Monday, December 22, 2008

A tiresome, disturbing weekend

Kicked around, Beaten, Battered and Bruised! That's exactly how I felt on Sunday evening after two seemingly gruelling days (phew .. all this on a weekend!).

Visit from a friend and a causal roam-around plan turned tiresome due to the heavy (more like crazy) traffic. Add to that handling my kid when my wife is down with cold & illness was not an easy task at all. Since it has been almost 6 months since my wrist accident & I had stopped doing hatha yoga, I resumed the 'Surya Namaskar' from Thursday. My body did not take it easy though I have kept the count low to 3 only! Hmm .. that is some perspective on how physically 'fit' I have 'not' been :))

BTW I almost completed seeing 'The dark knight' movie yesterday and found it quite ... disturbing. Yes, the special effects are awesome, the human element has been very clear, the action is superb. But what with all the negativity? I could not take it beyond a level! Mind you, I am not an eternal optimist myself - am still subject to all human emotions. When threatened and pushed to a corner, not everyone can be expected to behave rationally and not always!!

Some might say 'that is exactly the point being proven by the film'. But my retort is 'why make it so explicit'. When people do not think about these things in their day-to-day life, why 'inject' it unnecessarily? If you are thinking 'well...the movie does prove at the end that people could behave rationally after an initial outburst' and 'people might not think about it in their normal lives but should they not be?', my answer is a plain 'no'! No, they should not be thinking about how to deal with some freaks like these and rather focus on how to take positive steps forward in life. That is the only way we as a humanity can progress rather than keep licking the wounds. Hate has never won anything else but hate. But love has won over hate many a time.

Ask any of the family members who have lost their lives in the Mumbai terror attacks and you will see the outrage in their eyes & speech as to the political and to a certain extent the civilian ineptness that led to it. If someone thinks 'it has been injected to them' now, they are damn right! There are even so many articles and blogs on the internet dealing with this subject. But what is the point of it all? What good has come out of it?

One sentence that keeps recurring to my mind from the movie 'the bulletproof monk' is 'tell me dear, would you like to be in the position of one who shoots the bullet or the one who is kneeling down to take the bullet?' I have been wondering for a very long time now - why even create a situation where one has to shoot and one take the bullet? Why not make an environment, a situation where one shoots out love and the other receives it? Shouldn't that be the goal of humanity? I don't know, but would love to think so :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The White Tiger

I finished reading the book "The White Tiger" by Arvind Adiga a couple of days back. I picked the book up from a road side shop while walking home from office one day (that is an altogether different story by itself).

The author is an Indian, born in Chennai and now in Mumbai. I have been contemplating since then as to what my real opinion about the book is and have not reached a conclusion yet! I am ...

1) Impressed with the frankness of the author
2) Aghast with the way people are treated (especially servants) in some places, referred to as 'the darkness' in the book
3) Surprised by the opening and the style of the book - addressing the Chinese premier
4) Finding the language in some places funny and in some places downright disgusting (mind you - am not a purist myself when it comes to language and still found it so)
5) Unable to digest the brutality of exploitation and murderous acts depicted

So what do I really feel about the book? I can't really put it out in a couple of words or even sentences :) One thing is sure, it kind of left a bad taste in mouth and I will hesitate to read his books henceforth unless it comes very highly recommended. Oh BTW literary prizes have been checked off from my list of recommended items now :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SSL Mindmap

A simple mindmap primer for SSL:


Why am I stuck?

I read something in Andrew Martin's chess column on my favorite chess website (www.chess.com) today and boom ... it struck me why I am still probably the 1400+ player and not the 1600+ or 1700+ player I wish to be.

"Not every move in a game has the same weight. We play 95% of our games like Anand, but it's what happens the other 5% of the time that matters. I look for CRITICAL MOMENTS in a game and try to anlayse at those points. Critical moments might incude:
1) Before the game, how do you feel?
2) The end of your theoretical knowledge.
3) Exchanges
4) Turning points, obvious mistakes, blunders
5) The very end of the game;
a summary of why the game was won, lost or drawn. You build your chess instinct with this work; it's the quickest way."

