Saturday, December 13, 2014

Getting older

After lots of delays, which have seen me experimenting like anything, with lots of new updates, I think I can finally settle down to sort out my thoughts and write a post.

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1) Its all about the Eye

So where are you looking when you are talking to a person? At their face? At one of their eyes? in both the eyes? at some random other place?

And what happens in the case that you are talking to a bunch of persons? Where do you look then? Do you get tied in to a particular member of the audience?

What about the case when you are moving around, say in a bus, and looking outside? How often does it happen that you start looking at the masses outside, barely aware that you have started staring at one person in particular unconsciously, and that comes to your notice only after that person looks back at you?

As a thought and social experiment, I have been trying to observe things around this behaviour, both mine, and that of people around me. Based on which, I have come up with the lock-in paradigm of eye contact.

By itself, lock-in is neither a good thing, nor a bad thing. But it can become either, depending on the situation.

Now, a normal conversation is carried most straight-forwardly when both the people are looking at each other. But the more meaningful and engaging ones happen, when people look into the eyes, and through them, to a hypothetical point somewhere at the literal back of the other person's head. When both persons so engage, you have a lock-in, and a lock-in is a pretty hard thing to break. After observing a lot of people, in different settings, I am inclined to believe that this is how two people in love almost always converse. And I have come to start believing, that this is how two persons who are usually at sync with each other talk.

Ever seen a presenter focusing on just one person throughout the presentation?  I think that is due to a lock-in. Like many things in life, a lock-in is self-reinforcing. The interesting part is that for most people, a lock-in is unconscious, that is they don't even know it is happening, they just know something clicked which they didn't understand. And that is where a good speaker outdoes the average one, they are good at limiting this unconscious ability and make its usage conscious.

In general, a good public speaker has his/her face towards the audience, but the eyes seldom rest on one person's face, least of all their eyes.

It is, I believe, for precisely the same reason, that a lot of passionate people are able to influence others, charge up their batteries, with words of passion.  All they need is a lock-in, and once you have it, you can count on it to reinforce your words into the mind of the other person. Its not that people use it at that level of consciousness, it is just another one of those many things that your brain can do in a short-circuit cycle.

The best technique that I've observed is to use a one-eyed lock-in. Look directly into one of the eyes, but keep your other eye looking elsewhere, so that you can break the train of your own thought. 

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2) Snap Calls and Edge of the world

There is a one-liner which goes like "If you are not living your life on the edge, you are taking too much space". 

Now Snap calls are good only when made in the right state of mind. The way I think of these snap calls, they are like short circuiting of zillions of logical parameters. While consciously trying to take a decision, sometimes the number of factors are so huge, that the brain gets overwhelmed, if the whole thing is thought of consciously. But if you could somehow take all the factors, churn them up, and get a guesstimate, you get yourself a snap call.

As for the generalizations, all generalizations have exception(s); A rule holds only as long it is accepted.

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03) Truths and Lies

This one is about some questions that have been doing the rounds in my mind:

Is it a lie if you say something, knowing that the other person will interpret it as something else entirely? Is the process of leading on a person, playing upon his nature to your advantage wrong?

Is it a lie if you say something, not knowing that the other person will interpret as something else entirely?

Is it a lie if you stay silent when someone asks you something, so that the person continues on ranting in his own state of mind, taking your silence in affirmative or negative as it suits him or her?

Is it a lie if you say something believing it to be True?

I guess what is the truth or a lie depends on much more than just a summary glance - it also depends on motivation and context.

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04) Exercises

The first is the art of focus. I have observed that when you tend to focus on just the task at hand, then you are able to go a little longer than if you allow stray thoughts to divert your thinking. And thus is born the first maxim: "Focus on one thing to the exclusion of everything all".

The second is a phrase inspired from book An Autobiography of a Yogi - "Karat, Karat, Ho Jaat". The above words by Lahiri Mahasaya, which roughly translated, would mean "keep doing, keep doing, and it gets done". Its similar to what they teach you at Vipassana - "Work patiently and persistently. Patiently and persistently. And you're bound to be successful. Bound to be successful."

And this is true in general in life - if you keep up at something persistently, and continue working on it no matter what your mind tells you, then all things remaining constant, you are going to be successful

The third is about concentration. A treadmill offers you an opportunity to focus on the numbers then and there, whereas on an open track the luxury is not available. Lesson learnt, "the mind is exceptionally good at losing focus if there is no immediate target to concentrate upon."

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05) Chaos and Order

Imagine this: No system, no matter how orderly built, will be free of chaos. It may not be visible, it may be hidden between the various layers of the system, but it will always be there. And the reverse is also true, no matter how chaotic a situation, there will always be a pattern, may be a micropattern at a tiny scale, that will be present.

If a system needs to be built, you need to identify those micropatterns, and create an order out of them in chaos. And if a system needs be broken, you need to identify those pockets of chaos, and inflict them upon the chains of the order.

Change is the only constant, but it is never mentioned whether it will create order or chaos

And ultimately, the question is not whether some thing can be built or be broken, the questions is, does the person who is driving them have a depth of conviction enough in his belief that they need to be done, which come to decide things.

Books read this year: 2014

Its been over three months since I last wrote a post here, and
one and a half months since I have been planning to write one.

After lots of delays, which have seen me experimenting like
anything, with lots of new updates, I think I can finally settle
down to sort out my thoughts and write a post: Books read this year.

One of my resolutions for this year was reading 100 books. I am
nowhere near that 100 mark, though I have crossed 80 so far, and
think I can manage another 2-3 by the end of December. Its been one
hell of a ride in terms of books read, lessons learnt (and
forgotten).

What started me on the book reading path had been reading the
Inheritance cycle last year. Continuing on the same theme, I had
decided on reading up some of the more read fiction and fantasy
novels. And I managed to wrap off some of the series I have
wanted to. They include the Lord of The Rings and the Middle
East Saga, the Harry Potter series, the Drenai Saga, and the Wheel
of Time Series. And I must say, having read epics like the Wheel of
Time, which spans over some 12000 pages with 15 novels in it, I
find most of the other fiction works I now read child's work. It
literally feels like reading your old school text books once you
have graduated from the college.

