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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.

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.

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!

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:

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.

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.

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 :)

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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!

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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?

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).

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 :)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 easy to spend an hour putting your ideas in words and telling the world how you think you can make something better, faster, smaller, bigger, easier, cheaper, funnier. You don't have to be a fantastic writer but it helps. And once you stop saying "I hate event X, object Y, and person Z" and instead write about how the little children that you talk to everyday finally have come to terms with the truth about Santa Claus, you'll notice your writing skills improve. Tell me something I don't know.

I'm pretty neutral about personal blogs that consist solely of links to other interesting sites. To me, that says nothing really about you. So you found a cool link that you want to share with anyone that might end up on your blog. Big deal. Sometimes the links are interesting and sometimes they're crap. Thanks but I want more.

Tell me about the new project you're working on or your retirement plans. What are you going to do next month? How can first-time homeowners get equity loans? Why do you think people should drop out of college and start your own companies? I don't care if what you're thinking of is smart or stupid, spill the beans already.

I hope next time you click 'New Entry', you'll say something I couldn't find on CNN.com, Google News, or Fark.com.

Sun, 5th Nov '06, 9:25 pm::

I can't even begin to express how tired I am from the looooong day of kayaking today. I went down to Pine Island near Fort Myers and kayaked over 13 miles in EXTREMELY windy weather to Cape Haze. The waves started at two and three feet but after about four hours, they rose to nearly five feet! My kayak floats 8 inches above the water and my head stands barely three feet high when I'm paddling. I had to look UP two feet as the crazy waves crashed into me one after another. This wasn't a typical ocean kayaking trip - this was as close to whitewater kayaking as I can experience in Florida. I had to continuously negotiate the waves in order to stay afloat and not be drenched.

All in all, one of the best kayaking days ever. I don't think I can take this much physical stress regularly but once in a while, I'd love to be in waters this rough. Hopefully not for six-seven hours non-stop like today. Oh and here are the Pine Island - Cape Haze kayaking pictures.

Fri, 3rd Nov '06, 12:35 pm::

My friend Megan is leaving her big-shot corporate consulting job today and is going to work as a pet-sitter. That's right. She no longer wants to be the widget that traces outlines in geographical information systems or consults database for $25/stressful-hour. She is going to be the person that you pay $12/cuddly-hour to take care of your pets while you go vacationing in Hawaii. It's not easy taking almost a 50% pay-cut and giving up everything you studied/prepared/trained for just to try out something that you truly love. Never Calm Down!

Imagination SchmaginationSun, 15th Oct '06, 7:55 pm::

If you know me personally, you could use the adjectives 'practical' and 'realistic' to describe me. I'm not shy about the fact that I have my feet solidly grounded in reality with a near-absolute lack of fantasy in my life. Every thought in my head has something to do with things I've done, things I want to do, and things I want to understand. It can be math problems, computer algorithms, process-flow diagrams, kayak trips, how-to-build-X guides, or even socio-political disagreements. Every single thought is based on something real and concrete. In my life, there are no video games, no role-playing, no fiction novels, no drawings, no story-telling, no fantasy, and certainly no imagination-beyond-what-is-actually-possible.

Yet that doesn't mean I don't have ideas or creative thoughts. I do. Tons of them! But every idea is about something that I can do realistically. Every creative thought is about something I can make possible given my skill set and abilities. Over the course of years, I have become so practical that there is no room for flying llamas and unachievable goals in my life. Now, despite shaking my head at Anne McCaffrey readers for so long, I'm beginning to think my way of thinking is just not right.

While each person has those "special and different" qualities in themselves, I think most people have a unique blend of realistic and idealistic tendencies i.e. to say, some people are more grounded in their acts and thoughts while some others are just "out there." Like everything else in life, balance is the key. Just a decade ago I used to love reading fiction. I loved making up my own stories or rather, extending the ones my dad so enchantingly spun. My earliest memories of playing with my toys consist of kingdoms and wonderlands I had imagined. Gradually though, I migrated towards function, away from form. Who cares about a magical land with funny-looking creatures anymore? I have to build something that's actually useful! And I did. Lots of little useful things I built up.

Then one day I could build no more. I don't know why but my true desire to create just vanished. Nevertheless, out of sheer habit I kept going on, a piffle made here and a trifle made there; always wondering whatever happened to that fire in my belly that had forever made me stay up late at nights working on something fantastic. I had some idea but couldn't put my finger on it. It wasn't until I was spellbound by the 2005 film Mirror Mask earlier today that I realized the true span of my impasse. I have forgotten how to imagine the extraordinary.

The emphasis on the extraordinary points to the crux of the matter. My imagination engine is working fine, it's just not working right. I can imagine a pretty backyard and greener grass. I can imagine a week long vacation driving through the curvy cliff-hanging roads of Washington and Oregon in Fall. I can imagine performing Eskimo rolls while white-water kayaking in Colorado. My imagination engine is allowed to imagine this because my Reality-Sentry has analyzed the activities and approved them based on their high probability of success. What I haven't imagined is curing cancer. What I haven't imagined is becoming a Best-Seller author. What I haven't imagined is inventing the Anti-gravity shield. I haven't thought of these things because, come on, what's the chance of me actually doing any of that?

Big deal. I don't think of what is almost certainly impossible. What's the problem there? The problem is that with time, the Reality-Sentry becomes stricter and stricter. It starts with classifying world peace and flying flip-flops as impossible and then slowly starts to include robotic vacuum cleaners and online video-publishing websites into the impossible-to-do list. After all, I don't know much about robots to make an automatic vacuum cleaner and where am I gonna get the bandwidth, time, and publicity to actually make my own video-publishing website worthwhile?

What you just witnessed was my brain putting anti-gravity shields of science fiction and video-sharing websites of reality into the same impossible-to-do category simply because it tried to answer "what's the chances of ME doing THAT?" without actually letting my imagination and hands have a shot at it. While this certainly saves me from wasting my time and energy on every foolish idea, in the end the ideas that I'm left with are so dull and easy to accomplish that I don't even feel motivated enough get started with them. The other day when I was sick of tailgaters, I wanted to make a device that measures the distance between your car and the one behind you and flashes a warning when get too close. A practical idea indeed. Certainly not impossible to do with some proximity sensor chips, a MIPS processor, and a few LED lights. It's so simple a fool could do it! Which is precisely why I didn't.

This is not to say that every simple idea is worthless. The world definitely needs more Ron Popeils to make our lives easier. But for me, easy and possible just doesn't do it. If I'm embarking on a personal project, it has to be something outrageous enough for me to get excited over. However, with such a starved imagination engine, I'll never really get much fodder to be excited over.

Of the few things I'm proud of myself about, the willingness to find my own flaws and make amends under any circumstances is something I truly feel good about. I may suck but at least I fess up to it and do something about it. I need to dream again. And dream big. Not for success, not for fame, and not for fortunes glorious. But for myself; to help me create that which is truly fantastic.

What's a living roomFri, 15th Sep '06, 9:35 pm::

My 'blog has been kinda quiet lately because I've been pretty busy last few weeks with work stuff. Things are progressing quite well and a lot of the stuff I made over the years is finally coming together. Still a few more months before it's all done though.

So my backyard that was in very bad state last year when I bought my house, is finally starting to look decent. Last month I bought 20 cubic yards of fill dirt to cover the big holes and level the yard. Then I had the wild weeds cleared and just tonight, I tilled the entire backyard and half of the front yard. I added some calcium/lime mineral and some good weed & feed everywhere. Soon I'll add the grass seeds and hopefully I'll have a nice green lawn in a couple of months. Once the lawn is better, I can get on with my projects. I haven't given up on any of my plans, just got terribly delayed due to... ummm... the space-koalas eating my literature homework.

I haven't been doing much lately other than work and house chores. Last weekend it rained pretty heavily, albeit sporadically, and I didn't go out in the water. I'm hoping this weekend is better so I can have some fun exploring the wild again. I don't have any travel plans in near future so other than my weekly kayak trips, I don't really have much to keep me entertained. Especially since the motherboard on my PC-TV got fried. By PC-TV, I mean the computer in my living room that is wired to the TV and wirelessly connects to my 2TB Raid array in the PC Room that contains 300+ movies in DVD quality. I love to just sit back on the sofa and watch a good movie or two on weekends so now I'm kinda bummed that I have to wait for a few weeks till I find a decent replacement motherboard.

Well, there's always YouTube.

Sat, 19th Aug '06, 10:35 pm::

It's been a pretty relaxing weekend so far. Last night I took an unspecting Brian to see Snakes on a Plane movie party in Channelside, Tampa organized by Tampa Bay Farkers. If you don't know much about a movie, here's a brief summary without any spoilers. Basically, it's a very VERY cheesy B-grade movie starring Samuel L. Jackson stuck on a plane with thousands and thousands of snakes! The reason why this movie became a cult-classic with a huge fan-following even before it was released was because the movie accepted the fact that it was a really bad movie and didn't attempt to pretend like it was Jurassic Park or something. I like honesty. Sitting in the movie theater with tons of other screaming and cheering fans made me feel like I was watching a Rajnikanth movie in Calcutta. I absolutely enjoyed it.

Today, I've been just chilling around the house. I cooked dinner and worked on some computer-ish. Here's some pics I took of my kitties being lazy as usual. They love just sleeping at my feet when I'm on the computer.

I'm pretty excited about tomorrow. I hope to wake up real early and take my kayak out for it's maiden voyage on a 4-mile long kayak trail in the Weedon Island, about 15 miles from my house. I tested my kayak earlier this week to see the balance, speed etc. but it was only for 10 minutes. So tomorrow's gonna be real fun, especially since the island is known for some beautiful wildlife views, historic Native American settlement, and a 50-ft high lookout tower. Around 7am when I get into the water, the tide's going to be slowly rising. It's supposed to be best around high tide while will happen around noon. I'm hoping to take my camera with me. Let's see if I capture anything pretty.

Different parameters of relationshipsFri, 18th Aug '06, 12:25 am::

On the surface, this has been a relatively normal week for me, with the usual deal of work, bills, home, chores etc. Nothing really out of the ordinary. Well almost nothing. The two read-but-unreplied emails waiting in my mailbox, sent by the two strongest humans I personally know - my dad and my uncle, keep staring at me every time I check my email, as if mutely yelling at me to hit 'reply' and type away something beautiful and worthy of their dignity. Alas, it's not easy.

My dad sent me an email last week telling me he missed me. It was so loving and sincere that when I showed it to a friend of mine, she wanted him to adopt her. Few days later, his brother, my Paresh uncle, emailed me to tell me how my cousin Keval is slowly getting better. While mentioning that he was pleased to read my views about life on my 'blog, my uncle wrote about his thoughts on life, knowledge, and relationships. It didn't occur to me until now that while millions of people live their entire lives without even saying "hello" to their parents and elders, I take for granted all the support and love in the world that I get from my family without even asking for it once. And then when someone tells me they love me or miss me, I find it extremely difficult to respond to them. Woody Allen's America does that to you.

I wouldn't even have begun writing this 'blog entry tonight had I not clicked on this video of father & son unknowingly. Team Hoyt is a father-son team of Dick & Rick Hoyt, "from Massachusetts who together compete just about continuously in marathon races. And if they're not in a marathon they are in a triathlon - that daunting, almost superhuman, combination of 26.2 miles of running, 112 miles of bicycling, and 2.4 miles of swimming. Together they have climbed mountains, and once trekked 3,735 miles across America." It sounds like typical father-son adventurous duo till you realize the son, Rick, can't walk or talk. The father pushes, carries, lifts, and pulls him from the start till the end. Every year at the Boston Marathon, this team gets the loudest, most-cheerful standing ovation. I know this particular video has some typical-cheesy music but that didn't stop me from sobbing for 4 minutes and 14 seconds, and then again for 4:14 when I hit replay. Last time I was in India, Google Videos weren't accessible from there. I think it's a good thing because I don't think either my dad or uncle will be able to control their tears if they saw this video. I mean it made me so weak in the knees that I decided to shed my fake outer-shell of "I'm so awesome and my life is so great" and admit that I sobbed and cried uncontrollably when I saw the video.

Like my dad always says, I rarely propose concrete well thought-out arguments on my 'blog entries, and usually ramble aimlessly. Today is no different. Yet, almost always, I have underlying themes. I guess tonight, it's the latent energy to persevere. By latent energy, I mean the hidden strength that these two stalwarts in my family seem to possess since birth. Ever since I was a kid, they were the two strong brothers I could always look up to for help, advice, and guidance. To me, they were and are now more than ever, the resolute pillars of persistence. In my eyes, nothing has changed, rather they both have shown time and again that they're getting wiser and more down-to-Earth by the day.

But in their eyes, something has changed. They now think of me as a mature grown-up man that they can share their views with, as equals, instead of just teaching me like I'm a student and they're teachers. That is something new to me. Suddenly, I'm seeing them in light I've never expected, as real humans with strengths AND weaknesses. While my dad and his elder brother have always tried to be my best friends, I'm new to this aspect of theirs - the side in which they stop being perfect figures of authority and become my friends with unhindered emotions and honest feelings - no pretense of being the bigger man.

But I'm so used to them being the head, the father-figure, the authority, that this closeness is leaving me speechless. The weirdness is of course that I feel completely comfortable in writing about it here in public, I guess, because I am so used to being honest and open here. Writing becomes difficult as soon as I have a specific audience.

On my 'blog, I write for everyone and no one. I write for me and for you. But in an email or phone conversation, I have to talk direct with one person and then depending on who that person is, it's either casual or formal, easy or difficult. For now, it's a new experience for me to get to know my dad and uncle on a man-to-man level. It sounds so generic and mundane when it happens to other people but like my uncle said, "as you go in deeper into life, you will open new horizons of knowledge and see different parameters of relationships."

I don't want to be richSun, 30th Jul '06, 1:55 pm::

I just read a surprisingly blunt article by Felix Dennis, a British publishing tycoon, titled "If you want to be rich, first stop being so frightened." He's brutally honest in saying how he became rich and what all he had to do on the way to get there. His shortlist of who wouldn't get rich includes these gems: "If you cannot bear the thought of causing worry to your family, spouse or lover while you plough a lonely, dangerous road rather than taking the safe option of a regular job, you will never get rich. If you have artistic inclinations and fear that the search for wealth will coarsen such talents, you will never get rich. (Because your fear, in this instance, is well justified.)"

I always wanted to hear a really rich guy say everything he said in the article because at the back of my mind, I knew that was exactly what one would have to do. Sure, there are exceptions to every rule, but by and large, money and power aren't attained by the kindness of your heart and the virtue of your soul. I feel vindicated in a way because while I (just like my father) know exactly what I'd have to do to get all the way up there, I can't make myself do it.

Addressing his shortlist, I don't really have much of a fear of failure anymore. I used to but after tons and tons of disasters, failure is just another non-event to me. I rarely care what neighbors think (except when my lawn is ill-kempt). I can work 18 hours a day for a year if I want. I know I'm smart/good/capable enough to be filthy rich. I know getting rich is a game and I can play it if I put my mind to it. However, I'd rather not.

While I have the tenacity and drive to achieve "success," my definition of success is different from most people. I want success in invention and innovation, not in investment and influence. I think once you are above a certain IQ-level, you can pretty much do anything you set your mind to. After all, if you are smart enough to understand particle physics, you can understand the Ricardian Model of Comparative Advantage or Loss Distributions and Survival Models just as well. It's a matter of selecting which field you like; some just pay much more than others.

My favorite example is Investment Banking because I think it has the highest pay/effort ratio among all the typical jobs out there. Typical, because anyone with basic financial resources and a triple digit IQ can get an MBA and become one if they set their mind to it. It's not something like acting or sports that require talent or physical characteristics. It's not operations research or econometrics that requires intense appreciation of mathematics and statistics. If I had wanted to get comfortably rich, with say a salary of $150k-$200k by my late 20's or early 30's, I'd be an investment banker. It's not that complex really. Now writing a script that isolates specifics GUIDs from the registry and generates .Net code for a COM wrapper to extend every single class of an existing DLL written in VB in order to enable access the indexed properties of an object from PHP so that I can migrate and merge the data from two Btrieve 6 databases to a Pervasive 9 database is complex. And pretty much always goes unnoticed because nobody really understand what the hell I just said. But I like it. No, I LOVE it. And I'd rather be doing that than making money - because this makes me happy.

We have a choice in what makes us money. We have no choice in what makes us happy. For me, it's the unwavering desire to spend my 30's researching mundane computational or economic theories. For others, it's getting whatever job pays well enough to support their golfing ambitions or their family. And for others, it's eating pie. Hey, whatever makes you happy.

As for me, I'll have the PhD please. And would like to be comfortably poor as per Felix Dennis' Wealth Guide: £1m-£2m in assets.

The Top 5 Myths about the Life of Chir.agWed, 28th Jun '06, 7:55 am::

A lot of people read my 'blog and I am thankful for that. Now it is a known fact that everyone that reads my 'blog is awesome but what isn't known is that there are some that read it with more than a few misconceptions on their mind. There's not much I can do to make people see the reality except, I guess, explicitly write it out as one last attempt. So let's get right ahead to it.

The Top 5 Myths about the Life of Chir.ag:

  1. You're just too lucky: No, I am not. I've actually been pretty unlucky in the last year or so. Who else do you know that contracted Scarlet Fever, Whooping Cough, Pulmonary Pneumonia, Conjunctivitis (twice!), ruptured Condyloid ligaments, multiple radial socket damage, and Scabies in just one year?! Trust me, it sucks to be me. You just don't hear me whine about it much anymore.
  2. You exaggerate (a lot): Coming from the other end of the spectrum are people that think I make up stuff or turn a mole into a supermole with frickin' laser beams on its frickin' head. Well, a lot of the stuff I can prove with pictures. Anything beyond that, you have a choice to believe my words or not. I don't lie though sometimes I do follow the Mahabharata tactic of "Narova Kunjarova" - hiding the truth. Sometimes I don't want people to know why/when/if I do things. I don't lie; I just never mention it. Call it selective canting but this being a very public 'blog, there are things I'd rather not write here. Give me a call if you think there's more to a story and want more details. I'll probably spend 3 hours whining to you, especially if you're paying for the phone call :)
  3. You've changed/lost-your-mind/become-selfish etc.: One-sided criticisms. You read something on this 'blog and you decide Chirag is now a useless drunk. You read something else and decide Chirag no longer cares about the honest, simple, hard-working indigenous peoples of wherever. You read something else I wrote and sigh that Chirag is never going back to college. What can I say to that? You've made up your mind to judge who I am based on the words I consciously choose to write on here. I am well aware of what I'm writing and how people can take it. If it's something I don't want people to read and judge, I won't write it. So the fact that you noticed I party a lot or work too much, is probably true but also just as apparent to myself. Big deal. I'm a human with desires, expectations, and imperfections just like everyone else, including you.
  4. You're amazing/perfect/great/smart: Praise, most of it putting me up high on a pedastal as if I am some larger-than-life symbol of hope, adventure, and gravitas combined into one hot-looking package of 100% Indian-goodness. Of course, I love the priase and the kind words. But come on, I'm a human. I screw up things small and big. I win and lose. People are people. And I'm the most peoplest of all peoples. So don't expect me to be some sort of beacon of righteousness or emblem of goodwill. It won't take me too long to shatter your vision of this perfect moral boy next time I do bodyshots off a dead hooker (just kiddin!).
  5. You're hiding the real you: This is by far the most troubling response I get and is especially worrisome when the person knows me in real life. As mentioned above, I sometimes hide stories/news about me that I don't want everyone to know. Plus do you REALLY want to read about the disgusting nightmare that is scabies? However, that doesn't mean I'm pretending to be someone else all the time. I know at least one person that thinks I'm actually a sad little puppy and am playing opposite-day everyday on this 'blog. Sometimes a Chirag's just a Chirag! While every person has their skeleton-in-the-closet issues, that doesn't mean they are being pretentious all the time. I am like this in person when you meet me (probably a little more dorky and hopefully much less serious). I am what I am. And I like it that way.

Sat, 10th Jun '06, 10:30 pm::

It's good to be a beach bum. I wallowed in the ocean for over an hour today, warm water, gentle breeze, and good company. Chilled with my friend Gem who drove up from Manatee County. We laid out in the sun (technically in the shade under my beach umbrella) for a while, drinking soda, and talking about different things. I love talking to people that actually have something to say beyond what People and Cosmo tell them to. Gem moved to Florida from New Orleans last year after Hurricane Katrina. While I talked about Katrina as a national disaster last year, I never thought I'd actually meet someone directly affected by it.

It was human nature and common sense for me to think that every single person who went through Katrina would be deeply affected by it. It was, however, a big mistake on my part to automatically assume that every single person affected, would be devastated by it. She moved here while every single person she knew scattered all over the country. It's hard enough losing a friend or two, so one would think that a change this big would destroy a person's sanity. I don't recall her exact words but she said something along the lines of "Change is not a big deal when everything changes."

In a twisted way, that is so true. If you have a strict routine and even a minor step changes, you get disturbed and have to undo the change or try hard to adapt to it. Yet when the routine no longer exists or changes to drastically you cannot change it, you have to create a new routine or evolve to embrace the new. In a way, my move from India to New Jersey and then from NJ to Florida is kinda like that. Things changed so drastically I barely had time to realize how much impact the new surroundings were having on me.

Well, for dinner, we had some Pad Thai at Thai AM-2 restaurant on the beach, though I missed the taste of Siam Garden in downtown St. Pete. I can't wait to go there again sometime. Just relaxing now watching Comedy Central with Giga passed out on my lap.

Sun, 16th Apr '06, 4:35 pm::

Just relaxing on this lazy weekend. Not doing much other than some small chores around the house. Next week's gonna be interesting as I get back into doing a lot more backyard work. Now that my house has a new roof (!!!!), I can get on with doing smaller projects. The roof was definitely a major expense however I know and have been told by many that I got a great deal and some quality job on it. Now it's time to get an electrician and rewire some of my internal stuff. Then I gotta get a 4-point home inspection (roof, electric, plumbing, A/C & Heating) for my home insurance. It's beautiful outside and I love just sitting around in the sun (well mostly in shade), doing absolutely nothing. Leisure is a luxury and I'm enjoying it as much as I can.

Inspiration SchmispirationWed, 12th Apr '06, 11:20 pm::

While chatting online today, Tay mentioned something about inspiration. A lot of people love to be inspired. After all, nothing pumps more energy into your youthful ambitious bloodstream than the words of a "successful" achiever in your field. You can see what the pro has accomplished and as a rising star you want to get there faster and shine brighter. Or maybe you're not the alpha-male type. You just want to encapsulate yourself in the glowing warmth of inspiration and ascend towards the apex with a Buddhist sense of omniscient calm. After all, if they did it, so can you! And they said that repeatedly in their hour long self-realization speeches.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I don't like to be inspired. I'm not saying inspiration is good or bad, just saying if given the choice, I prefer not to be inspired. Just like wealth, hardwork, and genius, inspiration appears to be a very good measure of the potentiality of success. Clearly a person inspired to change the world has more chance of achieving that than someone who cares not one bit and has no inspiration to leave a mark on the planet. Just like how everyone who is rich is successful, how every person who works hard always wins, and how every genius is recognized for his or her intellect by the masses. Right? No, you say? I guess then inspiration isn't that good of a barometer either, is it?

Other than a momentary appreciation of self-worth and an inflated sense of personal capabilities, inspiration doesn't really do much, especially in the long term. Great, so you just watched an amazing play or read a touching autobiography. Or you went to see a famous CEO talk about how he grew his company from his garage to over 100 countries in under five years. Wow! Nobody can deny that such growth is anything short of impressive. But is it inspirational? Will you go home and realize "if he can do it, so can I?!"

Like this sarcastic Despair poster says, "If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon." Inspiration is just motivation to dream big. Shame on you if you did not automatically think you could turn your 5-person company to a 500-people multi-national and instead needed some guy to come in for an hour and teach you how to dream.

If going to a 30-minute seminar on financial planning inspires me to change my lifestyle entirely, I'd say I'm ashamed of how I was spending and planning money before. I should've realized it on my own that I was bad with finances instead of having someone tell me I've been wrong all my life in just half-an-hour. What I AM in favor of, is of course, education. If going to this financial planning seminar taught me how to better plan my retirement, more power to me. But if I need to go to a "Retirement-Planning Info-Meet" to realize that hey, someday I'm going to be 65 and I just might need money for food, then well, I'm a pretty stupid person to begin with.

Most people get inspired from momentary experiences. A speech, a book, a movie, a play. While I love change and always welcome something small changing my entire outlook on everything, I think if an intro-book about bio-genetics is all I need to inspire me to give up computers forever and take up bio-genetics as my new career path, then wow, where was I last ten years while the Human Genome Project sequenced the DNA?

Maybe, people will not feel the need to be inspired if they just keep their eyes open and see what's happening every single day. In today's world, you only get inspired if [a] some amazingly major breakthrough occurs (very very rarely) or [b] you have been living in a cave for years (most probably) and just realized that you can draw pictures on back of business cards and actually make money selling them!

I guess I feel the need to not be inspired for two reasons. Firstly, as I hinted above, the state of being inspired isn't very productive. There is a state of feeling excited and ambitious that IS indeed productive. If I realize I can connect my old and new database systems using a simple tool, I am not inspired, I'm simply excited and well, feeling quite ambitious about accurate data migration, because now I know I can. When I was inspired, I wanted to make the world a better place by writing an email client that worked in different Indian languages; currently nobody I know uses this software that took me months to code. When I was not-inspired, but rather just indifferent and in need of a small simple music player, I wrote one within days that well, just played music; over 2 million downloads in last six years and counting. Inspiration, big dreams, and castles in the sky haven't made me famous yet. Creating tools that make others' lives easy, help me though.

Secondly, and primarily, I like to dream my own dreams and I like to dream big. You cannot quite possibly insert your dreams into my head and somehow show me that I didn't dream big enough. That is just not possible. I've already thought of every single thing that I can quite possibly do as a human, rather as a super human. I've calculated what I need physically, mentally, and financially to climb Mt. Everest and definitely looked into forming my own Antarctic sub-station. I've thought about giving up everything I have so I can save the baby seals and I've considered spending my life travelling throug the villages of India teaching young and old about computers, math, and science. However, I'm not rushing to start work on my online digital-life-management suite or take up International Relationships to get a seat on a UN sub-committee for Economic Development of South-East Asia.

I guess you can call me uninspired and unmotivated. After all, I could potentially be doing any of the above yet I'm spending my spare time filling a big hole in my backyard every day so it stops looking like the surface of Mars. Lack of inspiration alright. I believe short of a few physical/mental limitations, pretty much anyone can do anything. Inspiration is basically you realizing that "HEY! I can do it too!" Well guess what? I've already realized that I can do anything I have my mind set on. And so can you! The sooner you realize that, the better it is. Inspiration is just a stage you have to go through to come to the best part of your life - actually doing things that you really want to do! Creating, molding, finishing. Above all, choosing. I choose to fix my backyard myself instead of helping cute little kitties at the pet shelter get their vaccines and medicines.

Right now, you too could be doing any particular thing from a selection of thousands of things that you have been inspired to do - writing songs, sketching meadows and hills, planning marketing campaigns to overthrow your competition, or joining a sports club. But instead, you chose to be here and read my blog. Why? Not because you've never had the inspiration to do something bigger, better, and nobler. But rather because given your particular situation in life, reading this 'blog entry is something you want to do. Inspiration can only tell you what you can potentially do. Freewill and choice is what actually determines what you do in life.

None of these inspiration-arousing speakers were talking about being inspired when they were struggling like you and I. They did not do whatever they did solely because someone inspired them or because they wanted to change the world. They did it and then realized, "Hey, maybe I can help inspire others to change the world like I did." I'm not the one to doubt anyone's intentions but it's like saying, "Hey! Now that I have completed this one particular crossword, let me give you all the words that I used so you can try to jam them into your own unique crossword puzzle and see if you can solve it." Then you go home all inspired because now you have words like seamlessness, fluidity, and ideation that you try to jam into every open row and column. Not gonna work. Get a dictionary and you'll have every word. The only way to win is to figure out which words you need, not which word you can force in.

In short, don't do something because you're blindly inspired to do it. Do it because that is the thing you want to do the most out of a list of million other things you can potentially do. And if that leads to success, more power to you. If it doesn't lead to success, at least you did something you wanted to do of your own volition.

On maintaining 'blogsMon, 10th Apr '06, 12:05 am::

I often ask my friends if they have a 'blog that they update regularly. I love reading people's journals/online-diaries on my own spare time. A lot of people just say "well, just ask me what you want to know about me." The point isn't that I have unanswered questions about someone. But rather I want to know your thoughts, without me having to pick a topic for you to talk about.

When I ask you a question, I only find out about the question. Great, so now I know about your favorite movies & music, and that you don't like something the government is doing. But how will I ever know you think college is a waste of time or that Jelly-monster Aliens from Sepoocha Nebula invaded Earth and mated with the Tibetians to give rise to strong war-hungry Mongolians?

By having a 'blog that other people can read, you tell a lot about yourself to the world, without them having to ask for it specifically. Sure, a lot of people don't like to talk about themselves or attract unnecessary attention. However, it's still a great way to get your thoughts out - no matter how weird, confusing, or dull they are - trust me, some of my posts on this 'blog are merely polluting the Internet. Yet, I love to write whenever I can. Not because someone asked me to write but because I feel like sharing part of me. I guess it's a very personal thing and not many people are comfortable doing it. I still encourage everyone to do it though! It's awesome to go back in time and see how you looked at things just a few months or years ago.

Sat, 18th Mar '06, 7:55 pm::

Wow... what a day. Woke up at 8:30 and went straight into my backyard. Cleaned up the plant beds and did some digging for about three hours. Also trimmed a few plants in the frontyard. I sat on my back porch for a short break and felt kinda unaccomplished. No matter what I do, this whole backyard project is so big, I barely see any progress. So I decided I need a mini-project that's gonna make me happy and proud.

So presenting... the Log Lounge Bench! I found a picture of this lounge chair and decided I wanted to make something like that without the back-rest. I had the perfect place for it too - under my tree. Took me two trips to the Home Depot, $50 of wood & screws, and four hours from start to finish to complete the project.

First I had to cut-to-size the two large, roundish logs that form the main body. I used the extra wood as legs. The flat planks that form the top also had to be cut from two 12-foot planks. Once I screwed the legs into the two logs, I knew this was gonna come out sweet. Of course it wasn't as easy as it sounds because I had to first drill 3 holes for each leg into the big logs, then widen each hole upto half the depth, then use another drill-bit to drill through the big log to the leg, and then finally push in the screw into the leg using another bit. I love automatic screw guns.

Once I firmly attached two flat planks to the far ends of the logs, it was pretty much cakewalk after that. I used countersink to make sure the screws don't pop out from the planks. After all the flat planks were screwed on the top, I turned the bench over and attached the side-tray for holding my drinks :) Took about 2.5 hours to get it all together.

Now since the wood had a lot of splinters, I wanted to smoothen it. Sandpapering the edges is easy and cheap but it's a very slow process, so I ended up getting me a nice electric sander in addition to the wood & screws. Other than that, I had pretty much all the tools. Took about 1.5 hours to smoothen out every little edge and surface. I ran my hand over pretty much the entire bench - inch-by-inch - to make sure that there are no sharp edges or splinters that'll hurt me or someone else tomorrow. It looks very smooth now.

Now 4 hours and $50 later, I have a kickass log lounge bench that can easily seat 3 people comfortably or one person VERY happily and proudly. Altogether, I spent about 10 hours outside today! I'm kinda tired from all the hard work and pretty hungry too. Also, looks like I might be going out with friends later tonight.

Tomorrow is my day of relaxation. And laundry.

Paddle like your kayak's on fireThu, 16th Mar '06, 8:40 pm::

Today is a special evening for me. For the first time in my life, I've cooked a meal that I can't stop eating. I made some veggie biryani using my own recipe and it turned out so good I'm jealous of my own cooking skills. I got chick peas, green beans, green peas, jalapenos, mushrooms, corn, tomatoes, onion, and garlic mixed in rice with lots of different spices, from cinnamon to Indian masalas. I'm glad I made enough to last me for two more days :)

Anyways, so OMG! Tuesday night kayaking camping trip was AWESOME!!! I don't remember ever having THAT much fun within such a short amount of time. I left from work at around 4:30pm on Tuesday and drove down to Univ. of South Florida in downtown St. Pete. Including me, there were 11 people (6 guys/ 5 girls) and the only one I knew was Mike. The folks at USF Marina already had the kayaks and camping gear loaded on to Mike's truck. Night before, I had my car packed for the camping - two sleeping bags, extra pair of clothes, lots of supplies, Pop Tarts, and Robitussin 151 ;-) We drove down to this point right above Fort De Soto, parked our vehicles, and unloaded the kayaks. We loaded the kayaks with camping stuff and pushed the kayaks into the ocean around sunset. And that was just the beginning of the good times.

It got dark in a matter of minutes and behind us we saw the full moon rising up in the sky, almost yellow like turmeric. The water was pretty shallow and pretty calm. Imagine being in the middle of nowhere, pitch dark, save for the glow of the moon, leaving behind a trail of wispy moonbeams in your wake, as you gently paddle towards invisible shores. And then getting stuck in a sandbar! OUCH! Pretty much all of us hit the sandbars about 1.5 miles into the ocean. We got out of our kayaks and dragged them for well over a hundred yards till the water was 18 inches deep again. If you want to feel the pain, try dragging your sofa from one corner of the room to the other. Now do it a hundred times over, in darkness, in the middle of the ocean, with seaweeds wrapping around your legs, uphill, both ways. Yeah.

So we finally got to the island and man was I tired. Two miles is a far enough distance to row in itself, let alone on a weeknight when you worked all day, had almost no sleep the night before due to the excitement from the anticipation of the trip, and had no clue where you were going. Once on the shore, we unpacked, set up the tents, and Mike lit a bonfire :) Pretty soon there were smores, burnt Pop Tarts, and lots of spirits going around. I tell you, ten shots of 151 can really hit you like a rock. I've forgotten more crazy things I've done after inebriating myself than most people can even remember doing. Next up, were dirty camp-fire games. Let's say I was cow, some girl was TT, Mike was ex, some other girl was [censored], this cool guy Chris was sloppy, and more [censored] [censored] [censored]. A few more games later we sat around the fire just talking and doing stupid stuff. I think I kinda remember pushing Mike and some girl (?) into the ocean and thereby drenching myself completely (no wonder I woke up next morning missing my t-shirt.) I sat by the fire discussing random stuff with Chris and a few others then went into my tent, which I had to share with some cute girl whose name I can't remember and who kept kicking me allllll night.

Well not all night because I'd only been asleep for four hours when I heard the bastardly spawns of Satan circling over our tents. Apparently the birds on the beach love food and will shriek noisily till they scavenge off every last little morsel of leftovers strewed about on the beach by drunk kids the night before. Basically, I couldn't sleep anymore because they were too loud and it got too bright too soon. Oh yeah, the best part - a cold front moved in from the ocean at around 1am, so it got really cold really fast - cold and windy. Joy joy. We remained huddled in our tents till about 7am when I finally got out and started hunting for all my stuff missing from the night before - like my t-shirt and garden shovel (which by the way was very helpful for fishing out food from the fire, thank you very much Ms. Teresa.)

We packed the tents, loaded the kayaks up and sailed into the ocean, only this time, against winds gusting at over 30mph. The only thing on our side was light, so we could actually see where we were going. What took a mere 45mins the night before, took well over an hour because the wind kept turning around the kayaks as we (or at least I) paddled into it. One neat thing that Mike screamed at me from over in his kayak was that if I rode directly in the direction of the wind, it would turn my kayak around less. Makes sense too. Except I had to keep paddling 3x as more with my right hand; me being unsymmetrically lefty strength-wise. I got the workout I'd been needing for the past year and a half.

I had trouble believeing it but we actually made it to the shore, though a quarter of a mile away from where we parked our cars, as I didn't have the time nor the energy to kayak further. Mike and I went to get our cars, leaving Chris and Natalia in-charge of the kayaks with all our stuff on it. And like stupid boys usually do stupid things, Mike and I decided to sprint the last hundred or so yards up to the car, on wild grass, barefoot. It was only later in the day that we both independently noticed the damage done to our soles. Anyways, loading the kayaks up was another chore and we had to drive down to Fort De Soto to pick up camping stuff from another guy with us who kayaked to a different beach. Finally, Teresa, Zach, and I were on the way back to civilization!

I dropped them off at USF, cleaned up and changed there, spotted Mike on the road, and drove up to my work. Yeah, what did you think? I was gonna take a day off? Hell no! Real men do ALL of the above after eight straight hours of work and then get back to another eight straight hours of finger-breaking manual labor of pushing buttons, on an empty stomach no less. Oddly enough, since I wasn't tired mentally despite being dead physically, I actually managed to complete the final section of a new system I was building at work. I had been toiling away at this one piece of programming puzzle for well over three and a half days because no matter what I tried, I couldn't come up with a simple and easy way to show what I wanted. Turns out ten-shots of 151 later, I think like Buddha.

