Sunday, 28 December 2008

Happy 24

I grew another year older and I'm thinking do I like 23 better or 24 -- you know, number wise? Of course 23 has the obvious edge of being a prime number and having consecutive digits, but 24 brings in its own charms. The hours in a day, a popular TV show, 8 x 3 ... you know, good stuff. Next year I will be 25, and there are only two good things I can think of that number: five square and it is the legal drinking age in New Delhi (but no, nobody checks -- well except this one time -- and I have friends who have gone to pubs in Delhi when they were in the 9th grade. Yes, I keep good company).

Leaving that thought, I would like to recount the highlights events of the past year in my life:
  • Jan: Borrowed a guitar from a friend and started learning the instrument.
  • Feb: Bought an awesome guitar of my own -- I dubbed it Black Jazz (my bike is named Shadowfax). I still practice on it.
  • Apr: Faced heartbreak. Fun times. Registered for the GRE to get distracted.
  • May: Fulfilled a childhood wish of mine: Rayban Aviators. Sadly, I lost them in a month's time.
  • Jun: Rejoined the gym with a resolve that I would pursue it for at least 6 months and reach a normal BMI. Visited Goa in the monsoons. Not the right time to visit India's most popular tourist spot, according to many, but we had a fun time and the port wine was worth it.
  • Aug: Lost a considerable amount of poundage. Now that "the ideal weight" was no longer a goal, I started training for a half marathon.
  • Sep: Gave the GRE (V: 660, Q: 770, A: 4.5, if you are interested. No, I didn't score 800 in quant ... kill me!) and TOEFL.
  • Oct: Ran my first half marathon in beautiful Oregon.
  • Nov: Was deeply saddened and disturbed by the Mumbai terror attacks. Still don't feel the Indian government has learnt anything. Ran my second half marathon. This time though it was unofficial and on a treadmill.
  • Dec: Fell sick after a long long time, due to which I had to take refuge in Delhi. I lost considerable amount of stamina. I'm slowly regaining it back though -- I ran a 10k today . That is my birthday gift to me.
I'm looking back at this list and I'm thinking, "Hmmm .. Not bad." Wonder what the next year holds.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Few random things

  • It puzzles me why news channels have background scores for all their stories. Another irritating this is that they end up looping feeds. Few days back I saw a trailer of the Akshay Kumar starrer "Chandini Chowk To China" as a news story! When I thought it was over, they did a rewind + play. I got to see the whole damn thing again! Why?
  • There are lot new dividers on the roads near my house. They serve little purpose, but end up occupying road space and causing accidents -- I saw a Safari rammed into it yesterday morning.
  • There was an attempted burglary at the Mother Diary near my house. This happened at around 9:15 PM. The perpetrators came on a bike and shot (!) twice at the attendant. He managed to evade one bullet, but ended up getting the other in his hand. Scary.
  • Traffic in Delhi has increased, although it's not become as bad as Bangalore.
  • I went to a mall in Noida called "Great India Place". It's sprawling and has four floors. Interesting part was, as a friend pointed out, the same mall had 4 different Reebok stores and 2 separate Levi's stores. Wonder what their business startegy is?
  • Most parks near my house have been converted into "walking" parks. They have uneven concrete strips laid out for people to walk upon. As TOI pointed out few days back, this leaves out little space for children to play. Jogging on the concrete strips turned out bad for my feet and I have some pain in my right foot. Didn't go running today as a result of that.
    Give me back my old parks,
    which were plain dirt and grass.
  • I have got pastries from Wenger's in the fridge which I plan to eat now. All mine ... yay!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A disapponting run

I went to Nehru Park today. After a week of illness followed by a week of inactivity, I wanted to get back to running. I was worried that I won't be able run for long -- I had a dream the other night on the same lines. I reached there at 10 AM and ran two loops of Nehru Park's joggers' track, with a a one minute break after the first loop. Total time taken was 31 minutes. Main point being I was exhausted after the run and I had to break in between! I know I was sick. I know have to take it gradually. I know it takes time to recover. But I just don't want to accept the fact that a couple of week sickness can easily erode my efforts.

