge immigrant population of Haitians and Irish during the 18th and 19th centuries, Savannah developed its own flavor of Americana literature, art, and architecture, much like New Orleans in Louisiana and St. Augustine in Florida. The city was founded in 1733 by Gen. Oglethorpe and laid out around four open squares intended to provide space for military exercises. The layout was also a reaction against the cramped conditions that fueled the Great Fire of London in 1666. By 1851 there were twenty four squares in the city.

The house we rented was next to Forsyth Park, which was featured heavily in the bestselling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Sunday evening we watched the haunting movie version, starring Kevin Spacey, John Cusack, and Jude Law. The story was set against a backdrop of the traditional Southern social elites in the early 1980s and portrayed elements from voodoo beliefs and alternative lifestyles that are as much a part of Savannah's culture as the ghost tours and historic church congregations.

While there is no single incident during the entire trip that I can point out as haunting, I left the city with a feeling of tragic nostalgia. It didn't matter that the city today is a vibrant port-city or is just one of the many cities around the country with a rich history. In the course of a few days, I had witnessed the birth and death of generations. Time had either wiped clean or set in stone the dreams and nightmares of men and beasts alike. As I reflected upon my own mortality and unfulfilled dreams by the fountains of Ellis Square, Juliet walked up to me and gave me a tight hug. She said "I missed you" and I replied "I missed you too. Now let's go home."

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Wed, 31st Aug '11, 3:54 am::

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.

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Sat, 27th Aug '11, 3:27 pm::

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.

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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.

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Tue, 16th Aug '11, 2:39 am::

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.

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Tue, 16th Aug '11, 12:23 am::

My little sister has an impressive photography portfolio. And she just started about a year ago! I'm so proud of her :)

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Sat, 13th Aug '11, 10:37 pm::

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.

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Thu, 11th Aug '11, 12:02 pm::

August 27, 2011 is the ten-year anniversary of Internet Explorer 6.

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Wed, 10th Aug '11, 11:46 am::

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.

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Fri, 5th Aug '11, 11:49 am::

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.

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Wed, 3rd Aug '11, 4:15 pm::

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."

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3rd AnniversaryWed, 27th Jul '11, 11:53 pm::

Today was our 3rd wedding anniversary. Hard to believe how fast time passes. Since the anniversary fell on a Wednesday, we decided to celebrate it a bit earlier and took a short vacation in Longboat Key last weekend. But we saved the gifts for this week. Juliet surprised me by designing new business cards for me and in return, I did what I always do - spoil her with shiny things (necklace & earrings).

Things have been pretty busy for both of us lately, especially with her long 6am-7pm surgery days. I've been working on KType.net steadily and can't wait till I have something ready to share. Last weekend I took some time to create a Google+ extension in Chrome and so far over 2,000 people have installed Plus Minus. I did not expect such a positive response and was pleasantly surprised to see that people love it. I'm planning on making a Firefox version soon. In the meantime, I'm learning CoffeeScript.

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More science, not lessFri, 22nd Jul '11, 1:32 pm::

I went to bed late last night and woke up to the sound of loud beeping alarms. Having survived an electrical fire that shook me up from peaceful slumber in 2005, I still panic a bit whenever I detect loud continuous beeps in my sleep. To my relief, I discovered that there was no fire - it was just a power failure and my security system and computer UPS were beeping to alert me that the battery backup had kicked in. Not knowing if it was just me or the whole neighborhood, I walked over to my neighbor's house to check and he said the whole neighborhood was without power because of a transformer malfunction. He called the electric company and was told the power would be back in two hours.

With no power to go back to, I ended up just hanging out with my neighbor and we talked about "The World". It's been a long time since I had a good, friendly argument offline and frankly I was surprised at how different the world appears to him than it does to me. To me, NASA, space exploration, and particle physics research are a necessity. Pushing the boundaries of science, regardless of how soon the research can have practical applications, is imperative. To him, all government-sponsored research was taking away money from hard-working people and giving it to lazy scientists so they could put shrimps on treadmill (depressing link below). In his view, all research should be funded privately and not at the taxpayers expense.

I argued that yes, while 1 out of 1,000 grants involves putting shrimps on treadmills, scientific discovery is not like running a factory. You cannot just say "cure cancer", expect a bunch of researchers to go into a laboratory, and come out with a single cure. That's only possible in Spiderman comics. In real-life, people from all over the world pour their hearts and souls into one single tiny aspect of the entire problem and tirelessly work on it for decades, and if they are fortunate, discover something meaningful. My neighbor has chronic back pain and I asked how would he feel if scientists discovered a special protein that gets released into the shrimp's bloodstream whenever it starts to develop signs of chronic fatigue and that we can create medicine that have the same beneficial effect on humans with chronic back pain? After a few moments of silence, I could sense his mind-gears turning.

Being cynical as I am, I expected him to quote yet another talking-point from some news article but surprisingly he said "You know, that's not so bad. What's half a million bucks when you can get rid of life-long pain for millions of people?" I exclaimed, "And that's exactly what science is! We don't know what is going to work and what's not but we have to keep moving forward. Going to Mars and beyond may seem like a waste of taxpayers money when you could be building more schools but without promotic scientific research, you will never be able to break out of the problems we have in the world today."

We argued back and forth for the next couple of hours about everything from drug legalization to policing of the Internet but before we parted ways, he thanked me for changing his views on scientific research. He said "You know, I never looked at it that way." That made me feel genuinely happy. I expect others to disagree with me on socioeconomic matters as it is quite often not a matter of black and white but rather infinite shades of grey. However, science is a matter of black and white to me. Science good, not-science bad. Of course there are shades of grey within scientific research itself but overall, the world will be a better place with more science, not less.

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Thu, 21st Jul '11, 10:21 am::

"Nobody is dreaming about tomorrow anymore..."

"How much would you pay for the Universe?"

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Introducing Plus MinusThu, 21st Jul '11, 2:52 am::

If you use Chrome and love Google+ but hate how messy the Stream gets, check out my new Chrome Extension: Plus Minus. It lets you easily mark Google+ posts as read. New posts in your stream show up normally and after you read a post, click the triangle next to the person's picture to shrink the entire post into just two lines.

Try out the extension and leave your feedback in the comments below.

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Wed, 20th Jul '11, 7:55 pm::

Juliet and I took a trip down to Longboat Key this weekend and stayed in a cute little beach cottage. We spent the mornings splashing in the Gulf and the pool and the rest of the day looking at critters. We visited Big Cat Habitat and Mote Aquarium, both in Sarasota, FL - must see places if you are in the area and love animals.

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Wed, 20th Jul '11, 7:51 pm::

Just uploaded some pics from my trip down to the Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota, FL with Juliet this weekend.

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Sun, 17th Jul '11, 10:12 pm::

Saw this Common Marmoset yesterday at Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota, FL. I title this piece: "Soon..."

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Sun, 17th Jul '11, 8:51 pm::

Spotted this preserved giant squid at the Mote Aquarium in Sarasota, FL today. It's body was over 30 feet long and weighed 500lbs when it was found off the coast of New Zealand a few years ago.

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Sat, 16th Jul '11, 10:40 pm::

For the past couple of years, my wife and I have indulged in a quirky endeavor. We love animals and no matter where we travel to, we make sure to check out local animal shelters, rescue habitats, and wildlife sanctuaries. And if permissible, she feeds the critters. I created a site called "My wife feeds", linked below. Feel free to share!

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Fri, 15th Jul '11, 2:27 am::

I dug into the code behind G+ tonight and made my personal blog sync with my G+ posts. I've had my blog for almost ten years now and don't plan on giving up on it anytime soon or rather ever. However, it is a pain to copy-paste content from G+ to my blog all the time so I automated it. I shared some of my findings behind the JSON XHR on reddit.

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Thu, 14th Jul '11, 5:44 pm::

I wish I could nest circles on Google+. I have a circle for relatives and a circle for family. My family circle should automatically be a part of my relatives circle. Similarly, I have a circle for my programmer friends and a circle for my tech-savvy friends. Instead of having to add all my programmers friends to both the circles, I wish I could just drag the entire programmer circle into the tech-savvy circle.

Circles can be a lot more powerful than just groups or tags if you allow circles to contain other circles. Technically, this feature is possible (though it might not be trivial to implement). In the past Gmail did not have nested labels but now it does. So I'm pretty sure that if enough people clamor for this feature, it will be added.

If you didn't get the joke in the image, see this.

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Life plansThu, 14th Jul '11, 4:10 pm::

After over three years, I went grocery shopping all by myself today. Usually Juliet does all the shopping and sometimes I tag along but she's been pretty busy with work lately. Now that she is qualified to assist in surgeries at a number of local hospitals, she leaves the house by 6.30am and gets home after a long 10-12 hour shift. I'm keeping pretty busy myself with my research and consulting work but thankfully I'm not as busy as her. So I've started to become more of a house-husband and help her out with chores.

It's finally starting to feel like normal life now. I hope to visit India next year and have my cousin Keval try out the KType app. For the next year or so, I want to work with him and others like him to improve KType and make it more accessible. Only time will tell what happens after that.

Juliet and I want to start our own family in a year or two and we'll most certainly need a bigger house. I bought my 750 sq. ft. house six years ago as a single, care-free guy and never imagined that someday I'd get married and need more space! While it's a bit early for us to buy a house, we still spend hours on Zillow each week, fawning at all the pretty houses with lots of rooms and space. We want a 2,000 sq. ft. house with half an acre of land or more but in the area we live in, large plots of land almost always come with a huge 5,000 sq. ft. house. Unless there is a big reason to move, we'd rather stay in this area because the weather is great, the people are nice, and we like the relaxed pace of life.

I know it sounds lazy but our long-term plan is to organize our life and standard of living such that we don't have to have full-time jobs. We want to travel, raise a family, and spend time with our loved ones without having to work 40-60 hours per week. That means while we can technically afford a gorgeous Mediterranean-style waterfront villa, we have to resist the urge to sign our lives away to the God of Mortgage and the Deity of Bills and instead live below our means when it comes to big-ticket items - house, cars, gadgets.

For now, our hunt for a mid-sized house surrounded by lots of evergreen trees in a large plot of land continues. Here's hoping we find it within a couple of years.

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Thu, 14th Jul '11, 2:07 pm::

One of most interesting articles I've read in a while.

    How Digital Detectives Deciphered Stuxnet
    It was January 2010 when investigators with the International Atomic Energy Agency realized something was off at the uranium enrichment plant outside Natanz in central Iran. Months earlier, someone ha...

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Thu, 14th Jul '11, 1:52 am::

I came across a photoshop of my old comic Calm Down!, originally designed by my friend Tony Yang:

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Tue, 12th Jul '11, 4:13 pm::

If you ask a stranger to take a photo of you, it is the stranger and not you, who owns the copyright of the image.

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Tue, 5th Jul '11, 8:55 pm::

This 9-minute long video taken in one continuous shot made me feel really happy: The Grand Rapids LipDub.

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Sun, 3rd Jul '11, 6:30 pm::

We went snorkeling to Egmont Key this morning and saw lots of pretty tropical fish. I bought a water-proof case for my camera last week and took it underwater for the first time today. The water was pretty rough and the visibility was quite low, so I wasn't able to take a lot of good photos but I did take a few short clips that came out nice. On the way back, we spotted a couple of dolphins, a few sharks, and a manatee from our ferry.

Here are some photos and my first underwater video. You can watch the video in HD here.

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Sat, 18th Jun '11, 11:50 am::

People ask me all the time about the status of KType. I had a demo running in February and since then I've spent hundreds of hours coding with nothing to show so people wonder what is it that I'm really doing. I'm doing SCIENCE! And that's the problem. While I can code up a whole new menu system in a day, doing actual research takes a lot of time. But I do have something interesting to share.

KType suggestions are coming along great. When a user types "wy so srs", KType can now suggest "why so serious". KType will run on the iPad and cannot rely on an internet connection to make suggestions. So I have to come up with these suggestions in real-time as the user is typing, based on the data already stored within the KType iPad app. My goal is to make 5 good suggestions within 0.5 seconds of the user pressing a letter. With a dictionary of over 600,000 words and phrases saved on the relatively slow iPad storage, it is no easy task to pick the best 5 choices in under a second. Just reading the 600,000 phrases takes over 8 seconds! So I have to be as clever as I can be and only search within words that I can predict might match.

To put in more bluntly, I have been spending months just to save milliseconds. Because in the end, the user's experience matters more than anything.

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Sun, 12th Jun '11, 11:10 am::

Yesterday I took new pictures of all of our animals and also made a short video around the yard and house with them. Check it out.

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Figure out how to be happyThu, 9th Jun '11, 11:50 pm::

The end goal of every single human pursuit is happiness. We work hard so we can earn money so we can buy things so we can have fun so we can experience a slice of happiness. We fight wars so we can bring peace so we can live freely so we can experience a slice of happiness. We take revenge so we can bring justice so we can feel righted so we can experience a slice of happiness. We tell lies so we can deflect blame so we can save our face so we can live proudly so we can experience a slice of happiness. If you repeatedly ask "why" someone does anything, good or bad, the answer will invariably lead to their idea of happiness. Everyone just wants to be happy. And that's why it's one of my favorite things to think about.

Publicly, most everyone will say "I'm happy" but privately they might tell their confidantes "my life is miserable." And that's perfectly alright. Happiness is not a destination but rather a fleeting moment of "huh, everything is working out" while we go about our lives. I love the notion of happiness because like birth, age, and death it affects everyone. Everyone is born, grows old, and dies and throughout the entire ride we're all chasing happiness. Certainly the romantics among us claim to quest for love instead but what is love if not a path to happiness (and plenty of sorrow)?

If you can figure out how to be happy, you don't have to be healthy, wealthy, or wise. Those qualities can certainly help but they can also blind us from finding out what truly makes us happy. I make a concerted effort to identify things that make me happy and I partake in them as often as I safely can. But I've realized that there is more to happiness than doing things that make you happy. Regrets, guilt, jealousy, and rage can pierce through five layers of entertainment sandwiched between six layers of accomplishments. Life just gets you down sometimes, no matter how much of a fight you put up.

And that's when I find solace in being ephemeral and inconsequential. I am not invincible and I am not infallible. I am not eternal and I am not immemorial. I don't have to succeed and I don't have to win. Every decision I make is based on the wisdom and experience I have accumulated up to that particular moment in time. I cannot predict the future and I cannot control the outcome. All I can do is do my best, do the right thing, and continue my pursuit of happiness. Just like everyone else.

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Nice thingsThu, 2nd Jun '11, 10:45 am::

Happy B'day Mom! Today is also the first anniversary of our Indian Wedding! I can't believe it's already a year since we went to India. I can't wait to go back. I'm pretty sure this time we'll go in the winter season so we can travel around the country comfortably.

Last night I got back from a short vacation to see our relatives in Houston, TX. Juliet and I drove a thousand miles to Texas last Thursday and stopped by New Orleans en route for some delicious beignets. Juliet flew back home on Monday and I drove back yesterday, rocking out to 90's music for 15 straight hours. In Houston, we met my dad's maternal cousins and their ever-so-boisterous kids. It was a great experience hanging out with them, especially since none of them had met Juliet before. In the mornings and afternoons, we chilled in the pool and in the evenings, we sat around the kitchen table snacking on Indian junk food and recollecting stories and experiences.

One of my favorite things in life is to hear people say nice things about others. I don't do drama and don't much care for negativity. It is very easy to spew petty complaints but it takes a big heart to genuinely appreciate and admit how wonderful others are. Like Thumper said in Bambi, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all." So I get teary-eyed whenever I hear people praise others. It was such a wonderful feeling to hear my relatives say things like how nice my mom is, how creative my sister is, or how lucky I am to have found a wife as sweet as Juliet. I live for days like this.

Now it's back to regular life. Juliet has been working as a surgical PA for a few weeks and is getting accustomed to her busy schedule. I have been making slow but steady progress with my research project over the past few months and now that Juliet is busy all day, I can kick things into overdrive and get some serious work done. I can't wait!

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Kayaking on a Tuesday morningTue, 17th May '11, 12:20 pm::

I wish I could blog while kayaking. Some of my best thoughts come to me when I'm zipping through the water in my kayak. When picking kayaking locations, I always fall into the trap of grass is greener on the other side - the further away the destination, the more beautiful and fun I think it will be. Alas it is not always so. I went paddling down the Alafia River on Friday, about a 90-minute drive each way. The median water-depth was barely six inches and the eight-mile trip over numerous rocky rapids took about three gruesome hours. While it was pretty, it did not rank among my best paddles.

Last night I made plans to paddle three miles out to an island in the Gulf, about two hours away from my home, but this morning I didn't feel like driving that much. So I went to Lake Seminole Park, where Juliet and I take our puppies all the time, hardly something I consider a great kayaking destination. But this morning I was surprisingly proven wrong. I had a great time paddling five miles in about 80 minutes. It made me realize that to have a great time, you don't always need the best views, the perfect weather, or the optimal gear but rather a good-enough mix of all of them. While Lake Seminole is littered with houses on the western flank, the eastern shoreline is a nature preserve with lots of shady trees, seagrass, and wading birds. While early-morning (6-7am) is often my favorite time to paddle, 10am can still be fun.

With the cool sea breeze blowing over the lake, I paddled by seagrass that rose 10 feet over the water. The wind picked up and nudged my kayak towards the waterfowl habitat. I skimmed over water-lilies and sent many a wood-ducks fluttering away. I paddled past dilapidated wooden docks and under the 102nd Avenue bridge that rumbled when cars raced across, a hundred feet above me. I saw, heard, and felt everything distinctly and consciously. A fish jumped out of water here and a pelican splashed into the water there. You could call this a typical Florida paddling trip but for reasons I can't explain, it was akin to meditation for me.

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Thu, 12th May '11, 8:15 pm::

I have won the game of email! There is no better feeling of carefreeness than having an empty inbox. Though I prefer phone and IM over all other communication, I'm a heavy user of email and my inbox is rarely empty. There is always something I need to do, something I'm waiting for, or someone I need to reply to. For this brief moment in time, I have an inbox free of stress, chores, and obligations. To celebrate this, I'm going kayaking early morning tomorrow.

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Thu, 28th Apr '11, 10:45 pm::

I've been working on a really neat problem this week for KType - how to compare phrases and find the best matching ones. If a user types "wnv u wnt", I want to autosuggest "whenever you want." Every computer and phone has spell-check to fix spellings but there is no established algorithm to convert abbreviated speech into regular English, especially for multi-word phrases. Certainly some words are easy to guess like wnv = whenever but what should "smtg" be? Something? Smoothing? Smothering? Smelting? Well that depends on a lot of factors like the popularity of the word, the subject matter, the words that come before, and most importantly the actual context. "I wnt to tl u smtg" most probably means "I want to tell you something."

I've been reading up on algorithms like Bitap, Levenshtein, Bloom filter all day and haven't come across any algorithm that I can directly use. Looks like I'll have to figure this problem out on my own. Fun times!

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Of dreams and nightmaresWed, 20th Apr '11, 11:35 pm::

I've always had a love-hate relationship with sleep. While I never have a problem falling asleep and seldom wake up in the middle of the night for any reason, I rarely shut my eyes and just wake up 6-8 hours later. Between the time I fall asleep and wake up are hours and hours of dreams and nightmares that keep me engaged each night. I'm planning on staying up late tonight to "reset" my dream/nightmare cycle. I can recollect most of my dreams every morning if I want but usually avoid doing so.

Many of my dreams have recurring themes. One common dream I have is finding entirely new rooms and sections of my own house or my parent's house. A recurring nightmare I have is realizing I have a final exam today for a class I have somehow signed up for but never attended or studied for. My dreams are often surreal and geography agnostic - I could be in SeaWorld, Orlando and walk up to the street vendor in Kolkata for a quick snack. My nightmares are a cross between 24 and Everybody Loves Raymond - a ticking time-bomb of social awkwardness.

I have always had dreams and have failed to explain the cause despite my meticulous attempts to analyze my diet, exercise-level, moods, entertainment, stress, or health. I love finding patterns but I can't seem to find any with respect to my sleep cycles and dreams. What I do know for certain is that if I sleep less, I can't seem to recall my nightmares. This makes me a little tired physically but mentally I feel a lot more refreshed than if I sleep 7-8 hours and have 3 hours of nightmares. So every few days, I stay up late to try and reset the cycle so I can get more dreams and fewer nightmares. If I sleep more than 7 hours, I am guaranteed to have a bunch of nightmares that will affect my mood for the rest of the day.

In order to prevent or minimize the negative effect from nightmares, I used to control my dreams, but I stopped doing that because it was extremely exhausting and no different from being awake for many hours every night watching foreign films without subtitles. I've tried "planning" as I fall asleep - planning everything from my next day's todo list to life goals and dreams. I've tried meditating and clearing my mind as I fall asleep. None of these have any effect on the onslaught of dreams and nightmares each night. While one might say these nightmares are a result of suppressed emotions, repressed memories, or personal anxiety, I would disagree with that because (a) I live a pretty drama-free life with barely any social or interpersonal conflicts (b) I've had both vivid dreams and nightmares since I was a carefree kid, and (c) my dreams often segue to nightmares and vice versa so it's not a well-defined condition like after-effects of PTSD.

As a result of these dreams and nightmares, I like to stay up late and sleep fewer hours. But all is not lost. There are fun things I can do as I fall asleep. I can transition into a wake-initiated lucid dream as I slowly fall asleep and make myself hear any music or sounds I want. It's like the world's largest iPod library in my own head. I just think of a song and I can hear the entire orchestra with all the small, distinct notes playing clearly in surround sound. Or I can think of a voice and converse with anyone I want, just like in real life. Sometimes, I can even make myself "see" anything I want with my eyes closed. I only do these things as I'm slowly falling asleep. If I'm already asleep and realize that I am in a dream-state, I choose not to control it because it is exhausting like I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

When I'm not actively dreaming but still lazy enough to not get out of bed, I do a lot of problem solving in my sleep and love it. Often I will get stuck on a computer project during the day and find the most optimal solution during my sleep. I don't think I "dream" the solution but rather think of many different solutions in a relaxed state, devoting a larger part of my active concentration to solving the problem instead of sensing environment, taste, sounds, or sights. I would love to be able to get into this state more often, though not at the cost of peaceful sleep.

Sometimes when I've had just the right amount of wine, I go to bed and wake up feeling refreshed 8 hours later without any dreams. I'm sure I still dream but as long as I don't remember dreaming when I wake up, I'm happy. I just hate feeling tired every morning because I was writing, directing, and acting in a live-action movie in my head for the past few hours. Here's hoping for a dream-free night!

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Sun, 10th Apr '11, 4:20 pm::

My friend Arthur and his girlfriend are visiting us from New Jersey this weekend and we've been doing a lot of sightseeing with them. We went to the Harry Potter Theme Park at Universal Studios on Friday and visited the new Salvador Dali Museum yesterday. We also went to an equestrian competition in Tampa yesterday evening at the Raymond James Stadium. We're on our way to get some yummy Mexican food before we hit the beach. They're flying back home tomorrow and then it's life back to normal for all of us.

Juliet and I were both pretty disappointed by the new Dali Museum. Architecturally it is a very interesting building design but the entire experience felt hollow and extravagantly commercialized. Walking through the old museum, I always felt like I was getting an opportunity to see a private collection of invaluable art, something I would never get a chance to see anywhere else. The new museum felt like the Disneyfication of Dali's entire portfolio with a Cafe Gala ready to serve you sandwiches and gift shop selling overpriced jewelry by designers who had nothing to do with Dali. The layout of the art gallery itself was very unimpressive, just two large rooms with Dali's artwork splattered all over with no running theme or logical organization. I love Dali's artwork but I was thoroughly disappointed by the complete lack of warmth in the museum design. Instead of Dali, if this this museum housed modern art or Ikea furniture samples, I would have loved it.

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Mon, 4th Apr '11, 12:10 am::

We just got back from a mini-vacation at a remote log-cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. Here are some photos from our trip. A few weeks ago I booked a log-cabin called Dances with Wolves so Juliet and I could have one final vacation before she starts working in May.

It was a beautiful cabin and even though the weather got a bit cold and foggy, we had a great time. We took our puppies with us and took them on walks every day. On Saturday we stopped by a hidden waterfall and spent hours looking for gems and gold rocks in the water. No luck for now but there's always next time. We cooked all of our meals at the cabin and just relaxed in the jacuzzi all day. I'm pretty sure we'll be making the drive up to Smoky Mountains many more times in the future.

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Officially releasing ZetaBee.comThu, 17th Mar '11, 12:40 pm::

I have been working on my side-project ZetaBee.com for slightly over a year now. Over the years I've made a lot of websites and software but they were all built from scratch each time. The idea behind ZetaBee was that I would make lots of small but useful apps under a single site so I don't have to recreate features like user management, shopping cart, billing, and secure access over and over again. So far, I've made three apps in ZetaBee and yesterday I shared them online.

I received tons of useful feedback but more importantly, I got a lot of encouragement to keep working on these in the future. I'm working on KType full-time but whenever I need a break, I add a feature or two on ZetaBee. Working independently on any project for months on end isn't easy and certainly makes you wonder if what you're doing is actually useful to others or just a waste of time. I'm really happy that others found ZetaBee useful.

I use all three ZetaBee apps myself and only created them because nobody else had made something similar that I could have used instead. My personal favorite is Text because I use it to plan every single thing in my life. It's also pretty secure so I don't have to worry about anyone getting a hold of my personal notes and world-domination-plans. I recommend you check out the demo and play around it with yourself to see if it would work for you or not.

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Mon, 14th Mar '11, 11:55 pm::

This past weekend Juliet and I drove up to Atlanta to attend a traditional Vietnamese wedding of my Rutgers buddy Vu. We had a great time there and I got to hang out with a lot of Rutgers grads, including my friend Tony Yang. Saturday morning we took a tour of the awesome Tanglewood Miniature Farm in Atlanta where we got to feed and play with lots of little animals like goats, sheep, and alpacas.

On Sunday, we visited a wonderful couple we met earlier this year on our cruise to Mexico, Brian and Caroline. Brian cooked a delicious veggie sandwich for us while Caroline gave us some real-life parenting tips. We're hoping to see them again soon when they visit Florida with their kids.

We're planning on doing some more traveling before Juliet starts working in May. I have a lot of interesting places mapped out. I'll write about and post photos as we make these little trips.

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Thu, 10th Mar '11, 8:55 pm::

I saw a good pulmonologist last week and have been taking a lot of different medications for my cough. I'm feeling better and in a few weeks, I should be back to my healthy self. I can't wait to start kayaking again. The weather is perfect for outdoor activities.

I'm starting to work on my research project again after a couple of weeks of sick-break. I've posted some articles about my progress on KType.net and will be adding more soon. The problem I'm currently working on is predictive typing i.e. auto-suggestion. Since this will be the core of KType, I want to make sure I build it right.

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Wed, 2nd Mar '11, 11:55 am::

I've had a nasty cough for over three weeks now that makes talking, walking, and even sleeping unbearable. I just got back from seeing a pulmonologist and he prescribed me a concoction of cough suppressants. I can't wait to get better.

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Bit of encouragementWed, 23rd Feb '11, 10:25 am::

I think everyone is capable of doing almost anything they want - they just need a little encouragement. I have friends who can manage a hundred-thousand servers but become catatonic when asking for a raise. I have family members who can plan a hundred weddings but feel insecure when signing a rental agreement. I can see what they are capable of and yet they seem so queasy to just go for it. I used to have no tolerance for such anxiety but I've realized that it's not a sign of weakness to be nervous but rather a call for validation.

Nobody wants to screw up and they just want a little bit of encouragement to tell them that it's ok and that they're doing the right thing. Most importantly, they want this encouragement from people whose opinions they value. They just need a little push to do amazing things and I feel fortunate when I am given the opportunity to nudge them in the right direction.

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Best Valentine's Day of my lifeTue, 15th Feb '11, 11:05 am::

I've come down with a painful throat infection and haven't been able to sleep for the past two nights. The coughing hurts my throat and lungs so much that I keep waking myself up every other minute. Yesterday was Valentine's Day and I spent the entire day trying to rest. I didn't get Juliet any gifts and didn't take her out to dinner either. Instead, she got me cough-syrup, made warm tea with honey and milk, and took care of me like I was a four-year-old. As crappy as I felt all day and night, that was the best Valentine's Day ever in my life. This morning she took me to the doctor, picked up my medicines while I rested, and right now she's off to buy me a space-heater so I can sleep better at night.

I love my Valentine.

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Fri, 11th Feb '11, 12:35 pm::

Tomorrow I'm going camping with Juliet. This will be our first camping trip together. If she's enjoy this trip, I'll take her kayak-camping on the many islands around Florida. I booked a tent-site at Highlands Hammock park, about two hours away from our home. We'll take lots of pics and I'll post them when we get back. Tonight we're going to a comedy show. It'll be a fun-filled weekend.

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KType.netFri, 4th Feb '11, 4:45 pm::

Happy B'day to Keval! To celebrate his birthday, I launched KType.net today. I've been working on the iPad app for a few weeks now and things are coming together quite well. I'll have a video demo soon. For now, you can checkout the demo online.

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Thu, 3rd Feb '11, 3:15 pm::

This conversation takes place in my house EVERY SINGLE DAY:

  • Wife (in front of mirror): Do I look fat right now? I feel like I look fat.
  • Me (without looking up from my laptop): Nope. You look hot.

Girls are strange.

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What next?Wed, 19th Jan '11, 8:15 pm::

Last year was pretty stressful and around December I decided to slow things down for a bit. So after Juliet graduated, we did some traveling, caught up on missed TV shows, and partied like it was 1899. Suffice to say, I can't handle so much happiness and have thus decided to put an end to my carefree existence immediately!

I have two personal goals for 2011: (1) Make KType work and (2) Kayak 52 miles in the Suwannee River Challenge. I haven't worked on KType in over 3 weeks and am dying to get it up and running. The kayak ultramarathon is in October and I've started training for it. Though I prefer not to blabber about things I haven't done yet, I can't resist mentioning that I'm very excited about both of these because I feel they will complement each other very well. Kayaking will be a healthy break from multi-day programming sessions and I'll have plenty of time to think about KType when I'm out on a river for six straight hours.

Earlier today Juliet mentioned that she has one goal right now and that is to get a good job as a Physician Assistant in St. Petersburg / Clearwater / Tampa Bay area, preferably in the areas of Dermatology, OB/GYN, or Oncology. But she wondered what her next goal would be. I'm just as curious to find out. Like me, she is fueled by challenges and always wants to do something new, exciting, and unexpected. I told her that's the best part of my life - the uncertainty of it all.

Unlike most people I know, I will never be content with knowing exactly how my life will play out in 5-10-15 years. The world offers far too many adventures that keep me from sticking to decade-long plans. I like one-year plans because those I can make a schedule for. KType is different because it's more of an academic pursuit than a software project. I'm completely uncertain of what lies ahead for me career-wise and haven't given much thought to it. And that's the way I like it.

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Sun, 16th Jan '11, 4:55 pm::

Juliet and I took a small vacation earlier this week. We cruised down to Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico on the Royal Caribbean ship Radiance of the Seas. We had a great time and met a lot of cool people. Check out the pictures.

It took me some time to upload these because my main computer died. I'm still surprised that it lasted for over three years despite 24/7 usage. I'm just using my Mac Mini and Acer laptop for now. I haven't decided if I should buy another desktop or not. My computer room is so quiet and peaceful now. Maybe I'll just buy a MacBook Air in a few months.

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I love TV ShowsMon, 3rd Jan '11, 9:40 pm::

When I was a wee-little kid, I used to love TV shows, mostly cartoons and children shows. Movies were for grownups. And I never figured how some guy who died in one movie was alive in another. Then as I grew older, I came to love movies a lot more. Everything about movies was perfect. They have a definite start and end, a storyline with a definite plot, and tons of excitement packed into a few hours. As I started to go through some of the great films, I learnt how to recognize and appreciate good direction, screenplay, and editing. In contrast to these amazing movies, television was dull, slow-paced, and frankly unprofessional. TV shows were for old, boring people.

Now that I'm on my way to be one of those old, boring people, I'm finding myself falling in love with TV shows all over again and for very different reasons. TV shows characters stay with me for a long time. I can identify with the people, relate to them, and see them mature over time. Two-hour movies (except for series like Harry Potter) just can't capture years of character development. I don't watch reality shows and prefer to watch shows with adventurous and humorous themes.

When I was in my movies-are-better years, I used to make fun of my parents and grandparents because they loved watching melodramatic TV shows that went on for years and years. In the last few years, I've seen many TV shows completely and loved every moment of it. It actually makes me a bit worried when I think about the amount of time I've spent in front of the TV and that's why I decided to write this 'blog entry.

Off the top of my head and in no specific order, the shows I've watched every single episode of: Avatar: The Last Airbender, South Park, Futurama, Dexter, House, Breaking Bad, Arrested Development, Doctor Who (New Series), Torchwood, X-Files, Mad Men, Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, The IT Crowd, Eureka, The Riches, Louie, The Office (US version), Seinfeld, Friends, Penn & Teller BS, 3rd Rock from the Sun, The Big Bang Theory, Dilbert, Ally McBeal, Mad About You, and SATC. I've also watched almost all episodes of The Simpsons, Frasier, Family Guy, American Dad, Monk, This American Life, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Whose Line Is It Anyway, SpongeBob Squarepants, Two and a Half Men, Spin City, That 70's Show, The Wonder Years, and Doogie Howser. Lately, Juliet and I are watching 30 Rock together and I'm going through the first season of Merlin (she's not much into scifi/adventure shows).

It does sound like I watch an awful lot of television and I haven't even mentioned documentaries like Cosmos, Understanding, The Universe, Modern Marvels, Planet Earth, and Attenborough classics. Time and again I've considered watching less TV and reading more but somehow I just keep finding new shows that I end up loving. I don't feel guilty for watching TV because I know it helps relax my busy-bee of a mind and gives me a much needed break from programming. And since my programming productivity hasn't gone down and in fact has risen lately, I find no reason to stop my television watching activities. I've been mixing TV with programming and it has been working pretty well for me. I code for 4-5 hours in front of the TV, then get tired of coding and play with my cats and bunny while watching TV for a couple of hours. Then I get bored of TV while the pets get tired of me, so I turn off the TV and program for 5-6 hours in absolute silence.

For me, the end goal is sustainable productivity, while being healthy in mind and body. Also, keeping my wife, family, friends, and pets happy. So far so good! However, I've learnt to be careful whenever I start to like something too much, in this instance, TV. Hence I decided to pause Merlin for an hour and write this 'blog entry, just to get my thoughts out on the whole subject for me and you to decide. Now that I've written it up, I feel pretty good that I'm not going down the path of addiction, be it to TV, internet, programming, or pets. Of course, you may think otherwise so feel free to speak your mind and let me have it.

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Fri, 31st Dec '10, 11:20 am::

I just did my final chores for 2010. I cleaned up all the animals, cleaned out our Florida Room, made all the phone calls to companies (bank, credit card etc.) that I had been pushing off for a while, and finalized the paperwork for our cruise to Mexico in January. Year 2010 is almost over and I'm looking forward to 2011. Happy New Year everyone!

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Four fantastic moviesSat, 25th Dec '10, 7:15 pm::

Juliet and I watched four fantastic movies today. We started with the classic Planet of the Apes. The next movie we saw was Freezer Burn. It was hilarious partly because we serendipitously saw it right after Apes and partly because the dialogs were all too real-life like. Then we caught the BBC premier of the Doctor Who Christmas Special: A Christmas Carol. Juliet's not a big fan of the Doctor and even she liked it. I, of course, loved it.

Finally we saw one of the most uncomfortably funny movies I've ever seen, Exit Through the Gift Shop, directed by the guerrilla artist Banksy. The film is presented as a documentary but it seems all too comical to be real. To me it looks like yet another elaborate hoax by Banksy. The documentary is about the life of an artist called Mr. Brainwash but seems too much like an embarrassing comedy by Wes Anderson.

It's raining outside and we were bundled up in front of the TV all day. Here's hoping tomorrow will be sunny.

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Lunar Eclipse 2010Mon, 20th Dec '10, 7:45 pm::

Tonight's total lunar eclipse is very special. It is the first total lunar eclipse to occur on the day of the Northern Winter Solstice in 372 years. It'll take place over a span of 4 hours between 1am and 5am with one full hour of totally eclipsed moon. It's clear outside though a bit cold. I'll most certainly go out at different times of the night to watch. I'm so glad I have an awesome hammock in my backyard.

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Juliet's Graduation from Barry University 2010Sun, 19th Dec '10, 12:20 pm::

Yesterday was Juliet's graduation ceremony at Barry University - Class of 2010. Check out the graduation pics. She received the Dean's Award for the student with highest GPA (4.0) and an award from the Pi Alpha Honor Society. After the ceremony, we went to a really good local restaurant called Grill 131. If you're in the St. Petersburg / Seminole area, be sure to check it out. We had a great time and celebrated with some yummy cake. I'm still stuffed from all the feasting and don't plan on getting up from my chair today.

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Juliet graduates at the top of her class (Valedictorian with 4.0 GPA)Mon, 13th Dec '10, 4:15 pm::

I'm so proud of my wife. Juliet had her last finals today and got an A. In the last two and a half years, she's had over a hundred exams and in every single class she got an A. Her GPA is 4.0 and she'll be the valedictorian of her graduating class. Her graduation ceremony is this Saturday and I can't wait to see her get up on the stage. I'll post pics soon after.

Next month she'll take the Florida board exams to be certified to work as Physician Assistant. The day after that I'm taking her on a cruise to Mexico. That's her graduation gift :)

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Sat, 11th Dec '10, 1:50 pm::

This 'blog entry is being written on a laptop that is physically in India while I am sitting on my sofa in US. I'm remotely logged into my mom's new laptop so I can customize it just for her. Her laptop was loaded with so much crapware that it was unusable. Despite having 2GB of RAM and a fast CPU it was crawling. I used Skype's screen-sharing option to see what she was seeing and got her to install TeamViewer.

Once we got TeamViewer working, I took over and for the past 4 hours have been removing crap from her laptop and installing some useful applications. TeamViewer doesn't require you to create an account or give out your email. Download software at both ends, enter the remote PC's ID & pin and you're good to go. I highly recommend it for fixing family PCs.

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Motivating myselfTue, 7th Dec '10, 1:45 pm::

I love watching Doctor Who (new series mostly). I'm too lazy to exercise. So I have made a new rule to motivate me to work out and it's been working well for a few weeks now. I'm only allowed to start watching Doctor Who once I get on our elliptical machine. If I work out for 30 minutes, I can watch the show for 30 minutes during the exercise and a bonus 30 minutes afterwards. If I work out for 45 minutes, I get to watch the show for 45 minutes during exercise and a bonus 45 minutes afters. Since each episode is 45 minutes, that's two episodes. Last night I worked out for 99 minutes. What can I say, I really LOVE Doctor Who.

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Thu, 2nd Dec '10, 6:40 am::

I just bought my sixth monitor, an HP 24" LCD with a resolution of 1920x1200. I already have five LCDs (1050x1680 each) and have placed them next to each other like this. Last month, I hooked the 5th one to my Mac Mini. However, programming in XCode on a small monitor like this is a pain, especially with the iPad Simulator shrinking to 50% scale by default on lower resolutions. So now I'll have a sixth monitor. I was going to put the fifth one away in storage but Juliet insists I should have all six on my desk because it makes me look like a total nerd.

Last few weeks I haven't written much code for KType because I realized there some more important material that I need to learn. So I'll be studying for the next week or two using online lectures. Sometimes I feel bad about "wasting" time watching lectures instead of just jumping into the code and hacking it on my own. But experience has taught me that one day spent learning often saves me ten days in coding.

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KType & LifeTue, 16th Nov '10, 7:05 pm::

I have been working nearly full-time on KType for a couple of weeks now and things are finally starting to take shape. If you're unfamiliar, KType is my research project to build software/hardware tools for improving communication for people with disabilities. For the past 6-8 months, I've been talking about it to everyone I know and I'm glad that things are coming together now. I bought a Mac Mini two weeks ago, spent the past week learning how to program iPads, and finally created the initial design of the KType iPad app. Check out the screenshots. I am nowhere close to being done but I know I'm slowly getting there.

As part of my research project, I'm maintaining a wiki at ktype.net and updating it with anything useful that I come across. I have a basic reference page with links to news articles and products about assistive technologies. Over the next few months, I will be post detailed case notes as I work with my potential end-users. Now that things are moving at a good pace, I will post regular updates.

I know I've barely started working on KType but just getting to this point in my life where I can put a good 40-50 hours a week into such a project has been a challenge. People thought I was stupid when I told them that I was planning to quit my job so I could work full-time on a multi-year research project that will not get me a degree, money, or fame. And when I explained that I intended to drop out of a prestigious MBA program so I could work on this 8-10 hours a day out of my house, they thought I had gone insane. Of course, once I talked about the project goals, applications, and end-users, I got a lot of support from everyone.

The real difficulty about KType is everything that is NOT KType. Programming and computers are easy. Life is hard. Just because I'm working on KType doesn't mean I don't have to worry about family, pets, house, cars, mortgage, bills, and taxes anymore. In fact, my money-related nightmares have quadrupled since July. I have been using my cashflow application diligently to plan our spending and thankfully so far, things look good. Giving up my job meant giving up on a stable middle-class lifestyle in exchange for financial uncertainty. Once Juliet gets a job next year, I will worry less, though I doubt I'll ever stop.

Not knowing our future financial situation means not being able to plan the big changes in life, something that I love doing. We want to buy a bigger house so my parents can come stay with us whenever they want, for as long as they want. In the current housing market, I doubt I'll be able to sell my house easily so we might end up renting it out for a few years, which comes with its own set of responsibilities. Juliet and I want to start our own family and while I am ready for it personally, I don't know if and when we'll be able to afford her student loans, two houses, and a baby or two on top of everything else.

What I'm trying to say here is that life's going on as usual. I'm working on something I truly love while doing my best to take care of everything else. It's tough but worth it. I have a wonderful partner who understands my dreams and supports my decisions even if it means postponing someone of our plans. As my favorite Doctor says, allons-y!

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Fri, 12th Nov '10, 3:35 pm::

We started watching a new show on Netflix Instant Watch - The Riches starring Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver. We're only on the second episode yet I'm already hooked.

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Signs They Just Want Your MoneyFri, 5th Nov '10, 3:05 pm::

I'm skeptical of people who talk for a living. If you wrote a self-help book and now give lectures around the world talking about your book, chances are I want nothing to do with you unless everything you say is grounded on hard science. If what you say cannot be proven or disproven, I'm not interested, even if all of it might be true. This includes alternative medicine advocates, nutritionists, personality coaches, most business / leadership coaches, NLP counsellors, and definitely the followers of pseudosciences like astrology, faith / spiritual healing, dowsing, ghost hunting, homeopathy, magnet therapy, and ESP. I know many people in my personal life believe in some of the above but it doesn't bother me. After all, I'm a fan of a time-travelling Doctor from the extraterrestrial planet Gallifrey so who am I judge what someone else believes in.

I came across an interesting video yesterday titled Your Brain At Work by a business coach. While the title, presentation format, and mention of a business coach set off red-flags, I gave the video a shot because it was presented in the Google Tech Talk series. I was pleasantly surprised to find it had many moments of insight with the presenter constantly citing case studies and medical research to back up his claims. What he said obviously seemed very true. The brain indeed has a prefrontal cortex and certainly studies have shown it is important for complex thought processes and critical analysis. And personal experience tells me that humans certainly get affected by negative stimuli much more intensely than positive stimuli. The presenter certainly knows what he's talking about.

His words reinforced my understanding of the brain's functions and capabilities and I even mentioned it to my wife that she should watch this sometime. I was so impressed with the presentation's logical reasoning, structured format, and reliance on actual reason that I let my skeptical guard down and completely ignored all the subsequent red-flags that I always watch out for. This morning I decided to go back and review some of the research he cited before I shared the video with some of my friends and that's when the house of cards came falling down. None of the original research has been published in any well-known journal in the fields of neuroscience, brain, medicine, or even psychiatry. The presenter made substantial references to studies but they were conducted by him and most of them were published in a journal founded by him. He coauthored many of these studies with researchers with impressive CVs but some of these researchers were not even in the fields they conducted the research in. None of these are deal-breakers individually but when I spot a series of them, I step back and question a validity of the primary author.

While there is an easy way to sniff out bogus science, there is no tutorial on how to spot a life coach who wants a lot of money to teach you how to live better. So having failed to identify the lack of hard science last night in the presentation, I decided to make up a list of my own. This list is not a critical analysis of the video I watched yesterday but is just a model to help me and hopefully others.

Five Easy Signs They Just Want Your Money:

  • Bold, dynamic speaker: You need two things for someone to pay you to talk: (1) Have something worthwhile to say and (2) Be an awesome speaker. Most life coaches I've seen only have the second part and they do their very best to hide the lack of actual, original content in their presentations. But that is an art in itself as you'll see below.
  • Obvious facts get repeated: This is an easy one to spot. If you catch yourself agreeing with someone talk, that's a big red flag. Knowledge doesn't work like that. You have to work hard to understand scientific methods like path integral formulation. I'm learning a new programming language using online documentation and video presentations and I keep going back and forth every few minutes to make sure I really "get" it. If something as mundane as a programming language is that difficult, what makes you think someone can explain "how the human mind works" in 45 minutes? Asking 1,000 people whether they like red or blue after seeing green and concluding that the human mind prefers red is not science, despite gratuitous use of fMRI images. At best, it is a well-designed survey. The goal here is to make you feel like they know what they're talking about so you can feel like you're learning something. If I show you that I know something, then I talk about it, instantly you'll feel like you now know it too, especially if I ask easy to answer questions that cement your beliefs.
  • Generalizations abound: Real science is very, very specific. Generalization in science is very difficult, if not impossible in some fields. For almost a century now, many scientists including Einstein have tried and failed to come up with a unified theory of how everything works in the universe and so far, this remains an open line of research. Yet the guy on stage who wrote a book on herbs can explain everything about everything? Usually, speakers with a good grasp of one field will try to apply it to every problem that the audience presents. So a guy on stage selling vitamins will say there is a vitamin tablet for every single problem in your life, including your son who keeps getting into trouble at school, your boss who doesn't appreciate your hard work, and your business partner who keeps trying to steal your share. Another guy selling meditation tapes will tell you that meditation is the solution to all of the above problems and the guy selling "mind-body control" or "neuro-linguistic programming" will say his tools will fix everything. Beware of generalizations.
  • Unique perspective on the common: This one's a doozy. I said above that most speakers don't have anything new to say yet now I say having a unique perspective on a common phenomenon is a gotcha. The reason is that this is their big sell and how they managed to get on the stage. If there is absolutely nothing new in someone's talk, it is easy to call their bluff despite their dynamic hand-waving abilities. But if during all the hand-waving, the speaker makes you wonder "huh, I never thought of it that way" even once, then you've fallen hook, line, and sinker for their act. And every act needs a setup. The speaker's unique perspective is their thesis statement, their angle, their bait. "Have you ever felt like A, B, C? Believe it or not, but A, B, and C are all because of W, which is just an upside-down M!" Surely you never thought W being an upside-down M had anything to do with A, B, and C. So this person on stage must have some insight that you don't. Right?
  • Special acronyms & mnemonics: I saved the best one for the last because it is something EVERY SINGLE life coach does. They make up really cool, action-word-laden acronyms to help you remember the bad and the good. Often they'll put up a slide saying "The real cause of stress in life is DONKEY: D for Dishes, O for Office, N for Naggers, K for Karma, E for Enemies, and Y for YOU!" Hey, that sounds about right. This guy sure is insightful. And then they say "The solution to DONKEY is NOPANTS: N for Never giving up", O for Onomatopoeia, P for Palindromes, A for Ants, N for Nts, T for Ts, and S for Seriously, I'm done making this stuff up." There. Easy as pie. Making lame acronyms doesn't make anyone deep or insightful. It simply gives them more practice at making stuff up, something they're already doing when writing the rest of their speech. Instead of cheap acronyms, I prefer Steganography, "the art and science of writing hidden messages in such a way that no one, apart from the sender and intended recipient, suspects the existence of the message." You want an example? Scroll up and read the first-letter of all five of these paragraphs :)

I really don't have a problem with experienced people teaching others how to do anything, including living a good life. Most of what I've learned is from others. However, I do have a problem with people who claim to have done SCIENCE and then when you dig in, turn out to have done no such thing. I don't expect a hair-dresser teaching an apprentice on how to curl hair to cite a dermatological journal. But if you talk about neuroscience, quantum mechanics, nanotechnology, or any hard science, you better be standing on firm ground. Quantum Thermodynamics is a wonderful field but you can't use it to explain why sometimes you feel like aliens are watching your every move.

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Wed, 3rd Nov '10, 1:05 am::

It took me almost six hours today but I finally sorted through 4,000+ photos from our Out-West Voyage. Here are the photos from the trip, organized in ten small albums. I haven't added the captions yet but I plan on doing that over the next few days.

Sorting through a thousand photos isn't difficult when only one camera is used. In our case, we had Chris' Droid, Arthur's iPhone, my iPhone, and Arthur's DSLR. We all took pictures at different times in different places, though Arthur took the bulk of the hi-res pictures on his DSLR. Since we crossed back and forth many state lines and time zones, it is practically impossible to just sort the photos by date and time to get them all in the right order. I wanted to break up the photos into ten albums and put about 30 photos per album. So I imported all of the photos in iPhoto on my new Mac Mini and organized them manually. I do not retouch or edit any photos except for resizing them automatically for faster downloads.

This reminds me - I bought a used Mac Mini last week. I hooked it up to my 5th LCD and setup Synergy so that I can control my main PC and the Mac Mini using a single keyboard/mouse. I certainly have way too many computers and electronic devices in my house now. I have my main 8-core PC, an Acer laptop, the new Mac Mini, Juliet's HP laptop, a tiny laptop permanently connected to my TV, two iPhone 4s, an iPad 3G, an iTouch, a Nokia N800, and 2-3 old PCs locked in my closet. I'm planning on giving away the old PCs soon so it's not too bad. My main PC is now 3.5 years old but is just as fast as the day I bought it.