In the book of my life, this trip is definitely under the "Painfully Fun" chapter. I lost 2lbs in one night and feel so much more back in shape. My muscles hurt, my upper-body feels raw, and I've never felt this optimistic about finally acquiring some chiseled abs. Oh yeah, that was my New Year's resolution - gotta get me some abs! I do good things when I drink. That night I was sitting in some shady parking lot downtown with Tay, Kaela, and friends, gulping Champagne from a plastic cup. We asked each other what our NY resolutions were. Everyone said something deep and meaningful like "I want to see the world" or "I want to be more spontaneous," whereas I said "Abs! I want abs. This year, before December 31. I need some of those abs everyone's showing off." Everyone laughed and said "Ha! Good goal. Best of luck."

I've lost 11lbs since then, mostly from my spare-tire. My goal is to lose the tire entirely by end of June. Then come six months of freestyle exercises of all sorts - my revolutionary workout system: SH Ovelling, ab workouts, kayaking, and probably swimming. As long as I can spend 5-6 hours a week outside, I think I'll be good. Oh I know, too many plans, not enough time and energy.

I have a lot of time though, mostly past sundown. Those I spend relaxing around the house, torturing my evil kids, cooking up yummy biryani dishes. And with that I conclude this unnecessarily lengthy prattle of nothingness that pours heaps of salty drivel atop the sweet Chocolate Souffle of scintillating knowledge that is the Internet.

Mon, 27th Feb '06, 8:00 pm::

My backyard projects have begun. Tonight I got rid of a very nasty bush with lotsa weeds growing within it. I got one Brazilian Pepper Tree in the far corner and it's pretty wild too. While it grows beautifully in South America, it is pretty much an invasive species in Florida and rarely welcome. Once I've got rid of all the weed and unwanted bushes from my backyard, I'm going to get on with my big plan.

Here's my 5-step process for the next two months: (1) Clear (2) Level (3) Seed (4) Garden (5) Landscape. As mentioned above, first I have to clear the yard from all the wild growth. Then I gotta buy truckloads of junk dirt, fill dirt, topsoil, and potting soil - four different types of soil for different areas of the yard. Once I spread the dirt everywhere it's needed, it's time to seed the lawn with new grass seeds. Still not sure what type of grass I want and am open to trying something interesting. While the grass is growing, I will plant a vegetable garden around the edges of my backyard. This will give my property a nice boundary, reduce the size of lawn I have to mow, provide fresh vegetables for me to eat, and of course, a cheap way for me to have a useful healthy garden. I don't like flowers and they're too much work. Vegetables like basil, peppers, and tomatoes grow pretty well in this area - especially since I have some good shade in my backyard too. Finally, after I've marked off the different areas, I can start landscaping and building. I want to get lots of marble rocks and colorful stones. And finally I want to start building structures and items out of wood. I'm not sure exactly what but I'd absolutely love to have a nice bench under my big Ficus tree. A bench, some Bamboo chimes, and if my plans work out well, a simple self-made gazebo.

Basically, when my parents come visit me next year, I want them to enjoy living at my house and feel as close to nature as they possibly can. And instead of paying some company $15,000 to do all this for me, I'm gonna spend a few hours every day and more on weekends getting it done myself. Hopefully this will give me lots of exercise, stress-relief, and a break from computers, TV, and slacking off.

On balancing work & playSat, 11th Feb '06, 1:20 am::

Almost a week since I posted. Turns out there were some big issues with my cable Internet at home and as a result, I wasn't able to get online for most of this week. Everything's fixed, for now.

On Sunday Feb 5th, I went up to Orlando to see my friends Jeff and Wes. Chilled with them all day and watched the Superbowl in the evening. While I'm not a big sports fan I love chilling with people and eating/drinking for free :) Orlando's about a 2.5hour drive for me. Disney is about two hours.

Wednesday night I to see standup comedian Chris "Boom Boom" Johnson at the Tampa Improv with Lanie, Natalie, and Mike. I laughed so hard my head was hurting. Literally. Had some good food too, courtesy of Lanie & friends.

Work's going great and I'm excited about the projects I'm working on right now. Things are definitely getting busy for me and as I spend more time in my office, I'm also consciously making sure that I don't end up becoming a workaholic with no social life. It's too easy to concentrate only on one thing in life at the cost of everything else. I know too many people who never learnt the quote "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." It's hard to believe that some of my friends who are much older don't know how to balance work and fun. Sure, if you love your job even half as much as I do, work IS fun. But nevertheless, you still need time off from everything and let your mind relax.

I have a lot of friends in college who don't go out to party/movies/relax because they have so much homework to do and so many projects to complete. Sure, I understand, I went through that, in fact, much MUCH more just a few years ago. However, every time they decide to give up on the fun activities in order to study, they sit at home and do EVERYTHING except study. How can they concentrate anyway?! They're fatigued and stressed because they haven't had a laugh and a good night's sleep in weeks & months.

Here's what I used to do and it worked great for me: When I had three exams & two projects due, and only one weekend to study, I'd map out the work hours and the fun hours. If I had 60 hours before chaos broke out, I'd decide, ok, I'll sleep for a total of 20 hours in 3-4 naps, and of the 40 waking hours, I'll devote 30 to study and 10 to relaxation. Then I'd begin by using some of my 10-hours by watching a movie. Having just spent some time partaking in guilt-free fun gave me the energy and motivation to actually study honestly without any distractions. Once I studied for 5 hours, I'd take a well-deserved break and then get back to studies. Rinse repeat for 60 hours with short but adequate periods of sleep.

What everyone does is instead of sleeping 20 out of 60 hours, they sleep less than 10. Now that you're lacking sleep, you can barely study well during the remaining 50 hours. Of the 50 hours, you spend 20 wondering if college is REALLY what you want to do in life, whether this is the purpose of your existence, and if there is anyone whose life is harder than yours. Of the remaining 30 hours, another 20 are spent pretty much staring at books and notes while you wait for friends to sign on AIM or call you so that you can tell them how stressed you are and how badly you want to go to some house party but can't because of studies. Another five hours are spent looking for food, coffee, pills, and whatever it's gonna take to keep yourself awake like a zombie. And I guess if you try really hard, you can manage to study something in the final 5 hours. Of course, then once you've been through a weekend like this, you realize that even 60 hours aren't enough so you start acting like this 90 hours before the deadlines.

I know I'm being extremely judgemental and critical but the sad truth is, I haven't made any of this up. I actually know people who do exactly what I mentioned above and no matter how hard I try to explain, they never learn. What people don't realize is that motivation isn't always inherent - you have to actively reward yourself and keep monitoring your progress if you want to gather the energy to reach your goals. Unless you have serious external reasons to do something (need money for kid's operation) it's very hard to motivate yourself in the long-term. That's where discipline comes in. You decide beforehand how you want to split your work/study and fun times and stick to that. It's all about discipline. True disciprine... come from within.

Anyways, I have a lot of little chores to complete before I can start doing the things I really want to do, like visit national/state parks, go on road trips, take up a few more hobbies. I'm waiting for the weather to get warmer so that I can start fixing my backyard. I have so many plans for it. I want to go to the beach more often too. I went to the Treasure Island beach today after work to watch the sunset. It's so soothing. One of these days I'm going to drive five hours across the state to the East Coast just to watch the sunrise. I miss those.

Mon, 30th Jan '06, 11:25 am::

Everyone's walkin by my office and saying "It's great to see this light turned on." I love my job and even more the people :)

Sun, 29th Jan '06, 10:05 pm::

My friends came over tonight. First, Lanie came over and instantly both my kitties ran up to her, after all she took care of them for two weeks. She is absolutely the nicest "kitty-sitter" I could've ever found. She even left me a cute little 'welcome-home' greeting card with drawings of my kitties along with an X-mas sock with the phrase "I love my cat..." We sat down for about an hour and I showed all the pictures and videos I shot in India during my sister's wedding. An hour after Lanie left, my friend Liz came over with Dave, Josh, and Jessie. We chilled for a few and I showed Liz the pics & videos too. Now they all just left and I'm gonna relax for a few before going to bed.

Tomorrow, work starts. And I couldn't be more impatient - I want to get back to work so much :)

Thu, 19th Jan '06, 12:25 pm::

Word of the day: Hectic! Fifteen more guests flew in today. The guest houses are now being occupied and we have twenty or so guests coming in tomorrow by train. My dad has tabulated the arrival dates, room allocation etc. for all the guests so it's quite well organized. My Alpesh Mama (mom's cousin) will be coming in too! It's been years since I saw him.

Yesterday we didn't do much except go out for dinner to a Rajasthani Restaurant: Teej. The decoration was simply unbelievable. All the walls and ceilings were finely hand-painted - took them six months to complete the paint job! The food was exactly what I was craving for - tasty, spicy, and very filling! It was so heavy that today I'm not gonna eat anything, maybe fruits at most.

Tomorrow is the first official day of ceremonies - Grah-Shanti in the morning and Zara Hat Ke Quiz Show & Dance Floor in the evening. My dad's working so hard it makes me wonder where he's getting all his energy from. As for me, it's very different than what I was once used to. He had trained me to organize activities & events, deal with different types of guests, salesmen, workers, and of course put forth the best show possible. Now though, I feel quite incapable of executing everything up to his standards. I think the synchronicity of event planning and execution between him and myself peaked about six years ago when we organized the Yagna. Ever since I moved to US, I've slowly lost my people-skills, I guess because I'm no longer working daily in the market face-to-face with all sorts of people.

Ok back to present. My dad & cousin are setting aside the gifts for tomorrow. Every time a guest arrives from outside the city of Kolkata, they get presented with real leather wallets and purses with their names etched in golden ink. The initial few guests also received flower bouquets. As my dad is getting the gifts ready, I'm making multiple copies of the important phone numbers list - from the cell#s of all the six chauffeurs to the contact numbers for the five venues, guest houses etc. I didn't really expect my little sister's wedding to be on such a huge scale. So it's quite overwhelming.

One thing I realized amongst all this chaos (especially when you sleep in a different bed every night and shower in a different bathroom each morning) is that little things you never thought much about previously, now make you feel at "home." Like the Woody's HeadWax Web that I've been using for months now (no, this isn't paid product placement, I just LOVE it that much). Or the familiar menu system of any Nokia cellphone that I use in US, also extremely popular here in India. Little things like this, make me feel comfortable when so many unfamiliar things happen at the same time.

In addition to all the fun things, a lot of things obviously happen that make me go what the $^$#%?! For instance, I don't know or remember many of the guests that are arriving because I probably met them when I was 12, but they know everything about me. So of course, they force me to play the guess-game. You know, they come up to me in front of five people and asked "Guess who am I?" And I stare at the 70-yr old grandma point-blank and do my best to not say "Laquisha?" It's tough holding back sarcasm and substituting it with respect when you know for sure that they know you're not gonna recognize them and are doing it just to make you feel embarrassed in public. Of course, it's just harmless fun but sometimes I really want to speak my mind. But then I have to stop myself because I'm not in Florida right now. And in India, you NEVER speak your mind to elders, especially if they're older than your parents.

Lunch time now, fruits for me. I really can't eat any more Indian food. I want milk and cereal!

Tue, 17th Jan '06, 9:40 am::

I'm being called. It's like people actually love me here and WANT to talk to me in person instead of online or on the phone. I'm so not used to this much attention. Rather, I was used to this much attention but over the course of 5-6 years, totally forgot how much everyone cares about everyone else.

Red Sleigh DownSat, 24th Dec '05, 4:15 am::

Breaking News: In a heroic triumph of National Security Enforcement, an unidentified aircraft was shot down over rural Minnesota early this morning.

Reports from US Intelligence confirm the aircraft was linked to evil-doing Al-Qaeda Terrorists and ISB-TLK (Iranian Suicide Bombers That Love Karaoke). Analysis of the cargo suggests fissile bomb making material was being distributed to sleeper cells throughout the US to fuel the liberal attack on Christmas by toppling Jesus as the symbol of Freedom.

The 300lb self-proclaimed "Jolly" aircraft pilot in festive red attire has been transferred to US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay for aggressive questioning while his pack of eight flight-enabled Cervidae were traded in for a brand-new H2 Hummer with $0 down and low monthly payments. As usual, the White House suggests people be on the lookout for suspicious strangers and has raised the Terror Alert Level to Fuchsia.

Inspired by a Farker

Futurama: See you on some other 'blogSat, 17th Dec '05, 4:00 am::

The first DVD series that I put on my rental queue the minute I signed up for NetFlix was the entire collection of Futurama. Futurama is an animated cartoon series about a pizza delivery boy Philip J. Fry, accidentally frozen in a cryogenic facility for a thousand years and revived in 2999. Signing on with Planet Express, a space courier service, he befriends a one-eyed mutant, Leela, an alcohol-powered robot, Bender, office manager Hermes Conrad and Dr Zoidberg (my favorite character), a lobster-like alien.

While it seems like any other children's cartoon show, I've always known that Futurama is much more... it's humorous and clever on the surface but beneath the nerdy jokes are all sorts of weird characters and creatures that have one thing in common - they embody the innate human emotions, beliefs, and flaws, no matter how much titanium and dark matter they are composed of. In addition to the spontaneous bouts of random craziness, there's a distinct level of timelessless to the entire series, clearly evident from the numerous underrated nuggets of profound wisdom like: "When you do something right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all." - God Nebula

Of course, everytime I mentioned that Futurama is more than some funny cartoon about aliens and future, everyone would just stare at me as if I'm an 8-year old awestruck by an escalator. So I felt vindicated when I found this article tonight about the creators of Futurama, Matt Groening (also created The Simpsons) and David Cohen.

In the article, Cohen says, they hoped to "incorporate all the craziest ideas from science fiction, but we also wanted to have a point and reflect on life today." Groening says. "We had this show that looked goofy, with robots and aliens, but was actually very sophisticated. Having people overcome the hurdle of taking us seriously was something we didn't anticipate... What I love about the reaction to Futurama these days is that people who did give it a chance and fell in love with it are still ardent fans." Both Futurama and The Simpsons, Groening says, share an ambition to tell timeless jokes. "Both shows are trying to do something which will knock people out the first time they watch it, but will also hold up years later," he says. "Jokes that make sense now, and will also make sense 10 or 20 years from now."

It's refreshing to hear that the creators of the show share the exact same thoughts as I do as a regular viewer. I mentioned the timelessness of Futurama to my friend Art just the other day but wasn't really able to back up my views with better explanations as to why. When I mentioned how moving some episodes of Futurama to my coworkers I got a mere chuckle. While I understand that South Park and Family Guy are not everyone's cup of tea, I don't see why Futurama is so undervalued and ignored by everyone except the hardcore-fans.

All I can say is that if you're not in tears by the end of Episode 4-07: Jurassic Bark then you don't have this little thing called a "heart." Or try Episode 4-12: The Sting. Or Episode 4-03: Love and Rocket. Or Episode 3-01: Parasites Lost. I can go on but I got a few more episodes to watch now before I go to bed. G'morning!

A Tribute to my Kandivali DadaSun, 27th Nov '05, 12:05 am::

A Tribute to my Kandivali Dada: I just received the unfortunate news that my mom's father, Navnitlal Modi (Kandivali Dada) passed away earlier today. He was over 74yrs old and had been of weak health for a while. Lately it had gotten worse and he was admitted to the hospital a few days ago. However, before he passed away, he blessed my cousin Khushboo and her new groom Nirav on the occasion of their marriage ceremony. And he was present when my cousin Kunal was engaged to be married. His four sons and one daughter (my mom) loved him dearly and had been with him throughout his long, eventful life.

I remember my summer vacation days as a naughty little scoundrel causing trouble every moment when I stayed with my mother's side of the family in the Kandivali suburbs of Mumbai, India. After his wife (my mom's mom) passed away due to cancer in early 1990's, I saw Dadaji as the quintessential Indian Sage. With his decades and decades of experiences living around the Indian sub-continent, Dadaji could discuss and debate on just about every topic one could imagine, from politics to science, from religion to mysticism. While I loved him as a kid, I began to fully appreciate his wisdom as I turned into a confused teenager.

It would be wrong of me to say that just one person influenced me primarily as I was growing up. Whatever I am today is a result of many many people who love me and still want to bring out the best in me by doing their little bit. I consider my Kandivali Dada to be among the respected few that I had the honor of learning from, in addition to of course, my parents. I have learnt so many things about life, so many little lessons that make me who I am, that I cannot thank my family enough. And add to that list my friends, my dad's friends (seriously! all of his awesome friends & their families), my boss Eric & his entire family, my past and current coworkers, and the numerous school teachers (like Mr. Sesh from RKC) that I had the fortune of learning from in the past two and a half decades.

The odd thing about learning lessons of life is that you don't always learn what people are trying to teach you. Kandivali Dadaji tried to teach me about astrology, alternative health/medicines, and ancient Vedic texts. I never learnt anything about that. Frankly, being a student of science, I couldn't swallow half the theories that astrology is based on. So inadvertently he taught me, one of my strongest skill today: critical analysis. Many times I would feel bad that I just spent four hours debating with him the ridiculousness of non-conventional forms of treatments like Electropathy. He would patiently explain his theories to me and give me a chance to counter them with my arguments. As a 15-yr old kid it was great because here I was, learning about the world, but in my own way. I was being given a chance to learn and believe what I wanted to.

It doesn't matter which part of the world you're in, most of the kids are forced to accept staunch orthodox beliefs and live up to pre-conceived notions of what's right and what's not, with no valid explanations or a chance to argue otherwise. If your parents think you need religion, you have no choice but to believe in God, Allah, or Krishna. If your grandparents think caste-system or racism is perfectly acceptable, you will grow up to be proud to hate others not like you. If everyone else around you tells you that men should go out and earn money while women stay at home and bear children, that's what you end up believing in. It doesn't even have to be this extreme. If the people you respect and look up to as a teenager tell you that lying every now and then to save your own face is perfectly normal, then guess what, you're gonna have issues with being honest. While I realize that every person is free to choose whatever they want to believe it, most of the kids just stick to trusting whatever they're taught during the early years of their life. Of course, exceptions exist but the norm is that you don't get much choice to pick your own beliefs.

Thankfully, I was given the chance to be an exception. And my Kandivali Dadaji was one of the few who supported my criticism and encouraged my curiousity. It would be so much easier to pay tribute to the man had he been a simple one-dimensional personality. I wish I could just say that "he was great fun to be with and brought my lots of candy." But I can't. For like the saying goes, he didn't just give me a free meal, he taught me how to fish. No matter how hard I try to remember him as the awesome grandpa who gave me free-stuff, I can't. My earliest memories of him have been overwritten by the long debates we had sitting cross-legged on the floor, in front of a little mandir and his wife's photo. With some people, you remember the hundreds of little incidents. But with some people, it's just one clear memory, so strong that, that is pretty much how you're going to remember them forever.

It's very easy to talk about someone that helped you at a bad time. In fact it feels so comforting to pay homage to someone who took direct actions to improve your immediate life situtation. However, it's not as easy to thank someone when the words they spoke six years ago suddenly impact the way you think of life today.

He was a very kind and disciplined man. He loved his children and grandchildren. I can't even imagine what my little cousins Ria & Yashika in Kandivali must feel right now. During the last few years of his life, I know both the kids had become very fond of him. And today I feel lucky and privileged to have known him not just as a loved-kid but more so as a growing up teenager who had too many unanswered questions.

I'm really out of words right now as his death didn't really come as a surprise to anyone in our family. We all knew his health was failing and it was only a matter of time before he left us. I guess I myself had come to a closure this April when I visited him. I was sad that I didn't spend more than a few hours with him but seeing how weak he was, I couldn't really expect him to talk for more than an hour or two anyway. Not knowing when I would be back in India, I pretty much bid my last adieu. I was kinda hoping that I would see him once more when I go back to India in January '06 but oh well...

He had a long, fruitful life. While I want to mourn his death, I also want to celebrate his life. Good bye Dadaji. Farewell.

Big Picture vs. Small PictureWed, 16th Nov '05, 8:00 pm::

Disclaimer: It saddens me to write this 'blog entry because I know my family will read it and won't like many parts of it. Sorry but you won't be able to use this 'blog entry to show off my success to everyone. I haven't run a marathon today and I haven't written any software this week that'll change the Internet. But it makes me happy to write this because I think it's time for a reality check for myself and for everyone that I love.

The Game: It's a little game I call Big Picture vs. Small Picture. This is not about truth vs. false. In this game everything is true for only true facts are admissible. I can testify that nothing in the following statements is even remotely false. So let's get started.

The Small Picture: Even though I have a great job in US, I hardly have any savings. I can't send any monetary gifts back home to India for my only sister's wedding in January 2006, even though my cousin in UK pretty much paid for his sister's wedding and more. In fact, I spend more money on my cats than I send back to India. Any time my relatives in US ask me to come visit them for holidays, I decline saying I'm saving up to buy tickets to India for my sister's wedding. I admit to them that if I don't save each month, I won't be able to pay for the India trip. Whenever someone suggests that I get arranged married like my sister, one of my first excuses is that I can't afford to marry. Word gets around and now, I'm officially broke in the eyes of my family & relatives.

I wasn't always "broke". In fact, three years ago back in college, I was supposed to be doing pretty well with my high-paying student job. Just earlier this year when I went to India I was even seen as what you might say... "rich!" But for some reason, not anymore.

Immediate Analysis: If you just look at the small picture, and it is in fact quite true, clearly then it would seem that I must be bad at managing money and/or I don't care enough about my family in India to chip in for even a small part of my loving sister's wedding expenses. Somewhere in the last few months I went from being pretty "well off" to living "paycheck to paycheck" and since I am in full control of my fiscal habits, I'm the one to blame. Thankfully, my parents are very understanding and have never demanded anything from me. Never ever. For this and more, I love them more than any son can. Nevertheless, it appears to all that I'm reckless and failing. Hmm. Let's look at this scenario from a different altitude.

The Big Picture: In this round, we forget all the pesky details of day-to-day life and think BIG. A little over five years ago I came to US with a dream... the ever-so-romanticized American Dream. After years of reluctance, my dad finally, at the behest of my lovely sis, told me to go forth and conquer the world. I'm sure he didn't expect me to wage military wars on the entire world, but instead wished me best of luck to achieve everything I wanted in my life. I flew in to the magical land of the United States of America all cheery-eyed and dreamy. My mom and grandma were glad that their kid was finally going to get good higher education - after all who doesn't want an esteemed PhD dork in their family?

I spent four years in Rutgers New Jersey, half of them living with my aunt and uncle who still do their best to support me whenever they can. Two bachelor degrees with highest honors later, I moved to sunny Florida for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to head the IT department of a small-but-rapidly-growing company. Now that I was finally living on my own, I could do things I've always wanted! A three-pc home-network? Check. True bachelor-style bean bags? Check. Cute little pets that my sister and I have wanted since childhood? Check! Everything's great. I go to India in April '05 and everyone is happy for me. I'm a success!

I notice real-estate prices in my area go through the roof, especially the properties near the Gulf. It's either buy now or be priced out of the housing market for decades. Having realized that without physical assets, creditors in US don't care about you at all, I pooled all my resources together for the big buy. In two short months, I bought a cute little house near the beach. Now next year when I try to consolidate my three variable-interest (eeek) student loans, banks will not reject me outright because I shall be in possession of the revered home equity.

Immediate Analysis: Big dreams necessitate disciplined efforts and uncompromising patience. It took some time but it appears to anyone that I've managed to fulfill quite a number of academic, economic, and personal goals. Overall, things are great if you ask me. No bad marriage, no expulsion from college, no criminal charges, no pending lawsuits, no housing troubles, no bad debts, no employment issues, and no chronic illnesses. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping things stay just as good. I'm one lucky son of a gun. So... if everything is this peachy, what's with the pesky details I mentioned in the small picture above? It's all about the proper focus.

a. Focus - Adjustable: You need a telescope to look at distant planets. You need an electron microscope to research how to better fabricate the carbon-nanotube fibers that strengthen the structure of the spacecraft that will get you to these distant planets. Notice the complexities between the two sentences. Dreaming, big-picture satellite viewing is simple. Even though it requires planning, experience, and wisdom, it won't get your hands messy. On the other hand, doing it, living in the nitty-gritties of actually implementing something is a dirty job. We dream in big screen but alas we live in the small picture. And the day you stop adjusting your focus is when you're stuck living a life you cannot take control of.

Very often, people, including yours truly, get so entrenched in one view, that they fail to see things for what they really are. While immediate events have immediate consequences, they also have long-term effects. How we handle situations in the short term impacts what will happen in the long term. My dad once told me that intelligence is the measure of how long does it take a person to walk into a room and understand everything that went on, is going on, and will go on. I propose a corollary that intelligence is the measure of how long it takes a person to switch from small picture to big picture and vice versa. What does this have to do with me you ask? Let's see.

b. Focus - Sticky: The problem with changing focus is that it doesn't want to change. We don't like to see things differently than we already do. It goes outside our comfort zone. You can get a new pair of running shoes today but it's so much more comfortable to spend that money on junk food and sit back & watch TV all evening instead of months of persistent training for a marathon. Notwithstanding my trifling excuses, I can buy a plane ticket to anywhere in the US today and have a great time with my family & relatives. It is so much better than putting $150/month extra towards the principal on my home mortgage. I used to be so free with my money; back in college when my primary goal was getting a degree. But I have to constantly get into the big picture view and remind myself that now I'm in the hardwork and struggle phase of life - these are the years I need to be saving up for the next phase of my life - graduate studies.

Selective Sacrifices: Nobody's saying that I need to give up on enjoying my life in order to maybe some day achieve my ambitions. If you saw me at the BBQ party at my house this weekend, you'd very well know I'm not giving up on any fun. However, I have given up on the extravagant lifestyle that I so lavishly savored during my pre-mortgage era. No more $500 impulse shopping bills and no more $100 on martinis. Just like no more cheese and pizzas till my health is back to my doctor's approved standards.

You cannot sacrifice today for tomorrow and you cannot spend everything today and have nothing for tomorrow. It's a delicate balance between the two and the sooner a person realizes this, the better. For me, a house is an investment. I was more than happy living in the 100 sq.ft. bunker in New Jersey. I don't need a mansion to keep me happy. To me, my house means that instead of spending and giving away like the young grasshoppa, I'm saving like the ant. Adhering to ancient wisdom is a GOOD™ thing.

Consequences for me: It's great that I have a house because when I decide to go for my PhD years from now and devote 5-6 years of my life to science, I will have a pool of savings I can rely on, without having to worry about food and next month's rent. Many people pursue PhDs right after their Bachelors, mostly living like poor college students throughout the course. I didn't want to. I wanted a break between BSc and PhD. I want real-world experience. I want to know that some day my research and inventions will actually make a difference. Hence, I'm glad to have a job where I face production scenarios every single day that demand novel theoretical solutions.

I've said this over a hundred times already that if I cared about money, I'd be selling plastic granules in Kolkata right now. It is a very respectful trade and many people I know back home live happily every after with their families by engaging in wholesale businesses. However, it is just... NOT ME. I'm a student of science, always was, always will be. Till the day I died I would regret the 8-10 hours a day I spent trading because that is not what I wanted to do. My problem is that while I can remind myself this on a regular basis, everyone around me forgets it. Then I get compared to my cousin in UK, whom I love dearly, but have entirely different ambitions in life from. His noble ambition, from my personal knowledge, was to provide the best standard of living for his family. He woke up each day knowing that he needs to make ends meet for his family and that it is up to him now. He is my personal hero because on an absolute scale, what he does requires a lot more dedication and perseverance than what I do.

Consequences for my family: If my parents wanted the same thing from me as my cousin, they would have made it very clear from day one that my aim in life should be to send $x to India every single month. But they didn't. They told me to get the best education I could and fulfill all of my dreams. They supported me throughout and I'm happy that they did. Yet, every now and then, people question if they did the right thing, if I am doing the right thing, if I still love my own family, if Brazil is going to win the next World Cup Soccer. People question, people talk, people raise unfounded doubts, and above all, people make mountains out of mole hills. That's what people do. And that is when things go sour. And that is why I feel so compelled to write a pretty revealing personal 'blog entry like this one to make things perfectly clear.

I feel like I've always been lucid and honest to my family and relatives, in fact, to pretty much everyone that asks me a question upfront. I never lie about serious issues though I may lie about how many girls I've kissed ;)

Honest Ramblings: I feel excited to tell my family every other day that OMG I LOVE YOU. There is nobody else in the world I love more than you guys. If something unfortunate happened tomorrow and my family needed anything, I would take the next flight to India to help out (after notifying my work of course; not gonna run away boss man! Don't worry). But I wonder, since when did I become a BAD son? I thought I was doing everything right in life - in the big picture sense. I never said I was perfect and I was pretty much pathetic during the months of August-October this year when I was down with god knows every illness known to pirates in the 1700s.

Penultimate Moanings & Whinings: It's no surprise that a single person living alone, far away from all family and friends, will get pretty down and depressive when faced with prolonged chronic illnesses that prohibit all forms of social interactions. In English, that means hell ya, I was sick, alone, and did I mention sick?! Of course, I was sad and weak. I couldn't even hang out with my friends! I'd have to be pretty crazy in the head to actually enjoy any of that. Worst of all, I spent all my savings on medical bills and ended up breaking my promise to my sister that I'll do my best to send her a small gift soon. I'm sad that I broke a promise but I'm crushed that people treat me like it's my fault that I had all these medical expenses. Ok... so I don't have an extra $1000 lying around anymore. Does that mean I'm a loser or a weak person altogether and need support from every person who walks by just to hold myself together in life? HELL NO!

The Winner: Life's a game. It's a balancing act - between truth and false, good and evil, right and wrong, big picture and small picture. Who's the winner in the match Big Picture vs. Small Picture? Neither side exactly. Only the ones who can juggle the two fluently will "win" the so-called game of life.

Sometimes, people stop juggling. If the people who love me the most, don't stand back and take a look but instead suspect my intentions, capabilities, and strength, it's gonna be an uphill climb. I can never stop loving them but I'm kind of disheartened that the ones closest to me assumed that I've somehow forgotten what's important. I don't think at this age and stage in life I have to give any explanations on why I spent $300 treating my cat's bleeding foot. I don't expect anyone to understand WHY I like my cats, but I do expect them to not to criticize me for the day to day decisions I make in my life.

It comes down to the classic "I'm old enough" debate now. I'm old enough to know what I'm doing so please stop judging, taunting, and sneaking in remarks about what I do or not do. If I'm about to make a major decision, I will always ask the people I look up to. For instance, I had a long chat with my dad late last year about buying a house. Taking his advice, I didn't buy a house then. However, I revisited the issue a few months later when my situation had changed and ended up buying a house that I realize is an even better fit for me. I'm not saying I made absolutely the most perfect decision ever (man... my roof still needs repairs). I just like to think that I made the most sensible decision given the circumstances and stood firmly by it after weighing in the positive and negative consequences. The positive consequences being that I'll build equity that will help me later in life and the negative being that I won't have lot of free money lying around every month anymore.

If you've read this far then it's only natural that I thank you for paying attention and listening to what I had to say. Know in your heart that I love you more than anything in the world and that I will do anything possible when the need be. But if there is no crisis, then why not let me pursue my dreams and have some fun on the way? And for flying spaghetti monster's sake, stop worrying about me! I'm doing pretty damn well.

PS: Please send me money. I've been eating cat food for two weeks and have no money to feed myself or my cats now.

PPS: Just kidding about the cat food. I'm still a vegetarian :)

PPPS: Don't forget the money!

Tue, 8th Nov '05, 9:30 pm::

I got me a new phone: Nokia 3220 - totally love it so far. Has a lot of cool features like camera, hands-free, loud-speaker, web-access, and soon I'll be able to connect it to my computer for more stuff.

Fri, 28th Oct '05, 7:15 pm::

Another great day at work today. I solved a lot of little problems and one big problem. I love it when stuff works. I got home and sat on my lawn chairs for a while, just sitting and relaxing in the beautiful weather. I need to go to the beach. It's so gorgeous :) Things are finally back to normal *touch-wood*

Thu, 27th Oct '05, 11:20 pm::

Just got back from seeing Rusted Root play at Jannus Landing in downtown St. Petes with Lanie, Natalia, and Vai. I had an amazing time. I love it when the band can connect so well with the crowd... it's like one huge 500-people band. Had some good Thai food before the concert and now I'm hungry again.

Mon, 24th Oct '05, 7:35 pm::

I think this is the first time in my life that the "Law" is actually working in my favor (so far so good). My car's windshield cracked pretty badly from a falling branch at work today. I drove it home but it's not that safe to keep driving around with a windshield that can collapse anytime. I called up my insurance company and they're gonna fix it tomorrow between 8am-12pm. Hopefully I won't miss much work. Well Hurricane Wilma passed over us without much damage. It was just bad-luck that my windshield cracked. It's the end of October and hurricane season ends on November 30th. However since we have a cold front coming, I don't think there's gonna be any hurricanes in the next week or so.

The funniest part was listening to the weather today. Weather-folks are known for never being too strong and never being absolutely precise. I was kinda amused to hear the weatherman on radio say: "Chances of rain today: 100%. Chances of rain tomorrow: 0%."

Anyways, had some food Indian food today at India-Grill down on Central Ave. with my friend Lanie. She's fun to chill with but because she's busy working on nights and weekends, our schedules seldom match. Lunch works though because both of us are free and my work is near her house. I'm just glad that so many people in Florida love Indian food :)

Sat, 24th Sep '05, 6:35 pm::

Wow today turned out much better than I thought it would. Despite feeling sick as hell, I took a shower, cleaned up, and went all the way to Sweet Tomatoes in Tampa to have lunch with my new friend Jenny. It was awesome. I love the food there (and trust me it felt good to eat something healthy) and I just had a great time with Jen. Hopefully I'll be seeing her more often. It just sucks that I still cough so much and I can't really do much about it. She was so nice about it and didn't care much that I was coughing like a steam engine. Anyways, I'm really tired right now and need some rest.

Thu, 22nd Sep '05, 10:45 pm::

I love this satellite picture of the Earth centered on India - my new background.

Wed, 21st Sep '05, 12:05 pm::

Just taking a little break from work now. Too many things happening today - some very good and some very bad. It's amazing how some days absolutely nothing happens and some days, everything happens at the same time. Today's not a good day if I look at the short-term implications, but whatever happened today will benefit me in the long-term. You know, just one of those days that sets the course for the rest of your life. We don't actively make decisions everyday that affect the rest of our lives. Most days we just worry about small things like groceries and haircuts. Today is definitely not one of those.

I love being all indirect :)

Mon, 12th Sep '05, 12:05 am::

I don't think I fully understood the suckitude of being sick for the next two months. When the doctor said my cough will go away in 60 days or so I didn't put much thought into it. After just one weekend of staying home alone and doing nothing except watch TV and surf online, I realize how much this whole thing really sucks. I don't like to whine but right now, I can't do ANYTHING that I want to do. I can't go out with friends for a drink because anti-biotics and alcohol don't mix. I can't even go out with friends because I keep coughing non-stop and every public place I go to, people stare at me as if I have the plague.

That leaves doing things by myself. Well I loved kayaking but I can't do that or anything physically intensive as it only makes things worse. Plus due to the ear-infection, my head constantly spins and I have absolutely no balance whatsoever. So even running is out of the question.

So let's see, if can't hang out with people and can't go out alone to do things, it leaves me with the only choices: sit at home and do nothing. Well I could get a bit more productive on the computer or read a book or two but trust me it doesn't matter. I'm a social person and I love company. Or doing things. Now I gotta sit at home every night and weekend and do absolutely nothing. I can't even talk to my family or friends on the phone because I feel embarrassed due to the coughing. Urgh.

This was a pretty dull weekend and it just scares me that there's gonna be more and more of these.

/rant-over

Mon, 5th Sep '05, 11:55 am::

I read about 10-12 blogs of different friends regularly and it just amazes me that people who are so much like me, have such different lives and lifestyle. Here are some random excerpts from my friends' blogs, just to show how different their lives are compared to mine. I hope none of my friends mind me putting these on here as they are all publicly available on their blogs anyway. Also, I'd love to read what friends/family of my friends write on their blogs, just to get a different perspective.

Kelly:

WRX with some nice mods. I HAD to go from a dig with him 0-120mph. He got owned. 5.0 mustang. Roll and Dig. Roll he was owned. On the dig I remembered how to drive the first time. Second time I forgot how to drive so he took the kill. LT1 TA with a few mods. We were a dead even match till top end. Then I wanted to walk... but he always cut out before giving me that change. We ran a few times just for fun. 1g DSM with a Super 16g was 3+ cars behind.

Taylor:

As a late college graduation gift, my mother and I will be traveling to a few great cities over the next 2 weeks. Here is my approximate schedule: ... I will be seeing most of the touristy stuff, catching a few concerts (the BBC Proms!!), and taking in some overpriced dining.

Liz:

I'm definitely on the search for an engagement ring--of course i'm not planning on getting married, but if i'm going to have to freakin lie every single day about my marital status, then i might as well rock the ice just for the fun of it I haven't decided if i really want to drop some big money for a nice one, or just buy a really cheap one off of ebay....okay, so the practical side of me is saying to go cheap, but that wont stop me from looking at Tiffany's website, hehehehehe. It's really bizarre, too, my infatuation with engagement rings. I kinda wish they didnt carry the meaning that they do, cuz i would really like a simple diamond ring for my birthday--hell, let's be honest, for ANY day, do i really need a holiday to justify it?