It doesn't surprise me therefore, how the purists and the literary
critics try to tear down every other novel they have read, giving
reviews which the general masses hardly understand. I mean, once
you have spent ages reading Shakespeare and other such classical
books, which have enamored their readers for centuries now, how can
anything other than other works that equal a masterpiece get the
praise that is due to it. Of course, the reverse is not true; Just
because someone always writes scathing reviews doesn't mean they
know a lot, now do they?
But that is not the purpose of this point, the purpose is to
capture the books that I managed to read this year, so here goes
the complete list

  • Percy Jackson Series - The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
  • Percy Jackson Series - The Sea of Monsters - Rick Riordan
  • Percy Jackson Series - The Titan's Curse - Rick Riordan
  • Percy Jackson Series - The Battle of the Labyrinth - Rick Riordan
  • Percy Jackson Series - The Last Olympian - Rick Riordan
  • Percy Jackson Series - The Demigod Files - Rick Riordan
  • Middle Earth Series - The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Middle Earth Series - The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Middle Earth Series - The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Middle Earth Series - The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Middle Earth Series - The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Middle Earth Series - The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Middle Earth Series - The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Middle Earth Series - The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Middle Earth Series - The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Artemis Fowl Series - Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer
  • Artemis Fowl Series - Artemis Fowl: Arctic Incident- Eoin Colfer
  • Artemis Fowl Series - Artemis Fowl: Eternity Code - Eoin Colfer
  • Artemis Fowl Series - Artemis Fowl: Opal Deception - Eoin Colfer
  • Artemis Fowl Series - Artemis Fowl: Lost Colony - Eoin Colfer
  • Artemis Fowl Series - Artemis Fowl: Time Paradox - Eoin Colfer
  • Artemis Fowl Series - Artemis Fowl: Atlantis Complex - Eoin Colfer
  • Artemis Fowl Series - Artemis Fowl: Last Guardian - Eoin Colfer
  • The Rosabal Line - Ashiwn Sanghi
  • The Accidental Prime Minister - Sanjay Baru
  • Lean Startup - Eric Lies
  • The Third Eye - T. Lobsang Rampa
  • The Day I stopped drinking milk - Sudha Murthy
  • The Oath of the Vayuputras - Amish Tripathi
  • The Drenai Series - Legend - David Gemmell
  • The Drenai Series - Waylander - David Gemmell
  • The Drenai Series - The King Beyond The Gate - David Gemmell
  • The Drenai Series - The First Chronicles of Druss - David Gemmell
  • The Drenai Series - Druss - David Gemmell
  • The Drenai Series - White Wolf - David Gemmell
  • The Drenai Series - The Swords of Night and Day - David Gemmell
  • Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell
  • American Gods - Neil Gaiman
  • Only The Paranoid Survive - Andy Grove
  • Nine Parts of Desire - Geraldine Brooks
  • I am Malala - Malala Yousafzai
  • iWoz - Steve Wozniack
  • Blink - Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Idea Man - Paul Allen
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 00 - New Spring - Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 01 - The Eye Of The World - Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 02 - The Great Hunt - Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 03 - The Dragon Reborn - Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 04 - The Shadow Rising - Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 05 - The Fires of Heaven - Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 06 - Lord of Chaos - Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 07 - A Crown of Swords - Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 08 - The Path of Daggers - Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 09 - Winter's Heart - Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 10 - Crossroads of Twilight - Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 11 - Knife of Dreams - Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 12 - The Gathering Storm - Brandon Sanderson & Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 13 - Towers of Midnight - Brandon Sanderson & Robert Jordan
  • The Wheel Of Time Series - Book 14 - A Memory of Light - Brandon Sanderson & Robert Jordan
  • Calico Joe - John Grisham
  • Star Dust - Neil Gaiman
  • Better - Atul Gawande
  • Harry Potter Series - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J. K.  Rowling
  • Harry Potter Series - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter Series - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K.  Rowling
  • Harry Potter Series - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter Series - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J. K.  Rowling
  • Harry Potter Series - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter Series - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J. K. Rowling
  • The Drenai Series - Waylander II: In the realm of the Wolf - David Gemmell
  • The Game Changers -  Alok Kothari, Rahul Kumar and Yuvnesh Modi
  • The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Unbreakable - M. C. Mary Kom
  • Autobiography of a Yogi - Paramhans Yogananda
  • Made In America - Sam Walton
  • Delivering Happiness - Tony Hsieh

Now many of these books and series deserves a post in itself, and I
wish I had the time to write about each of them, but I guess then I
will spend the rest of my days this year just finishing up this
post.

All I can say is, all those books have left behind a lot of crazy
ideas, and for once and all, I think I no longer have any regret
for not having read them earlier.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Gyaan and updates

So here is a bunch of Gyaani posts from the notes on my laptop
  1. The Game Changer

    I've always been fascinated with larger than life figures, guys with the visions and the mettle to act upon them. And I have always wondered, what does it mean to be a game changer? I think I've finally found an answer -
    "When you are the game changer, you build stuff, grounds up, and you drastically redefine how people live. And that opportunity, to be a game changer, comes once in a decade, in every industry."
    The funny thing though, is that very few people know that they are on the cusp of a revolution, and fewer still realize that they have the chance to be the torchbearer.
     
     
  2. The Indian Ocean, the Arabian sea

    There are times, when I can't stop contemplating the ancient history of India, and of other countries.
    And it was during one such thought cycle, that an idea suddenly chanced upon me  - How the histories of India with its various states and multitude of dynasties, was like an ocean in itself, while that of many other countries, was just like a sea - the sea is vast in itself, but much smaller than the ocean, both seem infinite, and yet one is greater than the other.

     
  3. Be Clear

    It is best to kill something when things are still in inception, for then you haven't committed yourself - your time or your energy - in any sense, and hence there is no attachment.
    Conversely, it is really hard to kill something in infancy, because you don't know what opportunities that idea may bring you.
    The bottom line being, you need to be crystal clear about what you will, and what you will not do.
    Facts change, and so some of your decisions may change, but if too many of them change, there is something fundamentally wrong with the way you are conducting this whole business.
    Hence there must be a balance, between your decision making, and the timing of its implementation. Stick to the plan, and yet, keep the plan flexible.

