Wed, 26th Nov '08, 11:45 am::

We're having pot-luck lunch at work today and the entire corridor outside my office smells like food. Juliet made some delicious corn souffle last night that I brought over. We're going over to Taylor's parents house for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow evening. After that it's a long weekend of studies for both of us as finals are fast approaching. But right now, all I can think of is yummy food that we'll all soon be eating.

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Phases and QuirksSun, 23rd Nov '08, 10:45 pm::

I had a pretty busy weekend. On Friday, wifey and I saw Broken Social Scene and had some nice dinner. Yesterday I setup an old computer, learnt a new language, and watched a classic. Today I worked on some code and we watched a couple of movies. I didn't get much school work done but I have all of this week to get on it. Holidays are coming up and I'm getting exciting about our long road-trip to New Jersey during Christmas.

Juliet and I have been living together for about six months now and we have a pretty good grasp of each other's quirks. However, we're still discovering each other's phases. Quirks are little things like her habit of leaving paper towels all over the house when she has a cold or my obsessiveness about turning off the lights in any unoccupied room. Quirks are relatively easy to notice and remember. Most pieces of romantic text highlight the beloved's quirks fondly, even the negative ones. Phases are slightly long-term behavioral tendencies that expose new insights into a person and are generally hard to identify. We change into a different person during a critical phase and act quite unlike our usual selves. The Juliet I know in our daily life is not the same Juliet who has four exams and three labs over the next five days. It is much easier for me to understand her during the hectic school weeks when I realize that this is simply her trying to be a good, hardworking student. Recognizing the start and end of a phase is critical to avoiding conflicts and misunderstandings that can arise during the period.

I went through my periodic coding frenzy this weekend. I told her earlier today, "Honey, once a month, I will go completely bonkers over some arcane computer system. I will not shower, shave, or eat during those 48-72 hours. I love you forever and ever but during those hours, please do not expect me to engage in discussions about our travel plans or even what you should cook for dinner because my mind will not be anywhere close to reality. However, after the coding marathon, I will be a better, more educated, more skilled developer with a stronger understanding of the subject matter and that will help us in the long-term. So even though you might fear that I have gone completely psychotic, I am just going through a mini metamorphosis and will turn out alright in the end."

Even though she cares and understands my passion for code and all things cryptic, I chose to explicitly say all of the above for a number of reasons. In addition to recognizing my phases and understanding my lack of attention, she can help keep my frenzies under control. Looking back to the development of Chime.TV a couple of years ago, I now realize that I spent way too much time cocooned in my house writing some pretty nifty code and not enough time socializing with friends. After six month of near-constant coding, when I finally emerged, I felt I had lost the ability to speak to people about anything other than streaming videos. I certainly do not want to go through that again. On the flip side, once she sees how beneficial my coding frenzies are to my morale, ambition, and general outlook on life, she can encourage me to work harder on my projects and motivate me to take some bigger risks.

When we see behavioral changes in the people we love, we aren't always sure if they are temporary or permanent. If we are know they are temporary, we can learn to cope with them better without putting extraneous pressure on them. If we find out they are permanent, we can adapt, confront, or intervene based on our best judgment. In my case, she understood my point of view and supplied me with lots of yummy food throughout the weekend.

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Fri, 21st Nov '08, 7:55 pm::

Juliet and I are waiting right in front the stage at Jannus Landing to see the indie band Broken Social Scene. It's pretty cold out here so we are huddled together. I am all smiles :-)

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Sun, 16th Nov '08, 10:15 pm::

What part of "follow your dreams" do people not understand? So many talented people around me purposely shackle themselves in mediocrity, boredom, and fear when they could be challenging themselves with brave new exciting adventures. Yes, for the most part, life is tough and there's not much change we can bring about in our daily routines. But every once in a while, we come across a fork in the road when we can take a new uncharted path instead of going on the same dull path that leads us to nowhere. Sure, it can be risky and careless. I'm certain the fear of failure and embarrassment can be daunting. But that's not my problem. That's your problem. Show me the results. Or at least prove to yourself that you truly persevered.

Everyone can come up with a list of problems and excuses on why not to do something. Before you come up with yet another excuse, think about how lucky you are that you can actually afford to sit back and think objectively about your options instead of being denied the opportunity. Not everyone has the privilege of chasing their own dreams, most just do whatever is necessary to live a decent life. If you have the chance to take a risk, I'd say go for it. Let a close friend or a loved one be in charge of watching out for the potential pitfalls while you take the optimistic, bold route. Good luck!

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What we really doFri, 7th Nov '08, 6:20 am::

I am a firm believer in humanity and thoroughly believe that most people want to be good people and do the right things. Though my belief in humanity is challenged on a daily basis by people all around me, I try to remain positive and do my best to identify the core causes of why people act in negative manners. I live a modestly typical modern life with a job, studies, and a wife. I have my own unique talents and skills but so does everyone else. We are all just trying to live our lives and do the right things. But we often don't. Why we don't do the right things all the time is a question that has intrigued me forever and I feel I am closer to the answer today than I have ever been and hence feel the compulsion to share it.