Vu:

Currently, the FIA has rules in place to actually give inferior tire performance, although aerodynamic considerations are much more flexible. Current tires have a mandatory high profile and have four channels cut into the tread to reduce grip and increase slip angles. Aerodynamics helps increase the mechanical grip otherwise possible with a static tire load. For the rules changes, the FIA hopes to increase mechanical tire performance while reducing aerodynamic effects.

Lisa:

There's shooting outside, and one of the new volunteers looks nervous, but we tell her it's "happy shooting". That means the gunfire from a wedding or a high school graduation party- celebratory. It's an ironic phrase, and we say it with a twist in our mouths, but it's the best way to explain. There's been more random shooting during the day in Nablus, since perhaps the past month. We don't really know what it's from, but this is a new volunteer, fresh and a bit impressionable, so we might as well say that it's happy. Let's be happy.

Megan:

pop (grandpa) passed away quite suddenly on wednesday. he was 85. he was one of my favorite people in the whole entire world. i just can't believe he's gone and i'll never see him again. every single memory i have of him is a fond one. when i was born, my parents lived in an old farmhouse - my grandparents on one side and my parents on the other. apparently i would wake up at around 2am every night. pop would get up and take me out of the crib and walk around with me and talk to me until i fell asleep. he was the only one who could get me to stop crying. he was my bud when i was growing up. we'd take long walks in the woods, he'd fix whatever i needed fixing, he'd come to my basketball games, he'd give me lots of hugs and "great to see ya, hun"'s. every holiday dinner, gram would ask me what vegetable i wanted, and i'd always say 'carrots', because i have an abnormal love of carrots. well, pop HATED carrots, and when dinnertime would come, i would tell him to pass his plate, and i'd load them up with carrots, and he'd laugh and put half of them back and then the rest of them on my plate. i'm making carrots for dinner tonight. i miss him so much already.

Tony:

Long veils are beautiful to photograph, but torture for the bride.

Lynn:

I have to be honest, if I were in LA, I would be looting too. I would steal food and shoes and clothing, dog food, water, and if I had a child, diapers and formula for my child. The fact that the governor of LA has enforced a "shoot to kill" policy is sickening. When someone is taking diapers or food, basic NECESSATIES, they should NOT be shot to death. This is ludicrous. And I must say something about the civilians who are shooting at the "help" - this is what happens when people panic. When people panic, it creates chaos. Who wants to be in such disastrous conditions? No one...

The disaster that was KatrinaThu, 1st Sep '05, 8:20 pm::

Exactly a week ago I casually mentioned that there was another hurricane on the horizon and wondered how it would shape up. Not even in my worst nightmares could I have witnessed the devastation that Hurricane Katrina has caused in the last five days. It was a Category Four hurricane when it hit the coast of the state of Louisiana on the gulf coast above the Gulf of Mexico.

Before it hit Louisiana, it passed through South-Eastern Florida as a Category One hurricane and it slowly gained strength sitting above the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexco. By last Thursday, everyone knew this was going to be a major hurricane with wind speeds of above 150 mph. My friend Kathleen called it the classic book case - the perfect example of a storm - something students decades from now will be learning in classrooms, on how it formed, how it gained strength, how it moved with tremendous force, and finally, how is destroyed every shred of civilization on half the gulf coast.

As many are already saying, this is going to effect pretty much every person in the US in a very short period of time. Katrina was not a typical storm or minor hurricane that ruined a few neighborhoods and took a few lives. Katrina is absolutely one of the largest natural disasters US has ever faced and the aftermath of this on society, politics, and the economy will be very horrendous.

Let's begin with the area most affected by Katrina - the City of New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA). Majority of the city of NOLA lies about ten feet below sea-level. And as you can see in this map, NOLA is bordered by two major lakes, a river, and the Gulf of Mexico. On top of it, the city is literally shaped like a bowl. It was no surprise to anyone that if the city was hit by a major hurricane, the bowl would fill up with water and there would be no way of draining the water because the sea-level is actually higher than the city.

And then it happened. Katrina hit slightly east of NOLA, barely missing the city, but the damage was done. The levees and barriers that block the river, lake, and sea-waters from flooding the city neighborhoods broke from the sheer water pressure. When a hurricane makes landfall, the ocean swells upwards and sea-water rushes inland. This is different from the kind of tsunami that hit South East-Asia late last year. Tsunamis travel very very fast, hundreds of mile an hour, and shock the coast with their impact, kinda like slapping someone really hard, sometimes multiple times, but then pulling away instantly. Storm surge is when the sea-water floods inland because of the suction created by winds on the water-body, as a result of which, the water does not recede back into the ocean as long as the winds persist. A storm surge is like sitting on someone's chest and gradually applying more and more pressure till their ribs burst and getting up slowly afterwards. Of course, both are just as ravaging to human livelihood.

So now you have a bowl-shaped city of over 1.3 million (13 lac) residents that got filled with water. There just isn't any way out other than physically pumping all the water back into the ocean and lakes - a process which will take months and months. For the first time since the San Fransisco Earthquake & Fire of 1906 has a major city been absolutely ruined like this. Eighty-percent of NOLA is still underwater and it will continue to remain so.

NOLA isn't the only city affected by Katrina. Hundreds of cities and small towns were affected. From the looks of it, Waveland, Mississippi, located north-east of NOLA was affected the worst as pretty much every house in the town is levelled. The town is no more. There are no houses or buildings standing, no electric poles upright, the trees have been uprooted or snapped into pieces, and for all intensive purposes, zipcode 39576 is non-existant henceforth. And this is but one of the hundreds of towns directly affected. WalMart has closed 123 stores and UPS has suspended shipment to 900 zipcodes indefinitely. This is about three to four percent of the entire country of US.

The immediate economic impact is something people always feared - rising price of gasoline - petrol & diesel. I purchased gas at $2.599/gallon yesterday and it's above $3/gallon today in my city. Elsewhere, people are paying upgrades of $5/gallon and many small towns in states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and even Wisconsin have run out of gas. It is no secret that the entire economy of US relies very heavily on gas and rising prices could mean economic depression. The Port of Southern Louisiana is the largest port in the US, fifth-largest in the world.

Here is something that has blown my wits away. Back in June of this year, FX Network aired a mock-umentary titled "Oil Storm" (thanks Eric!) The synopsis of the story is that sometime around the Labor Day weekend (that is the coming weekend), a Category 6 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico slams into Louisiana, crushing the city of New Orleans and crippling the vital pipleline for refined oil that is Port Fourchon (more details). The movie "examines the ripple effect of that event and the ensuing cascade of disasters associated with it..." Basically, the first part of the movie about the hurricane has already come true and the next part, about oil prices is already coming true. You can read the synopsis yourself to see how the story unfolds and ends, but the scary thing is, back when the movie aired, everyone was mocking, insulting, and criticizing it. Now, not so much. Nobody believed that a hurricane could drown NOLA, cut off the nation's oil pipeline, or set the oil rigs afloat. Yet that is what happened. This time truth is eerily exactly like fiction.

The damage to public and private infrastructure is only overshadowed by the utter senseless degradation of human lives. Right now, hundreds of thousands of people in NOLA area are thirsty, hungry, have no shelter, and are being terrorized by street gangs. Reporter Anya Kamenetz writes, "the city of New Orleans has a 34 percent poverty rate, triple the national average. It's about 70 percent black. White flight, first to Jefferson Parish and then across Lake Pontchartrain, to the North Shore, has accomplished the desired aim of de facto segregation in the public schools, which are 93 percent black in Orleans Parish and some of the worst in the country." Now, the aftermath of the hurricane is not only a humanitarian issue but also a racial one. Right-and-left people are debating whether the US Federal Govt. is doing enough or not, whether the National Guard would have been moved to NOLA for support any faster if there was a higher percentage of white citizens.

Yahoo! has managed to stir up some controvery regarding two pictures captioned slightly differently. They even issued a public statement and removed one of the pictures. Apparently, the caption under the very dark skinned person said " A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans" while a picture of two light skinned persons was captioned, "Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store..." So dark people "loot" while fair people "find" right? The photographer of the second picture disagrees but for now, the issue has raised many a question.

Since eighty-percent of NOLA is currently underwater, some places as deep as twenty-feet, the only pictures and videos available of most areas are from helicopters. While thousands of people are being bussed from the drier areas in NOLA to nearby cities like Houston, Texas, there are thousands of people still stuck in their houses. Hundreds of dead bodies are floating on the streets and rescue workers can't do anything because they first have to help the victims who are still alive.

Any attempt to compare Katrina with the tsunami of 2004 is looked down upon right now because there was a tremendous loss of life in the latter. Additionally, tsunami was unpredictable while the weather channels along with the National Hurricane Center were blasting warnings for days before Katrina made landfall, giving people enough time to evacuate. Moreover, damages from tsunamis were not preventable while majority of the infrastructure destruction of Katrina could have been prevented as everyone knew the geography of NOLA and the nearby regions. And yet, I think there is a similarity despite what people say. The similarity is that poor people suffered. While they all knew about Katrina, there was little most of them could do. Many of the inner-city poor renters didn't have a car and the city of NOLA failed to provide public transporation to evacuate. So for no fault of their own, they were stuck. Sure, many of them might have intentionally chosen to hunker down and stay at home instead of going away, but now, they're all homeless.

NOLA has had near-hits many-a-time but this was the final blow. There is no City of New Orleans, Louisiana anymore. They will have to rebuild, almost from scratch. And so will the hundreds of towns with millions of people. It's hard to imagine that over a million people now have no homes, no jobs, no schools, and no life whatsoever. Everything will have to start from scratch. For the young it's not impossible but for people who have worked their entire lives to finally own a house, it's all gone. Sure, insurance will pay but what about the neighborhood. It's not there anymore. I'd love to see NOLA back on it's feet again but I highly doubt the Mardi Gras celebrations in 2006 (if at all) will be as carefree as this year's.

(I had written about seven more detailed paragraphs after this but due to a stupid mistake, I lost everything below this, hence rewriting it major parts of it. It always bums me out when I'm writing a long 'blog entry and lose part of it. I will fix the blog to not do this tomorrow but for now, I have to live with it. And since I'm too tired to rewrite everything, here's a summary of what I had written before.)

The political aspect of this entire disaster is no less complex. The Federal Emergency Management Agency had to halt all rescue operations in NOLA because of the danger to the lives of the rescuers. Violence has erupted in parts of the city with random acts of looting, rape, street-shooting, and sniper attacks. It's hard to believe but this is US and it seems like the Dark Ages. FEMA is not without controversy itself with two inexperienced directors, demotion from cabinet status, and refusal of funds to NOLA to strengthen the levees.

Louisiana is also holds half the world's supply of zinc and is a major manufacturer of industrial chemicals. There will be inflation in the short-term and dollar will fall in the ForEx markets. Oil will continue to rise for some time and a big part of US trade will be impacted, as LA is the primary port for US. Things aren't going to be pretty for the next few months and rebuilding will take a lot of time. People are dying on the streets, children are waddling through chest-high water, covered in feces, and dead bodies are floating everywhere. The biggest fear is the possibility of a pandemic of water-borne diseases.

I'm sure if anyone wants to learn more about the disaster there are a million places online to read from and hundreds of TV shows to watch. This was just a review of what I've heard, remotely seen, and learnt about Katrina and its aftermath. And here's hoping I never have to write such an entry again, though I think that's impossible. Nature is wild and very very powerful.

Life's like an analog clockSun, 28th Aug '05, 9:45 pm::

I don't 'blog everyday, not because I'm too busy or have nothing to say, but rather I like saving up the energy to write slightly longer posts and to say things I normally don't in course of everyday life. In everyday life, people just execute their daily duties. You wake up, go to school and/or office, get home, do the chores, entertain yourself a bit, and go to bed. Next day, lather, rinse, repeat. And the cycle goes on.

Life's like an analog clock that you have to wind-up every 24 hours. And more often than not, the clock gains or loses a few minutes every day. In a month, you could be as much as half-an-hour off the correct time unless you synchronize your clock with some official time keeper. Similarly, if you just live your life without any form of introspection and retrospection, sooner or later, you're gonna be out of sync with your own life and the rest of the world.

In other words, if you never take some time to stop everything you're doing and take a 36,000 mile big-picture overview of yourself, your life's path, your goals and dreams, then things are just gonna get tougher. If you're lost in a maze, you can forever run around every corner to find a way out but the most optimal way to get out is just look at the maze from above and find the shortest path to the exit. Everybody knows that is the best way but nobody wants to do it.

We're all in a rat race. Life has become a rat race because we're all materialistic - chasing objects that money and only money can buy, running after goals that solely bolster our egos. So now even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat. The trick is not to win the race but to stop being a rat. How can you do that? It's easy and sounds so very cliched. Take control of your own mind. Stop letting yourself be led by others. Realize that you and only you make your own destiny unless you unfortunately happen to be living under some ruthless dictator or corrupt communist government. But even then, there's a lot you can do to control your own mind. Sure you may not be able to control the fact that your dad's not a rich industrialist but you can sure control the emotional turmoil your mind goes into after the love of your life rejects you.

Control of your own mind is quite possibly the easiest and the hardest thing to ever do. It's hard because throughout our lives we have been force-fed the notion that we are all emotional by our very human nature and we are but the victims of our moods. We have adapted to feeling sad when our mind decides it's time to feel sad and we are trained to feel happy when our mind tells us so. But it's not at all hard to decide to tell our mind that shut the hell up and stop being so moody. And after that, it's all easy. Once you realize that you can tell your brain to feel calm in the most adverse of life's circumstances, you suddenly find yourself equipped with the world's greatest arsenal of strength and power - emotional maturity. Most people get stuck in life because their emotions overpower every rational thought.

I know, everyone says you gotta think straight and do right but so many people just can't. Why? Because saying is one thing and doing is another. It's very easy to say "never lie to yourself" but very hard to do. It's the wide gap between saying the nice wise quote and explaining HOW to do it, that prevents people from actually doing it. So I said above, take control of your mind. Well great quote but how does one go about doing it. What's the first step?

The first step is to stop all negative thoughts. That's it. It's a very easy thing to do once you start doing it. No matter what you're doing, something is going on in your head and if that thought happpens to be laden with negativity of any kind, be it sadness, guilt, remorse, angst, revenge, stress, worry, or anything else, just let it go. Tell your brain "hey that's a negative thought and I'm not gonna have any of that in my brain." And stop. Change the topic and focus on something else. Keep doing it every single moment, every day and every night. Very soon you're realize yourself that things just seem so much easier. Life will suddenly be easy, much more clear.

I know, all of this sounds so pseudo-wise psycho-babble but from personal expeirence, I can say it's very true. College years were quite tough on my mental stability, especially the stress of multiple degrees and multiple jobs and I always felt so lost. Lately, things have got so much better since I started following the aforementioned guidelines. None of the stuff I said above is something I pulled out of thin air. Most of this 'wisdom' stuff is from ancient Hindu and Buddhist teachings. Too many people apply the practical rituals of religion in daily life instead of following the wise teachings.

Nah, I've not suddenly become overtly religious or anything. I'm just saying, the day you take control of your mind is the day life stops being difficult. The grass really is greener on the other side because you have a lot more time to tend to your lawn as you're not stressing all day about meaningless objects.

The Joys of Living AloneFri, 19th Aug '05, 7:45 am::

"The strange new truth, according to census figures, is that the single largest chunk of American households now consists of people who live alone. No spouse or partner, no kids or other relatives, no roommate or boarder. Alone." Thus reports the Wall Street Journal. I am a statistic now. Here's the original Census Report in PDF.

The report goes on to say "Yet a list-topping surge to 27 million separate little cocoons is still disconcerting. Among other things, it suggests a demographic bulge of lonely souls. Even if you discount the college graduates who paint the town every night before crashing happily at their first pad, you're left with a huge number of people who have found companionship and lost it or are still looking for someone to share their life with. They may not be miserable or call themselves lonely, although many senior citizens do use those words. But most probably are missing something, and we don't mean the better health and the longevity boost that scientists have associated with marriage and other forms of intimate living."

The author of the article goes on, "27 million lonely grown-ups probably isn't great for society either." So that's one side of the story. The other side of the story is what random people are saying here on Fark: "Living alone is the greatest thing in the world." "People are choosing to stay single. I'm single by choice." "I wish I lived alone."

I can pretty much attest to the awesomeness that is living alone. I love the fact that I have a house I can go to every day without having someone nag me to depression on when I'm gonna cut the lawn or paint the backyard door. I love the fact that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want - nobody bothers me, nobody annoys me. If I feel alone or bored, I can either stay at home and entertain/educate myself or I can go out and hang out at my friends' places. I really don't see how living alone could be such a bad thing. I don't have to worry about anyone's dirty laundry and nobody leaves dirty dishes in my kitchen sink. It's awesome! Sure, I miss hanging out with someone 24/7 and that's why I have my friends come once in a while for sleepovers etc. We can watch TV and play boardgames all evening till late night and then have breakfast together. No force, no compulsion. So very stress free.

I think the biggest mistake this author made is assuming that living alone means being alone. Repeat after me: Alone does NOT mean lonely. I live alone, by myself, no other person in my house. However, that doesn't mean I am lonely or sad or feel neglected or unloved. This is just a different way of life than previous generations were used to. And as long as I'm comfortable with it, why should anyone care?

However, there's the economic side to this issue. Be it one person or two living in the same house, you're pretty much gonna use the same amount of electricity, phone, gas, and other utilities. If everyone lives alone in their own house, a lot of resources are wasted. By living together, people can save a lot and split the bills. Maybe that's what I will look into down the line - converting my computer room to a bedroom and renting it out to a friend. I'll be able to save on my bills and my friend will have low rent. But till that day, I think my kids are enough for me to take care of :)

Tue, 2nd Aug '05, 9:50 pm::

Went kayaking today for the second time. Spent about an hour in Lake Seminole just learning how to move forward without zig-zagging. It was so beautiful and didn't really feel like an hour, more like 25 minutes. Tomorrow I'll go for an hour and a half. I got home tonight and my upper-body felt so pumped up even though I wasn't tired at all. I'm beginning to love this kayaking thing :)

Mon, 25th Jul '05, 8:20 am::

Sometimes it amazes me that people love me despite all of my flaws.

Sun, 10th Jul '05, 8:15 pm::

7 minutes and 5 seconds - that's how long it takes to drive from my house to the Treasure Island Beach free parking lot on 124th Avenue. It takes less than four minutes to get to the paid parking lot on Madeira Beach. I went for a quick stroll on the beach and also to check out the grocery store closest to me, which happens to be half-way between my house and the beach. The water was quite rough but since I didn't feel like going in to wet my feet, I just sat on the shore and relaxed.

I love the beach, the ocean, the sand, the smell of salt-water... And now, at 7:00 pm I could be in my house and at 7:10 pm walking on the beach. It's great.

Thu, 7th Jul '05, 11:05 pm::

Just watched Woody Allen's 1975 classic Love & Death. I like old school satire.

Sun, 26th Jun '05, 9:30 pm::

Hello from my new house :) I'm all settled in the house with only 3 boxes waiting to be unpacked (mostly stuff for the closet). All of this, thanks to my sweet sweet lovely friend Lynn. Had she not helped me pack, clean, unpack, and shop with a 10% discount off at Walmart I'd still be trying to find my clothes or paper plates. Right now, EVERYTHING is setup, from my computer room to kitchen to pantry to bathroom to of course, the living room :) This move was more trouble-free than I could've imagined. Absolutely nothing went wrong! Now I have to go around the house and take pictures. And best of all, the kitties love the house! They run around hiding in new places. I know they're happy.

Tue, 21st Jun '05, 11:40 pm::

Exactly one year ago I started my full-time job at Formulated Solutions and I'm even more excited today than I was before I knew what life held for me. I can't believe it's already a year since I came here. Guess time flies when you're having fun. I love my little work family :)

Oh and tomorrow just might be the coolest day ever! Looks like somebody's about to buy a house...

Fri, 10th Jun '05, 9:25 pm::

I find it pretty funny when I see people that pretend to like certain things simply to impress others. I know people who don't really like hip-hop but listen to it because all the cool-kids are doing it. Same with punk, emo and God knows every other genre of music. Then there are people who pretend to love esoteric movies and read abstruse novellas by underrated authors. I happen to know a few people whose sole existence is defined by trying to impress others, be it fast cars, bigger houses, or leather pants.

I've personally been criticized of trying to impress others by using big words when diminutive* ones will suffice. In my defense, I'm pretty sure that everytime I use a word in my text that people need to consult a dictionary for, I use it because it fits the best. If you read the paragraph above, there really is no better synonym for "esoteric" in that context. And there really is no "other word" I can use in place of synonym. However, if I didn't like Mozart, I wouldn't listen to his music just to impress my coworkers. Sadly, a lot of people do that.

Better to do what you like and enjoy it than pretend to like what you think will impress others.

* - I was being sarcastic when I used the word 'diminutive' :) Oh and diminutive is a pretty cool word, especially it's usage in different languages.

Fri, 10th Jun '05, 6:15 pm::

Looks like the hurricane season is back. Tropical Storm Arlene is heading for the Florida panhandle / Alabama area and hopefully will miss us by hundreds of miles. However, considering it's still huge and moving very slowly, my entire weekend is pretty much hosed. It's raining outside and doesn't look like it's going to stop anytime soon. Guess I can sit back and just eat something hot.

Things are pretty dull otherwise. Dull isn't bad necessarily, in fact, I happen to like it quite a bit. I like the fact that I don't have to work or study all weekends. I like how I don't have any major chores or big personal projects to complete. It's the ease and lack of tension that I absolutely love. I come home, play with the kitties, watch a little TV, read stuff online, go to bed, and sleep pretty peacefully. I guess I'll never really get rid of my constant nightmares but otherwise, things are good. I know my daily schedule seems pretty dull and I realize that it actually is, but it's a stress-free dull and not a stretch of depressive doldrums where I find myself stuck in life or something.

Hopefully life will get pretty interesting once I get a house. I don't want to jinx anything so I'm not going to show pictures or write a lot about the house that I'm going to buy soon. Let's see how it goes.

Story of my work lifeWed, 25th May '05, 8:30 pm::

Here's the story of my work-life. Some guy explains it from his point-of-view, which is quite similar to mine. This is what happens to me, and pretty much everyone else in the world involved with making enterprise software.

Every project I take up, starts with a tiny minor requirement, "Chirag, we need you to make something that'll help us pay our bills on time." Sounds so simple that a middle-school kid can do it in Excel for Mac between soccer practice and karate lessons! Just put a list of all the current bills in one sheet and type in 'Paid' next to it when you pay. It's as simple as that. But who enters the list of bills? Obviously some from the Purchasing Department. However, they don't want to make a purchase order in paper and have to maintain the list of incoming bills on computer, so obviously, the solution is to computerize the Purchase Order system also. But wait, now that we have the POs in the database, we can easily use the data to help with taking the stock of our inventory because we know what's coming in.

Now all the system needs is something that lets you deduct the stock when we make a sale. Fast-forward tons of meetings with the heads of Production, QA, Regulatory, Accounting, Sales, and of course, Management, and where do you end up at? A full-fledged inventory control system with MRP features that integrate with a live e-commerce website and provides real-time stock figures. It took a while to make but everyone's happy with the system, right? Well almost. The system does everything it promised except one thing - help us with paying our bills on time! Due to some communication gap that occured in the initial stages of design, nobody realized that we do not get billed for each Purchase Order individually, and any bill can be towards a partial PO, full PO, or multiple POs. Sorry guys, if only you had told me this before... oops!

The guy in the link above explains this all quite well. I just wanted to share my experience. And it'll only get more complex 'n confusing as our company grows. Funny thing is that I love it :) Keeps my brain sharp. Of course, just like the guy above, I am not complaining about my job. I'm just saying how and why things take so long and how the simplest thing can and often does end up being so complex. Truth is, there really isn't any ERP Zen in the world. If you ever find it, lemme know! One thing I that I do often is to understand the user needs and find out a way to simplify them instead of just doing exactly what the user wants. Kinda like this guy.

Yet another golden chanceSat, 14th May '05, 10:45 pm::

They say you only get a golden chance once. Don't turn away opportunity when it knocks on your door. You only get one shot! It's probably true for almost everyone but in my case, it's pretty much a recurring event. If you haven't guessed it already, I mean girls :) It's kinda funny how everyone around me just assumes that I randomly meet new girls and surprisingly I think they just might be correct. No, I haven't met anyone but I do have an interesting story to share.

I went jetskiing with Brian today and man am I bruised! I fell off the jetski 3 more times today and hurt my head, neck, arms, wrists, knees, and back. I'm a walking whine-lab. Thereafter, soaked and hungry, we went to Sweet Tomatoes. So I'm just sitting in front of Brian, eating some good food when this CUTE girl comes and sits on the table next to us. For some reason, Sweet Tomatoes caters to an amazingly high number of hot/cute girls and may God Bless their sweet little hearts for that. Now this girl wasn't alone and her boyfriend sat in front of her. Brian left to get some food and I was just sitting relishing the Garlic Focaccia bread. Her boyfriend was talking to her when she smiled at me and said 'Hey...' Ignoring how awkward this was, I said 'Hi...' back and smiled back. The boyfriend stopped mid-sentence and just gave me the evilest look in the world. I kept smiling at her till Brian came back and got back to my food.

A few minutes later, I went to the pasta bar to get some more food when she walked up next to me and started talking. All this time, her boyfriend kept staring at us like crazy. We made some small talk about the food being good at this place and went back to our individual tables. Brian noticed the little tête-à-tête and asked what's going on. I told him we just made some small talk and that it was nothing big. He was like but man she was checking you out! I laughed and said, well yeah but she IS with some guy and I just can't randomly get the number/email or something. That's not cool.

When were done eating, Brian asked me "Ok ready to leave?" and the girl looked at us and replied "Sure..." We just smiled and walked back to our car and got home.

Now I know the question on your mind is "IS THIS CHIRAG PERSON STUPID OR WHAT?! What kinda sissy boy would let this kinda opportunity go especially when the girl looked a real-life cute version of Scarlett Johansson?!!!"

I got nothing to say to that. I wish I did. I wish I could come up with a valid reason to justify why I didn't ask her for her number or figure out some way to contact her again. I mean everyone knows I'm single and sure, I would love to meet someone nice 'n good etc. but I don't know. I keep doing this over and over and over again. From the gorgeous blonde to the cute marathoner, from the spicy Bengali girl to whom I owe my success on getting the US Visa to this pretty lady strangely interested in me... I don't know why I never actually try to get close to the ones who are nice to me yet keep dating crazy psychotic retards.

I'm pretty sure a shrink would give my condition some cool medical sounding title but personally I don't know what my problem is. I know for sure that I'm not afraid of talking to a girl or afraid of rejection. I've had my share of being turned down and frankly stuff like that doesn't phase me anymore. If I want to ask someone out, I figure out a way to do that. But for some reason, I just don't feel like asking the nice ones out, only the crazies. And I know it's the same way with girls; they keep going for the bad biker guys while ignoring the nice good friendly-type guys.

Oh well, I've always been told I'm the confused-type so it's not like I HAVE to be rational all the time. I try my best to be rational and logical at my work so I have the right to be illogical and confused in my personal life. And hey, who really cares about stuff like this anyway! I got checked out by a cutie in my most ragged outfit and I got a friend to prove it :-P Life is certainly good. Oh and all this attention can only mean one thing... and that is my new healthy fruit/vegetables diet-plan is working and I'm shedding the extra weight :)

Tue, 10th May '05, 2:25 pm::

Here's an interesting look at the Indian way of arranged marriages, describing how/why arranged marriages in general work better than love marriages. I'm pretty neutral on the topic myself because I know enough love marriages that worked and enough arranged marriages which are failures. Of course there are tons of love marriages that fail and many arranged couples that live happily.

Tue, 10th May '05, 6:00 am::

Went to bed early last night. Woke up at 4am this morning and been working on a big computer/work-related problem since then. Basically trying to find/plan which platform to create an ERP system in.

Last night my real-estate agent came over to get some papers signed and get a deposit check. I now officially have a contract on the house by the beach :) Giga and Tera kept circling around him and Giga climbed on the dining table and started purring. He said, "Wow! These are the nicest cats I've ever seen and I've seen quite a few going to people's houses..."

I love my kids :)

Sat, 7th May '05, 1:30 pm::

The last few days have been pretty interesting. Friday, instead of working all day, my entire company, from shipping guy to production planner, from the owners to the newest employees, all went for a one-day meeting/seminar/thinktank to this place run by the St. Petersburg College. There we spent the day learning about what we do, what every person in our company does, and most importantly, what do we do as a company - where we stand in the market, what our core competencies are etc, and how to brand our company. We formed small teams and worked on similar projects for 30 minutes and made charts, designs, and collages on whiteboards. Everything was documented and by Monday, we'll be able to see it all online. All in all, a pretty fun day where a lot of the employees, including myself, learnt a lot more about the company, especially what everyone else in the company thinks about the company.

Last night at 11:45pm I was about to head to bed when Linda 'n Brian called me. We went to AppleBees and two hours later I had downed six Long Island Ice Teas (my favorite drink ever) and pretty much passed out on Brian's couch. Alcohol is good for you once in a while. I woke up @ 11am feeling pretty normal and came home to get clean.

I'm going over back to Brian's now and then we're gonna go jetskiing :) It'll be my first time ever. God I love Florida! The weather is gorgeous and every other car has a boat towing behind it. Looks like I'll 99% get the house I like and hopefully I'll move in by June end unless some major problems occur. Crossing my fingers that everything goes well, in two months you'll be seeing a lotta pics of the new chir.ag bunker, well it's more like a tiki. Yeah, that sounds corny enough for it to be cool - The chir.ag tiki :-P

Wed, 4th May '05, 7:45 am::

This 'blog's slowly turning into a rant journal because all I want to do is keep complaining. Here's my top complaint for today - How the hell can you say you "LOOOOOOOOOOVE MUSIC" if the only thing you ever listen to is punk rock?! If you only like a few genres of music, then you don't love music, you just love a few types of music. The only people who have the right to say "I love music" are the ones who can appreciate music in it's different forms from Classical to Country, from Hip-Hop to World music.

Just like you cannot say "I love all humans" and only care about your own race, you cannot say "I love music" if you can't appreciate Mozart AND Black Eyed Peas. Sure, you cannot express the appreciation in the same tone and mode for different kinds of music, but if you really love music, you cannot outright discredit entire genres like Jazz or World music (which by itself is magnitudes richer than the handful of genres one would find in the Western music scene).

In essence, if you don't have at least one moderately favorite song/artist/album in each of the following then please stop saying you love music: Alternative, Classical, Country, Hip-Hop/R&B, Jazz, Oldies, Rock, and above all World Music, which includes every Indian song ever made on top of Arabic, Asian, African, Caribbean, and South American music.

Music is a world of it's own and you cannot "LOVE THE WORLD*" and put an asterisk (*) that disclaims "Applies only to Canada."

Fri, 22nd Apr '05, 7:05 am::

I'm at a cybercafe in the Mumbai/Bombay Airport where access to the net is pretty cheap Rs. 60/hour ($1.25/hour). It's quite fast too - hope my dad could get a connection like this at home. It'll take some time but I'm sure they'll get it. Once my home in Calcutta/Kolkata has broadband connection then I can use something like Vonage to call them everyday at local phone charges and not international. Can't wait till that day.

So my flight was delayed as I expected. Had it been on time, I'd be in the plane already. Now I fly off at 11:20am. I checked in all my luggage and will hopefully disembark at the Newark, NJ Airport at 8:25pm tonight via Paris. Kinda sucks that I don't get to check out the Paris airport as the plane just sits on the runway for refuelling. My plane lands at 8:25pm and my connecting flight departs at 8:10pm. So unless I pull off some James Bond 007 moves and transfer from one plane to another mid-air, I'm definitely going to miss my connecting flights to Tampa via Atlanta. AirIndia here in Mumbai said that since it's their fault that the flight's being delayed, they will make sure that I get a decent accomodation and proper connecting flights to my destination.

For some stupendous reason there is no flight from Newark NJ to Tampa FL airports after 10pm tonight till 8am tomorrow. I was ready to get on a 11pm flight if available but they could only reserve me for two 8am flights. My reservation isn't confirmed either but hopefully by the time I'm in Newark tonight, they'll have it partially figured out. The journey that was supposed to take less than 24 hours is now gonna be longer than 36 hours but I'll get to sleep in a hotel overnight in NJ now.

I'll call my aunt/uncle in NJ to see if they wanna visit but I wonder if they can make it all the way to Newark airport on such a short notice. Anyways, I'll prolly be so tired after two long flights and the immigration checks etc. that I'll want to sleep till 6am tomorrow. I have my US Visa on my passport and I'm crossing my fingers that there are no problems.

I had a great time here with my family after almost three years of separation. Now I'm ready to face the new challenges at my work and career. While it's great living in US, there is one major drawback - you slowly forget everything you aspired to be; India reinforces your primal aspirations. Life in US is like slowly dissolving in a warm feel-good quicksand of acid - you don't know you're melting away molecule-by-molecule. India is a quick slap on the back that reminds you that you need to hold your breath, flap your arms, and get the hell out of the quicksand. In other words, before I left India for the US, I had a very keen interest in furthering my academic career and studying till my hair is grey. After getting a job, getting a car, finding a nice apartment, the fire within slowly dies down. One becomes lax about fulfilling the original dreams.

And just one 15-day trip to India drilled the whole academic-career thing back into my head. And not just the academic, the desire to work harder and smarter is stronger now more than ever. I want to make the systems my company needs and I want to make them smart, robust (I know, cliched), and scalable (I know, very much cliched). I want to be twice or thrice as productive as I was in the last few months. Hell I was barely productive in the last two weeks before I left for India because I was soooooooooooo stressed out about the outcome of my visa interview. But thankfully, I got the visa and now I have to accomplish what I desperately need to. There's new ideas to be thought of, there's new systems to be created, and there's a lot more effort to be put into every segment of my life.

One thing I would have regretted had I not got my visa is that I did not travel enough. I sit at home on weekends doing minor chores or idling away in front of the TV when I could be out, seeing the country. Seeing the world's not an easy thing on an Indian passport but I can damn well go around the US at least once a month. Off the top of my head, I need to go to Boston, Washington, NY, California, Vegas, and once again to Salt Lake City. I have a friend or two in each of these places that I need to visit. I think now I'll try to save up each month and look out for specials and cheap tickets online from Tampa to all of these places and god knows where else - after all there's a Fark party somewhere every weekend.

Having the thoughts about India vs. US fresh in my mind, I want to write a long 'blog entry or essay about the differences and similarities in the economy, culture, and the social environment in both the places. I know, there's probably a thousand books on this subject but I bet each of them mentions that every Indian has an elephant/cow/snake in his house and every couple in US fights till they divorce. Both are gross generalizations though hold some amount of truth. Indians do worship the cow and Americans do divorce a lot more than rest of the world. But we don't have a family cow in Kolkata and over 75% of my US friends' parents are still together or were very close till one of them passed away. What I mean by the differences are minor but relevant things on how they see the same events/things differently - divorce is a sad event in US but it's a traumatic and often life-ending event in India. Divorcees get to remarry in US but rarely in India. At restaurants, 5% is a big tip in India and 15% is a small or mediocre one in US.

And yet, the people are the same. My friends in US love me as much as the ones in India. That is something I find very hard to believe. I still can't believe my friends Vishal & Chetan stood out in the rain/sun for hours in 2000 when I first went to the US Consulate in Kolkata to get my student visa. And I still can't believe Arthur drove all the way from NJ to FL with me to help me settle down in Florida with almost all of my luggage from NJ. People amaze me sometimes.

Oh and on a closing note, CONGRATSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS to my sister for her TV Interview on Tazaa TV Kolkata last week! I don't know why she kept attributing her success and knowledge to me - I didn't teach her anything - she learnt it all herself! And yet on TV she kept saying I was her idol and taught her everything. I'd say the major credit goes to my parents and only partially to me.

Sun, 17th Apr '05, 10:40 am::

This has been an amazing week. I met so many people and got so much love from everyone that it's unbelieavable. I still have one more week before I get home. Every night we went out and met more and more people and today is the only day I get to stay home and just chill. It's hot 'n humid here but it's worth it :)

Wed, 13th Apr '05, 9:20 am::

I don't think I've ever eaten this much in such a short span of time. God I love my home :-)

Fri, 8th Apr '05, 12:15 am::

By God I love my boss Eric, his bro Brian, and my awesome friend Jessica. Eric helped me setup all my paperwork after work hours and Brian and Jessica helped me pack! I didn't even touch ONE thing! It's kinda amazing how quickly Brian got everything setup and ready to go... I love Florida...

Solving World's Greatest Mathematical ProblemsSun, 6th Feb '05, 3:05 pm::

So I spent this entire weekend trying to discover the world's first 30-digit Keith Number with no luck. It's kinda like Fibonacci Numbers. Basically, take any number and write out it's digits. Say we pick the number "123" and then write out 1,2,3. Now add all the digits up and put the sum at the end of the list. 1+2+3 = 6, so now the new list is 1,2,3,6. Now drop the first number and add the rest and put it at the end of the list again. Drop "1" and add 2+3+6 = 11. So now we have 2,3,6,11. Of course, you can keep doing this till infinity. Now the fun part happens when you pick a number like 197. Let's see: 1,9,7. Then 1+9+7 = 17. So we get 1,9,7,17. Dropping "1" and adding the rest we get 9+7+17 = 33. Drop 9 and adding 7+17+33, we get 57. Then next we get 17+33+57 = 107. Next we get 33+57+107 = 197 -> The same number we started with!

