Autumn is sneaking up on us. Slowly it is announcing the arrival - yellow tinge on leaves, temperature is dropping and sun is setting early now. The good days of summer are almost over and this gives me a kind of desperation. I think this time of the year is always going to bring this feeling - of having lost something too soon or something slipping away. Even when I enjoy the fall colors, it comes with a sense of imminent loss. I am not looking it up, but I am sure they would have categorized and named this feeling under some sort of anxiety.


Scribbled down some things sitting through a long meeting and other random bits (true rambling):-

Seek, find and chase opportunities. Nowadays it won't bother to knock even once.

Have a hold on yourself like a pet on a leash. It may misbehave, try to take a piss on somebody's yard, bite an innocent bystander - but take a step back and check/force yourself to behave as you think you should and probably would under normal circumstances.

With this much experience in this trade called life, it is now very well possible to recognize people just making dishonest statements. Anybody with this much experience will have acquired that talent, but still forced to do it under pressure. Trick is to keep a straight face, cut through the smoke fast enough and understand the facts and do what is right.

There are two kinds of people; naturals and actors. Naturals cannot lie without showing it, hurt others without feeling bad, can laugh without sounding fake and share without holding back. They will make for a good friend. It will be useful to recognize the others quickly.

There is no right and wrong, there is only fair and unfair. It is unfair to cheat somebody you love because you may be taking advantage of the trust, but it is fair (not wrong) to trick an adversary who is not playing fair in the first place. You feel wrong if you do something which is unfair and feel right if it is fair – maybe that is the litmus.
I was reading an article in Reader’s Digest on trends that are changing life – one trend they spotted is personalized media in the form of customized news, blogs, personalized TV etc. In my line of work, they call grandfather systems which we are upgrading to newer technologies as legacy system – like that, the legacy media keeps reporting about blogging and internet as a new phenomenon in a funny way. One of their arguments is, if you are filtering news and customizing it based on your preferences, you might run the risk of some sort of tunnel vision. You choose what you like or the system start choosing what it thinks you like (sounds like science fiction). I don’t really have a problem with that – in fact I would like to build that into systems to have capability to monitor my actions and help me out by pulling up suggestions about what I am looking for. It is more human approach – if I go to a shop and ask for product which is not there, a good salesman will try to pitch for other similar product which may satisfy or exceed my expectations – if he is really trying to help me out instead of generally being desperate, it will be fantastic. For example, I use in many different ways than to actually buy something. I can compare products which I am going to buy from a store anyway, read reviews, search for my favorite books/music/movies and look up their lists on “Customers who bought this also bought..” and other lists. Most often I find that the items it shows match my taste. It can build my store based on the things I browse. But you have to break out the habit of restricting yourself to personalized information because you need to change continuously to avoid getting bored with life and its routines.

But with this information explosion in the web, it is very difficult to keep up with even my own interest areas even if I have personalized tools. I started marking so many articles as unread in bloglines that it is impossible now to finish the backlog of the articles I may be interested in. On the top of that I started adding bookmarks to account which I am sure I will never be able to get back to. It is like a kid collecting smooth looking pebbles and stashing away only catch dust in the attic. I need to figure out a way to read what I want in limited time I have every day and let go of mildly interesting stuff instead of archiving for later.
everyday is a winding road..

Nowadays I drive for almost an hour everyday between home and office. Drive is quite relaxing actually - with three different single lane routes to choose from, each offering different view and feel. First is a very curvy road with many ups and downs, so it is labeled as "ride". It has two schools, one or two colleges, some farms, almost half the way covered completely by tall trees on both sides of the road and few lavish houses. Sometimes deers cross the road, once with its kid walking across the road very casually, mom waiting for the naughty kid to catch up. This road could get nasty if it rains. Another one is almost all the way covered by trees, less curvy, some stretch feels like proper forest. Last one is more or less going straight through two or three hills, going up and down, with one or two golf courses and horse stables in between and a very nice view of the whole region. Except for morning rush hour, I get all three roads to myself most of the times.