     
  4. Experience matters

    At my new company, most of the junta is made up of young folks, folks in their mid 20's. Since people here are mostly young, there is limited experience individually and cumulatively.
    So how does learning happen in such a place? By making a lot of potential mistakes that experience could've avoided, and learning, by shooting your own foot.

     
  5. FireFox OS

    So last week, Intex launched a FireFox OS based mobile in Indian market, the first smartphone at <2k price point. And I couldn't resist buying one, as I was anyway looking for a low budget phone.

    There was a time when big companies bet high on HTML5 apps instead of native apps. The philosophy of write code once and deploy anywhere, including on the mobile is really alluring.
    It is a testament to the HTML5 phenomenon that even the likes of Facebook bet on it and built apps upon it. Only later were they proved wrong, when the practicalities of embedding a webkit framework within your app made the visible performance gaps glaring in complex apps, and people realised that using underlying OS and hardware features to boost up the native app was a better way to go.

    Anyway, coming over to FireFox OS. While google came up with chrome OS ages back, it was for products like laptops, where individual user's use cases differ significantly. However, a mobile on the other hand, with a good enough app store has a different model of usage.
    I'm not 100% confident that FF OS is the next big thing in mobile, but its trying hard to do to mobile hardware what linux did to PC hardware -  a community defined OS for what the community wants.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Moving On

Its been a month and half since my last post, and a lot can happen in that big a period. 

The Joining

After returning from the Vipassana camp, around 2.5 weeks into my job search plan (the entire plan was supposed to be 4 weeks with 4 milestones), I was only able to cover the first milestone. Suddenly, desperation and frustration starting setting in in my mind.
As much as I am good at planning things, I came to realize that as of now, I'm not that good at following them if they do not completely align with my priorities. Its something that needs to be worked upon - be able to sideline all other thoughts and do that which must be done.

I had been hoping to make this offer, because it had all the things going right - Python, startup environment, college like culture, growing industry, opportunity for larger scale, food, hike, quarterly bonus, leave policy, etc. So when I got the offer, I just accepted it. And then I made sure I joined it as early as possible, because otherwise, give the mind enough time to wander off and it will start playing unimaginable games with you.

The funny thing was, during the application stage, I had told our HR that I would join on a later date (on 1st July). But by the end of the process, I was desperate enough to join immediately, and was trying to find a way in which I wouldn't have to eat my own words. Thus, it was really comical, when the HR told me - you get an extra 50k if you join tomorrow. And I was like, sure, I give up, you win.

Lessons learnt so far

The first incidence was when a manager encouraged me to test something on server side SSH vulnerabilities. This was something new for me, because so far a) none of my managers liked people fooling around with systems internally and b) it was only out of my curiosity and had nothing to with the work I was doing.

The second was wrt Interview time. In the initial week itself, I got the opportunity to interview 2 people. I came to realize how much I've learnt in the last 2 years, and how small of a learning world our college/schools are. More than anything else, we are limited by our own world-views.


Gyaan: So now, I come to the part where I note down my philosophical thoughts.
  1. We are all just stories

    More and more, I've started trying to keep my actions aligned with my long term goals. But then, the question arises, how long is long enough? And even if we do succeed in achieving whatever we set out to achieve, what is the value of it? When it all ends, what will be left of us?

    After considerable amount of thought, I think I may've found the answer.

    The thing is, we are just living stories
    . A hundred years from today, we will all be dead - me, my family, my friends; most of the world population; and  you the readers of today. And afterwards, all that will be left of us would be stories.

    Most of the current world would in those times be obscured into a life that no one would care if it exsited. There would be few of us, who would end up being footnotes in some version of histories. Stronger people will find chapters of their own, and a rare number of people there would be, who would script the ultimate story - the history of the world itself, and hence, theirs will be the tales that will be told again and again.

    It doesn't matter which bucket of story we fall into, at the end of the day, we are just stories. We are all just trying to get into a higher bucket; some of us may be recited, but most of us will be forgotten.

    As a friend once said - "You die twice, first when your body dies, second when your name is taken the last time in the world. Try dying only once."
       
  2. How they propose them theories

    I've read a lot of books lately, and while most of them have been class A material, I can't help wondering how some of the authors propose their theories - by using enough maybe, can be, and so on.

    The thing is, I've realized that if you mix enough ifs and buts together, we all could as well be dragons hiding in the hides of monkeys.
     
  3. People are either idiots or philosophers

    This is more of a smart conjecture, I'm yet to come across a person who is smart and doesn't have a philosophy of his own.
     
  4. How I used to learn - block the distractions

    One thing I've realized recently is that the usual way in which I learn is by blocking the distractions. Na rahega baas, na bajegi basuri.

    While quite effective usually, this has left me gasping for control over myself when it is not within my reach to cut out the distraction.

    And hence, here is one thing I must improvise upon - to be able to live with a distraction, and focus on the task at hand rather than the distraction.

    They say ignorance is bliss, though I think they are absolutely wrong. I would rather say that premeditated ignorance is a bliss, plain ignorance is just stupidity. A wise nut can now go ahead and tell me that ignorance is just ignorance, and classifying it into anything else is the real stupidity, but I'm not going to be deterred.
     
  5. Probabilities, possibilities and expectations

    If there is one set of learning that I am truly and deeply thankful to the startup experience for teaching me, it is this - mere possibility does not imply probablity, and that while people work based on expectations,  events of the world work on probabilities.

    One who can master calculating the probabilities, and value of the situation is never going to be frustrated with his expectations, unless someone does something out of proportion and ends up distorting the probability distribution.
     
  6. Beyond the system

    Over a period of time, I've tried my hands at problems within some system. Earlier, I would be bogged down every time I got stuck on how to solve it from the inside. Now, I just take a minute off my current line of thinking, and forgetting the factors from within, try to think of ways to solve it from outside, and mostly, succeed.