So if we get the same number as we started with, then it is a Keith Number. There are only two 3-digit Keith Numbers - 197 and 742. There are six 2-digit KNs - 14, 19, 28, 47, 61, 75. Try it for 47 -> 4,7,11,18,29,47! But it doesn't work for any other numbers. 48 -> 4,8,12,20,32,52... No "48" in this list. A few 4-digit KNs are: 1104, 1537, 2208, 2580 etc.

Keith Numbers are very rare and only about 90 of them are known. The largest known Keith Number is 988242310393860390066911414 (27-digits long). We don't even know if there are infinitely many Keith Numbers (though it seems so). There is no award or anything for finding new large Keith Numbers but there is a huge prize (and worldwide glory) for finding out a simple method for generating all Keith Numbers easily. Basically, the problem of finding Keith Numbers can be likened to solving the Knapsack Problem. Of course, if you solve the Knapsack Problem with a simple method, then you've just discovered a method for solving the P=NP problem which has a $1million award from Clay Mathematics Institute.

While I don't understand the whole P=NP problem as clearly as I want, I do understand it enough to be amazed by it. The biggest mystery in computer science right now is whether P is equal to NP or not. So what is P and NP? First of all, Computer Science (my primary major in college) is not about how to make PowerPoint presentations or write financial database software for the stock exchange. In the simplest terms, Computer Science is very much like pure Mathematics - studying problems and solving them using simple equations. Of course, if it was just solving math problems, then it would be called Math and not CompSci.

Computer Science normally deals with a different type of problems, that which involve a lot of calculation and especially estimating the time it takes to calculate. E.g., if someone gives you 10 different business cards, how do you sort them alphabetically by a person's name? Well one simple way is to put all the cards on a table and go through the list and pick out the ones that begin with A, then B, then C till you are done. You basically went through a list of 10 cards, 26 times (A to Z - 26 letters). Of course, you'd be a lot less than that, since everytime you pick a card, there's one less left in the pile. Anyways, this is a very simple sorting algorithm. Computer Science deals with sorting algorithms a lot.

Another thing is searching. If someone gives you 10 business cards and says find "Chirag Mehta." Well, you'll have to go through 10 cards at most to find mine. If it's a one-time thing then it's fine but if you often have to find a business card from a bunch of business cards, you're much better off alphabetizing them once, so that next time someone asks for "Steve Buscemi", you can directly jump to the "S" pile instead of going through all the cards. Computer Science also deals with searching and inventing better methods to find stuff from a bunch of stuff. This is why people love Google so much - it makes easy to find stuff, using their own special search methods. You just type in "flying pigs" and it looks through billions upon billions of documents to find pages which have the phrase "flying pigs" in it and returns those pages within milliseconds. Amazing isn't it!

So what does all of this have to do with P=NP problem and the million-dollar award? Well, after decades of research, computer scientists have found out that there are some problems like searching, sorting etc. whose answers can be solved within a fixed amount of time - seconds, hours, days, centuries whatever. Basically, if someone tells you to find "Chirag Mehta" from 1000 business cards, and you can read 10 a minute, it'll take you 100 minutes at most to find the card. If it was 1000 billion cards, it would take you 100 billion minutes. So the problem of searching has a fixed execution time and it can be very accurately estimated. Same goes with sorting.

However, there are tons of other problems out there, where we can't even estimate how long it's going to take to solve the problem, let alone solve the problem itself. For example, let's look at the Travelling Salesman Problem. Suppose you have to go on a business trip to 3 cities and you can go from any city to any city, what is the cheapest round-trip route that visits each city once and returns to your home city? In other words, if you live in Mumbai, and have to go to London, Beijing, and Los Angeles, what is the cheapest round-trip route that will visit each city once and end up at Mumbai? Of course, you'd need a list of all the airfares, say Mumbai to London (or back) = $100, Mumbai to Beijing = $50, Mumbai to Los Angeles = $200, London to Beijing = $50, London to Los Angeles = $100, Beijing to Los Angeles = $150. Let's assume the reverse fare is same in all the cases, so London to Mumbai equals Mumbai to London equals $100. Currently there is no way accurately find the cheapest route without going through all the combinations (Mumbai-London-Beijing-LA-Mumbai, Mumbai-Beijing-LA-London-Mumbai, Mumbai-LA-London-Beijing-Mumbai etc.)

So you think what's the big deal about having a simple computer go through all the 20-25 combinations and finding the best? Actually no big deal, until you increase the cities from 5 to 50. Or 50 to 5000. Then even the largest supercomputers in the world combined would take centuries to find the solution. Basically, there exists no way to predetermine how long it will take to solve the travelling salesman problem for x cities. We can't say if x = 5, then it'll take 5 seconds and if x = 10, it'll take 10 seconds. We can't even say if x = 5, then it'll take 25 seconds and if x = 10, it will take 100 seconds. Truth is, we don't know. Of course, if you are British Airways, you do want to know, otherwise how else are you going to schedule the flight route of 500 airplanes around 200 airports around the world? Even though the perfect solution doesn't exist, computers can do a pretty good job of going through a billion or so combinations and finding out the best routes. Yes, they cannot go through all the possible combinations, but in practical cases, going through a few million combinations results is pretty good, say as opposed to the 1950s when all the flight pattern/routing was done manually! Without the special flight-routing computers, the whole airline industry would be in chaos because nobody would be able to schedule flights between cities where there is most demand, most people, highest airfare etc.

While the airlines are using computers to plan flight routes, they are doing it as best as they possibly can, not absolutely the best. It's like me going out and asking 100 girls on a date and deciding to marry the one I think is the best. This doesn't mean she is "the one" because I did not ask the other 3 billion girls. It just means she's the best of the ones I asked. Similarly, airlines plan their flights out of the 10 billion combinations instead of the 10000000 trillion possible options. Still 10 billion is better than 100,000. And yet, it is not as good as 10000000 trillion. So there is absolutely a LOT of room for improvement.

Another similar problem called the Bin-Packing Problem, which is closely related to the Cookie-Cutter Problem. If you have 10 items and you need to pack them into 3 bins, such that no bin weighs more than 100lbs, what is the best way to do it? Of course, trial-and-error might work with 10 items and 3 bins, but what if you are the world's largest steel manufacturing company and want to make sure that you can ship the most amount of steel bars of different sizes into trucks while never putting more than 10 tons per truck and of course not overflowing any truck's container. Or if you are my mom and are making cookies. You make a big rectangle piece of dough and then use a cutter to cut fancy cookie shapes. How do you make sure you use as much of the dough as possible and not waste any? Or if you are the world's biggest cookie company and have the same problem. How do you solve it?

Turns out, there is no exact "optimal" way to solve this problem in a fixed or predictable amount of time. In other words, there is no polynomial time method to solve any of these problems. And now comes the beauty of computer science -> all of these problems, from finding Keith Numbers to Knapsack Problem, to Travelling Salesman Problem to Cookie-Cutter Problem can all be solved if even one of them is solved! Oh and the game of Minesweeper also falls into this list. So if you can find a perfect way to beat Minesweeper each time, guess what... you've just solved the world's greatest computer science problem and would most likely get the $1mllion award.

Well I've still not explained what P=NP really means. P means that the problem is easy to solve. Easy doesn't mean you can do it in your head. Easy means it is possible to do it in a fixed time, like searching, sorting etc. NP means that a solution to a problem is easy to verify. That is, if someone gives you a Keith Number, you can easily check in a specific amount of time whether it is a Keith Number or not. Or whether the flight-route from Mumbai-London-Los-Angeles-Beijing-Mumbai covers all the 3 cities and starts/ends at Mumbai. So what we don't know, is whether problems that are easy to verify can be solved easily or not. That is whether NP = P. Currently there is no known method for solving any of the problems I stated above in a fixed/predetermined amount of time.

Most scientists believe that P is not equal to NP and a lot of them believe that given the current state of knowledge in computer science and mathematics, we can't really answer this question. We need to learn a lot more and look at this P=NP problem from the different angle in order to solve it. Maybe that's where computers that work using Quantum Mechanics could help. I don't know much about Quantum Computing so I guess that I can take care of next weekend :)

Hope you enjoyed my little computer science introduction course. Oh and according to my calculations, looking for a 30-digit Keith Number involves going through about 10^30 (10 followed by 30 zeroes) numbers. Currently, I can verify over a hundred 30-digit numbers per second, about 10 million a day. That's 10^7. So it will take me 10^30/10^7 = 10^23 days to find all the 30-digit Keith Numbers. Suppose a million people join me in finding the 30-digit KNs, and 1 million computers run my software, it'll still take 10^23/10^7 = 10^16 days. Which is about twice the age of the Universe! Of course, if we involve all the 1 billion computers on this planet, and instead of doing 10 million a day, find a way to speed it up to 100 billion a day on each computer, then it'll take 10^30/10^11/10^9 = 10^10 days, which is still approximately 27 million years.

So how the hell am I gonna find a 30-digit Keith Number (if it even exists)? By pure luck :) My program just randomly generates 30 digit numbers and tests to see if they are KN or not. It has gone through about 8 million 30-digit numbers already. Of course that's like looking into a bucket of seawater from the Florida coast order to find the pearl necklace you threw into the Indian Ocean a million years ago. There's a VERY high probability that you won't find anything, but hey... who knows, you just might!

Oh and also I think there's more chance of me winning the World's Largest Powerball Lottery than finding a 30-digit Keith Number, even though I haven't even purchased a lottery ticket! But I guess it's good for my computer since it's getting some good exercise now :)

Work and LifeFri, 21st Jan '05, 10:25 pm::

My eye hurts a bit now but I'll survive. So anyways, I was reading Paul Graham's article What You'll Wish You'd Known from this Slashdot post and it got me thinking. Almost everyone I know has a life that's so closely related to their work. After all, most people spend 8-10 hours a day working. There's so many theories about the 'work' part of your life. Don't work so much that you don't enjoy your life. Don't give up on your ambitions (meaning spend all your free time working). Fight Club quote: "You are not your job. You are not the money in your bank account." And yet, all people talk about is where do you work? What do you do? Are you getting a promotion?

So where exactly does your 'work' fit into your 'life'? Of course, almost everyone will agree that your job is not your life. There's a lot to life than just working all the time. But think back to high-school, when everything you did was supposed to be towards your future job/business. We are taught from birth that work is work, play is play and work basically sucks. Unless you get a glamorous job, you're basically screwed. But is work really necessary? Do we really HAVE to work? There's some that say, we should abolish work. And then there's some that say, once we have progressed far enough, we can let the robots do the work. Well till we get to that stage, somebody's gotta clean the restrooms and somebody's gotta design the new system that'll run the manufacturing process. You gotta work to pay the bills. That's the reason why 99% of the people probably work.

And yet, at some point in everyone's life, they are told by someone wiser and older, that you gotta find what you love to do and find a way to make money out of it. I'm sure the guy who re-issues my driver's license at the Department of Motor Vehicles was told by his high-school counsellor that he must look deep within himself to find what he loves. And I'm even more sure that 're-issue driver's license' wasn't in his list. So I think most people just fall into the jobs they have, most of the times, not by choice but by the need. But it's those 1% that end up launching probes to Mars and Saturn's moon Titan, and building the world's tallest bridges. Of course, to love your job, you don't necessarily have to do something heroic, you could just as well be a happy tax accountant who loves helping out her clients.

Uh so what's my point? My point is, if you think you have a good job that you sincerely look forward to every morning, then you are by far amongst the luckiest people on this planet because hating something you do for 8 hours a day, 300+ days a year is not a good way to live. I, for one, am lucky as hell to have a job I love. But of course, there's strict rules about having a job you love. Do not under ANY circumstances, bring it home with you. Work is work, home is home, and the twain shall never meet. Ya, I think that's it from me. I should really go to bed. My eye still hurts...

Sat, 8th Jan '05, 1:50 pm::

I can't stop thinking about the new system I'm making at my work. It's gonna be awesome. I love my job :)

Tue, 23rd Nov '04, 9:40 pm::

You know nothing much happens in my life when I don't 'blog. Lately it's been the same routine. Wake up, go to work, come home, play with Giga and Tera, go to bed, wake up in the middle of the night because Tera is purring RIGHT NEXT TO MY EARS, try to sleep, wake up again because Giga is licking my hands, try to sleep, rinse, repeat. But no matter what, I love it. It's been so long since I was genuinely so happy. I look forward to coming home every single day.

Anyways, last night was pretty good. My friend Jessica was going to hit the bars in Tampa with her friend Dana from Kentucky. I drove up to O'Briens and waited as the crowd slowly poured in. Not a lot of casual drinkers on a Monday night - mostly the addicts stroll in ;) Anyways, we just talked about random stuff and had drinks for hours and hours. At two we decided it was time to eat something. Went to IHop next doors and had some good midnight snack. I went to bed around 3am. Woke up at 6am with the worst headache ever! I don't think it was the three Long-Island Ice-Teas though. It was just the total lack of sleep.

So all day at work I was walking around like a zombie. I got home today at 5:30pm and went straight to bed. I took a 4 hour nap and here I am now. My whole sleep pattern is so foobared. It's hard to party and be regular at the same time... It's either I grow up and be all matured and hit the bed exact time every night OR I just live my life and go out and do stuff whenever the opportunity presents itself. Tomorrow, work ends at 12pm for Thanksgiving Vacation and hopefully the coworkers and yours truly are going to sneak into multiple movies ;) Things are great overall. I don't remember last time I was so relaxed about life in general.

Only one major news - I'm making this REALLLLLLY big software for my work starting January. It will take me 6-9 months just to write the basic modules. However, once it's in place, it'll make a BIGGGGG difference to how we operate on a day-to-day basis. There's a lot of cool things I've planned for this software. Let's see if I can create all the features... And that's the news from St. Petersburg, Florida. Back to you Alex.

Tue, 16th Nov '04, 7:05 pm::

Work is going pretty good. One of my major projects is complete and today everyone started using the system I made. I am very excited about it - our new Inventory system. There are so many things I want to add to it and with time, I will. Had a long talk with my boss today about what my next few projects will be. I have a lot of work coming my way so I'll be busy for a while. But it's all good - I love my job.

Anyways I am quiet tired. I'll go to bed early tonight... Tomorrow is another long day...

Fri, 22nd Oct '04, 9:25 am::

MMMMMmmmmmmm. I love the dream I had this morning. Too bad I can't tell you what it was ;) And it's a bright beautiful morning. And everybody at work is so cheerful!

Wed, 13th Oct '04, 12:45 am::

I usually don't discuss my dates or love-life online but tonight I have to write it all out. Tonight was the single-most romantic night of my life. I met Ashlie - the sweetest most beautiful girl I know. I picked her up from her house in Tampa (30min drive in traffic). We had dinner at Carrabba's on Dale Mabry. We shared a Dessert Rosa and giggled like middle-school kids the whole time. Then we drove from Tampa to all the way in St. Petes - Indian Rocks Beach. We held hands while walking along the beach and kissed under the stars to the tune of the ocean waves. I just can't believe any of this is happening to me. I just can't.

Sun, 10th Oct '04, 2:45 pm::

I bought an awesome desk + chair combo and three UPS's for my three computers. Also bought a simple keyboard and lan cable. And I had pizza at Cici's. I love Sundays :)

Wed, 6th Oct '04, 8:45 pm::

No matter what good things I say about my job, something happens right after that tops it all. So after taking me to lunch for my birthday, today my boss and buddies Brian 'n Scott at work, decided to take me out to dinner. We went to this cute little restaurant in downtown St. Petes near the ocean-front. It was a British-India style restaurant with a wide variety of dishes on the menu. For me, it was Chana Masala. For them it was Chicken Tikka, Pasta, Salad, and Chicken Burger. We talked and chilled for about two hours and topped it off with yummy deserts - Chocolate Volcano for me :)

One of the reasons I love this job is not just the atmosphere but the real work itself. Right now I have to setup our inventory with barcodes. So here's the plan. We purchased Symbol PPT 8846 barcode scanner. It's runs WinCE 4.1 on Pocket PC x86 hardware. This tiny little device has a built in scanner, wireless ethernet card, and support for Microsoft .Net Compact Framework. It used to be that if anyone wanted to program devices like barcode scanners, remote controls etc., they would need to interface directly at the low hardware levels with the devices. Not so anymore. I can write full-fledged Visual Basic.Net or Visual C# applications that will run in the tiny 32mb ram scanner and perform all the required functions smoothly.

So basically I'm gonna have to program it in VB.Net to talk to our internal web server running WAMP (Windows, Apache, MySQL, PHP) over 802.11b network using XML. Here's what will happen: Anytime the scanner scans a barcode, it is sent to the web server that process the input and sends back an XML document which will be parsed by my VB.Net software and displayed to the user for further input. So basically, I can walk around with the device and scan random barcodes of all our inventory and simply enter the physical quantity of stock and all the computer systems will be automatically updated. This is by far one of the coolest things I've ever worked with. I can barely sleep at night because I'm thinking about what I want to program the next morning. Eight hours of coding a day is simply not enough. I want more!

Wed, 22nd Sep '04, 6:50 pm::

I love my temporary tattoo :)

Mon, 13th Sep '04, 11:55 pm::

God I LOVE working with The Dilly folks! It's almost as cool as my real job :) Of course I love my real job more because of the people there. But still, I love both my jobs a lot. I'm so lucky!

Sat, 4th Sep '04, 5:25 pm::

I love how there's all these ads on TV right now saying, "Come visit the beautiful beaches of St. Petersburg." Dumbasses!

Wed, 1st Sep '04, 2:25 pm::

I just realized I love programming too much.

Sat, 7th Aug '04, 8:05 pm::

This is going to be a very different 'blog entry than usual. For the first time in four years I'm regretting my decision to come to the United States of America. This isn't something that has been nagging me for weeks or months. This isn't something that is troubling me a lot. But it is something that I think differentiates what I think of myself and what people see me as. Right now everyone who knows me, thinks I am on the way to 'success,' whatever success is. They see me as standing on my own two feet, set in life with respect to career and education, and on my way to making it big. I'm not denying the fact that in four years I got two BS degrees, worked 3 different jobs, found an apartment and a car, and settled down in Florida. What I disagree with, is everyone's definition of "set-in-life."

Four years ago when I left India, I had the love of my family and friends right next to me 24/7. I had a pretty good job at my dad's friend's company (Rajda) and if I had stuck there, I'd prolly be "set" by now. Or maybe not. Who knows. But anyways, in this last four years, while I've gained a lot of material things, I've also lost a lot of important things. Right now I'm living in the middle of nowhere and know nobody. No family, no friends, no love. It's as if I suddenly woke up and everybody I knew had disappeared. I walk out of my house and I just see rows and rows of strangers. I smile at them and our interaction often ends after they smile back.

My work life is great. I can't believe I actually found such a homely loving company to work at. I think that has been my experience since I came to US. I find the greatest people to work with, those who truly appreciate my efforts, skills, and experience, while on the other hand, my social life has been full of disappointment and worst-nightmares-coming-true. When I finally made a bunch of great friends in Jersey, I moved on to Florida where I'm back to zero.

What I HATE right now is everyone from Jersey telling me to go out and make new friends. How exactly am I supposed to do that? It was easy in college, you just make friends talking in class or living in dorms. It's absolutely different out in the real world. I can't just walk upto a bunch of people and expect them to befriend me. So ya, things get kinda lonely on weekend here. I dunno why I'm so angry right now. I think it's most probably because I couldn't go running today.

So anyways, back to regretting coming to US. Yes I'm having doubts right now. Why? Because in four years, nothing has improved, rather gotten worse. I'm alone, single, and far away from everyone who loves me. Don't email me saying I should deal with it because I chose to take this step. I already know that everything I did, I did it consciously and with enough forethought. But what I'm realizing now, is that I over-estimated my capacity to deal with loneliness. I thought I blossom in solitude. Turns out, after a while being alone 24/7 gets kinda crazy.

Picture this, I came into my apartment at 6pm on Friday. Next time I get to go out of my apartment is 8am Monday. In that duration, I've seen no people. There's nothing to do when it's raining so bad outside. I'm literally house-arrested and it's one of the worst feelings ever. My dad's probably smiling right now, thinking I told you to stay in India. Maybe he really was right. America is a great country and I have nothing to say against it. But right now, I'm holding on to a shattered American Dream. I'm probably decades away from money, power, fame, and love. Isn't that what constitutes the American Dream? Somewhere in the middle of all this, is lost my desire to further my education. Maybe that's what is bothering me so much. I love the working man's life, the routine, the schedules, the meetings, but I also miss the learning, the new people, the well-versed teachers.

I know this 'blog entry is all over the place and I'm probably not thinking straight right now. But I dunno what to make of all this. Is this really what I came to US for? Sure, I have a great place to live, but I had it 4 years ago too. Sure I have a nice car, but I had it when I turned 18. So I work in a great place, hell I loved Rajda a lot too. I never complained. So why exactly did I leave India... I don't know... Somebody please remind me why I am here...

Maybe I'm just very homesick right now. It's been over two years since I saw my family. I think it's just that. I miss them a lot and there's nobody here to make me forget about them. Before I start crying I must end this 'blog right away.

Mon, 19th Jul '04, 8:45 pm::

A good day at work really boosts my confidence level. However, I think confidence is something that should come out from within and not be affected by good or bad days. Growing up, I used to think that there will come a day when I'll realize that yes, I've grown up now. Yet till now I feel just like a kid. I do what most grown ups do and I'd like to think that my maturity level is appropriate to my age but in my heart, I still feel like a kid. Now I don't mean the poetic notion of there being a child in every adult's heart. I mean I still haven't come to terms with the fact that I am 23, living by myself, working full-time. I feel like I belong in school, reading and writing.

Maybe that's my problem. A decade and a half of studies and I'm subconsciously unwilling to leave it all behind me. My mind's accustomed to looming homeworks and due papers. Somehow the freedom of being an independent adult is alien to me. Of course, I enjoy every minute of it. It rocks that I don't have to stay up late nights pouring over annoying classes I never wanted to take anyway. It's awesome that I can watch as much TV as I want without one bit of guilt arising. And best of all, I love the pace of life here in Florida - not too fast, not too slow.

My friend Erik is thoroughly enjoying being a small cog in a very big corporate machine. I, on the other hand, have selected to be an integral part in a small firm. Like he says, everything I do has a direct impact on the day-to-day workings of the company (or so I hope). That is in essence why I think I moved down to Florida. I cannot let myself be lost amidst the aisle of cubicles in a Big Apple behemoth. I'd rather get my tiny office in the middle of nowhere and slowly grow till I am satisfied.

Oh well, stuff like that takes time and years of effeort. But days like today make me believe in myself.

Sun, 18th Jul '04, 1:55 pm::

I've realized that often times I "find" myself while I do the most mundane chores. I was just ironing my work clothes, listening to songs on the radio, when suddenly something hit me. For a moment I was in sync with the world and the universe. As boring as ironing is, for a flick second I pressed the perfect crease and knew everything is going alright.

Why do I wonder if everything is going alright or not? I don't know. I guess I'm still confused about my life long goals. I told my boss that one of my goals was to keep learning throughout my life. I guess that goal will be fulfilled in time but in the meantime, I wonder if I'm going on the right track. Right now I have everything new - new job, new apartment, new car, new soocer cleats... but is this what I really want? I don't know. From the point of view of others I most probably have it "set" but I personally don't know. I love my work and try to spend as much time and energy as I can doing my bit to turn our company into a major success. But other than that, where am I going...

For some reason I don't feel like making new softwares and personal websites anymore. I guess it's cuz that's what I do at work for 8-9 hrs a day. What I do enjoy lately is cooking real simple stuff - from boiling potatoes to making pasta. I'm a miserably bad cook but I still find it pleasing to come home after a long day at work and cook up small meal. My running is going so-so. Last week was great but this week after the soccer practice on Monday, I've been too sore to run. This morning I ran 1.5 miles in 16 minutes. At 6:30 tonight I'm going to play some more soccer with Brian.

All in all, this is my life. Wake up, go to work, run/soccer, cook, chat with friends from Jersey, go to bed. Rinse, repeat. Weekends are slightly more relaxed. Yesterday I swam in the pool while I did my laundry. Then went to Walmart for some groceries (mostly fruits and vegetables). I guess I'm as settled as I could've been in just over a month.

But I do miss home. Hell I don't even know where is home - India or Jersey because I miss both equally. I don't think I'll make as many friends here in Florida as I made in Jersey simply because that was a college environment. But I'm hopeful. I met a buncha nice folks already, from Brian and Scott at work to Lynn, Heather, Ursula, and Dan. Who knows, someday I might even meet that special someone.

Till then I know what I have to do... You guessed it right - iron my frigging clothes! I still have 5 pants and 12 shorts to iron. So I better get back to it...

Tue, 18th May '04, 11:45 pm::

Today is the one year anniversary of moving into my bunker :) Here's to one amazing year in a tiny little place that has provided me shelter for months and many a peaceful days. Oh bunker I love thee like thou art a palace for the richest of the kings :) And coincidentally just today I got a call from the manager of my new apartment in Florida! Hopefully everything's gonna work out now *crossing my fingers*.

Fri, 14th May '04, 2:10 pm::

I haven't 'blogged in a while because I don't have much to say. Today I feel an urge to share. A lot of changes are going to happen in my life now that I've completed my undergraduate studies. I'm graduating with BS in Comp Sci, BA in Econ, Math minor, Honors College. Hopefully my GPA's gonna be 3.9+ since I already got 3 A's and 1 B; the results of my Math class are not out yet. I don't have terribly high student loans and if my calculations are correct (thankfully they often are), they should be paid up within 12 months.

On June 12th I leave for Florida, an entirely new life. It's extremely scary and challenging. My client/boss called me up the other day telling me how excited he is that I am joining his firm. I have big plans for his company too and I know how to get them in place but I'm gonna be the only one doing all the IT work. So things are definitely going to be tough. I'm only 23 but the responsibilities are that of someone with 15 years of experience. Leaving all your friends, family, people at existing job, and going to a new place, new job, working with new people - honestly it's a big change. But, it only feels big when I think about it. If I don't think about how much of a change it is, it feels trifling - so I'm just moving to Florida to work for my client. No biggie. Hehe. From your point-of-view I'm sure it appears that way, Chirag making the big bucks and having a great job. From my point-of-view it is coming home everyday from a great day at work but having nobody to talk to.

Hopefully I'll make new friends in the kickass place that I'm moving to. Get this... it's a 1020 sq.ft. apartment with patio/balcony, two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, huge livingroom, walk-in closets for only $625/month! I'm paying over $500 for a TINY one-bedroom, bathroom apartment in Jersey. Gotta love Florida. And I'm getting a two-bedroom apartment because you can come and stay with me if you come to Florida. Yes you, whoever you are, you're welcome to my humble apartment :)

So I got an A in my research but still have a lot of work to complete. I hope to continue my work-relationship with my professor but I don't know if that's going to be easy long-distance. Oh and I'm not giving up my dreams of Masters (or MBA) and PhD. That is definitely coming in the next few years.

Right now I'm talking to my sister online. She's the best sister in the world and we all know it :)

Job, Career, New lifeTue, 13th Apr '04, 7:45 am::

Here comes the long overdue lengthy 'blog entry. Lately I've been busy with too many things in my "real" life. So as you must have heard it by now, I have a job offer in St. Petersburg, Florida. My client wants to hire me full-time and will take care of my work visa (H1B etc.) requirements. The salary is good and my responsibilities are managable (or so I think). Here's what I've been upto:

Took a JetBlue flight to Florida on Friday night at 6:55pm. My online friend Taylor picked me up from the airport and brought me to his home. Turns out, just like his online persona, Tay is a real cool guy and despite his warning that in two days we'd be hating each other, we're still great friends; REAL friends now, not ONLINE anymore. After all, once I move to Florida, he's probably going to be one of a handful of people I know. So it's in my best interest to be nice to him *grin*

Next morning was the main interview with my client. It's always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed said Tay's dad. So over-dressed in a suit I went to my client's office, courtesy of Tay and his white pickup (more on the pickup truck later). Now about my client and soon to be boss... He is one of those people that you can instantly see made his own wealth from scratch. Very well-spoken and big-heart, he welcomed me into his office building like I owned it. My quite casual interview went on for the next six hours! My uncle had told me managerial positions aren't given by short 'n stout IQ tests but rather by long active personal examinations. Basically my client wanted to see whether my personality would fit in with his company or not.

To my pleasure, he thought I would fit in great and wants me to start working as soon as I graduate. I have a couple of commitments in Jersey (my work, my new apartment lease etc.) due to which I might be slightly delayed. But otherwise I'm trying to relocate as soon as I can. After all, Florida is beautiful and the work environment was great. Having been brought up in an mini-entreprenueral environment, I feel more at home as a manager in a small firm than a widget in a behemoth corporation. My dad owns his business and while I never said I want to inherit his particular business or form some startup with VCs etc., I've always looked at my work as if I own it. There is a spectrum of mentalities when it comes to responsibilities and I lie on one end, treating my work as if the outcome affects my whole company directly. At the other end of the band are most people who would love to get a job in Microsoft and Morgan Stanley - their work affects their bonuses. In between are people who partly care about the company and partly care about their packages. It's not about which mentality is right or wrong, it's more about can you find a place where you can fit in. Given my entreprenueral mentality, I think I'd fit better into a small company with broader responsibilities than in a large company with extremely specific job requirements. The big companies are doing fine without me. It's the small company where I can actually make a difference as well as learn what hard work and sleepless nights are all about. So yes, I'm fully aware my new job isn't going to be a cakewalk by any standards. Unless I interpreted things wrongly, it's going to be very difficult and I have a lot of goals to achieve in a very short time. Oh well, I've managed before and can do it again. The only difference this time is that now I know I must take care of my health before anything else.

During the interview I met one of my client's coolest employees and we went to lunch to The Dish. Interesting concept - you collect any amount of vegetables, fruits, mushrooms etc. in a bowl and sauces in another bowl and hand it over to the cook. Right in front of you they heat it all up together on a HUGE stove and hand it back to you. It was one of the best things I've ever eaten! Who knew broccoli could ever taste this good. Just thinking about The Dish makes me hungry. After lunch the interview continued and my client's wife walked in sometime around 3pm.

Now here's the critical part. Since the beginning of the interview, I was also interviewing my client in my head. I wanted to be sure that I was going to work at a place where the atmosphere was professional, systematic, and yet had some amount of homeliness and familial values. While my client proved to me within the first hour that his company is strong and growing, I still wasn't sure whether the work environment would be comfortable enough. I don't mind strict suit and tie formalities but being alone in this country for years to come, I want to work in a place which I can call home, simply because after work I gotta go back to an empty nest, obviously not home. And then one question she asked got rid of every doubt I had: "How is your cousin?" I'm just amazed that my client told her about Keval and that she remembered. It meant a lot to me. That's when I realized I'd found a new home and moving to Florida would be just like moving from my home in Calcutta to my aunt's home in Jersey.

Interview ended at 4:30pm and Tay being the coolest guy ever picked me up. One phone call after next, I estimate I spent $50 just one phone calls in that one day to inform everyone close to me that I am "gainfully" employed now. Tay's stepmom cooked some awesome Fettuccine Alfredo with vegetables for us for dinner and suggested a good comedy club we could go to. She basically knows every nook 'n cranny of the state. I told Taylor that people like her are the duct-tape that hold our society together, like my grandma and aunt, they take care of everyone and everything simply because they feel like they must. This is what I did at the Coconut Comedy Club: One Margarita, two Margarita, Motorcyle, Floor! Just kidding! I wasn't drunk at all. Seriously. No really. Trust me. I swear!!!!!!

Anyways, next morning we left for Universal Studios early and enjoyed about 5 rides/shows in 5 hours. It had been a while since I had just let loose and got the hell scared out of me - Back to the Future was the best. And then after the rides I kicked some Tay-butt in Ice Hockey and he danced like a chicken while playing Dance Dance Extreme Revolution Version XVII or something like that. As funny as he looked while doing it, I gotta admit there's NO way I can move that fast - not even if there's a gun on my head. So props to him.

The last ride that scared the HELL outta me was in his pickup truck from Universal Studios to the airport - the gas tank was EMPTY!!! There were no gas stations in sight and inside my head I was literally going crazy. I tried to stay as calm as I can but I knew something was gonna go wrong - after all my trip had been so wonderful and nothing is perfect ever! I'm gonna miss the flight! I'm gonna miss the stupid flight! Urghhhhhhh! Thankfully we found a gas station before the tank ran out and the ride to the airport thereafter was pretty smooth.

The only sad part was saying bye to him at the airport and early that morning, to his family. But the good thing is I'm moving to Florida and will be seeing more of them. Then the sad part will be saying bye to EVERYONE IN JERSEY!!! I admit it already - I'm gonna cry. I'll cry when I leave my present work and cry when I leave my friends and most of all when I leave my aunt's home. This is gonna suck major. Oh well, I'm a cruel bastard who keeps doing this to people ALL the time!

Mon, 22nd Mar '04, 10:30 pm::

Had a long day today. Got 3 exams back. Did ok in all of them (nothing great to be proud of though). It's my last semester and I don't really give a damn anymore to B+ or A's. I have a 3.9 and there's no way I can make it back to a 4.0. So screw grades :) I got better stuff to do, like my research.

Had dinner with the Mich and been working thereafter. Gotta do some homework. I had absolutely forgotten about studies during Spring Break. I can't wait till I'm out of college. Just two more months. And when I get into Masters, I hope I don't have to do stupid exams and stuff anymore. But I think I'll have to. I love learning for knowledge. I hate studying for exams. After Bachelors, exams should be optional. I'd rather write thesis papers at my own disposal.

Fri, 19th Mar '04, 10:35 pm::

Keval has been taken out of the ICU and put in a normal hostpital room. He is breathing on his own and we all know he is fighting hard. We love him a lot and yes I dream about him almost every other day. I don't know why all of a sudden so many dreams about him. Its over two months since he's in coma and I guess I've finally come to terms with the whole deal. One of the early stages of experiencing trauma is disbelief or disassociation. Next is realization and then comes acceptance. I guess I'm somewhere between the last two stages. I just hope I was close to my Paresh Uncle 'n Rita Aunty right now. I used to think my parents were loving. From what I hear both of them have been doing to save and recover their son, they are the best father and mother alive. And if you believe in God, pray for Keval.

Fri, 19th Mar '04, 10:20 pm::

I called my parents the other day and my dad joked that he had this dream about something. It's a joke because according to him, he never has dreams. I, on the other hand, have all the dreams, nightmares, lucid episodes, aural halucinations and every spooky sleep-related thing you can think of. While I wouldn't want to give him my nightmares, I sure wouldn't mind outsourcing a dream or two every now and then. I remember the days when I used to hit the bed and next thing I knew, 'twas morning.

My last theory about proper sleeping-habits to avoid nightmares certainly failed. No matter what time I go to bed, the last 4-5 hours of my sleep are without fail, elaborate reconstructions of some messed up world where everyone I know lives on the same block and talks in the same language. Everyone knows everyone and nobody is too busy for a chat. Basically every person in my dream just sits around yapping. Whoa that sounds great! Doesn't it? A happy-go-smiley world of loving and joy? Hardly so. It's a dysfunctional mix of Seinfeld meets Friends meets Sex and the City meeds Family Guy meets South Park meets The World's. Most. Stupidest. Conversations. Ever! You'd think I would love the free entertainment but after a long day of thinking and coding and studying and analysing and researching, the last thing I want is more mind-numbing thoughts. After all my brain still has to work on making these stupid dreams. Sometimes you just want to click the shut down button in your mind. And sorry no pills, alcohol, drugs, or anything of that sort for me. I thought working out and running would help but they don't.

Maybe you have a suggestion?

Thu, 18th Mar '04, 10:45 am::

I just had a beautiful dream. I was in India at Keval's apartment and we were all talking while Keval was resting in bed in the other room. I just walked across the room and caught a glance at Keval. He was sitting in his bed praying to God. He turned his head at me, smiled, and then went back to sleep. He didn't say anything but the look on his face said that he's soon going to be back! Even if none of my own dreams, goals, wishes ever come true, I hope this dream comes true. You should have seen the smile on his face... I love you bro and we all miss you very much.

Sun, 14th Mar '04, 2:30 pm::

I would love to write a long boring 'blog on how vacations/breaks and sickness go hand-in-hand in my life but my nose is too stuffy and my eyes are too strained. I got nothing major, just a bad case of cold. Gotta go rest now and intake some more fluids.

