Wednesday 12 September 2012

Tottochan!

I found a link to Totto-chan's story! We had an excerpt from here in our English text in school. I remember I loved it then. I am looking forward to reading it now! Posting the link here for the benefit of others who remember little Totto-chan!

http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/Tottochan.pdf

Life's little pleasures are often the best... You might find Arvind Gupta's site very interesting too.

Friday 7 September 2012

Limerick (sorta) of a kid

There was a kid
Who fibbed all day,
Simply every single day
And then some more;

But that's just because
he thought his problems,
Would all be solved
Just by running away;

The older he grew,
Increased his problems anew,
Till run no longer
could he bear to.

So he turned around
Fought'em all he did,
Quickly saw them all,
Vanish into smoke grey!

Saturday 11 February 2012

San Fransisco in 1906, Before and After the earthquake

I have been fascinated by the history of a city. San Fransisco was the great frontier to the west - the land of opportunities, long before the tech boom that we see now. The bustling city, had an unfortunate moment in 1906 when it experienced the worst earthquake in its history. Over  3000 people died and over 80% of the city was destroyed in the subsequent fires. Here is the wikipedia article on the earthquake and its aftermath. The damage in the earthquake is estimated to be $8.2 billion in 2009 dollars! That's larger than most other disasters including 9/11 and Katrina.

But we go off on a tangent. The reason for this post if s a couple of videos I found on Quora which show life in the bustling city, just before the earthquake - from a cable car going along Market Street. The second video compares this with another footage taken after the earthquake. Its eerie.



Its amazing how quickly the city was back on its feet. The 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition was held here - and there were almost no visible signs of the earthquake by then. That exposition gave us the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts building near the Presidio.

I am dumbfounded by the resilience of the people here - and it makes me wonder whether it should really take us so long to change the face of Indian cities..

Sunday 25 December 2011

Pittsburgh timelapse!

Found a nice time lapse of Pittsburgh on vimeo. I miss the city sometimes. I spent about 16 months there, getting my Masters, and although the work was really intense, I still did get to explore the city a lot. It was my first home in the United States, a humble city, with long roots, great people and an awesome university.


A Pittsburgh Spring from Zachary Smith on Vimeo.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

RSS Overload!

I am a big proponent of the RSS feed. Although it is not as popular as twitter or facebook, it is a great way to not miss an interesting article on a website that you may or may mot visit regularly. If you do not use it, I would highly recommend Google Reader to keep a track of websites that you like. There are others too, but being a google fan, I haven't tried them. I promise you, you will learn more about things you are passionate about than when you spend time on facebook, and you will never need to worry about missing a feed!


I have been curating my RSS feed from since my time at my undergrad. Its been 4 long years, and over the time I have accumulated a lot of feeds. I used to try trim the number of feeds once in a while, to the extent that I am really proud of my colelcted curation - and needless to say, very attached to it.


While at CMU, I absolutely didn't have time to read, however I still managed to keep up with my favorites. After CMU, I have been into a lot of stuff, including Design, Creativity, Marketing, Advertising, Tech, Startups, News from India included. And the Reader has been a faithful pet, getting to me on a digital platter, all of it..

Now for the problem.

Over a month back, I realized my RSS feed has become an addiction. I was subscribed to over 140 feeds at a point, getting over a 200 articles posted in my reader everyday! That is an incredible overload. Even at 2 articles a minute, I needed to spend close to 2 hours everyday just to not drown under the flood of feeds. On an occasional day, when I missed catching up, it was even worse. And the times when I traveled, there was simply no way I could catch up on the 1000+ unread articles by the time I got back. For such times, there was always the quick route of marking all articles as 'read'. Doing this felt really horrible. I felt like I needed to not miss stuff - its like trying to read all the newspapers for the past fortnight in one go.

Drowning under this weight, I hardly got any time to do anything else. I have a bunch of pictures from over 2 years that need processing, sharing etc. I sorely need to exercise, I rarely update this blog and I have no time to learn new things in depth. And that sucks!

So I decided to target getting down my feeds to a 100 for a start. I got there only last week, gut-wrenched to see some of the stuff I really enjoyed reading. However, if I really have to, I can always head over to those websites. A lot of these feeds posted more than 1 item everyday - and still sneaked in through my no-more-than-10-articles-per-day rule. These had to go.

After getting down to a 100, my next target is 50 feeds. This one is even harder, considering that a lot of the feeds now are my friends' blogs, or webcomics, which usually post only 1 article/day or lesser. I am almost halfway to my new target - down to 76, and I already feel better. This time however, I did not completely remove these sites from my life - I pushed them off to my twitter feed.

The twitter feed is way faster than the reader, but it doesn't show me 'unread' items, which means that I can dip in whenever I feel like it, and not have the 'unread' guilt hanging over my head. That way, presumably I can skim through more stuff.