Of course, all of this and the fact that I started playing chess seriously only about 5 to 6 months back :)

Hehehe .. the truth is, I am not even a 1400s player, because I have never even played a FIDE tournament to get that rating!! :) But I have played against some chess engines on my computer and have beat the system rated at 1400+ and so just assumed myself at that level.

BTW if you are still lost as to what the numbers 1400 and 1600 mean, they are the ELO ratings of a chess player. And if anybody reading this is wondering what ELO and FIDE mean, one piece of advice - 'grow up and learn chess seriously' ;)

Friday, December 12, 2008

A prisoner of birth!

I finished reading the novel 'A prisoner of birth' by Jeffrey Archer just today. It has been a really long time for me since I read my last Archer novel .. and sadly I don't even remember what it was! But this one will not suffer the same fate.

To say the least, it was a cool & gripping story right to the end. Let me outright reject any notion that I am a big fan of murder / trial stories. I read a couple of John Grisham novels and never read him fully after that because 'even I' could predict what was going to come later in the other novels :)

This story is about a young man wrongly punished for a crime someone else commits and how he comes back to normal life with the help of his friends & a lot of luck. Although I wondered sometimes why certain things were not considered in the first trial, was happy to find that precisely those things (stab scar) coming to the rescue of our hero in the second episode. And yes, some parts of it are too good to be believed - but heck, what good are we if we can't indulge ourselves in a nice 'tailor-made-movie-story' :)

Am most certainly impressed with the flow and my regards for the author's skill have only increased.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Minefield blasted

OK. I have finally uninstalled Minefield from my laptop and it promptly removed all the bookmarks and passwords stored inside Firefox too! To be fair to the uninstaller, it did ask me if the bookmarks, etc. can be removed. I did not understand it because the installation folder was different, it would not touch the bookmarks or plugins under Firefox folder. But it did! :)

Is this an opportunity to restart my bookmarks from scratch (there were literally hundreds of them) or is it a bane? I don't know - it sure does irritate me to start typing all the URLs again :)

These plugins top my list:

1) Downthemall
2) Image-show-hide
3) All-in-one sidebar
4) Morning Coffee
5) ColorfulTabs
6) NoScript
7) Fast Dial
8) IE Tab
9) Chromifox

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

One more lover

The DSP exam is closing in but I felt it is time I gave out my verdict on Minefield. It did not score a perfect 10 but still got a decent 7+ on my scale.

I did notice some perceptible speed improvements compared to Firefox 3 and IE 7 [is it still in contention?!:-)] - for some of my favorite sites most notably google.

There is still some more support needed for my favorite firefox plug-ins and apart from the couple of crashes while watching the Vishy Anand vs Kramnik chess championship match on chess.com site, there were no hiccups with this browser.

So, one lover already in for this cutie of a browser ;) once the testing stage goes off and it launches in full-scale mode (still hoping plugin support by that time)

Friday, October 24, 2008

This ain't a bomb ...

Did you try 'Minefield' yet? It seems good! I would not put in the same league as its predecessor yet, since it is still in the alpha stage. But from what I have tried since this morning, there have not been any problems with it.

Oh, by the way, minefield is the next gen Firefox (yepp ... built from the same mozilla base by the mozilla team) with a supposedly ultra-speed Javascript engine. One site (arstechnica) even went to the extent of putting it 10 times faster than Google chrome's JS engine.

An advantage with installing Minefield is that it installs into a separate folder from Firefox. Most (not all) of the firefox plugins I had worked seamlessly with Minefield automatically. Even in the Windows Task Manager, the process appears as "firefox.exe". The bookmarks and form passwords I had saved in Firefox also got transferred automatically to Minefield.

FF's themes however are not yet supported in MF. So, am going to be in the testing mode for next 1 week and see how Minefield fares as against Firefox on user experience. In fact, to update this very blog am using Minefield now. Will update my findings later ...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bitten by the bug

If you are thinking of love, well .. yes, it is love (and hate!) for me :)

It all started with my birthday when Abi gifted me a wooden chess board. Poeple might ask what is so great about a wooden board with 64 squares painted black and white. For me, it is a huge opportunity to do something I really like to do. For lack of ability to express better, I can simply say 'it is just beautiful' :) Chess has been a secret passion for a very long time now. I used to even sometimes envy people who were so good at playing chess .. may be that was a silent hurt - of not being able to learn that elusive art well!