Fri, 12th Mar '04, 3:15 pm::

Today's one of those days when everything is bright and clear. Been pretty good so far. Got a lot of important paperwork done. Then delivered a presentation for my Financial Economics class that was praised by the professor. And then cometh the news that maketh the day: My new lease on life - I just signed a contract with my future landlord (from June 1st) for this BEAUTIFUL ground-floor apartment that is even closer to my work! I rented out the whole ground-floor of the house and here's what I'm getting: A living room, bedroom, separate kitchen with tons of cabinets, full bathroom, my own backyard (!!!!), two closets, private entrance, and a nice study desk. The place is aboue 600 sq. ft. and a married couple currently lives there. I went last night to check it out and absolutely fell in love with the nice carpet and clean walls. Hey I'm going to be graduating and I can't live in shambles anymore.

While the rent at $650+ is quite high in absolute terms, considering the amount of space and facilities I am getting, this place is a steal. Right now I'm paying $500+ to live in a place that's one third the size of my new apartment. While I love my current place (it's great for a student), I do realize after I graduate in May, as a full-time employee, it'll feel quite odd living in a tiny bunker (which I still love!)

Anyways, I barely have enough furniture for one tiny room so moving into a full apartment is gonna require some serious shopping. Sneh and Michele have both separately decided to customize my humble abode. I just hope my place doesn't turn into a fusion between hip-hop and garba.

Mon, 1st Mar '04, 12:45 pm::

I love weird coincidences, like the mark of the beast (the number 666) appearing on movie tickets to Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ.

Thu, 26th Feb '04, 4:55 am::

Just got this email from my sister:

"Keval opened his eyes a little bit for a few times since last night. That means he might get conscious in a few days. We are again planning to go to Mumbai in holi holidays, that's next week. Lets pray together."
Love,
Bena
[means sister in Gujarati]

I suddenly feel so relieved. May I can finally sleep now.

Relationship BreakersSat, 21st Feb '04, 12:20 am::

I've been chatting with my new friend Jyotsna for a while today and I discussed with her this new theory about relationships that I came up with sometime today. Even if you've never had a steady relationship (I know I haven't), you can easily associate with what follows. How is it that two absolutely different people with nothing in common fall in love? How is it that two perfectly compatible people with a lot of things in common hate each other? But then we also know so many people who love each other mainly because they share variety of things in common. And of course everyone knows couples who are so different that they can't even stand being in the same city as each other.

While obvious characteristics like personality, backgrounds, love, emotions, sense of humor, and physical appearances explain most of the attraction, there's always something missing from this picture. What's missing is "expectation of emotional depth." When a person meets someone, he/she has an expectation of how emotionally deep (or sensitive) their partner should be. Take a couple we normally deem emotionally shallow: a frat boy and a drunk sorority girl. They meet each other at a late night party, things seem to work out well, next thing we know they're deeply in love. It doesn't matter if neither of them know or even care how the other really feels. As long as things seem to work out well, they'll stay together. Moreover, just because their love isn't based on years of perseverance or suffering, it doesn't mean it is any less stronger than that of Romeo and Juliet. Love is love, as long as it is honest and both of them believe in it.

But maybe a few weeks later, she starts telling her best friend that he seems too involved in his own life and doesn't pay any attention to her. Maybe he tells his buddies that he wants to break up with her since she's too clingy. It could be a role reversal and she could be shocked at how "needy" he seems to be, while he mopes to his closest friend that she doesn't treat him well. Whatever the truth be, in the end both of them blame each other and they part ways. They may say that the other was not "right for me" and they're quite correct in that. But it's not because someone talks too fast or drives too slow that you break up with them. It's the emotional expectations. The girl subconsciously expected the boy to be emotionally carefree, like the typical cliched guy. He turned out too much of an emotional burden, with his love of classical literature or tragic operas. The guy could have expected the girl to be emotionally reciprocating whereas she turned out to be an emotional vagabond who just wanted to live life without getting too attached. Is either of them wrong in expecting some level of emotional depth in their mate? Of course not. And is either of them at fault for not being able to meet their partner's unspoken expectations? No way.

We see gorgeous, famous celebrities worth millions of dollars marry their attendants or makeup artists. Are they blind?! Don't they wonder if they "deserve" someone better? Well there's always someone better out there. But why do it? Because their attendant truly imparts them the emotional stability they seek. Love develops with time and may take a while before the couple realizes it. But it doesn't take too long to realize that wow I feel so comfortable around this person.

One major problem with subliminal expectations is that not being satisfied causes actions that do not relate to the emotions at all. Couples bicker over pesky faucet brands and indistinguishable tile colors without realizing that it's not just how the other is in bed or in front of guests, but more so the fact that they keep disappointing each other with their curt replies and lack of smiles. One of them just "doesn't understand" the other. We hear that on every whiny TV show. What does that mean anyway? It means that almost everyone unduly expects their partner to fulfill their emotional needs. But not just fulfill emotional needs, because sometimes a good movie can do that, they expect their partner to have some amount of emotional stability. If they don't find that foundation, comfort and familiarity give way to alienation and subconscious resentment. Think of it like our body's defense system. While the body is receptive to foreign substances like food and water, it launches a secret attack on any object it seems threatening or incompatible. Maybe our brain works like that too. Once we realize that someone is not as per our secret specifications, we launch a silent nagging attack to bug the hell out of them and soon get rid of them. Works most of the times too.

So in the end, we keep looking for people to fit into our preset molds of emotional anchors. What I have realized from all this? The fact that she doesn't like computers or loves Office Space doesn't really matter much. There is an unseen bond and it's either tied or broken and neither of us can do anything about it. Well I can try to seduce her with my moon-shining-hip-shaking-beer-belly-dancing moves but that's about it. Rest is upto the dendrites and axons.

Tue, 17th Feb '04, 3:15 pm::

This is one of the million reasons why I love India.

Mega-Super-Giga WeddingsSun, 15th Feb '04, 2:25 am::

I was searching for something online and chanced upon this mega-wedding in Lucknow, India. Seems like the son of Sahara India corporation is getting married and for some reason every celebrity, VIP, politician is there. Hell even Bill Clinton was supposed to be there but couldn't make it! And that was followed by 101 couples tying knots in a group ceremony. I don't think I will ever even remotely understand our Indian fascination of big weddings.

Personally I hate ten days of ceremonies and events, even though almost EVERYONE I know loves them. I don't know when, where, and how I will get married, but I do know that it won't be as flashy as every other wedding. Well that is as long as my bride-to-be is ok with that. Haha. I think that's the real reason guys go along with these weddings. Because of the girls. Tomorrow every girl I know is going to beat me up for saying everything that follows, but oh well, bring it on! Girls love flashy weddings. And diamonds and gold and silver - but NOT because they are expensive, but because they're ooooooooh sooooo shiny! The guys just want to get over with it as painlessly as possible. I'm sure I make a gross generalized statement on behalf of all guys when I say this, but come on, which guy in here doesn't agree with me on this one: Men don't care about the little ribbons around every glass and chocolates wrapped in cute little silver foils. So why do men go through it?

Maybe the elusive "love" really makes a man blind. Maybe he thinks this will make the girl stop nagging him. Or maybe, just maybe, he realizes that the beautiful girl he wishes to marry absolutely deserves the grandest of the weddings for she is truly the love of his life and the bane of his existence. I don't know if that will ever happen to me. I'm not bitter or jaded; just not as naive as I was a few years ago.

I think you have to be at one of the three stages in life to decide that "Ok this is the woman I want to hear scream my name in hell-raising fury everytime I forget to put down the toilet seat." The first stage, as I said before, is of naivete, between the ages of post-puberty and early adulthood. This is when you are 19 and in "love" for the first time. You have met a pretty damsel with enchanting eyes and want to spend every silly second of your life with her though you barely know her last name. I have no qualms in admitting that I have felt like this before. And not just once, many many times. Now if only polygamy were allowed I'd be one happy chap. But alas it is not, so I must wait until I hit the second or the third stage.

The second stage is when you are moving from your late twenties into your early thirties. You have had a series of relationships and a fair share of thankful and regrettable breakups. You have seen everything the feminine gender has to offer and yet for some reason you choose not to stick to any of them. Then your best friend's kid goes into grade-school and gets an A in crayon-painting. You remember how great it felt two decades ago when you got that A in spelling class too. And that's when it hits you. You don't have too much time to spare if you plan on having a family of your own. Sure, for years you laughed it off as something suckers with no ambitions do but now that your job is stable (and boring), that marriage thing sure sounds sweet.

If you're in India, you'd get your parents to start searching a nice bride for you. Since you are 31, you aren't exactly going to meet a pretty 20 year old. You'll end up saying 'yes' to whoever is available. On the other hand, if you're an expendable sprocket at some mega-corp in New York City, you go back into your closet to find that blackbook and see if any of the homely girls you once liked are still single. Chances are they're not. And that's when you decide to get married to whoever says 'yes' first. In either case, the marriage will be however she wants it - flashy, extravagant, ostentatious - in other words, expensive. Well what else do you expect? You were too busy being a free little bird when you had the chance to propose to that nice girl but didn't since you thought she was too clingy. Now you don't have a choice my brother.

And then there's the third stage. This is more like the thirteenth hour that strikes once a blue moon. Not everyone enters the magical third stage for it is shrouded by mystical clouds of bad dates, stalking ex's, hopeless setups, and shameful hookups; visible only to ones truly in love. This is when you have known someone for half a decade but feel like it has been forever. You never really loved her as madly as that hot chic from choir but you never really lived your life without her either. She knows how many Advils you take everytime you have a headache. You know how many hours it means everytime she says "just two more minutes." Both of you know what the other likes in their subs and sandwiches and both of you know everyone in the other's family. Being good friends, you spent a lot of time together but never really thought about being a couple, since neither of you is a fantasy of the other. When all of a sudden, one day, love happens. Out of the blue and unexpectedly spontaneous. It doesn't make sense! You are friends not lovers. This is so wrong. But it feels so right. You are not made for each other yet you cannot be without each other. But this isn't love. Love is supposed to be all natural and at first sight. Love is supposed to be tingly with butterflies-in-tummy. Love is supposed to be what they show in the movies and car commercials and beer ads. Or is it?

I don't think I can say what it is at this moment. Maybe some day I will. I hope when I get married, it is in the mysterious third stage and not the dreaded second; chances of the naive first stage are pretty much nil. Till then, I'll just take whatever life has to offer me.

Tue, 10th Feb '04, 2:15 am::

Exactly a year ago I did my laundry. Interestingly I'm still using the same bottle of detergent. I don't know why washing my clothes interests me so much that I always blog about it. It is one of those things that most people hate doing because it's boring and I think that's exactly why I find it so amusing. No, I don't love doing laundry or ever look foward to it. In fact I delay it 2-3 weeks if I can, hell even a month! But once it's all done, it gives me such a pleasure that now I can choose what to wear!

Most of my daily activities (school, work, web design) make me think and be creative. Almost everything I have to do, requires conscious analysis and logical thought-process. But every once in a while I find something that I can do without thinking. Laundry is one, so is paper-cutting. I know this sounds odd coming from me, but I love taking a pair of scissors and just cutting it into interesting shapes or alphabets. It's so simple yet takes so much finesse. I love it like a 5 year old loves crayons. Oh I should probably buy me a coloring book too. How I miss the simple pleasures of life.

Fri, 30th Jan '04, 6:30 pm::

I just spent 30 minutes walking on the snow for no apparent reason. Well there's a reason and I'll explain that later. Last 24 hours have been extremely blog-worthy. I don't remember so many different things ever happening within such a short duration. Almost every problem I had yesterday seems possible to solve now. Yesterday I went to the Goldman Sachs Internship Presentation on campus. Between 6:30 and 8:30, I got a good overview of what working in the corporate world after getting out of college could be like. While I was quite intimidated in the beginning during the DVD presentation, later after talking to the recruiters, things seemed a lot more homely. Goldman Sachs is one of the largest investment banking firms in the world and being a Computer Science and Economics major, I could either join the Technology sector or the Banking sector of the company. Obviously I'm leaning towards the tech side.

After talking to a few people from different divisions, I met with the Technology guy, who talked to me for about 25-30 minutes. While they were looking for 2nd and 3rd year college students to intern at GS over the summer, he said if my background is strong enough, I could be considered for a full-time position. At the end, I gave him a copy of my resume (or MS Word) and after getting back to my bunker, emailed him a copy just-in-case. Today I got an email from him saying I need to be more descriptive in my resume and explain which platforms and languages I used for which systems/applications. Here's a tip he gave me: "When applying for Tech-jobs, don't pay attention to the 1-2 page limitation because we want to hear EVERYTHING that you know." So now I'm going to release an Extended Edition of my resume and send it over. I wish I had read these resume tips before.

While waiting in line to talk to him for 30 minutes, another interesting thing happened. This cute 18yr old Russian girl standing behind me started talking to me. While she seemed really nice and all, in my head I kept saying "don't be distracted by a girl - you are here for a job!" After 15 minutes of polite small-talk though, she said she loved computers and wanted to get into the Technology field ever since she was a child. She doesn't party a lot and would rather read a good book or go to a museum instead. That's when sirens went off in my head. Whoa there lady! You're young, pretty, quite intelligent, like to learn new things, AND love computers? That's a first one I have to admit. During my talk with the Tech guy, she stood right by me and she asked a few questions herself. Afterwards we walked out together, she took my cell# and AIM screenname. I'm not sure if she'll ever call or IM me, but hey at least it was an interesting incident. Maybe I'll run into her on a bus sometime. But for now, all I know is her first name is Ally.

Three days ago after reading some whiny British students say how hard it is to pay tuition fees of £1,125 a year, I posted on Fark that my debt is so much more than them and the job market doesn't look good at all. After reading my post, someone emailed me to say he's hiring people with C++ experience in Texas. Now my first reaction was "haha funny" but I emailed him my resume anyway and today got a phone call from his Human Resources Dept. I have a phone interview this Monday at noon. Till about one hour ago, I wasn't too keen on this deal, till I Google'd the guy's name. That's when I got a little shock. Unless the guy who emailed me has an identical twin living in the same city and doing the same tech work, I think he is someone quite quite famous. A little bit of Googl'ing showed that he wrote this chat software and sold to Apple for $25 million! So let's see if it's the same guy or not.

And finally I met with my research advisor Prof. Dinesh Pai and he suggested a few things I could do. One of the topics I liked was sound synthesis. That is why I walked on the snow for 30 mins. Prof said that I could find a way to generate the sound that is made when a person walks on the snow. Right now when movies and video games have people walking, it's mostly recorded sound. What if I could write a software that automatically simulates the sound based on a few conditions like the type of shoes, thickness of the sole, weight of the person, amount of snow (or sand, gravels, pebbles), and the type of surface like wood, cement, concreate etc.? Well if I can actually do it, that would be awesome. Now I have about 3 months in which I can either do it or fail trying. I think I'll do it. I'm optimistic.

So that ends the eventful 24-hours. Now I wait for a few hours and will prolly go to the bars with Kat. Haven't seen her for a loooong time now.

Tue, 20th Jan '04, 2:00 am::

Keval just moved his jaws!!!!!! After 2 days on life-support system my cousin just showed some motion. Doctors are still saying that the situation is critical. But now we have much more hope. And of course he moved his jaws. He loves food :) My earliest childhood memory of Keval is him jumping as high as he could to grab the sacred onions hung outside the doors of his neighbours to ward off evil spirits. Seeing as how many onions he stole and instantly ate, I'm sure the neighbour's house was always haunted by monsters.

Thank you whoever is up there. Thanks a lot. Now we wait till he stands up on his own feet and gets a loving hug from the hundreds of people who love him.

The only KevalSat, 17th Jan '04, 1:35 pm::

My cuzin Keval from Bombay is right now in a hospital in Goa. At about 3:30 PM Indian Standard Time today he had a severe accident while riding a motorcycle. He suffered injury to brain and eyes. After a successful brain surgery, doctors say he is in critical condition for the next 48 hours. My whole family is extremely worried at this moment. I don't have a brother but he's closer to me than a real brother. I got news that things are better now and that I shouldn't worry. As always, my dad said "Don't worry. God is with us." I'm sorry but I can't stop worrying. I am considering flying off to India in case the situation doesn't get better in a day or two.

I love you Keval. And I have faith that you will recover fully vey soon.

Thu, 8th Jan '04, 5:45 pm::

Man it's damn cold outside. I love it between 30-40F. But right now it is 16F (that is -9C) and it's windy too. Tomorrow, it's going as low as 6F (-14C). Welp, I do have a really thick winter jacket so it's not gonna be too much of a pain.

I've just been working non-stop all week. Got a lotta papers to file too. Things are pretty calm right now. No people at all around the campus. Oddly enough, I like it better this way. I remember such emptiness around the campus kinda bothered me over the summer. Now I think I've learnt that there is something more important than having hundreds of cute girls walking around the campus, something that truly matters: NO LINES WHATSOEVER. All the fast-food places and administrative office are open fully and there are no students, meaning I can get my food and file in the required forms without any delay :) It rocks.

Tue, 30th Dec '03, 4:25 pm::

I miss living at home and doing things the parents/elders told me NOT to do. And I miss not doing things they told me to do. Oh well, but I totally love how I can wake up at 4pm and not have to answer any questions :)

Figure out stuffSun, 28th Dec '03, 7:55 pm::

I just saw one of the most beautiful girls in my life and she asked me for "some spare change!!!" I swear. I was walking down to my fav. mexican restaurant (Tijuana Burritos) to get some food. She was dressed in cheap/torn clothes and was holding some total bum's hand as she walked down the street. As soon as she saw me, she let him go and came to me with a real sad look on her face and asked for some spare change because she was very hungry and hadn't eaten in days.

I just walked on, didn't pay attention (and didn't want her tall fierce looking guy to come after me). Sad world I tell you. It didn't look like she was an abused helpless woman. More like a totally screwed-up-in-the-head college dropout. Sad sad. So then I walk into the restaurant and was waiting after placing my order. This cute girl behind me, was telling her two guy friends how she's trying to get her boyfriend to agree to her plan but he's not willing. I couldn't help but overhear that her plan was to wake up at 5am everyday so that she could be at work by 7am. She could work two jobs till 9pm every night for the next two years while her boyfriend gets his Masters degree. Right now he can't find a decent job to support even himself, but she can - for both of them. So she was willing to go through all that just to get him to study more and he wasn't interested. At the moment he's sitting on the computer everyday playing games. He has been doing this for about a year now.

Her friends said that that's exactly why she should have left him a year ago because he hasn't changed one bit in 12 months and is pretty much hopeless now. So here we have a pretty hardworking girl with a lazy good-for-nothing boyfriend and there we had a hot begger who walked around with a guy who never passed 4th grade. Sometimes, it's people like these that make me lose my faith in world. But then of course, I manage to run across a gorgeous Farkette who is going for a PhD in Neuroscience and has full upper-body tattoos. According to her profile, she "can go from business chic to punk rock girl in 5 minutes flat."

So what's my point? Basically that there's all kinds of people out there and most of them are pretty screwed up. The secret to ending up at the right destination, lies in walking the right path every day. One little wrong step can take you away from a bright future to a sad bleak hopeless existence. Of course, you can get back on track but it's hard. I think in the 16 hours that you are awake everyday, you can do one of the two things overall - figure out or complicate yourself. Either you can figure out stuff, like how to do your work better, or have fun without spending a lot of money, or how men/women really work, or what your goal in life is. OR you can complicate stuff, like screwing up your work day-by-day, or running around after worthless things, or doing the same stupid things over and over that make things worse. I know I didn't write this out very eloquently but my point is still simple - all these people who seem to end up at the place where everyone else goes 'what the hell!', don't realize that they ended up here by not doing the common sense thing every single day. Sure, ignore the fact that your boyfriend abuses you almost every day because you "LOVE HIM" so much. And ignore the fact that your boss gets mad at you for not finishing your projects on time because obviously he/she is a total jerk. And ignore the fact that you are lying to your family about your grades in college because what do they care. When after 5 years your boyfriend beats the crap out of you, or your boss fires you, or your college kicks you out for bad grades, don't blame anyone but yourself.

And don't blame me when I don't give you some spare change. I earn my money by working hard and so should you, especially if you are 14 yrs or older and have no major disabilities. And remember kids, idiocy is NOT a disability.

Sat, 27th Dec '03, 11:20 pm::

I'm still alive :) Don't worry. Just taking a lil break. Been working on a friend's site all weekend. Yesterday I went to see Return of the King. Of course, keep in mind these 24 things NOT to do while watching Lord of the Rings just to be on the safe side. Been watching a lot of movies once again. Cable TV is waaaay too expensive (and frankly not very entertaining given the high price), since I already get my South Park online.

I saw the hilarious Monty Python film Life of Brian today. Saw three films by late Stanley Kubrick in the past week beginning with the satire/black-comedy classic Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Amazing (three) roles by Peter Sellers. Then the Vietnam War story Full Metal Jacket (thanks Art!) and finally after months of procrastination, A Clockwork Orange. Once again I ended up watching three films by the same director in a series, without planning to. But it's all good, since these movies were amazing.

Then it was time for an old Kevin Spacey (of the American Beauty fame) hit: The Usual Suspects. I kinda figured out the ending midway but it was still entertaining throughout. Also saw Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Pirates of the Caribbean again. I think that's about it. No more movies. Hehe. Well, I still have a lot of movies to see.

Thu, 18th Dec '03, 6:30 pm::

Last night I saw one of the best movies ever made - The Shawshank Redemption. Everyone should see this. This is the first movie in months and months that shows there is something even more important than love in this world, and that is hope. "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." Great acting, touching story, and wonderful ending. Rent it!

Quote for the day: "Get busy living, or get busy dying..." - The Shawshank Redemption.

Sun, 14th Dec '03, 5:55 pm::

"It would take some kind of mad genius to get critics to give high praise to a film starring Adam Sandler. Fortunately for the world of film, Paul Thomas Anderson is that mad genius." So says one of the reviews for Punch Drunk Love. I like most Sandler films, and gladly liked this one too, though it's not a typical Sandler flick. The director, Paul Anderson, one of the Top 40 Directors, has made two other critically acclaimed films, Boogie Nights (that I saw last week) and the Tom Cruise hit, Magnolia. While his films are not the typical straight-forward Hollywood worth-the-price-of-ticket movies, his characters have depth and they make a seemingly simple story very moving. A few other movies I saw recently, that I don't think I mentioned yet are Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Tron. All good movies of course, and I know Monty Python deserves a lot more credit than I am giving it. But oh well, finals tomorrow. I gotta start studying now I think...

Fri, 21st Nov '03, 1:35 pm::

I love my jorb! And the people I work with :)

Sun, 16th Nov '03, 9:35 pm::

And I just purchased CuteFTP 5.0 XP. Love the prog. There's a really good free FTP client, SmartFTP, but I am just too picky with tiny stuff so $80 didn't seem so bad. After all my whole business runs on it.

Sat, 8th Nov '03, 3:55 am::

The Hindu God - Lord Ram was born on Jan. 10, 5114 B.C. While I can't deny or accept the claims of these guys, I'd love to see some concrete evidence. That would be super cool. However a few MAJOR discrepancies, like the creation date of the recently NASA-discovered man-made bridge across the Palk Strait connecting India to Sri Lanka. The author says it was around the time Ram invaded Lanka whereas NASA research says about 1,700,000 years ago (which would have been the 'Treta Yug'). Since I am a pretty firm believer in evolution and the fact that human beings in their current form have only been here for a few hundred thousand years, I am certain there was no man-made bridges made 1.7 million years ago. While it's always fun to connect mythology to archeology, it's even more fun when the connections are based on believable facts and some solid proofs.

Fri, 24th Oct '03, 1:55 pm::

Friend of mine thinks this girl he knows doesn't like him. My advice as a loving, caring friend - "If her love ain't blind, knock her eye out."

Fri, 24th Oct '03, 1:30 pm::

My buddy Mason is sick right now, sitting in a few chairs (safely) away from me, whining. Quote for the day: "I have something coming out of EVERY orifice of my body... (rest censored for being too gross)..." Gotta love the man.

Fri, 17th Oct '03, 7:45 pm::

Anyways, went on a LOOOOOOONG shopping/driving spree with Mason the Mighty. Went to my aunt's store and picked up my new cellphone. Then went to the Indian grocery store right next to it, got lotsa spicy and oily (just kidding) Indian food. Mason did his best to embarass me in front of all the sweet 50 yr old Indian ladies. Imagine a big strong 6'1" semi-bald white guy trying to pull a Sushmita Sen by swinging his hips and shaking his head to the beats of Mehboob Mere from Fiza. Yes. I can NEVER go to that place again without all the ladies at the counter laughing at me. Hehe! On to my aunt's house, I finally met my cuzins after almost a month. I've been busy with exams and work; haven't been able to see them at all. I finally picked up my winter clothes :) Then off to Walmart to buy myself more crap I don't need. Probably spent over $100 today for no reason whatsoever (well other than living well).

On the way back to the bunker from Walmart, Mason told me how he admired his best friend Dee the most in the world when it comes to personality. And added he admired me the most when it comes to intelligence and do-it-yourself-attitude. I said thanks but what did he mean by do-it-yourself? He answered that he respected the fact that despite being giving everything a man could ask for in life, I decided to build it all on my own. I had previously told him how my dad gave me a car @ 18 (though I could not drive, or rather, was too scared to) and how my aunt and uncle have done their best to help me get a good education here and still want me to leave my bunker and go back to live with them. He said, "if there was ANYONE else in your place, he would have taken the car at 18 and that good job at your dad's friend's company, or still lived in that awesome house with your aunt - but you do not. Because you want to make everything on your own, with your own efforts, and I respect that." While that made me feel like I just got a phone call from the Nobel Institute, it made me realize how much his interpretation of my life conflicted with my understand of it. To him, it was an admirable thing for me to give up what was given to me so that I can make it on my own. To me, it seems like I have forever been ungrateful to anyone who gives me anything lovingly. Many times I wonder if this whole "I-want-this-I-want-that" attitude will take me away from what the most important elements in life are - family, friends, love. I don't know the answer, but I'm intimidated by its potential ill-effects. Yet I am enticed by the glory it offers. And once again, all I can say with certainity, is that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, balanced, normalized.

Minimalistic ProgrammingTue, 7th Oct '03, 1:00 am::

For programmers only: I'm extremely weary of the whole get-a-real-job-with-multinationals situation and have forever shunned making a resume. Now, I think I'm gonna make a resume like this one. How about... "I am a super-god high-end extremely advanced Minesweeper..." Anyways, when it comes to programming, I'd like to classify myself as a serious minimalist aimed at providing the highest usefullness/effort ratio. By the ratio I mean, I will put in enough effort to give a high level of satisfaction and then stop. I could put in twice more effort, but since the users will NOT be twice as happy from the extra effort, I don't bother. This means my work will never be 100% perfect, rather just good enough for the purpose. Perfection in my eyes is only viable when there is only one goal. If one has to work on 5 projects at the same time and achieve good results, it's best to do considerably well in each than perfect in one and intolerable in the rest.

Coming back to minimalistic programming, I have found a natural love for no-frill technologies which require the least amount of effort from the developer and the user side. I am drawn to simple php scripts and RAD languages like Visual Basic, instead of all powerful and mighty C++ or Java. Every day some new thing comes along in the IT field, a new language, a new development platform - from EJB to CORBA to SOAP to XML. I could if I really wanted, spend time to learn these tools but often I read an introductory tutorial, just to be aware how it works and then don't bother anymore. Mainly because there is no immediate use for any of these for me. Sure, object-driven databases offer a horde of features over the current relational dbs, however I hardly ever need to make a system that makes ten million queries an hour. Also I highly doubt that most people who DO use these hyped-up technologies really need them.

Yesterday a friend of mine from Newark - Arpit, came to see me with his business partners to get some idea on how to proceed with their new venture: Books for Lease. It's a good concept - why buy/sell new or used books each semester - why not just rent them for $10-15 and then return them in same condition? I might redesign the front-end for the site, which has been functional for over a year now. Other than design, I mainly explored ways by which they expand the site's usefullness by concentrating on the core concept - books for lease. While they can build in new wonderful features that only 5% of the people will use, they are better off creating custom tools that help the other 95%. That means giving up the use of pre-written packages like shopping-carts, that they purchased and write their own code to make the site work they way THEY want. It'll require a bit more effort, but the results will surpass the costs.

The most efficient programming style, lies somewhere in the middle of using tools that are very difficult to implement but very useful once in place and scripts that are really easy to write but have limited uses. They don't need EJB or Struts. But they can't get away with using pre-written packages like E-cart. They need to write some of their own code, and use the stuff that's cheaper to buy than write themselves. And I think this is where most of the IT world lies today. There are millions of websites doing business online, and from personal experience, the most successful ones are those with straight-forward systems - like Amazon and eBay. The concepts are simple, the sites are easy to use, and the back-ends are pretty run-of-the-mill too. Amazon still uses Perl! Yahoo's gonna use PHP from now on. However, Morgan Stanley uses EJBs and Struts and they definitely should. But Google doesn't need to, as it works great with Python.

Big complex technologies come and go, but the simple ones are still here - C and assembly :) Perl, PHP, and Python are going to stay for a while too. But bubye .NET and C#. Hope it goes exactly where Push-technology and Virtual Reality have gone. Here's a good article that says everything I said and more, quite beautifully: "Like any industry, the software world suffers its own fashions..." - Software Reality. Glad to see I'm not the only one who likes simple straight-forward languages and tools. Although subconsciously I'm always a bit nervous that not jumping-onto-the-bandwagon of some cool breakthrough might be a bit of a hindsight. Must admit I am risk-averse on the short run and don't get too excited at mega-world-changing-cool-corporate-tools, though hopefully in the long run, my desire to seek stability, simplicity, and balance will benefit me.

Fri, 3rd Oct '03, 12:05 pm::

Tamara (the awesome lady/girl from work) just made a cake for me!!!!! Cuz well tomorrow's Saturday and work's closed. It's so big that I can't eat it on my own! MMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmm chocolate covered and something good on inside. THANKS A LOT!!!!! I love my job, and even more the people who work here. I know if I was home with my mom, she'd make me an awesome cake too. I miss home. It's been almost 15 months since I saw them.

Mon, 22nd Sep '03, 12:35 pm::

I. LOVE. MY. PARESH. UNCLE!!!

Wed, 17th Sep '03, 10:40 pm::

Gotta love my university's President. First he got robbed at the liquor store 2 blocks from my bunker and now he got drunk and backed into someone's car. This is what I posted on Fark: "Wow I can't believe my univ's Prez. is a real human who makes mistakes. Sure, this was pretty dumb of him. I can't wait till he sends the whole university another email. After the mugging he sent a very solemn email. What's it gonna be this time - oops I farked up? Oh and kids don't drink 'n drive!"

Anyways, I got some good news that the hurricane's changed its path and will most probably miss NJ. Phew.

Mon, 15th Sep '03, 5:10 pm::

It's been a long time since I blogged. So what am I upto. Studies, work, select friends, and books. Ah books. Growing up, I used to devour the books my dad read, mostly works by Jeffrey Archer, Sidney Sheldon, and John Grisham. After I discovered computer manuals, help files, and FAQs, my interest in books dwindled. Last semester I took a class that got me interested in books again - Trauma & Literature; albeit a very different genre of books. This weekend I completed a book I'd been reading for over 2 months, Everyone's Burning by Ian Speigelman. Now I'm reading Andre Dubus' House of Sand and Fog.

This being the senior/final year, most of my friends are busy with their classes/homework so it's hard to hang out with them. Moreover, I have evening and night classes and work during the day. While it's great for me, since I get enough free time for studies, work, sleep, and just relaxing, it's hard to meet up with people and chill. I see Arthur every other day, just to chill, since he has a lot of free time in-between his classes. He gave me a ride to my aunt's house to pick up some of my client's mail. Then we went to an Indian food store and I bought some maggi for him. One by one I'll get all my friends addicted to it. And while my friends are gonna get fat eating Maggi, I have healthy lunches - today I had some good Chinese fried rice with tofu and vegetables. Since I have enough money to buy me mostly any food on/around campus, I have to be really careful with what I eat, especially if I get sick, there is nobody to take care of me on a daily basis. So I watch what I eat, but then people start thinking I'm on a diet. Look what Kathleen just said online with regards to my memory and eating habits: "You're an elephant with an underweight disorder. I'm calling you my anorexic elephant friend." But then just 2 hours ago I was with Cher eating some yummmmmmy french vanilla icecream, though only a single scoop.

I knew food would become a slightly bigger part of my life once I started living alone and well it has. I care a bit more about what I eat, when I eat, and how much I eat. But I never though cleaning would become anymore important. It is. I dust my room every other day and clean my bathroom once a week. What's my point? I'm turning 23 in 2 weeks, and finally I'm acting like one. No more excess drinking, eating, sleeping, working. No extremes - I'm becoming 'Fair and Balanced'. Hehe.

Anyways, my studies going on good. I have homework due tomorrow, on Wednesday, and on Monday. I already did the stuff for next Monday! Well simply cuz it's computer graphics and something that I absolutely love. Homework for tomorrow and Wednesday is pretty interesting too - mostly programming with a few question/answers. Nobody likes to do homework, but this is the first time I don't absolutely hate doing my homework - mainly cuz it's not repetitive or boring, rather interesting and creative. And as usual, my work's going awesome. I got one website to complete as soon as possible and got a new project for my university that I just started this morning.

Everything's going decent in my life right now, EXCEPT the weather. It's September and raining here as if it's the monsoons. Now I have nothing against rains, in fact love them. However I live 10 feet below the earth in well-sheltered bunker. I can survive a nuclear blast but I don't think I can easily survive Ms. Isabel - a Category 5 hurricane that could hit the US East Coast quite hard in a week or so. If by some misfortune the Raritan River in New Brunswick floods all the way to Easton Avenue (my home), I have no idea what I'll do. I'll probably move all my stuff (and trust me I have a LOT of stuff) out to the first floor of our house but it'll be a lot of work. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thu, 11th Sep '03, 9:30 pm::

Just read Chapter 5 of Manna. Wow. While the author's writing style is not top-notch, the ideas are incredible. I love this kinda stuff.

Tue, 2nd Sep '03, 3:45 pm::

As much as I hate computer viruses, I love this one.

Thu, 28th Aug '03, 12:55 am::

Today was a long day. I worked till 12:30 pm and my buddy Arthur came to pick me up. We went to my aunt's house, I got dressed, and we drove to Freehold - for Michele's mom's viewing/wake. It was a sombre atmosphere and since I had never seen a corpse before, I was kinda scared. Not scared like a child, but by the realization of inevitability - the fact that this is how it's all gonna end, always, for everyone. As usual, Mich seemed to hold herself strong. She's a very strong person and I know her friends love her. It's gonna be hard for her but I'm positive she'll manage. She's gonna live on College Av. campus now and so will be just a 2 min. walk away from me.

Art, being the awesome guy that he is, dropped me back to my place - prolly 4 hours of driving for him all total. Thanks a lot buddy. I REALLY appreciate it. At 6pm, my friend from work Mason called and said I should dress up well for the ResLife Banquet. We reached the Busch Dining Hall at 6:30pm and I was amazed to see how formal it was - I simply thought it was a nice dinner for the 150 students who monitor the all dorms. Turns out it was a formal event, that takes place every year just before school starts, to prepare and wish best-of-luck to all the students. These are the same 150-180 people I have been showing my system to, in the last few weeks, and almost all of them recognized me as the 'computer guy' or the 'new system guy.' While it sounds like an informal and quite insufficient title (considering the work I do is pretty complex), it's amazing how good it feels, just talking down Easton Av, and hearing 'Hey man! Good job...' just randomly.

Mason introduced me to a few close friends and we just chilled around the dining table. Food was decent and since I wasn't that hungry it didn't matter. What mattered is how I felt. After an eight year gap, I had a rush of adrenaline that I used to have in RKC, right before the prize giving ceremony - the feeling that what I do is important. Last few years, I've been making softwares, websites, and systems for people I never see. Half a million people have downloaded Glass2k and TrayPlay, and I have seen not 20 of them. Tonight, as I walked alongside Mason, everyone smiled at me, said they love the new system, and congratulated me on a job well done. Stuff like this never gets into my head. I don't suddenly feel all important or heroic. I simply feel accepted and loved. This is a good feeling. Something tells me, this final year in college is going to be wonderful.

I've decided a couple of things. I am NOT going to complain anymore about my studies. I pay FAR too much to study and fretting over homework is just plain immature. I have already decreased my website load and not taking new clients - meaning I'll have a little spare time to relax and unwind, like tonight after the banquet. I went over to Mason's place, we played James Bond 007 and some other Boxing Video game. He kicked my ass in both the games. Hehe. Yes, I suck at games. And then we grabbed a beer, opened a bag of popcorn, and watched Terminator III. I just got home, and here I am.

Gotta wake up @ 7:30am tomorrow, so I better head to bed.

Wed, 13th Aug '03, 5:25 pm::

I just gave a big presentation to all the graduate students, area directors, and Deans of housing on Rutgers - my new project: Rutgers Residence Life Network. It's a very easy to use system that lets the student monitors and Rutgers staff manage the student issues in the dorms. It was a 90 minute presentation and at the end I got a long round of applause and everybody went home happy. From what it seemed, it's a great success and people loved it. Now I have a list of 20-30 additional features they want. Gonna do all that before Aug. 22nd - that's when I have to give a presentation to over 100 people. I love my job. Couldn't ask for more.