    If a solution does not exist within the system, it must come from without.

    Tuesday, June 03, 2014

    10 days of vipassana

    I started this year with a very strong resolution related to Yoga, zen, meditation and such. One such task on the to do list was attending the Vipassana camp at Igatpuri.

    I will admit that I didn't know much of it in advance, that I just read the name from an ex-colleague's blog detailing his experience, and even then didn't go much in depth reading about it. All I knew was that they would provide me lodging, food, and instruction for free, and I would have to live the life of austerity and celibacy for 10 days, and only if I found it useful should I donate towards the cause.

    Such were the limits of my ignorance, I thought it was some sort of yoga camp, and told about this course as a yoga camp to my friends and known ones.

    Since that person had done the course at Igatpuri, and it came out as the first centre established in India, I also decided to do the course there. (The Gangotri approach for bathing in Ganga).

    There were multiple reasons why I wanted to do this course in particular
    1. It had an ideal duration - I don't think habits are formed within 2-3 days, and so 10 seemed like a number that would give a lot of exposure, even if that exposure was beginner level.
    2. I would be able to stay away from mobile, internet, emails and what nots
    3. I couldn't escape even if I wanted to - significant barriers there
    4. The food would have to be better than what I was currently used to eating
    5. If nothing else, I should be able to reverse my time table and successfully form a habit of waking up early at 4.
    6. There would be a complete silence observed by all participants, which meant no one would disturb my peace without disturbing his own.
    7. I would be isolated from my parents, friends and other people; in fact isolated from the whole world as if it didn't exist
    8. I will have enough time with myself in a single stretch to determine my life's priorities
    Yet none of them was related to what they taught me over there - Vipassana - the science of observing. In a way I think it was a good thing - I didn't have much expectations, and thus went there as clear slated as possible.
    The fact that I had left my job some 2.5 months back, meant that I had had sufficient time to de-attach myself from the previous environment, and now could concentrate on the next things in life.

    There were some internal doubts as I started on my journey in the evening of 12th - I kept thinking whether it was a wise decision to spend 15 days on this course, and shouldn't I actually prepare for some interviews instead and get myself a job. Yet the doubts were only minimal, it had been a while since I journeyed on my own and so, I was soon in the zone, ignoring any and every doubt that assailed me.

    I got down at Igatpuri at 00.40 in the night, and that was on the highway. I started walking towards Dhamma Giri, which was 2.6 km, since no auto or anything was available in the late hours. I wasn't sure that they would admit me inside in the night. By some luck, a group of teens passed by, and one of them offered me a lift, which I gladly took. He dropped me at the gates, and than warned me it wasn't a good area to hang out at in the wee hours of the night, because of the surrounding forests and wild life. Negligence accepted.

    I entered the campus, and at once started feeling the peace inside me. It wasn't something really profound or really drastic, just the freshness in the air, the smell of trees, the sound of the chimes. It was a full moon night, so the moon was shining brightly in the sky, and I have to say I haven't had many occasions to see the moon in that much glory. It was relaxingly beautiful and serene.

    After meeting with the guards and explaining to them I was there for the course, I walked in for some 10 minutes, before I reached the inner campus, and here a guard showed me way to a dormitory, where I slept off.

    I was reading the book Autobiography of a Yogi, and was somewhere around the middle of it when I reached there. I spent a couple of hours the next day after waking reading another handful of pages, before I had to deposit it, along with my other valuables and trinkets - mobiles, ring, kada and so on. No reading /writing material is allowed, and electronic devices like mobile/laptops aren't allowed either. The first is to cut down any distraction a student might have, the second is to bring down any external communication. All rings, bracelets, amulets etc are also to be removed from the body/possessions and deposited. Finally, all cash keeping aside some 200-250 bucks was also to be deposited, because people were sharing beds in dormitories.

    I was aware of these restrictions before hand, so none of them came as a surprise. And I was happy to submit my mobile away, I don't remember a single instance in last 6 years when I had the luxury of not having to answer any calls or check any mails on the mobile for even 2 days in a stretch. This time it was going to be 10 :)

    The registration process went like this - Get your enrollment verified - Get a green/white card slip depending on whether you are a new/old student, get your application reviewed/fill another form to detail out why you are doing the course, envelope your belongings, deposit them and an amount of Rs. 200 for the laundry service, and get a token number for both, get a bed allocated. Most people get open dormitories, many get private room dorms with shared bathrooms, some get shared rooms on a 2 or 4 sharing basis, and a few get single rooms with attached bathrooms.

    Once the room was allocated, I shifted my luggage from existing bed to the new bedding, and made my stay there.

    One thing that stood out on the morning of this day 0 earlier, was a fellow student (uncle actually), who had also arrived early, though not early as me. He had come in at around 7 in the morning, the registration was to begin from 9.30, and so very less number of people had arrived yet. I was going through cycles of waking and sleeping, and one time I saw him enter and go to sleep. Next time I woke up, I saw him coming back after taking a bath, and this time he came to me and said - "Ready ho ja bhau, apane ko sabse pehle registration karana hai. Khoob sadhana karni hai, Single room chahiye apne ko to."

    I would later always refer to him as "Sadhana-ji" in my mind throughout the duration of the course (by some criss-cross of fortunes, he had a seat adjacent to mine in the meditation hall, though I was lucky not to share a room or dorm with him).

    I had been allotted a single room with bathroom, so I settled in quite quickly, and than started wandering about. I was carrying all the necessities mentioned - soap, shampoo, 10 shirts, tracks, pyjamas, lock, clock, torch, bedsheet, umbrella etc, so had no issues with any of that.

    The registration usually starts in at around 9.30, and than it goes on till around 5 in the evening. At 5 we had some light snacks, and after a break of another 45 minutes, all of us assembled at the food mess and started receiving further instructions at around 6.30.

    And from this meeting onwards, the "arya maun", or the noble silence began. It meant not only silence of words to fellow course-mates, but also silence of actions and thoughts to them (that is not interacting even via sign languages and trying to not think of answering others). Afterwards, in groups of 70-80 we entered the Dhamma hall, where we administered ourselves the oaths of taking recluse in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha for the next 10 days.

