I’ve seen so many people in the recent months who have expressed interest in running, but never start.

Forget what shoes to buy, forget what fancy GPS devices you want to buy, forget about monitoring your heart rate, forget about tracking sites. You don’t need those to START RUNNING.

If you want to run, there are only 2 steps. First, go to HalHigdon.com and “Select your training”, select among the Novice, Intermediate, Advanced Charts. Second, religiously follow the chart you chose, don’t skip even a single run. That’s it.

Once you reach your target distance, THEN you can go for all those fancy stuff mentioned above.

There are two things that motivate me to get to regular running – first, is to have something to look forward to, so I end up doing good running only when there is a marathon to look forward to. Here are the list of marathons upcoming in the rest of 2010 that I could find online:

If I have missed any confirmed marathons, please let me know, I’ll add it to the list.

Second, make this a group activity and it’ll be more fun. I was able to sustain my interest in running purely because of great friends / training group two-in-one. Since I don’t have a group any more, I’ve joined the Runners High training, and in just a few weeks, I seem to be back already w.r.t. my running ways – 57 km in the month of June.

Run and Become!

Last night, I was privileged to attend another performance by Raghu Dixit at B-Flat. This would be the fifth time I am watching Raghu Dixit live – first was at Opus, second at a Nokia concert, third at foss.in, fourth at a TiE mixer, and fifth at B-flat yesterday.

More than a year ago, I watched Raghu Dixit live for the first time at Opus, and I am still enthralled by his music, and the sound is still fresh.

I had a clever little idea yesterday morning. I remembered I had a photo of myself with Raghu when he was meeting folks who love his music at a CCD to give away free passes to the Nokia concert where he was performing. I got a large print of that photo so that I could get his autograph on it – a simple autograph doesn’t look attractive enough to go on the wall, but photo of me + my favorite artist + his autograph – that will definitely go on my (physical) wall! :)

Raghu Dixit Autograph in Kannada

Due to the odd size of the photograph, I ended up getting two prints, which led to me requesting Raghu to sign one in English and one in Kannada, thankfully he smiled and obliged a fan’s request!

Raghu Dixit Autograph in English

There are a few reasons why I am a fan of Raghu Dixit and The Raghu Dixit Project:

  • His powerful voice. You got to see him perform to experience it. I had pulled along a friend yesterday, by the end of the show, a new fan was born.
  • His amazing ability to bring back old poetry by the likes of Shishunaala Sharifa and Dr Da Ra Bendre, into new life with the use of drums, guitars, violin, and of course, his voice.
  • His great sense of humor. He brings the audience to ease and gets them to participate and experience the music. He was in full flow as usual yesterday night.
  • The talented artistes that comprise The Raghu Dixit Project – Vijay Joseph (guitars), Karthik Iyer (violin), Gaurav Vaz (bass guitar) and Willy? (I could not catch this name yesterday) (drums) have such amazing stage presence that I’ve never seen a crowd not go wild when they do their solo bits.
  • Their universal appeal – Raghu was saying yesterday that they’ve just finished touring UK, Japan, etc. and they’ll be touring Abu Dhabi, Kenya, etc. in the rest of the year!
  • The greatest hack by Raghu Dixit is that he made the Kannada language cool for this generation.

If you haven’t heard them already, I recommend that you hear their music right away. My most favorite songs by Raghu Dixit are “En Ide” and “Ee Tanavu Ninnade” from Psycho soundtrack, the title track and “Yello Jhinugiruva” from Just Math Mathalli soundtrack, and almost all the songs of their first album. I wish Raghu would make it easy to buy these CDs on his website. On that note, I can’t wait for their second album and “Superman” soundtrack to come out.

If I go to watch them perform for the sixth time, I think they might get fed up of me, that’s when I’ll sing “Ninna poojege bande…” ;-)

I had the privilege of visiting the Total Kannada Store in Jayanagar today. What is amazing is that it is an entire store dedicated to only Kannada entertainment – whether it is movie CDs, CDs of plays, CDs of comedy series, magazines, books, classic literature and even T-shirts!