In other news, today my 'blog turns 9. When I started it in 2001, I had no idea I would still be updating it on a regular basis. Next year I might do something creative for my 'blog's 10 year birthday.

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Wed, 27th Oct '10, 11:30 pm::

Home sweet home at last. I arrived home a few hours ago, safe and sound. I drove about 6,000 miles in the last two weeks, 2,500 of them since Monday. Zero tickets, no damage to my car or gear. I had a wonderful time driving back from Salt Lake City, Utah and am so glad to be home. My fingers hurt from holding on to the steering wheel for 15 hours today so I can't type much. I'll write more about the trip in the next few days. In nutshell, it was amazing and I can't wait to go on another one next year.

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Wed, 27th Oct '10, 6:35 am::

I'm 928 miles from home on the western border of Louisiana, driving for the rest of the day listening to Hindi music. It'll be the final stretch of my 6000 miles journey from St. Petersburg, Florida to Salt Lake City, Utah and back. Surprisingly, I'm still not tired and I do not mind the long drive one bit. We took over 4,000 pictures and I plan on going through them as soon as possible. I'll probably upload the best 200 or so into 5-6 different albums. Vacation is serious business.

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Tue, 19th Oct '10, 12:05 am::

We're camping in Holbrook, Arizona tonight after having driven through New Mexico over the past two days. I drove from St. Pete, Florida to Houston, Texas via Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. I've been taking pictures all the way and once Arthur and Chris met us up in El Paso, they took over the photography department. In New Mexico, we visited White Sands desert, Cibola National Forest, Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and Chaco Canyon. In Arizona, we visited Petrified Forest (part of Painted Desert) and will be going to Meteor Crater and Grand Canyon tomorrow.

We're taking so many pictures that I'm afraid it'll take me a week to just go through them. I'm certain I'll upload it all here as soon as possible. We have 3 more nights of camping before we get to Salt Lake City, Utah. I'm so excited that I can't sleep.

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Thu, 14th Oct '10, 2:55 am::

I'm off on my desert/canyon vacation trip with my buddies! Next top, Houston, TX. I'm so excited. I'll miss Juliet and all of our critters.

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Tue, 12th Oct '10, 11:40 am::

Googlebot is my friend. It reads everything I write. It checks my 'blog daily to see if I wrote anything new. It even reads my old writings and projects to see if I added anything. Then it shares everything I've ever done with the rest of the world. It introduces me to new people and is polite enough to not peek into things I want to keep hidden. Googlebot is my friend and I'm thankful for it.

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Fri, 8th Oct '10, 9:45 am::

I've been coding away at KType for the past few days and have a good idea of how the system will come together and work. I'm pretty excited. I'll be able to show something within a few weeks now. Today, I go shopping for my trip.

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Presenting Cakesy.comSun, 3rd Oct '10, 11:10 pm::

I'm turning 30 tomorrow. Instead of getting emotional about the event, I made a cute little website called Cakesy.com that lets you write messages using fake-frosting on cakes. You can finally send a cake like this to your friends to tell them how you truly feel. My friend Tamara came up with the original idea for Cakesy and helped pick the different cake designs. She was also the inspiration behind the Team Maker app I wrote earlier this year. I don't know how she comes up with ideas that have such a high popularity to effort ratio.

Earlier today, Juliet and I went to play mini-golf with her family. We had a great time, had some yummy birthday dinner, and now we're watching Doctor Who on Netflix. Happy 30th to me in just under an hour :)

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Success MatrixWed, 29th Sep '10, 6:30 pm::

I spent a considerable time this past month learning new systems, platforms, and tools to improve my skills in programming. Choosing what to learn is often quite a difficult task of its own because you never know how the 200 hours you spent learning a new technology will impact your skills, creativity, and the very way you think. One important thing I learnt while learning to learn is how to distinguish between tools and raw materials, and more importantly, why.

Tools are what you build the product with. Raw materials are what the product is built of. The fable of The Chicken and the Pig would be quiet appropriate here: No matter what you build, tools are involved but raw materials are committed. I used to spend a lot of time picking the right tools for the right job because that's what you're supposed to do. Yet I saw lots of examples of really crappy tools being used improperly in very successful products. On the other hand, I also saw very good tools being used properly in products that failed miserably. How could there be no correlation between the input and output? Turns out I was only looking at part of the input. What I should have been concentrating on, was the combination of the raw materials and tools:

Success MatrixStrong MaterialsPoor Materials
Strong ToolsDesigned to succeedAwaiting disaster
Poor ToolsAwaiting sweat & bloodDesigned to fail

Having a successful product certainly requires a lot more than strong raw materials and tools but having those two right gives you a strong foundation. That buildings and bridges built with poor materials fall is no shocker. What does surprise people every now and then is seeing something built with poor tools succeed. These products require a lot more sweat and blood to succeed but they can succeed indeed. I don't have first-hand knowledge working with the following tech sites but based on the information I've gathered from articles, interviews, and online postings, I would classify them in the success matrix as:

Success MatrixStrong MaterialsPoor Materials
Strong ToolsDropBoxXmarks
Poor ToolsOrkutCuil

The problem with technology (and the primary reason I decided to write this post) is that it is difficult to decide what is a tool and what is a raw material when in the end, it's just a bunch of 1s and 0s. If you're building a shed, wood and nails are raw material, axe and hammer are tools - no ambiguity at all. But for a web project, is the back-end database a tool or a raw material? What about the platform, the programming language, the framework, the client-end scripting library, the graphics engine, or the server host?

Since the difference is hard to spot, the question is if it even matters or not. I'd say it does, for one simple reason - raw materials cannot be changed after you've started building the product whereas tools can be, albeit at a minor cost. You can't switch from wood to cement half-way through a building project but you can certainly upgrade to a nail-gun from a hammer when your arms get tired. Using the ability-to-be-swapped as the primary condition, it can be easy to decide if something is a raw material or a tool in a tech project. Hosting? Usually a tool, unless you build your project solely for AWS. Programming language and framework? Usually a raw material unless the back-end is what's doing the bulk of the hard work and the front-end is simply a pretty proxy. Database engine? Could be a swappable tool if you abstract away all database-specific calls from your code.

Programmers often get into long arguments about which technology is right for the job and why you should use X and never use Y. Fact of the matter is, if something is a raw material for your product, take the time and do the research to make an educated guess. It will always be a guess because you never know what will happen in the future. If something is a tool, just pick something that gets you going quickly because if it doesn't work, you can always switch to something else later.

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Starting KTypeFri, 17th Sep '10, 12:05 am::

For some time now, I've been looking for a good way to build a system to help people with speech/neurological disabilities communicate better and tonight, I found it. After my cousin Keval from Mumbai got in an accident over six years ago, he lost his voice and motor skills. Over the years, he has gained some control over his right hand but it is not enough for him to type on a keyboard or use a mouse. It appeared from some videos that my sister sent me last year that he might be able to use a touchscreen to push digital buttons so I decided to look into developing a software/hardware system customized for him.

I created a rudimentary on-screen keyboard that helped guess what he was trying to type, a "smart" version of the T9 typing-mode on cellphones. I called it KType and it used Google's AutoSuggest feature to "guess" what the next word or phrase would be. That it was a good idea was confirmed when I recently ran across Google Scribe - a simple demo that works on the same principle (and uses the same Google data-source) as KType but offers a different user-interface.

I sat with Keval for many hours during my recent trip to India to try and figure out what kind of system would work for him. Last month, I met a friend's brother who has a neurological disorder that prevents him from speaking and makes motor control very difficult. I know I shouldn't extrapolate too much from just two people's requirements but I know that if I am able to make something that works for both, it will most certainly work for a hundred others, as there are many people who have problems speaking and using general-purpose electronic devices to communicate. With all of this in mind, I started to build a list of requirements for the hardware and software platforms that I will use for the next generation of KType.

The hardware I need to use will:

  1. Be cheap and affordable: After all, health-care is expensive as it is. No need to make software that only runs on $10,000 machines. Maximum hardware cost: $1000, prefer to be: under $500, sweet-spot: sub $300.
  2. Be available throughout the world: If not immediately, then within a year or two at most. No NASA rocket parts, only commodity hardware.
  3. Have a touchscreen: It can be used as the primary input or as the configuration panel.
  4. Have good audio out: Will be required for text-to-speech.
  5. Be connected: Wireless required, Bluetooth highly desired.
  6. Integrate with other devices: I may need the ability to integrate with joysticks, hardware push buttons, HDMI monitors, and other I/O devices.
  7. Run on battery and for many hours: So the user can be mobile.
  8. Easy to reset: 9 out of 10 errors should be fixable by turning the device off and on again.
  9. Relatively easy to program: This is very important for me because I don't have five years to code patiently. I want to give a working KType device to Keval yesterday.

The software I need to use will:

  1. Be free from licensing issues: I want everyone to use KType without any restrictions.
  2. Work on multiple hardware devices: I want to write once, deploy anywhere. I am not building a high-performance, finely-optimized video game. I just want to make code that works and is stable, even if it's not "perfect".
  3. Allow users to update to latest version: I don't want to manually upgrade all the devices. Ever.
  4. Perform low-level hardware-functions is necessary: If I want to create a wireless network between my selected hardware device and a webcam, the end-user shouldn't have to deal with complex configuration. I want the ability to create an ad-hoc wireless network dynamically in code.
  5. Exist today in usable form: I'm not going to wait for Apple, Google, Microsoft, or Adobe to release their latest and greatest SDK before I can start coding. I need to get started right away.
  6. Be fast: While initially I'll do simple things like easy-to-use on-screen keyboard, I have plans to do some very CPU-intensive processing in the future. So I can't really develop in QBasic.
  7. Have an extensive set of libraries: I don't want to reinvent the wheel. I want to use the most advanced wheel freely available today.
  8. Not be a fad (i.e. be around for a while): I plan on working on KType for the foreseeable future. I can't start to code it in Erlang and find that the flavor of the day is Clojure or Ruby. Last thing I want to do is a complete rewrite. So the software platform I decide to use, better be around for a long time.

Having mulled these requirements over and over in my mind for the past few months, I was starting to get disappointed that I couldn't find a viable software/hardware solution. While the Apple iPad definitely met most of my hardware requirements, programming for it in Obj-C hardly fulfilled my software requirements. Finally tonight, I came across AirPlay - a software development system that will let me write code in C/C++ and run it on a variety of hardware devices, including the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. Though AirPlay may not meet every single software requirement immediately, with the iPad expected to get some competition in the coming months from the likes of Samsung Galaxy Tab and Archos Tablets, I think making a cross-platform software that would work on any of these devices will be the best solution for me and my users.

I started to play around with AirPlay tonight and I'm definitely excited. My iPad is setup and ready to be programmed. Can't wait!

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Tue, 14th Sep '10, 5:35 pm::

I got my iPad 3G today! Time to start fiddling.

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Sun, 12th Sep '10, 12:45 pm::

It's been over a week since I started my new schedule and I'm pretty satisfied with it so far. I've gone running with our two puppies almost everyday, worked on my projects like I intended to, fulfilled all of my commitments, and got a taste of being in the zone. My stress-level has gone down drastically and I've been feeling extremely creative all the time. I know this because yesterday, after a hiatus of almost 3-4 years, I felt excited to dabble in computer graphics once again.

I made a 3D city out of Jenga Towers (warning: 7mb) by programming in Structure Synth and rendered it using SunFlow. To see how I did it, read this and to do it yourself, read this. While playing around with 3D graphics seems like a waste of time unless one intends to make it a career, I know from past experience that once I feel creative enough to make some artwork, the energy and enthusiasm starts to flow into my code and projects.

In other news, we cancelled our cable TV and home phone line. We mostly watch shows and movies on-demand via Netflix Instant ($9/month) so there's no point in paying $100/month for less choice and worse programming. I've been watching Doctor Who episodes while Juliet loves to watch chick-flicks and romantic comedies.

My plans for our big desert/canyon trip in October are coming together. I planned the entire 1700-mile route last week and will make the reservations for the camping sites later today. I'm so excited!

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The walk of my lifeFri, 3rd Sep '10, 12:40 pm::

I took a long walk by myself today. I had been waiting for this walk all my life and it was everything I ever thought it would be. Most people plan for success, many plan for happiness, and the rest plan for difficult-to-achieve goals. I took a long walk to plan for balance and self-actualization. Now that I'm not working full-time, there are too many things I can make myself busy with. Most of the things I want to do are computer-related and if my past-experience is any indication, they will bring me temporary excitement, momentary fame, and years of bug-fixes, feature-requests, and unpaid tech-support emails. In short, every new project I pick up comes with life-long baggage and even though I love these little things, they prevent me from doing the big things I really want.

I began my walk with the goal of simplifying my life while still enabling me to do everything I want guilt-free. This includes lots of computer things, family-time, exercise, kayaking, self-improvement, and social commitments. After an hour of pondering, I came up with a weekly schedule that will be nearly identical every day:

My daily chores would fit between 6am-7am and 7pm-11pm. All my interesting projects would be during 8am-6pm. Once a month, I will reevaluate my open projects and make changes to my schedule as needed. As of right now, I have prior commitments for Monday and Wednesday, at least till the end of this year. This leaves five days where I can do anything I want during the day. These five days were the most difficult to allocate. While I'd love to spend all of my time working on cool web apps like most of my projects or ZetaBee, I came to a realization that this is a never-ending, never-finished list. These projects have brought me immense joy and experience but have also taken up a lot of my free time in the past.

Additionally, these projects also conflict with my nature adventures. I want to go kayaking all day or hike a long swampy trail without feeling guilty that I'm not working on x-y-z. Then there is a big issue of getting in The Zone, "a phrase used by software developers to mean the ultimate level of mental focus." Working on six different projects in the same week basically means you don't get in the zone for any of them - too much distraction and shallow focus. I want the ability to get in the zone so I can do something with absolute concentration and utmost dedication.

My solution is to split the projects into (a) ONE-BIG-PROJECT and (b) everything else. The one-big-project is what I'll work on during Thursday-Sunday so I can get in the zone. Everything else goes to my "Too-Much Tuesdays" bucket. Every Tuesday, I will get to pick what I want to do that day. If I need to work extra on a project because of prior commitments, I can do that. If I want to go kayaking, hiking, or just have a Star-Trek movie marathon, I can do that. If I want to take a day-trip with Juliet, I can do that.

My goal is to stick to my weekly schedule without fail and push anything that would prevent me from staying on track to the Tuesday bucket. This will free me from guilt, distractions, and unnecessary busy-work so that I can work on my one-big-project for days on end. For the foreseeable future, my one-big-project will be KType. KType will be a mix of software & hardware to help people with disabilities communicate better. I'm certain that I will be writing a lot more about it in the coming days.

To make sure I stick to my schedule, I'm now tracking my time using Toggl.com. If it works well for me, I will write about my experience and methodology. Personally, I've never been too obsessive about following a routine and as long as I stick to my general schedule, I'll be more than happy. The goal here is to not stick to schedules but to create new, useful tools that help others. The weekly schedule, time tracking tool, and all these plans are just to make sure I don't go off-track, broke, or lazy.

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Fri, 27th Aug '10, 1:25 pm::

As of today, I no longer have a full-time job. This will be a huge and welcome change for me. I have a lot of things I need to do in the upcoming months. This weekend Juliet and I are going on a mini-vacation to Las Vegas - first time for both of us. After that, who knows where life will take us. I'm daunted by the uncertainty of it all though very excited by the possibilities.

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Sat, 14th Aug '10, 2:40 pm::

I've been extremely busy the past month and will be so for the next month at least. Life's good, no major news, everything going well. I'm just working really hard to ensure that soon I can start working on the projects I've been aching to work on, for years now.

Juliet and I are going to Las Vegas in a few weeks and I'm planning a camping trip with my buddies in October. We're off to the vet now to get all of our animals their regular health-checkups.

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Our 2nd wedding anniversaryTue, 27th Jul '10, 7:00 am::

Today is our second wedding anniversary. For the past ten minutes, I have been trying to come up with something heartfelt to say about the past two years that does not sound cheesy, sappy, or copy-pasted from the last page of a romantic novel. Nobody can stand those annoying "happily-ever-after" couples in perfect relationships who rarely disagree, barely quarrel, and never leave each other's sides! No points for guessing, we are that couple.

I can't speak for Juliet's side of the story (because I am certain that I am a very difficult person to deal with 24/7) but from my end, these two years of marriage have been pretty much like living a dream. Our longest fight probably lasted 60 minutes and it was all my fault (according to her of course). Could I have predicted 2-3 years ago that I would be in such a healthy, loving relationship today? Absolutely not. Can I predict that things will always be this perfect in the future? Unfortunately not.

Then what's the point of writing about any of this instead of describing our dinner plans for tonight? The point is to capture a snapshot of my life as it is now, so no matter how the future turns out, someday I can look back at today and be nostalgic. The point is to admit that things are indeed good, even though I'm always scared of jinxing myself. The point is to confess that two years ago when she walked into my life, I was nervous as flip about our future, not because I didn't know her well but because I knew myself all too well.

While it would be sweet and romantic of me to describe how beautiful, wonderful, and smart she is, I really just want to congratulate myself for NOT SCREWING IT UP! While she deserves accolades for being the perfect-little Indian bride two months ago, I deserve the "Average Guy's Award for Making It Work With a Hottie." On a day to day basis, I don't think of her as anything other than my wife - the lovely woman who does my laundry, feeds our animals, and bugs me to fix this or clean that. It is only when I begin to write my 'blog or talk about her to a close friend that I realize how fortunate I am. And in addition to being lucky, I must be pretty damn awesome to have kept her interested in me all this time. I probably deserve an award for that too. At this rate, I'll soon need a new room just to store all my awards.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention this: Happy 2nd Anniversary hon!

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Goodbye dear grandpaWed, 14th Jul '10, 7:00 am::

My grandfather (paternal) passed away about 8 hours ago. He was a very kind man and made friends everywhere he went. He helped anyone in need and always remembered to ask you about your family. He grew up in pre-Independence India and was the youngest of 11 siblings. My grandparents have been married for 55+ years, persevering through financial struggles, numerous family crises, and life & death traumas.

I just reviewed news from my dad that they cremated my grandfather and distributed his ashes in the Ganges. We've all known for a while that this day would come sooner or later and were mentally prepared to accept the fate. Even when the doctors had diagnosed him as brain-dead, it did not affect me; at least he was physically present in his bed in his room in his house in Kolkata, surrounded by his family. Maybe I was subconsciously hoping that he would wake up and get better. But now that he is physically no more, I can't stop crying.

As per the tradition, my family will be in mourning for the next 13 days.

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Sun, 11th Jul '10, 1:00 pm::

Friday, July 9th was my last day at Formulated Solutions as a full-time employee and I had a very hard time controlling myself from becoming emotional during office hours. I came to Florida six years ago and spent the best years of my 20's working very closely with some really great people. I've made long-life friends here and am hoping to keep the friendships alive for the rest of my life. My boss Eric has always been more like a close elder brother than a distant authority figure. His father Thomas, brothers Brian and Kris, and business partner Ken have been a constant source of support for my work, ideas, and dreams. I will miss daily lunches with Kelly, Sandra, Jim, and Tyler. I will miss those complex accounting meetings with Vinnie where we tried to simulate 6 months of accounting transactions and their effects on the Balance Sheet in our heads. I will certainly miss discussing big database changes with David, Jim, and Linda.

It was not an easy task for me to give my resignation to Eric and I am very happy that he was supportive of my decision. I was never treated like some random employee; from the first day till last, I was treated like one of the partners. I made every decision, in the IT department and beyond, with complete freedom. So even the thought of resigning was difficult. However, in order to achieve my goals of academic research, financial independence, and personal growth, I had to do what my heart and mind told me. I resigned with the promise that I will forever be a friend and be there whenever I'm needed. Calling my last day a bitter-sweet experience is putting it mildly.

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Wed, 7th Jul '10, 7:45 pm::

July has been tough. My grandpa (Dad's dad in India) has been on life-support for almost a week now. He's 77 years old and has suffered from multiple strokes and diabetes for years now. The doctors issued a "Do not resuscitate" order for him yesterday. I talk to my family in India a couple of times a day but there has not been any change in his condition. There's not much to talk about. I'm so glad that Juliet and I met both my grandparents last month.

I've been pretty busy with work and things are only going to get tougher over the next 3-6 months. Juliet is working hard to graduate in December and in the meantime, I'm planning on paying off all of my student loans. I'm on the path to change my life such that starting 2011, I can concentrate on research. Not much else to say except wish me luck.

We went to the beach an hour ago. The water is warm yet soothing. I'm afraid the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is going to ruin the ecosystem here. A single hurricane that hits the Florida panhandle and pulls in the oil eastward, would be enough to destroy the hundreds of beaches, mangrove forests, and marine and plant life along the entire west coast of Florida for years to come. Here's hoping that doesn't happen.

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Wed, 30th Jun '10, 11:05 pm::

Salman Khan is a famous Indian actor with over two decades of box office success. Recently, another Salman Khan is gaining fame because of a different kind of audience he holds captive. This Salman Khan, or "Sal" as he likes to call himself, is an educator unlike any other you've heard before. Sal runs one of the most popular and prolific online universities in the world, Khan Academy, from his home. Khan Academy is an ever-growing collection of YouTube videos that aim to teach a variety of subjects from math to history and biology to physics.

Sal scribbles down math equations on a digital blackboard and narrates each step of the equation in a very soothing but not boring tone. These lectures last 10-15 minutes and cover a small part of a subject. Currently there are about 140 videos spanning the subject of "Linear Algebra" and I've reviewed the sixth video in the series so far. I am in the process of reviewing a lot of math that I haven't touched since graduating from college six years ago. I plan on doing a lot of independent research over the next 6-12 months and I need to learn a lot of math behind digital signal processing, computer vision, and audio synthesis. That means hundreds of hours of learning calculus, linear algebra, physics, and complex numbers.

I've known about the Khan Academy for many years but didn't bother checking out any videos because I felt it was meant for middle and high school students. Indeed, that is how Sal started making these videos - to help his nieces and nephews with their school work. However, now that I actually want to relearn a lot of stuff I've learnt in the past but forgotten over time, I find Sal's videos to be perfect for me. They are very straightforward, he explains almost every detail, and since it's YouTube, you can rewind or skip sections easily. I watch a 15 minute video in about 8-9 minutes. However, there are some parts I watch 2-3 times if I don't understand them the first time around.

I've been listening to Sal's voice for three days now and I'm certain I will continue to do so daily for the next six months. I looked at a lot of other OpenCourseWare, including free classes by MIT and nothing comes even close in terms of quality to Sal's videos. I think the real reason is that while all the large universities are trying to upload videos of in-class lectures by professors and making books, notes, and exams available online, Sal is concentrating on what matters most - simple and clear instructions in small, digestible doses. An MIT OpenCourseWare lecture on Computer Algorithms is daunting. Each lecture is between 60 and 90 minutes long and contains slides, related content, assignments, exams, projects, multiple downloadable formats, and group discussions. Sal's videos run full-screen and have no distractions, interruptions, or extra work. If you want to truly learn a subject, Sal's videos are what you need. If you want to get the in-school experience of doing homework, assignments, and exams, then get started with OpenCourseWare from any number of universities.

My goal is to learn many different subjects in a short span of time. So in addition to Sal's videos, I'm reading books, writing programs to solve some of the new problems I encounter, and reviewing any scientific papers that interest me. 2011 will be an exciting year for sure. I can't wait to catch up on everything I missed.

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One of my favorite comedians - George CarlinSat, 26th Jun '10, 10:05 am::

Every now and then, I'll come across someone who does not understand or appreciate standup comedy by the likes of George Carlin and Bill Hicks. Someone on reddit.com commented that they don't see why people love Carlin, after all every quote of his sounds like any angry-old man could have said it. That is indeed true; there is no lack of bitter old men making wise-ass comments like "Stop whining. Be a man. Screw the world." In fact, any single quote by Carlin could be mistaken as having been authored by Lewis Black, Ron White, Dennis Leary, or even a Twitter account.

However, the reason people love Carlin quotes is because they have also heard the other thousands of sentences that make up his entire standup act. His standup acts were brilliant and sliced through the world to show you every little piece of BS like an MRI machine. A single sentence just serves to remind us of Carlin's ideologies, which till the day he died were original and untainted. He also had a way with words.

People love Carlin because he influenced the way they think. It is because of Carlin that I don't worry about "Saving the Planet." It is because of Carlin that I "love and treasure individuals as I meet them, I loathe and despise the groups they identify with and belong to." Carlin is one of the hundred people whose words, wisdom, and wit have made me who I am today. Penn & Teller have influenced my thinking and views on the world in a similar way. My wife and I have rescued over 10 pets and I say Screw PETA! Add to this list comedians like Bill Hicks, Louis CK, and Woody Allen.

I aspire to have original ideas and always seek to make my own decisions based on the facts and relevant opinions. Listening to comedians like Carlin improved my skills in critical thinking and my ability to discern facts from opinions and biases from agendas. It took my thinking to a whole new level and taught me to question everything. I would say it is because of Carlin that I know I will NEVER stand in line 6 hours for a new iPhone. His standup on "Stuff" has certainly influenced my real life. I live in a 800 sq. ft. house when I can easily afford a 3,000 sq. ft one. I don't buy and hoard stuff because his act sliced through my life and made me realize stuff is just stuff. Now I'd rather spend $100 to spend a whole day at a theme-park doing stupid things with my wife and friends than buy the latest gizmo.

Pick a day when you have nothing to do for 6 hours and listen to some old and some new Carlin material. You'll realize the man was a true genuis. If nothing, your BS-detector will get a good workout next time you watch the news.

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Sinister MeThu, 17th Jun '10, 7:10 pm::

People usually forget how sinister I can be on a day to day basis. Juliet lost her car/home keys while shopping at Walmart yesterday and almost had a nervous breakdown this morning when she couldn't find them after searching through her purse, dresser, book-bag, and every nook and cranny of the house for a solid 30 minutes. I gave her spare keys (I always keep all of our spares in a very clearly marked area just for instances like this) and she left for work on time. She called me while on her way and asked if I could go to Walmart and look for her keys. I said "Sorry hun, I have a lot of work to do and I'm not sure if I'll be able to get to Walmart today." She sighed "Alright... I'll search our home once again and go there myself tomorrow."

I called Toyota on my way to work and asked how much a new set of keys would cost. They said it would be about $50 so it's not really a big deal. I called Home Depot and asked how much to make a new set of keys for our house and it's pretty cheap too. I called Juliet and left her a message saying not to worry about her keys because we can get replacements for everything at under $75. She called me back and said I am awesome because I'm so understanding and helpful.

After work, I went to Walmart, found her keys in the lost-and-found bin, and just got home. I put her keys inside the purse that she already searched three different times. She has been freaking out all day about these keys, been feeling guilty for losing them, been feeling guiltier that I have been so understanding and not mad at all. She'll be home in a few hours and find the keys in her purse. She'll immediately say I went to Walmart and put them in her purse. For the subsequent 10 minutes, I'll deny going to Walmart and express my shock at how she can't find her own keys in her own purse! Then after she accepts that maybe she didn't look hard enough this morning, I will show her this blog entry.

I expect to sleep on the sofa tonight but I think it'll be totally worth it.

Update: I received a lot of punches and kicks between 9pm and 10pm last night for my shenanigans. Totally worth it though.

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Sun, 13th Jun '10, 10:00 pm::

I know it took forever but I finally uploaded the 600 pictures from our Indian Vacation & Wedding. It took me about 7 hours to go through thousands of photographs from many different cameras and I haven't even begun to check out the videos (there's probably 5-6 hours of HD video footage). I will also write a detailed log of our entire trip very soon. For now, it's time to watch the season finale of Breaking Bad.

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Sun, 6th Jun '10, 11:55 am::

We had an amazingly awesome time in India and just got back to our home in Florida. I'm so exhausted after the 44 hour journey back. I'm also kinda sick from the change in weather, temperature, food, and water. Hopefully I won't get any sicker. I will write more soon.

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Tue, 25th May '10, 12:15 pm::

I am in my childhood home. Juliet is unpacking my bags while my dad and sister are questioning why I brought so many shoes. This is the weirdest feeling I've experienced in a while. It's like my two worlds have come together in a dream land of sorts. On one hand I feel completely at home with my family, talking and chatting in Gujarati. On the other, Juliet's here with me and we are packing and unpacking stuff all day like we are on a vacation to the Florida Keys.

I met my cousin Keval for the first time in over 5 years this weekend and he looks so much better. His recovery from the multiple brain surgeries between 2004-2006 has been nothing short of miraculous. He is able to move his right hand and communicates using an alphabet chart. There has to be a more comfortable way for him to communicate better using technology.

Today Juliet and I will get the final measurements taken for our wedding garments. We also have to check out our hotel rooms and the venues for all the different events. It will be a busy two weeks but I am so excited.  

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Sun, 23rd May '10, 6:10 pm::

We are safe and sound in Mumbai. Thankfully our flight was pretty uneventful. There was a recent plane accident in south India and everyone is emailing me and Juliet asking for an update. Our flight landed in Mumbai at 9 pm last night and we had our big reception ceremony at noon today. I met 150 relatives and family friends, most of whom I hadn't seen in over a decade. It was great meeting everything. I'll upload pics once I get some time.

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Fri, 21st May '10, 10:45 am::

We've checked in to the Tampa Airport, waiting for our 12:00 pm flight to Newark. Then we fly to Mumbai directly. All of this seems to surreal. I'm getting married for the THIRD TIME to the same woman! And my sister's getting married and moving to the UK!!! And I get to see all of my family and friends after FOUR LONG YEARS! I don't capitalize words willy-nilly or throw exclamation points around but I can't help myself today. I'm SO EXCITED!!!

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Thu, 20th May '10, 10:55 pm::

We're almost done packing. We fly to India tomorrow. So excited!

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Thu, 13th May '10, 6:15 pm::

I get to see my mom in 9 days. I haven't seen my family in over four years. The wait and anticipation is killing me...

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Tue, 11th May '10, 11:10 pm::

My family is from the village of Balasinor in Gujarat, India. When I visited Balasinor as a kid, my dad told me that archeologists had found dinosaur egg fossils in the village. Now decades later, archeologists are calling Balasinor India's Jurassic Park. I should update the Wiki page for it to reflect the news.

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Types of MoneyWed, 5th May '10, 8:15 am::

I wish I could 'blog in my sleep. Last night as I was falling asleep, I made an epiphanic observation about money, or at least it seemed so to me. I don't know one person whose life hasn't been tremendously influenced by the amount of money they have or don't have. People have too little, too much, or in case of the wise few, just the right amount of money. They work too hard, not at all, or just the right amount. They spend too much, too little, or just the right amount. How we feel about money depends on whether it's coming in, going out, owed, borrowed, found, or lost. We measure the worth of time and things in money and we measure the worth of money in time and things.

Having studied the economics of money and banking, I can describe how governments, corporations, and banking institutions are supposed to quantify and measure money, growth, and investment in theory. But in practice, what it all really comes down to is how individuals truly "feel" about money, regardless of how large the sum of money is. How we feel about money comes from our intuition and understanding of the situation. Intuition and understanding are important because there is no proven method of minimizing the risk in any financial decision. If there was a scientifically provable formula for making money without any risk, not only would the owner become the richest person in a very short time but public disclosure of such a formula would bring down every economy because nobody would invest in stock market, small companies, or even their own self when there is a certified way to make money elsewhere without any risk whatsoever. To make a lot of money, just apply the formula more often, to a larger sum of money. It would be no different from grinding in a multi-player video game.

What our entire financial future boils down to is how we feel about different kinds of money. Money you earn by working really hard is different from money you inherited. Money you pay to send your child to school is really different from the money you pay to get them out of jail. Money you have in the bank is different from the money I have in the bank. $100 means a lot to you, it means less to me, and nothing to someone else. This is the force that runs the world economy. If we all felt the same about money, then there would be no luxury goods - they'd either be staples or non-existent. If everything is a staple good then nobody would want to invest in such a competitive market. So it is a very good thing that we all feel differently about money.

The following is my attempt to classify income/earned money as I know, feel, and observe. By no means is it a comprehensive list so feel free to share your "money types".

1. Sweat-Blood money: You worked hard for this money. It didn't come to you easily. You can proclaim loudly that you got it legally, honestly, and justly. You made a tremendous effort and large sacrifices to obtain this chunk of change and you deserve every penny of it. This is often the most satisfying money to earn and save. It is tough to spend this money on frivolous expenses but very satisfying to spend on things that helps yourself and others.

2. Guilt money: You feel guilty that you got this money, regardless of whether you deserve it or not. You will accept this money because you have bills to pay but something inside of you keeps nagging you about how you shouldn't have gotten this money. But you won't return it because you need it. You may have borrowed money from a friend and now that they don't speak to you anymore, it feels like guilt money. You may have done some work you are not too proud of and made some guilt money to pay the rent. The only good thing about guilt money is that it is spent almost immediately, unlike "Give-it-back money."

3. Give-it-back money: This is the money you would give back immediately if you could go back in the past and change something. Life-insurance money falls into this. If you'd rather have someone not die, then the inheritance is give-it-back money. Also if you truly hurt someone in the process of making this money and regret it every day, it's give-it-back money. There is nothing good about give-it-back money except it is usually a large sum.

4. Bank-error money: Someone in the bureaucracy screwed up and now you find yourself marginally richer. Congrats! Keep it in the bank and earn interest on it. DO NOT SPEND IT immediately! If you got an extra paycheck because of data-entry error in the payroll system, chances are that after 6 months, nobody will notice it. Keep mum and enjoy the tiny fortune. A million dollar error will be fixed (and someone is getting fired). $250 error will be ignored. Bank-error money is like finding an extra cookie in the 6-cookie packet. It won't change your life but it will brighten your day. So smile!

5. Found money: The problem with found money is that it is also "Lost money" for someone. If it's less than $20, it is no different from "Bank-error money." The person who lost it will curse but get over themselves. But anything above $20 could quite possibly be a significant loss to an average person. Imagine a single-mother of two with bills to pay who loses $75? Try to return it if at all possible. Donate it if you can't. Keep it if you are really poor. But realize that it could turn into "Guilt money" very easily.

6. Networked money: This is the money you make because you know someone who knows someone. This is the money rich old guys make because they all know each other and can make a lot of money for each other by playing nice, at the expense of a thousand others. There is nothing inherently wrong with networked money as long as it doesn't screw others. However, the big problem with it is that it often masquerades as "Sweat-Blood money." So the guys who really made millions because they knew the right people now think they earned it by being smart, hard-working, and innovative. Hello Wall Street!

7. Me-too money: This is a very dangerous yet prevalent variant of "Networked money." Only reason you make this money is because all your peers make this money. You don't really care about this money, you don't even know how to spend this kind of money, but you earn it because you're supposed to. You have a PhD in an engineering field? You gotta make 150k by age 45. Your cousins are all making $100k as mid-level managers? So must you. This is the worst reason to make money because you're exchanging something you value, your time, for something you don't need. When you realize what you've spent a decade or two of your life chasing money, you might think it's all "Guilt money" but there's a slight difference - you needed the "Guilt money", you didn't need "Me-too money."

8. Lottery money: Almost everyone wants this, even those who swear by "Sweat-Blood money". This money brings the promise of getting anything you want. It is the shortcut that bypasses "Networked money" and "Me-too money." In addition to actual lottery winners, major sport-stars and celebrities also earn this money. If the money you make is disproportionately higher than the effort you make, it is no different from a lottery. You could be the great musician in the world but if you make more money than the GDP of the 150th country in the world, you ran into some lottery money. The best part about lottery money is that there is no guilt, no need to give-it-back, and nobody lost anything for you to obtain this money. It is a no-strings-attached manna from heaven. What could possibly go wrong? Except... reality. Unless you have extreme self-control and are smart with finances, you will lose this money. You will buy things you don't need to impress people you don't care about. In that respect it is not much different from "Me-too money." The primary difference is the number of zeros at the end. You can put this money to very good use but most probably you'll throw your wife or daughter a huge birthday party on an exotic island. Then you will give it to the "Networked money" or "Loop-hole money" guys and lose it all.

9. Minted money: Though often confused with "Lottery money", money made via very successful and smart ventures is minted money. It is often a combination of "Sweat-Blood money" and "Networked money" though the main difference lies in the immense scale of the operations. Founders of Google, Microsoft, Apple, eBay, and PayPal minted money. They created entire markets around their products and not only grew themselves but also made everyone who worked with them rich. These people created products that filled specific needs and provided value to the users. A lot of technology startups hope to mint money in their steps, though most of them are really just hoping for "Crapshoot money." Minted money is often denounced as "Loop-hope money" and the latter often presents itself as minted money.

10. Crapshoot money: If you are a smart, creative person and saw your parents work themselves to death to make some "Sweat-Blood money", you know there has to be a better way to make it in the world. You've figured out that lottery, networked, or me-too money is for schmucks with poor statistical skills and no vision. You have skills, raw talent, and the drive to live on nothing but dreams, vision, and sheer hope. You are in this to mint money! Sorry. You're just aiming for crapshoot money. Like the YouTube guys. And Facebook, Twitter, and BroadCast.com. You have a good product, you certainly do. It's unique, interesting, and usable. You have the eyeballs, PR, and smart people. What you don't have is something that people will pay money for over and over again. You're hoping to either be bought out, sell ads, or sell data. You are betting on luck and a lot of it. There is a silver-lining to this cloud. Even if you do not completely succeed in your goals of changing the world, you could make more than enough money to buy a Château or two. There's nothing really wrong with crapshoot money. It is well-deserved, requires just as much sweat and blood as any hard-earned money. It just relies on getting tremendously lucky. And the biggest problem is that when you do succeed, you're going to deny luck was even involved. Nope, it was sweat and blood the whole way.

11. Loop-hole money: What do you do if you are exceedingly smart yet too impatient to wait a decade or two till you mint money? You find a loop-hole. You seek arbitrage opportunities. You create structured investment vehicles to invest in asset-backed securities without providing investors any transparency. You are far above the "Networked money" guys. You are the genius in the Ivory Tower who consistently grows money. You are the brain-child behind Enron. You run Goldman Sachs. You bring down commodities markets in Asian countries so you can efficiently conduct a hostile takeover. Those "Minted money" guys may be wealthier and smarter than you but your shrewdness gives them nightmares. "Networked money" guys want to be you. "Lottery money" makers think they are you. And "Sweat-Blood money" guys would loathe you if they knew you existed. Fortunately for you, they're busy blaming the "Networked money" folks.

12. No money: You don't want money or things. Money is just to provide the bare essentials of food, clothing, and shelter. You don't want a car, boat, or even a cake on your birthday. Somehow money just never caught your eye. You may or may not have passions and aspirations. As satisfied as you may be with your situation, unfortunately people think you're poor, hippie, or just plain unambitious. But it's alright. You go write that book or song. Go ahead and make that website or a widget to make cars use less fuel. You might succeed and end up with some "Crapshoot money" or you may not. Who cares? You have nothing to lose. Carpe diem, baby.

13. Old money, dirty money, blood money, FU money: You have so much money you don't even know what to do with it. You don't care how you got it. Maybe your dad is a billionaire. Maybe he sold guns to both sides in a war. Maybe you overthrew the democratically elected leader and proclaimed yourself the dictator-for-life. Maybe you took bribes, commission, or whatever dirty money you could get your hands on. After all, you worked hard for this money! The world's a dirty place and you're just a small town rube trying to make it in the big bad city. Money is money. Those holier-than-thou "Sweat-Blood money" types should just fess up and admit they don't have the drive and ambition to compete in this world. There is not much good that can come out of old or dirty money. The only good thing is that it slowly dwindles down to "Networked money" and then disappears in a generation or two.

There are many other kinds of income/earned money I can list but I'd say most everything fits into one or at most two of the slots above. There is a whole another side to money when it comes to spending it. Maybe I'll write about it some other day. In the meantime, which income/earned money type do you think you are?

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Wed, 28th Apr '10, 9:45 pm::

This past weekend I went kayaking and camping with a group of other kayakers in the Chassahowitzka National Park. We kayaked a total of 22 miles over two days and camped out on different uninhabited islands. Check out the pics here.

I am typing this from my new iPad that I purchased for my parents. It is pretty slick and easy to use. Thankfully they will no longer have to worry about viruses and spyware. If I like using this myself then I will buy a 3G-enabled version once I come back from India. Our trip is less then a month away and I can't wait.

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Mon, 19th Apr '10, 8:05 am::

My friend Arthur came down to Florida this weekend. Friday evening Juliet and I picked him up from the airport and we all went to Ybor City. We spent hours at Gameworks and saw the hilarious comedian Brian Posehn. Saturday we spent the whole day at Busch Gardens and watched movies all evening. It was raining heavily Sunday morning so Juliet made some yummy breakfast (yay muffins) and we just chilled around the house for a few hours watching The IT Crowd. We dropped Arthur off at the airport in the afternoon and didn't do much the rest of the day. It was a great weekend and I hope we get more guests in the future so we can do this all over again.

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Mon, 12th Apr '10, 5:05 pm::

Whenever I get lunch or dinner at a restaurant, I always finish my meal and never bring back any leftovers. Today, I bought a large sandwich with the intention of eating half of it for lunch at my desk and the rest for dinner once I get home. I figured that way I won't have to prepare dinner for myself. Normally Juliet cooks up something healthy for me every evening but she won't be home on weekdays for the next six weeks because of her clinical rotation. So I have to fend for myself.

I ate half of the sandwich and right next to me is the other half. I can't wait to get home for dinner. So so hungry. I'm waiting for an update to complete on a server and all I can think of is the sandwich. Self-control is difficult when you can smell yummy food.

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Sat, 10th Apr '10, 5:00 pm::

I just got back from kayaking with Juliet at Chassahowitzka. Last week I went kayaking around Dunedin Spoil Islands, Three Rooker Bar, and Honeymoon Island. Tomorrow I'm going to Caladesi Island. It's finally beautiful weather and I don't want to stay a minute indoors. We had a really rainy, gloomy winter this year and I have been dying to go kayaking for months now.

I did get a little sunburn from 8 unplanned hours in the sun last weekend but it's all ok now. Next weekend, my friend Arthur from New Jersey is visiting us and we plan on going kayaking too. And I'm going kayaking/camping with a bunch of other local kayakers on April 23. It will be a 35-mile kayak trail over three days and we will camp out in different places along the way. I'm pretty excited about it. Tonight, we're going to a comedy club with Sandra and Matt.

Meanwhile, my parents are planning our Indian-style wedding in India. We're so excited. Less than 45 days before we fly off to India!

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Religious tolerance in IndiaMon, 29th Mar '10, 7:25 am::

I came across this article about Hindu pilgrims celebrating a Muslim warrior in Kerela. The article talks about how Hindus visit various temples and also a specific mosque as part of the pilgrimage. Most people outside of India don't know how much Indians truly respect and accept the religions of others in day to day life. Despite the frequent news stories of religious-hate-fueled riots, most Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and Jains all coexist very peacefully. It doesn't matter if you are a Sikh or not, you get used to saying "Sat Sri Akal" whenever you come across an elderly Sikh person. You say "Eid Mubarak" to Muslims on their holy days. You say "Merry Christmas" (not happy holidays) to a Christian and you learn to say "Jai Jinendra" to Jains.

It is understood that everyone has a religion and you are not only supposed to tolerate it but accept and respect it. Sayings like "Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai; Aapas mein hai bhai-bhai" (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christians are brothers) are taught to children from early age. The truth is, teaching people to respect others' religions reinforces one's belief that their own religion has to be equally respected. On the other hand, atheists get no respect in India. "Nastik" meaning atheist is considered a dirty word. It is ok to be any religion, just not no religion.

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Fri, 26th Mar '10, 8:20 am::

Now that the weather is warm and the mornings are back to being beautiful, I started running this week. I take our puppy Jack with me and we walk, jog, and run about 2 miles each morning. I'm running for fun and health, not preparing for a race. Even if I decide to race, I plan on maintaining my 2-miles/day routine. I'm planning on a kayak trip next month with a bunch of other local kayakers. It'll be a weekend-long paddle and camping trip. I'm pretty damned excited and can't wait.

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Sat, 20th Mar '10, 10:55 pm::

I finally have a few photos of our house now that we have new tiles and fresh paint. We're still in the process of setting up furniture and decorations and will be done in about 2 more weeks. Today was a pretty busy day. We spent most of the day assembling wooden file cabinets for my home-office. While cleaning out my office, Juliet mentioned to me that she had never built a campfire. So we built one in the backyard. We had some marshmallows and destroyed miscellaneous incriminating evidence. Having a backyard rocks.

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Trypophobia sucksFri, 12th Mar '10, 8:15 am::

For as long as I can remember, I've been a trypophobe. Trypophobia is the irrational fear of clusters of holes, pods, circles, cracks, cuts, and other asymmetrical shapes especially those found in nature. When I look at these things, I get very uneasy, grossed out, and sometimes even nauseous. Some of the things that have this effect on me include lotus seed pods, pumice, holes in concrete, bug tunnels in wood, enlarged pores of the skin, bone marrow, Wasps' nest, and bubbles in dough.

My phobia extends not only to that but also to some textures and patterns that are irregular and not symmetrical. However, not all irregular patterns gross me out, nor do all clusters of holes make me feel uneasy. I used to think I was the only one till I came across an online discussion about textures and their effects. This blog post by another trypophobe definitely rang true to me.

Juliet is pretty good at identifying what kind of textures might gross me out and warns me beforehand, usually she's correct. I don't think I'll ever get over this fear but then I don't really care enough to. It's just one of those little things that makes me, me.

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Sun, 28th Feb '10, 6:05 pm::

We went to the Ikea in Tampa yesterday and surprisingly we found the food there better than the furniture. The store was setup amazingly well and there was a really good cafe. However, the furniture didn't seem to be of high quality and it wasn't cheap either. Plus I would have to haul it all the way home and assemble it myself. Just didn't seem worth it. So instead, I ordered a kitchen buffet online and got free shipping. It looks better than what we saw at Ikea and is made of solid wood instead of particle board or MDF.

Juliet spend the entire day cleaning the house and I rearranged the office / computer room. We still have a lot of stuff to move around but it's finally feeling like home. I need to get rid of my plastic cabinets and get some decent filing cabinets for all of our documents. Maybe once the house is painted, I will start looking. Tonight I have lots of homework to complete so that's it from me.

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Fri, 26th Feb '10, 11:20 pm::

Tomorrow we go to the new Ikea that opened in Tampa last year to buy some furniture for the house. I'm excited!

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Sun, 21st Feb '10, 6:05 pm::

The tiles are done! The entire house looks so much better now. I'll try to post some pictures soon. If you are in the St. Petersburg / Tampa Bay area and need tiles or flooring done at a very good price, call up Michael from MCG & Associates. Mike's entire crew was awesome and did a fantastic job.

In addition to getting new tiles, we rearranged almost every room and gave away a lot of my old furniture. The baker's rack, kitchen table + chairs, kitty post, a small sofa, and tons of smaller things are now gone. This makes the house more spacious and now we can have a guest bed setup in the office room. Now we have to get all the rooms except the bedroom painted, the bathroom renovated, and give away a lot more stuff (old clothes, computer equipment etc.)

Last few weeks I've been so busy with school and this week is no different. I still have three more weeks to go before the semester is over. Since we're going to India in May-June, I don't think I'll be able to take summer classes. So in my free time, I think I'll work on some software projects that I have been thinking of for a while. I'll share more once I get started.

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Thu, 18th Feb '10, 9:40 am::

We're getting tiles installed in our entire house starting today. The contractor is here and they're already ripping off the tiles in the kitchen. All the rooms including kitchen, bedrooms, living room, and utility room should be completed by Monday. After the tiles, we'll probably hire someone to paint all the rooms. The last big project will be renovating the bathroom. I can't wait till it is all done.

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Violated by Chat RouletteWed, 10th Feb '10, 10:45 pm::

Juliet and I just spent about 30 minutes on Chat Roulette and I swear I never want to visit that website ever again. Chat Roulette lets you chat using a webcam with strangers from around the world. At first glance, it looks like a great idea - harnessing the power and diversity of the Internet to see and talk to people from around the world. But in reality, we talked to at most five decent people for about five minutes total during the half-hour. The rest of the time we ended up being shocked by how insulting, racist, idiotic, and just plain rude everyone was. I have a pretty strong stomach for criticism and insults but I seriously felt violated at times because people were saying things to our face that you only see in prison movies. My faith in humanity just took a nose-dive tonight.

In slightly more civil news, I started reading In Defense of Food. I will write more about it once I've read it. Till then it's work, college, and regular home life.

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Mon, 8th Feb '10, 7:45 am::

So someone in Gujarat, India posted a groom-seeking-bride matrimonial ad for a "Chirag Mehta" in a local newspaper and incorrectly put my gmail.com as the contact address. For the past two weeks, I've been getting photos of single Indian women with marriage proposals in my mailbox. Juliet isn't happy.

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Fri, 29th Jan '10, 7:30 am::

In 2001, I bought my first LCD, a 19" Princeton Graphics monitor for $1200. In 2004, I bought two Dell 19" for $600 each to replace the original LCD. In 2007, three Dell 19" LCDs for $400 each to replace the two Dells. Now, I can buy six 23" LCDs for approx. $200 each for a total cost of about $1200. It's funny how the number of monitors continues to increase while the total nominal investment remains constant.

I had been talking on and on for years about getting a 6-LCD setup and I'd even predetermined what I'd do with each LCD in a 3x2 layout (top1: IM/Chat, 2: Graphics Editor, 3: Putty/Shell, bottom 4: FTP/Explorer, 5: Text Editor, 6: Browsers). My techie friends laughed at me but at a resolution of about 2048x1152/LCD, I would have ample resolution for just about everything and I wouldn't have to alt-tab at all. My productivity in web-development would absolutely sky-rocket. And since could rig my own stand to hold the 6 LCDs in place instead of buying one for $600, I could get my dream-setup for about $1500. I had built my workstation in 2007 to easily handle 6 DVI ports when the time was right. Now all I needed was an excuse to splurge.