I plan to go at it tomorrow. Let us see what happens.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

No check-in baggage

This time I had to rush to Delhi. Few of my friends thought that my recent illness could be indicative of typhoid -- which, fortunately, it was not. But it got me scared enough to take refuge at home sweet home. I only packed a single air-bag. Two shirts, two jeans, two jackets, one sweater, my shaving kit and medicines. Talking of medicines, I had taken a bottled syrup for my illness. I had put it in my bag, knowing that it was not allowed. I thought I would run a social experiment to my benefit. Either the security guys would catch sight of it, or they would let me pass and give me the opportunity, like many media journalists these days, to show how lax the security is despite the terror attacks. They did find the bottle. On explaining that it was medicine for my ailment, the security incharge suggested, "Yeh aap pi lijeye" (please drink it). I considered the offer and decided not to. Instead I donated the bottle to them -- they could drink all of it.

Anyway, I had packed very little into my air-bag and that was going in with me on the flight. I hate carrying bags which I need to check-in. I don't remember when I last carried any check-in baggage on a domestic flight. There are few reasons for this.

I hate waiting. On any journey I'm just looking at when the next phase will get over. When I start from home, I will be waiting to get to the airport. When I get to the airport, I will be waiting for the airline to start boarding. Once inside the flight I will be thinking when the plane is going to take-off. Once taken off, I will wait for it to land. Once landed I will be waiting for the seat-belt lights to go off -- which not many people do; they happily decide to take down their luggage while the plane is still taxiing. Now once out of the plane and in the destination terminal, the wait for the luggage is the last straw. Not only do I need to wait, I end up worrying whether my luggage got lost or damaged in transit. It never has, but I always do worry.

So here I'm with things from just one bag. I have loaned heavily from my Dad on the clothes front. I miss not having my running shoes, my garmin forerunner, my guitar -- I would never carry that on long journeys though --, my music player, my books and a lot more. They should let people carry more luggage in flight!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

When I'm sick ...

I have not been too well for the past three days. Other than feeling weak and miserable, I have been watching TOO many things. Here is a listing:

1. The Office
2. How I Met Your Mother
3. House M.D.
4. Big Bang Theory
5. An Inconvenient Truth
6. Ironman (second time, totally worth it)

I'm not going to list how many episodes of each TV show I watched (5 and 6 are in fact movies), instead I'm going to present the total duration as reported by Winamp ... 24 hours and 21 seconds.

I have nothing left to watch. Fortunately, I'm well now.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Death by a thousand cuts

With all the media attention surrounding the Mumbai attacks, it's very easy to miss what happened in Assam today. Five people were killed in a train blast. What action is the government taking? I wonder if it will even make tomorrow's newspaper's front page.
Every life is valuable. The Assam incident is NOT "small and isolated". India needs to give an equally strong reply, irrespective of the number or stature of the victims. Otherwise we, as a nation, are slowly going to perish.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Treadmill Half Marathon

I have only run a single race till date and that was a half marathon. This is of course excluding all the embarrassing races I had run in school. I still remember the 400 m race which I ran when I was in 12th. I came last and was almost lapped by the winner.

So where was I ... yes, only one race till date.

So, RFL organizes these fortnightly runs and I had never been to any of them. They had one today and I had decided to go. The only problem being it was starting at 6 AM. I set an alarm for 4 AM yesterday night and went to sleep at 9:30 PM (we runners need a good night's sleep .. eh?)

When the alarm started ringing I hit the snooze button. When it rang again, I hit it again. This kept on happening; I no longer needed to open my eyes to shut the alarm. My reflexes did not want me to wake up. My phone finally gave up after an hour or so and when I woke up it was 8:30 in the morning.

Dissappointed, I went through my usual routine. Went to the nearby Darshini; had an idly-vada and filter coffee. Read the newspaper. Went online. Checked mail. Checked orkut/facebook. Checked mail again. Looked at who all were on IM.

After four or five loops of the above I Started feeling guilty of not having gone for the run. I thought I could maybe run somewhere nearby: Agara Lake? Then I had an idea: Why not run a half marathon on the office treadmill? It was a challenge not just because of the distance, but because running on a treadmill for so long is DAMN boring. So that's what it was going to be.