We all have problems, tons and tons of them. Thankfully, I've had very few problems related to money, academics, job performance, or health. But just like everyone else I know, I've had more than my fill of people problems. A fair share of the problems are because of certain, specific people in our lives that we just cannot get rid of. From neighbors that annoy us to coworkers that bother us, from classmates that harass us to relatives that humiliate us, these are problems that could be solved if those imbeciles would just listen to us! But until very recently, they never listened to me no matter how well I argued my case from all points of views, including theirs. This used to frustrate and stress me out to no ends.

I feel things are different now because over the past year or so, I've had fewer and fewer long-term problems with people. I've been able to resolve a lot of conflicts without making any major sacrifices or compromises. The key was to change my entire problem-solving system that I had been clutching on to since the day I was born. No biggie.

While it may seem strange, solving real life people problems is not very different from solving math equations. If x + 3 = 10, we can solve for x and arrive at the correct answer of 7 by calculating what 10 - 3 is. We were given one piece of fact and we had to determine the missing piece of information. We did this by looking at the problem and making some judgments on how to get to the answer. Had we done 3 - 10 or 10 + 3, we would have arrived at an incorrect answer. The problems we face in our daily life are closer to solving the more complex variety of simultaneous equations and linear algebra. We are given a bunch of facts, with many missing pieces, and we have to identify every missing piece of fact before we can make a proper judgment.

Say you start a new job, every person in your department seems like an absolute disaster, and you are supposed to fix it all. That's real life. But it's not much different from a math problem - you are given a lot of facts but not all of them are explicitly mentioned and now you have to make up your mind to do the right thing. Unfortunately, despite your best attempts, in the end it turns out that you royally screwed it up. What happened there? Here's how I see our judgment-making, acting-taking system:

We will never have all the facts on any situation or person. You can never know everything about the teammate who yelled at you even though you did all your work because even the teammate doesn't know himself that well. What you can do, is find out more about the person and where their point-of-view originates. The more we know the facts behind someone's action, the easier it is for us to form a rational judgment that does not frustrate or stress us out. In this case, we might learn that the teammate has anger issues, lack of self-confidence, and a fear of failure that makes him extremely stressed when things don't go as planned. Upon realizing this, we are not supposed to form an opinion of him as an angry, scared person and then become emotionally defensive to everything he says but rather, form a rational judgment that lets us deal with this person without exacerbating the conflict any further. We will never have an easy time dealing with this person and it will always take extra work from our end. However, if we make our judgment based on facts and not our opinions, feelings, or emotions on this person, it will be easier for us in the long-run.

In addition to judging others, we judge ourselves. A LOT. If something goes wrong, the first person that most everyone blames is themselves. And we are often our worst and harshest critics. Once again, we do it because we have formed opinions of ourselves and attached a lot of emotions to our personalities, quirks, and deficiencies. If you said something ridiculously stupid during a company meeting or even a dinner date, you cannot blame yourself forever as being a stupid person. What you should do is realize the fact that you were extremely nervous, you were not prepared, and you had a lot of things going on in your mind when you said all that. If that is the case, there's a fix for it. Do something to calm yourself down, prepare in advance, and work on blocking out everything other than what you are concentrating on. It's not easy but it's possible. So there's hope for you. Don't go about blaming yourself for days, weeks, and months for one trifling incident.

Next time you realize you are in a problem ask yourself is this is a people-problem and if so, stop yourself from thinking any further about your opinions or feelings towards the persons involved. Instead, try to honestly find out their personality, background, and situation. Then try to make your decisions. It is not easy. The person could be your mother or wife. It could be your boss who can fire you on a whim. Or it could be someone you truly respect but are also very scared of. Regardless of who the person is, you have to get more facts on their story before you decide how to act. If your final courage of action involves walking into the CEO's office and spouting off 10 things on why the new manager needs to be fired, you are doing it wrong and should go back to the "Get Facts" section again. I'm sure the new manager needs to be fired but the course of action you decided on is not the calm, rational method that will help the CEO see your point-of-view.

In the end, if your final judgment frustrates you instead of encouraging you to take appropriate action, you need to get more facts and revise your judgment. Nobody else will do this for you, except you. So get on it already.

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Mon, 3rd Nov '08, 7:45 am::

Today marks my seventh year of regular 'blogging. I began with posting links to websites I thought were cool and progressed to writing journals of my day-to-day activities. I gradually stopped posting random links and begin experimenting with science and technology posts. I continued to write about my regular life but I found my true balance once I started writing about my views on the world - personal, social, and cultural. I no longer feel it necessary to write about every major crisis in the news or every time I get a new gadget. I will continue to write about any interesting real-life events and when something moves me. What this means is, fewer updates pertaining to the mundane like project deadlines, upcoming exams, and laundry status.

Oh and my comic Calm Down is back.

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