Last month, two of my Dell 19" LCDs died, leaving me with just one monitor. My wife joked that I needed new monitors because she didn't wanna be married to some one-LCD guy. She practically kicked me out of bed and told me to find my 6-LCD X-Mas gift. I spent three hours surfing Newegg, Dell Outlet etc. and finally found my dream setup. Right before I clicked 'Place Order' I yelled out "Honey if I click this button, I'm never leaving my computer room." I don't think she heard me but I clearly did and for some weird reason I didn't like it. I cleared my cart and started looking for a laptop instead.

I've always been anti-laptops because come on, how can you even compare a 3 or 6-LCD setup to a laptop with a tiny screen, tiny keyboard, and crappy batteries. However, something went off in my head at that point and I realized I didn't want my perfect 6-LCD setup even though it was right there in front of me. I have wanted 6-LCDs every single day for the past decade - ever since I started making websites. But it was when I yelled that I don't want to leave my room that I realized that I actually do want to leave my room.

Now I take my laptop with me everywhere I go and program whenever/wherever I want to. It's a very big change for me and my productivity has definitely taken a hit. However, my desire to code has risen and that is important. Who cares if I'm capable of being highly productive if I don't feel like it most of the time? I guess the take-home lesson here is that it is not the specs but the environment and experience the setup fosters. I still might buy my 6-LCDs someday, if I ever have a crazy do-or-die idea, but for now I'm just happier with a laptop.

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Tue, 12th Jan '10, 11:55 pm::

I grew up playing with Lego and similar building-block toys but once I fell in love with software, I pretty much forgot that I could tinker with hardware too. For about two decades now I've been writing code to make computers do whatever I want them to do. Meanwhile my opinion of hardware has been that it is a failure-prone black-box that my beloved software needs to run on. If I could program tomatoes and watermelons to send email, share photos, and add numbers, I would throw away all my personal computers and go grocery shopping immediately. But since I am unable to do that as of yet, I will do the next best thing and start playing with building-blocks and hardware again.

A lot has changed in the past decade in the world of hobbyist hardware. There is a whole ecosystem now surrounding a tiny computer called Arduino that costs only $30. Arduino lets anyone write small programs that can interact with the world using sensors and motors to make things happen in rea-life. No matter how smart my code is on a regular computer, the most effect it can have on the real-world is to send an automated text-message or make a loud noise unless I buy some expensive hardware. Arduino can let me turn on/off LED lights, measure room temperature, detect infrared light, turn on/off motors, and much more. Basically, now my Lego toys can cheaply become tiny machines or robots and the best part is that I still get to write software to make it all work together.

I'm still waiting for my Arduino to arrive and already have an idea for my first, second, and third projects. The good thing is that being a beginner in this field, I get to learn a lot of new things in a very short span of time. After you have been working in a field for a decade or more, coming across new things becomes a rare event. It's not everyday that I hear about a revolutionary programming language or database system. But a tiny $30 PC that can inform me when my cats enter the kitchen? That's revolutionary!

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Sat, 2nd Jan '10, 1:00 am::

Of all the ways I could have imagined starting the year 2010, I highly doubt "working 16 hours straight on New Year's Day" would have been on the list. At any manufacturing or warehousing company, year-end financials are always a big deal and since I maintain the core database, I have to make sure all the transactions are done properly. In addition to that, long weekends are perfect time for me to make upgrades to our computing infrastructure. So this means I've had a boatload of things to do between Dec 31, 2009 and Jan 4, 2010. I'm about half-way done and as of yet, no major catastrophes.

Oh ya... Happy New Year!

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Sun, 27th Dec '09, 8:05 pm::

We're back from our long weekend in the Florida Keys and here are the photos. We had an awesome time in Key West and in addition to visiting the Hemingway House and Butterfly Conservatory, we took an airboat tour in the Everglades and visited Miccosukee Native American village. I'm pretty tired after eight hours of driving and have a pretty busy week ahead so it's time to get off the computer and relax.

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Sun, 20th Dec '09, 12:55 pm::

This is how you MUST watch the new movie Avatar by diretor James Cameron of the Titanic, Terminator, and Aliens fame: Buy tickets to Avatar in 3D at an IMAX theater and sit in the center, middle section. Anything less will not deliver the true visual experience. While the storyline itself is not completely novel, the presentation and experience is. If movies like The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter talk about magical lands, Avatar takes you to them. All I can say is that at the end of the movie, everyone wants to leave Earth and be in Pandora, the world this movie is set in.

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Sat, 19th Dec '09, 12:45 am::

We went to our company's Christmas party tonight and had such a blast. The party began with the company president Eric Dann (my boss) taking the stage and announcing that there were prizes hidden under some of the chairs! A frantic ruckus ensued immediately and only calmed down after the prizes were found. Having grabbed everyone's attention, Eric talked about how Formulated Solutions has grown from just three partners to almost a hundred employees in the past ten years. His joke about how he sees all of us more than his own family made everyone laugh but it rang true for many of us who have spent countless evenings and late nights making things work.

Starting a manufacturing company in the US and growing steadily in the face of economic downturns, outsourcing, and tremendous competition is the very definition of entrepreneurship and perseverance. Having been a part of the company for almost six years, I feel very proud of how far we have come along through all the ups and downs. It has been a constant challenge for me to support this growth and no matter how stressful the work days get, it feels good to be a part of a company that continues to move forward.

After a wonderful dinner, the free "casino" opened and we got fake $1,000 coins each to bet on Black Jack, Craps, Poker, and my favorite, Roulette. Juliet had an amazing streak of luck throughout the night at the Roulette table and in the final round of play, bet on the number 32 and won! This put us into the lead with combined winnings of (fake) $68,300. While we didn't get to cash those coins (alas), we still came home with a nice prize. We have a busy week ahead of us and then we get to vacation in the Keys. I can't wait...

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Tue, 15th Dec '09, 12:05 am::

2010 is just two weeks away and life is moving along swimmingly. School is almost over, work is going well, and the pets are healthy and cuddly at home. 2009 was a very stressful year for both Juliet and I because of school, work, travel, and immigration. We hope to end the year with a relaxing weekend down in the Florida Keys. I can't wait.

One of the things occupying my free time these days is independent research. I've been researching about computer vision for some time now and have started to learn about various algorithms that enable computers to detect faces, eyes, cars, and other objects. I've always been fascinated by image recognition and have lately been spending a few hours every other evening reading research papers on the subject. I don't have much to share at the moment but I'm fairly certain that I will be talking more about this topic in the coming months. My goal for 2010 is to dedicate a significant portion of my free time to independent research so that I will be well-prepared when I get into a PhD program.

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Wed, 25th Nov '09, 10:40 pm::

Yesterday evening we ripped off all the carpet in our house and earlier this morning I dumped off all the smelly carpet pieces in the landfill. Under the carpet was a pretty decent layer of laminate wood. It is much cleaner than carpet but still not decent enough. We will be getting tiles in our entire house pretty soon. I've been saving for new tiles for a while now and it's about time to get them installed. I also moved around the furniture in the living room and my computer room and the house now has a lot more open space.

We're going to Juliet's grandma's house tomorrow for Thanksgiving Dinner. I have an exam and a presentation due on Monday so this weekend will be study-time once again. Tonight, Juliet and I are watching a bunch of movies.

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Sat, 21st Nov '09, 11:20 am::

I don't like going to school on a Saturday. I'd rather be out kayaking.

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Don't blackmail yourselfSun, 15th Nov '09, 10:25 am::

I came across a post on Hacker News this morning on "how to be successful by blackmailing yourself." The basic idea is that if you really don't want to do something then you should tell everyone how you will do it, thereby forcing yourself to do it by way of guilt and emotional blackmail. The author suggests that you should "use the power of blackmail whenever you feel that urge to avoid a certain piece of work (you know, the one you really should be working on right now)." It's the last fragment within parentheses that I want to talk about.

Don't compel yourself to do anything you don't want to. Don't guilt yourself into thinking that you should be doing something else instead of what you really want to do. People need to stop doing this in the name of productivity, efficiency, ambition, or goals. Instead, focus your energy on making yourself realize why something must be done, if it needs to be done at all. If you can convince yourself that it needs to be done, then you will have no problem doing it and will in fact do it willingly. If you can't convince yourself why it needs to be done, then you should do something to make sure you don't have to do it.

E.g., writing a school paper for a class you don't much care for. That is something that happens to me because some of my required Masters classes are a bit too easy (in fact my undergrad courses in the same subjects were much more advanced). I tell myself that life is a learning experience and writing well is an art that I must continually practice to remain proficient, regardless of the subject matter or specific task at hand. Knowing that this one 10-page assignment is a small piece of the bigger jigsaw puzzle of my life as student makes me want to work on it. Not because I love the class but because I see how this particular assignment fits into the big plan I have previously made. I always try to stick with my big plans unless there is a true reason not to. Is a 10-page assignment a true reason not to stick with my Masters degree and my academic plans? No. Then it is something that will take me one step closer to my final goal. Who doesn't want to take one more step in the right direction?

I don't play tricks with my brain or try to excite myself by small goals or high-scores (try to get an A+ in a 10-page paper I wrote in 2 hours). I see a lot of advice in such motivational posts that are mostly tricks and advice on lying to yourself. I don't set my clocks 10 minutes ahead. I try to understand why it must be so instead of fooling myself and hoping that a safety-net for my follies will somehow help me.

Why do I work on the really boring project at work that nobody else wants to help me on? Because I understand that this is something that helps with the bigger picture of my career. If it doesn't, then I will make sure I don't have to do it. I don't want to live a life avoiding things that must be done or playing tricks on myself just so I do things I don't want to do. If I sit back and truly don't want to do something, I make sure I don't have to do it.

This doesn't mean I look forward to doing the dishes. Wife and I both hate doing the dishes and we avoid using too many pots and pans while cooking. However, I do the dishes whenever I can because it makes the misses happy and that is my bigger goal. Doing the dishes gets me one step closer to marital bliss and who doesn't want that? Do I really want to claim "honey I will do the dishes" and do them reluctantly only because I claimed that publicly? Or do I do the dishes willingly because it makes my wife happy and thus me happy?

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Waiting to change my life aroundSat, 31st Oct '09, 11:25 pm::

I haven't written much here lately and I thought that it was because of my busy schedule. Earlier today Juliet and I took a stroll along the beach and we came across hundreds of women and men running for breast-cancer awareness and cure. As we cheered all the runners on, my mind went back to my months of training this summer and I realized why I have not felt like writing much in a while. I love writing when I am making big plans or in the process of changing myself or my situations. At this point in my life, I am not in a planning phase but a doing phase. I am going to graduate school, working hard at my job, and taking care of my zoo at home. This is a period in my life where I don't pick up new things every week but instead stick with the boring but important plans I made previously and push through with my best efforts.

Most people either plan a lot or work a lot but not both. This means they either end up hoping for great things but don't do anything or they do a lot without much forethought. I can't say I'm not guilty of that myself but I've got better at doing both planning and hard work in succession over time. In the past when I got into my work-hard phase, I used to fear that I've lost my aptitude for thinking big but now I know that is not so. It's very enticing to take up a fun project on the side and concentrate so hard on it that the rest of my life gets ignored. While I love that kind of excitement, it takes me away from the bigger goals in my life.

I want to finish my Masters and then in a few years, get into a Doctoral Program. I want to change my life around so research and invention play a bigger role than web design and programming. However, I cannot do that today without making a lot of people around me miserable and hurt. The time is not right. I cannot drop everything right now and instantly do whatever I want, no matter how badly I want it. So till then, I'm making the best of my present life and working hard in school and my job.

The way I see it, the planning phase is when I apply the knowledge I've gained over time to shape the course of my life. That is when I am open to new ideas and find out what excites and motivates me. The doing phase is when I don't waver from my plans no matter what and learn the skills I will need for the rest of my life. Right now I'm learning about project management at school and at work. I'm also learning about business processes, what happens in their absence, and how to make them work so people don't have to. While this may have nothing directly to do with my eventual PhD, I know these skills with help me throughout the course of my life. Things are pretty mundane lately but I know that every night I go to bed slightly more knowledgeable than when I woke up. This lets me sleep better because I know I'm slowly but steadily moving forward.

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Sat, 17th Oct '09, 12:15 pm::

Happy Diwali everyone! Diwali is the Indian festival of lights and here to give you a brief history of the tradition is President Obama. He explains it so clearly that I wish he made more tutorials like these for different things. It would be awesome to have a Presidential video on how to upgrade to Windows 7, make a soup out of tree bark, or give your cat a bath. I think that would really make my day.

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Two-spaces at the end of sentencesSun, 11th Oct '09, 11:55 pm::

I have been working on a group assignment for my class all evening. I would just like to tell all those people who use two spaces at the end of every sentence in a document to kindly take their respective posteriors down to the fiery domain of Beelzebub. It's 2009. We have proportionally-spaced fonts instead of mono-spaced text. Everything written online is automatically converted to single space because web-browsers treat one or more space characters as a single space. You may have experienced this yourself when trying to make a 'blog post or comment online. You actually have to use a special code to force web-browsers to render multiple space characters in a row.

Since we have charts and graphs in our paper that use a series of space characters for formatting, I cannot do a global search-and-replace for two space characters without messing up. We've all written different sections of the paper so each person has formatted and spaced it differently. The formatting I can remedy easily by using Word's style bar. However, I have to manually search through forty pages of text to find double-spaced sentence endings and fix them because the text looks pretty inconsistent otherwise.

Other than this, things are going well. I'm so glad to have Juliet back home. Since she missed my birthday, she got me lots of gifts and a nice big cake upon her return this Tuesday. I thought I had cleaned the house thoroughly before she got home. Then yesterday she went around every room and actually cleaned it. The house looks so much cleaner and makes me wonder if I even cleaned anything last weekend or just had a dream about it. I have my finals this week and two projects due so I'm busy studying day and night now. I have no classes next week but after that another half-semester starts. I feel like these classes are just never going to end.

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Sun, 4th Oct '09, 1:15 am::

It's my 29th birthday today and I'm doing homework four days before it is due. I think for the first time in my life, I am nonchalant about my birthday. Any other year, I would be complaining about having to do homework and chores but I guess after 28 of these, it's getting a little repetitive. Plus 29 is such a non-milestone age. Maybe next year I will do something fun for my birthday. Also, I'm sorta sick with a bad cough so I'd rather not go out and celebrate. I plan on drinking lots of orange juice and cleaning the house tomorrow. I should also get some laundry done as I've run out of clean t-shirts and have resorted to business shirts.

Everything else is going well. School is a lot of work and will get much tougher next year when I sign up for tons of classes. I'm not working on any interesting projects at home right now and just concentrating on school and work. I'm looking for a good research field for my eventual PhD. I'm not sure if I want to spend 5-7 years in computer theory, systems, AI, media, economics, mathematics, or a mix of all of these. I still have a few years to figure that out so I'm not rushing.

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Sun, 20th Sep '09, 11:55 pm::

My days after the ultramarathon have been super busy and the nights have been super short. Work is going well but since I am in the middle of a big infrastructure upgrade, I don't have a second to sit down and breathe. School started and I'm already busy with homework and projects. After two weeks of non-stop work and school, I went up north to Chattahoochee this weekend to see Juliet. She'll be there till the first week of October.

The past two days have been nothing short of an adventure. We went to see stalactites and stalagmites in underground caves, saw bats, swam in a freezing cold freshwater stream, had a little picnic, took more than a hikes in the forest, saw a river dam, chilled on a pier at a lake, got lost while off-roading, almost got my car stuck in mud twenty miles away from civilization, explored an abandoned fort, got terrorized by a loving puppy in the middle of nowhere, drove for hours along the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, and sang lots of songs off-key. Last night we watched a few episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and ate some yummy pasta that Juliet made.

I'm exhausted and ready to get back to work tomorrow. Long drives give me so many ideas for my computer projects.

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Mon, 7th Sep '09, 10:25 pm::

Here are the photos from the Grand Teton Race 2009.

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Running 50 Miles in the UltramarathonMon, 7th Sep '09, 3:00 pm::

I am 39,000 feet high up in a plane connected to the Internet. I couldn't wait to get online so I could write a few words about my race and I'm glad American Airlines has Wi-Fi now. As my track sheet says, I stopped after running 50 miles out of the 100 miles that I signed up for. After four months of intense training and considerable preparation, I ended up with a DNF - Did Not Finish. Ever since I ran my first mile in April, I had been dreading the acronym DNF. To me that sounded like failure and lack of preparation. Till the day before the race, I was terrified of ending up with an embarrassing DNF - oh the shame! And then I ran 50 miles for about 24 hours in 10,000 feet altitude and 35F temperature through mountains, jungles, and canyons paved with loose rocks, tree roots, and extremely steep slopes.

One of the greatest feelings in your life is completely and absolutely surprising yourself about your own abilities. The fear of DNF is gone and replaced by the sheer excitement of what I was able to accomplish when the odds were so severely stacked up against me. I live at sea-level in Florida, run on absolutely flat, paved, marked trail in 100F temperature with high humidity. The Grand Teton Race trail was the complete opposite and I was in no way prepared for such rocky trails and high altitude. I knew I was not training appropriately but till I actually saw the mountain trails in person, I had no idea how unprepared I was. But I couldn't give up. I was here to run an ultramarathon and I was not going to stop until I did. After 50 miles (80 kms), my feet couldn't take it anymore and I happily DNF'ed.

I have blisters on all of my ten toes, both heels, and sides of both feet. This sounds bad but the best thing is that other than my soles, I have absolutely no fatigue, muscle pain, or weakness in my entire body. This makes me extremely excited because that means my body can take 50 miles and a lot more without any engine troubles - I just need better tires. I was glad to feel completely healthy (except for my feet) because that means my exercise regimen in Florida was good. During the race I managed my food, electrolyte, and fluid intake well, I was in full control over my mind and actions, and even after 24 hours, I could have kept going.

I know I did not get a medal for finishing this time but I got more than enough encouragement to keep on running from the tons of wonderful athletes, ultramarathoners, volunteers, and race organizers. They pushed me throughout the course and kept my spirits and energy high. My friend Arthur was my pacer and flew up from NJ to make sure I kept moving forward and helped me with everything from gear, nutrition, and medical assistance. At the same time, my friend Vishal in India, Tamara in NJ, my boss Eric in Florida, and my parents and sister in India kept tracking my progress and sending me encouraging words. My family, friends, and coworkers encouraged me before, during, and after the race and that is more than I can ever ask for.

The one person who probably suffered more than me during my entire training was Juliet. For the past four months, I refused to do anything fun on Friday nights because I had to wake up early on Saturdays. Every Saturday morning I would go out running and leave her alone at home with all of the house and pet chores. Every Sunday I would sit around and be lazy so I could "recover from my long run." She encouraged me to keep training no matter how little progress I seemed to make early on. She bought most of my gear, set up the food and drinks for my runs, and even came out a few times to train with me on some of my shorter runs. And during my race, every time I returned to the base aid station after a loop, Arthur would tell me Juliet called up and said she sends me her love.

After the race, everyone asked me what my next ultra will be. Ultrarunners are serious addicts! They made lots of suggestions, especially races that I can train for while living in Florida. I would absolutely love to do more races but I don't know if I can anytime soon because of the huge time and money commitment that even short races take up. I'm taking a break from running for at least a week or two so my feet can heal up. After that, who knows. I want to get back into kayaking again and probably build something fun like our aviary in the backyard. My school starts tomorrow and I have a pretty big project at work that I need to concentrate on. I don't know how the other ultramarathoners do it but it is definitely not easy to train for one race after other. One thing I know for certain is that I loved the wonderful experience I had during this race and would most definitely do something like this again in the future when I have ample time to train. Thanks everyone for the love and support. Next time I'll bring home a medal.

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Fri, 4th Sep '09, 1:25 pm::

Tomorrow is the big race and once the race starts, you can track my progress here. To say that I am overwhelmed would be an understatement. Yesterday Arthur and I hiked up to the top of Fred's Mountain and back down just to get an idea of how tough the race is. During the race, I have to hike up and down Fred's Mountain four times. It is extremely rocky and I almost slipped many times. I think doing it the first time will be ok but I have no idea how I'll do it at 1am after I have been running for 19 hours straight. This is no doubt the craziest thing I have ever signed up for voluntarily.

I met a lot of people in the last few days and everyone is extremely friendly and encouraging. Some of them are doing the 100-miler, while most are in the 50-mile and 26.2-mile marathons. Now that I have seen how utterly difficult the track is, I have no idea how far I can go within the 36 hours. All I know is that I am going to keep walking, running, jogging, and crawling till I either finish or get disqualified for being too slow. I trained as hard as I possibly could have and there is no way I could have prepared for such high elevations and rocky terrain in Florida. So now, all I can do is give this race the very best I can. My next 'blog post will be once the race is over. Wish me luck.

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Wed, 2nd Sep '09, 11:45 am::

I'm in Alta, Wyoming at the Grand Targhee Resort (street view). I had a long day yesterday traveling from Florida to Wyoming but am fully relaxed now. I have three more days before the Grand Teton Ultramarathon begins. Hopefully, my body will acclimate to the high altitude and the thin air before the race. I'm eating lots of fruits, foods rich in iron, and drinking lots of orange juice. That should help boost my red-blood cell count and help me breathe better here.

There are very few people here right now and not much to do other than sit outside and admire the gorgeous vistas. I plan on taking lots of pictures but I don't think I can upload them till I get home next week. I would love to go for a long walk in the wilderness right now but I'm saving my energy and muscles for the really long walk this Saturday and Sunday. Once my race begins on Saturday 6am, you can track my progress here. I added this same link to the '100-mile race' button in the top-left of my 'blog, right under my name/logo.

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Sat, 29th Aug '09, 8:40 pm::

I did not know that Florida had two time zones. I am currently sitting on Juliet's bed in a cute little apartment in the Florida State Hospital campus in Chattahoochee where she will be staying for the next six weeks. She is here for her first clinical rotation; the concentration is psychiatry. After this she has seven other rotations in seven different fields and hospitals over the next year and a half. If this past year of school was intensive and stressful, the next one for her will be extensive and adventurous.

Chattahoochee is a five-hour drive from our home in St. Petersburg and the clocks here run an hour behind. It is a quaint little town with a rich local history. The long drive into the town through the scenic rolling hills and narrow lanes reminded me of Wyoming where we eloped to last year for our wedding and honeymoon. Who knew that a year later I would be dropping her off in a remote town for a month and a half with such a heavy heart. I'm incidentally leaving for the same mountains and canyons of Wyoming in a few days for my ultramarathon. I really wish she could have come with me but this clinical rotation is a huge opportunity for her career and I wouldn't want anything less than that for her.

Yesterday was the "White Coat ceremony" at her university where the teachers officially gave students in her class their medical white coats as a rite of passage, thus bestowing upon them the responsibility and trust that is expected of a medical care professional. It was a short and sweet procession and Juliet was awarded a scholarship for being the top student in her class. I cannot put into words the amount of effort and dedication that she put into her studies over the past year and was immensely proud to see her hard work being rewarded in front of hundreds of students and their family and friends. Most students in graduate and post-graduate programs, including yours truly, just do enough to get decent grades so they can move on to the next course. Not Juliet. She gave every lecture, class, lab, quiz, test, and exam her utmost best. While her eighteen-hour study days drove both her and me crazy, I realized that very soon she will make a genuinely caring and brilliant Physician Assistant. I am very proud of her and so happy that she is in my life.

Our friend Sandra and her daughter Madison were also at the ceremony and took lots of photos. We celebrated the night with some yummy Hibachi and crashed early. We packed both our cars this morning with all the things Juliet will need for the next six weeks and drove up to Chattahoochee. Once I get back home, I will try to put some of the pictures from her ceremony online. Right now I'm stuck in a small town without any wired Internet access and am using a laptop tethered to a cellphone to write this 'blog entry. And Juliet just prepared some dinner for me so my tummy says good bye Internet!

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World's not getting worseSun, 23rd Aug '09, 11:00 pm::

I came across this question posted online: "Every time I go out in public now, everything I see disgusts me. The fat, lazy, ignorant people... It makes me sound like an elitist, but I just can't help it nowadays. Anyone else feel like this sometimes?" This reminded me of the movie Taxi Driver where the mentally-disturbed lead character played by a young De Niro comments that "All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets."

The way I see things, there is good, there is bad, and then there is the ability to see good in bad and bad in good. Not everything is as one-dimensional as we often make it out to be. The fat could be the next virtuoso, the lazy could be the next Nobel Laureate, and the ignorant could be the next lifesaving hero. When judging and stereotyping people becomes second nature, we must take a step back and try to remember what it felt like to be a child with a clean slate. Every new person was an experience, every new place was a vacation, and every new sight was an answer.

Pessimism and cynicism are not the sole tools available to our mind for making realistic expectations of the future. Optimism, surprise, and awe should be as much a part of our prediction engine as any other emotion. Limiting your mind to only use negative streams of thought in making expectations of the future is like thinking the stock market will constantly go down forever, regardless of what else is happening in the world. Thinking that people will always be fat, lazy, consumption-driven and are getting more so means you leave no room for any other positive expectations from them. Moreover, judging weight, laziness, ignorance, and consumerism to be solely negative traits takes away any good that might come out as a result of these traits. World isn't definitely black or white and neither are traits absolutely good or bad. Elitism itself has good and bad aspects. It encourages improvement and purity in pursuits while it limits explorations into fields previously deemed impure or lacking, though they might not be so.

I often run into people who tell me the world is going down the wrong path or times are changing for the worse. They haven't been around long enough to know it has always been like this and in fact, technology and knowledge are slowly improving things around the world. We are nowhere close to world peace but we have come a long way from the Dark Ages. Reading the news everyday does make one feel like the world is ending and things will never improve, but rest assured that in the grand scheme of things, all of this is arbitrary yet improving. All you can do is keep an open mind so that even when you tend to judge a book by its cover, you can appreciate a surprising twist every now and then.

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Wed, 19th Aug '09, 7:25 pm::

I've been busy at work lately, setting up some powerful new servers. I'll be leaving for my 100 mile race in about ten days. My name's already on the list of competitors. I've tapered off my training and am just counting days till I go. I'm very excited and just as anxious.

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Sun, 2nd Aug '09, 3:50 pm::

Annoyances add up over time. A month ago, our garbage disposal broke. Last night a supporting post under our bed broke (insert weight-gain joke here). Over the past few months, our bathroom sink started draining slower and slower. Sometime last week the screen from one of the windows in our Florida room became detached. Over time, the lack of space in our kitchen started to bug us more and more.

Having a busy life, these things tend to get swept under the rug because who has time to fix it. However, they continue to be annoyances and the stress adds up. Finally, on wonderfully productive days like today, I wake up and make a list of everything wrong in the house that bugs me. Then I buy whatever is necessary to fix every single problem. And then I fix it, at least for the time being. I feel so accomplished now that we packed up and put away our dining table; the kitchen finally has good walking space. We've only used the dining table thrice in the past year so it's not really a big sacrifice. I also made a small pen for Jack the Chihuahua so he can stay in the kitchen all day and not run around the house chasing cats.

Our house was in chaos till this morning and finally everything is coming together. Juliet vacuumed and cleaned up the house and I fixed the garbage disposal, Florida room screen, bathroom sink, and the bed. Now, we can relax for the day, have a good meal, and watch some TV.

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Our first wedding anniversaryMon, 27th Jul '09, 5:05 pm::

It's our first wedding anniversary today! I can't believe it has already been a year since our wedding in Yellowstone. I was told the first year would be a true test of our patience, tolerance, and commitment. I was indeed apprehensive but the reality turned out to be quite the opposite as it ended up being the best year of my life. Admittedly, this past year has been tough on both of us because of our school, work, and absolute lack of time. And yet we had a blast taking long drives and short trips, watching movies, and going out on dinner dates almost throughout the year.

Our first year of school is over and the next one will start soon. It won't be an easy year since I'm taking twice as many courses as I previously did and she has to go on clinical rotations all over the state. But if this past year was any indication, no matter how difficult life gets, we'll stick together and have a good time :)

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Feeling like a kidFri, 24th Jul '09, 12:30 am::

For the first time in many years, I feel like a kid discovering how a computer works. I had been so busy with making websites, software, and applications for others that I forgot what it was like to just learn and explore like I once used to. I've spent the past decade worrying so much about clients, projects, and deadlines that whenever I had to learn something new, I rushed in, learned the bare essentials, and then got back to finishing the project. I never took a day or a week to just fiddle with new things. All I cared about was building something useful that did whatever the users wanted. While that seems quite productive initially, over time I started to lose the passion I had for computers, mainly because everything felt dull and boring because everything had predetermined specifications and deadlines. In a way, it limited the scope of my knowledge and skills by pushing me towards familiar, proven tracks.

I haven't been working on any major computer projects at home for a few months now and was having a hard time NOT working on something. The habit of constantly building something for others has become a chronic addiction. How can I sit around watching TV or spend 12 hours a Saturday training for my marathon instead of writing code? The feeling of "I should be doing X instead of Y" is one of the most guilt-ridden, debilitating experiences that an ambitious person can face. However, I also believe that all work and no play makes even the most interesting activities suck. How can I make something useful when all I care about is making something useful?

When I look back to see all the fun things I've made, I either made them when someone either asked me directly or when I was sitting around fiddling with something else. It's been a while since I've made random little things while playing around. Tonight I spent some time toying with Processing.js. It looks quite interesting. There are a million other neat projects that people around the world are working on. From a new database system to programmable art, there are so many things I want to learn about for the sake of learning instead of using them as tools for specific work-orders or turning them into full-blown business proposals. I'm excited!

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Running alongside the Flip-Flop ManSat, 18th Jul '09, 10:15 pm::

I ran 36 miles today. I jogged the last 8 of those miles with the famous 64-year-old Flip-Flop Man of Florida, Larry Perrier. I had pretty much given up at the 28-mile mark because of the heat and swollen feet and called Juliet to come pick me up. Out of nowhere, Larry showed up next to me and guessed that I was training for an ultra-marathon, probably my first 100. He said it looked like I had been running since 6-7am and had covered about 30 miles or so miles. I told Juliet that I'll get home on my own. For the next 8 miles he talked about everything from running to macroeconomics. We discussed the joys of running in the rain, the annoyance of noisy lawnmowers, and the bargaining power of Russia in the international oil market.

He is certainly a man who follows nobody rules. It was amusing that there I was, with all my running gear, hydration pack with electrolyte solution, gel packs, heart-rate monitor, and expensive shoes talking to someone in flip-flops, carrying nothing except for a cane and some food in a plastic bag. I have been doing my best to follow all the guidelines to safely and properly train for my race and there he was, just walking as if 40 miles is no big deal. Here's a short film that a couple of students from University of Florida made about Larry.

He asked me about my running experiences and issues. I mentioned about the recurring pain on the bottom of my soles and he said it's probably Plantar Fasciitis. That's why I was about to give up at the 28-mile mark today - my feet hurt so bad I was trudging along at a 3 mile per hour pace. "It's just pain" he said, "It won't go away but you'll get used to it." Just hearing that made me feel better and I ran 8 miles with him. He said I look like the kinda guy who will do a 100 miles one or twice just to prove it to myself and then I would switch to some other equally strenuous physical activity. I was floored by his ability to read me so accurately.

We parted ways when we got near my neighborhood. He said he runs into a lot of people on a regular basis and hopes that we cross paths some day again, maybe tomorrow, maybe 2011. I hope so too.

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Permanent Residence a.k.a. Green CardMon, 13th Jul '09, 7:55 pm::

After being in the US for nine years, as of today I am a permanent resident alien a.k.a. a green card holder. Juliet and I had our interview in Tampa and other than a long wait, everything went pretty smoothly. We had memorized so many little things about each other because the USCIS (previously known as INS) interviewers do whatever it takes to find out if the marriage is bona fide or not. If they suspect that the marriage is not real, they separate the couple and ask them questions independently, like "What was the last movie you saw together?" or "When did you last go out to a restaurant together?" However in our case, we weren't interviewed separately and the interviewer didn't ask any difficult questions because it was pretty easy to prove using our existing documents that our marriage is indeed real.

We have joint bank and stock accounts, we bought a car together, we have spent our holidays with each other's families, we filed joint income taxes, and we refinanced our house together. The view of the INS is that real couples do all these things because it makes better financial and social sense for couples that intend to stay together for the long haul to plan their finances and social lives together. Fraudulent green card marriages usually have tell-tale signs like separate bank accounts, separate assets, spending holidays away from each other etc. The other thing that made our case easy was that neither of us has ever been arrested or been in legal troubles aside from a parking ticket or two.

I am very thankful to all the people who helped us with this entire process. My coworkers Kelly & Vinnie, my boss Eric, and most of all, my friend Arthur who agreed to be the co-sponsor along with Juliet because she is in school and does not have a full-time job at the moment. Arthur was more than willing to help us in any way he could and unlike me, did not procrastinate on preparing any paperwork. INS requires that the sponsor of the green card via marriage (i.e. the US Citizen spouse) hold a full-time job to support the applicant (i.e. the immigrant spouse). If the Citizen spouse does not have a full-time job, the couple needs to find a co-sponsor with a job who is willing to spend a LOT of time preparing documents and mailing paperwork.

We hired an immigration lawyer, Mr. Creighton Shafer from Diaz Shafer in Tampa, because I did not want to get into problems because of technicalities like above. Had we not hired an immigration lawyer, I would not have known about the requirement of a co-sponsor in our specific case and would definitely have been in some trouble because of it. I'm sure eventually everything would have worked out but missing or incorrect paperwork often causes months to years of delays, during which I couldn't leave the country easily. Fortunately, our lawyer told us the right way to go and we got Arthur involved as a co-sponsor from day one.

Mr. Shafer was with us all day today and had made sure beforehand that we had every single document in order. Originally I had planned on going through this process on my own but later realized that there are so many gotchas when it comes to US Immigration laws that the best thing to do is revert to a professional. Since our case was pretty straightforward, it would have been possible for us to be fine without a lawyer and Mr. Shafer himself assured us of that, in case we could not afford his services. However, we went ahead and hired his services because honestly, I did not want to take any chances with the INS in case there were any issues. Thankfully there weren't any.

After the interview, Juliet and I celebrated by having a big lunch at P. F. Chang's in Tampa. We had the biggest dessert they offered and as usual, I ate 90% of it. We got home, napped for a few hours, and here I am.

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Tue, 7th Jul '09, 9:55 pm::

I'm having a pretty crappy week. My boy kitty Giga has been sick for past few days with high fever. We have been dropping him off at the vet hospital in the morning and picking him up in the evening for two days now and the same goes for tomorrow. They don't know what's making him sick but today after getting some fluids, he seems to be acting healthier. His blood sugar is extremely high and all signs point to feline diabetes. He is under five years old and in a pretty healthy shape overall so I'm hoping it's not diabetes but just the stress of having a fever.

Our electric bill for last month was a shocking $340! Normally it is about $200 in summer and $125 in winter. At under 800 sq. ft., our house is tiny and the air-conditioner doesn't have to be on all day. The refrigerator is working fine and we just got new washer/dryer that are much more efficient than the old ones we had. Only thing I can think of is that the air-conditioner might have a leak or an electrical problem that makes it very inefficient and so keeps it running constantly.

We have been trying our best to save as much as possible for those dreaded rainy days but it seems like they are here already. $325 for vet, $150 overage for electricity, $250 for medical bills that insurance won't cover, and who knows how much for a technician to come out and inspect our a/c unit. It all adds up. *sigh*

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Fri, 3rd Jul '09, 10:15 pm::

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men often go awry. For the past two weeks, I had been planning for this three-day holiday weekend with Juliet and well, things got off to an unexpected start. I got a call this morning from a coworker that a water pipe burst at work and all the side-offices including mine were two-inches deep in water. Considering that all of our computer equipment and power supplies sit on the floor, that was enough to get me worried.

I drove off to work immediately, taking Juliet with me hoping that the damage would be small enough that she could sit in the car while I went in, picked up a few computers, and let it all dry out over the next couple of days. Alas. My entire office was flooded and it took my coworkers and me almost four hours to get rid of most of the water from the building. Thankfully, none of the servers were affected and all the office computers were working fine. Monday is going to be a rough day.

We picked up two movies on the way home, Seven Pounds and Juno, and just finished watching them. Juno was pretty funny and cute. Seven Pounds was a very touching movie and Will Smith gave a very good performance. I think tomorrow we'll go down to Sarasota area during the day and see the fireworks at the St. Petersburg Pier in the evening. After my long runs over the past few weeks, I took a break but I need to get back into some serious running once again. Sunday will probably be a long-run day. September is approaching fast and I need to get into some serious shape by then.

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Why I want to run a HUNDRED MILESSun, 21st Jun '09, 1:15 pm::

Yesterday, I ran the longest distance I ever have in my entire life - 35 miles (56 kms) in a little under 11 hours. To train for the 100 mile Grand Teton Ultramarathon in September, I have been running 20+ miles every Saturday for over a month now. Most people I know run considerably faster than me though they can only run 3-10 miles at most. While millions of people run marathons each year, very few run distances beyond 50 miles. Ultrarunning, or running further than the 26.2 miles of a marathon, is a whole different experience and requires a unique set of training, capabilities, and strategies. Since many of my friends and family have been asking me about the experience, I'll post an FAQ of everything I've learned in the past few months.

Q: Um, why are you trying to run ONE HUNDRED MILES?!

Because I suck at running. In fact, I run so slow that last weekend during a 3.3 mile Adventure Run, I finished 321st out of 331 runners. I was slower than 97% of the Marine Corps Marathon finishers in 2004 and the fastest mile I've ever ran was a little over 10 minutes. Most people who can run a mile, can run it in under 8 minutes easily. I can't. However, just because you suck at something doesn't mean you give up. Instead, you do it as much as you can. So while I can't run faster, I try to run further. Three months ago when I thought about running 100 miles, it seemed like an impossible goal and it seems even harder today because now I actually know how difficult it is to run for half a day non-stop. I want to run because I feel it's something I just can't do and wasn't made to do. Proving myself wrong is my favorite hobby. Running, kayaking, or sailing are just the means.

Q: Can anyone run 100 miles? Don't you need to be in peak physical condition to run that far?

If you can run 10 miles, you can run 10 miles, 10 times. However, you can only run 100 miles if you train right. You don't have to be in great physical condition and I'll be the first one to confess that I'm not. You do have to spend a lot of hours actually running though. Most people don't have that kind of time, energy, or desire.

Q: Do you think you will run 100 miles successfully?

I don't know. I try not to think about the result. I believe there are three steps to every bold ambition. First, is to have the drive and courage to dream big. Second, is preparation - putting in the time and effort to reach the goal. And third is the result - crossing the finishing line. No matter what the goal, we have control over the first two. I signed up for a 100 mile race and I am putting myself through the gruelling training. I don't know if I will finish or not because anything can happen before or during the race. I want to start the race knowing that I prepared to the best of my abilities.

Q: How long will you take to run 100 miles?

As per the race rules, the 100 miles must be completed within a span of 36 hours. That's a pace of 2.8 miles per hour or 21 minutes per mile. I am hoping to finish in about 30 hours, with an average of 18 minutes per mile. I don't intend to sleep and hopefully will not stop for more than a few minutes per aid station. My comfortable long-distance pace is 15 minutes per mile so an upper limit of 18 minutes per mile is quite conservative.

Q: How does a person run non-stop for so long?

Running for 30+ hours non-stop means your body has to be able to do its normal functions without any interruptions. So breathing, digesting, growing hair and beard, healing wounds, fighting diseases and allergies, everything must go on continuously the whole time. The goal for me is to make my body feel relaxed like it is sitting on the sofa watching TV the whole time I am running up and down mountains. And there is only one way to do that - run long distances without stressing my body out and get my body used to it. If I am exhausted after running 25 miles, I cannot run the other 75 miles easily. But if I ran 25 miles as if it was just a minor jog, I will be much more capable of running another 25 and then another 25.

Marathon runners train very differently than ultramarathoners. They aim for speed and strength. They push their body to the limit from the first mile right until they cross the finishing line. Ultramarathoners are in no hurry to get anywhere. The saying goes that "the secret to running an ultramarathon is to start slow and then slow down." Often many good marathoners fail to finish ultras because they push themselves too hard early on.

I am incapable of running fast so I don't have much of a problem with this. I just have to make sure I don't slow down too much. I jog at a speed that feels natural and comfortable to me though it's such a slow pace that people walk right past me! However, it is a pace that I have learned to maintain. I can keep moving at that pace as if I am sitting on the sofa watching TV. When most people want to get in shape and start running, they try to run too fast too soon and end up getting side stitch (sharp pain on the sides) or worse, injure themselves. The trick is to just run slower and further. You will burn a lot more calories if you can run three more miles a day than run 10% faster.

Q: How fit are you?

Not that fit. At 5'8" tall, currently weighing 177 lbs (80 kgs), I am technically overweight with a BMI of 27. I still have a relatively high body-fat ratio (18%) and don't look muscular or skinny. I am just like your average computer programmer in every shape and form.

I did lose about 15 lbs (7 kgs) in the first two months of training but haven't lost any weight since. I actually gain a few pounds every weekend because I like to eat a lot during my long runs. I can't bench-press much nor can I lift a lot of weight. Truth be told, I don't act, look, or feel like a guy who just ran 35 miles.

Q: So then how did you run 35 miles?

By not stopping when I wanted to and stopping when I had to. Ultrarunning is 99% mental and 1% MENTAL. The body is never in control and the mind must never lose control. I had been mentally preparing myself for a 40 mile run for over two weeks. I expected to run 40 miles in 12 hours after running 20 miles in 6 hours multiple times. This is the same pace I expect to maintain for my race. From the first mile early yesterday morning till the last mile at sunset, I kept a running inventory of all of my body parts and the condition they were in. It's like a video game where you keep an eye on all your soldiers, ammo, and equipment and make sure they are all taken care of for optimal performance.

Just because my feet hurt, doesn't mean I stop. Barely into the second mile, my left foot sent a message to the brain, "I'm in pain! Stop!" Had my brain listened to it, I would have run a total of 1.2 miles yesterday. Instead, my brain ran an analysis on the left foot's real-time condition and came to the conclusion that though the left foot is indeed in pain, it is stable, not on the verge of breakdown, and in no way severely in pain. So I kept running.

Over the course of the next 23 miles (8 hours), the temperature (feels like) rose from 83F (28C) to over 108F (42C) with humidity hovering at 65%. My feet, legs, arms, shoulders were all in pain but it was bearable. However, my brain decided it was too hot to continue at a good pace in this heat so I went home and relaxed for two hours in the shade. Once the temperature outside fell, I ran another 12 miles in 3 hours. At the slow pace I was going right before I stopped, I couldn't have completed 12 miles in 5 hours. My body was completely cool with pushing forward but my brain thought better. Stopping actually made me go faster. Had it not been for the high temperature earlier in the day, I could have easily gone 40 miles non-stop but there is no point in running 40 this week in blistering weather and being sick for the next month because of it.

Q: All of the above sounds horrible! Will your race be like this?

Trust me, the above felt much more horrible in person. Hopefully, the race will be quite different. I live in Florida at an altitude of 20 feet and this has been an excruciatingly hot summer. The race is in the Grand Teton area in Wyoming at 8,000 feet altitude with average daytime high of 70F (21C) and nighttime low of 40F (4C). Instead of this heat, I will actually be bundling up for most of the run. However, that also means running with more gear and dealing with low-oxygen at high altitudes.

I am planning to arrive at the race venue 4-5 days ahead of the race so my body can get acclimated to the altitude. After I donated blood a month ago, I had a first-hand experience of trying to run with 20% lower oxygen in my bloodstream. It's not going to be easy but I think I can manage, especially if I can stand to run in 108F heat. The other challenge is that the race will go up mountain peaks and down canyons while Florida is pretty flat. That's where gym training helps. I've been doing Stair Master and Elliptical machines at the gym for 2-3 hour durations at moderate speed to build my leg muscles up. Also I cross a lot of pedestrian bridges during my long runs and that gives me some training with steep inclines.

In reality, nothing can prepare me for the race as well as training on the actual race course. Since I work and live in Florida and Wyoming is a four-hour flight away from me, I just have to do whatever I can.

Q: What do you eat/drink these days? What about during the runs?

I have a pretty healthy vegetarian diet and have started to eat a little more protein than I am used to. I've been a vegetarian since birth in India and don't see any reason to change. I eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, drink tons of V8 V-Fusion, and avoid fatty or high-carb foods. Unlike runners who bulk up on high-carb foods right before a marathon, ultrarunners eat steadily throughout the runs.

Yesterday, I ate two foot-long veggie sub-sandwiches over the course of 11 hours. I eat one Powerbar Gel every 30-45 minutes. I drink water constantly (one sip every 15-60 seconds). I have a hydration pack that I fill up with Gatorade and sip it every 2-3 minutes. Sometimes I feel like I run solely to justify my hedonistic appetite for sugar. Of course, eating and drinking so much also means I have to take more bathroom breaks than normal but that is a good thing because it is clear evidence that my body is functioning properly and not shutting down or falling into starvation mode.

Q: Aren't you afraid of collapsing from heat strokes or worse?

Of course, I'm worried about heat strokes and thousands of other things that can go wrong during a long run. That's why I constantly check my heart rate, temperature, vision, balance, breathing, sweat-rate/salt-loss, fluid-intake, and skin irritation. One of the key lessons I have learned from my training is that nearly every bad condition is avoidable if detected early enough. A stitch in time saves nine is nowhere truer than in endurance activities like ultra-races.

If I so much as feel a pinch in any of my toes, I stop, adjust my shoes, socks, and insoles till everything feels right, and then continue. The mindset during a marathon is to continue non-stop at any cost. That's great when you have to run for another 2-3 hours but completely breaks down when you have 28 hours to go. It was actually pretty tough for me to change my mind about this because I constantly feel like I am slowing down my pace if I stop. Turns out, over the course of 11 hours, I only stopped for about 14 minutes total for the various adjustments to my shoes, socks, hydration pack, shorts, hat, headband, and water bottle. Failing to adjust any of these could have caused me to lose balance and fall, get blisters or skin abrasions, or in case of hat, headband, and water bottle, get a heat-stroke and pass out.

The most fun I had yesterday was stopping at every mile or so, filling up my bottle at a water fountain, and drenching my entire body in cool water over and over. It took only about 45-60 seconds but I gained that by running considerably faster. As a side-benefit, I avoided heat strokes and didn't collapse from exhaustion.

Q: Does the kind of gear you have matter? Won't any pair of shoes and water-bottle do?

The right gear is extremely critical! Every little piece of gear on your body will rub up against your skin constantly and drive you crazy. On some of my runs, I have desperately longed for a piece of string or rubber-band so I could keep some part of my shoe lace or hydration pack strap from moving in an annoying way. Whatever you choose, it has to be extremely comfortable and durable. This doesn't mean I spent $500 for a water-bottle but it does mean that I tried four $7 bottles till I found one that I liked and that worked well. Same with shoes, headband, and I'm afraid hydration pack. The one I have leaked during my run, causing a liter of Gatorade to flow down my shirt, shorts, and feet into my shoes and socks, making my blisters worse. I didn't even realize it till I got home for my break because my entire body was drenched by water and sweat. These are the kind of things that happen 7.5 hours into a run.

Q: Other than your long runs, what else do you need to do?

I have a pretty busy work week and have classes/homework couple of weeknights so my exercise regimen during the week isn't too intense. I try to mix in different activities to make sure I don't just exercise my feet. I swim an hour or two a week and train on Stair Master and Elliptical. I don't like running on the treadmill and prefer to train my calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quads with targeted exercises. I do some weight training with low weights and sets of 100-300 lifts. I also stretch a lot on days I feel too lazy to go to the gym. And at least twice a week I go running in the morning for 2-6 miles. The funny thing is that my long runs have trained me so well that I can recover from two hours of Stair Master within minutes.

Q: What does your wife have to say about all of this?

She knew I was a determined guy with odd ambitions before she married me so she has learned to just live with all of this. She fully supports me in all of my goals, as non-conventional they may be. She is in medical school to be a PA and studies take up most of her weekend hours. I use the same hours to train for my long runs so it works out quite well. She also makes my life much easier by buying most of my running gear and supplies for me. Oh and she picks me up when I decide that 108F is too hot to run and I'm four miles away from home. I don't think I give her enough credit for it but she's extremely supportive of my training though she keeps mentioning every now and then that I'm stupid for putting myself through this mess. Due to her school schedule, I doubt she'll be able to come to Wyoming for my race but if my weekend runs are any indication, I know I will be thinking of her every mile (mostly hoping that she'll come pick me up and take me home already.)

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Sun, 7th Jun '09, 7:00 pm::

I feel like I keep hopping back and forth between the mundanity of regular life and the excitement of impossible goals. Yesterday I spent about ten hours in the sun running and walking across five different towns along the Pinellas Trail. I ran 28 miles in under eight hours - my first (barely) successful attempt at an ultramarathon distance. I spent all of today dealing with house chores and pet stuff. Among other things, we're getting new washer/dryer delivered this week and the pets got shiny new water bowls.

The 28 miles yesterday really shook me up. I have run 16-22 miles many times in the past but have never experienced the amount of pain in my feet as I did yesterday. My big mistake was wearing the wrong socks which gave me blisters after about five hours. I am doing pretty well now and will be back to my usual self in a day or two. I knew that having the proper gear is extremely important for long runs and this little mistake only reinforced this notion. I also realized that I need better shoes because once my feet swell, my ankles can no longer support the high arch of my foot and pain sets in. If I am to succeed in my goal of running 100 miles in under 36 hours, I have to learn all of these issues about myself and fix them well-in-advance. In the meantime, I have enough things at back to work, school, and home to keep my occupied.