The truth is that my diction and hold of vocabulary of Kannada is at such a nadir now (thanks to never having the need to read Kannada), that I don’t think I’ll be going back for the books. I will definitely be going back for the good old Kannada movies though.

I’m just waiting for my copy of Venkata in Sankata, which was sold out at the store. That is one good Kannada comedy movie, thanks to Ramesh of course.

Heartfelt thanks to Thejesh for letting me know that such a store exists.

What I admire about places such as Total Kannada and The Egg Factory is that they’re not just enterprises, they are a result of labour of love (of Kannada and eggs respectively). And it shows.

Last weekend, I participated in the BSA Hercules Duathlon organized by RFL.

Bangalore Duathlon 2009

I did the 10 km running + 20 km cycling thing.

I was the last-but-one guy to finish and I did take twice the amount of time as the first guy to finish.

But I didn’t care about that. I expected to finish in 3 hours and I completed before that. And I finished strongly, not crawling to the end as I used to. I enjoyed the run, I enjoyed the cycling and I was satisfied.

Photos by Vikram:

It reminded me of the book “What I talk about when I talk about running” by Haruki Murakami that I read recently (borrowed from Varun).

I really liked the book, because Murakami puts into words the things I have felt as a runner but is almost impossible to truly explain it to somebody else.

Just to put things into perspective – Murakami started running in 1982 at the age of 30, running everyday since then for nearly 23 years. He has run at least one marathon every year, i.e., 23 marathons till date [when the book was published], and many more long-distance runs.

Some of my favorite passages from the book are below.

About the rhythm:

As long as I can run a certain distance, that’s all I care about. Sometimes I run fast when I feel like it, but if I increase the pace I shorten the amount of time I run, the point being to let the exhilaration I feel at the end of each run carry over to the next day. This is the same sort of tack I find necessary when writing a novel. I stop every day right at the ponit where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly. I think Ernest Hemingway did something like that. To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed – and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage.

About why we run:

Most ordinary runners are motivated by an individual goal, more than anything: namely, a time they want to beat. As long as he can beat that time, a runner will feel he’s accomplished what he set out to do, and if he can’t, then he’ll feel he hasn’t. Even if he doesn’t break the time he’d hoped for, as long as he has the sense of satisfaction at having done his very best – and, possibly, having made some significant discovery about himself in the process – then that in itself is an accomplishment, a positive feeling he can carry over to the next race.

… Marathon runners will understand what I mean. We don’t really care whether we beat any other particular runner. World-class runners, of course, want to outdo their closest rivals, but for your average, everyday runner, individual rivalry isn’t a major issue. I’m sure there are garden-variety runners whose desire to beat a particular rival spurs them on to train harder. But what happens if their rival, for whatever reason, drops out of the competition? Their motivation for running would disappear or at least diminish, and it’d be hard for them to remain runners for long.

For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.

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I attended a Bangalore South Lok Sabha Candidates’ debate yesterday, this time held at NMKRV Jayanagar and organized by the Rotary Clubs of South Bangalore.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Only Capt. Gopinath (Independent) had arrived on time. Ananth Kumar (BJP) arrived a bit late but immediately greeted each and every individual in the hall and asked them to vote. When the organizers decided to go ahead even though there were only 2 candidates, Prof. Radhakrishna of JD(S) arrived. Krishna Byregowda (Congress) never turned up at all.

The session was mostly about questions asked by Mohandas Pai (Times of India) to the candidates and gave them roughly a minute each to answer.

Most of the questions were good and thankfully the answers were also forthcoming.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

IMHO, Prof. Radhakrishna was rambling more than making sense. Since Krishna Byregowda didn’t show up, I don’t know much about him even though he has spoken well in interviews. Ananth Kumar and Capt. Gopinath were both impressive, made a lot of sense and had vision. It is going to be very tough to choose between these two candidates for me.