I went to the office and long story short ran for 2 hours 10 minutes, covering a distance of 21.1 KM. My Garmin Forerunner acted as the stop watch and I had the Sansa Clip for musical harmony.

I shaved off 4 minutes from my previous half marathon time. I think I have also recovered well: I just have a blister on my right foot and no major knee pain. Tomorrow should give me a better idea.

Anyway ... YAY!


Saturday, 29 November 2008

Has it ended?

It had stopped raining. The sun was out. Two hundred people had died in the Mumbai terror attacks. The news agencies have fuel to feed themselves for weeks maybe months now. Speculation is and will be rife. People will dole out their quick fix solutions -- I have been guilty of that myself. But as Indians we have seen and have pointed it out before: we might end up forgetting this soon.

People commend the Mumbai spirit; getting back to business. I being a cynic, though please let me know if you think I'm wrong, don't think it has much to do with the spirit as much it has to do with how densely Mumbai is populated. When you have so many people, you only care about those who are in your tribe: people whom you know and interact with, not the faceless strangers whom you see everyday. And if you don't know anyone, or are not yourself impacted by such an attack, it is easy to forget.

The question really is this: do you want to wait for any such future attack to impact you and then take action, or should you take those steps now and prevent you and your loved ones from being affected?

As an individual what can you do? What powers do you have? The answers to both these questions, though many people might tell you otherwise, is NOT "Nothing". I don't know the answers myself but I'm trying to find out. Light a candle, donate blood, donate money, but that's not all that you can do. There has to be more.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Another terrorist attack

I woke up today morning. It was raining. Terror had struck Mumbai. Once again.

In the past one year we have witnessed multiple terror strikes in different parts of India. I can't remember a single terror attack in the U.S. after 9/11. Where are we falling short? Every time this happens I get riled up. The security guards at our office start checking our badges more rigorously. That lasts for a fortnight, maybe a month and it all fades away. This time around, I want to find out how I can help and not be a (im)passive observer.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

500 KM

I still faintly remember the first day I joined the office gym. I was supposed to undergo a fitness test. After asking some questions and taking some measurements (weight, height), the physio asked me to hop on to the treadmill. I was given an option of either covering 1 KM, or run/walk on it for 6 minutes. Me being a smart lazy fellow, took the second option: 6 minutes. I managed 700 meters in the allotted time and almost collapsed. I was struggling to breathe; my heart was pounding. I struggled back to my cubicle.

That was 6 months ago.

Today I look at how far I have come. Over the period of the last 4 months [1], I have run 500 KM.

I'm patting my own back, but consider this. I had no company to run. My shoes, until recently, were in very bad shape. Due to my foot size I couldn't get a new pair in India. I used to run mostly on the treadmill because I didn't have proper shoes, and that is not the most entertaining thing unless you are a hamster. I religiously trained for the half-marathon and even when I finished it, still kept running. I had enough excuses to stop, but I didn't. I'm proud of that.

Onward!

[1].
Not counting the first two months; I had not started maintaining my log then.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Flight Of The Conchords

Flight of the Conchords is a two man band from New Zealand. They both play acoustic guitars and their "songs" are hilarious.

"A sample please", you say. "Sure, sir. This one is called 'Frodo, Don't Wear the Ring'", I respond.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

A script a week

Amongst my many goals in life, I want to work less and automate more. There are many things which I do as part of my daily work/play which can be automated. So I have set myself a new goal: create a script, at least once a week, which takes one of the mechanical activities in my life and automate it. I am aiming at a variety of tools/languages: python, perl, elisp, powershell and ruby. I have few ideas already, hope I allocate the time and actually do it. Let's see how this goes.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

...

I'm not saying there's no such thing as genius. But if you're trying to choose between two theories and one gives you an excuse for being lazy, the other one is probably right.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Kartaar may be king


Photography by bro.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Cycle scrape in the U.S

Driving in the evening,
saw a queer sight,
a cyclist touched by a car,
but he was all right;
now we hear sirens,
a fire-engine comes by,
to aid the cyclist (presumably),
but we were thinking:"Oh! Why?"