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Tue, 2nd Jun '09, 8:05 am::

My training for the Ultramarathon is going well. I've been running or exercising five days a week and resting for two. Most days I run 4-6 miles in the park in the morning and spend 2-3 hours on StairMaster and Elliptical machines at the gym in the evening. I'm losing weight but not fast enough. I hope to lose at least 10lbs within the next two months. I've been mentally preparing myself for my 30 mile run this weekend. It will be the longest distance I've covered in my life, 4 miles longer than a regular marathon. I'm hoping to cover 30 miles in under 8 hours.

Life's back to normal now that school is in session for both Juliet and I. Work is going well and I'm pretty excited for a major infrastructure-upgrade project that will start soon. The pets are healthy and happy. I love sitting out in the aviary after work and on weekend afternoons. Even though it gets pretty warm outside, the aviary is cool and breezy. I introduced Tera to our bunny Chichi this weekend and they seemed to like each other.

Since most of my free time is spent running, I made sure I was done with all of my web-projects. For the first time in years, I have no todos outside of my work, school, and home. It's a wonderful feeling coming home and only getting personal emails from friends and family instead of a hundred "Can you PLEASE change the color from red to blue?!" and "Please scrap 200 hours of work and redo it because I said so!" The only project I am working on right now is a personal project for my family, which I will put online once I have made more progress. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can make it work because it means a lot to me and my family.

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Sun, 24th May '09, 8:50 am::

I ran 20 miles (32 km) yesterday in a little over five hours. After the run, my feet hurt for a few hours but overall I felt fine. Right now I feel almost completely recovered with only a slight amount of soreness in my muscles. I used to think that if you trained well for running long-distances, you should have minimum amount of pain and soreness. Now I think it is not the amount of pain but rather how soon my body overcomes it so I can go do it again. I think this philosophy applies to life too. The faster you can recover from a setback, the stronger you will be.

I'm off to donate some blood now and later will spend some time in the jacuzzi and sauna at the gym. I have to train breathing in low-oxygen environments and the closest thing to that in Florida is a sauna.

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Sun, 17th May '09, 10:15 pm::

I'm so tired from a long-drive back from St. Augustine. Past ten days have been quite exciting. My family from New Jersey visited us and we spent three days traveling around Florida. We went kayaking in Silver Springs, indoor skydiving in Orlando, and gaming in Ybor City, Tampa. After they flew back to Jersey, Juliet and I have been taking little trips locally. Yesterday we went to Orlando to see her grandma and I decided to surprise her with a mini-vacation in St. Augustine as it was only an hour away from Orlando.

We spent the entire morning today walking around the old fort and the historic village of St. Augustine. I bought her a cute little pearl ring and we had some delicious chocolate fudge. After some yummy Mexican food we drove back home. Instead of going through the busy interstate highways, I picked smaller country roads that cut through forests and quaint old towns. It only took half an hour extra to get home but the scenery was most certainly worth it.

Neither Juliet nor I had school this past week so we were able to watch movies every other night. Star Trek is awesome, Angels & Demons is ok, and Meet The Robinsons is decent. Now it's back to busy life. Her school starts tomorrow and mine the week after. Work's keeping me busy and I have a couple of personal projects that I want to get back into. Often when I'm driving to work or school, I think of the days when I used to write longer 'blog entries. While I miss those days, I wouldn't trade wonderful days like today for anything in the world (except maybe a trip to India to see my family). It's good night for me and back to running tomorrow.

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I want to run a hundred milesThu, 30th Apr '09, 8:35 am::

For the past three weeks, I have been running six miles or more almost daily and have lost about 12 lbs (5kgs). I'm training for the Grand Teton 100-mile Ultramarathon in September. This is a 100-mile (161 km) race through mountains, canyons, and forests in Wyoming and has to be completed within 36 hours. Regular marathons are 26.2 miles (42 km) and most people finish in 4-6 hours. Ultramarathons are races longer than marathons and most ultramarathoners run the 100 miles non-stop. At the pace I am training, this would mean running, jogging, and walking for over 24 hours non-stop. By no means is this a minor challenge for me, physically and mentally.

I am crazy not stupid so I understand that in order to even attempt to run 100 miles, proper training is a must. Training includes running, walking, proper eating, and lots of cross-training. Since I live in Florida at sea-level, my body will have to work much harder to persevere at the high altitudes. Additionally, the terrain here is mostly flat whereas the actual trail requires runners to go up and down thousands of feet every few miles. This means lots of StairMaster training at the gym. Personally I am not interested in going to a gym and would much rather run outdoors but the lack of steep hills in Florida means I have to train my quads indoors.

Running an ultra is different from running a 10K or even a marathon. After all, a 100-mile ultra is like four back-to-back marathons. When training for a regular marathon, speed and timing matters. In an ultra, the pace and endurance matter the most. The saying goes, "to run an ultramarathon, start slow and then slow down." I can't run fast but I can run slow forever, which is why I have been very excited for the past few weeks. Ultramarathon seems to fit my style of running a lot better than regular marathons.

When training for ultras, long runs make or break your race. The only way my body can run 100 miles in 36 hours is if it is used to running 50 miles in 16-17 hours or 25 miles in 6-7 hours. This means, before I run for 100 miles, I have to try running 30-50 mile distances on weekends, on top of running 5-10 miles per weekday. If I just run four miles a day, no matter how fast, I won't be able to run the ultra because my body will not learn how to adjust to 6-12 hours of continuous running. The key is to make your body feel as comfortable as possible when running or jogging. A big part of my training is to learn to eat, drink, and relax while running slowly but steadily.

Work, school, and life at home keeps me busy enough and now I am planning to run 70-100 miles a week for the next four months. This will seriously reduce the time I spend goofing off online. However, it will give me a lot of time to listen to good music and audio books, especially on Saturdays when I go for my long runs. Maybe I can blog while running.

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Wed, 15th Apr '09, 11:15 pm::

Nothing is more exciting in life than embarking on a new impossible adventure. I am not sure if I'm ready to publicly announce anything yet but I am going to start getting in shape nevertheless. Once I am certain that I can deal with the time commitments, I will let everyone in on my new goal. All I can say is that I'm super psyched and crossing my fingers that I can make this happen.

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Google Narratives Series - InterviewSat, 11th Apr '09, 9:00 pm::

A couple of weeks ago, a wonderful lady from Google, Christine interviewed me for their "Google Narratives Series." She is seeking out developers who make novel use of Google technology and is writing about them on the Google Code blog. A few months ago, I used their programming tools to create Wiki Search app and tons of people use it now daily. Yesterday, her brief Q&A-style interview with me went live on their Code blog. It's a pretty nerdy interview unlike the meant-for-general-public WSJ interview from a couple of years ago. Right now, the Google interview is also displayed on the Google Code website.

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Sat, 11th Apr '09, 8:50 pm::

I've been quite busy last few weeks with work, school, and tons of house projects. Juliet and I are building our aviary slowly but steadily. Tonight we put up the mesh on all sides and tomorrow I will frame the entire structure with solid 2"x4" wooden posts. Next weekend I should have the roof ready and apply any finishing touches. See the last few photos of the aviary here.

I'm in the process of refinancing our house and doing a lot of number-crunching to make sure that it's worth our while. It seems like a very good time to refinance but the closing costs of refinancing are usually so high that unless you intend to keep your house for at least 3-5 years, it's not a smart move. In our case, we know that we will move up north for my PhD in three years or so. As a result, the TVM and amortization calculations get a little more complex.

We went to my coworker Linda's house today for a lunch BBQ and played a few games. Brian made some awesome veggie mushroom burgers for me and I'm still stuffed. Earlier in the day, we went to Busch Gardens for a few hours. School is good and so is work. It's getting warmer and soon we'll start going to the beach more often. I can't wait :)

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Tue, 7th Apr '09, 10:40 pm::

When I had computer science projects due in college, I used to read business articles for fun and distraction. Now I have finance homework and I find myself reading comp. sci. papers. It's not the subject material that I tend to avoid but rather the obligation. Reading for procrastination is fun. Reading for school seems like hard work even though I actually like the material.

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Sat, 28th Mar '09, 7:00 pm::

I bought a metal door for the aviary and put up the final post. Also laid down stepping stones all the way from the back porch to the aviary. I'm going to order the hardware cloth (wire mesh) tonight and hopefully nail it down next weekend. After that, I can hang the door and take care of the finishing touches.

School is back in session and I'm taking two evening classes. I already have homework assignments due so goodbye free time. We played with our new bunny last night and introduced him to all of our other critters. The cats are curious but not threatened. Chichi is really cute and will be happy in his new house once we're done with the aviary. Of course, every aviary needs birds and I'm sure we'll find a pair of lovebirds soon.

I've been working on a couple of small but exciting new projects lately and as I make more progress, I will share.

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Sat, 21st Mar '09, 6:10 pm::

I spent about seven hours outside in the backyard today digging holes, leveling the ground, and laying down stones. We're building an aviary. According to my estimate, it will take about five consecutive Saturdays to complete the project. Once it's ready, our three turtles, Koi, two sugar-gliders, and the soon to arrive bunny will all live in there together. Maybe a couple of lovebirds some day too. I'm so excited! I'll keep adding more pictures to this gallery as we make more progress.

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Forget about itFri, 13th Mar '09, 8:55 am::

I was talking to my friend Tony about a minor programming feature and he said "yeah, forget about it" to which I quipped "good, I like forgetting." About ten seconds later, I realized how true that statement was for me and how rarely we think of forgetting as a positive. Being able to forget means being able to let go of that which does not truly matter to you in the present and future. Having lived by myself in different places for most of the past decade, I met a lot of interesting people and had tons of wonderful and some not-so wonderful experiences. I do my best to remember the good experiences and actively try to forget the bad ones. It's pretty easy to remember the good stuff, you just have to recollect it every now and then.

Consciously forgetting information that you vividly remember is a whole different exercise. It is a process of self-control requiring continuous practice and goes completely against the body's psychological defenses. Remembering bad things is the body's way of protecting you against the same events in the future. "Fire hot. Fire burn. No touch fire." The people who learn from their mistakes, usually do not repeat them again. It is the people who do not learn from their mistakes that suffer repeatedly and you just need to glance over the local police blotter page to see a proof of that. The people who do not learn from their mistakes, basically "forget" the series of events that led them into trouble. Next time they are in a similar situation, none of the red flags go up to warn them of the impending catastrophe. But that's because they just "forgot" not "consciously chose to forget" and that's where the difference lies.

My method of consciously choosing to forget is so simple it seems completely ineffective and not even a method at all. But the very fact that I don't go to bed crying every night or wake up with regrets tells me that it is working for me. This is how I forget: Once I am over the initial shock of an unfortunate experience, I think honestly about what caused it. I accept all of my faults and those of others and tell myself that since I am still alive and in control of my thoughts and actions, no permanent damage was done. I may not forgive and forget everyone (I'm human after all) but I make sure that I do not hold grudges. After that, I recollect some of the good past experiences and then promise myself to never think about this particular unfortunate event negatively because in the end I learnt something out of it. And then I stick to that promise, forever. Hey, I never said it was easy, I just said it was simple.

No matter where you are from, all of us have our share of good and bad experiences. Everyone has loved ones who passed away and everyone can share a tale or two (or twenty seven) of unrequited love. Who in the world hasn't had friendships fade away or trust being shattered? Our experiences are personal but collectively the same. What makes us unique is how we reacted to them and how much we learn from them. You can keep mulling over an unfortunate series of events from the past and feel bad about them without actually trying to squeeze any lessons from it or you can completely ignore they even occurred. There are many ways to forget and each of us has an innate style of forgetting that we seldom think consciously about. My point here is that the very act and method of forgetting can affect your present and future so it is something we should not consider lightly. Or if you're like me, actually try to enjoy it. After all, the more garbage you forget, the more space you have to remember something worthwhile. Right?

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Thu, 12th Mar '09, 8:15 am::

Yesterday our super-helpful immigration lawyer in Tampa filed the paperwork for my US residency. It took months to get all the documents in order but finally it's done. It will be months before I get a travel permit to go to India. Till then, it's life as usual. School's going well, work is pretty exciting, and Juliet and I are planning on a small backyard project over the next few weeks. I think the biggest news of all is that I've decided that I want to get a haircut today after work.

We had a lot of fun last week when I took Thursday and Friday off from work. Early in the morning on Thursday, we went to the lawyer's office in Tampa to sign the documents. Then after a quick lunch at Cicis, Juliet took me on a surprise canoe trip down the Hillsborough River. It was such a gorgeous day too. We went to Busch Gardens after that and saw tons of birds and animals. We spent over an hour in the aviary with lories and lorikeets. She went on two rollarcoasters and I accompanied her on one. I find my fear of heights getting worse as I grow older. We had dinner at a nice sushi place near my work and then for the first time in months, I went shopping with Juliet and bought her a pretty pair of shoes for school.

Next up, we went to see Slumdog Millionaire and immediately after that, caught the midnight premiere of Watchmen. That was a long day from 9am till 4am. Rest of the weekend we took walks on the beach and relaxed around our house watching tons of movies on cable or chilling in the backyard on the hammock. That's when we both got antsy and decided that our backyard needs a special something. Once our little project is done, I will write more about it.

I have school projects to work on all weekend and then some. I haven't had a real vacation in a long time (no, wedding in Yellowstone doesn't count as a vacation and driving to NJ/NY in winter doesn't count either) so it felt good to just take things slow for a few days. I think I'm going to take a few more Fridays off while the weather is still nice. Till then, it's life as usual.

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Tue, 3rd Mar '09, 8:15 am::

The American Dream and meMon, 23rd Feb '09, 1:45 am::

Tonight I worked on my business school project while the Oscar ceremonies were on. I set my DVR to record the whole show and went back to working on my assignment nonchalantly. It was only when my dad called me from India and exclaimed "Jai Ho!" that I realized that my favorite musician A. R. Rahman had won the Oscars for the best original score and the best original song for Slumdog Millionaire. I said "That's so awesome" to my dad and went back to studying. Maybe I was just stressed about the project or maybe it was something else but I felt quite uneasy after that phone call. That was quite a stereotypical American hipster response coming from me, as if I have become so unfazed by media, splendor, and glitter that Oscars are passé and winning awards is dull.

Once I completed my assignment, I watched the entire Oscar ceremony in about an hour, with the gratuitous use of the fast-forward button. In true Oscar-audience fashion, I laughed and I cried, I cheered and I clapped. When it was over, I went online to read more about the Oscars and hear what others were saying. I often do that after major events, just to feel like I'm part of a global community at 1 am. To my dismay, other than the big media outlets like CNN and BBC, none of the sites I frequent cared much about the Oscars. One or two even mocked them and the winners. It was the consequent feeling of cognitive dissonance that prompted me to stay up well past my bedtime and write my thoughts down.

Americans just don't get the American Dream. They read about it in books and think it is a house in the 'burbs with a white picket-fence and a big dog. They think immigrants from all over the world come here just to buy a big house and watch the Super Bowl. I know this is what they think because I've been living here for the past eight years and by all accounts I'm living proof of having achieved it. But that's not what THE American Dream is. The American Dream that millions upon millions of people around the world aspire to achieve someday is not a mediocre life of relative stability with a two-car garage and automated bill payment.

The American Dream is being born as the youngest of eight children, failing medical entrance exam, dropping out of law college, joining film institute against family's wishes, and fourteen long years later winning a god-damned Oscar in front of the whole world. The American Dream is not the glory but the never ending struggle that one must go through while everyone around you has become complacent and already accepted the status quo as their fate. The American Dream is daring to dream that despite the millions before you who tried and failed, you have something within you that sets you apart and ever-so-slightly shifts the odds in your favor.

The saddest part about the American Dream is that for most people, it stops the moment they set foot in the country. I vividly recall my first flight to the US. I was nervous but determined. As the plane reached cruising altitude, I managed to calm my emotions down. After all, I had just bid my family, friends, and home for twenty years good bye. I told myself that I will make my parents proud and my friends will someday say "he used to sit right here next to me in class." I did not have a specific goal in mind and especially did not care about money or riches. As boring as it sounds, I just wanted to be "somebody." I just wanted my piece of the American Dream.

Eight years later, here I am. I've assimilated quite well. I have a gorgeous loving wife, lots of pets, a wonderful job, a nice house, two cars, and for the first time in my life, a real savings account. Having all of my wishes come true wasn't the American Dream. Arguing with my dad for two years to let me come to the US against his wishes, was. Having my sister determine the fate of my life because my dad asked her if I should be allowed to go to the US, was. Living alone for six of the past eight years and managing to remain optimistic about my future life, was. And yet, I haven't struggled even one-percent as much as most of the other immigrants who come here. By most standards, I've had it pretty easy. My American Dream delivered above and beyond my expectations. For most, it doesn't. It stops being a dream when the bills pile up and discrimination begins. The only glint of hope is that the kids will have a better shot at life someday.

I don't care to watch the Oscars because Meryl Streep has been nominated for the fifteenth time. I watch them because I want to see a grown man cry like a baby when he realizes that this very moment is the culmination of forty years of hard work. I watch them because I want to see lives changed and careers validated. There are no triumphant awards for programming web services or coding warehouse systems. Watching others get rewarded for their hard work is the closest that I can get to feeling like there is still some fairness in this world; that tireless efforts are eventually rewarded and perseverance pays off in the end. Watching others achieve their dreams helps me keep my dreams alive, however incomparable they might be.

The American Dream is not about money, fame, or power but about beating the insurmountable odds. The American Dream is never accepting that the best part is already over. The American Dream is achieving it and starting it all over again.

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Sun, 22nd Feb '09, 11:05 pm::

My dad just called me to say A. R. Rahman won the Oscar for the best original score and original song. It's about time! He was and will remain my favorite musician in the whole world. For every song I like by any other musician, there are two songs by Rahman that I love.

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Sun, 22nd Feb '09, 9:05 pm::

I am finishing up a project for my Marketing class and regretting not working on it sooner because the Oscars are on right now. Oh well.

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Earliest historical eventSat, 14th Feb '09, 12:05 pm::

A reddit discussion on "the earliest historical event that you can remember occurring" flashed back the memories of Indira Gandhi's assassination to my mind. I distinctly remember the curfew in the city of Kolkata because of the ensuing riots. My parents took me to a neighbor's apartment and we saw people running down the streets holding torches, shouting anti-Sikh slogans. Quite a few Sikh families lived in our neighborhood so it was a frightening event.

I just surprised myself by looking at the date of the assassination: October 31, 1984. I was only four years old then, yet I can clearly recall the event. Other things I remember from that time were Muppets on TV, a ping-pong game that could be played on our old Black & White TV, and reruns of Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.

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Tue, 10th Feb '09, 8:25 am::

I value leisure more than almost any important activity or task. My inner-lazy would rather not do something than do it. I would rather sit around and think about cheaper ways to make a GPS locator for missing cats than to actually go out and do it. I would rather spend all Saturday laying down in the hammock, watching birds fly across the sky above me, than work on even the most interesting projects.

And so that is exactly what I haven't been doing for the past eight months. Currently, the things that occupy my time are: My full-time job (45-50 hours per week), Masters college (16-24 hours per week), SCHED (12-16 hours per week). That's an average of 80 hours of work and school per week. I started working on a new hardware/software project last month to help my cousin Keval communicate better using a data glove. While I only spend 8-12 hours per week on this project, I need to spend closer to 16-20 hours per week to make significant progress and hopefully in a month, I will be able to. Add to that about 10 hours per week of house chores, pet care, paying bills, and immigration paperwork. Did I mention I have a wife who I love to spend time with? So add about 2-4 hours of wifey time on weeknights and 12-16 hours on weekends, and I'm at about 30 hours per week. This brings me to 90 work/study/projects + 10 chores + 30 wifey hours = 130 hours per week of doing stuff.

There are 7 * 24 = 168 hours per week and I'm booked for 125-130 of them. This leaves me with about 40 hours to sleep, shave, and shower or in other words, less than six hours per day to rest and take care of myself. I would rather just chill and do nothing for all 24 but then that would be too easy. My life's probably going to be like this for the next two years after which I will take a few years easy to reprioritize my goals and ambitions. Until then, it's slaving away all day with barely any sleep.

Of course, I love all of the things I do on a daily basis in the big-picture sense. School is tough but I am learning so much. Work is just as demanding but I'm building cool new tools to help manage and grow the business. SCHED is growing faster than anyone anticipated and we're getting a lot of good feedback so it's wonderful to make new features that users love. Juliet's very understanding and supportive of all of my commitments so the few hours each day we do get to spend together, I get to just sit back and relax. I really have nothing to complain other than the fact that I miss having time to go kayaking.

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Fri, 30th Jan '09, 1:05 am::

This week has been extremely stressful. It's pretty much study, work, traffic, chores, study, work, traffic, chores, study, work, traffic, and chores non-stop all day with barely any rest. From now till the end of this year, I won't have a single week to relax. Hopefully all of this effort will be worth it in the end. Other than stress and lack of sleep, everything is going well.

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Sat, 24th Jan '09, 11:45 pm::

If Giga had a diary, today's entry would say "Dear diary, today for the first time I explored our backyard and climbed a tree on my own. My new friend Cookie and the puppy Jack were running around and I had a great time chewing on some fresh grass while my daddy and mommy relaxed in the hammock all afternoon." Good thing Giga doesn't have a diary because most of the entries for past two weeks would say "I hate my daddy and mommy because twice a day, right before my meals, they hold me down by the scruff of my neck and force feed me some yucky banana-tasting medicine!" Giga has been a little sick lately and so the vet put him on antibiotics. It was good to see him up and about today in the yard.

The weather was finally warm enough today to sit outside and relax. We've been quite busy now that school has started. I have two classes on Monday and Tuesday till March and then two classes on Tuesday and Wednesday till May. I don't know about my summer classes yet. I doubt I will be able to blog as freely and passionately as I did last year. There's always next year :)

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Sat, 17th Jan '09, 11:30 am::

Our hammock and stand arrived this week and Juliet and I got to relax in it first time for a few hours this morning. It's pretty cold outside so we were bundled up in multiple blankets with our pets jumping all over us. I can't wait till it gets warmer when we can lay out looking up at the sky all evening. Our backyard is quite isolated and there are no bright sources of light nearby so hopefully we can stargaze for hours.

I had a busy week and don't really feel like working on the computer today. My boss gave us two tickets (yay free! Go Eric!) to a hockey game in Tampa tonight and I'm excited to go. I'm not really a sports fan and don't follow any team in any sport but I love going to games and being part of the crowd, cheering for the local teams. Other than that, I just have a ton of chores on my list for today. School starts on Tuesday so I won't have much free time after this weekend.

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Mon, 12th Jan '09, 12:05 am::

I was reading the Serendipity page on Wikipedia and by mistake I clicked on the 'Pileated Woodpecker' link under the main image on the right. Suddenly I realized that this is exactly the type of bird that I took a photo of yesterday when I went to Boyd Hill Nature Preserve with Juliet. I was not able to identify the bird till just now. Serendipitous indeed.

This weekend we watched three light-hearted comedic films. Friday night we saw Yes Man, Saturday night we caught Bedtime Stories with Sandra and her daughter Madison, and tonight we rented Forgetting Sarah Marshall from a local Redbox kiosk for $1/night. I love the concept of Redbox - a vending machine that rents out DVDs and you can reserve them online in advance. I just wish there was one within walking distance of my house.

It's about two months from SXSW 2009 and I can't wait. I'm taking Juliet with me this time even though we'll only be there for 3-4 days. I hope we get to see lots of unreleased and unknown films like I did last year. The amazing movie-going experience was definitely one of my favorite things about SXSW. Hope there's a repeat this year.

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Sat, 10th Jan '09, 6:40 pm::

Juliet and I went to Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in south St. Petersburg today. It was a gorgeous Florida winter day and here are some photos of our hike. Earlier in the day, we both donated blood. Both of our blood type is A+ and it's usually in high demand. After our nature hike, we went to Home Depot and got some stuff to build a covered enclosure for our tortoise Herbert in the backyard. It took under an hour to build it all and I'll post pictures of that tomorrow. We're going out with Sandra tonight to an art show downtown in a few minutes.

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Sat, 3rd Jan '09, 1:50 pm::

It's been about a week since we returned from our 2,900 mile-long road-trip from Florida to New York via Atlanta, Virginia, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and New Jersey. I don't have all the pictures of the trip yet but here are some of the photos from my camera. Everyone we spent time with took photos with their own cams so it will take some time for me to collect them all.

After hitting New Jersey, we went to New York to see the family of my maternal uncle Kaushik Mama. I hadn't seen them for over four years and it was wonderful talking to Priyanka and Jenesha about our pets and my kayaking trips. We stopped by Arthur's house for the night on the way back from New York and saw my friends Tim and Michele the next morning. Right after that we left for Florida and I drove non-stop for twenty-seven hours with only three hours of stops in between. Surprisingly, I was not much tired after the drive and wouldn't mind doing long road-trips like this again.

We listened to a bunch of audio books during the long drives and I think that is what really kept me awake. Listening to music, no matter how loud and upbeat, makes me lose focus after a while even if I try to sing-along. Listening to interesting stories on audio books kept me awake and eager to hear the next sentence, paragraph, and chapter. Before I knew it, I had driven 400 miles across three states. Overall, this was a wonderful trip and I hope to have tons more all across the US with Juliet in the future.

Our classes will resume in a week or two. We have a few more days to relax before things get chaotic and stressful. Neither of us has a spring or summer break so that means we'll pretty much be studying non-stop from January to December with at most a 2-3 day break in between. The only rest we'll have is one evening here and another Saturday morning there when we can spend some time away from studies and with each other. Hopefully sxsw 2009 will be a fun get away for us. We're going out tonight to hang out with a few people and then I'm working on some of my projects tomorrow. And so begins 2009.

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Thu, 1st Jan '09, 1:05 am::

Happy New Year!!!

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Mon, 22nd Dec '08, 11:45 pm::

Juliet and I are in my aunt's house in North Brunswick, NJ right now. We left Florida on Friday December 19th at 10am and went to see her grandma in Deltona, FL. After that we drove to Atlanta, GA to see my friend Heather and her boyfriend Sean. We saw the famed Bodies exhibition and another very unique but eye-opening exhibition, Dialog in the Dark. I highly recommend both of these, especially the latter. We drove to Alexandria, VA from Atlanta to see my cousin Purvi and her husband Allen. We went to the Botanical Gardens in Washington DC and had some surprisingly wonderful Ethiopian food. We drove next to Philadelphia, PA and chilled with my friend Megan and her husband Chris for a few hours. It was pretty good to see her again after over two years. Finally we drove to North Brunswick, NJ and got to my aunt's house on 11pm on Sunday, December 21st almost perfectly as planned.

Earlier today we went to a local shopping center for a few hours and then went to a pub in New Brunswick, close to Rutgers University. There we had a few drinks with my friends Tamara, Syed, and Arthur. It was great seeing them after a long time and finally we topped off the evening with some truly greasy food from the infamous Grease Trucks on College Avenue.

Of course, the best part of the last few days is just seeing and talking to all of my friends and family whom I don't get to see on a regular basis though we do keep in touch online or over the phone. I'd say the best thing in life is spending time with loved ones and there's no better way to do it than drive 1,500 miles across the country and making it actually happen. By the way, it is 1,500 miles or 2,900 kilometers from the north Indian city of Srinagar to Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India. Next up on our list is New York City, Queens, Maryland, and whatever else may tickle our fancy. It is pretty exhausting but meeting everyone makes up for the tiredness. We still have another 1,500 miles to get back to Florida so we're going to need all of the energy we can get.

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Thu, 18th Dec '08, 12:25 am::

After months, I finally got around to taking picture of all our pets. Here is our lovely zoo family album.

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Thu, 18th Dec '08, 12:15 am::

As a way to relieve stress from our classes, papers, exams, and work, Juliet and I bought a 1000 piece 2ft x 2.5ft jigsaw puzzle last month. After almost two weeks, we finally completed it on Monday. Here is our Candy Galore jigsaw in all its delicious glory.

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Wed, 17th Dec '08, 10:55 pm::

I have an awesome superpower that most people don't know about. It is my amazing ability to trim kitty nails without any sort of violence or bloodshed. I just trimmed the nails of our three cats in under five minutes total - 12 paws, 54 nails - 0 meows, 0 scratches, 0 angry cats. Up next are the sugar gliders. I know they'll be pretty violent but I think we'll all survive to see a brighter day, a day without scratches on our hands and feet, a day when all animals live together in harmony and sing carols and feed the homeless... Either that or I'm going to be bleeding out of every inch of my skin. We'll find out soon.

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Wed, 17th Dec '08, 4:55 am::

Sometimes I just can't explain how my physical body works. Fortunately, I've been healthy for a long stretch and haven't experienced any illnesses for a while. Yet yesterday while driving home from work in the evening, I went from completely healthy to completely sick in under five minutes! I left work after a typical day and felt completely normal. While driving, suddenly I started to experience nausea, light-headedness, and motion-sickness. I'm certain it was not something food-related but rather felt like flu. It was pretty cold yet my body was burning up. I got home after what seemed like the longest-drive ever and collapsed on my bed. Juliet slowly helped me move to the sofa after I rested for a few minutes. She had cooked steamed veggies, pasta, and brownies for dinner and fed me two bowls before I asked her to stop. She prepared some TheraFlu for me and then I went to sleep by 8pm. I woke up a short while ago feeling completely healthy!

I'm going to drink lots of orange juice and TheraFlu over the next few days. It's just scary thinking that I went from feeling completely healthy to miserably sick in a matter of minutes. Maybe my body was lacking in some critical vitamin and the dinner replenished it. Hopefully, we'll both be healthy for our trip up north this weekend.

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Mon, 15th Dec '08, 7:25 am::

I've been quite busy past few months. My first semester in business school is over and Juliet's done with her exams for now too. This was the first weekend in over four months when we didn't have homework, papers, presentation, exams, or projects due. So we took some much needed time off and went to the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. This weekend Tay and I also launched a new website that we had been working on for two months, The Laugh Button. It's a simple website with non-stop stand-up comedy by hundreds of famous comedians like George Carlin, Bill Cosby, and Mitch Hedberg. You can try the Random Comedy page while you do other work.

Juliet and I are leaving for New Jersey at the end of this week. We're very excited! I will post more details of our travels once we get going.

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Sun, 7th Dec '08, 2:25 pm::

My buddy (and best man at my wedding) Arthur just ran the 26.1 mile Las Vegas Marathon in an incredible 4 hours and 11 minutes! Congrats! And good luck for the even crazier race in March-April 2009, Marathon de Sables - a six day / 151 mile race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco.

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Fri, 5th Dec '08, 10:45 pm::

We just got back from my company's Christmas party and it was a LOT of fun. This was the first time Juliet and I went out to a social event together and it felt so nice to finally introduce her to all my coworkers and their significant others. We sat at the dinner table with my boss Eric, his wonderful wife Amy (who always makes sure that there is enough vegetarian food for me), and his brother Brian. After some yummy desserts, the casino tables opened up for all employees and each of us got $1,000 of fake chips. Juliet and I mostly stuck to the Blackjack tables and grew our combined $2,000 to over $20,000 in fake money at one point. In fact, we wanted to get back home and kept trying to lose it all but as luck would have it, we just couldn't lose! We bet everything on a single round over and over but kept winning. After almost twenty minutes, we finally lost our chips and having nothing left, bid our good nights and drove home.

This weekend is going to be tough for both of us. She has five exams this week and I have two. So it's pretty much non-stop studies for both of us till late next week. Then we have one weekend to go shopping for supplies and on December 19th, we plan to drive off to New Jersey via Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. I'm excited about our long road-trip. More details once the plans are finalized. Till then, it's lots of studies and tons of work.

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Wed, 26th Nov '08, 11:45 am::

We're having pot-luck lunch at work today and the entire corridor outside my office smells like food. Juliet made some delicious corn souffle last night that I brought over. We're going over to Taylor's parents house for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow evening. After that it's a long weekend of studies for both of us as finals are fast approaching. But right now, all I can think of is yummy food that we'll all soon be eating.

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Phases and QuirksSun, 23rd Nov '08, 10:45 pm::

I had a pretty busy weekend. On Friday, wifey and I saw Broken Social Scene and had some nice dinner. Yesterday I setup an old computer, learnt a new language, and watched a classic. Today I worked on some code and we watched a couple of movies. I didn't get much school work done but I have all of this week to get on it. Holidays are coming up and I'm getting exciting about our long road-trip to New Jersey during Christmas.

Juliet and I have been living together for about six months now and we have a pretty good grasp of each other's quirks. However, we're still discovering each other's phases. Quirks are little things like her habit of leaving paper towels all over the house when she has a cold or my obsessiveness about turning off the lights in any unoccupied room. Quirks are relatively easy to notice and remember. Most pieces of romantic text highlight the beloved's quirks fondly, even the negative ones. Phases are slightly long-term behavioral tendencies that expose new insights into a person and are generally hard to identify. We change into a different person during a critical phase and act quite unlike our usual selves. The Juliet I know in our daily life is not the same Juliet who has four exams and three labs over the next five days. It is much easier for me to understand her during the hectic school weeks when I realize that this is simply her trying to be a good, hardworking student. Recognizing the start and end of a phase is critical to avoiding conflicts and misunderstandings that can arise during the period.

I went through my periodic coding frenzy this weekend. I told her earlier today, "Honey, once a month, I will go completely bonkers over some arcane computer system. I will not shower, shave, or eat during those 48-72 hours. I love you forever and ever but during those hours, please do not expect me to engage in discussions about our travel plans or even what you should cook for dinner because my mind will not be anywhere close to reality. However, after the coding marathon, I will be a better, more educated, more skilled developer with a stronger understanding of the subject matter and that will help us in the long-term. So even though you might fear that I have gone completely psychotic, I am just going through a mini metamorphosis and will turn out alright in the end."

Even though she cares and understands my passion for code and all things cryptic, I chose to explicitly say all of the above for a number of reasons. In addition to recognizing my phases and understanding my lack of attention, she can help keep my frenzies under control. Looking back to the development of Chime.TV a couple of years ago, I now realize that I spent way too much time cocooned in my house writing some pretty nifty code and not enough time socializing with friends. After six month of near-constant coding, when I finally emerged, I felt I had lost the ability to speak to people about anything other than streaming videos. I certainly do not want to go through that again. On the flip side, once she sees how beneficial my coding frenzies are to my morale, ambition, and general outlook on life, she can encourage me to work harder on my projects and motivate me to take some bigger risks.

When we see behavioral changes in the people we love, we aren't always sure if they are temporary or permanent. If we are know they are temporary, we can learn to cope with them better without putting extraneous pressure on them. If we find out they are permanent, we can adapt, confront, or intervene based on our best judgment. In my case, she understood my point of view and supplied me with lots of yummy food throughout the weekend.

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Fri, 21st Nov '08, 7:55 pm::

Juliet and I are waiting right in front the stage at Jannus Landing to see the indie band Broken Social Scene. It's pretty cold out here so we are huddled together. I am all smiles :-)

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Sun, 16th Nov '08, 10:15 pm::

What part of "follow your dreams" do people not understand? So many talented people around me purposely shackle themselves in mediocrity, boredom, and fear when they could be challenging themselves with brave new exciting adventures. Yes, for the most part, life is tough and there's not much change we can bring about in our daily routines. But every once in a while, we come across a fork in the road when we can take a new uncharted path instead of going on the same dull path that leads us to nowhere. Sure, it can be risky and careless. I'm certain the fear of failure and embarrassment can be daunting. But that's not my problem. That's your problem. Show me the results. Or at least prove to yourself that you truly persevered.

Everyone can come up with a list of problems and excuses on why not to do something. Before you come up with yet another excuse, think about how lucky you are that you can actually afford to sit back and think objectively about your options instead of being denied the opportunity. Not everyone has the privilege of chasing their own dreams, most just do whatever is necessary to live a decent life. If you have the chance to take a risk, I'd say go for it. Let a close friend or a loved one be in charge of watching out for the potential pitfalls while you take the optimistic, bold route. Good luck!

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What we really doFri, 7th Nov '08, 6:20 am::

I am a firm believer in humanity and thoroughly believe that most people want to be good people and do the right things. Though my belief in humanity is challenged on a daily basis by people all around me, I try to remain positive and do my best to identify the core causes of why people act in negative manners. I live a modestly typical modern life with a job, studies, and a wife. I have my own unique talents and skills but so does everyone else. We are all just trying to live our lives and do the right things. But we often don't. Why we don't do the right things all the time is a question that has intrigued me forever and I feel I am closer to the answer today than I have ever been and hence feel the compulsion to share it.

We all have problems, tons and tons of them. Thankfully, I've had very few problems related to money, academics, job performance, or health. But just like everyone else I know, I've had more than my fill of people problems. A fair share of the problems are because of certain, specific people in our lives that we just cannot get rid of. From neighbors that annoy us to coworkers that bother us, from classmates that harass us to relatives that humiliate us, these are problems that could be solved if those imbeciles would just listen to us! But until very recently, they never listened to me no matter how well I argued my case from all points of views, including theirs. This used to frustrate and stress me out to no ends.

I feel things are different now because over the past year or so, I've had fewer and fewer long-term problems with people. I've been able to resolve a lot of conflicts without making any major sacrifices or compromises. The key was to change my entire problem-solving system that I had been clutching on to since the day I was born. No biggie.

While it may seem strange, solving real life people problems is not very different from solving math equations. If x + 3 = 10, we can solve for x and arrive at the correct answer of 7 by calculating what 10 - 3 is. We were given one piece of fact and we had to determine the missing piece of information. We did this by looking at the problem and making some judgments on how to get to the answer. Had we done 3 - 10 or 10 + 3, we would have arrived at an incorrect answer. The problems we face in our daily life are closer to solving the more complex variety of simultaneous equations and linear algebra. We are given a bunch of facts, with many missing pieces, and we have to identify every missing piece of fact before we can make a proper judgment.

Say you start a new job, every person in your department seems like an absolute disaster, and you are supposed to fix it all. That's real life. But it's not much different from a math problem - you are given a lot of facts but not all of them are explicitly mentioned and now you have to make up your mind to do the right thing. Unfortunately, despite your best attempts, in the end it turns out that you royally screwed it up. What happened there? Here's how I see our judgment-making, acting-taking system:

We will never have all the facts on any situation or person. You can never know everything about the teammate who yelled at you even though you did all your work because even the teammate doesn't know himself that well. What you can do, is find out more about the person and where their point-of-view originates. The more we know the facts behind someone's action, the easier it is for us to form a rational judgment that does not frustrate or stress us out. In this case, we might learn that the teammate has anger issues, lack of self-confidence, and a fear of failure that makes him extremely stressed when things don't go as planned. Upon realizing this, we are not supposed to form an opinion of him as an angry, scared person and then become emotionally defensive to everything he says but rather, form a rational judgment that lets us deal with this person without exacerbating the conflict any further. We will never have an easy time dealing with this person and it will always take extra work from our end. However, if we make our judgment based on facts and not our opinions, feelings, or emotions on this person, it will be easier for us in the long-run.

In addition to judging others, we judge ourselves. A LOT. If something goes wrong, the first person that most everyone blames is themselves. And we are often our worst and harshest critics. Once again, we do it because we have formed opinions of ourselves and attached a lot of emotions to our personalities, quirks, and deficiencies. If you said something ridiculously stupid during a company meeting or even a dinner date, you cannot blame yourself forever as being a stupid person. What you should do is realize the fact that you were extremely nervous, you were not prepared, and you had a lot of things going on in your mind when you said all that. If that is the case, there's a fix for it. Do something to calm yourself down, prepare in advance, and work on blocking out everything other than what you are concentrating on. It's not easy but it's possible. So there's hope for you. Don't go about blaming yourself for days, weeks, and months for one trifling incident.

Next time you realize you are in a problem ask yourself is this is a people-problem and if so, stop yourself from thinking any further about your opinions or feelings towards the persons involved. Instead, try to honestly find out their personality, background, and situation. Then try to make your decisions. It is not easy. The person could be your mother or wife. It could be your boss who can fire you on a whim. Or it could be someone you truly respect but are also very scared of. Regardless of who the person is, you have to get more facts on their story before you decide how to act. If your final courage of action involves walking into the CEO's office and spouting off 10 things on why the new manager needs to be fired, you are doing it wrong and should go back to the "Get Facts" section again. I'm sure the new manager needs to be fired but the course of action you decided on is not the calm, rational method that will help the CEO see your point-of-view.

In the end, if your final judgment frustrates you instead of encouraging you to take appropriate action, you need to get more facts and revise your judgment. Nobody else will do this for you, except you. So get on it already.

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Mon, 3rd Nov '08, 7:45 am::

Today marks my seventh year of regular 'blogging. I began with posting links to websites I thought were cool and progressed to writing journals of my day-to-day activities. I gradually stopped posting random links and begin experimenting with science and technology posts. I continued to write about my regular life but I found my true balance once I started writing about my views on the world - personal, social, and cultural. I no longer feel it necessary to write about every major crisis in the news or every time I get a new gadget. I will continue to write about any interesting real-life events and when something moves me. What this means is, fewer updates pertaining to the mundane like project deadlines, upcoming exams, and laundry status.

Oh and my comic Calm Down is back.

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Sun, 26th Oct '08, 9:20 am::

I'm sitting outside in our Florida room next to Juliet, huddled in a blanket, studying on my laptop. I can see our three turtles, Loch, Ness, and Wolf swim around in the two aquariums along with the fishes and Giga keeps looking for ways to escape back into the house. The gliders Paxil and Rita are asleep and so is Herbert the tortoise. Jack, Tera, and Cookie are inside the house, probably asleep.

We went to Treasure Island beach yesterday for a stroll and had wonderful Thai food for lunch. We watched The Score last night. A two-hour movie is pretty much all the time we can spare to sit in front of a TV without starting to worry about projects, papers, and exams these days. She keeps glancing over to read what I'm typing and I keep hiding it from her. The sounds one hears in this room are soothing - the pitter-patter of the water in both the aquariums, chirping of morning birds perched on eaves and evergreen boughs, wind-chimes swaying in the winter breeze, and leaves rustling in the wind - it's quite a relaxing environment if you can tune out the infrequent automobile noises.

I have to write a six-page paper by noon and have more school assignments after that. I also have to work on a website with Tay whenever he hops online. Juliet has two exams this week. I got 97/100 in my Accounting exam last week. I cared tremendously about my grades back in undergraduate college but now I don't give much value to grades. The new things I am learning are valuable enough without me fretting over grades. It's back to reality for me now, i.e. the six-page paper that I have to write in a little over two hours.

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Fri, 24th Oct '08, 10:45 pm::

Juliet and I just bought a new Toyota Corolla 2009 with $0 down at 0% interest for three years. It's dark metallic gray and looks pretty nice. It looks kinda like this. We got a pretty decent deal and the first payment is in 45 days. I will continue to drive my Scion xA and Juliet will drive the new Corolla.

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Don't do muchThu, 16th Oct '08, 11:15 pm::

I had my first real in-class exam today after a break of four and a half years from college. I think I did well for someone who barely had the time to sit down and study. I have been pressed for time lately and this very lack of time is gradually teaching me how to better manage my todos, stress, expectations, and goals in quite an unorthodox way. I know my thoughts below will initially seem to be going all over the place but just hang on a bit because I will eventually reach the focal point that I intend to discuss.

The problem with life is that for most people, it really is the same story day-in and day-out. Even if you have an exciting work or social life, the excitement has the same flavor on a day-to-day basis. Then one day something changes and it starts to get more stressful. You can't change your life around immediately to counteract the increased stress, so it builds up. Pretty soon you fall way behind on your todo list and your goals and hopes are nowhere in sight. A few years later you ask yourself how did I end up here and whatever happened to my dreams and all those plans.

At the same time, you see successful people in every walk of life around you. The gym instructor is in better shape than you'll ever be, your coworker knows more about Excel than you thought was possible, your sixty year old neighbor can run faster and further than you can, the mechanic knows more about your car than you ever will, your friend has read more books than you can imagine, and even the stupid guy who interrupts movies on cable TV seems to cook better than you can ever hope for. It is as if we are being told we suck at life by being encouraged to be good at everything and we are going crazy trying to deal with it all.

Then New Year's Day comes around and the go-getters among us make resolutions and promises. Time to join gyms, lose weight, start reading, help the community, sign up for a music class, and take a course in web designing. All of this is supposed to make us a better person and help us grow. And I am all for it too, regardless of when and how you start. Knowledge, skill, and art makes one a well-rounded person so go for it by all means. The problem isn't that these things don't help us in the long run. The problem is that they displace the honest, self-actuating goals we had on our list and have forgotten over time. What was once a list of unique, personal goals, goals that truly mattered to you, is now a list telling you to sign up for pilates, swing dancing, and pottery classes just like eighty million others.

The trick is to not buy into it. I don't want to run faster than anyone and I don't need to be an awesome cook. I will not be jealous of my well-read friend's library and I will not try to be the best Excel number-cruncher (though I'm pretty damn good at it already.) What I will be, is the best me. I no longer want to be the best at anything and everything. If that means I get a B in Accounting while making more time for my wife and pets because that's what matters more, that is how it shall be. If it means my website gets fewer hits because I'd rather be sitting outside staring at the moon instead of computer code, so be it.

Throughout our lives we have been taught that it is a great thing to be good at something and success is what we should strive for. Society puts a great deal of value on the champions in every field. You cannot fight these uncontrollable urges to be better at everything unless you are consciously aware of your true desires in a given field. From the bottom of my heart, I do not care about running a mile in under six minutes. I never have and never will. However, the moment I see someone dart past me at a park, an annoying little bulb lights up in my head and commands me to "wake up early every morning and start running again so you can be fast like this runner." So I wake up the next morning, run for a few days or weeks if I'm lucky, and then give up. Why? Not because I hate waking up early or despise running, but because running is not something I genuinely want to do at this point in my life.

The simple reason most of our resolutions fail is because we don't want to do them. And on top of that, we are told that we are utter failures if we don't stick to our resolutions and plans - plans that we never even wanted to make to begin with. So this is where we are right now. We make our own dreams but get sidetracked when we get stressed in our day-to-day life and see others succeeding at their own goals. So instead of working on our goals, we pick up their goals because self-help books and self-titled gurus said so. We try hard but fail after we realize we don't really like bending over backwards in yoga or rock-climbing. Then finally we ask ourselves what happened to our goals and why life seems so stressful and joyless despite our every effort at improving things.

I learnt all of this over time after trying to do too many things too fervently and failing miserably at almost all of them. I still hope to do a lot of things but only ones that I really, really want to do and without trying too hard to succeed in most of them. The handful of things that I am passionate about and dedicated to, will still get my full attention but the rest of the things on my todo list will get sort-of done, whenever, if ever. By not caring too much about everything, I am able to care a lot more about some specific things and that I feel is the key to reducing stress and reaching one's personal goals.

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Tue, 7th Oct '08, 2:10 pm::

Juliet likes the name Wolf too. So we have a new turtle, Wolf, in the house now :)

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Tue, 7th Oct '08, 8:25 am::

It's been a stressful week so far. Too many work to-dos, studies, projects, and general chores. I hope it gets better soon. Juliet is just as stressed with her classes and exams. I want to punch the next person who says we're still in the honeymoon phase. The good thing is that each day I feel more confident that we're a very strong team and can stand together against all odds. It's been over four months and we haven't even had a single fight or a major argument. I guess neither of us is the fighting type. Of course there's been tons of disagreements but we worked it all out in the end without yelling or bickering. So that makes me very happy.

The pets are all healthy and wonderful. Last week Juliet rescued another little turtle, a baby Cumberland Slider. We haven't named him yet but I like the name Wolf. Mainly because I've always thought about having a pet wolf but I don't think that's possible anytime soon.

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About that financial crisisFri, 3rd Oct '08, 6:15 pm::

A lot of people have been asking me what this whole "economy in crisis" situation really is. How can banks in the world's most prosperous countries run out of money? Is it because the houses were overvalued? Is it because the people aren't saving? Or is it because of a variety of reasons like health-costs, unemployment, inflation, gas prices, or political instability? On the surface, it would seem prudent to say that it is a deadly combination of all of the above that's causing the financial crisis. We hear statistics being quoted on the news constantly that inflation rose, unemployment rose, new-home sales fell, auto-sales fell, and stock prices crashed. As I see it, these are the effects of the financial crisis not the causes. The causes are far too murky and boring in details for the average person to identify and enumerate. Luckily for you, I have all the time in the world and I love talking in metaphors instead of confusing finance terms when explaining something, so here it goes.

We have to remember that at every level of business and economy, different people are looking at different pieces of information. What you and I hear in the news is what the media has decided is the information most relevant to us. So unemployment, foreclosures, inflation, and most importantly gas prices are the things we hear as the cause of the crisis. This is the same information that the industry leaders, lobbyists, and politicians use to tell us why the bailout was necessary. However, this is not the information they are all personally looking at. Warren Buffet has sailed steady through enough business cycles to not flinch at above-average foreclosures or rising oil prices. What he sees and bases his decisions on, is an entirely different zoo of numbers.

One of the most seemingly benign creatures that is and will considerably affect the economy of the entire world is "Credit Default Swap" (CDS). Economists and some smart people (pdf) have been warning against CDS for a while but nobody seemed to care. After all, what is CDS and why would it ever affect anyone not involved in big-business? Here's how I explained CDS to a friend. The names and figures are merely for illustration and not accurate.

A few years ago, Lehman Brothers bought certified poop for $10,000 dollars and asked American International Group (AIG) to insure them for up to $10,000 in case the poop starts to stink. AIG took $100/year in insurance premium and said "Sure! Why not? This $100/year premium sounds wonderful." Thereafter the executives at Lehman and AIG proceeded to pay themselves $50 because man, this is an awesome deal! Now you have to remember that the folks at AIG were a smart bunch and didn't really want to ever pay $10,000 to Lehman or the ten others like Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley that they had similar contracts with. So, they got Bank of America (BoA) to insure them for up to $100,000 for only $500/year in case they ever had to pay off anyone. Bank of America obviously said "Sure! Why not? This $500/year premium sounds wonderful. " Thereafter the executives at AIG and BoA proceeded to pay themselves $250 because man, this is an awesome deal! And just like AIG, BoA bundled up 10 of these $100,000 contracts and found themselves yet another insurer. Sometimes, they would even go back to AIG to get them to insure $1,000,000 for $1,000/year!