Wed, 13th Aug '03, 1:30 am::

Here's some news to scare my family in India. The President of my University, Dr. Richard McCormick was robbed and beaten outside a liquor store, just a block or two away from where I live. Let me repeat, the PRESIDENT OF MY UNIVERSITY. Thankfully there was a student nearby who unknowingly helped the Prez. Lately, there has been increased rate of crime on Easton Av. (where I live), Wyckoff Street, Senior Street and Bartlett Street. These are all tiny streets most Rutgers students walk down from day to day. Not to sound hysterical but last month a girl was raped just 5-6 houses down my street. Thankfully I live in a basement with double door entry and no breakable windows.

It's not been the safest campus to be in lately. Every other night all Rutgers students get an email from the head of the Rutgers Police Dept. warning about new criminals on the lookout. It's like a weekly news. I seriously hope it's a summer-vacation thing and once there's 8,000 students around the campus all the time, crime goes down. So ya, here's a "Hello I love you" call to my family. Don't worry. All the muggers want is the money I don't have in my wallet. Can't take what I don't got. With that, it's sleep time.

Mon, 28th Jul '03, 9:20 am::

So I haven't blogged in a while. Big deal! Life's good and busy. Went to a distant relative's wedding reception on Saturday to NYC and then stayed over at my mama & mami's place in Queens. Got back home last night, checked my email, watched a little TV, and went to bed. Lotsa tiny things happening in between, some memorable, some iffy. Gonna get my math result tonight - quite anxious.

So I want to see the movie Comedian by Jerry Seinfeld, one of my fav. comedians ever. I found out about the movie via a post about this article on Fark about the death of the lady whose voiced the 'wrong number' telephone message. It's always like this - one thing leads to another. Gotta love surfing.

So anyways, two days from now, July 30th, will be my 3rd year in US. Wow time passes away so fast. I just hope I don't get all sentimental on that day again. Ok back to work.

Thu, 24th Jul '03, 12:15 pm::

I'd love to see Napster come back!

Mon, 21st Jul '03, 2:05 am::

Tonight I sadly found out I've been an unforgivably bad friend. There are some things you cannot fix after they've been broken. Sorry doesn't work always. You can't make an apology because you don't deserve a hearing. A friend will love you for the rest of your life no matter how bad, wrong, sad, or angry you are. But you are not a good friend if you don't listen. I didn't listen when I was supposed to. All of a sudden life isn't that good anymore. It's nobody's fault - just mine. I don't know what to do except keep my ears open. Hope I get a second chance...

Thu, 17th Jul '03, 2:15 am::

Yay!!!!!!! My daddy just threatened me by email that how dare I claim he doesn't love me! He said of course he loves me :) Yay!!!!!!!!!! Now I can finally go to bed happy... I'm 9 years old right now.

Wed, 16th Jul '03, 12:50 pm::

So my computer @ work is undergoing usual maintenance etc. so I got a few mins to kill. First up, bad first lines of novels. Pretty funny. Sometimes my blog even sounds like it. Next, the US budget is pretty much screwed. Economy's gonna go bad though one of my friends (stockbroker) tells me the stock market's gonna go up in next six months. Let's sit back and see. Sit back, cuz well, I don't really have any investments, so nothing's @ stake here.

Anyways, things are back to hectic. I called up my home (Calcutta) last night and talked to everyone except my dad :( Well he was @ work. And this morning I get an email from him saying he doesn't love me anymore because I didn't call him up on his b'day :( Guess I have no excuse. I had talked to him just 3-4 days earlier too. So I thought I'll call after a week and talk in detail. And now he is not talking to me anymore. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DADDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mon, 14th Jul '03, 2:55 pm::

Song for the day: "Yeh Safar" - 1942 A Love Story

Sat, 5th Jul '03, 12:45 pm::

Last night I barely saw the fireworks. Cuz well I was driving and as usual, got lost - this time, in the infamous Jersey City at midnight. Yeah, don't do this. Ever. Phew I'm just glad I made it back. Took me over 2 hours to get back home. But it's not because I'm a bad driver or anything, but mainly cuz all the exits to the Jersey Turnpike were closed for some reason and we (My cuzin Sneh, her friend Vic, and myself) had to drive allllll over Jersey City before we made it home. But hey, the fireworks were definitely worth it. We saw 3 different displays for about 25-30 mins and I got to drive for over 6 hours!

This morning my aunt left me back @ my bunker. I miss living @ home. I swear! And I know this sounds really corny but my aunt is definitely the best aunt ever :) I am literally her son. I love her sooooo much. I talked to her for a while and then I became all homesick. So I called up my parents and talked to them. And my rich diamond-jewelry-buying sister. Yeah she just bought herself more jewelry, kinda like this. Damn rich people! Hehehe...

Anyways, now I SERIOUSLY have to work. No, SERIOUSLY. So ya, no 'blogging for a while.

Thu, 26th Jun '03, 6:25 pm::

I love web comics - so do they :)

Thu, 26th Jun '03, 1:20 am::

Love StrongBad? So do I. Here's all of SB Email secrets - easter eggs from every episode!

Wed, 25th Jun '03, 3:25 pm::

I'm still using my old pc. My new pc is all messed up. Let's say the mother died while delivering the twins (meaning the motherboard fried up after we installed the dual AMD cpu's). Sad sad. Gotta go through a long process and return it and get a new one. Urgh... I was without a computer on Monday! Can you believe it?

That Monday night taught me a lot of horrible sad things about myself. First of all, in my room I have no means of entertainment outside of my computer - no TV, no radio, no CD/DVD player, not even phone numbers of some of my friends! Sure, I could go out and meet up with a friend, but I mean if I'm alone in my room, there is nothing to do other than read a book. I eventually ended up reading Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos all night. Great book. Highly recommend it to people who love math, people who hate math, and people who are absolutely scared of math. What scares me though, is that without my computer I felt extremely helpless - no confidence, no self-esteem, no strength. I was so panicky and nervous. Next day I told my friend Derek how bad my night was and asked if I could be suffering from extreme internet or computer addiction. He said you're feeling just like a mechanic who has lost the tools of his trade. As crude as it sounded, his answer comforted me. But just like Sharon said the other day, we've all become slaves of technology, myself more so than anyone I know.

I do think I am addicted to the Internet and to computers in general. However, as far as I know, it's not affected my real life. While I have refused dates because of website work etc., I've never said no to hanging out with a friend because I wanted to chat online. So I don't think my addiction is in the disease stage (yet). The day I tell someone sorry I can't go see a movie because I have to read Fark will be the day I need serious help. So far so good...

Now, on to better things. On Sunday, I saw The Graduate on cable. I'd heard about Mrs. Robinson syndrome before and knew it was from this movie, but finally I got to see it. While I loved the movie, what I loved more are the songs. I knew about Simon & Garfunkel before, but this was the first time I paid attention to their songs and now am absolutely in love with their music (at least for this movie). Looks like they are reuniting this fall.

Anyways, gotta get back to work. Lotsa stuff to do...

Mon, 16th Jun '03, 11:20 am::

I'm @ work and listening to Sting and Adnan Sami! AjooBlast works! (duh) By the way I love Sting's site; well-organized, sharp looking, full of content, and a relatively different color palette. Oh my buddy @ work, Nick, was just listening to Abbott & Costello's Who's on First :) Life is good. Just like my dad told me in his email last night. Yup.

Mon, 16th Jun '03, 2:05 am::

G search for dullest finally shows you the dullest blog in the world as #1. Sometimes I wonder if this guy is really so dull or just simply amazing. His #2 entry says "Noticing one or two leaves on the ground - As I was walking along I noticed that one or two leaves had fallen from the trees. This may have been due to the slight breeze that was blowing. I left the leaves where they were on the ground and carried on walking." Maybe he's not really dull. Maybe he's just observant. We live about our lives doing things and never noticing when and why we do them. But then his latest entry is just plain dull: "Leaning against a wall - I was standing next to a wall and began to feel a little tired. I leaned to the side against the wall and continued to adopt this slightly more comfortable posture for several moments."

Interstingly the search for dull took me to the Dull Men's Club - A place — in cyberspace — where Dull Men can share thoughts and experiences, free from pressures to be "in and trendy," free instead to enjoy the simple, ordinary things of everyday life. Wow. These dull men actually got together and formed an online club! Talk about being silly... Well at least I can look forward to this site 40 years from now. Hehe. Or who knows, maybe I should join it right away, especially since I love dull trivia.

Wed, 11th Jun '03, 11:45 am::

Love this pic:

Mon, 9th Jun '03, 10:15 pm::

It's not everyday that I get interviewed by a sweet lil PhD from Cambridge University, UK. So I know this lady Penny from one of my classes and she told her daughter Dawn about me 'n my work. Dawn is researching trends in the small and medium business market and how it varies based on age, culture, and field. Being a 22 yr old Indian making websites according to her, I was a prime candidate. Had a nice Iced Mocha (on her 'business' tab) and talked about me and my work for 2 hours. I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity. I love talking about me (DUH! you should know that by now) and even more I love talking about my work. And here's a smart PhD actually interested in what I have to say. She taped my on her dictaphone cuz I was speaking too fast for her to write down. What can I say... I love talking 'bout me! Anyways she said the interview was very helpful & in-depth. So I guess it's all good.

Had International Econ class after that and then went to Taco Bell with Art. It's been over 3 months since I had Tacos... Mmmmmm.

Mon, 2nd Jun '03, 10:45 pm::

It's not everyday that a 65 year old lady talks to me for 15 minutes and makes me laugh like a best friend since first grade would. My landlady, Sunny, an asian woman (I don't if she's Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese) came down to collect the rent for this month. My bunker is right under her bedroom so sometimes when I play music loudly, I worry if it bothers them or not. I told her to instantly call me anytime my music is too loud. She calmly told me, "Chirag, you need your music. It doesn't matter to us if you play your Indian music, Rap, or Hip-Hop loud, because we have learnt to live with it." There are not too many people like this in the world, people who want to "step into a college student's shoes and look at life their way."

Sometimes I wonder what makes some people so understanding. She told me she recognized some song I was playing yesterday and I told her it was Frank Sinatra's "That's Amore." Her husband, Ed, told me when I first signed the lease, that he was a big Sinatra fan too. She admitted Ed sings quite well, but just lacks the "something" that was in Sinatra's voice. So every now and then she sits in front of Ed and his microphone and tells him to "talk to me... sing for me..." I tell a lot of people that I don't really want to live beyond 60. I mean come on, what exactly will I do after I get old? Just sit around and nothing! But just imagining that if I'm lucky, I could end up with someone like Sunny, who can make each day seem like the best day of your life, makes me want to live beyond 100.

Her elder son she said was into Heavy Metal, even had his own band and played guitar really well. But obviously only one in a million makes it big in the music industry. After years of trying to break into the music industry, he ended up being a successful accountant on Wall Street. At his wedding, she told him to cancel the regular wedding-band and instead get his own Heavy Metal band to play the music that he lives for. Her son's friends call her Ozzy-Mom, basically since she told someone her favorite musician was Ozzy Osbourne. Nowadays, she said, some people are calling her Hip-Hop-Ma since she likes listening to the latest music by Eminem and Naaz.

Times change and the only ones happy, are those who change with it. And yet she said "technology is not that good and someday you will realize that only music and nature will bring you true happiness, not checking your email." It's at this point, I guess I differ from her. I'm sure most of you reading this actually side with her but I can't. For me technology is just another aspect of life that brings me pleasure. I'm not writing this 'blog just because I want to write. I'm also writing it because I love writing and instantly sharing what I write with you. And technology is an integral part of it.

I dread the day when I might look at a computer and curse at it that it ruined my life. A lot of people have told me it'll happen someday. I have, of course, cursed at specific softwares on dreadful days, but never have I looked at a computer and thought that it has caused me pain. It's second nature to me. Call me a nerd/geek/whatever but technology brings a form of joy that is unfelt by me otherwise. I'm not an artist, I'm not a creative musician, but I am an innovative programmer. I don't understand how thinking up a new and faster way to access websites is any different from writing a poem, because as far as I know, both bring the same amount of joy to me, first when I create them, and second when others appreciate them.

The cliched saying goes that "Technology is most efficient when it's invisible." I'd like to say that "Technology, once it becomes invisible, is no longer technology at all - it's art; inspring, life-giving, and comforting."

Fri, 30th May '03, 11:55 am::

HotOrnot Update: I just can't believe it! I'm 9.8 now! And I swear I'm not voting 10 for myself all the time. In fact HotOrNot (after all it was made by these guys from MIT) gives you negative ratings if you try to inflate your score by voting for yourself. Damn I just can't believe the score. Could it be that all the people are voting high because I'm sitting outside my aunt's expensive big-ass house? Girls love money you know. Well not all, but a lot of them. Hmm... Cuz well, I personally know I am NOT "hotter than 97% of the men" out there. Yes, I'm not ugly, but everyone knows I'm not the top 3%. In other words, if there's 100 random guys in a room and a girl is asked to make 3 choices, there's no way I'll be among the first three.

Ooooooo maybe the picture is nice and clear! Cuz my digicam takes really good pics you know. Maybe people got tired of fuzzy dull pictures and rated my pic high cuz it was crisp & clear. This pic was taken by my cuz Sagar :) Well whatever the reason for the high rating... I'm just glad no matter what! Beat THIS Kathleen! Hehe. Well she was a 9.4 last time we put her pic up. Hehe.

Wed, 21st May '03, 10:00 am::

Up and working! And for a change, I had breakfast today. Well, not exactly a full-fledged 'breakfast', but if you're me (i.e. someone who never eat before 12-1pm), 4 buttered toasts in the morning, right after shower, is a heavily meal :) God I love my bunker. And my microwave and toaster. And my internet and my 4-speaker surround sound system. And my new body-pillow. And eh... I'm soooooo shallow & materialistic! Goooooooo capitalism :)

Fri, 16th May '03, 12:55 pm::

I love my job. This is my new project. Yup, card readers :)

Thu, 15th May '03, 10:35 am::

I dunno if I talked about it but one of my new favorite sites is Fazed. It's like Fark, except fresher. Fark has turned into a major million-hits-a-day mega site - it's been commercialized. I still love Fark, however it's got quite repetitive. Most of the links on Fark are news now. Fazed fills in the void - cool websites, funny weird stuff (not weird people doing stupid stuff - cuz that's Fark's domain), and the stupidest games ever.

Wed, 14th May '03, 11:55 am::

I'm sure a lot of you have heard about Jayson Blair, the New York Times reporter who made-up articles (more). Basically he stole stories from other journalists using online tools, wrote articles about people he never met and places he never went to, and published everything in the world-renowned New York Times. But what's not why I'm interested. I'm more interested in the FUNNY stuff that was born out of this story. Like the fake NY Times headlines, his new job and the confessions by the-Line Online reporters.

Oh and if you love satire articles, here's the motherload.

Quote for the day: "We make it up. You read it. If the NY Times can do it, so can we." - the-Line Online

Wed, 14th May '03, 11:40 am::

The Office Space Random Quote award for May 14th, 2003 goes to Keval Mehta. Congratulations! The lucky winner will get, umm, nothing... Prolly some peace of mind. Gotta love my cuzin though. Totally unexpected and spontaneous. Anyway here's the chat transcript:

    Keval: i'm tired of studying
    Keval: and i'm not gonna do any more
    Chirag: why
    Keval: i prolly wont
    Chirag: when did you make this decision?
    Keval: hmm
    Keval: just an hour back
    Chirag: lol really?
    Keval: yea
    Keval: i am also not gonna pay any bills
    Keval: i'm just gonna see some kung fu with my girl
    Chirag: LOLOLOLLLLLL

Mon, 12th May '03, 6:15 pm::

I just gave the BEST EXAM EVER! As far as I know, I got all the five questions perfectly correct - Econometrics rulez! I'm taking Advanced Econometrics in Fall '03, though it's not gonna be as easy as this. Anyways, I'm in a REALLY good mood right now. Gotta study for Physics tonight. Hopefully it'll be good too.

Anyways, there's a LOTTA good movies coming out this summer. One of the movies I really wanna see is Finding Nemo. Actually it's a cartoon, but still. I love Pixar products :) God I sound like a 7 year old. Actually Cigir told me the other day that she thought I was younger than her. Like I was 20-21 or something. Hehe. It's funny to me cuz back in India, everyone said I looked 25 or somethin! So looks like I've got younger with time. Hehe.

Sat, 10th May '03, 3:55 pm::

Don't you just love interrobangs?!

Thu, 8th May '03, 1:10 am::

I really love prime numbers. Someday I'll prove something important related to them. I just know it... Anyway this guy came close to solving an important conjecture but sadly not exactly. Hope he fixes his proof. After my exams are over and when I have some time to kill in my new place (only a week till I move), I'll learn everything about prime numbers. Or at least the primality testing methods. I intend to improve upon them. I dunno how, but well somehow.

Quote for the night: "The problem of distinguishing prime numbers from composite numbers and of resolving the latter into their prime factors is known to be one of the most important and useful in arithmetic. It has engaged the industry and wisdom of ancient and modern geometers to such an extent that it would be superfluous to discuss the problem at length Further, the dignity of the science itself seems to require solution of a problem so elegant and so celebrated." - C. F. Gauss (1777-1855), one of the greatest mathematicians that ever lived.

Mon, 28th Apr '03, 11:55 pm::

Hard to believe it, but one of the best days in my life turned out to be a Monday! Well today was a pretty awesome day by all standards. Most of it was spent with Manzinder (morning/noon) and Cher (evening). Here's a bit of interesting conversation between Cher & yours truly, with reference to my so-called "popularity" - something that I vehemently refuse to acknowledge:

  • Cher: How do you know so many people on campus?
  • Chirag: It's really easy actually. You remember that guy you prolly met in the Intro-to-something class two years ago? And that girl from your Calc class?
  • Cher: Yeah, but I haven't kept in touch with them.
  • Chirag: I did.

I guess what my point was, the easiest thing you can do to be loved, is to just keep in touch with as many people as you can. Of course, it's NOT easy. It's not easy to call up old friends when you have 2 papers due and 4 homeworks to submit, but if you do call, it'll be worth it. It's not too important to remember and call-up/write-to everyone on their birthday, but it's remarkable. As always, I'm not saying that I'm the greatest nicest guy on the planet, but what I mean is, if I can say today that I love and am loved by a lot of nice people out there, it's only because I make pro-active efforts to keep the relationship going. Quite possibly, I'll gain nothing (monetarily, career-wise, politically) from almost any of these relations, but I know the emotional gains more than make up for all the efforts I put into it.

So for a change, why don't you go and email your friend from high-school and just randomly call up that friend who used to be your best-friend for number of years, but things slowly faded away. I'm sure they'll appreciate your email/call. I know I would. Here's just a few people I love keeping in touch with, if not actively/regularly, then once a month or two - Nitesh, Ketan, Vaishali, Pooja, Jessica, Kiran Uncle, Megan, Sonu, Leah, Tamara & Bruce, John Allan, Jackie, Aashika, Steve, Vicky Z, Arpit, and god knows 100 others. I didn't even mention the people I *have* to keep in touch with regularly - parents, best-friends, immediate family members; I just meant people I keep in touch with (or at least try to), simply because of who they are and what they mean to me though they may not realize it. I highly doubt if most of them even read my 'blog and I think that's actually the biggest reason why I have to actively keep in touch with them. Hehe... Oh and don't think if you stop reading this 'blog I'll start personally emailing you or anything. Nope! Doesn't work that way...

I think I am the most honest and straight-forward when I write in this little box right here. Here, in this tiny 'textarea' tag, spews forth the story that is my life. By the way, I've been reading a lot of books today, so ya, I'm getting all poetic/author-like now. What can I say... I get inspired really easily. Of course, not as easily motivated as this.

Tue, 22nd Apr '03, 9:10 pm::

OH MY GOD! Exactly a year ago I got this job! Hehe. And I totally love it just as much :) No sarcasm - honest! Just check up the post above!

Tue, 22nd Apr '03, 9:05 pm::

Been working all day. Studied a bit. Had dinner with Kat. Been working since. Gonna work till midnight. Oh did I mention, I've been working all day? Hehe... Hey it's all good cuz I love my job!

Sat, 19th Apr '03, 8:20 pm::

So I've been busy all day and all last night. Well after setting up my Photo Gallery last night, I went on to create one of my niftiest coolest tiny apps ever - Hot Chime! It is a small utility that lets you launch your favorite sites and most frequently used programs by your own 'Hot Words'. You can set a HotWord 'g' to launch Google and 'xl' to start MS Excel on your PC. Hot Chime also lets you easily & instantly lookup words in a dictionary, get Whois info for domains, and search the Google Groups. If you're a lazy ass like me, you'll love this program. Come on! My own 'blog is just 'c'. So to launch my 'blog, I just press + c + and that's it! So feel free to check out Hot Chime. You just might fall in love with it after using it for more than 10 minutes.

Sat, 19th Apr '03, 1:30 am::

Added a few nice pics to my Photo Gallery. I also rewrote the whole Photo Gallery script and feel pretty proud of myself. What's the big deal you say? Anyone can write a few php scripts to make a decent photo gallery. Right? Well my photo gallery is special :) First of all, it's only ONE file! That's right. I only wrote one file with 258 lines of code and that one little file manages my whole photo gallery - from automatically creating thumbnails, to displaying the gallery view, showing zoomed in view for pics, and showing the captions. Best of all, the captions are in a database that I can edit easily & instantly. Ah someday when I've got nothing else to do, I just might caption all the pics. For now, I'm gonna keep taking more pics and putting them on the site. By God I totally love my camera :) And this, this, and this are few of my fav. pics.

Fri, 18th Apr '03, 4:20 pm::

I love this article that talks about how the whole MS.Net thing total crap.

Tue, 15th Apr '03, 2:50 pm::

My favorite movie has a soundboard now :) And there's more here.

I just returned from the final senior economics honors dissertation of three students. Now I know what must I do to in the honors project. In short - write a thesis, just like a PhD would, just shorter and less detailed. It'll have to be a 50-60 page research thesis and at the end of the year, like the students I saw present their thesis today, I'll have to give a live oral + visual presentation that outlines whatever I researched and answer all questions from the economics professors (who I must add, are extremely intelligent and painstakingly thorough in their criticism). In other words, I'm pretty much screwed :) However, it'll all be good if I find a topic I would like to research, because then it wouldn't be a research paper - it'll be a hobby, a personal pet project, and I never have a problem defending that which I love. Be it friends, family, script language of choice, or obviously my favorite movie.

I'm off to my other office in Busch Campus center, will work from there, have dinner with Kat (whom I haven't seen in 2 weeks now) and finish up my Econ lab tonight. Nothing too tough.

The AwakeningMon, 14th Apr '03, 10:45 pm::

The Awakening

    She knew she couldn't pretend to be asleep anymore. Her next door neighbor's Jack Russell Terrier, Tandy, was barking at the garbage trucks again. Another Tuesday morning, she groaned. After tossing all night in the $99 futon that he had once hastily but fondly bought for her, she finally realized it was her lower spine that had kept her up from a peaceful sleep. Ha! Sleep. How she longed for those summer nights she had spent, clinging, no clutching on to his left arm, at his grandfather's farm house. But right now, somewhere in this dilapidated house, water flowed freely from a leaky faucet. Freely, unlike her. Free to flow wherever it desired, molding itself to fill every receptacle up to the brim, and overflowing after it satiated the vessel. The freedom that the fluid oozed of, was not welcome in her house, in her mind, in her sleep on this blatant winter morning.

    Why were so many thoughts crossing her mind simultaneously? How many times had her cell phone rung after she passed out on her cozy couch last night? When did she move from the couch to this uncomfortable bed? WHY did she move from the couch to this uncomfortable bed? Had she remembered to put out her garbage last night? When he was here, she didn't have these worries. She didn't think so much then. She didn't think. Yes, that was her problem. She didn't think. Had she been a 'thinking' person, this wouldn't have happened. But then she wouldn't have met him either. He admired her smartness, he would announce every time he got drunk. She would beam with a wide smile and admit to his dismay that she was just a dumb girl and he was only being nice. And he would cross his heart and raise a toast to her - to her, to her sweet sweet mind, and her beautiful thoughts. Why did he love the way I thought?

    Some things are better left not understood she told herself, as she made her mind to get out of bed at the count of three and begin her day. One. Two. Thr... Oh forget it. A few minutes won't make a difference, her spinal cord assured her restless mind. Little did she know these exact few minutes would.

Tue, 8th Apr '03, 7:25 pm::

Just remembered that as soon as I met the owner of my new place, Edward, I wanted to write about him. He's a very quiet soft-spoken 70+ yr old man who listens to Frank Sinatra. I'm not a major Sinatra Fan but there's one song that I really really love. It's today's song of the day. And I met Ed's wife too and she instantly pronounced my name correctly. I don't know why, but I feel pretty special and welcome when people say my name right (and trust me there's a LOT who don't/can't).

Song for the day: "Something Stupid" - Frank Sinatra

Tue, 1st Apr '03, 4:45 pm::

I'm in my Busch Student Center office right now. God I haven't been here in over 3 months now! I missed this place sooooo much... I love working @ our other office near my house, but this office is absolutely mine and very very peaceful. I get a lot of work done here @ a pretty good speed. Anyways, life's going good. I'm 75% done with the Econ lab but I still have to write the log for my Literature class. And I need to work on my sites now, have been neglecting them for a week or so now. Rest life just goes on :)

Song for the day: "Dil Se" - Dil Se - A. R. Rahman

Sun, 30th Mar '03, 12:45 pm::

I just talked to Shradha from Calcutta. Not my buddy Chetan's wife, but one of my friends whom I met in college there. Talked to her after a looooooong time for 30 mins :) Gotta love these phone cards.

Sun, 30th Mar '03, 1:30 am::

WOOOOHOOOOOOO! I just got the coolest website ever! Go and type chir.ag in the address bar. No www's or .coms or http or anything. Just type in chir.ag. Or just click here - chir.ag :) And of course my new email address is: chirag@chir.ag. Gotta love being an übergeek. So ya, I actually paid a lottla money to buy that domain name. I can't say how much I paid (let's just say it's more than average per capita income of most countries), but who cares, if someone else took it before me, it would go away forever :( And come on, all you gotta do now to read my 'blog, is start the browser and just type in my name, with a dot between 'r' and 'a' - chir.ag :)

Sat, 29th Mar '03, 11:55 pm::

I'd say today was another good day, just like 29th March 2002 :) Except for that email disappearing act :( Woke up @ 11am, showered 'n studied till 2 pm, and went to see Purvi @ the train station :) She had come for the night @ my aunt's house and was on her way back to the city. So I just walked down and chilled with her till her train came. Nice to see her after a long time (Utah - January). Next week I'm hopefully gonna go see her in the city for this program she has. Let's see how it goes.

Then I panicked over my emails and did my physics web assign. In fact I did two weeks of web assign, meaning no tensions next week :) So anyways, I was supposed to go see The Pianist with Cher, but cuz of the weather and my Econ lab and blah blah, it just felt like a stretch. So I did my Econ stuff till 10pm. Cher came online, and we decided to go have a nice cup of coffee @ Au Bon Pain. Of course, I can never have just a 'cup', so I ended up with a large 'Iced Mocha'. Hehe.

Anyways, four of my housemates got a nice house down on Hamilton and need a fifth person. Since I hadn't seen the house yet, I walked down there with Cher just to check it out. Next time somebody remind me NOT to go house-hunting @ 11pm! Nobody answered the damn door-bell! But the house looked pretty weird from the outside - it was shaped like a boat! Like it had a corner with railing that looked like the bow of a ship (you know, I'm the King of the World part... hehe). And they're opening a coffee shop right under the house! (We have the top floors). Though I haven't seen the inside, it looked like a good place. Now my problem is to get the lease/deposit money asap. I think credit cards are the answer :) Hehe!

So anyway, then we went to see my friend Vicky @ the College Avenue Gym. They're having a 32-hour dance marathon there with over 400 dancers, dancing all night 'n day. Pretty cool actually. I bought a nice Iced Mocha for Vicky, cuz well, I'm sure she needs all the caffeine possible. Ohhhh and I got a free bag @ the gym! I love free stuff. Met a couple of ppl from older classes, ppl I haven't seen in months and years :) Pretty cool actually.

And best of all, Cher got me bagels :) Yup. She works @ the bagel store and got me a coupla bagels :) Yummmm. We might go see the end of the dance marathon tomorrow. There's some mildly hot chics in there, though nothing THAT great. Plus you really don't look all that hot after dancing for 32 hours! LOL.

Wed, 26th Mar '03, 11:00 pm::

Another long long day today. I'm changing a few things about my hosting services. I just got a very powerful back-end server hosting @ Hosting Matters. Their services are well priced and the network they run on is simply awesome! With all the new clients I'm gonna host in the next few months, I think this is a good decision. Gotta love expansion :)

Tue, 25th Mar '03, 1:30 am::

Sleepy as anything right now! Had a loooong but decent day today. Had lotsa Physics classes, had lunch with Mich as usual, went to Complex Variables (math class) and had dinner with Cher :) Gotta love it when a pretty lady takes you to dinner :) Studied non-stop from 7pm till now @ the student center. Pretty much having a bad headache. Still have to do 2 out of 8 questions in my CS homework. Good thing I'm pretty sure at least 5 of the 6 I got are right. Rest, life's going on as usual.

Gonna start searching for a new place for summer. This place doesn't have air conditioning, and since it's winter, no problem @ the moment, but in a month or so, it'll get hot. So for the summer, I DEFINITELY need a place with a/c.

Quote for the night: "You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the Swiss hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the US of arrogance, and Germany doesn't want to go to war."

Sat, 22nd Mar '03, 1:50 am::

Using my search feature, it's just soooo easy to get a list of all my songs for the day/night/week/year/whatever. I love my 'blog!

Wed, 19th Mar '03, 1:55 pm::

Life's busy. Mostly with work. I've been trying to figure out my near & long term academic plans. As far as this summer's concerned, I'm taking 3 classes - two economics + 1 math class. Just three classes are going to cost me over $3500! Yeah, so now I gotta figure out where to get that much money from.

And in fall '03, I'll take 6 classes, and 6 more in spring '04. Hopefully if I get every class I want, I should graduate in May 2004 with a Computer Science + Economics double major, Math minor, University College Honors, and Economics Honors :) Ya I just found out that I can do a one year research project in Economics by myself and use it towards my UC honors also. It's kinda weird, but in the end, it gives me more recognition for not too much work. I had a meeting with my academic advisor today and she says I'm prolly the best/brightest student in UC @ the moment, cuz nobody's doing so much crap in just 4 years. So I guess I should be proud of myself.

With the whole spring break thing, I've been pretty stressed out. I mean it's spring break and most of the people I know are either relaxing or partying on pretty islands. Instead I'm working :( Now I know everyone says I should take out some time for me and blah blah, but well I just dunno. I really want to do all that major/minor thing I talked above and for that I MUST take classes this summer. And for that, I must somehow make $3500 before May. Only solution is I work my ass off in the next two months. Oh well...

Oh I did my income tax night before yesterday. Great news - I'm getting a tax refund of $1000+! Yay! So hoping that it arrives by May, I now need to make $2500 instead of $3500. I guess it's not impossible, but still, it's not a cakewalk either. Ehhhhh money! I'm tired of it. There's just too many expenses. My main aim is to graduate by May 2004, so that I can work for 3-4 months during summer of 2004 and start my grad studies in fall '04. Hopefully with the summer '04 work, I should be able to pay off more than half of my loans and since I'll be making some money while doing my grad, I'll prolly pay off all my loans by 2005. That means *hopefully* by May 2005, I will be out of debt and have CS + Econ double major and doing my grad studies.

Now I'm 99% going to do a MS in CS (hehe). However, if by any chance I don't get admission anywhere, I can do MS in Economics here @ Rutgers. I just talked to an Economics advisor and she said since I talk well and have got great grades, it'll be very easy for me to get into the free Econ program here @ Rutgers. I'll just have to be a Teaching Assistant for a class or two every week, and they'll pay for my tuition and give me some money every month for living expenses. So ya, as far as I'm concerned, studying more, is not too hard.

When people ask me what I'm gonna do after my BS, I say MS, and after MS, PhD. What after PhD? I dunno. Prolly depends on how Chime's doing at that time. I'm hoping to keep it alive :)

You know sometimes with all the work + studies I'm doing, I get all stressed out and start thinking I'm a moron cuz I'm not enjoying my life enough. Maybe I am a moron. I dunno. But I do have a few things that make me feel good about myself. I guess I keep reminding me these things from time to time, just to keep my spirits up.

First of all, I'm really good @ computers. I'm not showing off or anything, rather just being content that I fortunately am good at doing what I love. Second, I'm paying for a US education all by myself. Many people don't realize this, but $20k a year for 4 years in a foreign country is kinda hard to pay for. But I'm doing it. It's hard, but I'm doing it. I'm also paying now for living expenses, which are like $5-6k a year, depending on how comfortably I wanna live. Third, I have two great jobs - one for my college working as a Database/Web developer and other making websites for people through Chime.

But above all, I have people who love me a lot. It's more important than all the three things above combined. At the moment I am not near any of them, and I guess that's what hurting right now. All my friends are home and all my family is faaaar away. I'm just a poor little lost boy from Calcutta now... in this big eerie empty town. Ahhhh I can't wait till spring break's over.

Tue, 11th Mar '03, 12:15 am::

I just talked to my mommy!!! And my grandma and grandpa and sister!!! And I challenge you to prove me wrong when I say that: "My mommy loves me more than your mommy love you!" Cuz you can't! Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah...

G'nite world :) I shall retire a happy boy now...

Thu, 27th Feb '03, 5:20 pm::

Quote for the day: "If you had seen us talking... We were like two grade-schoolers in front of a chimpanzee cage..."

Anyways, this just scared the hell outta me. I just got a call on my cell phone from 'Unknown' and someone played the song: "I just called to say I love you..." by Stevie Wonder! I don't know who it was, or whether it was a prank by someone I know, or just a random call, but it did make me smile a bit. Hehe... And so...

Song for the day: "I just called to say..." - Steview Wonder

Wed, 26th Feb '03, 12:50 am::

Today (actually yesterday, since I'm already 50 mins past midnight), was a good day :) I had a decent Physics exam, great time @ work (as usual), dinner with Kathleen, chilled with Michele at SERC, and went to see Lewis Black's standup comedy show on campus with my buddy Arthur. Just got home, did a little work, and about to head to bed. I still have to write a paper for a class, but I guess I'll make some time tomorrow. Otherwise I'm screwed.

Lewis Black... he said some real interesting things. Of course, the whole two hours were tummy-turning hilarious, but there was some stuff he said which was serious. Like he said, these college years, are the best in our lives. That's it, after college, we're all pretty much screwed, so we better make the best of our years here! Hmmm, so is this it huh? This is the best part of my life and things are just gonna get worse from here onwards? Well, I'm not saying things are bad right now, but I'm sure as hell hoping better things happen later. At least a car, decent place to live, some love in life? Hmmm... makes you wonder if being a single broke college kid with freedom but no wheels is better than being a rich entrepreneur with a flashy car and lovely wife... Makes you think... Hehe... I talk too much. Time to head to bed.

Mon, 10th Feb '03, 3:45 pm::

Here's to another great free lunch @ the Busch dining hall with Michele! Thx girl :) Well you see, me and her have Physics lab together on Monday (we're lab partners) and since we always finish our lab before everyone else in the class, we leave early and she takes me lunchin' @ the dining hall. She's got a 50 meals per semester plan, and since she doesn't eat @ the dining hall everyday, rather than waste 50 unused meals, she feeds me :) I love free food! Hehe. Sure... it's not that expensive and I can probably get my own meal plan (actually, it IS kinda expensive), but the thing is, I don't get hungry during the normal dining hall hours. I am hungriest after 10pm in the night, and they close at 8pm. So it's pretty much useless for me. However, free lunches... aha... I'm ALWAYS hungry for them :) Ya ya, I'll prolly have to make it upto the girl some way or another. I know she loves Taco Bell, so let's see...Hehe...

Anyways, tonight some guy's gonna come to see my room and decide if he wants to move in or not. If he does, then I'll be sharing my room with him till May-end and it'll save me (and the other 9 people in our house) like $65 a month! However, it'll also mean I lose some of my privacy. But oh well... let's see how it goes...

I got a class @ 4:30pm, then going to my room. Will do some computer science homework, setup two websites, and if I have time, work on Chime Away! v2.0 :) Yup, there's a v2.0 coming soon, basically cuz everyone wants to cycle their own away messages. So ya, I'm gonna try my best to finish it asap. You know what I love about my life @ the moment? I'm not bored. There's always some work I can do (and hopefully it's something I like).

And if you're reading this Vishal... you rock dude! And I miss you and Chetan - the two best friends I will ever have. And if you're reading this dear Dad... u da bomb pops! And if you're reading this grandpa 'n ma... I love you... And if you're reading this mom and sis... you are the two loveliest women on the planet and I love you both... And if you're reading this Niki, Keval, Sneh, Sagar, Chris, Megan, Vicky, Mich., Kath, Art, Manzinder, Syed, Steph, Aript, Ritesh, Vu, Steve, Taylor and whomever else I forget, you have made a big difference in my life, even if in small gestures of friendship; you guys have certainly made my life worth living and it is because of you guys that I look forward to waking up everyday (and those stupid 10am classes). And if you're reading this Jackie... yes I know I just mutilated and slaughtered the good ol' English language, but you know what, you inspire me and you better keep writing. And if you're reading this Jenny... you already know how much you mean to me, and just to annoy you even more, I won't write explicitly why you're the coolest chica I know.