    After a few more formalities, the meditation started at around 8.30, and lasted till 9 PM.

    The medium of instruction was audio recordings. We had fairly good seats - around 2.5*2.5 ft squarish cotton fed cushions, with elevated seating to better accommodate hips and legs. There were chairs available for those with medical conditions, though in subsequent days, others also started using them depending on their body limits and mental resolve. There were also cutout chairs available - they don't have the legs, and can be coupled with the seat itself to provide some back rest.
    I was able to survive the course without using either, and a lot of people do that, so I think in general one should try to avoid the chair as much as possible.

    I didn't carry my wrist watch with me - in subsequent days I would learn that most of the time, you open your eyes much earlier to look at the time if you have a watch with you.

    The time table went something like this:

    Get up at around 3.50, got out and drink water, walk around for 10-15 minutes, freshen up, brush if time is available.
    Go to meditation at 4.30, meditate from 4.30-6.30.
    Come back to room at 6.30 and brush and bath, go to mess for breakfast at around 6.55 or 7, have around 65% of my usual breakfast, come back and rest//lie down.
    Go back and meditate from 8-9 (I mostly spent this one in a state fighting my sleep, trying to keep it at bay), then meditate again from 9 to around 10.45 (though it goes on till 11, people near you are restless, and soon you also start becoming so by the end of it).
    At 11, freshen up, go for a light lunch (around 75% of my usual diet), take a bath, and try to sleep off for around an hour if you can, till 1 PM.
    Meditate from 1- 2.15, from 2.30-3.30, from 3.30 to around 4.40 (again, the time was till 5, it just seemed like hollow sitting after 4.40, so I would get out because of restlessness in the environment)
    Have a nominal round of snacks (around 60%) at 5, and stroll till 6.
    Finally, meditate from 6-7, have pravachan from 7-8.30, and meditate from 8.30-9, ask questions afterwards, and retire to sleep later.

    This is the most simplistic time table I can think of, I was unable to sleep during the day after the 3rd day, the night sleep reduced to around 4 .5 hours by end of day 5, and I meditated lesser on days 7,8,9.

    I think, on the average, you are supposed to meditate for around 10 hours a day, but if you can manage 50 solid hours of meditation throughout, even those could teach you a lot.

    I will endorse the course for its scientific design, a no-bullshit approach, and ease of doing it. In the end, I achieved a lot more than I had thought I would, I found peace, the kind which makes you have tears of bliss, I had a much better sense of understanding of events and actions, and I got answers to questions that I hadn't ever thought I would be asking myself there and then. So effective I found the course to be, I had to intentionally bring down my meditation time since it was happening too suddenly and uncontrollably for me.

    On day 10, we had mangal maitri, and after that the maun was broken. I had been able to observe the verbal silence throughout, though the actionable one was broken on some 4-5 occasions, and the thought one I think some 20-22 times. I had also missed 2 morning meditation sessions because of sleep imbalance, but no more.

    I got a chance to interact with a lot of people sitting around me, listen to their experience, listening to fables about Buddha from some of them. So much knowledge the people had collectively, it only brought out my ignorance in my face - how little knowledge I possess.

    On the next day - day 11, we had our final meditation from 4.30-6.30, after which we took breakfast.

    I cleaned my room and bathroom, packed my stuff, and then took off. On my way down, I went to the Buddha centre, where a summary of events from Buddha's life was depicted in pictures and text. It was really moving - when I saw the one with the Kheer being offered to Buddha, and realized its significance in that day's breakfast.

    Sabka mangal ho.
    Sabka kalyan ho.
    Sabki swastha mukti ho.

    I next proceeded to Triambakeswar, and from their took a snap call to go to Shirdi Sai Baba, and then returned to Mumbai in the night. Once in Mumbai, I met some old friends, visited Siddhivinayak temple, ISKCON temple, met my brother in law, attended a barebone exhibition setup for an audio equipment expo, closed my old accounts, and then I left for B in another eventful train journey, where I was traveling with an unconfirmed but valid ticket and was now at the mercy of fellow passengers.

    Govindaa, Govind Govindaa, Govind Govindaa, Govinda Govinda;

    PS: Here are some other links if you are interested in reading more about Vipassana:
    1. www.dhamma.org/
    2. http://lunasealife.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/vipassana-what-i-found-in-10-days-of-silence/
    3. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11035/what-i-learned-from-a-hardcore-10-day-meditation-retreat.html
    4. http://anoopsplace.blogspot.in/2011/03/10-day-vipassana-meditation-course.html
    5. https://medium.com/this-happened-to-me/10-days-of-vipassana-d176bc723048
    6. http://www.themindfulword.org/2013/vipassana-meditator-pain-peace/
    7. http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Hinduism/2001/01/Ten-Days-Of-Silence-Inside-A-Vipassana-Retreat.aspx
    8. http://travel.cnn.com/mumbai/play/vipassana-i-survived-10-days-meditation-639422
    9. http://www.updevelopment.org/2012/08/vipassana-meditation-experience/
    10. http://paulosena.com/2010/10/05/my-10-day-vipassana-course-in-igatpuri-india/
    11. http://smritiweb.com/badri/my-experience-at-vipashyana-at-igatpuri/

    Sunday, June 01, 2014

    The One with the Update

    It has been a long time since I last posted about the events this year, so far. So here they go:

    The Marriages

    I attended 2 marriages this year, one in January, the second in Feb. Both were an experience in themselves.