Now a few years later, Lehman's poop surprisingly starts to stink. So does the poop that Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley bought. AIG has to pay up now. So AIG goes to BoA for the money, which goes to Barclays which goes to a subsidiary of AIG and that's when AIG puts its hands up in the air and says "OMG! I have no money! Somebody help me!" Lehman and Merrill Lynch go belly up. All the companies start to freak out because everyone's certified poop starts to stink, they cannot resell the poop to anyone, and nobody can pay them for the stinky poop even though they had insurance in the form of CDS against it.

Now multiply all the above numbers by something like a billion and that's where we are at currently. The total amount of money currently outstanding in CDS is over $54 TRILLION. To give a slight perspective on that, the amount of money that the entire nation of US spends on buying everything from food to houses to electronics to airplanes to space telescopes to rebuilding Iraq is $13 trillion a year a.k.a. the US GDP. The entire world GDP is $54 trillion and the CDS is currently slightly more than that. And this CDS is outstanding against just a handful of financial companies around the world.

The top-level executives see this figure and realize that a pretty big chunk of $54 trillion worth of CDS would have to be paid if every piece of certified poop starts to stink. If that ever happens, every company even remotely involved in CDS will go belly up just like Lehman Brothers. So they get the daddy governments to fix this mess they have gotten themselves into. The bailout that Wall Street has now won is nothing more than a $2 can of air-freshener they hope will mask the stench for a little longer. While $850 billion is a huge number, it is still only 0.17% of the entire CDS. This means if even 1% of CDS has to be paid, the companies will bleed money. If you have 100 pieces of certified poop, guess what percent will eventually start to stink? The executives at all these companies know that answer and are justifiably worried.

Now I have to add a big disclaimer that not all companies were as mind-numbingly dimwitted as those that have already gone belly up or are on the verge of. Some were instead pretty smart and actually bought CDS against these companies so in case these companies went belly up, they actually got money! Then there were companies that bought CDS against dirty socks and used towels which may not stink as bad as poop but still aren't sweet-smelling roses from the fertile lands of Bulgaria. And obviously there were many companies that bought CDS against those sweet-smelling roses in the rare case that the smell went away. So in reality the $54 trillion CDS is a mix of the good, the bad, and the despicably smelly. While nobody really knows the exact breakdown of the good vs. bad CDS currently, it can be easily understood that the bad chunk must be large enough for the entire financial sector to lose sleep and shirts.

Failing CDSs are just one part of this financial train-wreck. The larger part is of course the certified poop, known in more respectable circles as Collateralized debt obligation (CDO) and Mortgage-backed security (MBS), often backing some arcane Structured investment vehicle (SIV). MBS is the part that involves housing market, mortgages, and foreclosures. CDO is what magnifies the problems of faulty MBS exponentially. And SIV is what banks did to enable them to continue lending beyond their legal limits. So when I said above that Lehman Brothers bought $10,000 of poop, what I really meant is that they bought share in a bundle of house mortgages for a lump-sum of $10,000 in the form of a CDO, a CDO of a CDO, or a SIV backed by a CDO of a CDO backed by MBS. Even to me all of this sounds like a bunch of random letters thrown in without making much sense.

When I bought my house in 2005, I borrowed about $150,000 from a local bank here in Florida. They checked my credit history and determined that I was financially responsible enough to pay my loan for the next 30 years. However, dealing with all my payments is a chore because sometimes I want to pay extra, sometimes I want to pay a little early, and sometimes I want them to give me a detail of why my insurance and taxes requirements were increased. The local bank really doesn't want to deal with me and tens of others like me so they bundled up my mortgage with those of others and called up Citibank. Citibank did not care much about the quality of the mortgages it was buying from my bank because the executives who arranged these deals got paid on the potential revenues from this deal without taking into consideration the risk involved. Now Citibank bought ten mortgages from my bank, ten from another, and ten from another. Soon enough, they had a hundred mortgages that they expected to make a lot of money from over the course of three to thirty years. Now being smart like all these financial wizards are, they decided to do something productive with this money. Enter the insidious SIV, the infamous MBS, and the inscrutable CDO.

Thanks to the few remaining decent banking regulations, Citibank cannot loan out a lot of money if it does not have enough deposits. When Citibank bought my mortgage, it basically loaned out money to me and since I don't have any deposit in Citibank, I reduced their ability to loan more people more money. So the Citibank wizards decided to create a separate company, say CitiSIV which bought all the mortgages from Citibank. CitiSIV being a brand new company had no money so it borrowed a ton of money from the open market at low interest rates to pay Citibank for the mortgages. The lenders in the open market gave money to CitiSIV because after all, it's Citibank and everybody knows they are AAA rated. CitiSIV borrows money at low market rates but collects higher interest from the home mortgage payments. So CitiSIV make money. Then Citibank charges CitiSIV for loan origination and transaction fees so the money ends up back with Citibank. Not surprisingly, all of this is perfectly legal.

Now Citibank has a lot of money and none of the loans on its files. This means it can loan out a lot of money now and start the SIV cycle all over again by creating CitiSIV2. And there is where certified poop comes in. Lehman Brothers gave $10,000 to CitiSIV so CitiSIV could buy mortgages from Citibank and pay interest to Lehman Brothers. These mortgages that CitiSIV bought are now certified poop because the homeowners can no longer pay the mortgage. Why can't they pay the mortgage? Because most people, unlike me, bought houses much bigger than what they could afford and at variable interest rates that have now sky-rocketed, making it impossible to justify home-ownership with respect to renting. So there are a lot more foreclosures now. The mortgages that CitiSIV holds are not going to be all paid back and are effectively worthless. Why did people buy homes they couldn't afford? Because the local mortgage banks let them and even preyed on them.

While I know a bit about complex financial transactions from my background in Economics, most people don't and shouldn't be expected to. School teachers, research scientists, and office workers may know everything about their own fields but not much about ARMs, LIBOR, or HELOC. Most people can be expected to be moderately smart about their finances but that doesn't mean they know everything. What these borrowers weren't informed three to five years ago is that adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) and interest-only mortgages are only for those who know exactly how to invest their money. Selling ARM to an office manager was like selling drag-racing car to a soccer mom - both can only end in disasters. This means, the local mortgage companies loaned money to people who couldn't afford it after a couple of years. Why? Because they made money on sales and not on long-term payments. Real-estate agents and mortgage brokers got hefty commissions every time a house was sold so why should they care if the person who bought the house couldn't afford it?

Here is the wonderful game of hot-potato that has resulted in the current crisis. The home-owner didn't risk much when they bought the house because they got to "own" a fancy house without any down payment and could now potentially borrow money against this house. The mortgage broker did not risk his money, the mortgage bank did. The bank did risk money but only for a short time because it bundled up a bunch of these mortgages and sold them to Citibank. Citibank didn't worry about the risk because it sold SIVs against the mortgages. The people who bought the SIVs, say Lehman Brothers, didn't worry about the risky SIVs because they had AIG write CDS against these risky purchases. AIG didn't have to worry because BoA has insured them against all of these risky CDSs. BoA has no worries because Barclays has them insured. Barclays has nothing to worry about because AIG has them covered. So in the end, we have more money involved than most minds can fathom, resting on transfer of risk from one entity to another, all of it relying on the promise of the music-teacher who makes $25,000 a year that starting 2009 when his mortgage readjusts, he can pay $2,000 in mortgage payments a month.

This is how screwed up things are. And apparently $850 billion can help make things better. The politicians claim that $850 billion will be used to buy the bad mortgages from companies like CitiSIV/Citibank, sit on them for a few years, and then once the financial crisis is over, sell them back to companies like Citibank for a profit to the taxpayers. You would have to be brain-dead to even for a second think that somehow the bad mortgages will become valuable in a few years once the crisis is over. The music-teacher is not going to make $115,000 in a few years and will not be able to afford $2,000 a month in mortgage anytime soon. The bad mortgages will remain bad and significant portions of them will not be bought back from the US Government at a cost to taxpayers.

The solution to all of this? Suck it up. Let bad companies go bankrupt. Let bad investors lose all their money. Let investment bankers, mortgage brokers, and insurance underwriters be fired. And unfortunately, let people lose the houses they cannot realistically afford. If the government wants to help, they should first help those in dire need.

There is no painless way to heal a gaping wound but to stitch it up and bear the pain once. The sad thing about good economic policy is that it takes a while to take lasting effects and it makes a lot of people miserable in the short-term. Bad economic policy tries to help a few people immediately while making everyone else miserable in the long-term. $850 billion is nothing compared to how much it will cost to try to "fix" this crisis by throwing money at it. A lot can be done to improve the situation by giving direct help to the homeowners and small business owners who actually need it. Not much will be done by giving money to the same exact banks that took foolish risks, lost money, and begged the government for handouts. The bailout will infuse the markets with additional cash, reduce the value of the dollar, and once again, encourage bad investments because no investment is risky if the government is willing to bail companies out with taxpayer money.

Just think about it. You pay taxes. The government is taking that money and giving it to the banks. Now the banks will lend you money to buy a car. You will pay interest on that money, a part of which is actually your own money that you paid in taxes. You will pay interest to use some of your own money! This isn't some exaggerated doomsday scenario. This is right now. The bailout bill has passed and next month when I want to go buy a car, I will pay interest to borrow some of my own money. Meanwhile, the CEOs of all these companies will continue to get stock options, unlimited perks, and golden parachutes. Who said life is fair?

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My kind of problemSat, 20th Sep '08, 11:00 am::

I love tackling problems whose solutions appear to be the opposite of their true complexity. In other words, I love solving problems whose solutions appear to be very simple but are actually quite complex. And I love solving problems whose solutions appear to be very complex but are actually quite simple. A problem of the first type is automated image/video recognition. It seems so simple, after all, babies can recognize their parents within months of birth and yet the most powerful computers have trouble recognizing individual people and objects in a video footage. On the other hand, untangling a ball of strings seems like an impossible task but if you are patient, it's actually quite simple. What I don't much care for are problems that seem simple and are simple, like solving most of the newspaper quizzes and mind-puzzles, and problems that seem complex and are complex, like nuclear physics, banking regulations, and e-commerce websites. The problems themselves are neutral and have no good or bad values associated with them, it's just that they don't interest me personally or worse yet stifle my creativity.

Earlier this morning, Juliet entangled one of her necklaces and handed it over to me while making one of those cute girlie-pout faces. She didn't realize that she had just jumped started my morning. It took me under five minutes to untangle the necklace and that made her happy and me sad. I was kind of hoping it would keep my mind busy for at least twenty minutes. I remember a couple of years ago my sister showed me her Newton's Cradle with fine threads that were mangled beyond recognition. It took me over an hour to slowly resolve the mess and in the end, the cradle was completely functional and I felt extremely satisfied.

What's the point of me writing all of this today? The point is that if you recognize and identify the kind of problems you like to tackle, then you can selectively work on things that excite you instead of draining the life out of you. I don't want to work on yet another YouTube, Facebook or E-Trade. I don't want to fix a broken car engine. I don't want to take IQ tests or play memory games. I want to work on problems that fool me into thinking they are too easy when they are not because I like challenges that aren't clear-cut from the beginning. And I think I have a couple of them lined up for me right now. How about you?

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Mon, 8th Sep '08, 7:45 am::

I had a pretty busy weekend. On Friday, Juliet and I went to see Tropic Thunder (one word review: hilarious) and then went to Tampa to hang out with her school friends at a bar/nightclub. Early morning Saturday (that would be about 11am), we signed up for a joint bank account. I can't believe I procrastinated so long to get that done. That brings me to the main activity of my weekend, a new application I'm still working on called untodos that learns about your personality and helps you manage your todo list based on your quirks. If every person is unique and quirky, then why does every task planning software treat us all the same? untodos learns about your personality and tries to assist you in better managing your life todos. It won't replace Outlook and complex calendaring software for everyone but I know it will help me sort out the tons of things I have to do in life. It's not fully done yet but do let me know what you think of it so far. It's completely functional and usable, just doesn't have the "smart" features yet. You are welcome to check it out for yourself and sign up for a free account.

Amidst all the programming, we also watched Spiderman 3, played with the gliders, had lots of yummy foods, and just sat in the Florida room for hours watching the turtles, and talked about life in general. Our lives are exhausting but good. I just have to make sure I don't lose sight of the good things while chasing the important ones. Hopefully, untodos will help me with that.

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I'm not famousWed, 3rd Sep '08, 7:05 am::

Someone on reddit asked, "How are you famous?" As I expected, most people started listing their best accomplishments or personal anecdotes of importance. I thought I'd chime in with some of the cool things I've done over the years that got some media attention. It was while listing my accomplishments did I realize how trifling they were in the grand scheme of things.

I've had an article written solely about me on WSJ.com last year and was on the front-page of wired.com (with my pic) for about three days earlier this year. I've had newspaper and magazine articles written about me since age 16. One of my websites was reviewed on G4TV. My apps have been showcased in magazines all over the world, from Germany to Philippines.

Yet I don't consider myself famous, because I'm really not. Internet-fame is different from real fame. Internet-famous people have their own Wiki pages. Famous people have their own villas in France. We often forget there is a distinction between the two, especially when discussing it online. It has less to do with the amount of money you make and more to do with long-term personal relationships you build.

People with a website and an audience often forget that their audience is in a constant state of flux, just yearning to stumble upon something interesting and entertaining, be it via unconventional 'blog posts, established news outlets, or even email forwards. The fact that you have a daily readership of 20,000 or even 350,000 means nothing if the relationships stop at the keyboard. Of the millions who have downloaded my software over the past decade, there is exactly one person I consider a real friend. The rest were users who sent me valuable feedback.

Instead of making applications and websites that millions come across, I could have volunteered at a local charity and touched the hearts of just two people. That would be twice the number of real, long-lasting connections I've made in a decade spent writing code online. However, this doesn't mean I regret any of this. I will continue to make useful and useless applications for all to see and click around. I will try harder to come up with more interesting ideas to waste people's time in the hope that my little website makes someone's day. What I will stop doing is assuming that just because I am internet-famous, I am indeed famous or have done anything significant to impact the lives of many. Linus and Guido have, I haven't. I still have a lot to accomplish. As Shakespeare wrote, "Why, then the world's mine oyster, which I with sword will open."

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Sun, 31st Aug '08, 6:35 pm::

I've been studying for four hours now. Juliet's working on her exam material behind me too. Yesterday we kayaked up and down the Ichetucknee Springs and later went to Gainesville to see Jessica, Andrew, and my godson Jackson. There's a lot going on in our lives right now, the details of which are irrelevant. What is interesting is how much of a change it is compared to just a few months ago.

I started this year with a very simple life. I had launched the new database system at work finally and had absolutely no major plans in my personal life. The tasks at my job were complex in nature, however, relatively stress-free. At home, it was just me and the kitties. I didn't have any other work or large projects to deal with. I could go kayaking every weekend and relax every evening. Fast-forward eight-months later and I find myself split between four different lives. I have a pretty busy life at home with Juliet and nine of our pets. Now I have a lot more responsibilities at my work as our company grows. Outside of work, Sched has taken a life of it's own and there's so much to be done for Chime.TV too. To top it all off, my masters program demands at least 35 hours a week including driving to and from Tampa, three classes, team projects, research, exams, and tons of reading material.

I pine for days when I can sit back and write whatever comes to my mind but I think those days will, for the next two years, be hard to come by. It's back to studying now.

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Mon, 25th Aug '08, 10:05 pm::

We finally got our sugar gliders! Here are some pictures of little Paxil & Rita Lynn (both girls). Paxil is the younger one, very calm, loves to cuddle, and jumps into your shirt pockets. Rita Lynn (or Ritalin) is very hyper and jumps around like crazy, especially on your back. Juliet loves Paxil and Rita Lynn is my baby. What can I say... I like crazy girls! Here's a video of Rita Lynn climbing all over me:

Sugar Gliders are similar to flying squirrels in that they can glide from one tree branch to another and are native to Australia and other Oceanic countries. Personally, I am very much against keeping exotic pets because I believe all creatures should roam free in their natural habitats and putting them in cages is cruel. However, I also believe in rescuing animals that cannot survive on their own in the wild or ones that would be a threat to native species if let outside their natural habitats. A coworker of mine gave me Paxil and Rita Lynn because her sugar gliders bred and she couldn't take care of six little flying possums. Juliet and I love animals and we had some extra space in the Florida room to setup a nice cage. The gliders have a lifespan of about fifteen years and we hope to give them a nice caring home.

This brings the total number of creatures in our house to eleven. Starting from the oldest to youngest: me, Juliet, Cookie (Juliet's boy cat), Giga (my boy cat), Tera (my girl cat), Jack (Juliet's boy puppy), Herbert (Juliet's tortoise), Loch & Ness (Juliet's musk turtles), and Rita Lynn & Paxil (our sugar gliders).

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Thu, 21st Aug '08, 6:50 am::

If you can see this, it means I am saving tons of money now that all my sites have been moved to my new server. Also, if you are an Xbox owner in the US and install PlayOn! on your PC, you can watch nearly everything from Hulu on your TV for free. I don't have an Xbox but any uPnP client will work, like my ShowCenter 250HD. Yes, there are ads but they are short and not very annoying. The video quality is pretty damn good too.

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Tue, 19th Aug '08, 6:00 pm::

I've been pretty busy past 10 days. My MBA program is starting this Friday and Juliet's MS program already started last Thursday. I just bought all of the books for my program from Amazon and some other sites. I've been busy last seven days moving over twenty websites from my old host to a new one as part of my financial organization plans. I will be so busy with my work and school that I won't have much time for web designing or much else.

I don't know what it is about getting married that makes a guy want to setup a kickass home-theater system but finally I have a nice setup. My 51" HD TV is now connected to Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD that plays all the music, videos, and movies I have on my computer wirelessly without any special setup or software purchase. I now have an HD-DVR with 200+ channels on FiOS TV. And then there's Juliet's DVD/VCR player too. I realize I am doing almost everything I made fun of when others did it but somehow this all feels pretty good.

We bought a nice cage for the sugar gliders. The sugar gliders will be arriving pretty soon too. Once they're settled in, I will take lots of pics and share. I have a lot more website stuff to finish now. Next update will hopefully be from my new server. If it all works as planned, nobody will notice anything.

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Sun, 10th Aug '08, 10:05 am::

It's an awesome feeling to put back your tools after a job well done. I spent yesterday afternoon doing tons of fixups and cleanups around the house. My kayak rack is ready and looks pretty stable. It should hold up well in heavy winds because each of the two wood posts is buried four feet underground. I cleaned the carport and the backyard patio. Later, Juliet and I moved her sofa from my computer room to the newly-empty Florida room where my kayaks used to be. We moved some of her boxes to the Florida room too.

The house looks much neater and we have a lot more space now. We still have a lot more things to do before we can sit back comfortably. She has to paint the kayak rack and I have to find a tarp to cover it. We need to arrange the stuff in Florida room and find a cage for our potential new pets. I also have to combine our cellphones, find a wireless HD media-player for the TV, and get back into programming.

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Wed, 6th Aug '08, 6:30 pm::

I've been busy last few days with tons of paperwork and the overall reorganization of our finances. Combining my auto insurance policy with Juliet saved us over $600/year but adding her to my health insurance policy is going to cost much more than that. I signed up for a new credit card with 1% cashback and set it up to automatically pay most of my monthly bills like internet, phone, house utilities etc. She's busy finalizing the paperwork for her graduate school. I sent in the documents so I can get my student ID and parking permit. We still have to buy our textbooks and her loan certification is still in process.

The next three years are going to be quite tough for us as we're both attending graduate school. She is in the Master of Clinical Medical Science - Physician Assistant program at Barry University (St. Pete campus) and I'm going for an MBA in Technology & Innovation Management at University of Tampa. Hopefully both of us will be done with our studies by 2010 or at the latest 2011. We plan to stay put till then in the same house that I've lived in since 2005 and I hope to drive the same car for as long as it runs. She will need a new car sometime next year and we will get two more pets sometime this month. I have to build a storage rack for my kayaks so there's more space in our house. I love my job as I always have and hope to be here for as long as possible. She will be able to find a job nearly anywhere as a PA and that will be important when eventually I go for my PhD in 5-6-7 years.

Yeah, lots of plans. It's fun to make them. Nobody knows which of these plans we will be able to stick by but it's comforting to know we can make them. On top of all this, are my babies Sched and Chime, both of which still have tons of potential that I need to put my efforts into. Tonight I start building my kayak rack. Tomorrow, a bookcase for our school books. Day after, I get my glasses repaired (just some minor scratches), and then I get FiOS on Saturday. Even though, I have so many things to do, it seems considerably less work than before. I hardly have to worry about groceries, laundry, house chores, cooking, or writing thank-you cards anymore :) Having a good wifey is wonderful!

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Wed, 30th Jul '08, 12:15 am::

Our Yellowstone Wedding/Honeymoon is almost over. We leave for Florida on July 31st and have only one day of sightseeing left. I know I will miss the gorgeous weather and amazing landscapes of Yellowstone. Here are some of my favorite Yellowstone scenery photos. If you missed it, here are the pics from the ceremony, the preparation for the wedding, and some shots of Juliet and I in our wedding attire at gorgeous settings all over Yellowstone.

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Mon, 28th Jul '08, 11:15 am::

Juliet and I got married yesterday! Here's the pics from the ceremony and the preparation for the wedding. Arthur and I hand-picked the flowers for the wedding bouquet from the wild. Juliet and I then cleaned them up and made a pretty bouquet. Here are the pics of Juliet and I in our wedding attire at gorgeous settings all over Yellowstone.

Now we are off to grab some food and then visit the park again. I have a lot more pics of the park that I will upload later.

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Sun, 27th Jul '08, 12:05 am::

Juliet and I are in Yellowstone finally. Our flight to Salt Lake City from Tampa was delayed by five hours. That ruined our plans to come early to Yellowstone to scope out a good location for our second wedding ceremony tomorrow. My buddy Arthur from Jersey is the best man for the occasion and joined us on the rushed hunt for pretty waterfalls this evening around west and north Yellowstone. The location we liked the best so far has the Undine Falls as the backdrop.

Before we drove up to Yellowstone, we stopped by Island Park where my dad's aunt, Nani Masi, was vacationing with some relatives. She cooked us yummy Pav Bhaji and packed tons of snacks for us for the next week. I miss home-cooked Indian food - it's way better than the stuff you get at restaurants.

We have tons of plans for tomorrow including sightseeing early in the morning, wedding in the later part of the day, and then tons of photo-shoots around the Yellowstone Park. I'm off to rest and recuperate now. Haven't had much sleep in days.

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Single no more (officially)Wed, 23rd Jul '08, 11:55 pm::

We are officially married! Here's pics of Mr. and Mrs. Chirag Mehta and the ceremony. It's late but we have to start calling everyone now and share the good news. Thanks to Tay's stepmom Lottie for organizing the sweet-little ceremony, dinner, and signing the marriage license as the official notary. And my friend Sandra and Lottie's friend Loretta for being the witnesses. I REALLY wish my entire family could be here. It's ok though because we will go to India and have another sweet little wedding/reception there. That would be the third wedding. Our second wedding is this Sunday in Yellowstone. What can I say... I'm Indian - weddings are a big deal to us. Instead of a three-day wedding, we're just planning on getting married three times. Maybe we'll go to Jersey in December and get married there too. Haha, just kidding!

These were my vows to Juliet:

Juliet, you gave up everything you had, just to be with me. You showed me what sacrifice, honesty, and love truly mean. Because of you, I dare to dream of a life full of love, trust, and meals that don't taste like burnt super-glue. We've broken every rule of dating, moving-in, engagement, meeting-the-parents, and now, of getting married. You taught me that together, we can make our own path and do the right thing even when the odds are stacked against us. From this day on, I promise to be the best friend you seek, the stable rock you want, and the true love you deserve.

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Wed, 23rd Jul '08, 12:45 pm::

It's not easy writing wedding vows. The tears keep getting in the way.

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Wed, 23rd Jul '08, 8:45 am::

I can't wait till 6pm tonight :)

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Sun, 13th Jul '08, 11:40 am::

This weekend's been pretty busy. Yesterday Juliet and I took her little puppy Jack to the dog beach at Fort DeSoto. The cutest part was watching Jack do doggie-paddles. Even when I held him high above the water and not an inch of him was in the ocean, he would paddle his paws in the air as if he was swimming. We got home to find my kitty Tera acting quite sick :( Took her to pet hospital and seems like she has a urinary tract infection. Still waiting on the test results.

We went to the annual Fark Party at Howard Johnson in Tampa around 9pm and chilled there for a few hours. Next we went to Gameworks in Ybor City, Tampa and played Skee ball. I kicked ass as usual :) We got home pretty late, checked up on Tera, and went to bed.

Not much planned for today. Juliet's out getting groceries. Will rest and get some chores done. I hope Tera starts to feel better soon.

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Sat, 12th Jul '08, 10:35 am::

Juliet and I went to see Hellboy II last night - it rocked! I had weird dreams all night. We're off to the beach now :)

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No drama, no cryFri, 11th Jul '08, 7:30 am::

Drama is wonderful on the stage and screen. It is destructive in personal life. On stage, drama is an emotional, expressive story played out by characters stuck in unfortunate situations. In real life, it is a back-stabbing, nagging, he-said-she-said tale that holds back everyone involved from enjoying their lives. I used to crave drama in my personal life. Not a day went by when I didn't suspect a "friend" talking behind my back about me. I would be passive-aggressive for months and finally confront them when I couldn't hold it in anymore. How could they have said that about me or done that to me despite everything I did for them all these years? They would fight back with some harsh words and I would retaliate with "No, that was NOT what I meant when I said..." Seven phone calls involving four people, five nasty emails and replies forwarded to six others, and numerous text messages later, I realized the friendship was over. The signs had been there all along, I just couldn't accept it. It took me years to learn that the sooner you accept it and move on, the easier it is.

When you gain "the ability to let that which does not matter truly slide," you no longer have petty drama in your life. We don't like to admit that we create the drama that burdens our lives. It's easier to simply claim bad things happen to me or "drama is attracted to me." No, it's not. You can learn to ignore it and get back to your life. It wasn't until I made some really, really good friends that I understood how drama had impacted my past friendships and relationships. I would let others affect me - I allowed people who mattered not an ounce to me, to completely ruin my day, week, month by something as trifling as a snide remark. It wasn't them who were the source of my troubles, it was my penchant for taking things personally.

Now it's pretty much second-nature for me to ignore pettiness, meanness, shallowness, and other such negativity from people who aren't near and dear to me. If someone wants to impart wisdom and friendliness, I welcome it with open mind and open arms. Otherwise, I just smile and say "Good day, Sir." There are too many wonderful things in life I still have to experience and have no time for pettiness. So how do I avoid drama when it's staring me right in the face? I smile (albeit uncomfortably), maintain my composure, and politely end the conversation. In my head, it's all over already and quite painlessly if you think about it. No yelling, no breaking stuff, no vengeful acts. It's like looking at a crazy monkey in a cage at zoo and just walking past it instead of standing there for hours trying to imitate it.

Years ago I was told, "Never fight with a pig; you both get dirty and the pig likes it." It took me a long time to see the brilliance in those words and even longer to actually live up to them. Now that I do, life's much easier and stress-free. Drama belongs on the stage, not in my life.

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Thu, 3rd Jul '08, 8:10 pm::

Day before yesterday Juliet and I went to the court and got our marriage license. We have 60 days to get married somewhere in Florida though our planned date is around the last week of July. Immediately after getting the license, we celebrated by going to Florida Blood Services to donate blood. I donated my 8th pint of blood (making me a Gallon Donor) and signed both of us up for platelet donations in two weeks.

Her trip to UK to meet my parents was as good as it could have been. They loved her and she loved them :) Here are the pictures of Juliet in London with my parents. This is my favorite pic of my bride-to-be :)

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Thu, 26th Jun '08, 3:25 pm::

I've been pretty busy at work these days. It's six-months since the new system I setup went live and while not everything is perfect, we're doing quite well with it. There's a lot that needs to be done before I start my school in August.

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How I fell in loveSat, 21st Jun '08, 9:15 pm::

As I sit here online on a typical Saturday evening, the woman of my dreams is on a flight to meet my parents vacationing in London, UK. Four weeks ago, Juliet moved into my house and life without much fanfare. Three weeks ago, we got engaged. Two weeks ago our new bedroom furniture arrived and we went kayaking to my favorite beach, Caladesi Island. A week ago I met her family. This week she met my friends Taylor, Kaela, Sandra, Arthur, Taylor's parents, and many of my coworkers. Now she is en route to meet my parents and family members for the first time. In this past month, my life has changed so much I find it hard to answer greetings such as "So what's new?"

I clearly remember the day I met this wonderful lady named Ms. Juliet Summers. In the evening of Saturday, October 27th 2007, I duly noted that "Today turned out to be yet another unusual day." Earlier that day, I had gone to my friend Jessica's baby shower despite feeling quite glum and unkempt. As the official godfather of the soon to be born Jackson Adams, it was my duty to present the father with some good beer. As I sat there observing the excited couple opening baby gifts, I saw the most beautiful woman walk into the room, her eyes as if trying to find a friendly face. My immediate thought was "You are so in the wrong place." Turns out it was the right place indeed after Jessica smiled and motioned her to take a seat a few feet across from me.

I distinctly recall the pervading thought that captured my mind throughout the rest of the baby shower. I know this will sound very cheesy and shallow but I actually asked myself, "Have I ever seen a woman as beautiful in my entire life?" I had a prolonged flashback that took me through all the college parties, math classes, music shows, and checkout lines at grocery stores and the answer was a resounding "Hell no!" Unbeknownst to me, she too felt that there was something special here. Being the guy who stereotypes people all too quickly, especially the prettier ones, I didn't bother trying to get her contact information. I figured I don't need to be yet another guy trying to ask her out. Furthermore, I had more important things to do, like play with my cats. So as the ceremonies and chats ended, I bid my farewell and walked over to my car, amused that today wasn't such a bad day after all as I had just talked to the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Just as I was about to drive off, Juliet walked up to my car and said "I'd invite you over to a party that I'm going to but I don't know if I can bring any guests, so how about I give you my number? I can introduce you to many of my friends who live around this area." I smiled, we exchanged contact information, and drove off our separate ways.

Over the past eight months, Juliet and I became good friends. She tried to introduce me to some of her local friends but to no avail as I hate being setup on dates. During this time, I slowly got to know the kind-hearted, excitable, ambitious, and sensitive woman that she truly was. Despite her girlie-girl persona, one of the things about her that stood out was her blunt and direct attitude. There was no beating around the bushes and no passive-aggressive drama with Juliet. Though we were just friends, I knew there was a connection here that I had never felt before. I don't know how we went from being friendly to falling in love but last month, I asked her to move in with me and before I knew it, my home turned into a menagerie. We now have a combined four cats, two musk turtles, one tortoise, and one playful little Chihuahua. I love animals and couldn't be happier with our little zoo here.

If you just read all of the above and frowned because we completely skipped the requisite months and years of dating, you are welcome to join the club of skeptics. I understand all of this sounds haphazard and foolishly rushed because everyone knows it takes years of commitment and compromises to nurture true love. How can you be so certain if the person is right for you or not? I hope I never have to eat my words but all I can say is that once you've met the one, you know. You know it when she hands you her paycheck and bank account and says "You do all this crap from now on." You know it when she paints the bedrooms, grouts the tiles, vacuums the carpets, cleans the bathroom, scrubs the bathtub, and rearranges your kitchen utensils. You know it when she's terrified of flying alone yet decides to fly half-way across the world by herself to meet your parents just to get their blessings. You just know it. I know I do.

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Don't give it your best shotWed, 18th Jun '08, 7:35 am::

I like to give everything my good 95%. I used to try to be a perfectionist and give my best 100% and it never worked out well for me or others in the end. When you try to give your absolute 100%, you feel like you deserve twice, thrice, or even more than others who only put in their 50% or 75% effort. In reality, even if you do twice the work others do, the net increase in revenue or savings in expenses to your company is marginal. The way businesses work, if you increase the company's total sales revenue by 10%, the best you can possibly get is a 10% raise. If you manage to increase the sales by a million dollars, you will not get a million dollars, even if it was all due to you.

If your slacker coworker handles only 50 calls a day while you easily handle 100, that doesn't mean you will get twice the salary. It may seem like you are doing the work of two people easily however, in the larger scheme of things, your dedication and hard work only increased your company's customer service ability by 2%. Here's a nine dollar a week raise after taxes. Go celebrate! Unless you are contractually paid commission, wages and salary seldom have anything to do with measurable performance and everything to do with negotiation and social-networking skills. If you can get a better raise, go for it! Buy me lunch when you do.

However, chances are you will not be satisfied with the raise. So what is a wage-slave to do? Slack off? No. Just slow down. Stop being a perfectionist. Realize that you are working to pay the bills and that's it. It's wonderful if you love your job, I sure do. However, do not try to give your 100% thinking your company is going to return the favor. It does not make business sense for them. If you are a star-employee with unique skills, it makes sense for any business to hold on to you but only up to a certain price point and only in certain industries. So what's a good target to hit? I prefer 95% because it's pretty comfortable for me to give anything my 90% and just a little more effort and I'm at 95%. The magic 95% doesn't give me stress, lets me sleep at night, and in general, allows me to be much more productive. For you, that number might be just 80% or 90%. Put in as much effort as you can as long as you don't start to stress out with "but I work so hard."

If you work so hard and people don't care, stop working so hard. This rule doesn't apply just to office work. Take cleaning your home for instance. Maybe you are one of those people who keeps the house psychotically clean and starts yelling at everyone the moment a speck of dust lands on the floor because nobody other than you cleans the house... You work so hard! Yeah, stop. Clean enough to be comfortable, hygienic, and neat. Don't be a clean-freak and stress yourself and everyone else with it. I've lived with people who were clean-freaks and I've lived with people who were complete slobs. Somewhere in between, closer to the clean-freaks, is a spot where it's stress-free and comfortable.

In addition to office work and house chores, most charity and volunteer workers also get this "but I do so much" syndrome. I am certain you put in 30 hours per week towards your favorite volunteer organization for no pay and will get extremely sad when they don't mention your name in the monthly newsletter with the prominence you had expected. Well, think about it. Do you want to give your 100% and feel depressed when things don't turn out exactly like you want OR do you want to give your 90% and be ecstatic that they wrote a whole paragraph describing your charity project on the 3rd page?

On a different stream, a few years ago, my boss Eric gave me a wonderful book to read to help deal with office clashes and while it was not immediately obvious, I learnt a great deal from it and have pretty much incorporated the lessons into my daily life, well beyond the work environment. I highly recommend it: The Four Agreements.

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Mon, 16th Jun '08, 7:45 am::

It's mid-June and I've barely written anything on here. There's a lot to write too, mostly good. I'm just waiting for the right time I guess.

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Sun, 8th Jun '08, 5:15 pm::

I kayaked out to Caladesi Island today with Juliet. It was a pretty good paddle and I got to try out my new kayak Speedy in the ocean for the first time. It was smooth sailing on the way to Caladesi but I almost tipped over twice on the paddle back. It's a wonderful kayak for lakes and rivers but definitely not seafaring. We got out of the water just in time too. We have thunderstorms daily and it's raining and lightening like hell right now.

Yesterday the new Clarion furniture arrived. It looks wonderful. I'll put up some pictures up once the room is demessified.

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Mon, 2nd Jun '08, 11:35 pm::

I can't wait till the Clarion Queen 5-PC bedroom site is here this Saturday :) I am finally getting bedroom furniture!

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Sat, 31st May '08, 9:25 pm::

Have you ever truly believed that you were right yet everyone who cares about you thought you weren't? All you want is for people to be happy for you yet all you get is rebuke and dire warnings. You've taken a big risk, made a gutsy call, and understand the consequences yet your loved ones treat you like a reckless dolt. The ones you relied on for support and advice make you feel guilty for doing what you honestly feel is the right thing. Have you ever felt like that? It's debilitating. Why can't my loved ones just be happy for me for once and stop with the negativity? I am well aware of what can go wrong. If you can't be happy for me, then stop trying to make me feel sad. That is all.

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Wed, 28th May '08, 7:50 am::

Last week has been pretty crazy so I haven't had much time to get online for my mundane updates. I had a blast at Ginnie Springs with Tay and his family but the campgrounds were so crowded and full of drunk college kids that both Tay and I went back home a day earlier than planned. I know I'm getting old when drunk college girls start to annoy me instead of getting me excited.

I'm getting more and more fired up about my Pacific North-West camping trip in less than two months and have made pretty much all the reservations well in advance. My neck's feeling much better but the pain returns if I rest at any awkward angles. Life's good and there's not much I can complain about.

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Tue, 20th May '08, 8:45 pm::

I picked up my new Cobra Eliminator from Sweetwater Kayaks today. The guys at Sweetwater were quite helpful and set up the kayak's rudder, scupper, and adjustable-seat in advance. I even got free pads for my car's kayak rack to protect the new kayak from damage on rough roads. If you're ever in the market for a kayak, especially in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater/Tampa area, I highly recommend Sweetwater Kayaks.

I went to Lake Seminole to test out the kayak and I absolutely loved how it handles! It's almost 17' long but weighs only 42lbs, considerably less than my good ol' Ocean Scrambler XT aka Floaty. Once I adjusted the seat and the foot-operated rudder to a comfortable position, I hopped in and begun my first paddle. Being only 23" wide, I was afraid it would be too unstable but five minutes in the water and I had a pretty decent idea of how far I can tip before it capsizes. Having tried out the controls and stability, it was time to give it a real speed test. The results were amazing! I was going almost 30-40% faster on my first day than I have ever on Floaty. So in accordance with my habit of giving my paddling gear laughably obvious names, my new kayak shall henceforth be known as Speedy :)

My neck is feeling considerably better and did not hamper kayaking today. I felt pretty much back to my old self. I wanted to take pictures of Speedy but by the time I returned home, it was too dark. There's always tomorrow.

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Sun, 18th May '08, 3:00 pm::

This has been another relaxing weekend. I just watched Annapolis and just started to watch Pitch Black. I'm going camping at Ginnie Springs next weekend with Taylor and his family. Hopefully my new kayak will arrive by then and my neck will be better. If not, it'll be an interesting lesson in survival.

My neck has definitely been getting better though there's still considerable pain when I move around. I cleaned my house a bit yesterday but didn't have the strength to do five loads of laundry that I have been avoiding for about 6 weeks now. So I dropped off my dirty clothes at Gardens Laundromats and will pick up the clean clothes later today. My total bill was $43 for 46lbs of clothes. It seems pretty high but that's about 6 hours of work if I have to do it myself. Add to that the electricity usage for running the washer for 3 hours and the dryer for 5 hours and it sounds like a sweet deal. They hang the clothes on my own hangers and put them in my car too. So all I have to do is drive over, collect the clothes, and hang them in my closet. If this works out well, I think I'll go for it once a month. I can drop off the clothes before work and collect them on the way home.

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Fri, 16th May '08, 7:35 am::

I feel much better today. Yesterday I had a 30-minute physical therapy session early in the morning that helped loosen the tension in my neck and shoulders. I was prescribed a moderately strong pain-killer that helped ease off the pain. My boss referred me to his chiropractor who adjusted my neck and made me feel much better almost immediately. Whatever concerns I ever had about chiropractors are now gone because the relief was instantaneous and precisely targeted. I didn't sleep too well once again but I can already feel a marked improvement.

I should be all better within a few days, just in time for the delivery of my new kayak, Cobra Eliminator! I custom-ordered this super-fast kayak earlier this week and can't wait till it arrives. I picked the color "Mango" because it's the easiest color to spot against the backdrop of the ocean water so that motorboats don't run me over. I'm so excited! Now I'll have two kayaks. Who wants to go paddling with me?

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Wed, 14th May '08, 7:55 pm::

I went to the doctor today and turns out I have some sort of muscle spasms in my neck and upper back. It's not at all serious but will be quite painful for the next two weeks during which whatever the hell is wrong, is automatically healed by my body. I'm taking some non-drowsy muscle relaxant and other than the constant pain, should be fully functional. Just like every other time I've been sick, it's nothing serious thankfully, just really really annoying. No kayaking, running, or lifting heavy objects for the next two weeks.

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Mon, 12th May '08, 8:30 pm::

I sprained my neck somehow while sleeping and can't turn my head in any direction. I was supposed to go to The Castle in Ybor City with Sandra tonight but we ended up just going for a nice dinner by the beach instead. She's moving back to St. Pete area from Orlando and I'm pretty happy to have a good friend around again.

Work projects are going well and other than horrible pain in my upper back, things are pretty good. I will go see my doctor tomorrow and hopefully he can help. He is a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) and has lots of experience fixing up muscle tensions and sprains. I don't even know how my neck got so bad in a single night. I went to bed fine and woke up miserably in pain. Usually, if I wake up with a stiff neck, the pain goes away by the afternoon but not this time. Oh well, just need to relax a bit more.

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Do you deserve anything?Fri, 9th May '08, 7:35 am::

Lately, I have been mulling over the concepts of deservedness and what is "meant to be" and "ought to be." The reason I give any consideration to this stream of thought is because anytime you are trying to overcome a major event in life, it is your outlook on how the outcomes ought to be, that determines which course of action you take. By deservedness, I mean a lot more than the notion of karma or "as you sow, so shall you reap." Why do we even think that anyone deserves anything, good or bad? Nature doesn't care if you deserve a bigger house or a more caring family. And yet, we all walk around everyday, certain that we deserve better and should get more.

Intricately linked to deservedness is our understanding and acceptance of what is "meant to be." I went to college and worked hard. I am meant to be financially stable and capable of sustaining myself. Since I was a good student, I "ought to" have a high salary. You and your girlfriend have been dating for three years now and despite all the tiffs, you both still love each other. You are meant to be together. We have formulated rules on how we think our future should materialize. Hard science works like that. Take water, add few minutes of heat, and the water is meant to be vaporized. Same way, meet a girl, take her out to dinner, be a wonderful companion, be romantic, and since you deserve a marvelous girlfriend, you both are meant to be in a relationship soon. Errr... not exactly.

If you take care of a person for years and they leave you for someone else, your world will come crashing down. You spent your entire 20's to work hard and make their life better. And now they've left you. YOU DESERVE BETTER! That's what everyone will tell you and that's what you will start to tell yourself. We put in effort, wait for a while, and expect results. When results aren't what we expected, we lose sleep and hope. Why? Because we just can't accept that maybe there is no such thing as deservedness. We can't accept that what is now, is all there is. You don't have complete control over what happens in future. Nobody does, including the richest and most powerful of the men. The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The ones who are undaunted by unexpected outcomes are the ones who do not base their happiness on reaching the intended destination, but rather the lessons learnt en route.

If you think life ought to be a certain specific way, you will have a hard time accepting when it does not turn out so. Worked hard, married young, raised kids with love and care, and now the kids don't even call you except when they need money? Life ought to have turned out better, don't you think? I wish it had. In the heat of the moment, I will readily point it out that you deserve more in life. But later, when I sit back and think about it, I don't see why you deserve anything. Nobody does. I don't either.

So if we don't deserve anything in the end, why even bother to put in the effort on long-term goals? Because the experience is usually worth the effort. The outcome is often a random flip of a coin but you can't replace the experience gained with a billion coin flips.

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Sun, 4th May '08, 2:10 pm::

I had a pretty good weekend so far. Went to the beach yesterday, then later to my friend Juliet's birthday party. The weather is beautiful and it's nice just being outside in the sun. My new glasses will arrive on Tuesday (hopefully) so till then, I'm avoiding computers and TV as much as I can. I do have a lot of things I want to write about but the eye-strain is a little too much to bear right now. I am going to go sit in my backyard and just chill for a few hours.

Taylor's coming to town soon and we had some major work stuff to talk about. So let's see how it goes :)

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Thu, 1st May '08, 11:00 am::

Not even five hours since my glasses broke and I'm already causing disasters. In an email sent to all of our senior executives at work, I make a small but horrible typo. Instead of saying "Customer wants us to fill the product soon", I wrote "Customer wants us to kill the product soon." I sent the correction to everyone and thankfully it's not a big deal. But I have to be careful now. Meanwhile, everyone's laughing at me :(

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Thu, 1st May '08, 8:05 am::

My glasses broke. I had a feeling they were going to break so earlier this week I had my eyes tested and ordered a new pair. My last eye exam was almost five years ago and thankfully my eyes haven't got any worse since. My single pair of glasses lasted so long that I forgot that glasses break. However, the new pair of glasses won't be ready till Tuesday. This means I have three full days of work without my glasses. I was kind of hoping that my old glasses would last at least a week longer so when I have the new pair, I could keep swapping them with the old one all day and confuse the hell out of everyone at work. Oh well, time to change all screens from 1280x1024 to 800x600.

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Quit it alreadyThu, 24th Apr '08, 9:30 pm::

I like breakups. I encourage resignations. I highly recommend divorces. I love it when a miserable situation comes to an end. If things are not going well, despite everything you try, there is no shame in saying goodbye amicably and moving on. Almost everyone I know hates all of the above and dreads the uncomfortable feeling of the final, awkward farewell. Be it your job, relationship, or academic career, if you are absolutely certain that things will not change for the better, I will always be the first person to tell you to quit. I will also tell you repeatedly not to burn bridges on your way out.

Quitting is not for losers. Quitting is for those who are pragmatic enough to realize that it is ridiculous to be in a situation where you have no control and have no way to improve your conditions. It is a show of strength to terminate successfully, not a sign of weakness. Quitting amicably is a sign of wisdom and prudence. Hurting the other person should not be the ultimate goal when culminating a sombre saga. Walking away unscathed so you can move on to bigger, better, happier things is what quitting is all about.

Nobody says give up at the first, second, or even the nineteenth hurdle you stumble upon. Everything worth doing takes a lot of work from all the persons involved. However, at some point, you will know that you have reached your limit. Staying in the situation any longer just means you are losing your chance to try something else. The opportunity cost of being stuck in a rut is incomprehensible until you realize that you consciously chose not to take some simple actions like picking up the phone or writing a short letter, and instead left yourself be subjected to continued stress, turmoil, and the gradual demise of hope.

Certainly, major changes in life take time, effort, and planning. Not everyone can deal with abrupt changes or easily let go of people and places they once loved dearly. But you have to get the ball rolling. I genuinely admire a person who gives her or his very best to make things work but is not afraid to walk away if the situation is verily hopeless. There are some things you can change with persistence and diligence, there are some you cannot. Staying in an abusive marriage is worse than the worst divorce. Working for a manager who contemptuously derides you despite your best efforts is worse than the worst resignations. "I Quit" is the most powerful two-word phrase you can utter when someone is ruthlessly abusing your selflessness.

What I am really saying is that all my friends should quit their jobs, break up with their significant others, sell their domiciles, and move to St. Petersburg, Florida so I have more people to kayak with on weekends :)

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Tue, 22nd Apr '08, 11:20 pm::

I have a new favorite wine, Moscato D'Asti Beviamo. So long Verdi Spumante. It's past 11pm, I have no chores, I'm sipping on sweet bubbly wine, listening to wonderful music on Hype Machine, and reading interesting articles. Life is alright.

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Maturity is for kidsMon, 21st Apr '08, 11:50 pm::

I often like to think that inside me beats the heart of an adventurous young boy, fascinated by the world around him. I don't even realize how much my way of thinking has changed till I cross paths with someone who still sees the world the way I did ten years ago. That's when it hits me that I am not a kid anymore. And fortunately, that's a wonderful feeling. Growing up, I had noticed that most adults were cynical, jaded, and bitter. I never wanted to end up as one of them. So I tried to hold on to my childishness for as long as I could, always careful of not becoming too mature for my own good. Thankfully, over time I have let my fear of maturity go and have gradually changed my point of view to see the world as it is, instead of how I want it to be.

Insecurity was probably my biggest personality flaw for most of my life. I was confident in my abilities but not my personality. I wasn't sure if people really liked me for who I was and so being loved by all was one of my primary concerns at all times. When you're trying to impress every person who walks by you, you rarely get a chance to be yourself. I even dreaded the phrase "be yourself" because I still don't know who myself really is. The difference today is that I am not afraid of trying to be myself, regardless of what people think of me. I don't know when it happened but I simply stopped caring what strangers and infrequent acquaintances thought of me. At the same time, I started noticing people as they were instead of as I wanted them to be.

All of this came about only when I acquired the ability to detach myself from tense situations I would be involved in and analyze the issue as a neutral third-party. Learning not to take anything personally is one of the most difficult things to grasp but once you do, life becomes much easier. If a friend or coworker said something hurtful to me, I would take it to my heart and mull over it for days till I made up my own theory on exactly why the incident took place, unmindful of what the actual cause was. I used to deal with breakups, personal loss, and failure in a similar way - drastically. Now, I just brush it off with nary a frown. I always hoped that someday I would grow up to be stable and staunch in my principles but I never knew how that would actually happen. Turns out, it was really quite simple.

I just had to figure out who I truly wanted to be. Did I want to be the guy who knew all the movers and shakers? Or the guy with six-pack abs? Or the guy who lit up the dinner table with witty remarks? Or the guy who walked into a room and took every girl's breath away? Or the guy who knew the temperature at which Molybdenum boils? I know now that I didn't ever want to be any of these guys but that didn't stop me from trying for all of these roles for well over a decade. I was trying to live someone else's dream. The day I decided to make my own dreams and goals, the image of the person I wanted to be became much clearer. The person I want to be doesn't worry about bad hair days because proper follicle care is pretty low on the priority list. The person I want to be doesn't think life is over because some girl reacted unexpectedly. The person I want to be doesn't worry that someone else is making more money, getting more attention, or receiving more accolades while doing less work. If the person I want to be doesn't care about petty, superficial trivialities, then why should I waste my time on those?