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Very poor to poor (to fair)-- Yay!

VO2 max is a fancy term to tell how efficiently your body processes oxygen. Most of it is decided genetically, but some of it can be decided by your training. I started in the very poor bracket. Recently though, I pulled of a 5k in 26 min 54 sec and a 10k today in 58 min 43 sec; and now I'm in the poor bracket -- woohooo!

Want to find your own VO2 max? Go right ahead.

Update (31st Oct 2008): Did a 5k in 25 min 23 sec. VO2 max: 37.6. I'm now in the "Fair" bracket -- Woot!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Half marathon

I ran my first half marathon last Sunday and it seems to be a bit late to be blogging about it, but I guess I can't let my laziness ruin an account of, what I consider, one of my formidable achievements.

I had decided to run a half marathon around three months back. I had just managed to get my BMI in the normal bracket and needed a new challenge or, I knew, I would go back to being a cubicle potato (Webster's, hear me). I decided to run the Mumbai half marathon. My brother had run the dream run (6 KM) last year -- with me smirking at him that 6 KM was not a "real" distance -- and my good friend Addy had run the half marathon. I being an ambitious person chose to run the half marathon. I was one of the earliest to register. Of course, most people around me thought that I was crazy. With reactions from laughter (yes Rakesh, I'm looking at you) to asking questions like "Why would someone pay to run?"

I got a training schedule from the Mumbai marathon website and followed it religiously. Each week I would do three short runs on the office gym treadmill, on weekdays, and one long run on Saturday. Given the condition of my shoes, my doctor had advised me not to run outdoors. So, I would drive all the way to office (10 KM), on a Saturday, go to the gym, get on the treadmill and do my long run. And when I say long run, think an hour or over that.

This went on for a little less than three months and few weeks back I ran 17 KM in Cubbon Park. I knew it then that I would be able to finish the half marathon.

But, being an International Businessman, I had to go to Oregon, for international business meetings. I thought why not run a half marathon there itself -- the earlier, the better, I thought. I picked the Gresham Jazz Half Marathon.

Now on to the race.

That Sunday morning, I drove 40 miles to the place. It was cold with temperatures around 8 C. Fortunately for me, it was neither windy nor were there any chances of rain. I was wearing my dri-fit shirt, underneath the race tshirt, underneath my light jacket. I had gloves and a skull cap. In retrospect, I was a bit too heavily attired. In my defense I didn't want to catch a cold.

The race started at 8:50 A.M. I had expected to run comfortably the first 10 KM or so, but all that was ruined. The first 3 KMs were steep hills. I had rarely done any training on inclines and got caught unawares. I jogged the first hill, but by the time I reached the second one, I realized that if I take these hills lightly I may not have enough energy left. So, like a lot of others around me, I started walking the inclines and jogging the plateaus. Fortunately, the rest of the race didn't have any such terrain.

I was comfortable till the 7th mile (around 12 KM). I had to push a bit after that. I would fool my mind into believing that I would take a break at the next mile, but not do it. I kept on going and my finish time was 2 hours and 14 minutes. Which was a bit of a letdown, because I wanted to finish near 2 hours and 10 minutes. Yeah, I was sufficiently arrogant to believe that I would finish my first half marathon, so I set a target time and not just "wanted to finish".

So, how did I feel at the end? I was just glad it was over. It's a gruelling experience; physically and psychologically. I gained a lot of respect for people who run the full marathon (which I plan to do in another year's time or so). I also gained a t-shirt and a shiny medal, which I have been showing off everywhere and won't hesitate to show off here as well. There you go:


Monday, 29 September 2008

Upcoming: Oregon trip, part deux

I'm slated to leave for Oregon on Friday, Oct 3rd. Interestingly it's almost the same time that I went last year.

