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Showing posts from 2012

The race for the machines

The world is caught by the quick,
efficient short term, while
the internal deep springs of contemplation
and moment-to-moment existence dry up,
orphaned of their vents and outlets.

Technology is working round the clock
in making life follow the machines
that beguile us with their unending service
of needs that we never knew existed,
and our eyes have closed themselves outwards.

Hanging on the outer, out of balance,
working the sensory riches
of  speed and immediacy, want and profligacy,
we sacrifice the real and the hidden
art of encoding the immortal inside us.

But out of the blue moon,
when time stands still,
the silent space is awake again,
giving lies to the deception
that the seen matter is all that matters.

It is in these times that we see those
rational packages of short defensible bytes -
followers and followed,
pokes, likes, wants and posts -
as nothing but the ephemeral tuning out the immortal.

As the machines bind and connect us
infinitely more than we imagined,
our medium …

Ambition vs. Fear.

Most important things in life don't come to us. Nor do we get them by seeking/wanting them. It comes from letting go of the unimportant stuff.

The hardest part is letting go of the tendency to take the world as is. This is a habit of our past successes.

But success is not a destination, it is a STOP sign. You stop, wait, and move on. Too often, we are paralyzed by success into the fear of the new. We stall on the road to a new life. We need to break our inertia and move.

Our thoughts and thought habits are hard to break. But that is where we have to spend the most energy. Thoughts are always competing strands  - of worries of the past and anxieties for the future. For some of us, they are cleanly separated into rivers that nurture every place they travel. For most, they are like the torrents and trickles -- competing, rushing somewhere, stopping completely elsewhere, always mixing, morphing, competing, winning, losing.

Our thoughts are the potential difference between the two pole…

A most beautiful river of duality

This is a pretty bad poem as far as poems go, but I just can't get rid of the river from my mind.

This river is two rivers in one -- it has a surprising journey and something quite sad is happening to this river.


Yarlung Zangbo,
 She begins to become
from the creator’s breath
that descends from the firmament,

Gliding on wings of dew from the eternal feet of mount Kailash
on a 1200 kilometer road she paves by herself,
feeding the verdant flora with the iridescent blue
of the cloud bedecked skies,

Narrowing to a mere 4 meters, almost 6000 feet deep,
she dances deep as the grandest of all canyons in the world,
Till her fiery Tigress force cuts around Namcha Barua
A Mountain Tiger, like a watery sword,

The tangle lasts all of 270 degrees, and she finally flies way,
falls, almost 10000 feet
through blinding forest of deep dark green,
where she morphs to become

BrahmaPutra, the creator's son
who merges with the sea,
rises to the firmament,
and begins a new becoming.

Life Hacker from Indian epic - Karna

Krishna may be the most popular Indian god, a central figure from the Mahabharata - an epic battle story.

But Karna is the modern hero from this great tale. Sparked by a discussion with some friends, I set down to write up the reasons why I think he is.

Everyone should know his story.

Stripped of all that is due his station in life and at birth, Karna is the quintessential underdog. A non-standard output of an unknowing virgin princess/queen-to-be, he is orphaned at birth and falls into the care of a charioteer. In spite of his current station, he is uncontrollably led into archery - his warrior roots. A self-studied hacker, unable to participate in an archery competition among kings, he gets a break from the Kaurava king (bad guy) Duryodhanaon the spot. He is anointed a King, thereby given the opportunity to show his prowess. Karna considers Duryodhana a dear friend and only customer for the rest of his life - even going to war against his own brothers for the sake of Duryodhana…

When to bend over backwards

When is it OK to bend over backwards?

  - when making a child understand something new. It is not their problem.
  - in interacting with your parents. You exist because of them.
  - in how you treat an elderly person. They can't change fast enough.
  - when you have an irritated customer. You don't know who's at fault.
  - when you have an angry friend or associate. They want to be helped.
  - when you are at the 4-way stop and someone cuts you off. Your safety first.
  - whenever you talk to your spouse or siblings. You live or die by their kindness.
  - whenever you find someone in need of help. Because you can afford to.


Why PI is not 4, math is great, and other mysteries.

The other day, I found myself with an interesting problem of approximating a circle with the enclosing square which seems to prove pi = 4.

The paradox was forwarded by a most interesting puzzle collector, Surajit Basu, a friend and life long inspiration. See Sonata for Unaccompanied Tortoise for why!



Here is the offending paradox:

























This is an example of how counterintuitive questions can be answered with a little calculus.

The key is to realize that no matter how closely we approximate the circle, the orthogonal lines of the approximation formed by inverting the square corners will never actually be tangential to the circle.

Note carefully that as you get closer to 90 degrees, the horizontal line is much longer than the vertical. Same goes with the approximation at 0 and 180 - the vertical line is much larger than the horizontal component.

If we take a quadrant of the circle - let's say the top left quadrant, moving counter clockwise from top to left -  we can imagine that each inf…

commandline data analytics

Here are some patterns that were important for most  infrastructure functions - infrastructure operations,  software development, or even large scale infrastructure changes, migrations and predicting future states.

The slice:   "| grep | project"
The  map-reduce pipeline:   "| transform | project | sort |uniq -c|sort -nr"
The pivot:   "|project | pivot-and-aggregate"

The output of these patterns are typically fed into the execution pipeline.

These patterns are essential because they direct, focus and scale the primary output beyond what is possible by just being an expert.

There is nothing magical about any of those. But as a considered habit, an involuntary muscle memory, they can bring  enormous leverage and time line compression to any complex piece of work.

There is one pattern that is missing from this: classification/machine learning filter.

We need an  "ml-filter" to  make the future architect/webops engineer's end result to bec…

Mistakes - an under-appreciated learning tool

"Failure is the stepping stone to success"
"Success comes through failure"
"Experience comes from bad judgement"

And so on.

We know this to be true, yet why is it that we don't do it well? Children seem to be much better at this than adults.

I think it is because we are so awash in a sea of content/knowledge/activity/choice as adults that we forget that focus is the key to learning and success, not content alone.

It seems the best way to learn is to start doing things without learning all the content, stretch through failure into success, and then get the benefit of "expertise". The reason this works - failure provides context for memory.

Kids do it all the time. They test failures until parents "correct" them.

Finding our way through failure is the uniquely human way of co-opting the innate "fear of death" into a positive memory (and skill) making activity.



The existential pleasures of ngramming

A picture is worth 1000 words. But a graph is worth 1000 pictures.

Are we doomed? Are we in the greatest period of human existence? what do writers write about the human condition? What's important has not changed - life, children, death, food.. in that order. This is why we are different from animals.

How much things are important - has changed.

And how?



Stay hungry, Stay Foolish 2.0 - "get uncomfortable"

For a long time,  "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish" struck a chord. By this Steve Jobs meant that one should look at the future the same way a hitchhiker looks at an untraveled path - stay forever hungry for experience, stay foolish enough to never stop when the path becomes "safe" enough.

2012 is the year to 'get uncomfortable' by choice, for many reasons. For one, getting uncomfortable is the way to understand how the world is feeling right now - with politics, with jobs, with the economy, with climate change, with the future and with a general sense of purpose. For better part of the last 50 years, the imagined purpose of economic progress was to link people, cultures and worlds - to make everything work on a 'global' scale, as this meant more "efficiency" and "speed". But that train has made a round trip through the globe, once.

For another, there is less coordinated thinking in the leadership around the world towards painting a c…