This weekend, we climbed Mullainagiri and Bababudanagiri. Even though this is my third visit, it never fails to delight me on its beauty. Mullainagiri and Tadiyandamol are my favorite trekking spots in terms of scenery.

In the 3-4 days before the trek, we didn’t spend enough time on the preparation and hence we were worried. So I wrote a “Trekking Howto a.k.a. “The Checklist” which we can read before a trek so that we won’t have to rethink every time about whether we have taken care of all aspects.

It was a perfect trek in terms of weather and company. We had the most fun in looking back after every few hours and seeing how far we have come, since we could actually see the Mullainagiri temple while trekking towards Bababudanagiri.

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How to do the Mullainagiri trek : Arrive at Chikmagalur. Hire a jeep to take you to the starting point of the trek, cost Rs.250. The starting point is a small iron gate that will lead you directly into the hill. Follow the path. After 1-2 hours, you’ll reach the topmost point – the temple. You can request the purohit here to stay for the night and they’ll even prepare dinner if you ask them. Wrap yourself up in your sleeping bag for the night because it is going to get really cold.

The next day morning, start early or late depending on whether you want to face the cold weather, but leave at least by 8 or 9. Make sure you donate a good amount to the purohit for being a good host. Follow the path downhill towards the right from the temple. After a few hours, you’ll reach the road. Cross the road towards the right and start trekking downwards. This is the start of a good long up-and-down route towards Bababudanagiri. Once you reach the destination, have some tea and pakodas at the stalls. Then either hire a jeep (Rs.10-20 per head) or walk down to the Bababudanagiri temple. Make sure you catch the 3.30pm bus which will take you back to Chikmagalur.

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The photos are of low quality because they are taken using my mobile phone. Regardless, the rest of the photos are in my Flickr set.

Update: Photos by Vikram and photos by Varun.

If you want to make new friends, there is no use in just saying hi to people, something of value should be exchanged or there should be a common activity. That’s when they become friends. Real friends.

I’ve added a page on my wiki to list the type of common activities possible in India right from cycling to movie appreciation. Let me know if I can add more variety to the given mix of activities. I’m interested in figuring out what activities do people take up.

I finally had to give away my old Suzuki Samurai bike. It was a 1999 model, which makes it 9 years old.

Bikeview lake
Me!

I used to call it ‘The Last Samurai’ because it is one of the few Samurai bikes that I could see on the roads.

Sigh. It feels like I’m giving away so many memories.

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Now that I have to move on to a new mode of transport, I’ve been looking at the various alternatives:

  • I’ve become a big fan of city metros ever since my visits to Singapore and Delhi, but Namma Metro is scheduled to be completed only by 2011.
  • Local buses are a good option. For example, it took me just 16 rupees to travel more than 10 km. And it was far more convenient than inquiring 5-6 auto rickshaws before getting one auto-wala guy to agree to take you to your destination.
    • However, the biggest problem is finding out which bus goes to your destination as well as finding out the timings/frequency of that bus. I had bought one of the 30-rupees “Bangalore Metro Transport Corporation Travel Planner” maps but I still haven’t understood how to use it to take you from Point A to Point B, even though all the points are plotted on it.
  • A car is out of the question, because
    1. I can’t afford one (because, uh, I don’t have a salary…)
    2. It just adds to the already-high traffic on the road.
    3. It is not cost-effective – 15 kmpl vs. > 50 kmpl for a motorbike.
  • A new good motorcycle still costs upwards of 50,000 rupees. So this is the best option so far.
  • But what about an electric scooter?

YoSpeed bike picture

I took a test drive of the ‘Yo! Speed’ bike and it was pretty decent. It did not have good pickup, and it takes some getting used to the quick movements it does. The positives are that it made no noise, no pollution, has no gears and requires no petrol! You just have to charge it for 6-8 hours at a stretch and it will run for 50 km.

Rediff says YO! Speed is twice as cheap as an equivalent petrol scooter. On the other hand, the manufacturers claim that “YOSpeed runs for 500km in Rs. 50”. I’m not sure which one is more accurate, but it is definitely far cheaper than a petrol two-wheeler.

I’m also looking at vehicles which are a combination of a bicycle and an electric scooter – pedal when you want to, when you’re tired/bored, you can switch from human power to battery power, and it’ll whiz along.

I have been looking at the EVFuture website, and it really looks like electric vehicles are going to be a major wave in the future. I’m surprised there are so many electric scooters in India, including models by Hero Electric and TVS. My understanding is that the business, the technology and the market are yet to mature before it can take on the petrol and diesel two-wheeler industry.

The only question is which ones are viable today? And I’m talking about viability in terms of reliability, quality, service, spare parts, safety, etc.

If there’s one thing that I wish could change in India, I would vote for having a retirement age for politicians.

When there is a concept of retirement for many other careers like engineers, bankers, CEOs, etc. why shouldn’t the same apply for politicians?

If the reason for a retirement age in the private sectors is that the capacity to contribute becomes lesser, the same applies for politics. If the reason is that they should have a relaxed retirement life, the same applies for politics.

If the old people retire, it will give a chance for younger people with fresher perspectives to come in (with the hope that ‘remote control’ possibilities will be minimal), and at the same time the bureaucracy gets refreshed more often with lesser influence by the older people.

Of course, I know it’ll never happen, because the law would have to be passed by the very same people whose careers will be shortened.