    The first one was at the place of my sister's in laws, so I had to fly the route B-V-K-P (both ways). It was a last moment plan, my father was supposed to be going, but due to his health reason, I decided to go in.
    • I had to spend a lot of time flying, and I had the opportunity to witness a good amount of nature from a distance. I got the chance to watch the seas from high above, and not a single wave was visible, just a slight shimmer that would appear every now and then. I got the chance to see the sunrise, and how the clouds on one side were all lightened up, while those on the other still appeared to be in darkness. I got to observe the rivers from the top, and they all appeared like lines drawn with a pencil by a child.
    • Such was the epiphany of the moment, that I couldn't wonder thinking that if there truly were Gods in the sky, this is how they would see the lands below. And if the rivers and mountains appear that insignificant, what would be the worth of a human? I couldn't stop myself from thinking further, that in that very moment, over the area I was observing, rapes, murders, and other crimes as well as celebrations, moments of joy and other happy  events would be happening at every instance. If God exists, he must be a truly busy person, and there is no need to pester him over aching knees or hair loss or other trivialities.
    • The marriage was in a joint family, and I observed for the first time the merits of the joint family. Its not like everyone is perfect, but all of us are better than the other in one way or the other, and in a joint family, the shortcomings of one can easily be complemented by the strength of the other. The fist is always more powerful than the individual fingers.

    • All in all, the trip made me realise how insignificant I as an individual was in the grand scheme of things. I realized that I had changed a lot from who I was just 2 or 3 years back, and now was the time for the next step in life, whatever it may be.
    The second one was of a college friend at my hometown. Once again, I had to switch flights B-M-J.
    • I had made an initial screwup of booking my onward ticket of 13th Feb, and return ticket of 17th Mar, which I realized only 2 days before my departure. Luckily, another return ticket was available to me at some discount, so I ended up planning for 2 trips, one immediate, another a month later.
    • I had one view out of the windows in particular which I will remember for a lifetime. It was during M-J where I had a 4 am flight. It was still dark of the night, so for a while after the flight took off, we were just above the moonlit clouds. It was a cloudy night, so there were clouds spread around for miles like big bundles of cotton. But the best part was, that it was a full moon, and the moon was shining brightly, and so all the clouds appeared milky under its halo. The clouds were themselves very intricately shaped, with spherical domes and what nots. And soon, it was time for sunrise, so after a while, I could see the yellowish red clouds from the other set of windows. Thus, on my left were still the milky clouds, whereas on my right were the red morning clouds. Such was the peace in both the scenes, that I couldn't stop myself from thinking that how much time we spend worrying about our stupid daily chores, when life can be so beautiful and peaceful when viewed from the top. All in all, it felt like I was flying on a divine confluence, and beauty was all that ever existed.
    Everything has a role to play
    1. Two incidences come to my mind, from around January that I would like to log here.
      • The first is about the value of carpeting and noise cancellation in meeting rooms. I sat in meeting rooms which were bare in terms of sound proofing, and the noise level was consequently very high. After spending an hour down there, I appreciated the value of those carpets and decor, which I would usually write away as designer items.
      • The second was during the internet and hardware problem we were trying to solve, that I came to realise how internet infrastructures are usually laid, and how much of that has been abstracted in the world of 3G data cards on our mobile which work at the tick of an option. It was fun exercise and great learning experience designing the network topology that could work in our case, figuring out the components etc on my own, reading manuals and data sheets, spending close to a week on stuff that seems so trivial and non existent from the top, yet is a science in itself when experienced.
    The resignation

    I had been feeling the stagnation for a while, hardly working on any technical things in the last 4-5 months before my resignation. There was also this nagging feeling, that somewhere somehow, I wasn't learning enough, and that I could actually do a lot more, and learn a lot more. 
    Additionally, I had been hoping to take some time off after my father's health scare last year and plan for the next move. Finally. I wanted do some travelling, and ram through other items on my accumulated bucket list, I turn 25 this year.
    So, I resigned at the end of February. Some drama happened before and after the resignation. But in the end, whatever happens, happens for the good.

    What I have done since
    I spent some 3 months since doing random stuff (mid March-current)..
    1. Reading my emails
      I spent a week during my last month, reading each and every mail in my office email account. It was an experience in itself, and I got to re-live the past 15 months again.

    2. Cooking and food
      I learnt to cook a variety of food (mostly dals), but hey, its the permutations that count. I also developed fruit habits, finding stuff that works, and when it works, from where it works.

    3. StackOverflow and other StackExchange sites
      I crossed the badge/bounty count I had in my mind for the year. I spent a fairly significant amount of time reading up about workplaces and project management, which should give me sufficient context for wherever I next move.

    4. Running
      I started running on a treadmill, and was able to sustatin it for around a month. Starting from 2.0 km in 20 minutes, I was soon able to do 3.0 km in 22 minutes.

    5. Poker
      We had an mutual friend stay with us for over a month at our flat, which provided me an excellent opportunity to learn and understand poker better from him. I learnt the lingo, started guessing the chances, and was able to predict the cards that other players had. The high point was winning 6k bucks in an online tournament. An advice to remember - "Jab tumhara hand hit ho jata hai, to tum low betting karte ho, aur jab nahi hota, to high bets call kar dete ho. Yehi dikkat hai naye players ke sath - are bhai jab hand hit hua hai to bet karo na, darr kyu rahe ho".

    6. Books
      The count for this year stands at around 40, which keeps me just in reach of the 100 books target for the whole year.

    7. Social experiment on Linkedin and Facebook
      So sometime early April, I used an anagram of my name to create a linkedin account. Along with that, I created a mail account, and facebook account. The accounts were barebones, I hid all education, work experience fields, just seeded them with some random likes, posts.
      Now this linkedin account I created - I was able to grow it to 500+ connections in less than a month, out of which some 400 are tech recruiters. Close to 160 work in the big 4 in the US. The network strength I have is close to 27M. FWIW, my original account has 900+ connections, built over 2 years, with network strength of 11.5M.
      I had somewhat similar experience with Facebook. I've removed the accounts, but I can now see how the social media world is not built on solid principles, and in fact amplifies any kind of negative opportunities in society. Not just the good(social connection), but the bad (impersonation, fake information) have been also been scaled.

    8. Games
      It had been a while since I played any good game, so I spent some time playing and finishing Age of Mythology and a bunch of other games again.

    9. Vipassana
      I had started this year with a resolution to read zen koans, and attend the 10 day meditation camp at Igatpuri. I devoted some time to the first on my tablet, while I have just finished the second one last week only. 