Well .. so began my chess saga. Now, after about 2 months, Abi is just short of complaining that I am so lost in my games and chess study spending very little time with her or Isha. The truth of the matter is, earlier I used to spend so much time on the internet for which she complained and that time just got diverted into chess now!

Out of the blue, I downloaded the Kasparov Chessmate software and started using it. Abi's brother saw it and needless to say got bitten by the same bug. We started playing some serious matches within ourselves. Abi is not someone who witnesses from the sidebar for a long time. After all, she was the one who taught me the basic chess tactics of fork & pin while we were in the US! And mind you, she loses regularly but only if she is distracted with something or other - otherwise, she is a far better player. Am not ashamed of that, it as after all a great learning experience to play with a downright attacking player like Abi :)

May be I will write all my chess learnings and how one site led to another in this process sometime soon. But first, I need to study DSP (that is right - Digital Signal Processing) - the exam is nearing, hushhhhhhhhhhh!!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

We are backkkkk

Phew ... What a relief it is to be back after two weeks of hospital stay! Our daughter is finally doing good enough to be sent home and just be taking oral anti-biotics. The fever was diagnosed to be acute typhoid which brought her down by a few pounds in weight. 

Our daily schedule at hospital was demanding enough - changes in biological cycle for sleep was the first affected. Our sleep would usually be around 1 PM or later and we will wake up to the door knocks (is it impolite to say 'bangs'?) by the nurses, ward-boys, etc. We managed to grab some sleep during the day once they go off our backs - if Isha continues to sleep. If she wakes up, then we are done in :)

My initial reaction back at home was a strange kind of nervousness. It was so strange to see the outside world after almost a week(!). I no longer craved for the daily newspaper (btw it is TimesOfIndia that I like the most nowadays) nor the night sleep. The craze for my laptop was still there of course, but a lot of things did not seem to matter that much any longer. 

This hospital ordeal had other interesting side-effects as well - making me thinner than I was earlier and more importantly making my wife more paranoid than ever, almost to the point of obsession. You could understand my position when she started blabbering about infection and neutrophilia in her night's sleep. In fact, she had so little sleep due to this fear of infection, that she woke up early, fed our daughter and again fell asleep. Thankfully, I was so exhausted in all this hospital stay and running that I slept like a log yesterday night. I hope both my kids (I call Abi my first kid) let me sleep tonight as well - I have a lot to catch up with at work tomorrow :)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Noise...

It has been quite a while since I wrote my last blog. There has been this debate in my mind for the last few days - it is actually like a subtle background noise for everything am doing of late. I wanted to get this out of my mind and hence this attempt :-)

It is actually a sequence of questions that led to this 'noise'. For example, while reading a book, these are the questions that led to the 'noise' come to foreground:

1) What is the purpose of life?
Answer - no idea

2) What am I doing?
Answer - reading this book

3) Why am I doing this?
Answer - To get some knowledge and kill off time as am getting bored

4) Why are you getting bored?
Answer - I have not figured out what else to do

5) OK. Why do you want to get some knowledge?
Answer - I have always had this affinity to books. May be as a kid I learnt reading books / getting knowledge might help later in life.

6) That still does not answer that question to the point?
Answer - OK. It is for getting some benefit later in life.

7) Why are you planning for this benefit when you know nothing can be predicted about future?
No Answer really :)

8) OK. If it is for some benefit today or whenever, what does it lead to?
Answer - I would be happy.

9) Why do you want to be happy?
!!!!!

This is precisely where am getting stuck and not able to proceed after this.

I brought it up with Abi and we had a conversation this morning discussing the answer. She simply said "Happiness is the way life tends to be. If you just leave any life without disturbing it, that is what it will tend towards."

Somehow that answer made sense but at the same time I still had the incomplete feeling with it. Then I brought up the discussion about perfection. Are we tending towards happiness because we are tending towards perfection? May be we have some idea that being happy is equivalent to being perfect?