The high-nosed may scoff that twitter has been around for a while and I should have known this before. I admit that I didn't / don't still get twitter. I hate the fact that I can miss reading something of value. However, I am ready to experiment with it for now. From now on, lots of feeds which post a lot, but in which I read only a few articles - i.e. have a low signal-to-noise ratio will have to go to twitter. The reader would continue to be a place where I add friends, and webcomics and a host of other stuff that doesn't update that often. I guess I would miss a few things, but this would make my reader much easier to clean, make twitter much more relevant to me, and my life uncluttered, happier and more hopefully more creative. In some ways, these would be two separate news providers for me. Twitter carrying the sensational, in the news stuff, while the Reader can continue to be the editorial page - to be read carefully and enjoyed.

Inspired by:
Zen Habits
Chris Brogan - who unsubscribed from over the 100,000+ people he was following on twitter.

Sidenote: Now that I am pushing more things on to twitter, I wonder if I will get to a point where my feed there gets overloaded.. So much so that I can't track it! I guess I will handle this problem when it comes to that.



Friday 15 July 2011

A nation full of 'engineers'

Asmita smiled as she put the finishing touches on the purple horizon in her painting. It depicted the beautiful dusk she had one seen from her Aaji’s house in the village. It showed a glowing sun setting amidst the blue mountains, far away in the evening haze. Cows grazing on the yellowed landscape, and a silhouette of the dry trees parched for water, in the hot, dry Indian summer. With a last sigh, she glanced with wistful eyes at the painting as she put away her tools - her palette, paintbrushes and the oil paints she had just finished using - into the box-bed. This was the last time she would paint in a long time to come.
Rohan’s Mom called him back home for dinner just as he was about to score the last fifteen runs required for his team to win the T20 cricket match with kids from the neighboring building. “Coming Mom”, he shouted back impatiently, slightly angry. Cricket was the only thing he had ever cared about for as long as he could remember. His eyes twinkled as he faced the opposition’s bowler, his bat swinging in a wide arc, cleanly striking the ball along the pitch for a boundary. This would be the last time he played the game for the next three years.

Nakul sat crouched under the bush, patiently and noiselessly as he waited for hours for the bird to show up. He had spotted its nest just after noon. It was high up on the tree, cozy between the trunk and a thick branch, away from the wind. It was close to dusk, surely the bird must return now, as they always do. Maybe it had gone out hunting for the day, as they always do. His legs hurt from sitting all day in this position, the camera hanging around his neck, his neck sunburned. He waited with baited breath, and... There it was! She had just flown home. In a sudden rush of excitement, he clicked away furiously, capturing the bird in its full glory; swooping in on its nest, landing nimbly on the edge, trying to be fair to all the bird babies as her beak went around distributing the spoils. The chatter of the babies made him happy, joie de vivre running through him. It was the last that that camera ever clicked nature.
Today, and later in the month they will all be appearing for their engineering entrance exams. Fighting to get into the 10,000 or so seats that ‘good’ engineering colleges in the country on offer. Not one of them will get a seat. None of them will be good engineers.
Not because they are not smart. Not because they are not intelligent. It is because, they were not supposed to be engineers. They were supposed to be painters, and poets, and athletes and ornithologists, all excelling in their fields. 5 years later, they will all be working for as ‘software engineers’, working at a tiny back-office, fixing bugs created by some unseen overlord in some far away land where they have never been. Or faking accents, helping some middle aged lady in Wyoming figure out how to use the new blender she just bought.

Working for a different overlord than the one they gained ‘independence’ from 60 years ago. Or the same one.
Very few of them will actually go back to work at their passions.
Very few of them will actually do work that will change the world in some way.
Very few of them will actually be ‘independent’.
Very few of them will ever be free...

Saturday 18 June 2011

Can I go to war with you on my side?

In this article, former Indian cricket coach Gary Kirsten says of the Indian World Cup winning captain MS Dhoni:
“I have read that great leaders in the world give credit to others when things are going well and take responsibility when things are going badly. MS Dhoni is that to the ‘T’.”
Indeed that is the hallmark of a great leader, and in fact should be true of every leader if (s)he wants to win the trust, admiration and respect of the tribe. Not just as lip-service, but that is how a leader should feel from the inside. Because very few victories are achieved just due to the leader. It is always a team game. And by giving credit to people the leader empowers each member of the tribe - allows a sense of joy and belonging to  permeate through.

By taking responsibility when things go badly, the leader takes away the downside - the fear of failure. This allows each individual to be creative without fear of retribution.
“I want to go to war with this guy,”  Kirsten said talking of the skipper.
Are you someone who I would trust enough to go to war with?