There! Now I sound just like a high-school girl on her sweet-sixteen birthday! Hehe... Ok class now - it's already 4:25!

Sat, 8th Feb '03, 3:35 pm::

There is a certain type of pleasure that comes from writing good software. It's very different from the excitement of a victory. It's unlike the ecstacy of finishing a one-mile run. It's quite different for the delights of everyday life. It is more of a calm, steady flow of satisfaction and confidence, that slowly and slowly makes you happier and happier. That's exactly what's happening to me right now.

Last night, I wrote Chime Away! - it is a tiny program that automatically downloads and sets new away messages for Aim every minute. You can select messages from tons of categories like Food, School, Shower, Sleep, and Work etc. Eventually there'll be 50-100 categories to choose from, and maybe over 5000 away messages! Took me about 10-12 hours altogether to write the client software, create the server database, write the server scripts etc. But now, I'm done :) It's a pretty sweet software and I'm proud of it.

I realize that my best programming work comes only when I'm programming non-stop and yesterday I had some time to kill. I still have a few larger programs to complete (Ajooba, Glass2k etc.) but I don't care. Those progs are gonna take a while to complete. Prolly 10-12 days of non-stop programming each. And I still have a lot of websites to complete. I woke up @ 11am even though I went to bed @ 4! Dammit, I just can't sleep during the weekends. Actually I woke up because I was really excited about Chime Away! and wanted to complete it. Hopefully it's all done now. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Ahhhhhh life is good. I love programming and web-designing, and finally after 22 years, I can do as much of it as I want. Sure... my family's gonna be all scared now thinking I'll turn into a loner or something. Well don't worry. I work hard when I have to and I'll party hard when I'm tired of work :) Though this week, no parties. Lotsa work and some good reading time. I gotta finish the novel Beloved by Toni Morrison; like 70 pages left. And then I'll start reading another novel: A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee.

Life isn't very exciting at the moment. There are no *hot* chics that I have a crush on. But I feel so calm right now, that I don't really care. My mind's at peace and that's what matters... I think my brain loves programming. Hehe.

Fri, 7th Feb '03, 1:20 pm::

What a lovely day! It's snowing outside! I woke up this morning I find almost a foot of snow! (In reality it was more like 6-7 inches, but still...) I look outta my window and all I could see was pretty white stuff all over the houses and road. All the schools in New Jersey have cancelled classes. Of course Rutgers didn't. As usual.

Anyways, I just got my paycheck for January! Yay!!! I'm so happy! Now I'll finally be able to pay back all the money to Rutgers *sarcasm*. Yeah yeah, something's wrong here. I work all of January and I get some money. Then I pay back all that so that I can do more hard studies in the next 4 months. And why exactly does this make me happy? I dunno. Something's wrong with my brain. Hehe.

Okies, so I was checking the away messages of people on my Aim buddy list. Gotta admit, my friends 'n family has some of the funniest away messages ever. Some make sense, most don't, but all have a kind of humor, very typical to their true personality:

  • "you are like santa claus on prozac in disneyland getting laid."
    Okaaay! I'm already feeling better about myself.
  • "the ocean is big and its blue, i just wanna sink to the bottom with you"
    Those were Jack's famous last words before Rose kicked him off the floating piece of wood.
  • "i think i should have seriously been born a blonde....the things ive done this week....unbelievable :-P"
    Would ya believe she's Indian?
  • "lalala la la , lalala la la , lalala la la la la la la"
    Oooo! Somebody's happy...

God I love my friends... And I miss the ones not here with me today... Dammit! I wanna go back to Calcutta...

Fri, 31st Jan '03, 5:55 pm::

By popular demand, here is a zoomed-in pic of my trophy shelf :) I call it my trophy shelf, even though there's no 'trophy' per se on it, because it's the love from everyone that I've 'won' :)

Tue, 28th Jan '03, 9:10 pm::

Thus ends another fine winter day :) Had Physics in the morning and then Computers. I found my buddy Mihir's also in my computer class, so it's gonna be great studying with him. Shhhhh don't tell this to anyone, but I am sooooo jealous of Mihir. Not because he's 6 foot tall, looks like a Bollywood male-model, or because he's a preceptor (= free living on campus) and a TA (= teaches CS 112 course), but simply because he has a GPA of perfect 4.0 after 95 credits! I've about 81 credits and have a GPA of 3.963 :( Urghh! I'm sooo jealous (and shallow!) Hehe...

Anyways, after computer class, I hopped along to my work and nothing great happened there. But after work, I decided to go to this special seminar on Nuclear Physics and before you jump to conclusions, nuclear physicists don't make 'weapons of mass-destruction.' Nuclear Physics simply deals with the study of small lil particles like atoms, protons, electrons, mesons, muons, photons, gluons, bosons, positrons, and a hell lot of other 'ons. Of course there's also neutrinos, positrinos, higginos, and a lot of 'nos too :) Part of the reason why I attended the lecture was well, the pamphlet for the seminar: "Don't go to those Greek Frats & Sororities like Alpha Delta Gamma Phi Kappa Zeta! Come to the Physics seminar and actualy learn what these particles do. Free Pizza + Soda." Yeah, so first, the pamphlet was kinda catchy, and second, FREE FOOD! Hehehehe. I had 3 slices :) yummmmm and lots of coke. Hehe.

The lecture was indeed very interesting. Lately, I've been reading a lot of theoritical Physics material (stuff on space/time/dimensions/universe) and the Prof. answered a lot of my questions. It was interesting to see how much he personally believed in Supersymmetry theory and despised the String theory. Also he talked in quite depth about the future projects at CERN, like LHC and CMS. Ah real interesting stuff if well, you like all this stuff. My interest in all this, is of course, still from the computerization point-of-view.

Here's why I am interested in particle Physics - it needs The Grid to succeed. What's the grid? Well you know how the Internet has connected millions of computers to exchange information; now just imagine if instead of download html files and images, you could literally download processor time and speed - that is, if you could use the whole Internet (consisting of millions and millions of computers), as if it was your own personal mega-super computer! That is what the grid is intended to do: make a giant supercomputer by using the raw processing power of smaller, cheaper computers, in such a way that anyone (ok not EVERYONE, but the scientists) can tap into the sheer speed and perform trillions of calculations per second. Ok so why does CERN need the Grid? Simply because every time there is a particle-collision inside the particle accelerators at CERN (that could be anywhere from 1 to 40 million times a second), gigabytes & gigabytes of data is generated, and it needs to be stored, processed, and analyzed before the physicists can make any new scientific theories. Physics, from the good old days of Archimedes running naked in the streets in Greece for discovering bouyancy and Newton observing falling apples, has progressed to a highly industrial science, where each experiment can literally take months and months of preparations and cost billions of dollars. However, research as such is crucial, not just because we're humans and humans love to explore, but more so, to understand how the Universe works from the largest scales (galaxies, stars, planets) to the tiniest scale (atoms, elementary particles, quarks). And with this understanding, we will someday be able to find a cure for every form of cancer, make tiny (of molecular size) robots that can go inside the arteries and unclog clots in the heart, and may be device means to fly off into the space at the speed of light. Ah who knows!

Ok I sounded a bit too much like a Physicist there! Hehe. Well what can I say... I love science :) Esp. the ending where computers come in, solve all the problems, fight with the villians, and take home the princess :) Oh wait... wrong 'blog! Haha...

Anyways, it's late and I got an early class (in my dictionary, 10 am is EARLY). G'nite!

Fri, 3rd Jan '03, 6:00 pm::

Haven't 'blogged in two days now. Yesterday, we went to Alta Ski Area, where only skiers are allowed - no snowboarders! Phew. Snowboarders usually interfere with skiers and go in weird random ways instead of predictable S-curved ski paths. Anyways, going down the slopes of Alta was probably the best 6 hours of my life ever. It was soooooo amazing I can't even explain. There was this one part right before I reached the bottom, where I was skiing down at approximately 30 mph (50km/hour)! My legs were shaking so hard I felt like I needed knee-suspensions just to hold myself steady. Hehe. And best of all, I went on the Black Diamond tracks with Purvi & her friend Alan. I fell a couple of times on the soft powdery snow (and it didn't hurt a bit) but I think I glided through most of the track pretty smoothly. Come on, Blue Squares & Black Diamonds on the third day of skiing? That's almost a World Record! I have a new (and expensive) hobby now and looks like I'm gonna return here every winter :) Let's hope at least.

Anyways, now I gotta wait a whole year till I can ski again :( But hey, it'll be totally worth it. We're not gonna go ski anymore in the next two days (got lotsa other exciting stuff to do). So anyways, after skiing yesterday, we got home, had a nice dinner, and then went to Salt Lake City Cafe and just chilled with Purvi's old high-school friends till 12 midnight. Then we rented a funny movie: Super Troopers from Blockbuster and watched it. The night before we had rented Ali. Ali's an ok movie, nothing remarkable. So that's like 4 movies already! Oh and yesterday I finally met Priya's friend Leah after talking to her online for over 6 months now :)

I woke up this 'morning' @ 12:30 pm and showered. Then we all went to a great Pizza place and I had the Five-cheese Tomato Pizza. Best. Pizza. Ever. After that we went shopping and I bought one nice expensive sweater-type t-shirt from J-Crew which looks kinda like this, but with stripes (I'm actually wearing it right now as we speak, since we're going out soon). And then we went to Barnes & Nobles and I bought myself three science-related books. Two of them are about the future of science and what the world famous scientists expect to happen in the next 100 years. And the third book consists of short anecdotes in the lives of famous scientists. All cool stuff that I love!

And now we're going to some famous Chinese restaurant within a few minutes. While I love Chinese food, the soy sauce messes up with my blood pressure often (because it is extremely high in the salt content). So I think I'll stick to noodles and low-soy items. All in all, this is quite possibly one of the best vacations ever. No tension, no work, no pending websites to finish, no big bills to pay except the expensive stuff I bought today! My shopping budget was exactly $100 and I spent exactly $99 today. So I have one more buck to spend on anything I want :) But then you can't get anything these days with a buck (other than a 20-minute phone call).

Oh and I got two more clients. That makes it a total of six clients waiting in line = 5 to 6 months of continuous business = good stuff :) In a weird sort of way, I can't wait to go back to Jersey and start working on these sites, especially since I haven't designed a new site in over a month now and I'm getting impatient. I want to make some really awesome sites now, kinda like Brighton.

Ok, gotta leave now. Chinese food is calling me. Hehe.

Wed, 1st Jan '03, 7:05 pm::

I LOVE SKIIIIIIIIIIIIING!!! Oh my God! I had sooooooooo much fun today skiing (again @ Brighton). And here's a little secret for you: I AM STUPID! Oh yes oh I am. Guess what! I made the stupid mistake of asking someone (who said he did not speak English) where the Green Circle (easy-level) slopes were. So I followed in the direction he pointed and I ended up on the extremely steep Black Diamond course (hardest-level). Now the interesting thing about skiing is that there is only one way and that is down! It would have been impossible for me to go back to the place I started from. So scared and petrified as I was, I just took a plunge and skied down the slopes. But guess what? I didn't fall or slip or break a leg or anything! I literally skied down the first 1000 feet without stopping or relaxing or falling :)

For a second, it felt like I owned the mountains. Of course, in the next 500 feet down I fell twice and managed to get snow in all my clothing. Hehe. But it was just sooooooo much fun. And of course, being 'intelligentically' stupid as I am, I went on the same Black Diamond course 5 more times and fell 6-7 more times (after all, this was my 2nd day!). Overall, I think I can tackle most ski slopes now. Unless they are Double Blacks or something, I can manage to rhythmically shake my hips and glide my way down ;) Hehe.

To see how far up the mountain I went, see this map of the slopes. I took the Crest Express and the Snake Creek Express (the two highest trails)

Thu, 12th Dec '02, 5:05 pm::

Kinda late but HAPPY BIRTHDAY Grandma!!! I love you and miss you soooooo much.

Anyways had a long but decent day today. Studying + working since early morning. Going home now, nothing interesting. Bleh! I got 5 exams next week. One on monday, one on Tuesday, two on Thursday, and one early Saturday morning. Ya, the finals are looming on my head.

Quote for the day: "The most valueable commodity in the world... is food. But not just any type of food. I'm talking about the best of the best: Free Food! Like lots of free pizza, unlimited supply of diet coke and tons of chocolate chip brownies. Yup, that's all I want..."

Nothing to saySun, 8th Dec '02, 12:35 am::

I never thought I would ever reach this point, but today, I feel as if I have nothing to say. Right now, other than this 'nothing-to-say' thing, there is really nothing I wish to share, comment on, or discuss. There is nothing going on that makes me wanna talk non-stop, and nothing so extraordinary that I am overly excited about. Things are good. Nothing's wrong. It's not too boring or dull either. It's just that I don't feel like talking anymore. I think this has happened because I haven't met any new people recently, and have pretty much nothing new to say to the ones I already know well. Sure I can say how much my Physics exam is scaring me, but it's nothing new. I can probably say dinner was good tonight, but it's always been equally good. I worked and studied and got back home, but I don't think any of that makes a difference to my existence.

I was always afraid that some time in the future, a day would come when I would stop wanting to write this 'blog, and last few days have seemed like it. While there are times when I would love to be able to write a 'blog entry on the spot (like when I woke up and saw snow for the first time this year, or just after I played football w/ the guys), I honestly don't think I feel any excitement at writing a 'blog past midnight when I have nothing to say in particular, other than recite my day's itinerary. I used to love updating my 'blog, not just because I like receiving feedback from lotsa people, but basically because I liked talking about things. Right now, I feel like I've said enuf in life. It's time for me to just shut up and do. Too much talk and blabber is not too good for anyone anyways.

Interestingly, none of this is having any effect on my mood, studies, work or anything. I'm doing the same things as I always did, except without trying to start conversations with random unknown people, and without trying to keep speaking non-stop all the time. Probably it's good; maybe it's bad. Frankly, I'd just like to stop here right now and go to bed :) I don't know when I'll update the 'blog again. Just don't hold your breath waitin' for an update. It could be as soon as next 5 minutes, or who knows... never ever again? Damn just thinking that this might be my last 'blog ever, makes me all nostalgic of when I started this last year.

Oh well, g'nite world.

Mon, 25th Nov '02, 8:10 pm::

Just got home a few minutes ago. Had dinner w/ Michele tonight. Mmmmmmmm. I love my college's dining hall food. 95% of the student complain about it and keep saying how much it sucks, but I don't really care. As far as I am concerned, any place where I can get unlimited pies, pudding, jello, ice-creams, diet-coke, cold-pasta, great salad, and cakes, is heaven in my eyes! Plus it's free for me and cheap for them. Hehe. I'm sooooo stuffed right now that I can't even standup.

Wed, 20th Nov '02, 12:05 am::

Now the whole world already knows my love for Ellen Feiss. Someday I'll find her and marry her! Hehe. Well I just found the world's best techno song, performed by my lovely Ellen: iSwitch song.

Tue, 19th Nov '02, 4:35 pm::

Just got home early. Didn't wanna attend the looooong economics class. Oh and cool stuffs. I chilled with Lisa (from Calc4) for a couple of hours. We went to McDonalds where I had my usual boring McSalad + Diet Coke while she had normal food, like normal humans. I wish I liked the fries and burgers etc. in McDonalds, but since I don't, the only thing I can eat there is the salads. Oh and I love Diet Coke. Everyone knows that :)

Ya so I was w/ her and we just talked and joked and scared the hell out of each other by discussing our Calc4 exam coming up on Thursday. She's a nice girl - one of my new best friends. Oh and hopefully she's takin' me to see Harry Potter II after our exam. I can't wait to get over with the damn exam. It just uses up all my time and brain. Hehe.

Anyways tonight, I have more studies to do. And still gotta complete the new websites that I've begun. So it'll be a busy night.

Thu, 7th Nov '02, 11:55 pm::

Found this interesting new site: Googlism.com. It tells you what Google thinks of any person, company, place etc. Pretty neat. Look what it says when I search for Chirag:

  • chirag is here
  • chirag is in search of a job
  • chirag is a currently a third year resident
  • chirag is the first field to produce crude from a production sharing agreement between azerbaijan and a bp
  • chirag is expected to increase to 17
  • chirag is a dynamic internet entrepreneur and a founding director of internet technology provider tradingparts
  • chirag is caught in a vicious cycle
  • chirag is still not convinced but shaken by the idea that mandira might be pretending to be pregnant

Even more interesting, are the results for poetic words like love, life, and beauty. It's like a long poem, written by an intelligent bot!

Happy B'Day 'BlogSun, 3rd Nov '02, 3:25 pm::

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLOG!!! Ladies and Gentlemen, it's my pleasure to announce that it's been exactly 365 days since I've been bloggin', more or less every day. When I started the blog, I thought I would probably give up within the first few months, but over time I realized that it's not just a diary that I write when I have time... it's more... it's a reflection of my life, it's who I am, good - bad - ugly - I don't care; it's just me. I honestly thank all of you who take time to just lurk in here once in a while to get an update on how I'm doing. There are some who religiously read it, and guys, you're the best! Thanks for being there for me all the time (you know who you are.)

Over the course of one year, things went from good to bad to good to bad to good to bad to good... over and over again. At times, and trust me there were many, when I just felt like giving everything up and running away... but somehow I managed to just hang in (many times thanks to something u said, wrote, or did)... Of course, there were lots of highs... the times when I was extremely happy, unable to control myself, writing stuff that makes even me jealous of myself! Hehe.

So what has this one year of bloggin' taught me? I mean isn't everything supposed to teach you something overtime? Well I dunno what I've learnt. Maybe I learnt that life goes in cycles of ups-and-downs. Maybe I learnt that the most important thing in life is people, the ones around you and the ones who you wish were around you. Maybe I learnt that I shouldn't take life too seriously... after all, nothing's permanent. Maybe I learnt that I'm too bipolar and confused, to actually make sense of what goes around me. Maybe I learnt that I am a good hard-working person loved by many. I just don't know. Or maybe I learnt that not everything has to have a definite straight-forward lesson to teach you. Maybe things are just meant to happen, without us trying to make sense of them...

One year...just like the year before... just like the year before that... I don't think I've changed a lot. Sometimes I tried, sometimes I didn't... In the end, I'm still the same. Love me or hate me. I'm me. And since you're reading this, chances are, you love me for who I am. So thanks :) Have a great day.

Fri, 1st Nov '02, 10:15 pm::

A new web-designer friend of mine just came back from watching the movie Bowling for Columbine and raved how much he's impressed by the movie. It's been a long time since someone said stuff like that to me. So I went through the sample film-clips, and trust me, I'm in a state of euphoria right now. I'd suggest everyone to see 'A Brief History of America' clip and if possible the other three short clips also. This movie is about violence and America, about the Columbine shootings, about the American love-affair with guns. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm gonna go see it soon. I really want to. Here's a review of the movie. Here's one more.

One thing that really touched me was a quote by Marilyn Manson, the infamous rock singer, hated by parents all over the country. Since the Columbine shooters listened to his music, he has been widely despised as the devil who spawned the killers. I must say that though I never knew much about the guy, his article in defense of his music genre, impresses me highly. I have'nt taken much interest in his music, but at least now I know that he's not a hopeless evil freak as a lot of people make him out to be.

Quote for the night: "I wouldn't say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say. And that's what no one did." - Marilyn Manson, on being asked by Michael Moore, director of Bowling for Columbine, as to what he would say to the kids at Columbine, right after the shootings.

Thu, 24th Oct '02, 4:05 pm::

I love away messages that I can quote out-of-context...

I'm a shameless momma's boySun, 20th Oct '02, 11:55 pm::

It's been a pretty long time since I wrote a nice sweet 'blog entry. And it's been even longer since I admitted my flaws & mistakes. Tonight I do just that. This 'blog entry... for my mom.

Today was a pretty long day... I cleaned my room & bathroom, drove my cuzins around all day, did all my homework, and finally settled down to finish off my website work. I think I was almost done with this site when my mom came online. Ahh... It had been weeks since I last talked to her. The sad thing is, whenever she comes online, I'm mostly busy doing my homework @ 1 am, and so I can't really talk to her. But tonight fortunately, I had all the time for some good mother-son chattin'.

Well I found out my sister is on the way to a nice vacation to Singapore, Bangkok, and Pataya with all her friends from college. W00t! I need a vacation! I need a vacation! Well, come Winter break and I'll get one. Hehe. Anyways, things are all mostly fine back home, the only worrying news is my grandpa's health. Fortunately the docs are saying everything will be fine soon, so it's all good.

Ok now lemme get back to my mom. I think about her a lot... actually at least once daily - right after I have my lunch. You see when I went to India over the summer, my mom packed me a BIG box of Mentos, in fact so many, that I can keep eating 1 per day for the next 2 years! Ya so every afternoon, right after I chug down a yummy sub-sandwich, I think of my mom and how much I miss her. I'm really really really close to her, and I know that she misses me a lot too.

Tonight, before she came online, I was feeling kinda tired in my head, from all the work, studies and the overall drudgery of my daily life. My mood wasn't too good either. And if you've been reading my 'blog lately, you'll see how I've been mostly tired and boring in the past few weeks. I'll admit it; I kept blaming everything on studies, and too much work, and that I kept making stupid excuses that I have no time for this and no time for that. And day by day, I was getting more and more sick of everyday life.

But then she came on and told me she's worried because I'm working so hard and studying too much. She said that most parents are worried that their child is not studying enuf or not working hard enuf, but she is worried that I'm over-working and over-studying! And then she said she missed me and wanted me to have FUN in my life and not just over-exert myself everywhere. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. I felt soooo good, realizing how much she cared about me.

My friend Jacquelin said, "it's cool how your parents are like, wired to your brain sometimes and know exactly when to email/call and say something that makes you feel good." That's soooo true! I really needed that chat tonight, to make me realize that no matter how much I think my studies and work are important, there's still one more thing important than all that and that is the quality of my life. I mean isn't that the ultimate aim? Living a happy, fun life? And here I am, doing everything possible to achieve something that's so far way, while giving deplorably stupid excuses for not enjoying my life! Damn! I have been soooo dumb. Thank you Mom! I know it sounds like a typical movie cliche, but you've shown me the light!

Now I'm not saying that right away I'm gonna stop all my work and stop studying! I'm just saying that from now on, I stop making stupid excuses and complaints about how tired I am and how much work/study I still have to do. And above all, I'm gonna go make myself some time to actually HAVE FUN with my family and friends! Enuf with this lots of studies and too much work crap! Chirag needs to have some serious fun! Now where's my little black book... gotta call up on that cutey from that class I took last semester... hehehe...

(PS: I love you Mummy. You're the sweetest, loveliest, kindest, and most caring mother in the whole wide world! Trust me! I KNOW I'm 100% right!)

Tue, 15th Oct '02, 9:20 am::

I love this section of Tommy.com, mainly because it's such a clean smooth and easy-to-navigate interface. Ok, time for me to take some serious notes. Hehe. The guy who made this site, also designed the Yard NYC and Will Smith 2k sites. A pretty impressive portfolio if you ask me. Oh well, I have a LONG way to go then ;)

Gotta go now - Discrete Structures II class.

Fri, 11th Oct '02, 1:00 pm::

Anyways, life's good. It's raining bad here - quite humid, cold, and gloomy... and yup, you guessed it right: I love it! Haha.

Fri, 11th Oct '02, 12:55 pm::

Everyone needs a lap dance once in a while. Right? Hehe. No thanks! I'd rather not. Anyways, it's a really funny flash animation, so see it. Actually now that I think about it, the cat is a metaphor though, representing (I hope I don't get flamed for this): Women. All the poor guy wants to do is have some fun, but noooooo, he has to straddle the evil kitty for hours and hours... Oh well, still funny. Gotta love the ending.

Fri, 4th Oct '02, 8:50 am::

I'm back. Haha! Ok that was taking it too far... I certainly don't love any weather better than a computer lab, so I guess I'll stick in here and type out more random stuff. Well, now the list of cool ppl who wished me so far, in addition to my cuzins & uncle/aunt that I mentioned above: Eric, Kiran Uncle & Family, my Dad 2nd time (in a sweet email), Steve, Yogesh, Ali (aka Alf), Nikhil, and the oh-so-lovely and cow-kissing Megan. Damn the list is getting longer. Hehe.

Ok now a reflection on my life. Everyone lives two lives: one on the outside and one on the inside. On the outside, I'm studying, making websites, making software, buying expensive computer stuff, buying cool mp3 players, and of course working 20 hours a week while taking 18 credit hours - 6 days a week, from 7 am to 2 am. On the inside, I'm easily handling studies, having lotsa fun making websites and software, getting extremely happy for finally being able enough to buy myself decent equipment to work with, loving my job 101%, and totally feeling guilty for not having enough time for my friends and family. So overall, I'm all good on the outside, and almost good on the inside; that feeling guilty-for-not-socializing part ain't good. But guess what? Things are just about to get purrrrfect... I'm buying a car soon. It's 100% confirmed. Just need to decide how to go about it now. I know one thing for sure, once I buy a car, I'll def. have a LOT of extra time, so of course, I'll spend it with my friends and family (and prolly online too. Hehe.)

I was kinda worried a last night about buying a car - after all it's a big expense and there are 1000 things that can go wrong. But then this morning I got an email from my dad saying he too bought a used car too longgggg ago. And now I'm suddenly not worried at all! After all my dad's best of luck & wishes are right here with me :-) So Daddy... I'm getting my 1985 Toyota Tercel right away! Haha! Just kidding. No matter how badly I need a car, I'm not gonna buy a crappy one. It'll be something nice and decent, and quite possibly much cheaper.

So there you go... a long 'blog. Happy now? Got any questions? Well then

You gotta love StrongBad!

Fri, 4th Oct '02, 8:45 am::

It's mega blog time! I have an hour before class starts and so well, lemme just blurt out random stuff. First lemme begin with:

Song of the day: "Brand New Day" - Sting

I love this song, it's one of my favorite songs ever. Just makes me all fresh and optimistic everytime I hear it. Last night I put that song (along with 39 others) on my Nomad ;-) Oh and trust me, it's the BEST thing I've ever bought for myself. I'm listening to it as I write this.

Anyways, this morning my cuzins Sneh & Sagar woke me up by shaking the hell outta me! I was so shocked that I thought the damn house was on fire; turns out it was only my b'day :) Hehe. Then later my uncle & aunt wished me "Happy B'day" and here I am... on a lovely beautiful cloudy cold day, in a computer lab, writing my 'blog - couldn't be happier (except of course, if I was with my parents & sister instead).

I don't know what my fascination with cold gloomy windy rainy weather is. Everyone around me seems to totally hate it. I just love it. Hehe. I'm prolly weird. Who cares! It's beautiful outside. I'm gonna go and chill outside under a tree and read a book. Ok, good bye, see you.

Mon, 30th Sep '02, 1:55 pm::

Funny coincidence that I'm writing my 'blog exactly 12 hours after my last entry. Hehe.

Anyways, I keep saying all the time that I love my job and the ppl I work with, but never provide good enuf reasons. Here's one solid reason. This morning when I went to our College Avenue Business Office, the Dean of Business & IT - Ed, Business Admins - Tine and Elaine, and the coolest RC IT folks: Bruce and Tamara all got together and celebrated my and Elaine's birthday! Elaine's was last Saturday and mine is coming up on Friday, so they decided to throw a little breakfast party for both of us! Isn't that sooooooooo sweet and thoughtful? I had some tomato-cheese bagels and a nice big slice of chocolate cake! God I felt sooooooooooooooo happy and appreciated. Thanks a lot RC IT folks! You made my day (and prolly my whole week).

Thu, 26th Sep '02, 10:10 am::

Yet another lovely cloudy gloomy day! Yay! I love the cold breeze :) Anyways, gotta work hard today. Lotsa stuff to do.

Sun, 15th Sep '02, 6:45 pm::

Oh my God! I feel soooooo happy right now. I just ate 3 dishes of cake!!! Last night @ Alpa aunty (our neighbor) gave me a whole big box of cake cuz she found out that I love cake. Well I just finished the whole box in one shot! I'm sooooooo stuffed. Ahhhhhhh. Cake makes me all happy. I don't need rest anymore. I need do burn all this fat :) I'll go down and workout soon I think.

Fri, 13th Sep '02, 8:55 am::

What a lovely cold morning. Brrrr. Hehe. I'm a winter freak. Can't wait for things to get even colder. Hehe. People will all wear 3 layers of clothing 'n gloves 'n jackets 'n ear muffs, while I'll prance around in my t-shirt and shoes :) You gotta love winter freaks... Hehe.

Oooh I got some great superfluous news: I'm back to a 9.0 in HotOrNot.com!

And a BIG shoutoutz to my sis Roshni... who's prolly soon goin on a nice vacation to Singapore & Pataya... I love you sis! And you know I mean it.

Thu, 12th Sep '02, 10:30 am::

Was working non-stop since that last blog entry up there. I have to admit one thing: I LOVE MY WORK!!! Seriously, I could not have asked for a better job and nicer people to work with. And the work I have to do itself is great. It's not too easy (otherwise I would easily get bored and restless), it's not too hard (otherwise I would get frustrated and distracted), and it's not at all repetitious (otherwise I would get bored, restless, frustrated, AND distrated). Hehe. I do web and database design (in ASP, Html, Xml, MS Sql, VB etc.) and I LOVE IT! I like making new systems actually. Though I can't talk about the project I'm currently working on (due to confidentiality reasons), I have to admit, it's neat and though takes a lot of work and effort, is worth every minute that I spend behind it. Already many of the Rutgers staff have begun to use the system and soon many more will. Next week I have a lunch meeting with the Deans and their office administrators, where I'll demo the new system and teach everyone how to use it. I feel all *smart* and *important* and stuff right now. Hehe.

If you are a random surfer who just happened to chance upon my 'blog today, you'll probably think that my social life sucks and my work life is marvellous. I'm afraid, you'd be right... Oh well, it's not like my current hectic schedule is permanent. Once I move out, live on my own, and get a car, things will definitely be different (I can't say better or worse, but surely more interesting). That day's prolly a few years away; lets hope I get there safe and sound.

Going crazy go nutsThu, 12th Sep '02, 9:00 am::

It's nice and cold outside. I love it! Got lotsa work this morning. Have soooooooo much studies 'n stuff to do tonight. Urgh. I need more time. A lot of times I think maybe it's not the time that's lacking, but rather my skills at managing it. Would have enuf time if I did things a little differently, a little more efficiently? Maybe... who knows! But I doubt that no matter what I do, nothing will save me more than 5-10 mins a day at max. Here's my schedule from Monday to Saturday: I wake up at 7 am (too early already), I leave the house by 8 am, my work/classes take up the rest of the day - till about 7:30 pm when I get back home. By 8 pm, I've had dinner and am ready to do stuff. Since I gotta wake up at 7 am next morning, I guess I have at max 4-5 hours (unless I decide to kill myself by staying up longer). During the 4-5 hours, I have to work on my websites, do my college homework, study for exams, help out my cousins with their homework and school projects, do some basic household chores, and reply to any personal emails that I get. I have already stopped responding to business emails or emails relating to my softwares (mostly tech-support); just can't handle it. I haven't worked on any beta softwares in a long time either.

So clearly there doesn't seem to be much I can do regarding my time between 8 pm and till I sleep. I can't wake up earlier in the mornings either. If I do wanna manage my time better, I guess I should use the 10-11 hours that I spend on campus more efficiently. Now on Mondays and Tuesdays, I have classes from 9am till 6 pm non-stop! Yikes! If I try hard enuf, may be I can squeeze in 30-40 mins of homework time somewhere, but that depends highly on where my college buses are. And plus if I have any errands to run (like posting a letter, going to the registrar etc.) then I actually end up being late for classes. Now on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I work till 1 pm and then have classes till 6 pm. On Fridays, I have classes till 1 pm and work till 6 pm. On Saturdays, I work full day from 8 till 6 pm. Thankfully, I take Sundays off! So in the end, I work around 20 hours a week and have 18 credit hours of classes. I am taking 6 classes by the way. If I want to graduate within 2 years, then I have to take at least 6-7 classes per semester.

I guess the only free time I have sometimes, is actually during work (like now!). But that's only because I'm waiting for input from my Dean regarding the project I am currently working on. In the end, it leaves me with just one day in the week with some free time: Sunday. I stay in bed till 8:30-9 am, freshen up, clean my room, clean my bathroom, shower and help out my aunt 'n cuzins doing household chores (most impoortantly laundry). In the afternoons I do get some quality time with myself, but in the evenings, it's mostly outside backyard work (raking leaves, lawn mowing, watering the pretty roses etc.) Of course, since I have 5 classes on Mondays, Sunday nights are spent either doing homework, or studying for exams & quizzes.

Now will someone PLEASE suggest me how I can actually have FUN in my life without drastically changing my current lifestyle? I'm in a pretty good mood at the moment, but with my work & studies increasing gradually, I don't think I'll be able to handle all this much longer without going crazy go nuts. I think I need to prepare myself for mania, depression, hysteria, dellusions, and hallucinations that will soon come on to me within the next few weeks. Oh well... everyone's life is hard and yet everyone's life goes on! I should stop being such a whiny little b*tch! Hehe.

Sun, 8th Sep '02, 9:45 pm::

This is quite possibly the best designed newspaper site in the world. I love the colors, the navigation is smooth and VERY intuitive with beautiful use of javascript. Reading the articles is SO much more easier as they are all spaced out in three columns; no scrolling for long articles. Of course, if you like reading in one big column, you can instantly switch to one-column view. And I don't understand why no other major site thought of this before, but two small icons under every article allow you to make the font size bigger or smaller instantly. Hats off to the designers :)

Sat, 7th Sep '02, 7:35 pm::

Fall's here! I dunno if the leaves are falling or if the world's gonna turn golden 'n brown, but I do know that I can hardly breathe right now. Yeah, my nose's all blocked and my mouth feels sore - stuff that happens to my pretty much every fall/winter. Urgh.

Oh and I managed to almost kill myself 4 times in the shower today! First I almost slipped when I stepped in, then I bumped my head on the wall while turn on the shower, then I almost slipped while trying to reach for the soap, and of course I almost knocked myself over the edge when I tried to get out of the shower. WHY? Cuz it was damn freezing and my legs were shaking! Shaking legs = bad balance! Why legs shaking? Same reason as above: Fall/Winter -> too damn cold already! AHHHHHHH I love it. Hehe.

Sat, 31st Aug '02, 12:55 pm::

It's sooooooo beautiful out today! @ 10, I dropped off Sagar @ the regular haircut place (not the mexican one) and went on a loooong driving spree :) I drove to all of the 3 Rutgers campuses on this side of the Raritan (College Av., Douglas 'n Cook) and to inside hidden streets I'd never been to. What a lovely day! Then had a sneak pizza slice @ Margarita and got back home. Oh and I worked out a bit too. In all, the perfect little Saturday morning. Now I go do some laundry. Ahhhhhh.

Oh and yesterday I had a fun day @ work. Thanks to Bruce 'n Tamara (the coolest ppl in RC IT) I got to see my new office. It's actually in the Busch Student Center, inside the Graduate Student Lounge. Call my cell before you decide to drop by, cuz my hours are not fixed yet. I'll prolly be in my office in between classes :) Damn I feel special. Oh and I also had a nice cup of ice-cream with Bruce 'n Tamara for lunch yesterday. God I love that little home-made ice-cream place. I actually drove down to the place this morning while driving randomly, but I couldn't find it!!!! Ahhhh the drawbacks of having a bad directional-memory! Well, next Friday I'll make sure I remember.

Sat, 3rd Aug '02, 2:35 am::

Anyways it's been quite a long time since I discussed how my life was going. Life is going pretty good actually. I love my work on campus and things going good @ home too. Actually my work stuff is getting more and more complicatd lately - and I like that. They're giving me more and more high-level internal stuff to work on - like this thing called Radius and Tacacs authentication, which is like the highest and best form of network security present today - and my job is to make a system that can interact with these high-performance servers etc. I know I'm not making much sense @ the moment, cuz I'm still learning this whole thing too, but boy... is it complex!!!

Oh so it rained today and that's good - cuz no watering the lawn tomorrow. That means I'll prolly get to sleep till 10-11 am :) Yay! Anyways it's 2:45 so I better go to bed.

Wed, 31st Jul '02, 8:45 am::

@ work now. Just heard this quote and simply love it: "When the Gods want to punish you, they grant your wishes." It's from a book by Mark McCormick called "Never Wrestle with a Pig."

Thu, 30th May '02, 5:05 am::

And it took me 50 minutes to write all this! Whoa! I gotta wake up early tomorrow cuz I have to go to my mama's (mom's bro's) house. I love being there in Kandivali... Ahhhhh I miss it sooo much, but good to know within a few hours I'll be there. Hey wait a minute, I just realized I miss Calcutta too, oh and I miss New Jersey too. Now as soon as I go to Kandivali, I'll miss proper Bombay and when I goto Calcutta I'll miss Bombay and Kandivali. God anywhere I go, I end up missing the other great places... Now if only I could be in more than one place @ the same time... hehehe...

