Imagine a conversation with your doctor that goes like this:

“What do you do for work?” the doctor asked me at the beginning of the interview.

“Well, I’m trying to start my own social movement.”

(There was a long pause, but he didn’t ask anything else about that. Instead, he looked at the next item on the list.)

“Do you take any medications?”

“Not usually, but when I need to, I buy them in Africa.”

(Another pause.)

“Do you exercise regularly?”

“Yes, I just ran a marathon on a cruise ship last week!”

Such a person should surely be interesting.

That’s how I first read about Chris Guillebeau (via Cal Newport).

So when Chris mentioned on his blog that he has a manifesto coming up soon, I was eagerly waiting. He calls it a “A Brief Guide to World Domination: How to Live a Remarkable Life in a Conventional World”.

Well, surely, there have been many people who have made tall claims over the years, why this should be any different? Because this guy walks the talk. What else can you say about someone who has visited 83 countries so far and he’s only 30 years of age. His goal is to visit the remaining 115 countries by April 7, 2013. How’s that for a goal?

What I liked about the manifesto is that it reminds me of a rule that I’ve been following off late: “Enough fundas, Back to fundamentals.” The manifesto does not tell you anything earth-shattering but makes you think about the simple basics of your life.

If you choose the path of being “just like everybody else”, then you’re already set because that is what majority of the world does.

If you choose the path of “non-conformity”, then be prepared to face all the problems but at the end of it all, you’ll get to live the life that you want (assuming that’s what you want).

If you want to truly go for BHA goals (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), then you need to take care of yourself and contribute to others as well. The latter is not simply charity, but there are several ways. After all, the greatest joy a passionate programmer or artist can get is when he/she sees someone using/admiring what they created and they are getting benefitted from it. And so on.

All this reminds me of this quote by John Davis:

You all laugh at me because I’m different, I laugh at you because you’re all the same.

That’s what I say to myself when people stare at me in the mornings when I’m running with a fuel belt around my waist. Hey, it may look funny, but I need that water while I’m running so that I don’t end up dehydrating (which is bad, speaking from experience). So I may look unconventional, but I need that water, and that’s how I want to do running.

So what else have I done unconventionally?

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Today, I re-read a book called Super
Crunchers: How Anything Can Be Predicted
by Ian Ayres.

So what is supercrunching?

Now something is changing. Business and government professionals are
relying more and more on databases to guide their decisions. The
story of hedge funds is really the story of a new breed of number
crunchers – call them Super Crunchers – who have analyzed large
datasets to discover empirical correlations between seemingly
unrelated things. Want to hedge a large purchase of euros? Turns out
you should sell a carefully balanced portfolio of twenty-six other
stocks and commodities that might include Wal-Mart stock.

What is Super Crunching? It is statistical analysis that impacts
real-world decisions. Super Crunching predictions usually bring
together some combination of size, speed and scale. The sizes of
datasets are really big – both in the number of observations and in
the number of variables. The speed of the analysis is increasing. We
often witness the real-time crunching of numbers as the data come
hot off the press. And the scale of the impact is sometimes truly
huge. This isn’t a bunch of egghead academics cranking out
provocative journal articles. Super Crunching is done by or for
decision makers who are looking for a better way to do things.

This is best explained by the chess example:

We tend to think that the chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov lost to
the Deep Blue computer because of IBM’s smarter software. That
software is really a gigantic database that ranks the power of
different positions. The speed of the computer is important, but in
large part it was the computer’s ability to access a database of
700,000 grandmaster chess games that was decisive.
Kasparov’s
intuitions lost out to data-based decision making.

(emphasis mine)

The book starts off with the example of Orley Ashenfelter, a Princeton
economics professor as well as founder and editor of the Journal
of Wine Economics who wanted to apply supercrunching techniques to
predict whether a wine from a particular year would be a good wine or
not. He ended up with the following equation:

Wine quality = 12.145 + 0.00117 winter rainfall + 0.0614 average
growing season temperature – 0.00386 harvest rainfall

You can imagine the commotion that followed. The wine experts brushed
off this theory and that numbers can predict the wine quality better
than they can. After all, “Just as it’s more accurate to see the
movie, shouldn’t it be more accurate to actually taste the wine?”

And yet, the equation did indeed make better predictions, especially
with the prediction that 1989 and 1990 wines would be
bestsellers
.

(more…)

Long ago, a wise friend I used to know once told me that humans have
many kinds of needs – physiological, emotional, etc. Along with these,
there is also the need to fight.

I’ve been thinking over and over on how true this is. Or whether it is
just baloney.

The need to fight. And I’m not talking physically. There is something
that you’re always fighting against – whether your focus is challenges
at work, or road rage, or even fighting with your loved ones.

A basic human need is to fight. That’s why we have wars and battles
all the time. Especially in the mind. I know many people who coded
best when they were
angry
.
Maybe our genes and body are built for action, for the rush of the
battle.

Pillow Fight 2008

Maybe that’s why the milestones in a startup feels more “earned” than
when working in a big company where the same situations are so
shielded.

Maybe that’s why you get things done only when you have a deadline.

Maybe that’s why people do sports, trekking, adventures, long distance
biking, etc.

Maybe that’s why people with rags-to-riches stories are more happier
than kids of rich people.

Maybe that’s why people feel fired up after a debate or a race,
irrespective of whether they win or lose.

Because you’re trying to fight the odds.

And if people don’t have the fight in them, or don’t fight for
anything, that’s when they seem so boring, so bored and so lifeless.

Maybe that was part of the message in the Fight
Club
.