Abi was not convinced with that and we kept discussing till we realized it was getting late to office and pay my taxes. So all the 'noise' again went into background and we were running behind tax payment today being the last day for it :-)

Now that I got some free time, I was idly browsing the internet and sure enough the noise came to foreground. This time, I have decided to write it down and see if something more comes to mind, at least after this. Ain't I being optimistic? :-)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Weekend Blues

For most people, a weekend brings lot of smiles and relief. It did for most part for me too, until last weekend when not a single thing went our way - starting with a phone call.

Tony, our Construction Engineer, called up to say that the water bore's motor & hose pipe broke and got stuck in the mud. Well that could happen in Coimbatore it seems, where people dig water bore pumps of depth >400 feet usually. He, along with 10 other people, had tried all night to get it out. They were able to recover a bundle which happened to be just the smaller one among the two broken pieces. Tony was more upset than us. We have asked him to take it light and focus on the remaining things with the house. Still to find a solution for this ...

On Friday night, Abi and I had a huge argument. I was so visibly upset that I just took off from home despite all the rain outside. I went for a drive in my car and filled petrol. I was still angry when I returned home while my car got stuck in the mud right before the garage. There was a ditch dug by the maintenance department and as is customary in India, it was not filled properly. The more tricks I tried, the more it got stuck. Only in the morning we were able to see clearly that the front portion of the car is resting on the ditch pavement and the wheels were just rotating pointlessly throwing up more mud. Fortunately, by about 4 PM, with the help of so many friends and a couple of car mechanics we lifted it using two car jacks, placed a few stones beneath the tires for grip and were able to reverse it out. Phew, that was quite a drainer, first the fight and then getting the car out ...

Anyway in the evening, we had to confirm the contents of our house warming ceremony invitation and since there was no rain on Saturday, we went to Menaka cards right away. That was done and we started our return journey home when all of a sudden, our bike just skidded off road. I was the driver and Abi was at the back - we both just fell. Fortunately, there were no big vehicles coming that route though it is usually full with cars by that time. I landed on all fours and injured my right hand. Abi scraped through minor injuries luckily. The pain did not subside for an hour and the doctor finally confirmed what we suspected. The palm bone had a crack and my right hand is supposed to be out of action for two weeks at least.

Well .. this might not be related to luck at all, but definitely qualifies as one of the most fantastic series of unfortunate events in my life! Why would I bother to document all this typing with my left hand only all this while? :-)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Am I the butterfly?

Just the other day I was browsing the Internet and came across a rather familiar story. It read like this:

The great Taoist master Chuang Tzu once dreamt that he was a butterfly fluttering here and there. In the dream he had no awareness of his individuality as a person. He was only a butterfly. Suddenly, he awoke and found himself laying there, a person once again. But then he thought to himself, "Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?"

I was wondering there should be more to it and researched a little more because that is not how I remember the story. The original story seems to be:

The great Taoist master Chuang Tzu had many disciples of which one was very dear to his Master. The other disciples were rather irky about this fact because they did not really understand why. Chuang Tzu knew about this and one day decided to teach the other disciples what it is.


He chose to do it when his dear disciple was out of town. was sleeping on a cot, suddenly woke up and started crying. All the disciples were shocked and wanted to know what happened. Tzu explained to them about his dream where he was a butterfly flying high and wide in the beautiful forest. Suddenly he woke up but did not know if he was the butterfly dreaming as a man and he was the man who dreamt about being a butterfly.


None of the disciples could solve this mystery - most could not even understand what their Master was saying. The chief disciple came back from his work and found his Master crying. He came to know of the reason from others, went directly to his Master and just slapped him hard on his face. Chuang Tzu just stopped crying, smiled and blessed him.


No one could understand what was happening. On one hand they were shocked to see the disciple hitting his Master and equally flabbergasting was why the Master blessed him for it. Then Tzu explained to them that only the chief disciple had the clarity of thought, awareness of what is real & what is not and absolute will to just 'be' with his Master, enabling him understand things which could not be said or taught. This is what makes him dearer to his Master.

Any time I read this story or remember it, I can't stop wondering am I the butterfly dreaming as a man?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Choked ... Part 2

Now it is not funny any more and I was like 'what the heck!?'. This debacle is related to my second attempt at presenting Isha experiences & this time to the STPI audience.