Plus points for Ananth Kumar include that he has been an MP four times, been the Civil Aviation Minister, etc. and he answered questions to the point. He indulged in rhetoric about why Congress has brought India down, and why things were great during Vajpayee’s tenure – ignoring these aspects, he seemed like a good candidate.

Plus points for Capt. Gopinath include that he has been an entrepreneur himself – Deccan Aviation made flying possible for the average person, he has been in the army and fought a war in Kashmir, and he voices Bangaloreans’ concerns well. He was vocal about the state of the Metro and questioned why trees in Lalbagh has to be cut down, and the whole crowd cheered for that statement.

Towards the end of the session, the audience also got turns to ask questions, but it turned out to be rhetorical provoking questions rather than questions with real value.

For more details about Bangalore candidates, read the full interviews at SmartVote.in. I’m sure there are more sites out there for the other constituencies in India.

Bangalore South candidates debate

I think there are two takeaways from the day for me.

First, vote for the candidate, not the party. If you think voting for an independent candidate is going to be a “waste” of your vote, think again. Is it better to have 500 excellent people in the Lok Sabha regardless of which party they belong to, or is it better to have 500 people, whose usefulness is doubtful, belonging to 2-3 big parties in the Lok Sabha?

There are good people stepping into politics trying to make a difference and we should encourage them. After all, we don’t jump into politics, let us support those who do. For example:

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I had grown up among engineers, and I could remember the engineers of the twenties very well indeed: their open, shining intellects, their free and gentle humor, their agility and breadth of thought, the ease with which they shifted from one engineering field to another, and, for that matter, from technology to social concerns and art. Then, too, they personified good manners and delicacy of taste; well-bred speech that flowed evenly and was free of uncultured words; one of them might play a musical instrument, another dabble in painting; and their faces always bore a spiritual imprint.

— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his book “The Gulag Archipelago”

Though the Lok Sabha elections are just a month away, more than 50 per cent of voters in Bangalore still do not have Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC).

Ramakrishna blamed lackadaisical attitude of citizens, especially software professionals, for low EPIC coverage.
“People working in IT and BT firms show indifference towards EPIC. Even though our officials go to their doorstep on weekends, they do not respond. They say that EPIC is of no use of them,” he pointed out.

However, there has been a good response from those living in slums, the official added.

Deccan Herald on March 20, 2009

I had a great time at BCB8. Even though I had ranted previously on the tech focus this time, the planners made it clear that all topics are welcome and Barcampers kept the same familiar atmosphere going.

To be honest, I don’t go to Barcamp for the sessions per se, it is mainly for the people and this is one of the most relaxed ways to catch up with friends and make new ones. I met a lot of people and had very good conversations.

Discussion on Mobile apps for India
Django intro by Lakshman

My own session on webdev frameworks and their relation to newer technologies such as cloud databases had a rocky start because there were lot of first-time Barcampers and were expecting a talk-style session. Luckily, I was saved by 3-4 guys in the audience who got it and we had a lively discussion. The takeaway is that, yes, there are interesting possibilities when we natively integrate our webdev frameworks and cloud databases (via modifying the ORMs) and cloud computing facilities. A few people were interested in my suggestion to carry the conversation forward in some sort of mailing list. So please join the “evolving-webdev” mailing list if you are interested in exploring these technologies.

My session on webdev & changing tech

The other interesting session I attended was on philosophies of yoga by Shashikant Joshi. As expected, he gave a very different take on yoga than what we normally hear. He started off by explaining the meaning of the word ‘yog’ as “state of mind” and what our ancient scriptures say on how to attain bliss and remove sorrow. It was hard for me to not be reminded of GTD philosophy, especially the “mind like water” concept. I felt guilty that there is so much already written by our ancestors that we ignore and wait for people to rediscover it and preach it.

I missed Shree Kumar’s calligraphy session because it was at the same time. Oh well.

Besides that, there was a whole lot of hallway conversations.