Fight On!

P.S. Has there been any organized pillow
fights
in India?

I’m not a cricket buff but the IPL had got even me hooked. Well, at
least during dinner. But for people who are crazy about cricket and
want to follow ball-by-ball updates and certainly don’t like
refreshing horrible-looking websites, then you might find Cricket
Nirvana’s
CricketCentre

interesting:

Cricket Nirvana CricketCentre

The best part is that it runs on your desktop.

The good part is the range of functionality – real time ball-by-ball
score updates, full scorecards, wagon-wheel and what not statistics,
you can throw flowers or tomatoes at the cricketer of your choice and
most of all, it pops up a GTalk-style notification for important
events like a sixer, four or a batsman gets out!

The bad part is that the look and feel is too kiddish for my taste and
the UI needs to be more simplified.

Back to the plus points, my favorite part is the mini-score card mode
which will show up on the bottom-right corner of your desktop:

CricketCentre Mini Scorecard Mode

This idea was conceived and (as far as I know) executed entirely by
Ramesh Srinivasaraghavan, Srinivas
Annam
,
Arun Madas and many others in the Adobe Flex team in Bangalore. If
this isn’t cool stuff happening in India dev centres, I don’t know
what
is
.
And what better way to show off AIR’s capabilities :-)

I know they have had some tough times in convincing cricket
websites

about this idea, but it’s good to see it finally out.

Note: I no longer work with IonLab since Nov 12 of 2009.

Last week, we quietly relaunched ion, our USB
charger
. The very next day, we shipped ions to
customers in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. And an hour
ago, I shipped one to Bhubaneswar. It’s good to be back! :-)

First of all, thanks to all those 96 people who wrote to us in the
past few months who kept asking us when we’ll be back in stock. The
fact that there are people really interested kept us going. And we
really needed that boost.

I’m sure there are a lot more people who would have also visited the
website, saw the ‘Out of stock’ sign but not written to us. We felt
bad in having to turn away so many people for so long. But we are very
conscious of delivering the best goods, hence we ended up taking a lot
of time to do it right.

<shameless plug>

The good news is that the next generation of ion, unimaginatively
called “ion2” is here and now available.

Not only does ion really solve a pain
point
, what sets
it apart from other USB chargers are:

  1. Is the smallest USB charger available in the Indian market.
  2. Of very high quality. It is CE certified.
  3. Works anywhere in the world. No more voltage conversions.
  4. Works with almost any device that can be charged via USB, including
    all kinds of mp3 players (the entire iPod family, Zune, iRiver,
    etc.), mobile phones, and so on.
  5. Advantage of ion working with so many devices is that you no longer
    need to say “Do you have an iPod charger” or “Do you have a Nokia
    6300 charger?”

    Just ask "Do you have an ion?" ;-)
    

Buy Ion

</shameless plug>

I thought I would get a damn good sleep in the night because I was so
tired. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Not with the snorers
around. On top of that, it was so cold and I didn’t have a jacket.
I kept tossing and turning all night.

At 4.30 am of Day 2 (June 01 Sunday), I was jolted by a shrill
cock-a-doodle-doo sound. Soon enough, our leader Narayan woke us all
up. I was surprised to see everybody get up immediately. At around
5.30 am, we all went out in search of sighting some animals.
Unfortunately, we were too loud to get to see any animals. Even our
footsteps, especially when crushing leaves, were loud enough to alert
the sensitive-eared animals. Our guide who was in front saw some
bisons but they ran away in lightning speed. I didn’t know they could
do that.

We were soon enough on top of another hill and got to see another
beautiful view. Heh, I’m such a landscape-voyeur.

Sharavathy Valley 142
Sharavathy Valley 126
Sharavathy Valley 127
Sharavathy Valley 138

And it was funny to see the things we do for poses in photographs.

Sharavathy Valley 122
Sharavathy Valley 139

What was amazing though was we could see islands in the Arabian Sea.

Sharavathy Valley 141

And then Narayana found viper snakes! These are poisonous snakes and
one bite could have been fatal for any of us.

Sharavathy Valley 143

(more…)

For a while now, I was annoyed by the fact that it has been more than
a year and a half since my last
trek
. So when I saw a call
for people who want to join a trek in Shimoga in the [Orkut Bangalore

Trekkers
group](http://www.orkut.com/CommMsgs.aspx?cmm=63252&tid=5202222619863645450&start=1),
I jumped at the chance.

A few days later on May 30 night (i.e. last weekend as of this
writing), I was on a bus to Sagar in Shimoga district with 13 other
strangers I had never met before. Thankfully, all it took was a few
smiles and laughs and we got along very well. There were people from
varying age groups – 18 to
55 although majority were the young IT crowd.

Then the inevitable happened. Bangalore traffic jam. It took 2-2.5
hours just to get out of the city! There are so many bottlenecks
especially near the Jalahalli cross. No wonder the bus drivers are so
stressed out. God save us all, I wonder how much worse it can
get
. Because of all this hungama, we
reached Sagar more than a couple of hours late which threw our
trekking plans haywire. We had to ditch the idea of trekking till the
Belli Gundi waterfall and do a shorter exploration of the area.

To start the day (May 31 Saturday), we got into an open jeep to
transport us to Kattinakaru. We had a fun ride through the scenic
locale. We even saw the Linganmakki dam from far.

Sharavathy Valley 003
Sharavathy Valley 004
Sharavathy Valley 028
Sharavathy Valley 032
Sharavathy Valley 035
Sharavathy Valley 039

(more…)