Ever since college days where I got hooked onto the Internet, I have been an avid reader of self-improvement websites and books. I used to prowl for content, before the advent of lifehacking and productivity websites. I eventually stumbled upon good websites like 43Folders.com, and my friend Pradeep cajoled me to read Steve Pavlina’s blog.

I was so glad he did. I ended up spending hours reading Pavlina’s articles. Reflecting upon the ideas in these articles was very beneficial. When I read that Steve was releasing a new book, I jumped at the chance to get it.

The book was different from most self-improvement books because it didn’t focus on productivity or time management. Steve claimed that he has discovered the essential principles of life!

According to Steve, there are just three core principles – truth, love and power. The secondary principles are:

  • Oneness = Truth + Love
  • Authority = Truth + Power
  • Courage = Love + Power
  • Intelligence = Truth + Love + Power
The Core 7 Principles

I found it incredulous to see someone make such a claim. So I started reading the book with a sense of disbelief.

While I started reading the book, I didn’t appreciate its brevity but the upside was that I got through the book more quickly. The basic concepts were things I understood but concepts like ‘oneness’ was something I couldn’t fathom.

Eventually, a friend called me up and was describing a personal problem, I started to test whether Pavlina’s principles were applicable, and voila, I was amazed to pinpoint to something which I was convinced was the root cause. It was at that moment that I started thinking that Steve might be on to something.

I had a hard time reading through the book, not because it was bad but because for every other page I would stop and reflect upon the concept being described and I would do some journaling to help me clarify my thoughts. In the process, I realized I was applying the ‘Truth’ principle and finally accepting some things that I “delayed thinking about” (read as “avoid”).

Eventually, I started reflecting upon the past ups and downs of life and see if the good things were as a result of cohesion of the three core principles. Well, it did. And at the same time, I could place a lot of my faults into the categories under “Blocks to Love” and “Blocks to Power” sections.

Strangely, I felt like I was reading one of those Linda Goodman books which claim to know every detail of the character of a person just based on the date on which they were born. The logical portion of my brain simply refuses to accept something like that is possible. Similarly, I have a hard time believing that someone can boil down the psychology and well-being of humans to such a simple list of things.

Nevertheless, the true impact of a self-improvement book is only felt months later, so I’m still in the process of applying some of the concepts and thinking to my daily habits. I find myself aligned with the principle of truth, but not with the principles of love and power. I hope some of the 30-day trials (as described in the book) in applying these concepts will pay off.

All in all, I would highly recommend Steve Pavlina’s book “Personal Development for Smart People”. It will make you think and hopefully make you grow as well.

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

When I meet people and have a conversation, they eventually ask the question “So, what do you guys do?”

I like to say “We make stuff” but that’s hardly understandable. The best example I like to give is the Swinxs (found via Springwise).

The Swinxs games console is designed for active games both inside and outdoors. The Swinxs console can talk, can recognize, encourages and explains games. It even acts as referee. The console is light, compact and due to its sustainable battery, is easy to take with you to the park, playground or the beach.

SWINXS

My favorite part is that the children get RFID-tagged colorful bracelets to wear. The tags serve multiple purposes from identifying each participant to keeping track of their scores. For example, if there’s a running race, the child can just bring their hand close to the game console at the finish line, and it’ll immediately recognize you and tell how much time you took.

And there are a lot more games to play:

The downloadable games are divided into age and category. The games possibilities are endless and vary from traditional hide and seek to educational quizzes and adventurous games. The games can be downloaded FREE from this website. Stories and music can also be downloaded on the Swinxs, as well as games.

The video demo showcases the product really well:

Kids these days are addicted to gadgets like Gameboys, mobile phones, etc. The Swinxs is in the same category but it actually encourages them to be more physically active as well as more social with other kids.

There are many other salient features that appeal to us:

  • It is useful. Especially in terms of providing functionality that is not normally available through any other means.
  • The device connects you with the real world. It’s not a world onto its own.
  • It is fun.

This is the kind of stuff that we dream of, the kind of stuff that we like to work on.

What’s interesting is such products bridge the offline world and the computer/online worlds. After all, shouldn’t technology be helping you to live a better offline life, than making you spend more time with the technology itself?


Note: Cross-posted to our company blog.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to read a physical book vs. online books, then you’ll be happy to know that the A Byte of Python book is now available as a printed hard copy.

The best part is that the hard-working translators can also publish their translations and sell the printed copies, benefiting both the readers and the translators.

I had received many requests from readers for hard copies of the book and I’m glad to finally get this working. Interestingly, I was previously trying to get the book printed via CreateSpace because the book would automatically get listed on Amazon.com (since CreateSpace is owned by Amazon). However, their process was not streamlined and confusing. Worse, I couldn’t get the PDF in their required size formats because of a bug with mwlib.rl.

I got tired and decided to try Lulu and I was very surprised. They are miles ahead in terms of usability of their service as well as wide range of options and sensible defaults. For example, it was a pain waiting for manual approval of the book by the CreateSpace staff and it is an unnecessary delay every time I upload a new version. On the other hand, Lulu made it very easy to design a rudimentary cover using their process. Overall, I was able to make the printed copy available for purchase in a single evening.

Of course, all this is possible because of the ability to generate PDFs from a wiki, thanks to the nice people at PediaPress.

Update: For Indian readers, the book is now available via pothi.com.