There is a fine but nontrivial distinction between not taking things personally and not giving a damn about what others think of you. I still care about how my actions impact others and try not to be loose with my words. As long as I am honest to the best of my abilities, I have a firm ground to stand on when others judge me. In turn, what this form of disassociation from my own self gives me, is a certain kind of power you only see in martial arts movies from the 1970's, when the old master would stand calmly and just move slightly from side to side while four angry youths jumped all around him, trying their very best but failing to even land a single punch. That's pretty much how I feel around angry, frustrated, stressed out, and disrespectful people now. I no longer have to say anything in retaliation or attempt to prove my righteousness. I simply just move along and leave them to their own dramatic selves.

I feel like I am a work in progress and will be for the rest of my life. It's pretty gratifying to think that despite all my flaws and failures today, as long as I learn something from it, I will be a better person tomorrow. That's the wonderful thing about maturity - you can't lose it. So now when someone tells me that they are worried about their physical appearance in public or how a coworker doesn't act respectfully towards them or how selfish their cousin is, I ask them to think carefully if any of that really, truly matters in the big picture of their lives; is the loss of sleep fretting over minor nuisances really worth the fleeting sense of righteousness? I don't expect anyone to see things the way I do, after all I was caught up in the blame-games myself not too long ago. Yet I hope that they take a little part of what I say and let it soak in. Maturity has a way of slowly creeping up on you unannounced, not unlike dandruff and termites. Alas, there is no remedy for maturity though spreading it around does bring some transient relief.

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Fri, 18th Apr '08, 10:55 pm::

I have an awesome idea in my head right now and not one person I can bounce it off of to ascertain if it worthwhile or not. I feel so frustrated. Why do these ideas get into my head only when nobody's around? Maybe I'll just do it on my own without telling anyone about it.

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Wed, 16th Apr '08, 9:20 pm::

Things have been pretty good lately. On Sunday, I finally got to hold my godson Jackson when I visited Jessica & Andrew in Gainesville. I spent most of the day with Tay and Kaela and played with Jackson in the evening. He's under four-months old but already over 18lbs! Nothing much going on these days but I'm keeping myself busy with lots of little interesting things. I'll write about them as I make good progress.

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Sun, 13th Apr '08, 10:35 am::

I had a pretty good day yesterday in Orlando and then later Gainesville. After a yummy dinner and a great conversation at Sweet Tomatoes (my favorite place ever) with Spring, I drove north a few miles to hang out with Sandra and her three kitties. Around midnight, I drove up to Gainesville and had some Cuban rice and veggies with Taylor. Later a bunch of Taylor's friends came over and we sat out on the picnic table till 3am, wine-glasses in hand. Today, I hope to go see my friend Jessica and her 3 month old baby, Jackson.

In other news, my crazy dreams have returned. And by crazy I mean fusion-powered submarines invented by a mad Russian scientist who wants to steal my sister's necklace and use it for the core of his torpedo guidance system. Umm, yeah. You have a dream like that for three hours, remember every bit of it, and THEN try to have a normal day of interaction with people around you. It's not easy. I'm still weirded out.

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Thu, 10th Apr '08, 12:10 am::

I don't know what it was but I started to feel a bit nostalgic tonight and put on some of my favorite Hindi music. Contrary to the cliched songs involving trees, mountains, and fancy clothes, most of the Indian music I cherish is sombre, soothing, and has beautiful lyrics. I couldn't listen to more than five songs without feeling extremely homesick so I decided to get on reddit and read a funny story or two. As luck would have it, the top story was "At a Loss" by columnist Dan Savage. Instead of his regular hilarious columns on relationships, this one had him say "My mother died on Monday." Forget getting a chuckle or two, I ended up with a stream of tears. And things only got worse when I foolishly clicked on a similar article mentioned by a fellow redditor: Dave Barry's column about his final good-bye with his father.

I could use a hug right about now.

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Sun, 6th Apr '08, 5:50 pm::

I'm in Gainesville at Taylor's place, listening to Kaela and him talk about her work advertisement project.

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Fri, 4th Apr '08, 5:05 pm::

The worst part about being a grownup is that when you're alone in a room with a box full of donuts, you are supposed to control yourself and take only one or two. Screw being a grownup! Donuts for dinner at work :)

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Fri, 4th Apr '08, 12:05 am::

April is going to be awesome for Sched.

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Mon, 31st Mar '08, 7:00 pm::

I presently have the worst headache of my life that I can remember. I used to get headaches as a kid but that stopped long ago and I rarely get them anymore. I think the prescription for my glasses has changed. Guess I need to get my eyes checked now. This also means, sitting on the computer staring at the screen is almost impossible. So I'm gonna go offline and cook myself a nice dinner.

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Sat, 29th Mar '08, 8:55 pm::

All day I had been staring at the logo on my favorite hangout reddit.com and kept wondering who the dork on the alien's body was. I went to redditalien.com and redditall.com to see if there were any details but no such luck. I gave up thinking it was probably some weirdo online. Turns out, *I* was that weirdo! The always awesome Alexis put MY head on the reddit alien's body. And despite staring at it all day, I didn't even realize it was me!

Alexis changes the reddit logo often so here is the screenshot with my head on reddit logo and here's the original photo of yours truly on the beach by Taylor. Since early afternoon, Tay had been sending me cryptic messages, as if hinting at something, and only now do I get what he was pointing at! I feel like the most clueless person ever. And here's folks on reddit discussing today's logo.

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Stop trying to save the EarthSat, 29th Mar '08, 6:00 pm::

"Earth Hour" is exactly the kind of feel-good useless environmental activism that makes me want to build a rocket so I can get off this planet. If I wasn't so lazy, I would celebrate Earth Hour by turning on all my four computers, every light and fan in my house, turning on my big-screen TV, setting the microwave, electric oven, and all four gas stoves to high, running the washer/dryer to max-cycles + max-loads, cranking my air-conditioner to highest setting, and putting up Christmas lights for the whole neighborhood to see.

You want to "save the planet?" Give up leisure flying. Don't ever fly to Europe, South America, Nepal, or New Zealand for a vacation. Ever. Only travel when you absolutely have to. Oh, is that too much of a sacrifice? Well, if you don't want to make a real difference because that entails giving up something you want and instead just wish to pretend like you are somehow helping the planet with no major inconvenience to yourself, go ahead, turn off your lights for an hour. I will spend my evening doing things I do every Saturday - cook, watch TV, go online, not participate in meaningless group-think movements, teach my cats to play fetch - you know, the usual.

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Interesting peopleSun, 23rd Mar '08, 6:20 pm::

Sometimes when I meet new interesting people, I get this urge to thank them for being themselves. It is a pretty unusual thing to tell someone directly to their face and I've never been able to put it eloquently in a real conversation, but if I ever did, I think it would go something like this:

"I am glad you exist because that gives me hope in humanity. Maybe we're not the best of friends and don't have much chemistry to work, travel, or live together but it warms my heart to know that the world isn't full of hopeless, copycat, materialistic dunces. I know that you are doing your part to keep things weird and interesting for the rest of us folks. Thanks for being yourself and keep it up."

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Sun, 23rd Mar '08, 6:05 pm::

I think all the problems of my life would be solved if human teleportation became a reality. The only thing about my life that isn't awesome is that nearly every person I love and cherish, is far away from me. Some people are a few hours away, some are across the country, and some are across the world. Often I have dreams wherein distances don't matter. So I could be having lunch with my friends in New Jersey and then walk into my room in India to say something to my mom and then walk out to my aunt's backyard in Utah. I woke up yesterday morning, forgetting that SXSW is over, and almost group-texted "Where's everyone, let's get lunch..." Everyone's too damned far.

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Sat, 22nd Mar '08, 6:45 pm::

I think I finally slept enough today to shake off the tiredness from SXSW. I actually woke up at 5am to go kayaking but went back to sleep after I checked the weather online. Cloudy days are no fun for kayaking but perfect for sleeping in. I am now washed and dryer'ed. It's time to hit the town.

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Sun, 16th Mar '08, 7:00 pm::

I'm home from 10 crazy days of SXSW. So very tired.

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Fri, 14th Mar '08, 7:30 pm::

Every day, a new theory pervades my mind and connects all the random musings into a unified outlook on life. After being here in Austin for a full week now, I feel overwhelmed by the number of interesting experiences that I was able to have in such a short span of time. I was able to compress the events of an entire year into seven days and that basically means, I have two 2008's - the regular 2008 and the SXSW 2008. In 2007, I saw about 6-7 movies, went to 3-4 music shows, met 6-7 interesting people, went to 3-4 parties, and got famous 2-3 times. Hmmm, that's less than one week here in Austin! So I already hit my personal entertainment goals for the year 2008. Now I have ten more months to live it up.

Yesterday I went to see musicians Robyn, Sia, Jens Lekman, Islands, and my favorite Asylum Street Spankers. Today I watched part one of the trilogy: Mongol and a documentary series about Punk Rock band NOFX's World Tour. Also saw Lykke Li today and now we're off to dinner!

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Say what you want, do what you shouldThu, 13th Mar '08, 2:20 pm::

I don't know what exactly I was mulling over a few days ago but I concluded that it was all because I say what I want and do what I should. When it comes to expressing myself, I don't try to please the audience by saying what they want to hear but rather what I really think. Words should not be spoken to appease but to communicate. However, when it comes to doing things, actions, I don't do whatever I want. I do what is appropriate and is expected of me morally and sanely. So that means I will tell you that you are a moron for dropping out of school but I will help you pack and move if you have made up your mind. I have noticed that most politicians are the complete opposite of this and which is why I'd never make a good "leader" anywhere. You are expected to SAY what people want to hear but in the end you just do whatever you want and thankfully for you, get away with it.

I think the people I tend to like are also the ones who speak their minds but do what's right. My family and relatives tend to fall into that category, which would explain why despite them saying completely crazy things, I still love them all so much. I don't have much respect for those who say what they should and do what they should because they have no backbones. I have learnt to stay away from those who say what they want and do what they want because their lack of control often ruins the evening. It's not easy to have fun when you get kicked out of every party because your companions are reckless morons.

It's a nice day outside, I'm going to walk around and get some food. Austin, TX is a nice place to walk around.

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Wed, 12th Mar '08, 1:45 pm::

Everything Taylor told me about SXSW has either proven to be exactly true or beyond my wildest expectations. He told me how initially you meet a lot of really neat people and parties get crazier each night. Then you start to lose physical energy, wake up later each day, stay up later each night, till the last day when you can't even get out of bed. He said how friendly everyone is and how carefree the atmosphere is. So far, it's been pretty damn awesome being here. Having people thank and congratulate us for Sched.org is icing on top of the already sweet cake. The music festival started today and although I didn't get the pass to attend official music events, there are still many unofficial shows I might go to. I'm going to watch a few more films and continue to meet more people, preferably while sober. Quite a few folks are following me on Twitter and I think I finally see the utility of the site. If you want to know what I'm doing during my stay here, sign up for Twitter and click 'follow' on my profile.

Having so much choice in what to do around here has had an interesting impact on the way I see things. Regular life is seeing and working with the same set of people day in, day out. So you get to learn who they are and can react based on how they have acted in the past. Here, I don't know anyone and nobody knows me (at least not on a personal level). The only person I know is me and the more people I meet, the more I hear this 'me' person talking about himself. I'm not on some mission to "find" my true self but my voice is clearly establishing an identity for itself.

I have often wondered where I fall on the introvert/extrovert divide. I can be social and meet 20 new people within an hour any given evening if I so desire. Or I can sit in the lounge (like I am right now), not talking to anyone and just minding my own business. I could be an extrovert and confidently call the girl I met last night without a single misspoken word or I can sit here hoping nervously that she calls me. I am beginning to feel that I am really a typical introvert who simply has a lot of experience faking extrovertedness. Who knows. All I know is that it's just wonderful being here and having the time of my life. And I have my buddy Taylor to thank for all this and more.

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Sched.org on front-page of WiredMon, 10th Mar '08, 12:35 pm::

Wonderful Wired.com article about Sched.org. As of right now, we're the front-page story.

Yesterday, I met the guy who made one of my favorite pieces of coder-libraries, jQuery. Then the insanely cool Alexis from reddit bought us dinner. The entire group chilled at the Gawker party. Tay and I ended up on Wired.com frontpage. We also met Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook party. I saw only one movie, Beautiful Losers, and it didn't disappoint. I don't know what I can do today to top all of that off. I'll try to watch some more movies and attend a few more panels. I'm so hungry.

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Sun, 9th Mar '08, 11:30 am::

Austin has been non-stop fun so far. During the day I watch movies and attend interactive panels and after the sun sets, we go to parties where I lose my inhibitions. The daytime-me is a calm, collected individual who loves documentaries and engaging discussions. The nighttime-me has drinks in both his hands and dances with any girl he fancies. Of course, the morning-me is a tired, worn-out fellow cursing at nighttime-me for partying too much.

In other news, our little website Sched.org has 2,000 users! People are recognizing me through the website and coming up to me to thank me for making it. Taylor and I got interviewed by Wired about Sched.org - let's see if they write something neat. A lot of the panelists and industry leaders are using and promoting Sched.org themselves. The site was mentioned in both the 'How to Rock at SXSW' panels and Taylor even got a big hand from everyone at one of them.

I have a lot of cool things to watch today so it's time to shower and get ready. This is day 3/10. I am so excited to see what happens next.

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Fri, 7th Mar '08, 4:55 pm::

I'm in the Austin airport, waiting for the rest of the crew to get here so we can go to the hotel. So excited!

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Fri, 7th Mar '08, 9:05 am::

I'm leaving my house in a few minutes for Austin, TX.

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Living as if tomorrow is your last day?Sun, 2nd Mar '08, 12:35 am::

It always bothers me when people say you have to live your life as if tomorrow is your last day. That's because if tomorrow is my last day, there are many things I will do that I would certainly regret if I'm alive on the day after tomorrow. Given just twenty-four hours to live, most people including yours truly, will just party non-stop for as long as they can and then retreat into delirious seclusion because of the immediate threat of death. Living your life as if you're going to be dead before the next mortgage payment comes up is pretty irresponsible and not a good motto to live by. On the flip side, living as if you have all the time in the world to do everything you want just makes you lazy and procrastinate without ever accomplishing anything.

People are bad at making 5-10-15 year life-plans and except for a very few people (like med-school students and retirees), nobody knows where they'll be in a couple of years. What made me think about the appropriate length of the ticking-death-clock is a mention of Prof. Randy Pausch online. About six months ago I watched his moving "Last Lecture at Carnegie Mellon" online. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2006 and given three to six months to live. His last lecture was in September 2007 and thankfully, he is still vigorous and active till date. Here's a brilliant, energetic family man who has lived the last 18 months thinking he'll die within the next three months. And to top it off, he has went on to accomplish his childhood dreams (like practicing with his favorite sports team and getting a talking role in the next Star Trek movie) as well as ensuring his wife and kids have wonderful memories of him.

In a span of three to six months, you can do a lot. Travel across a continent, write a book, build a swimming pool for the kids, and go on a long road trip with your best friend. You can live each day to the fullest while not driving the people you leave behind crazy. This is quite achievable and exciting if you think about it. Today is March 2nd. If everything you ever wanted to do, had to be done by September 2nd, what would you do and when? No, you can't wait till Christmas. You can't put off going skiing till November. You don't have infinite money and your savings aren't enough to support six months of bills on top of all the fun you want to have. That means, you have to keep your job, you have to continue to pay auto insurance, and you have to be responsible about your actions. All this, while the six-month clock is ticking.

I can't imagine what Prof. Pausch is going through, especially with the chemotherapy treatments and tremendous media exposure, but I know it in my heart that whenever he hugs his wife and kids, he does it like a man who has three months to live and wants to make every moment of it memorable for the ones he leaves behind.

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Working as a teamFri, 29th Feb '08, 11:55 pm::

Last Sunday when I woke up lazily around noon after a long kayaking trip the previous day, my partner-in-chime-and-crime, Tay showed me a new site he was working on. He has been going to the South-by-South-West (SXSW) Music & Film festival in Austin, Texas for a number of years now and has managed to make a name for himself by making easy-to-use-and-print calendars for the event. SXSW features over three thousand music shows and hundreds of film premiers, along with hundreds of interactive conferences and panels over the span of ten short days. For the twenty-five thousand people that go to SXSW each year, deciding where to go is a hectic process because so many interesting events are taking place at the same time in downtown Austin. The last thing you want to do is miss your favorite band or a book-reading by your favorite author because you were stuck at a boring party and didn't know what else was going on just around the block.

This year, I'm going to SXSW with Tay - March 7th - 16th. I saw the new design for his schedule and immediately wanted to help turn it into a wonderful, easy-to-use, auto-updating event-planner. Thus Sched.org was born. Every evening after work this past week, Tay and I worked on refining the design, layout, features, and content of Sched.org. We launched the site early this morning and already have over 200 users signed up for 4000 events. Frankly, all we wanted to do was make a neat way to find what events (films, music shows, discussion panels, and parties) were worth going to. So it's pretty amusing that not even 12 hours after launch, we're being considered among the SXSW Breakout App of 2008 contenders and getting some props.

The way I see it, I hopped on to Sched.org (I picked the name by the way - go me!) was to accomplish two things. First, make sure my ten days in Austin will be exciting and memorable (here's my incomplete sxsw schedule). Second, and more importantly, get in the groove of working in a fast-paced project development mode with Tay. I've worked on many projects online with a lot of people but over the last four years, my professional rapport with Tay has continued to improve and strengthen like no other. It's not all bunnies and butterflies because we disagree on a lot of fundamental design and business points of view. However, the fact that we always come to an agreement that actually works better than our own personal choices, is why it's always a pleasure to work with him. Simply put, I want red and he wants green. We yell at each other for 10 minutes and in the end one of us picks yellow and we both immediately say "That's perfect!"

Just like Chime.TV, our newer projects aren't about making yet-another-typical-website. Both of us are too lazy to make something that already exists, even if it's not free. Consequently, it doesn't matter to me personally whether every tiny app we build goes gold and garners publicity, though positive feedback is always wonderful. What does matter is that in the end, we feel proud of what we made and manage to help a bunch of people in tiny little ways. Here's to Sched.org and a hundred more creative deviances in the future!

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Sun, 24th Feb '08, 12:55 pm::

Last night at 11:30pm, I got home from a superb kayaking trip with 60 paddlers down in the Florida Everglades. I found out about the trip on the Green Wave forum and immediately decided I'm going. Friday evening after work, I got home, strapped my kayak on to my car, packed some food and clothes, and headed South. I never have to pack anything other than food and clothes because everything I could never need for camping and kayaking is already in my car at all times - US/Florida Atlas, tent, sleeping bag, pillow, beach chairs, beach umbrella (eh eh eh), kayak paddle, seat, straps, paper towels, and a plastic bucket for wet clothes and trash.

I passed Everglades City at about 11pm and found my camping site in a few minutes. I setup my tent and went to sleep. I could hear frogs croaking all night in the wilderness. I woke up at around 6:20am and drove over to the Everglades Park Range Station kayak ramp near the south tip of Everglades City and met a bunch of people putting in at the same time. We paddled about 6 miles to Indian Key out in the Gulf. We meandered to many a coves along the way, catching glimpses of porpoises, herons, and ospreys. Linzy, Lindsay, and I walked around the island and saw an amazing number of whelks, conchs, tulip shells, and dried corals. There was a big lunch grill but I don't like to eat much during long hauls. After lunch, we paddled for a few miles, found a small strip of sand on a mangrove island, and shored our kayaks. A quick dip in the water cooled us three down for the rest of the paddle. We got back to the put-in at about 3:30pm. I went back to my camping site, showered, checked out, and headed back to Triad's in Everglades City for dinner.

It was pretty neat talking to a bunch of young and old kayakers about their favorites places to paddle to. I sat across from a retired captain and his daughter Jen. Many of the older kayakers are into paddle-fishing and while that's something I don't do, it was still interesting to hear them talk passionately about it. I met a few guys that actually designed these kayaks and write articles for kayak magazines. The funny thing was that I've been to more places than many of the seasoned pros mainly because I like going to a new place every time. Oh and the old captain paid for my dinner and I didn't even know or got a chance to thank him! They left early so later when I asked for my check, the waitress said "oh you're paid for."

I drove home, threw the trash, hung out the wet clothes to dry, and went to bed. Today will be yet another lazy Sunday.

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Mon, 18th Feb '08, 12:05 am::

My first HD video is finally online after hours of editing: Kayaking down the Chassahowitzka River. Click on the 'Full' button for the highest resolution. I'd say even after just one video, I have learnt a lot of things that will make my next video better.

Ten things I learnt after my first nature/documentary-style video:

  1. Dont talk about useless stuff i.e. keep mumbling to a minimum.
  2. Take slow, long shots. Preferably move instead of just panning.
  3. Don't zoom. Instead, take a clip, stop, zoom, take another clip.
  4. If you said something wrong, retake entire clip.
  5. Make sure there are no annoying noises in the background. Dubbing takes a lot more effort.
  6. Feel free to take multiple shots of the same thing.
  7. Don't even bother to shoot scenes you will edit out anyway, like four blurry minutes of sea gulls flying around.
  8. Don't turn 180 degrees unless it is shaded in all directions because the sun will mess with the lighting.
  9. Dont make girly motions with hands no matter how secure you are in your manliness.
  10. Speak more clearly, slowly, and do not start EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE with "So..."

I'd say my next video will definitely be more interesting. I am more than satisfied with the quality and performance of my new $200 Kodak Z812IS. I believe in upgrading my equipment when I truly outgrow it. For now, there is no camera in the world that can improve my video editing skills. Nor will any video editing software help me with impromptu dialog delivery. I used a trial version of Sony Vegas to edit the 70+ Quicktime H.264 movie clips that my camera shoots to natively and if my next video editing session goes well, I will certainly buy the software. Video editing is fun!

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Sat, 16th Feb '08, 7:20 pm::

I swam with four Manatees in the wild today at Chassahowitzka River while kayaking. Here are my Chassahowitzka River photos, though none of me and the manatees - yet. A nice lady kayaking nearby saw me in the water and took some snaps. She said she'll email them to me by Monday. I have my fingers crossed.

I knew manatees were friendly but I had grossly underestimated their cuteness. Without me doing anything, one of the manatees approached me and started sniffing my legs underwater with his snout. Then he held my left hand between both his flippers and started nuzzling my hand! Another one came up and put his neck over my hand so I could pet it and then turned over so I could rub his belly. I swam around in the water for almost twenty minutes and one of them kept following me wherever I went. He was like a huge kitty just looking for some cuddles. I've heard of people swimming with captive manatees at places like Sea World but today when I put in my kayak at 7:45am, I had no clue I would get to swim with these gigantic lovable creatures out in the wild. Their skin feels just like an elephant's and they have a soft snout that they lift just an inch above the water surface to breathe.

One thing to always remember is that because of the Endangered Species Act, you are not allowed to touch manatees with both your hands at the same time and neither are you allowed to chase after them. The best thing to do is just stand in one place like I did initially and let them come to you. Then after a while you can move about slowly and let them chase you if they are interested. While inside my head I was extremely excited about the experience, when I was in the water, I did my best to be gentle and calm. Nature isn't like a staged show with trained dolphins jumping around. Wild manatees cannot become too tame or else they will suffer out in the ocean so human contact should be minimal and infrequent for their own sake.

Last time I kayaked was in September - 26 miles on the Suwannee - and when I went back into the water today, I really wasn't expecting much. I was hoping to take some good pictures and maybe a couple of short videos in HD. But the whole swimming-with-manatees experience was completely out of this world. I've kayaked and surfed with dolphins before but today's swim tops all of that. Now I'm going to try to edit the 73 HD clips (almost 45 minutes) I filmed today into one short video.

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Sun, 10th Feb '08, 6:20 pm::

Me yesterday. Me today. Also my new Kodak EasyShare Z812 IS camera just arrived yesterday. It's an 8 megapixel camera with 12x Optical Zoom and shoots HD video in 1280x720 resolution. I'm still waiting for the 8 GB SD Card so I can actually start using it to its full potential. Right now on the default 32mb internal memory, I can barely get it to take a few pictures. The camera and SD card including shipping & handling were under $250. Beat that!

Also notice the top bar above where I added a new button: my videos - click it anytime to see all the videos I shoot on my new camera. Yes, finally in 2008 I have managed to figure out how to upload videos online so others can see. So far I've upload two videos of my kitties with really bad background music and one ten-minute long video of me indoor-skydiving. Hey, I never claimed to be the next Kurosawa. It's kitty and kayaking videos from now till the end of time as far as I'm concerned.

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Anti-Green BandwagonSat, 9th Feb '08, 1:25 am::

Green-Green-Green: Who doesn't like saving the environment? We humans have the audacity to pretend like we can "save" a planet with mass of 6 trillion-trillion kgs (that is six followed by twenty-four zeros) while we cannot even figure out an affordable way to harness solar power. Yet every company is now trying to be green. When a company goes "green" what they are really saying is that "from now on, as we continue to plunder the natural resources of a geological area like we have been for the past two centuries, we will print lots of pamphlets and brochures to show you exactly what used to be here so you can feel less guilty about buying our products."

Behind the brilliant feel-good marketing strategy is the plain and simple truth that production of any kind requires resources and despite every attempt to use renewable resources, in the end the environment is worse off. The only way to absolutely not harm the environment is to not live in a civilized society and wander around in small herds picking berries and hunting wild boars. I tried that once and while I would not recommend it, it was still better than my trip to Disney. So where is the happy, sustainable medium between blowing up the coral reefs and foraging for wild fruits? It is somewhere nobody wants to be. It is the no-electricity, no-Internet, no-running-water, no-healthcare, no-mass-production world that over half the population of the world wants to rise up from. The drought-ridden populace of Africa is sustainable, the flourishing Scandinavian or Latin American world is not, let alone United States, Australia, and continental Europe. As long as every single person in the planet strives to achieve a decent standard of living, there is absolutely no way to save the environment.

When the dear old grandma in the heartland of China wants to get running water, someone has to make the water pipes, tap, electric pump, power lines, and a billing system to measure how much water she uses. No matter how green each of the companies that produce these items are, they are magnitudes away from an earthen-pot filled with water from the nearby stream. Nobody wants elderly women to break their backs and suffer due to the lack of clean water but that is the cost of actually going green.

Driving bicycles instead of monster trucks is a good start but it still requires metal foundries, plastic fabricators, heavy machineries, and electricity and fuel to drive it all. Add to this the physical buildings that employees work in and the entire construction industry that built it all up. You can go from a truck to a cycle but you cannot go from consumption to no-consumption. If the companies truly want to go green, they should say "stop buying out products, and if you do, use them for as long as you can even if that kills our growth."

Despite every attempt to save the environment for the children of the 6.5 billion people on this planet today, we cannot do so while promising everyone a good standard of living. Even if we magically get a free never-ending renewable source of energy tomorrow, we will still have to dig up mountains and cut-down forests to supply the entire world with rocks, minerals, metals, wood, and habitable lands. That was fine when there were 10 million people on the planet but for 1000 times that population, there will be no green way out. There is no green solution to this problem because civilization and nature by their very definition are completely opposite. If we go too far in favor of civilization, we ruin nature. If we go too far towards saving nature, we ruin people's lives.

Pretending like we can achieve a healthy balance, which is what most companies going green seem to claim, is like saying "despite every single thing we do that inadvertently ruins the environment, let us cut back marginally in some instances and thump our chests loudly, proclaiming that it is a big deal." The entire movement of going green is a band-aid to the systemic cancer that is central to this whole issue - too many people wanting too many things. If every single means of production today went perfectly green, it would not achieve even a small percentage of what a moderate decrease in demand would.

So without running off into the wild, what can an environmentally-friend person do? Firstly, realize that no matter what you do, you are absolutely positively harming the environment by simply existing. The very fact that you breathe out carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, adds a tiny tiny bit to the problem of global warming. Secondly, accept that since you are part of the environment and have chosen to live a civilized life, there is no point in pretending that you can in any way, save the environment. No, don't even think about it. You are killing it just like I am, so please stop acting like you are in any way better than an SUV driver who eats baby pandas for breakfast. You and he use magnitudes more resources than the dear old lady in China as you both drive on the same roads, live in houses made of same materials, and shop in the same kind of big box grocery stores.

Even if you consume one-third of the fuel an average person uses, that is still infinitely more than not using any resources at all. Moreover, the fuel and resources you use may not be directly visible to you. For instance, the pain-relief medication you take that the SUV driver does not have to, was brought to mass-production at a cost of over a billion dollars, millions of which were spent on manufacturing equipment, printer paper for documentation and promotional purposes, a decade of clinical trials combined with laboratory testing on cute fuzzy lab rats, and intensive medical, quality, and safety training for all personnel involved in the entire chain. So stop trying to think that you are saving the environment while not doing anything substantially different from any other around you. Third, and this is the only one you have some control over, stop buying things you do not need and can live without. Replace real-life versions with online-versions. Loading a web-page of a news-article uses less resources than the same article in a printed magazine. Be careful here as this is the part that exemplifies the primary trade-offs between civilized and hunter-gatherer lifestyles. Should you read books printed on paper or idle away all night watching the stars? Should you stay at home and brush your hair all day or travel 1400 miles away to attend a film festival? A well-traveled, well-read, well-dressed person is bad for the environment by the very acts that defines them. So pick wisely. And most importantly, stop buying the "we love the bunnies and rainbows" marketing spiels by every company that is just trying to raise their quarterly sales figures.

Say a company sells 100 widgets at a cost of five dead penguins to the environment. Now they go green with 40% improvements in efficiency and only choke three penguins for the 100 widgets. If their green marketing strategy works and sales double from 100 to 200 widgets, they are now offing six penguins as opposed to five before. It does not matter if percentage-wise they are doing much better - environment works in absolute terms. They have one additional dead penguin AFTER going green because of a rise in the demand for their product. If they stole business from other non-green companies that desecrated seven penguins for each 100 widgets, it is indeed a net absolute-gain for the penguin population however, with a marginal rise in demand for their widgets over time as a result of their effective sales campaigns, they will be back to the old pre-green dead penguin total. The only thing going green can do is slow down the damage for a very short term. And that is basically what everything from the carbon-offsetting scam to food-as-fuel is all about - making negligible environmentally-friendly advances in the near-term so as to downplay the inherent crisis of incessant resource abuse that is paramount to our way of life outside self-sustaining hamlets.

Cities like those in Europe can plan better public transportation systems and encourage bicycle use but they cannot promote negative growth. No municipality organization wants people to move out of their city to go live in villages because that would mean lower tax-revenues and negative local GDP. Every public or private planning commission in-charge of saving the local flora-fauna has the primary goal of infusing growth while ensuring minimal direct damage to the natural landscape. That is akin to a doctor who rubs alcohol on a death-row inmate before emptying a syringe full of lethal chemicals. There is no balance that can be achieved in the long-term if the axiomatic goal is to favor the destructive course of action over the non-destructive one.

The brightest, most-compassionate minds of today are striving to achieve this balance between standard of living and preventing environmental abuse. Try as they might, the only real solution will come about naturally and at a tremendous cost to humanity sometime in the future. Recurring episodes of the traditional Malthusian Catastrophe have forever ensured that whenever the population grows beyond their own ability to feed and fend for themselves, there is a sharp rises in mortality rates that in the end, bring down the numbers to sustainable levels. Bluntly put, nature takes care of over-population by killing a large number of people. It could be the starving kids in Sudan or an infectious pandemic in a densely populated metropolis; advances in technology can go far in delaying this eventual catastrophe but they can never prevent it forever.

Prof. Albert Bartlett, a modern-day Malthusian or in other words a cynical, practical economist like me, often explains how the term "sustainable growth" is an oxymoron. He is the true genius that famously stated one of my favorite quotes of all time, "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." I wrote all of the above before reading his thoughts on long-term energy supplies (pdf). From the very beginning, I was quite careful about what I wrote as the last thing I want to do is sound like a pessimistic doomsday fearmongerer. But having read his article now, I feel oddly vindicated that my line of thinking was pretty much similar to his - too many people needing too many resources. He has a garnered lot of criticism, especially for voicing that over-population is to blame for depletion of resources. I usually try to stay away from the same claim mainly because the moment you mention "population control," people think of communist regimes mandating abortions on women with more than one child.

On the two sides of every debate, is a realist and an idealist. The realist sees how things are and calls a spade, a spade. The idealist reads the numbers and has a gut feeling that things are wonderful and will get better regardless of all the glaringly obvious problems. Idealists are great for leading daring expeditions in uncharted waters. Realists are great for making policies that minimize the gap between the number of single males and the number of single females in a country, so as not to cause a major uprising by the male denizens who cannot find a wife. Similarly, people can observe the status of the world as it is today, exponentially growing population with an arithmetically growing energy supply, and come to their own conclusions as to what will eventually happen. Will the go-green fad actually prove its effectiveness or will we continue down the road of oil wars and deforestation-related droughts and famines? You are welcome to let me know what you think.

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Advertising AnnoyancesFri, 8th Feb '08, 10:20 pm::

There are a lot of things about advertising that annoy me but usually I shrug them off as necessary evils in a consumption-centric society. Advertising increases sales, ramps up production volumes, helps industries benefit from economies of scale, and usually raises the standard of living for everyone involved in the supply chain. However, there are more than a few products and marketing shticks that solely exist to insult and infuriate me and every person smarter than a potato. The fact that people actually buy these products in droves only reinforces my pet theory that humans evolved from dodos. Here are a few of my advertising annoyances, with my biggest one at the last:

  • Water with low-calories: Let's get this straight. Water has ZERO calories. If water has calories, it's not water - it's either juice, lemonade, or really dirty water. So those Propel ads promising healthier water are as much a load of junk as the spam emails for v1Agr@. Either drink water or drink fresh juice. There is no "healthy" water.
  • Seasonal Marketing: This is one of those absolutely necessary evils because you can't really sell diamonds on Halloween or snow shovels in summer but there is nothing more annoying than seeing one jewelry ad after another, each trying to prove that there is no love without diamonds and gold. Similarly, this being the season for filing taxes, every tax software ad claims that by using their service, I will get a refund check so big my friends will stand by in amazement as if I won a lottery. Stop treating me like I am stupid.
  • Prepaid cards: Paying companies 100% of your own money in advance for a debit card that you or someone else can use in only a select few places, while being subject to transaction fees, monthly fees, and expiration dates is one of the stupidest things you can do with your money. It's not a "gift card." It's an "I don't know what to buy you so instead of giving you cash that you can readily use to buy what you want, I'm going to force you to go to Macy's within next 30 days" card. As if this wasn't stupid enough, the tax preparation companies this year have come out with the "novel" concept of offering you the option to get your tax refund not as a check, bank deposit, or cash but as a debit card issued by them.
  • Non-native accents for local products: If you're selling chocolate made in Switzerland, I can see how a narrator with a European accent would lend credibility to the sales pitch. What I loathe is the use of a British accent to give an aura of elegance to a bottle of shampoo made in Tennessee. Conversely, stop trying to overdo the native accents for local products to show how American your products are. I'm looking at you every-Ford-GM-truck-ad-ever-made.
  • Green-Green-Green: Who doesn't like saving the environment? We humans have the audacity to pretend like we can "save" a planet with mass of 6 trillion-trillion kgs (that is six followed by twenty-four zeros) while we cannot even figure out an affordable way to harness solar power. Yet every company is now trying to be green. When a company goes "green" what they are really saying is that "from now on, as we continue to plunder the natural resources of a geological area like we have been for the past two centuries, we will print lots of pamphlets and brochures to show you exactly what used to be here so you can feel less guilty about buying our products." Read the rest of my anti-green-bandwagon diatribe.

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Thu, 7th Feb '08, 12:10 am::

After a few months of procrastination, my Go board is finally ready. I made it 13x13 and instead of stones, I have black & white glass beads and round wooden boxes to hold them. I've started learning the rules of the game again and hopefully in a few months, I will become moderately proficient at it. If you want to experience what Go is like, check out Chat Noir game which is very loosely based on the same fundamental concept i.e. capturing your opponent.

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Thu, 31st Jan '08, 8:05 am::

I woke up this morning and my entire house smelled like an Indian buffet. Last night I bought a new Crock-Pot Slow Cooker and filled it with fresh veggies and lots of Indian spices. Late at night I turned it on at the lowest setting so by dinner time tonight, it would be ready to eat. I think from now on I'll turn it on at medium level in the morning. I haven't ever used a slow cooker but all my friends have and they love it so I'm kinda excited to see how it'll turn out. From what I hear, the vegetables soak up every bit of flavor and are thoroughly delicious. I love fruits but I love my veggies more. I put broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, red/yellow/orange peppers, onions, garlic, and lots of herbs and spices. Yum!

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Sat, 26th Jan '08, 12:15 pm::

The next James Bond movie is titled "Quantum of Solace." The name is derived from a short story titled the same. This is the excerpt:

    The Governor paused and looked reflectively over at Bond. He said: "You're not married, but I think it's the same with all relationships between a man and a woman. They can survive anything so long as some kind of basic humanity exists between the two people. When all kindness has gone, when one person obviously and sincerely doesn't care if the other is alive or dead, then it's just no good. That particular insult to the ego - worse, to the instinct of self-preservation - can never be forgiven. I've noticed this in hundreds of marriages. I've seen flagrant infidelities patched up, I've seen crimes and even murder forgiven by the other party, let alone bankruptcy and every other form of social crime. Incurable disease, blindness, disaster - all these can be overcome. But never the death of common humanity in one of the partners. I've thought about this and I've invented a rather high-sounding title for this basic factor in human relations. I have called it the Law of the Quantum of Solace."

    Bond said: "That's a splendid name for it. It's certainly impressive enough. And of course I see what you mean. I should say you're absolutely right. Quantum of Solace - the amount of comfort. Yes, I suppose you could say that all love and friendship is based in the end on that. Human beings are very insecure. When the other person not only makes you feel insecure but actually seems to want to destroy you, it's obviously the end. The Quantum of Solace stands at zero. You've got to get away to save yourself.

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Mon, 21st Jan '08, 8:25 pm::

I often get emails from people from all over the world that go something like, "Hi Chirag! What do you eat that makes you look so hot and gorgeous? Can you please tell me how to be as awesome as you?" Ok, so I don't get emails like that often or rather ever. However, I did cook myself a nice dinner tonight. I steamed carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and peppers. Meanwhile I sauteed onions to a crisp golden color with some spicy Tandoori Masala and a generous amount of garlic. Then added okra, tomatoes, and finally two whole cans of chickpeas. After a few minutes I added the steamed veggies to this mix and within five minutes, dinner was served.

I ate two-thirds and put the rest in the fridge for tomorrow. Oh yeah, it was yummy. No, you can't have it. Not yours!

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Tue, 15th Jan '08, 9:55 pm::

I just paid my $300 registration fees to University of Tampa for the Masters of Science in Innovation Management program - Fall 2008. Classes start in late August. I'm pretty certain I'll have at least two classes, Mondays/Tuesdays 6-9pm, and probably more. It will be a part-time graduate study lasting about two years and shouldn't interfere with my day job.

Before school starts I have two vacation plans. First one is coming up soon and I'm very excited. March 7-16 in Austin, TX at South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film, and interactive festival with Tay and other cool peeps. We already have a hotel and week long passes. I need to buy my plane tickets and hopefully a decent digital camera as my six year old relic is now broken beyond repair.

Sometime around late summer, a few weeks before school starts I want to resign from my carefree life with one final act of defiant recklessness. I want to go camping, kayaking, hiking, rock-climbing, back-packing, and what-not in the North-West for at least two weeks. My heart truly aches for unspoilt wilderness.

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Fri, 11th Jan '08, 8:05 am::

I have so many random little things I want to write about. I don't want to sit on my computer for hours editing and pontificating so here's a summary of what could have been a series of 'blog entries.

I don't multitask. I have a one-track mind and find it way more efficient and productive to do one thing at one time. Multitasking is important for people who manage schedules, projects, and other people. For people that create something new that wasn't before, multitasking hampers concentration.

I don't have writers' block. Even if nothing is happening in my life, I can always find something that interests me enough to write about. Often I organize the thoughts in my head and just as I'm about to start writing, I close the window and go do something else. I don't lack motivation to write but sometimes I can't justify my time being spent sitting on a computer instead of playing with my spiffy new mini toy-helicopter (thanks Tay).

My showers used to take about four minutes. Thanks to Sandra's wonderful Christmas gift pack, now instead of using Head & Shoulders as shampoo/conditioner/body wash, I have three separate bottles from American Crew that do the same independently. It takes about 14 minutes to shower now. Also news to me was the capacity of my hot water heater - 7 minutes when shower is turned on full.

The ERP system at work has been in operation for well over a week now and everything is moving along as smoothly as I could have imagined. I still have lots of work to do but hopefully no more crazy hours.

I'm eating much better lately now that I don't come home at 11pm. I've started cooking every night and hope to do so from now on. I don't eat any meals other than dinner and yes, while that is very unhealthy for most people, it has always worked for me (and my mom). I understand how eating a big meal before you go to sleep doesn't burn all the calories efficiently and blah blah, but I don't care. This whole eating-once-a-day thing works for me well. I feel lazy and tired if I eat 2-3 meals a day.

The way I see it, eating multiple meals a day is a relatively modern norm just like the myth about drinking 8 glasses of water a day. I drink water when I'm thirsty. I drink enough to quench my thirst. Don't make this process any more complex. Early humans ate once a day or at most twice a day. I eat just as many calories, vitamins, and different food groups as I'm supposed to eat - I just eat all of it in one meal. I guess I have my own diet style because I'm pretty sure I have an eating disorder. I know it seems hard to believe but I can almost never tell when I'm hungry or when I'm full. So if I eat 3 meals a day, I usually end up overeating at each meal. Then I'll get busy with something and forget to eat for two days straight. I have actually asked my friends when we went out for dinner because that was the last time I ate. Relying on my stomach to gurgle and burp is not healthy. Now I eat once a day. So far so good.

I'm going to Tay's for the weekend. It's been a while since I had some social time. I'm excited.

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Sat, 5th Jan '08, 4:00 pm::

I just saw a surprisingly wonderful movie "The Perfect You" a.k.a. Crazy Little Thing (2002). The storyline is a bit like When Harry Met Sally but without the stereotypical men-vs-women generalizations. I like watching movies without any sort of prior expectations or ideas on how the story is about to develop. That's also a reason I've nearly stopped watching movie trailers or discussing movies before I actually see them. I just want to know that a movie X is good and interesting. I don't want to know the storyline, the cast, the reviews, or that the cinematography is unique and refreshing. Just tell me it's good enough to watch and then I'll let the movie do the storytelling.

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Wed, 2nd Jan '08, 7:05 pm::

It's 2008. My big database system at work went live today and I have never been more overworked in my life - and yes this includes four years of honors college with three jobs , two majors and a Math minor. The fact that every single person was able to use the new system to do their jobs without any major problems is sign enough that my non-traditional, over-ambitious strategy of "doing-everything-myself-and-my-way" worked. As with any large system, there will be issues to deal with on a regular basis but from all I can see, the system works exactly as I had planned. There is a lot more to be done in the coming months.

My entire family (including uncle, aunt, and cousins from New Jersey) is in India right now, touring the temples and palaces in the state of Rajasthan. My dad asked me to explain what exactly I was accomplishing in life living 10,000 miles away from everyone who loves me, spending Christmas and New-Years alone at work. I tried to sound cheerful and optimistic but it wasn't easy. Launching this system successfully was a personal goal, not a mere to-do-list for work. Now that I've done it and moreover, now that I know I can do it, the challenge is gone. It's exciting to climb Everest but I wouldn't want to shovel it after every snow-storm.

With not much left to motivate me now, it was hard to argue with dad. I could be making the same amount of money doing much less work in India and with the dollar continuously declining, probably even more there comparatively. So what am I doing here? I don't know. But know I'm ready to get back on my kayak soon with 21 vacation days for 2008.

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Sat, 22nd Dec '07, 9:45 pm::

We went indoor skydiving in Orlando today! Basically, it's a vertical wind tunnel where anyone can fly. I don't want to jump out of a plane anytime soon but I want to go back and do this over and over. Arthur and I both bought 10 minutes of flight time each and got a complete DVD of our sessions, along with tons of photos. This was definitely one of the awesomest experiences I've ever had.

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Fri, 21st Dec '07, 11:55 pm::

Arthur and I just got back from GameWorks in Tampa. I am the undefeated champion of Skee ball! Oh and air hockey too. Other than that I pretty much got my ass kicked at every video game we played from Star Wars to Indy 500 racing.

Earlier today we chilled at the beach for a couple of hours. It was a little chilly because of the breeze but it's way warmer than his home in New Jersey. I'm off to sleep now and here's hoping tomorrow's fun too.

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Thu, 20th Dec '07, 3:30 pm::

I received this email two days ago: "Dear Chirag, Greetings from the University of Tampa! I am writing to congratulate you on your admission for the 2008 Fall Term..." Looks like I got into the Masters of Science in Innovation Management program, classes start August 2008.

My friend Arthur (from New Jersey) is here to visit me for Christmas vacations. I have a nasty cough again and doubt that I can do much crazy outdoors stuff. Regardless, it's gonna be a kickass break from the 14 hour work days I've been putting in for the last three weeks.

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Sat, 15th Dec '07, 12:55 pm::

People have out-of-body experiences. Hallucinogenics and spirits give you out-of-mind experiences. I just had an out-of-place experience. As I stood in the parking lot at Toyota, waiting for my car to get the 35,000 mile service, a feeling of unanticipated displacement overtook me. The weather felt like Mumbai whilst the brightness compelled me to believe I was in the snow covered mountains of Utah. The couple from Lebanon bickering over auto-parts expenses reminded me of Premchand's tales from the heart of rural India while the tattooed Asian guy in a tow-truck resembled a frame from a Jet Li flick. I was there, inside my mind and body, but I wasn't sure where "there" was.

Maybe I shouldn't have stayed up late last night; certainly this is due to my uneven sleep schedule. I walked inside the waiting room hoping for the feeling to subside. Instead, I started to notice obvious things to such a detached extent that they became peculiarities to be mused over. An elderly couple exchanged a few words among themselves and the only thing that I could think of was "We used to be two separate individuals minding our own business. One day we decided to hang around each other more often. It felt good so we signed official documents to make sure we hang around each other even more. Now we consult with each other about every single thing regardless of its long-term impact and importance. Sometimes we wish we had picked someone else to hang around with but too bad we signed those documents."

A service rep. walked up to an amusingly rotund woman to let her know that her car was ready for pick-up. He commented that her screaming little boy was so well-behaved. All I heard was "This is the path I have chosen in life. I end up here on a Saturday, telling morbidly corpulent women that their noisy rascals are anything but. Why? Because if I don't get three more A+ service check marks on my customer satisfaction survey forms this month then I will have to find another place to carry on this shtick. I should have been a boat captain."

The voice on the speakers announced "Mr. Mayta, your car is ready." B+ on the pronunciation. I picked up my car and left.

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Wed, 5th Dec '07, 12:30 am::

I've been working a lot lately; crunch time before the new database system at work goes live on Jan 2nd 2008. Nothing too interesting going on these days, unless you fancy wireless 802.11b barcode scanners. My brain is pretty much on a single track during most of the day and I'm spending my evenings watching House M.D.. The weather's nice here and that pretty much sums up the highlight of my month so far.

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Sat, 1st Dec '07, 12:10 am::

I feel guilty that I love videos a lot more than written words, audio recordings, or static pictures. It seems like a vulgar form of communication and too easy to absorb. I don't mean I like movies more than books or music - those are types of content and some books are better than movies while some movies are better than books. I mean I'm partial to the medium of communication conveyed by moving pictures synchronized with an audio track, more than anything else.

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Voices in my headWed, 28th Nov '07, 11:15 am::

Usually within the first 4-6 hours of every single day, I get songs and phrases stuck in my head. I keep repeating these phrases over and over, almost chanting subconsciously. I hate it. I am absolutely sick of it but I don't know what I can do to avoid it. It's always something short and not too annoying by itself but constant repetition makes it unbearable.

Today's phrase-stuck-in-my-head is "to shreds you say" from a Futurama episode:

    [the Professor is on the phone]
    Professor Hubert Farnsworth: Oh how awful. Did he at least die peacefully?
    [pause]
    Professor Hubert Farnsworth: To shreds you say, tsk tsk tsk. Well, how's his wife holding up?
    [pause]
    Professor Hubert Farnsworth: To shreds you say.

Normally things get unstuck after noon regardless of when I have lunch or if I have breakfast. I don't know why this happens but it gets on my nerves.

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Sat, 24th Nov '07, 6:10 pm::

I just dropped off Laura at the airport. On Thursday, we went to Tay's parents' house for Thanksgiving Dinner and had a blast playing board games and learning the dark side of the Wii. We just stayed at home watching TV most of Friday and went out for veggie sushi in the evening. Today we made some yummy lunch and finished the leftover pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving. We went to a lot of different places over this past week (here's some pics) and spent the rest of the time watching tons of movies and TV shows. I'm going to miss her. Oh well.

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Wed, 21st Nov '07, 9:30 pm::

Laura and I went to some gorgeous places last couple of days. Yesterday afternoon we walked through the Florida Botanical Gardens and spent all of today on Sanibel & Captiva Islands - about four hours walking along the nature trails through J. N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. Tomorrow we're going to Tay's parents' house for Thanksgiving Dinner. It's movie time now.

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Tue, 20th Nov '07, 12:15 pm::

Laura flew in from Washington on Saturday. We've been hopping around town in the evenings and catching some good movies late into the nights. We're packing cheese sandwiches to go on one of those picnic things that normal people go on. I might introduce her to veggie sushi. I'm going to miss her after she leaves on Saturday.

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Wed, 14th Nov '07, 8:20 am::

If pictures of cats with bad grammar amuse you, you may like something I made last night: 2008 LOLCalendar. If you have no clue what this means, just pretend like you didn't read the previous line.