So I have this one hour dedicated to music. After discovering free CD rental from a fantastic public library system, I am just trying out all the names which I have heard even once. Tried Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Rollingstones, Elvis Costello, Shania Twain, Sheryl Crowe, Ricky Martin, Patty Smith, U2, Elvis Presley, 3 Doors Down etc so far - two albums clicked well so far - Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay and Singles 1992 - 2003 by No Doubt. I liked almost all songs in these two albums. I had similar experience with Savage Gardens and Metallica while in college – listen to the same cassette endless times continuously so much that you can sing along almost involuntarily.

I think common features are honest and meaningful lyrics (not sounding fake, not about only one subject, some mild philosophy, some smart lyrics, some lines which must have been written with real feeling and fit in even if not rhyming completely), fresh music (not regular, not repetitive, something sounding new, even just a taste of difference) and bit of variation (not screaming or not crooning all the way through the album - there are times when you can listen to continuous screaming and continuous moaning, but this gives something for all moods). I have the theory that if you listen to the same album multiple times patiently, you can befriend some music and even like it a lot - so I bear with some miserable music searching for a hook to hang on, but most of them are disappointments.

I have the definition of my kind of music - not too fast, not too slow, not obnoxious (I am not able to identify with the rap, hip-hop and crap however I try - I can listen to country, urban, soul, blues, soft/hard rock, pop, R&B and I have favorites in all of these. I can try up to metal, maybe not acid, if I have got the correct lingo) and bit of heart (even if tends to be soft, it should be okay). Once in a while there comes along a beautiful one which leaves you wondering how it all clicked together - it must be the moment of pure genius when they came up with those kind of marvels - no wonder they say that it was written in under 10 minutes etc. Most of the geniuses are basically simple (simple lyrics, not complicated music). Interestingly I can probably say these things about people I happen to like also.

Sometimes I feel mixing all favorites and listening to only those over and over again is boring and unfair to those favorites because soon it will become familiar and regular. So let go, explore and find new additions to favorite list, still be loyal to old favorites by coming back to it once in a while (when you come back to old favorites after listening to miserable music for days, there is a unique feeling, some sort of relief or comfort). So the search continues through library and FM stations and an hour of it everyday.

formal learning

I am considering going for Sun Certified Java Programmer – just trying to come off the inertia. My core competency in programming can be ascribed to Java, but I never studied it completely using a book or a proper training course. I am involved too less in actual software development these days and sometimes that frightens me to think that I would soon loose the authority/hold on whatever knowledge I have and become redundant. It is actually very difficult to start studying for something without expectation of any external reward.

Over time, I had tried to learn certain things on my own, mainly leisure stuff – went for guitar classes for two years while in college, tried to learn chess with text books etc. Programming should be learned by more practice than theory. One of my friends used to say that to learn keyboard (music), first you start hitting on the keys and learn for yourself what makes agreeable noises and then you will proceed to develop a sense of what feels good. It is like a baby tries to crawl, go on all fours, stand up holding something and tries to walk despite falling down. Then you can try to mimic popular songs all by yourself and when you get something right, it will give you tremendous satisfaction. After a certain level, I think it is better to start formal education to fill in the gaps. You would have made some headway into how all the pieces fit together and you can see how it makes more sense. I think what this gives is better perspective or “big picture”. It is like checking the map first and getting an idea about where you are going, which direction, what are the nearby towns instead of going by written directions. I used to like Maths a lot and while in pre-degree, I used to work out graduate Maths. There is more fun in learning this way – hack on your own and then later formalize the learning.

Initial progress will be slow and it will be frustrating, but you will have the sense of adventure and joy of discovering things for yourself. You can refer the documents and all-powerful-google if you get stuck, don’t try to figure out everything by yourself – intention is not to discover the language, but to learn it.

I think some things should not be learned in this manner even if you may learn something in the process of doing it – for example, surgeons won’t hack at bodies first, they must be read enough and watch somebody do it, attempt it on cadavers before even holding that scalpel. I hope this is the case though.

നോൺ ഫിക്ഷൻ

"Chinua Achebe - Man of the People. ഫിക്ഷനോ നോൺ ഫിക്ഷനോ?" "ഫിക്ഷൻ" "നോൺ ഫിക്ഷൻ നിർത്തിയോ?" "ഇല്ല...