    10. Videos on YouTube
      Till some time back, I used to think of Youtube mostly as a distraction, full of videos meant to distract you, and through suggestions make you reach either cat or adult videos. Not anymore.
      In this period, I have spent a significant time watching videos on how stuff is made series and understanding role of technology in industries.

    11. Friends
      I met a good number of old friends, both from the school and from college. I also made a few new ones along the way. One thing that surprised me was the perception my school friends still had of me. It was humbling to hear the good and (mostly) the bad about my self from years past.

    Monday, April 21, 2014

    Gyaan

    1. The value of Lies and perceptions, Uncertainty and Progression in building businesses
    2. The art of nothingness
    3. The value of competition and environment
    4. Self-rationalization
    5. The misunderstood agile
    6. The cost of barriers
    7. Alive after dead-line
    8. Fighting righteousness
    9. The veil of equality
    10. The right time & Chaos and Order


    1. The value of Lies and perceptions, Uncertainty and Progression in building businesses

    A business is built around perceptions.

    The basic idea is , that a certain task A can get done within a certain duration B, by a person/group of persons C. Based on this estimate, a certain date D is promised for delivery of the end product E of task A.

    When D, E are communicated, they are accepted, not because they have already been achieved, but because they are both in the future and can be achieved.

    And in general, there is a belief, that if the task is done on time, its because of C, and so is the case if it is done before or after time. Successive tasks help you build the perception – a confidence level on how well can C execute upon his tasks.

    A business has many such tasks in execution, being performed by many people one after the other. What drives each person to complete his task on time then, is the dependencies the next person might have on him.

    If you observe carefully, then in any successful organization, you will find that it is the perception that everyone else is working on time which helps people to stick to their timelines.
    And the thing about perception is, that they can be created, they can be sold as a vision.

    And when there is a marked difference between what is promised vs what is delivered, the perception starts turning into one of lies, instead of one of promises.

    Businesses die because of uncertainty. Uncertainty kills businesses – there is absolutely no idea whether that block of ice you see is an iceberg or a glacier.

    On the other hand, the thing with certainty is that you can be certain how certain that certainty is going to be. (confidence level)

    What cannot be measured, cannot be managed. And it is the non managed which takes you into the unknown territory.

    Businesses are built on progression. You progress from doing one thing to another in a small set. 

    There will be changes, but those changes will always be within the limits.
    So say yo have a business doing a 100 things you will experiment with 5 new things, 5 existng things and incorporate say 3+3 of those 10 changes. Rarely will you come across businesses doing a complete turn-around of what they were doing earlier.


    2. The art of nothingness

    So starting this year, there was a resolution to understand zen koans, and derive peace from them.
    Here are some sample thoughts that go on in my mind from time to time

    Thought: You will burn for this.
    After-thought: One way or the other.

    I believe in nothing. Nothing is everything. Everything has nothing in it. But everything has everything in it. And similarly nothing has nothing in it, so how can nothing truly be nothing?
    Q: Explain Nothing
    A:
    Explanation: no answer => nothing, any kind of answer would mean it is not nothing.
    nothing is everything, everything is nothing. nothing is perfect. nothing is impossible. impossible is nothing. everything is possible. impossible is possible. possible is impossible. Its all about how you think.

    Life is a paradox.


    3. The value of competition and environment

    There has to be competition. Find it.
    Competition is really important to grow further, it brings about a degree of fear in one's thoughts which leads to better concentrated effort.

    Similarly, the environment is very important for your learning curve. It speeds up things like crazy. And access to the right people at the right time is crucial for faster learning.


    4. Self-rationalization

    The human limit for self-rationalization is almost infinite. One will convince himself of a number of things, and to a large extent, and yet he won't realize he is ultimately fooling himself.

    You will convinve yourself that if something that went wrong, it was no fault of yours or it was all your fault. You will convince yourself that you are invincible – always correct, always on the right side. You will make yourself believe that you can not fail. Yet all those beliefs and convictions shatter away in the face of harsh reality.

    While it is a good trait to have to cool off at an individual level, when a group of people start self-rationalizing, the group is on its way to be doomed into a herd.

    "Khud hi khud ko chutiya banana".


    5. The misunderstood agile

    Agile is over-rated. One man's agile is different from another one's. In my opinion, agile is never about changing and turning over the fundamentals. There are some key assumptions that can never be changed, even though some of those assumptions are relative to the person making them.

    Yet, once you start changing the fundamentals you are more on the way of idle iterations, than agile, since the original purpose is lost.


    6. The cost of barriers

    No one stops you from doing things, they just raise the barriers - mental, psychological, physical.
    Don't fall into the trap. Do what you think you must. Fuck all other shit.
    That's exactly what they say - we are not stopping you.


    7. Alive after dead-line

    If no one is dead after a missed deadline, what's the point of calling it so?

    There is a reason why its called the deadline, at least let those who miss it see the face of death... If you can't run, you jog; if you can't jog, you walk; if you can't walk, you crawl; but don't skip the deadline.


    8. Fighting righteousness

    So how do you fight someone who believes he is right?

    The worst person to pacify is he who thinks is right.
    Logic is the only weapon against a righteous person.

    “Right brings might”


    9. The veil of equality

    Rules and policies are always circumstantial. It all depends on who is applying them.
    There is a mist of equality. But no matter how much the fog, there is a subtle play of power at hand everywhere. 

    I believe fairness, equality, and all such concepts are highly over-rated. End of the day, its the bottom line that matters. And the bottom line is this - no matter how much fairness you expect, there will always be some degree of unfairness greater than it.


    10. The right time & Chaos and Order

    One thought that has stuck with me for a while now is - Entrepreneurs don't wait for themselves to be ready, they jump in even before they think they are ready. While I am not entrepreneur, this thought is somewhere there at the back of the mind everytime I am making any stupid descision. 

    On the flip side, they may not be completely ready, but they still have a confidence that they can sails through, right? confidence level. 