There was one consolation though, Abi was choking more this time! I could relate to that. When you have to present your experiences of Isha with someone whom you rarely meet and spend time with, it is probably easier. When you do the same with someone closer to you, it is a lot tougher than it seems.

I thought it was actually than the first time, which of course was the original attempt, and had tried to make it simple. At the end of it, we were wondering how we missed out a lot of things!

For starters, I missed out key points like my productivity gains and Abi's initial doubts if I would be able to even sit through the entire session that vanished later without a trace. These are things which people can relate to, especially those who are just venturing into it.

The other aspect of it was the 'perceived' relation between hinduism and yoga. Even I had such doubts earlier and it needed the magic words of sadhguru to be grounded to dust. He simply said going by this analogy if Einstein is a Jew, the principle of 'E=mc2" should be Jewish! Just because some science originated in the Hindu culture does not mean it belongs to Hinduism :-)

Anyways, now that I have blotched both the attempts (did I?) I would have to keep my speech prepared and written onto a paper the next time .. sigh....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is this for good or bad?

Contrary to what many would like to believe, Life presents so many things to us on a platter :) That is true! Really .. If you are not convinced, think of how many time we all have enjoyed our TVs, radios, the telephone, mobiles, PDAs, laptops, etc. for most part without even thinking how they were made in the first place!?

When I say us, I mean the majority of human race as such.

And we also conveniently tend to ignore the bane of using such devices till some scientist from an obscure corner of the world ... I don't mean just some universities ;) ... finds something seriously wrong with those devices.

Just the other day, I was reading an article from the newspaper that it has been 'scientifically' proven that the radio waves or whatever type of electromagnetic waves used for cell phone communication are very harmful for the human nervous system. It is especially dangerous for kids under 11 years of age it seems.

One such 'fact' that shocked me was that spending 60 minutes in a wi-fi environment is equivalent to spending 20 minutes on your cell phone. And I have been using wi-fi ever since I was exposed to it 3 years back!

But apart from doubting such scientific analysis, are we doing enough to take any precautions in case they come true in future? More specifically, am I doing anything to handle things like my 1 year old kid playing throughout with my wife's nokia mobile or me using the wi-fi router for internet connection at home.

Sure, I have some benefits coming out of these - like my kid being calm or me able to use internet connection anywhere in my home. But in the overall scheme of things, is what I am doing or not doing a good thing or bad?

I don't know, but am surely not taking a chance with my kid's health. I am planning to use a wired LAN connection instead of wi-fi and have a dummy cell phone for my kid to play with.

Isn't it a shame if we cannot do what we could and should about something that is in our hands?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Choked...part 1

Something funny .. well, sort of, funny happened yesterday. I choked when asked to present my experiences from Isha Yoga programs and practices. Could not believe I was on the verge of crying actually but just about managed to hold it off blabbering something incoherant even to me in hindsight :)

I spent practically the whole of yesterday's night thinking 'Why on Earth did I choke during those 2 minutes'?

Was it stage fear or perhaps lack of preparation? I ruled that out because that has rarely been the case for me.

Was it because I am too emotional? Am known to get a bit emotional at home sometimes, but almost never at work. So, that is also a goner ..

Was it because it is related to Isha!? That and as I thought more I realized it was because what have got from Isha is something I cannot put in words easily. Then my process went on about how to communicate what I have experienced and bingo! Here I am writing this blog :)

Succintly putting the usual benefits I like to tell people:
  • I was probably born with sinusitis or Sinus problem as people commonly know it. Plagued with it from my childhood, relief finally came to me after I started my Isha practices. Now, there is very little sign of it.
  • Physical fitness has not been my forte for the first 23 years of my life. That was my younger brother's ever since he started his Karate coaching. Isha again helped me here - now I can say without doubt I am at least as fit as my brother is. Don't make any mistakes - he is still the stronger of us :))
  • My efficiency in getting things done at work has probably doubled. What I used to take 8 hours earlier, am now able to do in 4 to 5 hours.
  • Ability to concentrate and focus on job at hand has received a shot in the arm rather a tremendous boost.
  • Finally, if a complete introvert like me can change for the better and interact with people in a lovable manner, I wonder what else can someone need.
I will stop with this and will continue later today with more ...