Things I'm looking forward to:
  1. My first half-marathon.
  2. Cycling and hiking nearby Beaverton.
  3. Doing bungee jumping and sky diving.
  4. Seeing places than last time.
Things I'm not looking forward to:
  1. The 20+ hour flight journey.
  2. Jet lag.
  3. Rain and cold.
  4. Missing the Bangalore ultra marathon.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

The ten miler

I had thought that I would be running 16 KM in GKVK, but instead it ended up being a run in Cubbon Park. Being my first run outdoors and 16 KM being a respectable distance, I was slightly apprehensive. I had only ever run on the treadmill. I always used to run in the afternoons and this was an early morning (6 AM) run. This was the longest distance I had ever aimed for. What if I didn't make it?

The Cubbon Park loop which I ran was 4.25 KM (one fellow runner told me it was 4.3, another said 4.2, so I took the average). At the onset I decided to do 4 loops. Within the first loop itself I discovered that running outside is much different from running on the treadmill. And although at the end of the first loop I found out that I had maintained the same pace I was used to on the treadmill, it was a bit harder.

I took it one loop at a time. A single loop split two halves. Each half further: one step in front of another ... onward.

At the end of an hour and forty seven minutes, I was finished: 4 loops, 17 KM.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

All excited

Oooh! So many new things:

1. I bought Justin's Master the major scale DVD and it came by mail today. It should keep me good company during my Oregon trip.

2. How to draw comics the Marvel way, was another purchase by me. Drawing is going to be my next project.

3. Plan to do a 16 KM run in GKVK. It'll be my first outdoors run.

Excitement of the unknown.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A hundred pushups

My next fitness project. Of course this is much simpler and less time consuming than training for the half-marathon, but a nice challenge nonetheless.

Oh, and for those who are wondering about the half-marathon thing: I'm running the Mumbai Half-Marathon and, along the way, also the Gresham Jazz Half-Marathon in Oregon (those are the ones I have scheduled for now).

Monday, 15 September 2008

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Running log

I have recently transformed myself from a coffee-gulping, overweight cubicle-dweller to a mile-crunching-machine (exaggerated comment). Of course, this didn't happen overnight -- three months to be precise. And today, I share with you my running log; which I have kept meticulously for the past one month. Also something on the side-bar for people to see. I wondered if people can follow me on twitter, then of course they will be interested on how much I am running (grin, grin).

Sunday, 25 May 2008

My latest extravagance

Some say money can't buy happiness? ... Well it does, happiness called RAY-BAN AVIATOR SUNGLASSES! Maybe this is a bit premature, but it is worth every single buck. I empathize with your envy.


Update: I managed to lose this around a month back. Repercussions of my effrontery.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Brash

I guess one of my vices has been that I have been too quick to make decisions. Without having carefully thought out the consequences of my actions, I dive into the attack. Seduced by the clearly unavoidable checkmate, I forget to see what's around. I lose my queen and resign.

Note: Above statement is not intended to be metaphorical. I have just been playing an insane amount of chess lately.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Twittering

I got inspired by this and started twittering. Guess how bored I am?
Among other things I have started reading the next Desmond Morris book: "The Human Zoo". As expected, it's quite good. Doesn't twitter make blogs redundant?

Monday, 7 April 2008

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Virtual keyboard

My latest fascination these days is to play music. I own and am learning the guitar, but I'm also interested to play the keyboard (musical). Few days back I came across "Virtual Keyboard", which is a flash application which lets you play few notes. The nice thing is that the notes on the musical keyboard are mapped to the keys on the keyboard connected to your computer. So for example hitting 'e' on your keyboard produces a 'D#' note. So I wrote a small program in perl which takes in the notes and converts them to keystrokes. Being a touch typist I can play the notes decently enough.

eg: Notes for Clocks by Coldplay:

Eb Bb G Eb Bb G Eb Bb G Db Bb F Db Bb F Db Bb FDb Bb F Db Bb F Db Bb F Db Bb F Db Bb F Db Bb F C Ab F C Ab F C Ab C

Converted to keystrokes:

e u g e u g e u g w u f w u f w u u f w u f w u f w u f w u f w u f a y f a y f a y a

Monday, 31 March 2008

Extension methods

C# 3.0 has introduced a new language feature called extensions methods. What extensions methods let you do is add new methods to any type without deriving from that type or modifying the source of that type. For example you can add a new method "StartsWithNum" to the type "String".


namespace ConsoleApplication1
{
public static class Foo
{
public static bool StartsWithNum(this string s)
{
for (int i = 0; i < 9; i++)
{
if (s.StartsWith(i.ToString()))
return true;
}
return false;
}
}
class Program
{
static void Main(string[] args)
{
string s = "hello";
Console.WriteLine(s.StartsWithNum());
}
}
}


Scott Gu's blog has a good post explaining extension methods.