Gopal was teaching people how to solve a Rubik’s cube. He has it nailed down to a few algorithms, I can’t even fathom how he had the patience to derive those algorithms. We timed him solving it. The first time he took 1 min 57 seconds to solve it. The second time he took 1 min 36 seconds. Phew.

Gopal explaining his steps to others
Rubik's cube solved by Gopal

Then in another freewheeling conversation, we were talking about Zeno’s paradox and all sorts of stuff like that.

All in all, two non-stop days of fun reiterated why Barcamp remains one of my favorite events.

Thanks to all the planners (@ashwin, @daaku, @dkris, @fagunbhavsar, @hnprashanth, @viralsachde and others) who made it happen, and to Yahoo! for sponsoring the venue.

You can read more about what happened via the #bcb8 tag.

Continuing the “Ideas are Cheap” series, here’s another simple idea that I would personally find very useful but would be difficult to execute in terms of content.

These days I’m finding it hard to read Kannada newspapers because my vocabulary is clearly lacking, and consequently I would probably never get to read novels by Kannada novelists like Shivaram Karanth and other respected writers.

On the other side, there has been an influx of a lot of people from outside Karnataka into Bengaluru in the past few years. Since you can easily get by in Bengaluru with English or Hindi, most of them don’t learn Kannada even though many of them would like to.

What if there were word lists for Kannada just like GRE/TOEFL to improve people’s vocabulary? But in a more fun setting on the lines of what DailyLit is doing – they email you 1-2 pages of a book each day, so if you read your email each day, you’ll end up reading a book as well.

It can also be done similar to what @rajeshlalwani has done with his hindi word of the day series on twitter.

If there is already a service like this, please let me know, I’ll sign up.

The ABIDe, i.e. Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development Task Force (setup by the current government) is working on a roadmap for development of Bengaluru along with deadlines and regular 100-day monitoring, etc.

The comprehensive reports are available in PDF format on a public website with even discussion forums (although the forums have poor participation).

Comments and suggestions should be sent to abide@abidebengaluru.in .

I’m surprised by the level of openness and invitation for public participation. I’ve heard that all these developments have started due to the initiative of Mr. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a Rajya Sabha MP. If so, kudos to him!

On the other side, hopefully all those people who spend a significant time everyday cursing the infrastructure and traffic will spend a few minutes to review these reports and contribute suggestions and comments, to get rid of the very same problems.

And the process has already started. The government is launching Kendra Sarige AC buses today, which I think, is to influence people who can afford it to make using these buses more appealing than using their cars:

The Kendra Sarige is a bus service, also called the Hop on Hop off (HOHO) bus service, will run in the central business district only. The route covers the whole area from the Police Housing Corporation, Hosmat Hospital to Trinity Circle.

Almost 20 bus stops in the anti-clockwise manner and around 13 clockwise are planned. Nine air-conditioned Volvo buses will run clockwise and anti-clockwise in this circle itself. The longest trip on this route will take a maximum of 20 minutes.

There will be nine buses running every hour on the route. Bus frequency at the stops varies from three to seven minutes.

 picture by Pradeep B V
The Orange Line Kendriya Sarige bus picture by Pradeep B V

And another announcement is the “Big-10 buses” which connect 10 major roads in Bangalore to the outer ring roads, and these buses are going to be on trial for a week to see if it eases congestion.

BIG10 buses picture by Pradeep B V
BIG10 bus. Observe kannada and english in the same logo picture by Pradeep B V

To sum it up, they are making plans together with reputed citizens in the committee, actively asking for feedback from the public, they are conducting trials and making data-based decisions, and actively launching services. Isn’t this what we all want? If we can dismiss the cynics in us for five minutes, I think we can see all this as very positive steps.


Note on the Kendriya Sarige buses: To see the routes these buses will take, just visit the Bangalore Traffic Information System website.