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Wed, 14th Nov '07, 8:15 am::

This week's going to be a lot of fun. Scott and Anthony (of HypeMachine fame) are coming to town. Tay is picking them up from Tampa and they'll probably barge into my work around 4pm tomorrow. I'm pretty excited about the weekend too - my friend from Washington is flying in. Hopefully lots of fun will ensue in the upcoming days.

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Fri, 9th Nov '07, 8:10 am::

Internet is a weird place. As of writing this, my 'blog gets more traffic than the official presidential campaign website of 9/11 Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

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Random notes from my school report cardsSun, 4th Nov '07, 1:15 pm::

I'm filling out the application for the Masters of Science in Innovation Management program at University of Tampa, starting September 2008. It's a long process and I have to get many documents in order before I submit the application. I ran across my old file of school report cards (all the way from nursery to high school) and it's pretty interesting to read what my teachers and mentors said when I was a little kid in India. Here are some of the more interesting random bits I found:

  • Jun 25, 1984 - Nursery: "Intelligent, but careless." A in Reading and Parts of the body, E (average) in Drawing and Coloring and Hand Work.
  • Dec 23, 1986 - Pre-Primary III: "Punctuality - often comes late. Went to zoo and enjoyed himself. Behavior - tends to be mischievous at times." A in Spelling, C in Hand Writing (thank god for computers!).
  • Jun 6, 1988 - 2nd Grade: "Very intelligent child; very exact, perfect and quick in his work; very cooperative and helpful to others; handwriting needs improvement." 50/50 in Number Work.
  • Apr 28, 1990 - 3rd Grade: "Grasping power is very good, tends to be careless, speech training required." Won 1st prize in Three-legged Race. A in Spelling, Science, General Knowledge, and Number Work.
  • Apr 15, 1991 - 4th Grade: "Intelligent but tends to be selfish and not friendly or helpful." Punctuality: C, Perseverance: A.
  • Apr 17, 1993 - 6th Grade: "Sincere and obedient boy; Class Rank - 1st; Result - Satisfactory" (I don't think my class teacher liked me much.)
  • May 12, 1994 - 7th Grade: "Outstanding in Volleyball; Class Rank - 1st." Weight: 51kgs / 112 lbs.
  • Apr 21, 1995 - 8th Grade: "Promising student; takes interest in all games but must try to excel in one; good in rifle shooting; sober and well behaved boy." Height: 5'8 (same as today).
  • May 15 1997 - 10th Grade: "Can do better; work harder; improve the quality of answers." Highest score in Language: 185/300, Social Studies: 159/200. Poor in Math: 59/100 (stupid Algebra!)

After 10th grade, personalized report cards gave way to computer printouts of standardized test results with percentile scores. TOEFL: 99%-ile, SAT: 95%-ile, GRE: 80%-ile, 4 years of college GPA: 3.9. If my work gave out report cards with little notes, I think it would still say: "Punctuality - always comes late. Takes long lunches. Must stop wearing free T-shirts and torn jeans to meetings with prospective business partners."

I also have to update my resume for the Masters application. Here's hoping I make the cut.

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Sat, 3rd Nov '07, 11:55 pm::

Today marks my sixth year of 'blogging on this site :)

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Sat, 3rd Nov '07, 11:50 pm::

I went to the Palladium Theatre downtown St. Petersburg tonight with Heather and her friends to see Jazz Masterwork Series. Overall it was a good experience though as I'm very picky with my Jazz music, I kept hoping they'd play more old Ragtime and Blues themed works instead of Disney-style orchestral pieces. I think I need to go to more jazz clubs.

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I don't want to believeSat, 27th Oct '07, 8:15 pm::

People that know me well, know well enough that I am completely devoid of any beliefs, faith, superstitions, and paranormal inclinations. I don't believe in ESP, ghosts, mythical creatures, or UFOs. I don't "believe" in science, rather I have a good foundation in scientific theory and principles with a pretty decent understanding of the universe we live in. I don't claim to know or understand everything and so even if I don't know what caused the Big Bang, I'm perfectly fine with my lack of scientific explanation for it. Regardless of all of this, my entire past week has been pretty damn weird.

I woke up last weekend and sent this to Tay online: "I had a dream that I was vacationing in Gujarat (a state in India) in the Gir Forest lodge house, surrounded by tigers and lions. My family was there, so were you, Anthony..." I didn't get into detail since he was leaving but the dream wasn't about the lions attacking us. They were trying to get inside the lodge to get away from something. Two days later, I came across this tragic article online: "Five Lions electrocuted by poachers in India." I hadn't seen any documentaries about Gir in a long time. I hadn't watched any Animal Planet or Discovery shows about big cats nor read any Nature articles. This was completely out of the blue. Color me spooked.

The rest of the week was full of little coincidences, too many to list. Today turned out to be yet another unusual day. I don't know what's in the air but for some reason, I was treated extremely nicely when I went to the grocery store, deli, and then later at a Chinese food place. I know everyone has days when people seem extra nice (or extra mean) but I'm talking double free food from a fast-food chain run by Pepsi. People were so nice today that I kept wondering if something was wrong with me.

A few minutes ago, I finished my food and started reviewing the stats for Chime.TV. I was about to lament that the growth is not accelerating at the expected pace when I popped open a fortune cookie to find these words: "They will be grateful that you cared enough to make it."

Like I said, I don't believe in anything. I don't believe I am here for a purpose, I don't believe everything happens for a reason. I do know that I have managed to overcome some pretty tough hurdles with support from my loved ones and a ton of luck. Lots of strange things happen in my life that I can't seem to explain. However, the fact that I don't understand why something happens, doesn't mean I am going to believe it happened because of some mystical miraculous reason. Life is just plain weird.

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Little stories we tellMon, 22nd Oct '07, 12:25 am::

There doesn't seem to be anything similar between the two movies I watched today, I Heart Huckabees and Reservoir Dogs. Both are awesome movies that I highly recommend watching more than once. One little bit in both films that I never noticed before, caught my attention today - personal anecdotes. "An anecdote is a short tale narrating an interesting or amusing biographical incident."

Personal anecdotes are the little stories we tell others to give them a glimpse into the world as we experience it from our point of view. I would not be the same person today without my teeth-gnashing story about how I nearly lost my opportunity to come to the US in 2000 because I clicked the stupid "Reply" button in an email instead of "Forward." My dad would not be the same person without his story of how he ran away from home in this teens but was caught by an employee at my grandpa's company. We repeat our stories to every new crowd. We talk about that one time we got so drunk in Europe that we had to be taken to a hospital and almost missed our flight. When stories are really embarrassing, we only tell them to four people - one coworker that won't tell others, one friend from school who is already privy to a lot worse, one ex-girlfriend who is still amazed by our antics, and one stranger we're standing next to in a pub because hey, who is he gonna tell?

I blog my stories. I call up people and tell them myself. I wait for the right topic to come up at lunch before I can unleash my harrowing accounts from times begone. I tailor my narrations to best suit each particular audience. When repeating the same story to my mom, the girl with no clothes is nowhere in the tale. When reiterating it to my buddy, she is the center of discussion for a good 30 minutes. Stories change over time and usually get larger than life. The little computer nuisances I caused for my internet provider in 1999 can become incidents of nation-wide system meltdown brought about by yours truly after a drink or two today. I exaggerate and if you think you don't, you're full of crap.

This doesn't mean we're all habitual liars. Life doesn't always happen the way we want it to. That girl didn't give me her number, just her email. That guy didn't tell you that you were the best singer he's ever heard, just that you were pretty good. What we wanted to happen was a little more than what did happen. So my damned stories are going to end with the girl giving me her number and you can tell your grandkids that the guy thought you were an opera singer. Why? Two words: Big Fish. This is the next movie on my list. If you've seen this movie, you'd know the power of good story-telling.

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Wed, 17th Oct '07, 12:05 am::

I'm so proud of my partner-in-chime/crime Tay. Here's an interview where he talks about everything from web design to Chime.TV, from his music sites to his idea of the future of the web. It's so weird knowing someone personally with all their little flaws and habits and then seeing how super cool they really are when someone else points it out. Tay recently helped redesign/relaunch the popular music site Hype Machine with the ever-so-brilliant Anthony. Here's a wonderful article about the relaunch. I absolutely love the new design and I did my part by coding up some Flash stuff for it.

I'm definitely biased when I say this but one of the best features about the new Hype Machine is the sidebar video player. If you search for any music artist, say The Beatles on Hype, it loads 50 Beatles videos via Chime.TV. The songs play non-stop in the usual Chime.TV style and you can hit full-screen too. Like I said, I'm biased about this feature because it's my little embedded player getting some love from a wider audience. Overall, I love how wonderfully Hype has integrated so many different music blogs, mp3s, artist pages, and music video search.

It's good to know my buddies made something so useful and beautiful.

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Sat, 13th Oct '07, 4:00 pm::

Sometimes I forget how awesome I am. I'm going to sit in my chair all day, recollecting all the wonderful things about me. It's not just me, lots and lots of people I know are really awesome. I think everyone should take some time off from their busy lives and have a little introspection-retrospection session to realize how cool they all are. Go ahead. Take an hour off from whatever you're doing. Sit back and reminisce away.

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Mon, 8th Oct '07, 8:45 pm::

I've been really busy at work lately and will remain so till the end of this year. I doubt I'll have much time to 'blog in length till '08.

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Top Ten Kickass Things about Growing OlderThu, 4th Oct '07, 12:05 am::

Today I turn 27 years old. Last year when I hit 26, I "hit" 26. I was no longer a young kid and wasn't looking forward to growing old. Now, I turn 27 and I couldn't be more optimistic. What's not to love about growing older anyway? Here's my...

Top Ten Kickass Things about Growing Older

  1. Wine keeps getting finer

  2. Loans to repay keep getting smaller

  3. Hairstyle keeps getting less critical

  4. Music collection keeps getting larger

  5. Embarrassments keep turning into good memories

  6. Good memories keep getting fonder

  7. Bad memories keep fading away

  8. Being cool keeps becoming less important

  9. Weight keeps becoming a useless number

  10. Bonds of love and friendship keep getting stronger

I'm smiling that I'm 27 now. I can't wait till I'm 35.

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Mon, 1st Oct '07, 11:50 pm::

If you like geeky/office comedies, you're gonna love the TV show IT Crowd. It's one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. Click the play button below to start with the first episode and then hit the full-screen button on the bottom-right corner of the video.


Get your own TV Channel on Chime.TV!

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Sat, 29th Sep '07, 11:55 pm::

I made something neat for Chime.TV tonight. Soon you'll be able to embed your Chime.TV channels or any YouTube/Google etc. videos from almost any website on your own website in a non-stop playlist. Currently most video sites let you embed one video at a time but this new app I made tonight will let you make your own TV channel and display it on your site. It's not fully done yet and I will be adding more features soon. Since it can be embedded on your own site/blog, it means you can customize it to blend in with your site nicely. For example, here is my own music channel. Click on the big play button to begin. Then try the previous and next buttons to go up and down the playlist.


Get your own TV Channel on Chime.TV!


Here's my random selection of interesting videos that my friend Tay and I have found online:


Get your own TV Channel on Chime.TV!

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Wed, 26th Sep '07, 11:25 am::

Many of my coworkers call me things like "The Chi-man" in jest. What they don't know is that "Chiman" is actually a Gujarati (Indian language) word, an out-of-fashion first name that is now considered equivalent to "dork." So when they try to say "You're da Chi-man!" they're basically calling me a dork in my language.

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Sun, 23rd Sep '07, 9:10 pm::

It's 2007 and computer hardware is still the bane of my existence. Like a good little nerd, I spent the entire Friday night and most of Saturday setting up a computer to hook up to my TV. I had the whole setup ready and was about to sit back and watch the latest episode of IT Crowd when the computer crashed. I spent two hours trying to isolate the problem and turns out the motherboard is dead. It's an old server motherboard that can't be replaced for cheap so now I have to find another computer. I love software but I truly hate the hardware it has to run on. It's like loving the brains but being repulsed by the body. Kinda like online dating.

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Thu, 20th Sep '07, 8:30 pm::

My friend/coworker Brian wanted to get rid of his big screen TV after upgrading to a projection system and it just so happened that after rearranging my house this past weekend, my living room looked kind of empty. So here's my RCA 52" HDTV in all its glory. Here's the rest of my house after over two years since I moved in.

Compare: Old TV vs New TV. I won't deny that I am a hypocrite. Buying something like a huge TV is a little out of character for me. However, my friend gave me such a good price I couldn't say no. Plus I mostly bought it to watch Chime.TV as it has direct DVI input.

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Thu, 20th Sep '07, 12:05 am::

I went to my first ice hockey game tonight with coworkers. Our local team, Tampa Bay Lightning won! I had a great time yelling and screaming. I'm pretty certain I enjoy the cheering more than the game play. I barely know the rules of most games yet love watching games in person and even playing them. What I don't do is keep score and follow games and matches religiously. I love the pumped-up environment more than the life stories of the players. I feel the same with music concerts. I don't care much about the life, history, inspiration of the bands. I just want them to put on a good show so I can rock out.

I'm all rocked out for tonight. I'm going to a baseball game Friday so I need to make some more rock-juice.

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Sun, 9th Sep '07, 3:55 pm::

After looking at the group photo of Kernel Summit 2007, I realized something. I miss my beard. More than a few people have told me recently that I have started to look older. I'll be 27 within a month and contrary to what I would have thought just a few years ago, it doesn't bother me at all. I'm even looking forward to turning 30. Having run a marathon distance on my kayak yesterday (26.2 miles), I know that I am stronger and more physically fit today than I ever was. As long as I keep doing my outdoors activities, I'll be good. I went to a sports bar last weekend with Heather and Catherine and I felt out of place. My place is on the water, who knows, may be sporting a beard again :)

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Kayaking a MarathonSat, 8th Sep '07, 11:25 pm::

I kayaked a distance of 26.2 miles today on the Suwannee River at Manatee Springs. Add to that five hours of driving and not enough sleep and you'll see why I'm about to pass out. The "not enough sleep" bit was thanks to Tay and his gang for some random drunken swimming pool fun last night in Gainesville. I didn't want to drive over three hours to Manatee Springs early in the morning so I drove to Gainesville last night and stayed over at Tay's. The Springs are a little over an hour west of Gainesville. The source of the Suwannee River is the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and it flows down into the Gulf of Mexico. "Instead of palm-fringed beaches, life here is defined by swamp forests, wetlands, and the clean freshwater of the 197 springs that flow into the Suwannee along its 245 miles journey to the Gulf of Mexico" - Florida Springs.

I still can't believe I kayaked the entire length of a marathon. Took me eight hours of paddling and I stopped in between for another 30 minutes. It was very windy during my up-river trip and that slowed me down considerably. On flat-water without wind, I was doing 4 mph easily on my kayak that is pretty wide and not really meant for speed. Here's a rough map of the river section that I paddled up and back.

My entire body hurts but I'm guessing it's the "good" kind of pain. I have no plans for tomorrow except chilling at home. It's bed time for me now.

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Mon, 3rd Sep '07, 5:30 pm::

This was a pretty fun Labor Day weekend. I went to the beach with Heather and Catherine on Saturday and did some windsurfing on Sunday. We had lots of good food both evenings and watched a couple of movies Saturday night. My car hit 33,333 miles yesterday at 1:23pm. Little things like that make me giddy. It's been a while since I went on a long kayaking trip so I'm beginning to get that paddler's itch. Things have been good otherwise.

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Sun, 26th Aug '07, 6:25 pm::

One of my most treasured college memories is of my first big dorm party in my sophomore year. I clearly recall downing tens of Bacardi 151 & Tequila shots, a few glasses of spiked punch, and a bunch of Jello shots. Then for 30 minutes, I coached a sober friend Calculus, amidst 12-15 other shouting and yelling college students. He got an A with no other preparation. Who said you can't drink and derive?

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Sat, 25th Aug '07, 6:45 pm::

Going to get some veggie sushi with my friend Heather now.

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Sat, 25th Aug '07, 6:25 pm::

I woke up early this morning and drove to Tampa to take a tour at Big Cat Rescue (BCR). It is an animal shelter for abused big cats like lions, tigers, cougars, and leopards. I've taken a lot of tours but I have to say, this one is the most moving one. Selfish morons buy tiger pups on the black market because they look so adorable and exotic and once the pups grow larger, they imprison the animals or kill and sell their fur for luxury clothing. BCR rescues these animals whenever possible, though the larger part of their mission is to educate the others that buying exotic pets and items made from these endangered animals is cruel and inhumane. Our guide gave a very informative tour on how these cats live, hunt, and also every single animal's personal history, i.e. how they came to live at BCR. I was talking to the cute assistant-guide, Willow, and she mentioned the best time to watch them was at night because cats are nocturnal.

BCR is organizing a night tour this upcoming Friday so I'm considering going there again. I took a few photos but I doubt my camera can take any good pictures at night. I'm mainly going to observe and learn. After I got back from BCR, I called up my windsurfing guys because they're finally back in town! So I went sailing for three whole hours. I've kayaked with dolphins before but today, when a pod of five dolphins started jumping and splashing around me, the experience was completely different because I could actually chase them fast! So for the next few hours I went upwind and downwind, practicing my sailing skills while chasing after dolphins.

I got home around 5pm and just relaxing now. I am kinda hungry... I feel like veggie sushi.

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Thu, 23rd Aug '07, 7:20 pm::

Top this Tautogram: "The thirty-three Turkish tourists theorized that trekking to the Thai towns through the thick tropical timbers takes thrice the trouble that travelling there through the train takes, therefore they took the train to travel to their target."

I wrote that sentence, known as a Tautogram, almost ten years ago and came across it today while going through some of my old files. I edited it slightly and so there it is, finally, for the whole world to be awesomified by.

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On building leak-proof systemsSun, 19th Aug '07, 6:35 am::

I am an ardent follower of world news. Be it politics, science, business, or pop culture, I am keen to hear and understand the situation regardless of the scale or my distance from the incident. I could be reading the tactics of the Recording Industry Association of America, the hostility of environmental groups towards nuclear power stations, or the Chinese threats to liquidate their US currency holdings, I have noticed certain human elements at play in every locale. To name a few, (1) greed, (2) ignorance, (3) inflexibility, and (4) irrationality are commonly at play in the prime issues of local and global conflicts.

As residents of a civilized society that is at most a single crisis away from savagery and barbarism, we have constructed innumerable social systems to keep all of us functional and urbane. As we have a justice system in place to ensure murder and theft is discouraged, we have banking systems to regulate the institutions that promote growth by enabling mass savings and investments, namely banks. Then we have school systems that dictate what a student of age nine should read and which math problems the student should be able to solve by age twelve. Add to that the laws on aviation, the rules of alpine skiing, the regulations on equipment sterilization for medical purposes, the age of consent laws that are different in every geographic region, and the code of ethics for international journalists in war zones, and we come to a very complex world to legally function in. While all of us break a few rules, most of us follow most of the rules. We stick to the rules quite well indeed. After all, who wants to be hauled away to prison, get fired from the job, be disqualified from the race, or be banned from the Saturday morning gardening club? That's the stuff news is made out of.

News is but a glorified portrayal of the leaks in the system. From stories about school shootings in suburban communities to suicide bombings in the Middle East, from stock market crashes in Europe to polar bear habitat loss in the Arctic, the purpose of news is to highlight the cracks in the long-standing systems we have in place, thereby making all of us think "somebody needs to fix this!" Your local station will cover the story of the bottling plant near your house that is dumping industrial waste into your scenic lake. Similarly, the national news networks will break the story of accidents happening across the country as long as a hole in the system can be pinpointed. Story of a bridge collapse is about the breakdown of construction regulation, infrastructure budgeting, and political earmarks. News of a molested child is to decry the deviation from moral conduct, social decency, and parental expectations. Watching the news is like watching a beautiful painting being ripped to shreds, one knife-slash at a time.

The keen observers of news notice that when the news isn't broadcasting the leaks in the system, that in itself is a sign of the larger leak in the system, whereby the fourth estate is found to be in bed with the governing bodies. It doesn't take long before the traditionally free, uncensored media becomes an extension of the ruling party and helps dictate the edicts of the rulers by publicizing propaganda as facts. Regardless of when the common man realizes the system is breaking down, every system we have designed thus far will eventually break down; an overbearing side-effect of the human element at play.

Without getting into personal characteristics of specific individuals, we know that humans are morally sound and unsound, sharing and selfish, considerate and rude, amicable and violent. Depending on the situation, these characteristics could be found in the same individual or entire organizations and even countries. We also know that most people would do whatever is necessary to benefit themselves and their groups. However, doing so often inconveniences other groups and breaks the rules of the system. Keep in mind, the system could be foreign exchange markets or the restaurant tip jar where some people are bound to twist the rules to help themselves while others are compelled to help others by giving up some of their own share.

The study of Game theory discusses possible outcomes of conflicts that occur between different agents. "In strategic games, agents choose strategies which will maximize their return, given the strategies the other agents choose." While each situation needs a specific application of game theory to work well and give appropriate results, there are more underlying assumptions in real-life than the simple "maximize personal return" hypothesis that traditional game theory considers.

If our goal is to design a leak-proof system, we have to know the foundation on which it will be built. Considering that a leak-proof solution to a specific system involving humans could be reduced to any other system involving humans and thus have the ability to eliminate world hunger, poverty, environmental disasters, territorial wars, road rage, and long lines at the grocery store, I presume that the desire to come up with such a solution is global and intimately human. Once we have a list of the human flaws, our eventual goal should be to recreate everything such that the most amount of good comes out, despite everything bad that will certainly happen. In other words, we wish to devise a solution to every problem in the guaranteed presence of Murphy's Law.

The strongest of human characteristics is greed or the desire to maximize personal benefit. We all want good things to happen to us. Be it money, praise, passion, or enlightenment, we want more of what we feel is good. Some of us, very rarely all of us, will break the rules to help ourselves at the expense of others. The harm caused to others, be it publicly visible or remain anonymous, some percentage of the population will abuse the trust put upon their shoulders. A system that expects every person to be completely faithful and trustworthy will thus certainly fail. This is why billions of dollars in monetary aid go missing as soon as they hit African governments' bank accounts. Our entire concept of charity expects the kind, altruistic people to trust strangers in power to help strangers in need. The amount of charity that reaches the ones in need is thus inversely proportional to the amount of human greed. We cannot easily reduce the amount of greed so what we should do, is minimize our reliance on honesty for a system to work.

How would one change a system to reduce dishonesty? Take the example of construction contract bids, i.e. tenders. If a local government wants a bridge built and wants to maximize public benefit, it can appear to do so by asking for anonymous bids from construction companies and selecting the bid with the lowest cost. However, that will not maximize public benefit as a construction company can drastically undercut their asking price by using inferior material that can cause the entire bridge to fail in years. So a better solution is to stipulate that the contract will be awarded to the second lowest bid. Now the company cannot quote a price so low that they will assuredly win, thus encouraging all the bidders to give more realistic cost estimates. There is certainly a loophole in this system too, as a company can simply put in a very low bid as before and have another sister company bid even lower. Thus they can ensure the lowest bid and the second lowest bid. The real-life solution to this has been mired in volumes of government regulations preventing this exact scenario, along with millions of possible underhanded tricks. Nevertheless, this entire system is built upon the citizens entrusting the local government to trust a construction company, and thus is subject to every single bit of greed faced by the aforementioned charity donations by altruistic individuals to African nations. The true solution is to minimize the reliance on greed. For the local government, it might be in the best public interest, even though more expensive, to award the contract to the median bidder as that value is much more difficult to game. To help the developing nations, developed nations can make larger contributions in the form of education, access to better healthcare, enabling free trade, and building infrastructure instead of simply wiring billions to unmonitored bank accounts.

This brings us to another powerful human lacking, inadequate knowledge. Call it ignorance, lack of education, or just plain stupidity, a system will succumb to idiocy without relent. Thus any system that expects all parties to be educated and fully understand the consequences of their actions, will be prone to failure. Information Economics deals with information asymmetry where one party has more information than the other and tries to devise "fair" solutions to such problems. However, there are numerous problems where having more information is not always as large of a benefit as one might assume. Take driving on the highways for instance. If people would just stop driving like idiots, there would be far fewer fatalities. In spite of the many experienced drivers, the few poor drivers can ruin it for every single driver on the road in a matter of seconds. To minimize fatalities, we have numerous laws in place to minimize idiocy - from limits on alcohol content within the blood stream to minimum age rules for various driving privileges. Note that while all attempts are made to discourage bad drivers from driving, the system still relies on people being good drivers and hence prone to accidents. A futuristic solution to this problem could be automated driving where you would punch in your destination and the car would drive itself. What amazes me is that such a system, which can cost a lot initially but completely eliminate accidents by inebriated or inexperienced drivers, is possible to put into place in the near future yet very few care about it. Though the automated driving software itself would never be perfect, it would improve with time, as most automated systems do. Put in a backup system with fail-safe mechanism and personal transportation can be a thousand-fold safer. So why is it not in place yet? That's the third deep-seated human defect, aversion to change or inflexibility.

Most working systems are designed with the foresight that they are not immune to abuse and hence expect timely changes to be incorporated to ensure consistent functioning. A good example is the US Constitution that was adopted over two hundred years ago and has had twenty-seven amendments to date. Even though constitutional amendments seek to maximize public benefit and limit abuse of power, nearly every amendment was met with vehement opposition, be it the 13th amendment that abolished slavery or the 19th amendment that gave equal voting rights to women - people just don't want things to change, even if it is for the greater good. While such an important set of rules supported by a strong central government can indeed work, it is nevertheless difficult to bring about changes because various segments of population have vested interests in maintaining the status quo. The ones in power strive to remain in power. Any system that requires new rules to be created in order to prevent abuse will fail when the new rules have to be approved and enforced by the same bodies that are abusing the system or benefiting from the underlying asymmetries. The US Constitution thus defined three branches, Legislative, Executive, and Judicial, each of which had specific and limited powers. The system would work as long as all the branches worked independently of each other and maintained a system of checks and balances to ensure no single branch abused its powers. The entire system will be prone to failure if the executive branch manages to incapacitate the judicial branch by planting personnel in key positions who refuse to prosecute members of the executive branch under any circumstances, especially if at least half the legislative branch is under the influence of executive branch. Alas, I can offer no instantaneous solution to such a dilemma, primarily because of the tremendously powerful vested interests that are averse to any changes away from the status quo.

In addition to greed, lack of information, and aversion to change, in almost all clashes, there are ingrained human emotions at play, often irrational at face-value and based more on belief and less on logic. How do you create a better healthcare system if religious beliefs dictate surgery is immoral and therefore to be avoided? While this may seem like a minor, inconsequential blemish in the human psyche, a system that requires everyone to make rational decisions will indeed fail when a considerable percentage of the population does not make the rational decision. The fundamental basis of microeconomics, political science, as well as sociology is rational choice theory, which assumes that "individuals choose the best action according to stable preference functions and constraints facing them," that is, people will weigh the different options and pick the ones that they can afford to derive the most benefit from. While "proponents of rational choice models do not claim that a model's assumptions are a full description of reality," when trying to construct and deploy actual systems in real life, we need the assumption to be true, otherwise the system that relies on rational choices, will fail. In theory, rational choice is easier to describe. If I get a less strenuous job with more pay and higher level of job satisfaction, it would be a rational choice for me to switch, unless I had other reasons to stay in my current position, like better scope of advancement in the future. Irrationality can also be rationalized in this sense by noting that if the new job was in Colorado and I love all states that begin with the letter C and end with the letter O, I can derive a higher level of satisfaction by moving there. Realistically speaking, that's a pretty irrational reason to move, but it can still be supported by a loose application of rational choice theory. In practice though, the very definition of rational is subject to debate. What is rational and obvious to one set of people may seem irrational and delirious to another. Who are we to legislate whether someone's belief in surgery being immoral is rational or not, they certainly think it's rational.

Think of any problem in your life, family, company, community, society, country, or even the entire world. Our solution to solve problems has always been to put carefully crafted systems in place. Remember that all systems will be met with (1) human greed, (2) ignorance, (3) inflexibility, and (4) irrationality. Now try to solve your problem WITHOUT requiring any of these four human conditions to be solved first. The perfect solution would be one that bypasses these limitations i.e. does not rely on solving any of them first. The scale of the problem is inconsequential for I believe that if you can solve the problem of neighbors with loud, booming speakers without giving them anything in exchange, without educating them on the virtues of silence, without providing them with headphones, or without making them truly understand how their careless behavior is affecting your emotional well-being, I can expand your solution to bring about world peace. Calling the cops on them won't be a good solution as they are already aware of their loudness and ignore it, thereby proving they are selfish and ignorant of others' concerns. It is possible to bring about world peace by enriching the needy, educating the masses, encouraging development growth and change, and eliminating aspects of fundamentalism and irrationality from the human personality. We can reduce and minimize pollution the same way, by discouraging corporate greed that favors cheaper dumping methods instead of costlier waste-management, explaining the long-term ill-effects of pollution, replacing fossil-fuels by renewable sources of energy, and minimizing the spread of extravagantly polluting devices like oversized vehicles for personal use.

The bright side to this dismal discourse is that not every problem requires all four aspects of human condition to be solved. Bringing about gender and racial equality required changes to social norms and eradication of irrational intolerance but barely had anything to do with human greed. Consequently, even if we can't eliminate human greed or educate every person, we can still solve a lot of problems. Education in itself is a problem, and the education system can be improved by social changes that promote intellectualism instead of wealth or power. Problems in education cannot be fixed by trying to provide more rigorous education or making promises of monetary or political grandeur.

If you see a problem, identify which of the four human deficiencies you are up against and try to tackle each of them individually, instead of calling for a patchwork of remedies that is akin to putting a bandage on an organ failure. If you ever feel ambitious and philosophical enough, go ahead and try to come up with a leak-proof system for resolving human struggles that does not rely on any of the four human shortcomings to be solved first. A Nobel peace prize would be the least you would deserve.

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Fri, 17th Aug '07, 12:05 am::

Check out this nifty little tool I made tonight: Name that Color. Being a typical guy, I have no clue what Lavender and Mauve look like. You can show me Indigo and I won't know if it's more like Violet or Purple. So I made this little app where you can create a color on the screen (or copy-paste CSS hex# color) and find out the name of the closest matching color. The list of colors is pretty small now but I will soon compile a much larger list for better accuracy. My favorite color is somewhere between Steel Blue and Cerulean Blue, close to #5082B9. What's yours? Find out here.

Oh and did you know Magenta and Fuchsia are exactly the same (for computer screens)?

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Sun, 12th Aug '07, 10:00 pm::

Now this is what I call a kickass weekend. Friday after work, I drove up to Atlanta, Georgia (8-hour drive). After only four hours of sleep at Heather's friend Winston's place, nine of us drove up to Nantahala in North Carolina to go whitewater kayaking. I borrowed Winston's sit-inside kayak as mine is a sit-on-top. It was a four hour paddle from the top to the base of the trail and most of the course was Class II with number of Class III rapids. It was one of the most adventurous things I've ever done as was evident from my yells of excitement most of the way down. At the very end, I lost complete control after jumping off the five foot fall and flipped my kayak upside-down. Good thing I was wearing a body-suit, life-vest, helmet, and grip shoes so within seconds I was out of the water, safe and sound. It took four people to get my water-filled kayak out of the water though. All in all, good times.

We drove through some beautiful scenery on the way back to Atlanta from Nantahala. We were very close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, regarded as one of the most scenic routes in the world. I want to go all across the Blue Ridge some day. Back in Atlanta, we had some good food and crashed at Heather's friend Jacob's house for the night. Finally after a much needed good night's sleep, I woke up, and left for home around noon. I wasn't too interested in driving down the busy Interstate-75 so as soon as I entered Florida, I took an exit for a smaller country highway and drove home through smaller, prettier roads. On the way I passed Ichetucknee Springs, Suwannee River, Homosassa Springs, Crystal River, and Weeki Wachee Springs. I definitely want to paddle down Ichetucknee and Suwannee sometime soon.

I got home around 9pm, uploaded some of the pics from this weekend here: Nantahala Whitewater Kayaking. Heather, Catherine, and John took more pics and I'll add them to this gallery as I get them.

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Wed, 8th Aug '07, 9:40 pm::

My little kitties turned three years old today. In cat/dog years, they're 21 now. I guess it's time to get them drunk :)

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Tue, 7th Aug '07, 3:55 pm::

I hope my 'blog text is now easier to read because lately I've been itching to write a lot more. All these years I tried to have a unique design, often at the expense of readability. I guess that was because I considered my 'blog to be the best piece of my work for so long and I felt no qualms about taking any amount of artistic freedom as long as it looked pretty. Well, there's something prettier now so I feel more comfortable taking my 'blog into a more functional and readable stream, even if it doesn't look as colorful as I want it to.

I showed Derek a preview before I finalized the design and he remarked that it's quite a neutral site. I'm glad it is. I want my words to bring out the true colors of my being instead of a bunch of jpegs.

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Chase your own dreamsSun, 5th Aug '07, 1:20 am::

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my low-consumption lifestyle i.e. I rarely buy something unless I actually need it (food, shelter) or it actually improves the quality of my life (kayak, night out with friends). I feel vindicated that New York Times just published an article titled "In Silicon Valley, Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich." It begins with the story of a couple living in the fabled Silicon Valley (where we went/won) and have a net worth of $3.5m yet feel they are not well off enough. Their house is worth $1.3m but just because they are surrounded by people much wealthier than them (it's California after all), they feel poor. And people ask me why I don't move to the Valley.

Here's my favorite quote from the article: "I ask myself all the time," Ms. Baranski confessed, "why I do this." They go on to explain "that she must stick with it if they are to continue to live the life they enjoy here." On the surface, it's so easy to diagnose the problem here as greed, keeping up with the neighbors, or just mere pride and ostentation. But these are not stupid people we're talking about. These are self-made entrepreneurs, hard-working middle and upper management types with a Masters degree and contacts in every industry. These are the smart kids of 70's and early 80's who left their little homes in the country and moved to California for a bright future. Therein lies the problem.

They're no longer chasing their own dreams. They're just trudging along the path they're told leads to the American Dream. The desire to make it big and having the drive to do whatever it takes, is indeed the prerequisite for living the American Dream. I have nothing but praise for creative individuals who'll take a big risk to make something wonderful. However, there's a difference between "try try till you succeed" and eking a miserable living till some day you luckily hit it big.

To me, these once-promising people are just the more hard-working version of the lottery addicts who buy a $10 ticket every single day hoping to hit that $65m jackpot. I guess when I see things this way, I don't feel so bad for them. It's hard to. They're 20-50-100x wealthier than me and yet they whine and worry about whether $5m will be enough money for them to retire. It will be enough if they decide to move to Cape Coral, Florida and buy a $1m house right on the beach with their own dock. It won't be enough if they find out that their neighbor's house is worth $2m. And it will never be enough if they think that another $5m on top of their $5m is what will make them truly secure financially.

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Fri, 3rd Aug '07, 9:05 pm::

It's a weird feeling being alone at work this late. I'm setting up a new server and moving some virtual machines around. The entire building is empty and I'm listening to completely random songs while scavenging on leftover snacks. I have some time to kill while the servers backup but I'm pretty sure it'll take me all night to migrate our intranet web server. Once I'm done, things will be much faster around here.

On a side note, anyone remember this music video from the 90's?

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Thu, 26th Jul '07, 7:30 pm::

I wonder at which age I'll stop calling myself a boy and accept that I'm a man or just a guy. I feel like a kid because no matter what grown-up stuff I do, I still do all these childish antics, especially when nobody's looking. On our flight to California, Tay was listening to radio and I kept changing the volume when he wasn't looking. It's not even a clever or that funny of a prank. But to me at that time, it was simply hilarious!

I used to think that maybe getting married or having kids would transmogrify me into a man but I highly doubt it'll be that easy. I can get serious whenever I have to be but it's just so much fun to be a crazy kid otherwise. And so I hope to be.

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Buy less stuffWed, 25th Jul '07, 12:15 am::

I'm not a big fan of productivity advice and lifestyle tips so when I casually glanced at the headline "The seven habits of highly subversive people" on reddit, I expected nothing more than a rehash of every other "Work Smart" Top 10 list. I imagine it was my disdain for this genre of articles that caused me to misread "subversive" as "productive." Now that I read the article without any preconceived notions, I can't help but pontificate about my own personal and lifestyle habits.

I'm not certain how this change came about in my personality but over the last couple of years, I have stopped buying things unless I absolutely need them. I don't go "shopping" anymore and don't order t-shirts, gifts, or cool gadgets online. I have no new collectible items to adorn my showcase and the only products I buy regularly are food and household items. I haven't even bought new clothes in years (sadly, it's starting to show.)

However, I realize now that contrary to my claim just half a year ago, I am not a bad consumer; I just spend my money differently. I've minimized buying things and maximized buying experiences. Instead of $250 to get a better cellphone, I got $150 wind-surfing lessons. Rather than spend $600 on a bigger TV, I'm spending $50/month so I can chat with my family in India every day on my drive to work for 25 minutes. The only major purchase I've made this year is a $2500 server/workstation to code Chime.TV on but that's strictly a development decision and given the expected four-year life of the PC, quite economical in the long run.

I remember asking my dad to take me to Fancy Market in Kolkata, India so he could buy cool wristwatches for me. It was a lot of fun to find a unique designs before others discovered them. Since then, a significant change in my thought process has occurred. You know how you love that one shirt or that book or that wristwatch or your lovely car? I don't. I barely care about objects anymore. My car is a mechanical device with a simple purpose to transport me around and requires regular maintenance. My computer is replaceable as long as the backups are current and my wristwatch costs $9. Stuff is merely stuff. And I refuse to allow my purchases to represent my inner-self.

I know this sounds pretty Fight-Club-esque and maybe I am going through the same disconnect with reality, after already having procured every minor item I thought would make me happier and not finding the satisfaction. It might also be that I have realized I don't have what it takes to afford a $12m house with heated pools and tennis courts and hence have opted to get out of the rat race altogether. Or my minimalism somehow makes me feel superior to the mass consumers out there and is just an elitist act to maintain my smugness. Or maybe I've woken up one morning to a fire in my apartment and realized that in times of life and death, the stuff you so gleefully bought is what gets in your way as you try to save your loved ones.

I often get caught up in long debates with my environmentally-conscious friends who think that I am single-handedly killing the planet because I am vehemently against most methods of recycling, use paper plates instead of washing dishes, and think purchasing carbon offsets is completely idiotic. While I can defend my position at length on all those issues, I would much rather explain that the best way to be green, save the planet, and be environmentally conscious, is to BUY LESS STUFF. Live in a smaller house with a bigger yard. Drive the smallest car you can manage with. Don't throw away things unless they break - upgrading for the sake of upgrading is sickeningly wasteful.

Learn to manage with less. Instead of a $600 GPS, buy a $15 Atlas. I did, and discovered that Okefenokee was only four hours away. You don't need a 650 DVD movie collection. You don't need a 32-piece set of steak knives. And despite your intellectual ambitions, you don't need a 3,200 book library. Manage with less, manage with alternatives, and manage with compromises. And with the money you saved by not buying the entire audio CD collection of Songs from the 80's, take Salsa & Merengue lessons.

I'm not the first person to say all of this either. Eradicating materialism has been the tenet of many a religion like Buddhism and Jainism. However, it's pretty difficult to give up all the things you're used to and care about. I can't give up computers and I rather fancy my kayak. Loving your pair of black shoes isn't going to destroy Earth so keep on dancing. All I'm saying is don't get in the cycle of desiring more objects, getting a more strenuous job to afford those objects, and then realizing you need more objects because your new peers have them, and working 70 hour weeks to afford these objects that you didn't even know you needed, only to find out that while you're working and buying and working and spending, you imprisoned yourself in a cage of debt, stress, and complete lack of direction.

So I say be less productive, less materialistic, and less successful and be more adventurous, more leisurely, and more content.

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Sun, 22nd Jul '07, 11:25 am::

Earlier this week Tay and I went to Silicon Valley, California to participate in Mashup Camp 4 (pics here). A mashup is a website or application that combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience.

We showed off Chime.TV (as a video mashup that combines top 10 video websites) and people loved it so much, we were voted the Best Mashup and won 1st prize (wearing my reddit t-shirt)! Here's ZDNet interviewing Taylor to show off our mashup entry (video here). Our kickass webhost for Chime.TV, SingleHop also interviewed us earlier this week. Highly recommend them for the great 24/7 dedicated support and an awesome performance/price ratio.

It was a great experience to visit Silicon Valley for my first time ever and meet so many brilliant people. I met some pretty smart folks from the development teams of AOL, Google, HP, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube, and more. My super-crazy-smart college buddy Tim dropped by too. I had a lot of fun hanging out with Tay's friends at eventful - Chris & Nate and also John & Liz.

I haven't been online much after we got back. Yesterday I went to Busch Gardens with my friend Heather and her roomie Bonnie. We saw a lot of cool birds and animals but it rained soooo hard that all rides were canceled. We ended up returning home early and just watched a couple of movies instead. Good thing about Busch Gardens is that Florida residents can come in multiple times for free once they buy an annual pass for just $5 more that of course I did.

It's my lazy Sunday afternoon now and I'm just relaxing and unwinding after a pretty exciting week. Time to sit back and just enjoy Chime.TV now.

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Tue, 10th Jul '07, 12:00 pm::

Happy 50th B'day Daddy!!! I wish I could be with you right now. Enjoy your vacatio in Kerala :)

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Sun, 8th Jul '07, 3:50 pm::

Smiling hurts a lot. So I'm going to try to be serious now.

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Sun, 8th Jul '07, 3:10 pm::

I'm on some pain meds and recovering well. I haven't eaten much solid food but hopefully will soon. Today's afternoon entertainment consists of tons of videos by The Beatles on Chime.TV. And just so you know, Hydrocodone and Yellow Submarine make for a very trippy recovery.

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Fri, 6th Jul '07, 2:05 pm::

It's raining like cats 'n dogs in Kolkata, India and so my sister queued up tons of monsoon songs for our Indian viewers in Chime.TV Music: Hindi channel.

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Fri, 6th Jul '07, 10:20 am::

I had five of my teeth removed yesterday, four wisdom and one adjacent to the lower-right wisdom tooth. If you still have your wisdom teeth, get them removed before they kill the teeth next to them. I left work around 1pm yesterday, got home, took some Advil, and waited for my friend Sandra to show up. She drove me to the oral surgeon's office and waited in the reception area during the entire two hours of the surgery. The surgery was completely painless and once the sedatives wore off, I was able to walk around myself without any problem. After the surgery, Sandra helped pick up my medication, bought me a milk-shake, dropped me home, helped me change my dressing (sooo sorry for spitting on your face!), and even put on a movie for me to watch. I wish she hadn't moved two hours away to Orlando. She's a true friend.

Now that the local anesthesia has worn off, the pain in my jaw has started to intensify. The pain is not unbearable and there's no swelling either. Looking at me, you won't even realize I had surgery yesterday. I've taken some painkillers and it's making my head spin like crazy. I'm going to rest now.

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Tue, 3rd Jul '07, 11:30 pm::

On the way home from work today, I stopped by Michaels (arts & crafts store) and bought about $55 worth of small wooden boxes, black and white pebbles, wood finish spray paint, sandpaper, and some black and white markers. Took me a while to find it all but I think I'm now ready to build my own set of Go board game. Originally I had planned to create the set from scratch but I found just the right-sized wooden box for me to turn into the Go board with minimal effort.

While watching Falling Down starring Michael Douglas, I sanded down the rough edges of all the wooden boxes and have it primed for spray painting tomorrow. I highly recommend the movie and sanding things down before you apply varnish. A Go set similar to what I'm making costs over $200. With just a few lazy hours of work, I can soon start learning this ancient Asian game.

As faster computers repeatedly beat humans at Chess, two games where even novice level humans still win over the fastest computers are Bridge (card game) and Go (board game). The game play of Go is very deep and the number of possible moves far exceeds those of chess, Scrabble, and Othello. The same brute-force and systematic methods that work for computer chess, disastrously fail at Go. Go requires the player to look at patterns and understand what they mean and how they can relate to each other, as opposed to simply running through 4 billion possible moves within seconds. In Go, there are trillions of quadrillions of possible moves and we won't be getting computers that fast any time soon.

The study of Pattern recognition is of particular interest to me because I think that's pretty much what human intelligence is - the ability to recognize a pattern and make judgments based on them. The day computers can learn to recognize patterns on their own without being fed everything directly, is the day we'll have truly intelligent computers. If you're interested in what the game is about, you can learn it here just like me.

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Sun, 1st Jul '07, 6:15 pm::

I just got back from over three hours of windsurfing or just sailing as everyone calls it. It is definitely one of the most exciting things I've ever done. I was already going faster than 10mph today and the wind hadn't even picked up. Here's a good picture of what windsurfing is in case you don't recall. I can't believe how quickly I picked it up and how comfortable I already feel. Thanks to John & Britt at North Beach Windsurfing, I went from the beginner board and 4 (meter-square) sail to intermediate board and 5.5 sail. I'll probably rent out a few more times and then save some money so I can buy my own gear. I hope to get up to 6.5 sail. The larger the sail, the faster you can go on it, but it also gets difficult to handle.

I still have to learn how to get in the harness and to tack (complete rotation) in high winds. I don't think I can go next weekend because of my oral-surgery (wisdom teeth removal) but I'm hoping to go soon after. I'm so excited about sailing!

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Sat, 30th Jun '07, 2:30 pm::

I just got back from my friend Jessica's wedding reception lunch at Sweet Tomatoes, definitely one of my most favorite places to eat. One of her younger cousins, a fifteen year old kid, sat next to me and upon realizing that I coded up Chime, started asking me about different things like video games, hacking, programming. I forgot how great it was to talk to someone genuinely interested in a subject and tell them the things you've learnt over the year. I should talk to more kids and students. Maybe someday I will give some informal lectures.

In other news, my bottom-right jaw hurts like hell; see the x-ray for the scary details. So this Thursday, July 5th, I'm going to an oral surgeon to get all four of my wisdom teeth removed and probably get a root canal on a 5th adjoining tooth. This pretty much ruins the 4th of July weekend for me.

I doubt I'll get to windsurf tomorrow as the weather's supposed to be crappy. I gotta do laundry now and later hang out with my friend Nathaniel and go to his company party. Life's ok, except for the whole pain-in-my-mouth part.

Quote for the weekend: "I think the greatest feeling in the world is putting my leg down from my desk and landing on a furry kitty's back as it purrs and then clings to my foot and starts rubbing it's head all over it." - Chirag

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Sun, 24th Jun '07, 6:15 pm::

I have no strength left to type because I just got back from three and a half hours of Windsurfing (well, first day training). It was pretty crazy and required some serious balancing. Every part of my body is in pain right now but by the end, I did manage to sail on my own! I was too tired by the time I finally got the hang of it, to actually go out and surf more. More surfing next weekend :)

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Nostalgia is overratedSat, 23rd Jun '07, 11:55 pm::

It amuses me to no end when people talk about the good ol' days as if they once bore witness to a bygone Utopian era when the neighbors were friendly, the music was heavenly, and every evening families huddled around a mulberry bush to sing hymns. These days the kids are rude, the music is filthy, the news is horrible, and of course, the world is going down the tubes. The topics of comparison are generalized and static - family, society, youth, culture, entertainment, politics, business, and so on. Since the day humans could carve stone tablets, they've written about the same exact good things and the same set of bad deeds, from love, peace, and harmony to war, hatred, and murder. It may seem that technology has made us much more efficient in the bad-deeds department but it has had a bigger impact in helping us do more good for more people.

As the world population grows, the total count of crimes and selfish acts naturally increases. But what is it that the kids do today that didn't exist 10, 100, or even 1000 years ago? The Romans and Greeks had the same problem with the youth disrespecting their elders as people complain about today. The music was just as filthy in Shakespeare's time as it is now with Hip-Hop.

Three thousand years ago, entire civilizations were slaughtered by foreign invaders. A thousand years ago, religious crusaders killed millions. A hundred years ago, entire nations were enslaved. And in the good ol' days of your grandpa, they dropped the bomb and got frisky swing dancing. You can write four-hundred page novels decrying the grind dance that kids these days are into and compare it with the clean-cut rock and roll of your days, but in reality, nothing has really changed. Instead of school shootings, there were armed robberies and pillaging of entire villages. Instead of politicians stealing public funds, there were monarchs that seized the peasants' crops. Where you have selfish, ignorant, lazy youths today, you had selfish, ignorant, lazy youths yesterday but you didn't know that because you just called them "friends." Your parents did call them selfish, ignorant, and lazy but what did they know!

I don't know what people hope to accomplish by playing the good ol' days card in the face of every bad news. The youth of today didn't invent violence, debauchery, obscenity, or corruption. They're just learning it from those that walked the same path before them - you, your friends, your parents, their parents, and so on. So lay off the incessantly vague whining and go live a little. Go sin a little.

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Tue, 19th Jun '07, 12:15 am::

For the last few days, I've been contemplating taking up a new hobby/sport. I love kayaking a lot and hope to continue paddling for the foreseeable future. However, I feel I've reached a plateau of my skills and excitement level. The only things I can do now to get that rush of adrenaline back is (1) paddle even longer distances or, (2) try whitewater kayaking. The problem with (1: long distance) is that, well, it takes a lot of time to get the OMG-THIS-IS-CRAZY rush. Anything under four hours has now become regular paddling so I'd have to be out in the water for 6-7-8 hours just to get the ecstasy that I once got from a two-hour paddle. And being in Florida (2: whitewater) is not possible on a regular basis as it would involve long out-of-state drives.

I have serious doubts over my physical abilities at extreme sports and am pretty sure I'll suck at whatever I decide to try. Add poor hand-eye coordination to having almost no balance, and you'll see why I'll not be training for the X-Sports anytime soon. Nevertheless, it is this realization that I am indeed at the bottom of the class in almost every sport or physical activity, that has forever pushed me to try new things. If I'm not afraid of being really, really bad, why not shamelessly give everything a try? Over the years, I've had 6-12 months of experience rowing, jetskiing, marathon running, and kayaking. I'm somewhere between the beginner and intermediate level in all of these and frankly, don't feel the necessity or the desire to become an expert. Otherwise I'd still be rowing and would have never experienced the thrill of kayaking for 7 hours.