In my opinion they are a bad idea because of the following reasons:
  1. Extension methods encourage that you to patch up your original code from files elsewhere.
  2. The programmer's "is-a", "has-a" dilemma gets an addition and gives us a trilemma: subclass, wrap or extend?
  3. Anyone not using Visual Studio 2008 is going to have a tough time navigating through the code as extension methods can be defined in any namespace.
  4. Programmers may start assuming that the extension method is part of the framework, when it may not be.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Simsharp

Around an year back because of a certain amount of boredom and curiosity, I started writing an 8051 simulator in C#. I called it Simsharp, and managed to convice the guys at sourceforge that it was worthy of being hosted. I worked on it an hour a day for two months and then, when it was almost done, I stopped.

Few days back a friend of mine, who wanted to use an 8051 disassembler, asked me for my project. I couldn't give it to him because I had never done a release. The only other alternative was to ask him to check out the source from SVN and build it, which of course was tedious. So, I apologized and asked him to look elsewhere.

Today, after almost an year after I started, I put together a pre-alpha release. The source and binaries can be downloaded from the downloads page.

The simulator is hidden underneath a debugger. A debugger which itself runs with the help of the Boo interpreter.

There is support for the following in the debugger:

1. Loading of intel hex files
2. Disassembling the entire code.
3. Adding/Removing breakpoints.
4. Reading the internal RAM.
5. Reading the registers.
6. Single step
7. Run

I hope its of use to someone (other than the college students who will make this their course project).

Saturday, 23 February 2008

My shiny new guitar


I finally bought a new guitar. It cost me 5 grand with the cover. It's black and looks awesome.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Back to basics

An extremely well written article. Its a bit longish, but worth the read.

Microsoft's new marketing startegy

In what looks like a desperate attempt to market their products, Microsoft has turned to targeting kids.

The first product is Windows Home Server. There is a whole illustrated story book as to why you should buy it. Why? Because when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, the daddy wants to give the mommy a special gift. When I first saw it I was skeptical and thought this was another jobless guy on the internet pissing over Microsoft. But guess what? The site is linked from the Windows Home Server site itself (click on the pondering guy).

The second one is .. well.. most of everything which Microsoft has. They have turned their products into limited edition action figures. And they call the "evil fighting" group "Source Fource". There is a complete bio page for each one of them.
The Windows Vista action figure's ("Vista Sensei" or "Visual Teacher") bio is full of false self praise, except this:
"He is already beginning to gain such world fame at his young age that folks are writing stories about him."

I find both the above lame. But it is the kind of lame which you want your friends to see. So it does serve the purpose of getting people to know about the product, though maybe not in the correct way.



Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Need motivation?

Couple of updates

So what have I been doing these days (other than not blogging)?

1. Visiting other countries.

2. Reading up some other web comics, other than just PA, PVP and Dilbert.

3. Reading books by Desmond Morris and Richard Dawkins. Specifically: The Naked Ape, Manwatching (yes, to the naked eye these books may seem gay but they are quite the contrary), The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker. All of them are good and highly recommended (unless you are a religious orthodox).

4. Starting to learn the guitar. I have a borrowed guitar on which I can play: "Happy birthday to you", "Twinkle twinkle ..", "Tujhe dekha to ye jaana sanam (intro)", "Sweet child of mine.." (ridiculously slow and out of tune mostly). I quite enjoy it.

5. Watching highly addictive and recommended television series like: House, How I Met Your Mother and Prison Break. Of course,I don't watch it on the idiot box, I have a brand new wide screen just for this.

6. Playing frets on fire.