Thu, 30th May '02, 4:15 am::

What a great time to write my 'blog! Well it's been kinda hard to come online, mainly because I am having so much fun here in Bombay ;) My cuzin bro Keval and sis Nikita are both fast asleep behind me right now and I gotta be extra careful not to type loudly. Hehe. Reminds me of my first few weeks in US when I used to share my cuzin Sagar's room. Oh and a 10^10^10^10^10^10 thanks to everyone who emailed me saying that they want to read more about the stuff that's happened since I left US.

So lemme start from the very beginning. My flight from Newark to Bombay via Amsterdam was pretty exhausting. Although it was not terrible, it was still pretty uncomfortable, mostly because of the total lack of leg-room. But the 4 hours that I got to spend @ the Amsterdam airport were quite cool. I met this Russian chic Kitana (weird name) and had the world's worst glass of Coke. Too bad she had to take a different flight :( The funny thing is, she thought I was a Latino and not an Indian. Hehe. Of course then I proved my Indianhood by talking in the famous Simpsons character Apu's typical Indian accent.

Flight to Bombay was pretty good, mostly because I slept through half of it. I had some red wine, and now I know why scientists say a little of it is good for your health. The reason is - IT GODDAMN BURNS YOUR WHOLE CIRCULATORY & RESPIRATORY SYSTEM! Of course, I loved every second of it, but still, it was pretty unexpected, cuz I thought wine would be nice and sober, not hot. After I landed in Bombay, it took me over one hour to get my luggage and during that time I noticed that the famous Indian actress Rekha had been on my flight too! Somehow she got her luggage within the first 5 minutes. Ahhh the joys of being a celebrity... As soon as I came out of the airport, I saw my cuzin Keval, Paresh uncle, Ruskin mama & Family, Khushboo, Niyati, Baboo and god knows how - my buddy Vishal! I was like... err... he does NOT fit into the picture since he's supposed to be in Calcutta. Turns out he came here on a business trip and decided to drop by exactly @ the time of my flight. Hehe. No wonder I'm a happy man - my family & friends love me.

Now on 28th, I went high-quality-expensive-traditional Indian clothes shopping all around the city but didn't like much. Then went to meet a few relatives @ night. The fun part of the day was sitting in the car with Nikita and see her drive... Trust me it's gotta be one of the most thrilling rides in the world, even more adrenaline pumping than those roller-coaster monsters in theme parks.

On 29th (almost today), I went shopping once again and met my uncle's sister (that is my dad's sister's husband's sister) who took me around to a few more good clothes stores. I picked a nice dress for cuzin Sneh and my aunt and two for Sagar. The measurements/stitching/etc. will be ready in 2-3 weeks. I'm thinking of getting something for myself too, but not very sure. Maybe I'll get something custom-tailored in Calcutta. Then later in the evening, I met Nikita's fiance Mehul and we went to a really good fast food place - Cream C**** (it's too late for me to remember that right now). Anyway the food was good and it was great hanging out w/ the future bro-in-law. The neatest part came afterwards when we four (Mehul, Niki, Keval, and me) went to this roof-top hang-out-type restaurant called Koyla (which means 'coal' in Hindi). We just sat there for over two hours and chatted random stuff, mostly me telling my corny jokes :) Hehe. But it was all fun and in the end, we decided that I needed to stay more in Bombay and that just one day that I got to spend with everyone, is not enough. Let's see... there'll be a big debate in Calcutta soon. Hehehehe...

After Koyla, Mehul left for his house, we came home, Niki started talking to Mehul non-stop on her cell, I introduced Keval to the raw genius of Office Space that I have on my hard disk, and I worked out for 45 mins and did my regular 1000 half-crunches :) By god I'm tired right now. After my exercise, I checked my email and started this 'blog.

Sat, 25th May '02, 1:30 am::

Oi! Falling in love has never been so devastating...

Tue, 21st May '02, 6:15 pm::

I love one-liners :)

Thu, 16th May '02, 10:45 pm::

Today is a good day for science, actually computers. This BBC article talks about UK's first major exhibition of video games running at the Barbican Gallery in London until September. Scroll to the middle of the page and you'll see: ZX Spectrum, a tiny little keyboardized computer that in 1989-90 changed the course of my life forever. According to the article:

"The ZX Spectrum was one of the first affordable home computers and played a big role in the creation of the 'geek', a person (usually a man) that derived immense pleasure out of computer coding in their bedrooms."

Yes I am a victim. I never owned ZX Spectrum, but one of my dad's friends did and I used to go to his house just to make stupid circle and boxes on his TV screen using the 'computer'. I was 'supposed' to play video games on it, but I ended up teaching myself BASIC at the ripe age of 10 (I think). Yes, this is how innocent happy childhoods are destroyed and devious one-tracked socially-devoid teenage minds are born. Haha. I'm talking bad stuff about myself right now! LOL. Just kidding.

What I mean is, just because I found the ZX Spectrum, I fell in love with computers. Now I might not be the best programmer out there, but I still think I am pretty good with computers. It's kinda sad/sorry/weird/odd/nerdy/geeky/spiffy/blah-blah-adjectives, but yeah my whole life has been influenced by computers and although things haven't been hard, they have been different from what most people go through. I mean while at 17 my friends were worried about whether their crushes like them or not, I was worrying if I could finish the Hind 2000 email client before someone else released their dummy version of it.

Funny thing is, I am 21 right now and I'm still having the same problems. Don't believe me? Well although I agree that 'Imitation is the highest form of flattery,' I resent the fact that this asinine company literally stole the design of this site that I made (actually still making)! Now technically I can unleash a wicked demon upon them to pretty much ruin their site, but I think I'll control myself this time. After all, the site they came up with even after copying me, is pretty crappy! Haha. Time for me to go to bed... Good night sweet world :) Good night ZX :) Good night Helen... mmm....

Thu, 16th May '02, 10:15 pm::

Everybody knows I'm not a big Mac/Apple fan. But today I went to CompUSA on Route 1 and I saw the Apple 22-inch Cinema Display running on OS X. I have to shamefully admit it, that it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen in my entire life. Seriously. I don't have words to describe how amazing, surreal, and exceptionally gorgeous the system was. Ya I know it's SAD that I'm talking about a computer like it's some Sports Illustrated swimsuit chic, but you have to see the thing to believe me... Now if only I had $5000 spare lying around somewhere, I would buy myself one of these... I would prolly never use it, cuz as I said, I don't use Macs, I'm a Windows guy, but I just want to own this Mac machine... it's like Batmobile - even though nobody can drive it on the traffic-jammed highways, everybody would love to own it.

Sun, 12th May '02, 7:45 pm::

Calculus is OVER! Yay! Finally! 3 terms of Calculus done! One more left :( Anyway, it was a good class, the teacher was very helpful, and it was fun studying with my friends. Ah... it's the end of an era... I have one more exam: Discrete Structures I (Computer) on Tuesday and then I'm done :) Yay!!! So even though I don't want to I still have to go and study now :( Uh uh...

Oh and I forgot, I just came back from Bombay Bistro (undisputably the BEST Indian food restaurant in New Jersey!!!) with my family. We all love the food there, especially Sneh and every time we go there, we come back soooooo filled up. Hehehe...

Fri, 10th May '02, 7:55 pm::

Studying for Calc all day/night non-stop.

I don't remember if I mentioned earlier, but THANK YOU once again Vicky for the newspapers (Cayman and Japan). Also thanks to Astrid for newspapers from Bahamas :) I love this hobby... hehehe... it's free too!

Tue, 7th May '02, 12:10 pm::

This is why I love Google.

Mon, 6th May '02, 8:30 pm::

Anyways, today was the last day of college! Yay! Now I have exams on 9, 12, and 14 May. Then I am a free bird :) Tonight, tomorrow, and day after I study for Linear Algebra... then it's Calculus and then Computer. Oh Calculus... reminds me... today was prolly the last class I'll ever have with Kathleen, Vicky, and Jim. And most prolly Steve too. Jim and Vicky were with me for 2 terms and Kath had been for three! In fact she's the first person I met after transferring to Rutgers New Brunswick in Jan 2001. I've already missed Ross and Steph a hell lot throughout this term. And on top of it I'm now gonna miss all the bad Calculus jokes I made and all the fake laughter from my 'friends'. Haha... Ah... it's the end of an era... Next term I have 5 interesting classes... I'll meet more new people... but first... We all gotta get through the damned final exams!

Of course summer's going to be heaven! I think I've begun to hallucinate a lot lately. I keep thinking I am already @ home in Calcutta! Hehehe... This morning I woke up dreaming that I was in my room back home... then realized I was here in US... oh well, I love being in both places! Hehehe... I know one thing for sure, as soon as I reach India, I'll miss New Jersey. I've begun to love this place...

Fri, 3rd May '02, 2:15 pm::

If you are my sister, cousin, relative, or any girl I know well in India, smile... I'm gonna bring you lots of neat stuff :) I just came back from the Revlon Corporate Store at Edison and I bought a whole lot of things for everyone! Now I know it's not 'manly' of me (rather kinda gay) to admit that I actually went to a Revlon store shopping for lipsticks, mascara, lip-gloss, nail polish and god knows what else, but well... it's all for the people I love... so smile :) Hope the guys will ignore this incident. Haha.

Thu, 2nd May '02, 8:35 am::

I was up till late last night and still couldn't complete the research paper :( I have about 4 hours of spare time today to complete it... ahhhhhh

It's raining bad outside; dark and gloomy. I LOVE this weather. Haha. Just kiddin'.

Tue, 30th Apr '02, 8:45 am::

This harassment by Toronto Airport customs of one of India's most famous and prolific actors: Kamal Hassan is pathetic, saddening, scary, and depressing. What are they doing in the name of 'fake' security!!! I can only imagine what they'll do to me when I go to India this summer. When I think about it deeper, I feel like taking some sweet revenge on these customs ppl. Maybe when they strip search me, they'll find me wearing interesting undergarments courtesy of Vicky's confedential clothes! Haha. God I'd love to get back @ these customs morons... I can't ever Ever EVER EVER forgive them for what they did to me in India on the day I left... urghhhh.... bad bad memories... not a good way to start your day!

Anyways I have a long day ahead of me, lots of important stuff to do :)

YACP (Yet Another College Party)Sun, 28th Apr '02, 12:10 pm::

What a day! What a night! I'm talking about yesterday. Cook college has the AG-Field Day every year to mark the beginning of Spring. So I went there expecting a nice family gathering-type environment. As soon as I reached on campus I saw dogs... damn thousands of them! This was no ordinary picnic! Cook and Douglas have a huge campus area and ppl had opened shops, and set up tables over tens of acres. I went around the whole campus checking out all the stalls and events. It was just a smaller and americanized version of Kumbh Mela.

At 6 pm, I thought it was time to go home and relax. But before I left, I wanted to meet Kath and roommates. Imagine my surprise when I reached their apartment and she said, "Wow! Chirag you're here. The party is just starting!" Well you know the rules of the party already. Don't you? No need to repeat them. Anyways, it was different this time, since we moved from one party on Cook to other constantly. We, meaning, Kath, Ian, Vicky, Astrid, Eric, Mike, Jay, myself, and two really cool ppl I met for the first time: Dave and Lauren, both from Livingston campus. We're definitely gonna hang out with those two more often. Dave's like the ultimate party dude! Haha.

At 8 pm, I discovered that you don't need years of training under a choreographer to learn how to dance. Just 7-8 of these can do the trick!

At 10, Astrid comes in and tells us all there's free food near the dorms! Everyone else had all those meaty stuff like you know, burgers, hot dogs blah blah. Thank god for pretzels. I had 2. God I love 'em!

Anyways, by the time it was 11, we were all dead tired and sleepy (read: DRUNK!) and that's when the party-2-party jumping ended. We all went to Kath's and just crashed in her living room for over an hour just babbling randomly and laughing non-stop! Kath was her usual funny self. Dave was sooooo funny! I 'think' I cracked a lot of jokes too. God we were hilarious! Or MAYBE we just 'thought' we were funny! The sane world will never know. I crashed for the night there and drove back home in the pouring rain @ 6 am! I slept for 6 more hours and here I am now.

Mon, 22nd Apr '02, 9:35 pm::

Forgot to mention, yesterday I went to see Ice Age @ Regal Cinemas with my cuzins! The movie was soooo funny that I was like laughing at the top of my voice the whole time. And we had a BIG bowl of popcorn and coke :) I love Coke!

Then I went to Voorhees Chapel to see Kath sing in the Voorhees choir. Have to admit it... she looked sooooo sweet in the formal choir black dress. And there were 100 other girls too! Woohoo. Hehe. Plus it was neat meeting her dad. He's one big guy and looks like one of those rich hi-society corporate Business-class-only ppl! Hehe.

Quote of the day: "When you find a mate, you should be faithful, and in your case, grateful." - Manny the Mammoth to Sid the Sloth in Ice Age.

Hangin' out with The KhansSun, 21st Apr '02, 2:55 am::

(Warning: This is my longest 'blog entry EVER): OHHHHHHH MYYYYYYY GODDDDDDD!!!!!!! Today was probably the most surprisingly exciting day of my life EVER! If you're not Indian, there's a very high probability you will not understand my excitement. But if you are, then you probably won't believe me! Naya Andaz is one of US's biggest dance competitions for Indians. This year the chief guest was one of India's most famous choreographer Farah Khan! Also her brother Sajid Khan (scroll down a bit) was there too. (Sushmita Sen was supposed to come too but had schedule problems, so she could not make it.)

As I said earlier, I was handling the projector, live-video feeds, and of course the computer presentations that included the individual interviews of all the choreographers. Tough work but not impossible. Right from the start, I could literally feel the adrenalin in my body... I have a MASSIVE stage/backstage excitement content just like my dad. From 11 am today I was at the State Theater of NJ and only returned home to get dressed before the real show. I realized today how much I have always loved being a part of big shows like these and how great the feeling is when everything is working fine and well coordinated. One thing I have to admit, the theater team (sound, video, lights, backstage) provided by the State Theater itself has got to be one of the best in the country, if not the world. I've worked with tens of crews in the past but there was just so much perfection in each and everything these guys did, that it's beyond belief. Daddy, you would LOVE to work with them! Trust me. The light-man knew when the sound man would lower the volume and so he would fade out the lights at the same time, while the video-guy slowly zoomed out in sync. I mean, it was a symphony! Of course we were all on head-sets and communicated live to discusss what was supposed to happen next. The funny thing is, there were two shows going on, one on the stage, and the other off-stage in the headsets! It was soooo funny, the light man Craig would constantly curse the video guy's mom! LOL. I was laughing throughout the show...

Some not good news: My aunt's both groups: Sagar's Koi Kahe and Sneh's Mera Mahi, did not win :( I am pretty sad for it and I know Sneh is not gonna feel well for the next couple of days, since she had put all her mind, body, brains, efforts, energy, EVERYTHING into both the dances. My aunt also was disheartened but she's a fighter and understands well how fierce the competition was. I mean just getting one group in a competition like Naya Andaz is impossible, and my aunt had two groups! Funny thing is, just ONE year ago she did not even have dance students, and now she has her own Dance School : Aakar School of Dance with over 20-25 regular kids! So what if we lost Naya Andaz... things can only go up from here...

I am hereby thankful to Bill Gates for not crashing or killing my computer while the show was going on. Trust me there was ONLY one thing I was afraid of and that is a 10x12 foot Blue Screen of Death that the whole audience would see and laugh at! Thank god EVERYTHING went fine without ANY (not even ONE) problems! This is a major miracle in itself. Anyways, my main job was to display a video clip before every song and although seems a small little thingie, there's a lot of work involved. As soon as my last video was done, I went backstage hoping they'd announce my name so that I would come on stage to show off! Haha. And they did! Piraan, the main guy for Naya Andaz called me specially on the stage in front of thousands of people and made them give me a big hand because of the 'great computer projection work'! God I was in heaven. At that moment I was thinking, things cannot get any better! Boy was I wrong...

As I was about to pack up my computers/monitors/s-video outputters/blah-blah stuff-equipment, Piraan told me to come to the 'after party.' I was like... err... I don't want to, cuz what's the point of sitting in one corner of the table feeling all unimportant while the big-guys sit next to the chief guests and talk about the latest projects and industry gossip? So I said no but he insisted and thank god I said yes. I drove over to Akbar's restaurant on Route 1 and walked in at the same time as Piraan, Farah Khan, Sajid Khan, and oh yeah, that Kusum hottie from Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. I forgot to mention, she was the main hostess/M.C. of the show. Believe it or not, just cuz I had an all-access pass, EVERY YOUNG/OLD lady who saw me, literally begged me to take them backstage to meet Kusum. I was like... uh... no... sorry! But it's just weird. I've heard she's a big star in the TV serial, but since I've never seen it, I'm not too impressed by her, except that she's damn hot and almost as tall as me (or maybe taller). The irony is, we were talking backstage for like 10-15 mins and I was the one who was getting bored! Hahaha. Seriously! I don't like her personality a lot, so what can I say... I'm not interested. HOWEVER, I am a big fan of Farah Khan and have always liked her more than Saroj Khan or anyone else. So being at Akbar's with Farah Khan seemed like a good thing.

So guess what happens when I arrive at Akbar and everyone starts getting seated? All chairs are taken EXCEPT one and that was right next to Farah Khan! And guess who got to sit right next to Farah Khan for dinner? Yours truly... :) Yups! I was next to Farah and her bro Sajid was next to her. So, I actually had a great dinner conversation with the two, and not just sit in a far-distant corner smiling stupidly! Here's a little excerpt:

Sajid Khan: You know, although smoking is bad for health, it's pretty much the same as living in a polluted city, like Calcutta. Hey Chirag, you look thin! What happened? You started smoking?
Chirag: No, I come from Calcutta!
Everyone: HAHAHAHA.

Anyways, I had a really neat chat with Farah and in the end, obviously, we exchanged numbers :) The thing is, she doesn't have a website and is looking for someone to get her started with it. And what a coincidence! I am a web designer!!! Haha. At first I thought she's just another celebrity who will forget me after 2 hours, but she herself kept telling me over and over again to give her a call as soon as I'm in Bombay! And Sajid told me about his beach house in Juhu... and that we could get together definitely this summer and work out the web site stuff. Both of them want one each! Now this might be my big break into the industry. If I can do their site nicely, I can get a lot of other cool clients! Who knows.

For now, I am just walking 3 feet above the ground. I mean I just had dinner sitting right next to India's Filmfare Award winning choreographer and her brother who hosts one of the best game shows at the moment! And all I wanted this morning was my computer to not crash... That's all I was hoping for... and I got this... god sometimes life can be soooooo weirdly good.

It's 3:55 am right now and I have SOOOOOOOO much work/study to do tomorrow. Actually Farah asked me, "So Chirag you study full time in college, are doing computer and economics major, and YET you find time to do all these computer presenations. That is REALLY COOL" And I said, "You just choreographed Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan in K3G! How cool is THAT?"

Yeah this is prolly the longest 'blog I've ever written and if I actually see them again in Bombay this summer, then there's one more bigger blog coming up! Haha. Well I really don't care if for 'filmi' reasons I don't get to ever see them again or they don't reply to my calls or something, but I am just damn glad that things worked out beyond my wildest dreams today and that is enuf to get me through the next few weeks of hard work :)

Mon, 15th Apr '02, 9:25 pm::

I feel sooo calm right now - took a long nice cold shower :) Here's something that I found online, some of which is sooo true:

10 things that may take a life time to learn

  1. You should never confuse your career with your life.
  2. Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.
  3. Never take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
  4. The most destructive force in the universe is gossip.
  5. There can be a fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
  6. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.
  7. No matter what happens in life, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously.
  8. Take out the fortune before you eat the cookie.
  9. A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.
  10. Your friends love you, no matter what.

Tue, 2nd Apr '02, 6:55 pm::

I had a 15-minute power-nap today. It lasted for 3 and half hours. Kinda like Odd Todd who was interviewed by my friend Ken @ Comofo. God I love the internet and the ppl I bump into randomly...

Sun, 31st Mar '02, 9:35 pm::

Woohoo! I drove @ 70mph on the NJ Turnpike!!! Ok, so I admit that's not the coolest thing in the world... but so what? Before today I had never gone above 60mph ever so this was pretty neat... hehe... Just to scare the hell out of everyone in India... 70mph = approx. 112 km/hr. I remember driving my car in Calcutta two years ago at about 90 km/hr and the car was almost coming apart! It was scary... hehehe... Well I went to pick up Sneh from the airport since she'd gone to Salt Lake City, Utah for the weekend. I love driving... especially FAST :) Hehehe... One thing's sure... once my get my own car... I'm def. going on a looooong drive somewhere... a real road trip...

Wed, 27th Mar '02, 12:25 pm::

In the campus computer lab right now. A really funny thing happened before I came here. I went to get my paycheck from the Billing Office and I put in the wrong date! I thought today was 26th March instead of 27th! Ahhhhhh. But oh well since I have days off on Tuesday, I tend to forget that. And I'm wearing a different watch these days, since the old one with the big display and date feature has a problem with the belt :( I love that watch... going to get it repaired when I go back home this summer... AND gonna buy like 50 new watches too! Seriously!

The Typical Best Day of my LifeThu, 7th Mar '02, 10:45 pm::

Let's just say that March 07,2002 is probably one of the most beautiful days in my life. I know it for sure that 20 years from now when I'll be nostalgic 'bout my college life and look back, I'll remember days like today... It was such a perfect carefree beautiful day! The weather outside was soooo perfect... it was warm but not hot, it was breezy but not windy, and it was sunny but not parching. I went to work and I had no work! So I just chilled for a couple of hours, talked to my Dean and her secretary. Then out of the blue my really good friend Jessica came online and we talked for almost an hour. God it's been such a loooong time! I want to go to Newark and see her sometime... cuz she's soooo much fun. And then I literally walked for one and half hours from College Avenue campus to Cook campus! I mean I could have easily taken the college bus but it was just too beautiful outside! Felt like spring was here... I was just walking down the road when I met my buddy Ross's roommate Ian - he's one helluva cool guy! Then I walked a little ahead and met Andy! Whoa! This is one good day for socializing :) It's been almost a month since I met him and he said Kathleen was in her apartment so I could prolly go and visit her...

So I goto her apartment and her friend Megan was there too. We chilled out for some time and then Kath had to buy something so me and her go on a short drive. God she drives like a speed daemon; but it's fun :) When we came back @ her apartment, her roommates Astrid and Vicky were back too! Ah..... I hadn't met them in weeks too! They (Kath/Astrid/Vicky) are the three most wonderful and lovely girls in RU! Trust me...

Then in the Calculus class, we did pretty much nothing! Our TA just said that do whatever you want and didn't give us any assignment/homework! Yay! I mean HOW perfect could this day be?

Next me and my other friend Vicky (not Kath's roommate) goto the computer lab and I give her a 101 lecture on how to use this really weird math software called Maple cuz we have an assignment due in it. It was fun... because she's a Mac lover and I'm a strictly PC guy. For atleast the Maple Lab homework I converted her to PC! Haha... Aw come on Vicky... you know PCs rule! Hehehe... Oh well... I wish I didn't have a class after that cuz I really love hanging out with her too! We fight a lot though... but it's good nice fight...

Well then I goto my honors class and I see the most interesting movie I've seen in years I think: Being There - starring Peter Sellers. Trust me this movie will blow away your mind! It was such a simple yet beautiful movie...

After the movie I come home, have dinner and here I am! God this was one wonderful day! Seriously...

Sun, 17th Feb '02, 10:55 pm::

There's a reason why I haven't updated my 'blog in the last few days - I was busy making websites. Check out this site that is pretty much complete from my side (the owner needs to give me more material so that I can finish it) : Safety First Driving. Tomorrow back to college.

It's really funny though. For 3 days (Fri-Sun) I feel like there's no college and I'm just home like it's summer vacation and for 4 days (Mon-Thur) I spend average of 12 hours a day in college, like I don't have a home! A schedule like this does weird stuff to one's mind and body clock. But as far as sleep and food is concerned, I only sleep for 4-5 hours max throughout the week, and forget to eat a meal every other day. I dunno why but I just don't get hungry anymore! I know I'm not anorexic or anything like that, but it's just really weird. I feel that somehow I've come to a stage in my life when food and sleep are really not important to me anymore. And yet everything I do is just so that later in my life I can sit back, stretch my legs on a comfortable lounge chair, and sleep calmly after a satisfying meal. Hehe. I wonder if that day will ever come (or even if it should ever come...) Maybe I don't want to spend the latter part of my life relaxing and retiring! I love working, learning, studying, talking. I think I'll continue to do what I'm doing forever :) Yup! That's what I'm gonna do... Keep up the job... Oh that reminds me of today's Quote for the Midnight...

Quote for the Midnight: "Why do men spend their health to gain wealth, and then try to spend their wealth to gain health?" - Anonymous.

Thu, 14th Feb '02, 8:00 am::

Last night I added this tiny little feature on this site : Chime!

If people start abusing this, I'll pull it off instantly. But otherwise, I'd love to get a couple of messages a day... If you read something on my 'blog and wanna comment on it, just SMS me! Isn't that simple?

Sun, 3rd Feb '02, 11:05 pm::

Lots of things to write. First of all as you can see... I finally put up the pics from Kathleen's party on my photo gallery. Click here to check out all the pics.

Last night I went over to Kath's place to hang out w/ Vicky and her friends. It was lotsa fun and best of all we saw two really really really funny movies:
---- The Ladies Man
---- Baseketball

So today I did something all *normal* people do... watched sports w/ family: The Super Bowl 2002. I'm glad the Patriots won. I'm not a big fan of American Football. Neither am I a big cricket fan. I love Soccer and Volleyball though. I think I would be at home in Brazil... They have one of the world's best men's soccer team and one of the best women's volleyball team.

Fri, 1st Feb '02, 1:05 am::

Sometimes people ask me if I miss my family. I say ya... a lot. Sometimes they can't understand how I can miss my family if I'm having so much fun and have such a great life here. I can write a 10000 word essay on why I miss my family... but I can say the same... by showing them this tiny little online convo that took place between me (Chirag) and my sister (Roshni):

    Roshni: ya just like that hindi movie i know that mummy loves u more than me....hahaha
    Chirag: hehehehehehehhehehehehehehe
    Chirag: :: obviously ::
    Roshni: yeah right
    Roshni: i was just joking
    Chirag: yeah right !!!!!!
    Chirag: everyone loves me more than you !!!!!! except me.... i love u more than i love me.......
    Roshni: ok now time for u to go to bed
    Roshni: sleep
    Roshni: how sweet
    Chirag: lolololol
    Roshni: i love you
    Chirag: i love you too...

Tue, 22nd Jan '02, 7:55 pm::

Ok! 'Blog time :) Today was my first day back at the new semester and the first thing I did was go and meet my friends on Cook campus - Kathleen, Astrid & Vicky! It's been a loooong time since I saw you all! *hugs* (hope your shower is fixed by now. hehehe!)

After that I went to my office to work for about an hour and then went for my computer class, but it was cancelled. So I went to sell my books from last term. Imagine this... the books that cost me over $200 last term, sold for ONLY $44 !!! God this is SOOOO expensive. Who said knowledge was cheap! After being disgusted by the book-rip-off-episode, I went to chill out in the computer lab for 2 hours and @ 4:20 went to economics class. Now I haven't been able to register for this economics class since it's already full. I'm trying to get in, but since it is a class that most 4th year students take (as it's very important for graduating) there is a high chance that I'll be denied entry into the course. The teacher was pretty neat though and it would be very interesting to study under her. Love her Ukrainian-Russian-type accent O:-)

And now I'm back home! Dinner was good. Will get started on a new website project now. I'll post details of that later in here :)

Sun, 20th Jan '02, 11:50 am::

Phew. Done. Enuf shovelling for today. One thing is certain - everyone in the neighborhood just loves me! I mean, I get out of my garage and ppl start showering me with snow balls! I'm sure they were just expressing their love for me... hahaha... Well since I am a very loving person myself, I showed them my love too and within 10 minutes, everyone except me was covered in snow. God I'm good @ this stuff.... u know... revenger :) Muhahahaha...

Wed, 16th Jan '02, 9:50 pm::

Ahhhh. Today was another long tiring day... but it was all fun and good. I work right under the Dean and she's a great person, and so is her secretary who keeps pampering me with free food stuff! I mean things are sooo great that I just can't believe it... I love what I'm doing... I like the people I'm working with... and the pay is do-able for a college student (although I'm grossly underpaid considering the complexity of the stuff I'm into...)

Mon, 14th Jan '02, 9:05 am::

I love days like these. It's early morning, I just woke up, and I came across the story of this dumbass who went to a fancy dress party and was beaten up badly! He was dressed as, guess what... Bin Laden! Here is the whole story.

Wed, 9th Jan '02, 10:05 am::

UK Researchers spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to tell us something we always knew by common sense: Money, LOTS of money, REALLY can bring happiness. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not wholly shallow or superfluous, but come on, I could really use a million dollars @ this moment. Right? And I bet it'll make me happy. On a sidenote, they admit money cannot buy you love, marriage, or health.

Sat, 5th Jan '02, 6:00 pm::

Oh my god! This coolest dude thing has gone out of hand! I LOVE ALL YOU FELLOW FARKERS for voting me to the top!!! Seriously. Especially this devishly cute Farkette I met online: Vicious Darling! Now only if she lived in New Jersey! **evil grin**

Cutie for the day:Comic for the day:

Thu, 3rd Jan '02, 2:15 pm::

Oh my god!!!! I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS! It's IMPOSSIBLE! At 11:40 am I post that I want this USB Radio and at 2:15 my wish is granted! My friend Derek Prospero just purchased the item online for me!!!!!! And he is not even asking for cash! I mean... God! I love my friends.

Actually he's really happy @ me since one of my freeware programs helped him save a lot of money (since he did not have to spend anything on purchasing commercially available alternatives). What can I say! Life is GREAT! I'm just waiting for it now...

Thu, 3rd Jan '02, 11:00 am::

It's no fun working out in the winter! I was in the basement working out for over an hour and I still feel all lazy and unfresh. Of course, I'm tired as hell but that refreshing feeling of adrenalin rush is missing. Don't get me wrong; I love winter more than summer. But it doesn't feel as good when you work out in freezing condition.

Sat, 22nd Dec '01, 12:50 am::

Oh my god... I love X-mas and I'm not even a Christian. Hehe. Actually I like the gift-giving/getting thing (more so the getting part). Well I didn't get a lot of gifts, but the two I love the most are from my friends Kath and Steph. Kath got me this really cool diary/organizer/telephone-book/everything I'd ever need :) And Steph drew this for me! Can you believe that? My own action-figure portrait? I'm an action figure! Woohoo! Well actually 4 years ago, my sister paintbrushed me too. Boy! I sure have changed. Haven't I ? Umm... Maybe not. Haha...

Sat, 22nd Dec '01, 12:30 am::

I am full of tears right now ;-( No I haven't been cutting 100 onions again! I just saw Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and I cried for 2 hours non-stop. Actually this is probably the first time I have seen a hindi movie without criticizing each and every frame of it. The reason I wasn't pointing of directorial screwups was not because the movie was perfect or great or wonderful... but rather because I was too busy remembering, thinking about, and missing my family ;-(

Of course, I loved the movie too. It was really well-made and here's a very good review of the film. See there is a reason why I don't see hindi movies so often... they just remind me of what I am missing... what I have left behind... what I love the most in my life... my family. Men don't cry. I don't like to cry. Such films make me cry...

My first college partyFri, 21st Dec '01, 7:10 pm::

Phew. Finally got some time to write bout the party last night. Ok, I publically admit it... last night was the first time I actually got drunk! Yep. Me drinkin' alcohol. It wasn't beer. Beer's icky. I think I had like every random drink under the sun... Don't even know what I had. Ok here's what happened basically...

My friend Kathleen was having her old high-school friends over to her apartment to party last night (Thursday, Dec. 20). I had an exam on today at 12 noon. So I wasn't really sure if I should go and party all night or not, but oh well... she was just sooo nice that I couldn't refuse. Plus I wanted to meet all her girlfriends she talked about all the time ;-) So I went and oh my god... were they _____ (insert adjective of your own choice: cute / hot / great / nice / bootylicious).

The agenda for the party was pretty simple:

  1. Drink...
  2. Repeat step 1.

Haha! But damn it was fun. See the problem is a lot of people I know read this 'blog, so I can't be really graphic here. In short, I had a LOT of fun. I woke up this morning with no sign of hangover or anything. In fact I am pretty disappointed with the whole getting-drunk thing. I had like 10-12 shots of rum/tequila/vodka/whatever, 5-6 glasses of mixed drinks, and God only knows what else and I still felt nothing! But it was really fun to discover that I could not walk in a straight line! Haha!

There were a few pics taken... and I think I am in a couple of them. Will post the pics in here and on my photo gallery when I get them.

And don't worry Kath. You did NOT spoil me! Remember... I had my first beer before I learnt how to ride a bicycle! But of course the nicest part of the night that made me feel all mushy and blushy... was when Kath introduced me to all her friends and said that I was her bestest friend on campus :) At first I thought she was joking (or maybe a little tipsy) but turns out she was serious... Awwwwww girl! You're just sooo nice yourself. It's really great to have a friend like you :) Dammit! Now I miss my buddies Chetan and Vishal from Calcutta. God I love my friends...

Wed, 19th Dec '01, 10:00 am::

Good morning. Just received some wonderful news -> I have been ordered by Kathleen and her roommates to party with them on Thursday right before my meteorology exam on Friday! I love my friends :) Meteorology exam is not that hard and I need like 80% to get an A. So all's good. Finally, I'll meet all the friends of my friends. Too bad college's gonna end soon. I mean, the part about no-more-studies-for-a-month is good, but college getting over also means I don't get to see my buddies for a whole months :( And I don't get to see Michele :( Booohoooooo

Thu, 6th Dec '01, 10:10 am::

I'm in the college library right now. Oh my god you won't believe it!!! This ZDNet article says that Glass2k is one of most searched keywords in Zdnet.com !!! It is the 3rd top-searched term - way above Ginger, Christmas, Compaq, Excite @ Home and WinZip!!! God I love today.

Tue, 4th Dec '01, 9:15 pm::

I got new trousers! Nyah nyah nyah nyah!!! I love my aunt! She randomly buys me clothes !!!!!! She's just sooo cool. Oh and she and my uncle are not even mad @ me for the whole car accident thing. God I love them :)

Thu, 22nd Nov '01, 2:30 pm::

Oh my God! I don't remember the last time I slept sooo late. I just woke up. Went to bed @ like 5:30 am. Well I'm in NYC right now @ Purvi's. Took me three hours to get here from New Jersey yesterday. I've go sooo many things to say but going online here on a vacation is a strict no-no!

Hey Kath and Steph! Guess what? Yesterday after you guys left me after Calc class, I met the 'Anonymous Calc Girl'. (Actually she's not anonymous anymore to me, but nobody else knows her name yet. LOL) Well we talked for quite a long time, and she hugged me Happy-Thanksgiving and I came back home. Woohoo! Things are going mmmm-good.

On train to NYC, I met an old friend (actually just a year old) and it was pretty neat to talk to him about the new things happening in his life and my life. I love chance-meetings with old friends.

After I came to NYC yesterday, we went to this restaurant called: America. I had a big 'Vinny's Veggie Burger' (and I think I'm still full because of it). Haha. And when I came back from there, guess what Peter (Purvi's friend) and I did? WE WENT GROCERY SHOPPING! It was the most difficult 45 minutes of my life. We had to buy like 10-12 items for tonight's Thanksgiving dinner and it took use THAT long just to find the items in the grocery store.

Now I have to go, shower, and cook food! Cya...

Mon, 19th Nov '01, 10:20 am::

Just bought a lot of X-mas tree decorations from Walmart! Will take a pic of our tree and put it up here soon.

Song for the Day: Something Stupid by Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman - "And then I go and spoil it all, by saying something stupid like:... I love you"

Tue, 13th Nov '01, 9:55 pm::

My room is the warmest and hottest room in the house (and I HATE THAT). Everyone in the house just loves my room cuz it's sooo nice and warm, but I being a Greenlandish Eskimo, love their cold rooms instead. I guess everything in life is always like this.

Mon, 12th Nov '01, 2:00 pm::

Random quote of the day: I love me and you should too.

Tue, 6th Nov '01, 12:01 am::

Welcome to my glamorous life! I have been studying non-stop for over 13 hours now (except 3 eat-fast-or-die breaks). And come to think of it, I have to put up with this schedule for the next 7-8 years till I become a PhD. God!!!! Why do I wanna be a PhD anyway? I dunno. I guess I just have to. Plus my mom will love me for it ;-)

As I study for my Stats exam tomorrow, I keep thinking about that anonymous cute girl in my Calc 2 class. Ah... I don't even know her name :( But I'm not gonna tell you more about her now. Let's see if I get to see her tomorrow and then I'll decide if the world is ready to know more about my secret crush. Hehe.

Sun, 4th Nov '01, 11:50 pm::

Ok I don't really care what you think, but I really really love The Powerpuff Girls !!! I just read an amusing article about how a Powerpuff Girls DVD is the world's first DVD that spreads a virus!