Note on the Bangalore Traffic Information System / MapUnity : If you have some ideas on how IT / computers can really help traffic, then why you can send these ideas to the MapUnity folks who are doing a kick-ass job. And start/join a carpool while you’re at it – there are just 1676 carpoolers for an IT city of > 50 lakhs! That reminds me of the car vs. bus vs. bicycle photo

The weekend before last, BarCamp Bangalore 7 was held. The session that I was most looking forward to was the ‘cycling to work’ session initiated by Pradeep B V (of MapUnity fame). What made the session interesting was that people were asked to cycle to IIMB and showcase their bicycles in an outdoor session, and encourage others to take up cycling.

The idea by Pradeep to have it in the open area outside the cafeteria just after lunch was a brilliant marketing ploy, because people would just walk out of the cafeteria and then they would see all the cycles and then out of curiosity, they would come closer and end up chatting with the cyclists. It was nice to see people hopping on and going for rides just to check out the cycles.

The stars of the show were undoubtedly Vikram and Varun because of their cycling clothes and their advanced bikes which have features such as special shoes that lock into the pedals as well as ability to unhook the wheels for easy transportation.

We had a lot of fun talking to people and answering many questions from curious Barcampers and turned out to be a successful session. Among the curious people, there was also a reporter from the Bangalore Mirror. It turns out that we ended up in an article in their Sunday edition yesterday:

Photo of the Cycling To Work page in Bangalore Mirror on 21st September, 2008 Sunday

BANGALORE MIRROR, SEPTEMBER 21, 2008, Page 9 : Rising fuel costs, never-ending traffic jams, have made travelling quite a problem in Bangalore. So it came as no surprise that young techies, who cycle to work, created a stir at Barcamp 7 in IIM last Saturday – Renuka Phadnis

The Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore was full of activity last weekend. The auditorium was the venue for an interactive session of Headstart, a group that supports entrepreneurship in the technology sector. In the corridors and break-out spaces of the management school, there were parallel discussion sessions going on of Barcamp 7. But the one group that attracted the most attention here was the one that pedals their way to work. Varun, Vikram and Swaroop, the three directors of Ion Lab, cycle to their workplace.

And when they are stuck in any of Bangalore’s infamous traffic jams, the trio simply lift the bikes and walk out of the jam. Vikram used to cycle to his office in Bosch earlier and is still cycling to his new workplace. He cycles up to 50 km a day and has even pedaled to Mysore. The cycle he uses is a ‘Giant’ that has as an accessory shoes that swivel into the pedals of the cycle.

Varun has been cycling in Bangalore for six months after he got hooked on to it in the US.”A lot of people complain about the traffic but I like it,” he says. Once in a jam, he lifted the cycle and a guy in a car told him, “Dude, I am here stuck in this traffic and you are getting away?” He likes the fact that cycling keeps him fit too.

When you ask Swaroop if he does not find cycling a challenge in Bangalore, he says,
-“Cycling isn’t, but driving a car is!” He says it is a lot safer and easier in the city. He has been cycling from Jayanagar to Domlur for the past two years.

… (see the picture for the full article)

Factual errors aside, it is a good article and really encourages non-cyclist skeptics to consider cycling. The other upshot is that the red bicycle you see on the top of the page is mine, so if I ever want to sell it, I just have to say “As featured in the Bangalore Mirror”, heh. And also, this is the first time ‘Ion Lab’ has been mentioned in the press.

Let’s reiterate over the benefits of cycling to work:

  1. You do not need a separate time to exercise, because you’re cycling to work. You save one hour everyday.
  2. Save on fuel costs, and in turn make the world less reliant on oil fuels.
  3. Reach your workplace faster. It’s a myth that cycling is hard and slow and you’ll be late. On an average, I used to motorbike to my (ex-) Yahoo! office in Domlur in 45 minutes, but used to take 30 minutes on cycle.
  4. Don’t get stuck in traffic jams. Just lift your cycle and push it along on the sidewalk. (Please do not cycle on the sidewalk, you’ll be annoying pedestrians)
  5. A good exercise before you reach your workplace will really pump up the endorphins and put you in a positive mood to get lot of work done throughout the day.
  6. And you’ll be a lot healthier!

Convinced yet?

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