    Ever wondered how chaos is killed? Does chaos die because of chaos itself? Maybe, if you add more chaos to existing chaos, things start settling and there is chaos no more? Things can not remain chaotic for long, pattens start emerging sooner or later. Maybe that's why they say there is a method to madness? Its funny right?

    Ever wondered how order is killed? By having a more ordered system? Because a highly ordered system reduces the system's ability to handle unordered things, and ultimately, we are all humans, something random is bound to happen one way or the other.

    So how does one handle both?
    The solution is to have balance, or  semblance of it, a middle ground in between order and chaos. Seems like a paradox? True. But then, life is a paradox.

    Random Gyaan

    Publishing a random assortment of texts from notes to and for myself:
    1. The value of Lies and perceptions, Uncertainty and Progression in building businesses
    2. The art of nothingness
    3. The value of competition and environment
    4. Self-rationalization
    5. The misunderstood agile
    6. The cost of barriers
    7. Alive after dead-line
    8. Fighting righteousness
    9. The veil of equality
    10. The right time & Chaos and Order


    1. The value of Lies and perceptions, Uncertainty and Progression in building businesses

    A business is built around perceptions.

    The basic idea is , that a certain task A can get done within a certain duration B, by a person/group of persons C. Based on this estimate, a certain date D is promised for delivery of the end product E of task A.

    When D, E are communicated, they are accepted, not because they have already been achieved, but because they are both in the future and can be achieved.

    And in general, there is a belief, that if the task is done on time, its because of C, and so is the case if it is done before or after time. Successive tasks help you build the perception – a confidence level on how well can C execute upon the tasks.

    A business has many such tasks in execution, being performed by many people one after the other. What drives each person to complete his task on time is the dependencies the next person might have on him.

    If observed carefully, then in any successful organization, you will find that it is the perception that everyone else is working on time which helps people stick to their timelines.
    And the thing about perception is, that they can be created, they can be sold as a vision.

    But when there is a marked difference between what is promised vs what is delivered, the perception starts turning into one of lies, instead of one of promises. 3 lessons apply:

    Businesses die because of uncertainty. Uncertainty kills businesses – there is absolutely no idea whether that block of ice you see in the ocean is an iceberg or a glacier. On the other hand, the thing with certainty is that you need to be certain how certain that certainty is going to be. (confidence level)


    What cannot be measured, cannot be managed. And it is the non managed, the non measured which takes you into the unknown territory.

    Businesses are built on progression. You progress from doing one thing to another in a small set. 


    2. The art of nothingness


    So starting this year, there was a resolution to understand zen koans, and derive peace from them.
    Here are some samples:

    Thought: You will burn for this.
    After-thought: One way or the other.

    Q: Explain Nothing
    A:
    (Explanation: no answer => nothing, any kind of answer would mean it is not nothing.)


    Life is a paradox.


    3. The value of competition and environment

    There has to be competition. Find it.
    Competition is really important to grow further, it brings about a degree of fear in thoughts which leads to better concentrated effort.

    Similarly, the environment is very important for your learning curve. It speeds up things like crazy. And access to the right people at the right time is crucial for faster learning.



    4. Self-rationalization

    The human limit for self-rationalization is almost infinite. One will convince himself of a number of things, and to a large extent, and yet he won't realize he is ultimately fooling himself.

    You will convince yourself that if something that went wrong, it was no fault of yours or it was all your fault. You will convince yourself that you are invincible – always correct, always on the right side. You will make yourself believe that you can not fail. Yet all those beliefs and convictions shatter away in the face of harsh reality.

    While it is a good trait to have to cool off at an individual level, when a group of people start self-rationalizing, the group is on its way to be doomed into a herd.


    "Khud hi khud ko bevkuf banana".


    5. The misunderstood agile

    Agile is over-rated. One man's agile is different from another one's.
    In my opinion, agile is never about changing and turning over the fundamentals.
    There are some key assumptions that can never be changed, even though some of those assumptions are relative to the person making them.

    Yet, once you start changing the fundamentals you are more on the way of idle iterations, than agile, since the original purpose is lost.


    6. The cost of barriers

    No one stops you from doing things, they just raise the barriers - mental, psychological, physical.
    Don't fall into the trap. Do what you think you must. Fuck all other shit.
    That's exactly what they say - we are not stopping you, but ...


    7. Alive after dead-line


    If no one is dead after a missed deadline, what's the point of calling it so?

    There is a reason why its called the deadline, at least let those who miss it see the face of death... If you can't run, you jog; if you can't jog, you walk; if you can't walk, you crawl; but don't skip the deadline.



    8. Fighting righteousness


    So how do you fight someone who believes he is right?

    The worst person to pacify is he who thinks is right. Doesn't matter whether he actually is or not.
    Logic is the only weapon against a righteous person.

    “Right brings might”


    9. The veil of equality

    Rules and policies are always circumstantial. It all depends on who is applying them.
    There is a mist of equality. But no matter how much the fog, there is a subtle play of power at hand everywhere. 

    I believe fairness, equality, and all such concepts are over-rated. End of the day, its the bottom line that matters. And the bottom line is this - no matter how much fairness you expect, there will always be some degree of unfairness.


    10. The right time & Chaos and Order

    One thought that has stuck with me for a while now is - Entrepreneurs don't wait for themselves to be ready, they jump in even before they think they are ready. While I am not entrepreneur, this thought is somewhere there at the back of the mind every time I am making any stupid decision. 

    On the flip side, they may not be completely ready, but they still have a confidence that they can sails through, right? confidence level. 

    Ever wondered how chaos is killed? Does chaos die because of chaos itself? Maybe, if you add more chaos to existing chaos, things start settling and there is chaos no more? Things can not remain chaotic for long, pattens start emerging sooner or later. Maybe that's why they say there is a method to madness? Its funny right?

    Ever wondered how order is killed? By having a more ordered system? Because a highly ordered system reduces the system's ability to handle unordered things, and ultimately, we are all humans, something random is bound to happen one way or the other.

    So how does one handle both?
    The solution is to have balance, or  semblance of it, a middle ground in between order and chaos. Seems like a paradox? True. But then, life is a paradox.