Now I'm hoping to find something new and fun. I have an inkling of what I want to pick up but I'm still fidgeting over the specifics. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.

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Sun, 17th Jun '07, 8:25 pm::

I kayaked back to Caladesi Island today after months. I swam in the ocean for a good half hour and got some food on the way home. Really tired right now.

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Wed, 13th Jun '07, 11:35 pm::

I didn't think things could get any crazier but I underestimated. A friend of Tay mentioned on our Facebook wall that Chime.TV got plugged on G4 TV's Attack of the Show. And thanks to my friend Fer, I just saw the clip. It's actually a very good intro to the site and they went over most of the salient features. I'll link to the video once I have a better quality copy. It's just weird that Tay's on-the-spur naming of our cute kitties & puppies channel to "OMG CUTE" actually derived so much attention and cooing.

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Wed, 13th Jun '07, 8:35 pm::

The response to Chime.TV has literally been overwhelming. In the last 30 hours, over 50,000 videos have been played on Chime.TV. We had 150,000 videos in our database yesterday and now we have over 600,000. The amount of attention we're getting from outside of US is staggering. My little servers are barely surviving and a new web server is on order and probably more. If the site is a little slow or videos skip a bit, rest assured, it'll all work fine within a day or two.

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Chime.TV is bornWed, 13th Jun '07, 12:15 am::

I'm very excited to finally talk about the big project that I've been working on with Tay for 6 months now! It's called Chime.TV and it has replaced the old site I used to have at www.chime.tv. Chime.TV is a website where you can watch non-stop videos for hours with almost no effort, pretty much like cable TV. We have made tons of channels and you can make the videos full-screen, adjust color/brightness, make your own channel, send videos to your friends, and search all the big video sites. It's a lot of fun so give it a whirl. Be sure to check out Tay's girlfriend Kaela's sweet Welcome-to-Chime.TV video.

We released mere days ago and the hits have started rolling in. After a spotlight on Mefi courtesy of Nathaniel, turns out TechCrunch finally picked up Tay's email and ran a little feature on us. Now I get to see if my servers hold up and how long before I have to upgrade.

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You complete meThu, 7th Jun '07, 10:55 pm::

I often hear people saying "Why do you care what others think of you?" Usually, they are just trying to console someone who recently faced public embarrassment or has a moral dilemma that may not be well accepted by their family, friends, or even coworkers. However, more often than not, that question is merely a disguised insult to make the person feel self-conscious and even more vulnerable. So the next time someone asks why you care what your friends and family will think of your decision to quit your job, move out of state, change your official name, and get a sex-change operation, here's a handy reply by yours truly:

I am not perfect. My thoughts, ideas, and emotions are not permanent. My opinions and views change over time as I learn and grow. I've learnt that in general, what others think of me is directly related to how I think and thus act. Sometimes, it teaches me to stand by my words strongly for I'm certain that my ideas, though novel, are worthy. Other times it shows me that I was wrong and would benefit from taking a look at things from a different perspective.

I am not cocooned and disconnected from the rest of the world and have much to gain by caring about what others think of me and why. Reading someone's productivity tips isn't self-improvement. Self-improvement is welcoming criticism with an open-mind and a good anti-troll filter.

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Things are changing, I can feel itMon, 4th Jun '07, 8:15 pm::

The first time I sat in a canoe and tried to steer it across a river, I nearly ran aground. I wanted to go straight but I kept over-correcting and so instead of slight left, I'd turn the canoe 90-degrees to the left. It was difficult for me because a kayak, while more strenuous than a canoe, is much easier to keep straight. It was only after much exasperation did I realize the simple Newtonian physics in play here - the bigger the boat, the longer it takes to turn, but once it begins to turn, it's much more difficult to change direction. If you may pardon the pun, nothing really "ground"-breaking here.

The problem is that it takes about 4-5 seconds for the canoe to change direction once you start paddling. If all you needed were two or three strokes to straighten the canoe but seeing nothing happen for 4-5 seconds, you kept paddling harder, the canoe will not only turn, it will turn much more than you intended. And now seeing it turn too much, you start paddling on the other side and keep paddling till you can see the canoe turn. Too late, now it's going to swing all the way in the opposite direction. You just can't seem to keep it going straight.

Often when I'm reading news stories, I notice how much this simple rule of momentum applies to the world in general. Most people want things to go straight and steady with only a few misguided outliers that want everything to go either far left or far right. Yet we see everywhere people trying to skew things too much to one side or the other. Why can't people realize that if they keep moving to one side, they will indeed end up at an extremity that nobody really wants? Same reason I kept running the canoe aground - I couldn't feel the slight nudges and kept thrashing till I could actually see the canoe turn. Too late.

Anytime you see something in the news about citizen's rights being abused, journalists silenced, or failed economic and academic policies being implemented and wonder why everyone can't see where this is going, it's because the system is too big to instantly react and gives no immediate visual feedback to the one's manning the rudder. By the time the system actually reacts, people are already jumping overboard. We think the world today moves at dizzying speeds and sure, in most communication-oriented aspects, it does. However, society, economy, education, politics, and all things global take years to truly show their new direction. The key is to finely hone your feelers and sense when things are brimming under the surface.

Take for instance the gradual devaluation of the dollar. Nobody I interact with on a daily basis, cares one bit about it. After all, except for gasoline, things still cost nearly the same as they did five years ago and inflation rate is within the traditional bounds. Nothing has changed. Right? In 2002, I sent about $500 to my family in India. That was nearly Indian Rs. 25,000. Recently I sent $600 and it was less than Rs. 24,500. You may say the 16% devaluation in US currency over the last five years doesn't mean much to anyone, except for a few people like me.

Brimming under the surface, is the slowly increasing US debt to the rest of the world. Nobody cares about the debt because nobody sees any direct effects. By the time you see the effects though, it would be too late. If things don't start changing soon, then within the next two decades the Euro will have replaced USD as the preferred international currency of trade, the USD will be devalued to the point where imports cost drastically more, import shortages will create underground markets for knock-offs and counterfeits, insufficient supply will cause surge in prices bringing in 1930's era scarcity in this land of plenty, lack of international faith in US stocks will "correct" the stock market resulting in massive layoffs, and economic recession will finally solve the pesky immigration problem.

This above is, of course, just far-fetched fear-mongering from yours truly and I'm hoping it never happens. However, my feelers have yet to sense the boat change course and get on the path straight ahead. Most people though, are blissfully unaware and apathetic. It's ok. They have the luxury to be apathetic. For now.

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Things are gonna change, I can feel itSun, 3rd Jun '07, 9:20 pm::

After nearly six sleepless months, fourteen-hundred finger-crunching hours, and countless arguments (that always ended in mutual agreements) with Tay, earlier today I typed up the final few lines of code to bring our big awesome pet project to Version 0.99 RC (release candidate). We're hoping to launch sometime within the next few weeks, once all the little tweaks are made. The cake is baked, the icing already on, it's time for the little cherry on top.

Without disclosing the details of the project, it's hard to talk about it but I'll try. I don't think I can ever explain what today's milestone means. Everything I've thought of for months is finally done and ready for the world to see and use. I can't speak for Tay but I'm hoping for a gradual, steady adoption rate as opposed to going big in one day. I'd rather have slow, predictable growth than crash and burn within the first 6 hours of launch. Here's hoping!

I know nobody will believe me for saying this but we're not doing this for fortune and fame. We're doing this because it needs to be done and because nobody has even come close to doing it right. It won't be long before my words are proven right or wrong.

Now that my mind is clear, I finally did something today that I've been wanting to do for well, six months - clean my damn house! Took me about 3 hours but I have a pretty clean house now and am doing laundry as I write this.

I don't think people can understand HOW eager I am to stop programming every night and weekend and get back to entertaining you with my dirty laundry details, kayaking shoots, and photos of cats :)

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Tue, 29th May '07, 8:35 am::

My pet project is very close to completion and merely weeks away from release. I'm pretty excited about it. I had a pretty productive weekend working on it and now I'm all pumped up to get back to work so I can continue working on the big ERP project.

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Mon, 7th May '07, 1:55 pm::

I want a bumper sticker on my kayak that says "I'd rather be sculling."

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Thu, 3rd May '07, 3:35 pm::

I AM A HERO! My coworker came into my office, worried that his hard drive was quite possibly dying. I walk into his office and his office-mate asks me, "Please do something because the noise is killing me too." I go near the noisy computer, locate where the noise is coming from (the power-supply unit in the back) and hit it once with my flat palm, thump! Instantly, the buzzing stops. The fan on the PSU was out of alignment and now fixed, re-aligned. The Computer Guy has saved the day, once again!

If only my current project, setting up an ERP system, was this easy.

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Thu, 3rd May '07, 12:45 pm::

Thanks to Mark, I now realize that a light bulb is actually a Dark Sucker.

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Sun, 29th Apr '07, 7:25 pm::

We often get so caught up by the daily rut 'n rigmarole that we forget to relish life's little pleasures. Here's a few little things that make me smile.

Turning on the TV to unexpectedly catch the happy-ending of an underrated movie. Getting that little piece of pop-corn finally out of your gums. Having your fingernails grow just the right length to peel off a sticker but not too long to make typing difficult. Finding an extra slice of cheese in the fridge. Not having a single junk email make it into in your inbox. Realizing that in case you run out of toothpaste, there's an extra tube in the linen cabinet. Hearing the air-conditioner automatically kick-in the moment you feel a little warm but are too lazy to get up to lower the temperature yourself. Getting rid of the little piece of pebble caught inside your shoe. Coming across a word years after you last saw it in print - minstrels. Finishing item #10 on your little To Do list just in time for ice-cream. Making item #11 on your To Do list "eat ice-cream" no matter what the list is about.

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Sat, 28th Apr '07, 6:35 pm::

Yet another weekend spent working. Bleh.

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Lament not, fellow IndianWed, 25th Apr '07, 12:35 pm::

I am at work right now, on hold with Dell, trying to renew the warranty on some servers we purchased last year. I can easily whine about how awful the overall support nightmare is, having talked to over twelve people in the last two hours. But right now, I want to sadly talk about something that has been bugging me for years now - the pitiful tone and the lamenting language of the average Indian call center employee.

Having lived in India for the first twenty years of me life, I am well-aware of the social constructs, language barriers, and job market woes. So I have nothing but utter respect for the hundreds of thousands of hard-working, honest call center employees. I have a few friends in Delhi that work for outsourcing firms and many of these kids are brilliant. I am hurt every time I hear anyone stereotyping and insulting them online and offline, just for being different and hard to comprehend. I had a strong Indian-accent when I first came here and I still have problems being understood sometimes. Being packed in a cubicle with 3 others, stuck on a phone with irate customers for ten hours a day is not an easy way to feed your kids. So I understand how difficult things can be.

However, what drives me crazy is the pathetic "Sorry Sir," "Thank you very much Sir," "Please wait Sir" language that these folks are forced to use. It makes me ashamed to think that my people, even after sixty years of Independence from the British, still have to portray a public image of servitude, inferiority, and desperation when interacting with non-Indians.

The blame lies not with the workers. It lies with the management, often-times Indian, that enforces these scripted rituals of verbal enslavement. The employees maybe humble yet proud Indians but since their paycheck relies on them using these "Sir, Sorry Sir, Please Sir" interjections, they have to behave like dismal Third-World outcasts. What angers me the most is that these are well-educated, highly-skilled, respected people forced to behave like servants for some mythical foreigner 8,000 miles away. When I interact with people here in US, this is they behavior they expect of me. I'm sorry but if anyone expects me to be a sorry little Indian boy, you can bet they'll be my personal dartboard for a long, long time.

If you have ever called customer support and have been frustrated because it is hard to understand the person at the other end, realize that they have the same problem understanding you. All I can say is speak clearly and respectfully. It's not their fault your cellphone battery doesn't charge. What right do you have to insult a complete stranger solely because they sound different? You certainly wouldn't pull that on a cop with a different accent, so why are these hard-working individuals fair game for insolence? If you truly want to retaliate against the company, stop buying their crappy phones.

Now if this message ever reaches a call center employee, I have just one single request for you. Please Sir/Ma'am, be proud of yourself Sir, and boldly refuse to use the Sorry lines that your Respected Boss Sir Kindly Requested you to use Sir, Thank You Sir.

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Fri, 20th Apr '07, 12:50 pm::

On my way to work earlier today, I saw a beautiful girl driving a convertible with toy Yoda as her passenger. I know it wasn't this girl. Had I not been driving in the opposite lane, I might have offered to take her up in the Darth Vader balloon.

Oh and I have a new phone now: Samsung d807. It works, quite well. And I only lost a few numbers.

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Tue, 17th Apr '07, 9:15 pm::

After over a month of break, I finally went kayaking today. Woke up early morning and drove up to Ocala with Sandra to kayak where the Ocklawaha River meets the Silver Springs. I loved Silver Springs last time I went there and was more than excited to be back in the area again. And boy, I was not disappointed. See our Ocklawaha River & Silver Springs kayaking photos for yourself.

Oh and my cellphone is out of order. So if I don't call back, sorries. Send me an email from above.

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Thu, 12th Apr '07, 8:25 am::

I'm pretty certain I'm having a writer's itch, the opposite of a writer's block. This morning before I woke up, I dreamt about writing something from the bottom of my heart and debating it with friends. Then I woke up and realized Kurt Vonnegut passed away last night. I have a sinking feeling in my heart just thinking about it. Hope he enjoys his stay in the big Slaughterhouse above. Hi ho.

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Sun, 8th Apr '07, 10:00 pm::

I don't even feel like the same person anymore, having consciously ignored my 'blog for almost three months now. My pet project's going well. Probably a few more months till it's ready. Life is good otherwise.

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Mon, 26th Mar '07, 8:35 am::

I'm here, just working on my computer stuff like crazy. I'll probably be this busy for another month or two at least. I talked to my friend Vishal in India and found out that he's engaged!!! Congrats Vishal :)

It's been over a month and my kitchen tiles are still broken.

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Sat, 10th Mar '07, 2:00 pm::

Last night rocked! It was supposed to be a coding marathon (sorry Taylor) but Sandra dragged my lazy ass off to an art exhibit in Ybor City, Tampa. An old Cigar Factory had been converted into an art warehouse with paintings, sculptures, and photographs plastered all over. Pretty cool stuff. We had dinner at TC Choy's and walked around Ybor late night before our movie started. We grabbed some popcorn, I had a spiked Pina-Colada, and got ready for what I knew was gonna be an awesome movie: 300. And it was. If you get a chance, ignore the critics and go watch it.

I got home late and just woke up. I'm hoping to go kayaking tomorrow but till then, it's code-crunching time.

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Fri, 9th Mar '07, 3:15 pm::

The lake behind our office building is pretty wild and attracts a lot of creatures. I just stood out back and watched a mother river otter with four pups just swimming around. I've often spotted herons, pelicans, and once, even rosette spoonbills.

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I win, so I am better than youThu, 8th Mar '07, 8:15 am::

A funny contradiction has been happening to me over time and only now am I starting to realize it. I find that the older I get, the more time I feel I have. One would think that as you grow older, you have less and less time to achieve what you want, yet I feel quite the opposite. When I was fifteen, I was always running out of time. Everything had to happen NOW. There was no time to waste. It's now or never! At twenty-six, other than committed deadlines, time doesn't really bother me. There are so many things I want to do and I feel I'm on the right path. I've found some sort of balance between impatience and procrastination. Even when I wrote about patience, I did not know how that came about, other than inheriting my mother's patient attitude.

While reading The Future of Leisure That Never Arrived, I realized what is missing from my life today that overwhelmed my being ten years ago - competition. I don't compete. There is absolutely no competition in my life. At age fifteen, I competed in more activities than I can remember, from soccer, volleyball, athletics, to violin, theater, and aero-modeling (that's making model planes that can fly, not mile-high modeling). Today, I create. I sit back, take my time, and make whatever I want. I build things I want and at my pace. Nobody else is doing what I'm doing any more. There are no standards to measure my worth by.

The void of competition is not some happenstance. It is completely intentional, albeit indirect. I have chosen to not involve myself in activities where the sole purpose is to win by being better than others. While competition in kids fosters development and personal growth, I find that competition among adults simply regresses communal advancement. I learnt a lot about my strengths and weaknesses when I practiced months on end for music competitions as a teenager. However, by spending three hours a day on my yard to make my lawn greener than my neighbor's, I'd pretty much be wasting my time. My time would be better spent making new things instead of proving I AM BETTER!

What makes the world a better place: A bunch of adults that study for months to get the highest score in mySAP-ERP certification so the winner gets a new laptop and a bonus, or the bunch of them working together or on their own projects to actually make software that help others? Having decided that I'd rather build things than run rat-races, my life has become quite different. I know many people that are winning their selective rat-races, and not just eking out a living. Yet they find their lives miserable and often whine about having no leisure. I know many folks that instead build things and they are generally the most interesting people because despite having twenty-six ongoing projects, they are always interested in learning new things and figuring out how to make something else.

Exceptions to the competition rule is when competing professionally is all you do, i.e. sports professionals, athletes, and the ilk. These are the people that, by doing their very best, actually push the human boundaries on what can be done. If I could run a mile under 3:50, I would and my respect goes to those that can. However, this kind of competition is different from forcing your daughter to get better grades than your brother-in-law's kid. People think that by pushing kids to compete non-stop, the kids will learn to win in life. No, they will learn to win in competitions. Then they will compete for that promotion and then that client account. Next thing they know, they have no time for anything, except of course, pushing their own kids to be the best basketball player and the best pianist in their class.

Thankfully, I competed out of my own volition and not parental or peer pressure. Consequently, I found it easy to get out of the competitions without a loss of self-worth. I never measured how good I am by how many people I'm better than. I do measure how good I am by what I make and how does it make the world slightly better.

Of course, everything has side-effects and my lack of competitiveness has its own repercussions. The fact that I refuse to compete in anything seeps into my private life, especially dating habits. I simply won't compete with other guys for a girl's attention. I won't. I don't care how great you are but if you expect me to prove myself better than the four other guys you're eying, have a nice day and a good life. I'm pretty sure if I wanted to compete and win, I could. But I won't. I'd rather be valued on my absolute merits than some relative edge I might gain over others momentarily.

So who's up for a little kayaking this weekend? I'll race you across the Bay to Tampa and back!

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Sat, 3rd Mar '07, 11:05 pm::

I haven't been writing regularly lately because I'm pretty much putting every minute I have into my new pet project. We're still about a month or two away from releasing it and I don't want to promise anything yet but I'm getting some confidence that this is going to be good. I guess only time will tell. I can't wait till the project goes live so I can talk about my experiences with the whole thing. Till then, it's life as usual.

Oh here's something neat I put up: Weather Map. I didn't make the map, just put it on my site so I can check out the local weather instantly from anywhere.

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Mon, 26th Feb '07, 9:15 pm::

This has been a busy month. I'm working late on different projects and going out with friends more often too. Other than work and friends, not much going on really.

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Who in the where said what now?Sat, 17th Feb '07, 7:40 pm::

One of the things I love about a kayaking trip is the long drive to and from the water. I often pick a single real-life incident and slowly generalize the matter, as if back-tracking to its source. On my drive to the Oscar Scherer Park in Osprey, Florida to kayak earlier today, I wondered why a close friend of mine gets offended whenever I ask her how some plan will work out. It was irritating me because she loves to answer why something happened yet doesn't like it when I ask how something will function. It occurred to me that depending on your personality, you fit into one or maybe two of the following types:

  • Why Personality: The Why people want to know the reason for every incident and everyone's action. These are the psychologists and philosophers. They love to delve deep into the root cause of events to determine whether there exist logical bases for the same. Generally smart and inquisitive by nature.
  • How Personality: The How's are the engineers, the scientists, the mechanics of the world. They could care less WHY the Universe exists, all they want to know is how did the Big Bang happen? And how does white light break into the colors of rainbow when it passes through a prism. You may think that many of the scientific questions are Why's, like "Why does an apple fall down and not up?" instead of How's. However, for a scientist, "Why" doesn't really say anything unless you can describe "How." We know "Why" the apple falls down: Due to Gravity. But till date, we don't know "How" gravity works and hence this area of Physics still has ample room for discovery. The How's are just as smart as the Why's and much more practical in nature.
  • What/Where/When Personality: These are the folks that are living it up. They don't care Why or How, and instead just want to know what's going on, where's it going on, and when do they show up with a 6-pack of beer. The world is full of them and it's a good thing - they live in the moment and get things done. Most of the people you know fit into this personality. Next time you hang out with them, don't try to talk philosophy or calculus. Just raise the glass and have a drink.
  • Who Personality: Of all the people I despise, I'd say the one thing most of them have in common is that they are always looking to put the blame on someone else. Who ate my cake? Who stole my ideas? Who told you that you can use my computer? If you know someone that begins half of their questions with "Who," I'd advice you to stay away from them. "Who" knows how they'll get you in trouble some day.

I'm mostly "How" and a little bit of "Why." I become the "What/Where/When" type every now and then though I do my best to never become a "Who." I'm pretty certain my friend is "Why" and hence loves to explain "Why" something happened. However, she just doesn't understand that other people may want to know specifically "How" she intends to make her plans work. I think that now that I've realized this, it will be easier now for me to deal with persons of different types.

So which one are you?

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Fri, 16th Feb '07, 7:20 am::

Yet another cold weekend approaching. I doubt I can go kayaking. Though I hope to go out and hike in a pretty nature trail.

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Sat, 10th Feb '07, 4:45 pm::

Unfinished chores make me more uneasy than food stains on my shirt before some big meeting. Right now, I have broken kitchen tiles that need to be replaced, four website-related emails that need to be dealt with, two loads of laundry that have to be washed, and some minor chores around the house that I started but haven't finished yet. I guess I'll address each of these one at a time. I'd rather be kayaking.

The problem isn't that I hate doing chores or that I'm lazy. It's that during the entire time something is half-done, the uneasy feeling I have is very annoying. I want to do something fun but I have a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that before I can "play", I gotta finish up with the "work." Even though I have perfectly good reasons for not getting to all the chores just yet. I'm waiting for a friend to come check out the tiles, I need some more documents before I can get on with the website updates, and I'd rather do the cleaning and washing after the tile-situation is solved in case there's dust and flying monkeys around the house during repair-work.

So till that is done, I sit here feeling uncomfortable for no major reason whatsoever. I need a Long Island or two.

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Fri, 9th Feb '07, 1:45 pm::

Today must be opposite day. I just called up the phone company and had a great helpful conversation with their billing department.

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Bring back VaudevilleSun, 4th Feb '07, 10:40 am::

If debauchery was illegal, the cast members of Thee Vaude Villians would be serving life sentences. Last night my buddy Nathaniel from Tampa came over and we drove to see the Burlesque Company perform at Chiq. Vaudeville is "a style of multi-act theater which flourished in North America from the 1880s through the 1920s. An evening's schedule of performances (or 'bill') could run the gamut from acrobats to mathematicians, from song-and-dance duos to trick high divers." In the early twentieth century, burlesque theater, with its "origins in nineteenth century music hall entertainments and vaudeville, emerged as a populist blend of satire, performance art, and adult entertainment, that featured strip tease and broad comedy acts that derived their name from the low comedy aspects of the literary genre also known as burlesque."

Knowing the show would be quite different from the Broadway musicals and strip-joint tricks, I walked in with expectations of being mildly entertained and pleasantly amused. Boy, was I wrong! Here's part of a mission statement of sorts from the group itself:

"Throughout the history of theater, many revolutionary ideas have made their impact and become mainstays of modern entertainment. More often than not, the origins of these ideas have been diluted and forgotten as the entertainment industry drones forward. Among these casualties lies the lost art of burlesque. In these first years of the new millennium, only a relatively small number of people endeavor to keep this genre of entertainment from falling into oblivion unsung. Only these few strive to ensure that the word “burlesque” is not easily associated with stripping or the fetish scene. In fact, Thee VaudeVillains Burlesque Company’s main goal is to snatch burlesque out of the jaws of fetishists and bring back all the forgotten elements that once made this genre great. We feel it is our duty to restore the original ideals of the art form and make it shine once more. "

I say bring back vaudeville! I want to leave work at 5pm and taunt the bearded women by 6pm. I want to a see a man eat his own jaw and a woman who can crush coconuts with her bare chest. I'm tired of the puritan and the sleaze fighting over zoning law establishments and what I can or cannot see within 50 feet of a school bus stop that's less than 100 feet of a liquor store on 3rd weekends of months that end with a "Y." I say bring back the innocent burle-laden maidens! Fortunately for me, Thee Vaude Villans are right on track.

In classical vaudeville style, the show consisted of a variety of acts from story-telling and singing to contortion and satire. Saying that I was entertained is putting is mildly. A more appropriate word would be enchanted. The show lasted for over two hours not including the intermission. Nathaniel introduced me to a few cast members before their acts. It's not everyday that I'm introduced to a pretty software engineer that works on digital imaging by day and prances around on stage with feathers at night.

In a society where beautiful girls often starve themselves to become skinnier because the magazine says so, it was refreshing and in a way comforting, to see women not ashamed of their own bodies. Tall and skinny or short and curvy, as long as you can shake those legs for hours on end, you're beautiful.

Having seen the bottom of three Long Island glasses within two hours last night, I have but vague recollections of specific performances. Additionally, smoke-filled cramped rooms, which I guess were the prime seats of such shows once, are really not my thing and often give me headaches. We were too tired by the time the show ended so we parted ways. I got home, consumed lots of bread and orange juice, and went to bed. Here's to a good night out.

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Wed, 31st Jan '07, 9:45 pm::

Last night I went to see Monty Python's Spamalot at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center with Tay and his family. They just happened to have an extra ticket and I just happened to be a huge Python fan. The play was hilarious throughout and in line with the classical Python comedy. Having seen all their movies and most of their TV shows, seeing it performed on stage felt like going to watch a movie after you've read the book. Yet Spamalot didn't disappoint. While sticking to the base story of Holy Grail, they added a lot of new acts, fused songs from other movies, and changed many dialogs to better interact with a live audience. The ending was superbly surprising. Now I can't wait till Avenue Q comes to town next year.

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Wait for itSun, 28th Jan '07, 3:35 pm::

Often I look into myself and try to pick apart my personality for flaws and issues. While talking to a friend today I realized that I have one very good characteristic that very few people I know have, patience. Of all the people I know, my mother is probably the only one more patient than me, so I'm pretty sure that's where I got it from.

Why care about patience when you have instantaneous alerts on latest sports events via text-messaging? If everything is immediate in this world today, isn't asking for patience just showing that you cannot deliver smoothly? When it comes to systems, projects, products, services, and technology, yes, everything should indeed be immediate and instant. There is no reason your check-deposit should take 45 days. However, when it comes to people, personality, emotions, and society, patience is a virtue.

I want my bank-transfer to happen NOW but I will wait two months while a friend sorts out their job situation before calling me. I want to watch the latest news NOW but I will wait a year before I ask my sister about her future plans. I will also wait three years for my Masters and six years for my Post-Graduate degree some day. I am also in no hurry to get rich enough to buy some mansion on the beach or kayak down the Amazon.

This doesn't mean I'm giving up on whatever goals I have in life. I'm just enjoying today while preparing for a better tomorrow, instead of stressing out today with the hope that tomorrow might be marginally better. Patience is realizing that not everything will happen immediately, especially things that you have absolutely no control over. Once a week my family asks me the same question and my reply is "at least five-six years." If there is nothing you can do to speed things up, why waste your time wondering when it will finally happen?

One thing people have to learn about patience is that you need patience to learn. We don't have fancy DVD-to-Brain devices like the Matrix so we pretty much have to slowly learn things over time. I didn't learn programming in one night and you didn't learn playing piano in a week. Why shouldn't I wait a year before I can play a musical instrument well and why can't you wait four months before you get used to that new computer software?

Somewhere among all the rapid global communications via Transatlantic cables and real-time GPS-based shipment tracking information sent directly to your Palm Pilot and Blackberry, the lesson of "slow and steady wins the race" is being forgotten.

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Sat, 27th Jan '07, 11:15 am::

No kayaking. Yes coding. I hope to accomplish more than dedirtification of some laundry this weekend.

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Tue, 23rd Jan '07, 11:05 am::

The article got a greenlight on Fark.com home page. I wonder how many people will click on it. So far, its got over 1250 clicks. Update hours later: 11642 clicks.

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Wall Street Journal article on my Tag CloudTue, 23rd Jan '07, 12:35 am::

Last week I received an email from journalist Aaron Rutkoff at The Wall Street Journal Online for a phone interview to discuss my US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud app. We had a good chat over the weekend and for a limited-time, you can read his article about my work at: Web Site Tracks a History Of Presidential Buzzwords. If the link doesn't work anymore (since WSJ is a subscription-site), let me know.

I'm quite pleased at how clearly and sincerely Aaron wrote about this project and my motivation for developing it. Having had a few "interesting" experiences with media folks in the past, I honestly have so much respect for the WSJ because of how friendly and genuinely interested in my work he was. I think I showed off a bit too much about my kayaking while we chatted, him being in the freezing New York City and me living in sunny Florida :)

It's way past my bed-time now but here's hoping the link stays up free for a few days so my family and friends can read it all, since it's not available in print.

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Sat, 20th Jan '07, 11:25 pm::

I wanted to watch a good action film and lucky for me, Gone in Sixty Seconds is on now. This is what I call a good weekend.

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Sat, 20th Jan '07, 7:15 pm::

I went to Caladesi Island again today. Here's some pics.

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Sat, 20th Jan '07, 10:45 am::

After almost four years of daily use, I finally decided to replace my ConAir electric-shaver. I wanted an electric-shaver that was affordable, easy to clean, and cordless yet worked with a cord when not charged. The last part was the most important because I don't want to wait for 20 minutes while the shaver charges up before I can shave, especially when I'm in a hurry. I found Braun 1775 on Amazon for only $30 with shipping! I just shaved with it and wow, I'm sold for life. The shaver is light-weight and does not hurt your skin regardless of how roughly you use it. I just got the smoothest shave in years and now feel like I should be dressing up for a formal dinner at the Governor's House while a tall hot chick in black dress brushes the back of her hand against my smooth-smooth cheek and smiles coyly.

Man, I should be paid for that free advertising! The fact is, despite being a "computer guy," I'm not a big fan of gadgets and gizmos. I don't replace my toaster or cellphone till it drowns in water or catches fire, respectively. I guess I'm old-school in the sense that, if it's not broken, I don't replace it. My old shaver is in my linen-closet now, in case the new one breaks or has problems. My main computer is about four years old too and works pretty well. I'm just hoping I don't have to replace it anytime soon. I even bought my car hoping I'll be able to drive it for a decade at least.

I'm bad for the economy.

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Sun, 14th Jan '07, 7:20 pm::

Had a great day kayaking at Homosassa Springs with Sandra. Quite tired and my cough is killing me. I felt great in nature but as soon as I entered civilization, the coughing started. Check out some of the pics. Hopefully I'll get the photos of me off her camera soon too.

I'm gonna go rest now. Hopefully my new doctor will soon find me an antibiotic that works.

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Wed, 10th Jan '07, 10:20 am::

Come hail or sleet, I'm going kayakin' this weekend. Well, hopefully the weather will be nice.

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Sun, 7th Jan '07, 2:15 pm::

I'd been pretty sick for the last two weeks but finally today I seem to have got a break from all the coughing and ensuing headaches. So like a good little boy I got on with the house chores - laundry, vacuuming, dishes, and just overall cleaning the mess that I've been living in for the past few weeks. Finally it's beginning to feel like HOME. I have to take down the Christmas lights hanging in front of my house too. I'm hoping I'll continue to feel good from now on but I'm not banking on it. This cough thing is pretty nasty. Stay away from me!

I have been slowly working on my web project this whole time though. I can't wait to show it off when it's ready. It's a beautiful day today and once my chores are done, I wanna go sit out in my yard. In a month or two, it'll get warm enough to plant seeds. My backyard's half-green already, so it won't be too difficult to make it pretty. I like it when things slowly come into place.

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Mon, 1st Jan '07, 2:50 pm::

This is the ultimate showdown. Of ultimate destiny. And the awesomest flash animation ever.

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Tue, 26th Dec '06, 8:10 am::

If I haven't called you in a few days it's probably because my cough is back and I can barely talk for 5 minutes. The cycle of antibiotics upon antibiotics has begun.

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Indian SplendorSun, 24th Dec '06, 11:50 pm::

I took a break from my holiday coding session tonight and watched a surprisingly delightful film, American Splendor. It's a biography of an underground comic book writer (not artist) Harvey Pekar, an everyman super hero. Says Harvey, "Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff," and it's not difficult to agree with him on that. What was difficult for me was to realize that the movie is fact and not fiction. We're so accustomed to seeing larger than life characters in films that we become immune to their charms. Then when a real life character comes along, it's hard to suspend belief and play along, after all, THIS character can't be real! He's too real to be real.

One aspect of the film that enticed me was Harvey Pekar's 25-year long autobiographical comic book series that lends its name to the film, American Splendor. While I loved comic books as a kid, my interest slowly waned as I discovered that real life is more raw than kryptonite and adamantium claws. When I started writing my comic strip Calm Down! a few months ago, I had a general idea of what it was going to be about - me and my splendorous* life. At that time, I didn't know why I decided to do that but I think I do now.

Towards the end of the movie, Harvey's wife asked him to write a comic book about his struggle with lymphoma/cancer, saying once he makes himself a character in yet another comic book, he'll be detached from his illness and thus from his own life and problems. It was more than slightly unnerving to grasp that I probably did the same. Well, no point in stopping now. More Calm Down's coming up in the months and hopefully years ahead.

* Of course there is fine print.

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Baby, don't hurt meFri, 15th Dec '06, 8:15 am::

I think my favorite aspect of keeping this personal 'blog entirely public, is that often I have to say how I feel without disclosing the precise details. I don't say "XYZ bad things happened and it's ABC's fault so I'm doing 123 things to fix it." Specific issues, advice, and words are short-lived and don't apply to others beyond myself. Hence I generalize and try to look at how and why things happen instead of trying to figure out what exactly to do in this one instance. I have my friends and family for that; how unfortunate of them.

When faced with problems beyond our control, each of us reacts and deals with them in our own unique ways. How we confront a negative force depends on our personality and understanding of the world. While it is very difficult to change our innate personalities, it is relatively easy to adapt our philosophical views over time to help us deal with life better. Regardless of how aware we are of our own views on life, everything in this world is shaped by what we think about abstract terms like good, right, justice, karma, greed, equality, success, friendship, and love.

A person's notion of success might make their views on greed benign. That is to say, in order to achieve success, that person will not consider greed as a strongly negative trait. We have people that take solace in karma and think that good things will happen to good people. We have people that think justice is only what they themselves agree with. I know people that equate friendship with networking for potential personal gain. How you think of these few words is what you think of the world. What you think of the world is how you will act and react throughout your life. Some think that what is good is right and some believe equality should have limits.

It is the difference between our personal understandings of these words that causes all the problems in the world. If we had a standard definition for abstract terms like this, life would be quite easy. Socrates questioned what justice was and everyone from cheesy POP musicians to scientists ask what love is.

It is not possible for us to agree on what something is but it's quite easy to agree on what it isn't. Love isn't selfish, abusive, or conditional. Justice doesn't necessarily have to make every side happy. Right doesn't mean that it must feel good. We all make mistakes and we all make short-sighted decisions. True test of your abilities is how you recover from your failures. For some, it's as simple as fessing up and saying "Oops! I screwed up." And for others, it is unleashing yet another round of lies upon lies to cover up past acts of deceit. You can't waste your time on them; their definition of love, greed, and good is completely screwed up.

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Mon, 11th Dec '06, 9:25 pm::

Sometimes coincidences freak me out. I was just checking my email while watching a video on Chinese history. I got a confirmation email about something and as I read the phrase "Powered by Movable Type" within it, the narrator on the show said "and by that time, Movable Type was invented in China." My heart literally thumped and it's been beating really fast for the last three minutes. Freaky.

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Sat, 9th Dec '06, 12:15 pm::

Another lazy weekend. I hope to get some work done though. Not much really happening in this corner of the woods.

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Cats out of the cradleFri, 8th Dec '06, 6:00 pm::

As it often goes, I was talking to a good friend of mine online and she mentioned how her mother kept expecting too much out of her and despite whatever my friend did, it was never enough for the mother. The parental pressure was not just infuriating my friend but also slowly depressing her. About a year ago when she was living with her parents and going through similar situations while selecting a graduate school, I suggested that she pick a school outside of her hometown and learn to live on her own. And she did.

So far, she's loved the freedom it has brought to her after 27 years of being told exactly what to do every single moment. I never expected her mom to stop nagging after she moved out. But I did hope that my friend wouldn't feel so emotionally tortured. That hasn't happened. It hasn't happened to my buddy who moved to Colorado and still hasn't happened to my friend who got married and moved with her husband to Boston two years ago. Yet, it happened to me. Despite being very close to parents who expect the world out of me, I don't feel emotionally tense anymore because of what they say or think of me. It took years for me to figure out why and how.

I want my parents' love, not their approval. I love my parents more than anyone else in the world but I have learnt that what I should be seeking in return is their love, not their agreement with everything I do. Moreover, not wanting approval doesn't mean I don't care about their opinion or that I don't care when I hurt them. I'm just saying, when I do something that I think is right but they don't, I understand it is a difference of opinions and carry on.

Oddly enough, it was my mom that taught me this lesson. Like every good son, for two decades I did everything I could, to get my dad's approval. Many times I succeeded but more often than not, I failed. Part of me knows that my dad held back many well-deserved congratulations so I would try even harder and go further. He wanted me to be a true winner. However, after seemingly failing over and over again, I would feel dejected and go to my mom asking for advice. She said simple things like "don't worry" and "just try harder."

I don't know when it struck me but one fine day, I stopped craving for my dad's approval. Everything changed instantly. I'm no longer living my life hoping he'll rubber-stamp my big ticket purchases, career path, new friends, or potential soul mates. I no longer expect my parents to like everything I like or appreciate the things I care for. I feel wonderful when they tell me they love me and my decisions but I'm not hurt or disappointed when they express their disdain for my unorthodox ways.

This is not a criticism of my parents but rather of my past self. Parents seldom change. But the kids can. And have to. I would love it if both my parents approve of everything I do but the world is not perfect and I would be foolish to expect the same. My dad and I can't agree on the same sport to watch together (cricket vs. soccer) yet for twenty years I hoped he would approve of every new friend I made. He is perfectly right in his mind to judge, like, and dislike whoever he wants in the same way that I have the right to talk, befriend, and love whomever I want. He does his best to prevent me from destroying my life and I do my best to explain the reasons behind my choices. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we agree to disagree. In the end, we remain close without any bottled up frustrations; at least I try my best to.

The day I realized I want my parents to love me and not wholeheartedly approve of me, is the day I truly became an "adult." Since then, I've expanded this rule to encompass my family, relatives, friends, and even coworkers. I'm glad if you appreciate what I do and am thankful that you care to offer criticism but if someone tells me I HAVE TO DO things their way without sufficient logical reasoning, that'll be the last day I talk to them.

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1) Chant 2) RepeatSat, 2nd Dec '06, 11:55 pm::

Last two weeks have been pretty hectic for me. Lots of little and big things happening that have changed my life in ways beyond what I feel comfortable discussing openly. No matter how neurotic life has seemed lately, I keep catching myself saying "It's OK, we'll get there."

I don't realize it most of the times but often when I'm going through different phases in life, my inner voice keeps chanting little slogans that push me along. Right now, it is "We'll get there" and last year when I was sick for months on end, it was "No worries. We be good." When I was training for hours in the Florida sun for the marathon it was the mushy "What doesn't kill me only makes me stronger."

Chanting religious mantras isn't something I do in my everyday life and never really felt comfortable praying to a divine entity to help me through my personal issues. However, somehow I feel much better saying these little catchy slogans. Most of these are simple phrases that I probably said once to someone and then kept repeating over and over because they made me feel better and pushed me on. I could say that while these slogans don't fuel my inner-strength, they keep the engines well oiled and flowing smooth so when I need to muster up some courage, I'm always ready. After all, the journey may seem a little long-winded today but it's ok, we'll get there.

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Wed, 22nd Nov '06, 10:30 pm::

I went to Village Inn to get Strawberry Rhubarb pie for tomorrow's Thanksgiving Dinner with Tay's family and couldn't resist the French Silk Pie. French Silk Pie, it's what for dinner.

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Wed, 22nd Nov '06, 8:33 pm::

Quote for the day: "Honey, I'm home!"

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Leave me aloneTue, 21st Nov '06, 8:15 am::

I was reading an NY Times article on being alone on reddit and following the comments when it got yanked off the front page. I'm not sure what happened but here's my reply to the article, which will make a lot more sense once you read the original article.

I think the bigger picture is not that some people are introverted or some other people desperately crave attention. The truth is that while genetically we are all 99.999% equals, our minds, emotions, and thus desires are completely unique. Our social structure isn't; it is extremely stratified. There are minor variations in social structures from country to country but over all, we have well-defined hierarchies in place almost throughout the entire civilized world.

From maternal and familial bonding to friendship and marriage, we all "know" how things should be. A person must find a mate and have a monogamous relationship with them. A person must form non-sexual bonds with others that they shall deem "friends," who may be called upon from time to time to help them lift a couch when primary domiciles change. This is how the young of the species must act in training environments and once they have been skilled in the fine art of survival, this is how they must seek a single mate.

All of this makes sense too if we want some form of just, stable society. None of this makes sense we find ourselves restricted and bound by these imaginary chains that do nothing but make us feel worse for being ourselves. Society doesn't take kindly to those that choose not to conform to these norms. You want a mate that is your own gender? Tough luck. You want two mates? Tramp! No mates? Loser. You want friends that are also physical partners? You want love interests without physical intimacy? You wish to dress up like the opposite gender while engaging in physical acts with multiple partners of both genders, under and over some hypothetical age? FREAK! There's a tragedy written on each of these subjects every generation and there's a good reason for it.

The human condition is not one of task-designated ants. We don't have one queen, a few thousand nurturers, and a few million soldiers. Every person is a unique blend of all these characteristics and have the birth-right to be who they truly are as long as they pose no threat to others. It is our ancestral notion that strictly adhering to the prescribed social guidelines is the only way to sustain the propagation of our species. While that is indeed true and I would find it hard to believe arguments against that, I think we have arrived at a stage when propagation of our species is not the biggest challenge we face. The challenge we face is to prevent the destruction of our species. That has for centuries and will indeed forever henceforth, be brought upon by individuals that feel ostracized by the society for thinking different, feeling different, and not "fitting in" regardless of the fact that they may be tyrants or eerily quiet neighbors.

Our goal as humans should no longer to be to beat out the dinosaurs and tigers in the wild. Our goal should be to ensure every person indeed feels human, accepted, and part of the human community. And if that means leaving the person alone, then so be it.

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So let goMon, 20th Nov '06, 7:15 pm::

Casually talking to a friend today I realized how one of the personality traits that I've acquired over time has changed my life so drastically and mostly for the better - the ability to let go. Letting go of someone or something is different than forgiving or giving up. I mean let go in the same sense as Chuck Palahniuk's Narrator in Fight Club remarked, "The ability to let, that which does not matter, truly slide."

For a species that is free to move around, we are remarkably predisposed to hanging on. As toddlers, we hold on to our blankets and teddy bears. As kids we latch on to our toys and mommies. In youth, we hold on to our music and friends. And as we grow older, we cling to our families, jobs, cars, houses, and every person that we've ever cared for. We just can't seem to let go of anything. Hanging on is what we do!

It is not a secret that people change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. The friend that cared about you so much last year doesn't even think about you anymore. The little boy down the street you liked saying hello to, doesn't seem all that respectful anymore. When a person changes, we all notice it. You knew it the moment your cousin got married that she turned into a whole new person. When a person changes, we also know if they changed for the better or worse. Your friend for the worse and your cousin for the better.

The problem is that we ourselves aren't willing to incorporate this change into our world view. We don't want to admit that now that this person has changed and is suddenly treating us like crap, that we should just let go of them. We keep trying to get their attention, to show them that we are still worthy of their affection. We need to let go. You need to let go. The relationship is over. The friendship is over. Just let go.

Letting go doesn't mean you stop talking to family or friends when they're in trouble and are more work for you to put up with. Letting go means when someone clearly no longer wants to include you in the next episode of their life, you gracefully accept that your character was killed off and go back to starring in the remaining forty-seven other shows. If that's not enough, find new people and become a guest star in their lives.

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that many people no longer want me to be an active part of their life; some very close friends in the years bygone. Often I blamed myself for the turn of events, thinking I must have done something to push them away. Turns out, it wasn't me or anyone else. It wasn't even them sometimes. Life changed them. They moved on and were hoping I would too; the sooner the better.

When it takes more effort to maintain a connection with someone than the mutual benefit and support we obtain, it is not worth trying to make things work anymore. While we shared some good times in the past, if you don't have enough time for me anymore, it is in my best interest to let go and find someone else. The longer we hang on to after the bond's broken, the more it hurts when we finally let go.

Letting go doesn't have to be painful or sad. It can be a wonderful culmination of good times had. I let go of my angel after she helped me finish my first marathon. I said bye, smiled, and never looked back. I still think fondly about her and I'm certain it's because I let go of her before she started ignoring my phone calls and emails. If someone is meant to come back to your life, they will. Otherwise, just let go.

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Girls don't have cootiesFri, 17th Nov '06, 6:15 pm::

Common sense would dictate that when one is heavily medicated on pain-relief drugs, making public statements is the last thing they should do. Since I've been known to lack common sense, I'm gonna go ahead and say what I truly feel right now. Bear in mind that while my fingers are able to correctly hit the keyboard, I'm still overwhelmed by and under the control of the emotions welled up by 10mg of Hydrocodone tablets taken every four hours as prescribed by my doctor. Don't worry, it's nothing to worry about. So I'll make the best of this blissful state by shamelessly showing my heartfelt gratitude to the ones that truly deserve it the most - the beautiful members of the fairer sex who have made my life so much more meaningful.

Weird as it sounds, at this moment I want to thank every girl and woman that I've ever encountered. Starting of course with my dear mother and then my loving sister. Equally loving are my grandma, my aunts, and my sweet little cousins. I would be but a heartless machine without the lessons in humanity, kindness, and morality that they've inculcated into my personality. I cannot even begin to thank my wonderful pretty female friends that have helped me overcome some of the most difficult decisions I've had to make in my personal and social life. While most of the time, my guy friends - the buddies are all I need for company and adventure, I cannot deny how much of a difference my friends like Megan, Tamara, Teresa, Becky, Lanie, Jen, Avani, Michele, Laura, Halley, Amy, Heather, Elyse, Kelly, Kellie, and so many others have made in my life.

I would never say that my social life has been a bed of roses with only happy, wonderful memories. I've faced more rejections and heartbreaks than most people can survive without complete psychological breakdowns. Throughout the good days and especially the bad, the wonderful girls in my life supported me with encouraging words and lots of hugs. Without them, I might have ended up a jaded despicable male-chauvinistic misogynist. But because of them, I love, respect, and value the wonderment that is the human female.

If you're wondering what made me say all this, it's probably the pain killers. Or rather, the loss of inhibition brought about by them that's giving me the strength to let the world know how much I love each and every woman that I've met. This 'blog entry isn't about women's liberation or praise of their physical beauty. It is my deepest thank you to them for being the wonderful neurotic yet emotionally intelligent persons they are. I love you, girl. All of you. No matter where you are.

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Wed, 15th Nov '06, 8:05 pm::

I just got invited to spend Thanksgiving with my friend Taylor's family :)

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Wed, 15th Nov '06, 4:35 pm::

Today is a weird, weird day.

  • My car got splashed with white paint somehow. Thankfully it was water-based and came off easily without any permanent damage after a $12 car-wash.
  • I was looking out of my office window when two birds flew straight into the glass with a bang, then instantly turned around and flew away.
  • I woke up before my cats did. That has never happened, ever. The cats are fine but I'm spooked.

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Say something newSat, 11th Nov '06, 6:40 pm::

On an average day, I read about 10-12 personal blogs of people I know and read news, articles, and journals on anywhere from 50 to 200 websites I find linked online. While there is much to be said about online news media outlets and commercial blogs, my gripe is with personal blogs. Regardless of how easy it is to start a free online journal and how many people sign up for new ones everyday, the problem lies not with the technology or the low barrier to entry, but rather with the utter lack of fresh content.

While this would be a good opportunity for me to make a list of the "Top 10 things I don't want to read on your blog," I'd rather spend the time elaborating on what I DO want to read. Admittedly, I'm not above my own criticism either as I've written many a word in the last five years that nobody including me wants to read anymore. However, with time, I've learnt what people do want to read and what they usually skip over.

All I want you to do is to say something new. Tell me something that I didn't know about - you, your life, your friends, your job, your love, your passion, your dirty secrets, and most importantly, your thoughts. I've already read everything newsworthy on all the meta news sites. So you don't have to tell me that some new movie is in the theaters now. What you do have to tell me is that you have started playing the violin or are practicing public speaking. Tell me why you think people should be married before age 23 or how one should go about organizing their personal schedules. I don't care if you're right or wrong, convincing or contriving, I just want to read something I couldn't have on any other website except yours. Be fresh!

You don't necessarily have to write about your personal life a la "What-I-had-for-lunch-today." In fact, writing about your personal life without being severely sleep-inducing is one of the most difficult things. While I started with writing about my cool programming scripts, I've slowly moved away from day-to-day activity logs (that I'm sure my family still cares more about) to more persistent topics that might be somewhat interesting four years after the weather has changed. Event descriptions are momentary, ideas are timeless.

Creating new content requires time and effort, thankfully rarely any money. It is very easy to say "Movie X sucked" or "OMG! Check out this site!" It is not so eas