Walk down the memory lane

One of the highlights of the locality where I used to live in Chennai is a small lake. It is about 20 acres in size and is currently home to a few pelicans and some waterbirds.

This isn’t a likely sight in Chennai as most of its waterbodies have disappeared due to illegal encroachments and lack of care. When I mentioned the birds to my dad, he said this was nothing and there were far more pelicans and other birds just a month ago.  Most of them had migrated back to where they came from and would again come back the next year.

However, what I loved more than the beautiful lake, is the sidewalk. The sidewalk is about a kilometer long and in the evenings, particularly weekends becomes such a lively place, so full of life and activity and commerce. It became one of my favorite places on earth. During my walks in the evening, the sidewalk became a surreal and magical place – everything I saw and heard invoked some random old memory or something I had read. So one day, I decided to note down the things I saw and overheard. I should warn you that these are indeed ‘ordinary’ things and there is really nothing special about them. However, if you are returning to India after being elsewhere for sometime, I’m sure you will appreciate the beauty in these ordinary things.

  1. A grandfather in a lightning white shirt and dhoti running behind his granddaughter. The granddaughter was wearing a white frock with little red flowers and had a small mole on her right cheek. Her head was recently shaven and had small pointy hair. She was all laughter and looked so happy.
  2. A group of teenage boys sitting on the sidewalk facing the road and playing video games on their mobile phones. They were playing different games on their phones.
  3. A brown cow was sitting on the sidewalk, blocking the entire sidewalk. It kept chewing, not giving a damn about people who walked around it.
  4. Ambi-mamas walking briskly wearing what seems to be their unofficial uniform – classic polo t-shirts covering their big tummy and ‘Trax’ shorts.
  5. A couple sitting on a bench, facing the road with a newborn in the mom’s hands. The newborn was wrapped in a white and pink childwear to protect against the wind. It seemed asleep.
  6. Groups of old people occupying multiple benches along the sidewalk. Their costumes came in two flavors – white half-shirt and dark pants with monkey caps protecting their ears or white shirt and dhoti with forehead full of veebhuti and kungumam. They mostly talked about
    – demonetization and the wreck it is causing in their lives.
    – conspiracy theories about Jayalalitha’s death and Sasikala
    – how India is going to shit
  7. A soup stall selling mushroom and other types of soups.
  8. A middle-aged lady manning a makeshift Tupperware stall.
  9. A stall selling  vaazhaipoo vadai, bajji, bonda, filter coffee and sukku-malli coffee. The stall was manned by a man who was in his thirties and a girl who probably was ten or twelve. The man appeared to be the girl’s father. The vaazhaipoo vadai is a huge hit among the people who hang out at the sidewalk as well as my folks. The vaazhaipoo vadai usually sells out around 7 pm in the evening. We usually buy from the stall at least once a week. The one time I bought from the stall, the girl seemed very uninterested in being there, but the guy forced her to pack the snacks for the customers.
  10. Multiple groups of teenage girls taking group selfies with the lake as the background.
  11. A group of teenage boys talking about how fast they can ride their bikes.
  12. Middle-aged women walking and talking about what they cooked and how their day went.
  13. Street dogs sleeping peacefully amidst people walking. There was one dog which was sleeping on the bench next to an old woman. It looked like the woman probably lived nearby and the dog was hers.
  14. Many people wearing t-shirts, short and running shoes were jogging slowly on the road and were sweating profusely.
  15. A playful street dog begging the people sitting on the sidewalk for food. The dog was probably once in a house because it had a belt around its neck. Unfortunately, the belt was now too tight and was now constricting its neck. I wanted to remove the belt but I was afraid to do so.
  16. A middle-aged woman sitting on a bench talking on her phone, doing what women of her age do best – match-making
  17. Grandmothers walking with their grandsons.
  18. A working man who looked like a construction worker was staring blankly into center of the lake. He was sitting on the bank of the lake on the mud floor. Perhaps, he was listening to the devotional song playing in a temple on the other side of the lake.
  19. People returning from a nearby temple.
  20. A couple, probably in their thirties jogging and walking awkwardly. The husband in a t-shirt and shorts was jogging while the wife in a chudidhar with her dupatta around her waist was walking. A while later, towards the end of the road where it bends, the wife joined the husband in jogging.
  21. An old man in a mustard-color shirt and brown pants sitting on the bench was listening to song on his phone loudly.
  22. A group of teenage boys talking about thala and his forthcoming movie.
  23. A group of old men staring curiously at newly-built party hall.
  24. Half-filled dumpsters with trash and plastic bags strewn on the sidewalk – probably strewn by the street dogs ravaging for food in the dumpsters
  25. A couple of college-aged boys walking with their eyes glued to their phones. These days, the unofficial uniform for guys is : dark, plaid shirt and dark, skinny tight pants and two-or-three week old beard and mustache.
  26. Young couple with heavy backpacks on their back, huddled close to each other whispering.

 

Trip to L.A

Missus and I made our first long trip together by driving down to Los Angeles for the Thanksgiving weekend . We spent 3 days there, starting on Wednesday(23rd) afternoon and returned on Sunday(27th) afternoon to San Jose. Hopefully, this post has some useful tips for you if you are planning to visit L.A.

Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States and has so many attractions that it is not possible to visit all of them in 3 days. Our original plan was to cover just a few of them – Universal Studios(a film studio and movie-based theme park), National History Musuem of Los Angeles county, Getty Center and the beaches(there are 3 beaches each at Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu). We booked an apartment through AirBnB in downtown Hollywood, right next to Hollywood walk of fame.

The Drive

L.A is about 350 miles from San Jose and there are 3 routes to L.A – the I-5(an inland, no nonsense option that takes about 5.5 hours to reach L.A), the 101-S(more scenic than the I-5 I’m told, but also takes about 6.5 hours) and the CA-1/Pacific coast highway/PCH(scenic of the 3 as you will be driving along the Pacific coast; takes about 7-8 hours.). Mind you all these estimates are optimistic, best-case estimates. Depending on when you start out and when you get close to L.A it can be much worse.

Since, we started our trip on Wednesday afternoon just when the long weekend was about to begin, we chose I-5 to avoid any traffic on the road. We reached L.A around 8:30 pm spending about 6 hours on the road. Our pro-tips for the drive would be:

  • Google Maps is your indispensable friend. Enable ‘Traffic’ option on Google Maps so that it can watch out for traffic incidents and re-route you to alternate routes. This happened at least twice during our drive, once on our way to L.A and once on our way back. We avoided sitting idle in the traffic and saved at least an hour or so in both directions. (As a bonus, most of these alternate routes are through farms which was quite thrilling)
  • Traffic gets really bad as you get close to L.A. Plan your drive such that you either reach L.A before or after the peak traffic time: 3-7 pm.
  • Have a portable charger ready because it is very likely that your phone will run out of juice.
  • There are spots along I-5 that don’t have any cell reception and hence no data. Just an heads-up!

Day – 1: Universal Studios

Universal Studios is a film studio+movie-based theme park. What this means is that you get to enjoy two 3-d rides(based on Harry Potter and the Transformers; these were our favorites where we had the most fun), a stunt-show(based on the movie – The water world), some actual film sets(like the one below from War of the worlds starring Tom Cruise), couple of TV series sound stages(only from the outside) and three roller-coaster like rides based on movies(Jurassic Park, The Mummy and the Harry Potter again).  A warning: the wait-time for each ride can be anywhere between 20-120 minutes.

There are multiple options for the entry ticket – annual pass for $149, one day pass for $109 and a front-line pass for $179 where you get to skip the general queue. Once, you pay for the entry ticket, you don’t pay for anything else besides food inside the studio. You can also find coupons and discounts for the entry ticket online. My employer, eBay had a $40 off per ticket on the annual pass which I used. Parkings costs about $18,$25 or $35 depending on what option you choose.

Our pro-tips for Universal studio would be:

  • It is going to be super-crowded and the place opens at 9 am. To have the most fun, arrive at the place as early as you can.
  • Like I said, the wait-time for each attraction can vary any time between 20 to 120 minutes. Instead of waiting for an attraction in a queue for that long, visit other rides that have lesser wait time. Towards the evening, the wait times for the popular ones reduce to 10-20 minutes. You can try the popular ones then.
  • The studio closes at 9 pm, but some of the rides end by 6 pm. Check their daily schedule and plan accordingly.
  • Due to the crowd and the wait-time, it is very likely that you won’t see all of them in a day, but you will certainly have a fantastic day. So, it is not a bad idea to get the annual pass. Beware, it is not enough if you buy the ticket online, you also have to register your day of visit. If you buy the annual pass, you have to visit the studio within 30 days of buying the ticket. For accurate details, visit universal studios website and follow the instructions there. Also, you need to have a valid id on you to enter the studio.
  • If you are vegetarian, there are not a lot of options inside the place except for cheese pizza. It is better to pack lunch for the day.

Day – 2: National History Museum of Los Angeles County & Griffith observatory

On day 2, we visited National History Museum and spent close to a whole day there. Entry tickets were $12 per person and the parking ticket was another $8 bucks. There is also a cafeteria in the same building as the museum. Highlights of the museum were the Dinosaur exhibits and the mammal halls. You can take a look at some of the pictures I snapped by clicking the images below:

Our pro-tips for the museum would be:

  • The museum has a lot to offer – it has a section for L.A’s history, a section for gems/minerals, a section for artifacts from ancients civilzations such as Aztec, Mayan, a section for insects and a section for birds. We originally thought we would spend about half a day, but ended up spending close to 3/4th of the day. So, plan accordingly.
  • In case you finish the museum early, California Science Center is only ten minutes walk  from the museum – perhaps, you can combine them together in a single day and save on parking.

After wrapping up at the museum, we proceeded on to Griffith Observatory. This turned out to be a mistake on our part. By the time, we arrived at the Griffith Observatory, it was already 5pm, the sun was down and we were pretty tired. As a result, we didn’t get to enjoy our visit at the observatory. We decided we would visit the observatory and spend more time there in our next visit. Our tips for the observatory would be that

  • Parking is free. You can park your car in the parking lots of Griffith Park and hike up for about 10 minutes to reach the Griffith Observatory. When you hike up to the observatory there are a couple of vista points from which you can take pictures of L.A downtown. eg: img_20161125_164023
  • There is also regular shuttle service available to take you from the parking lot up to the observatory and back. The shuttle service costs about 50 cents per person in each direction. So, make sure you have a couple of dollars handy.
  • The observatory has a couple of telescopes that allow you to look at the sun. But, they operate only when the sun is out – so make sure you are there at the observatory when the sun is out.
  • Entry to the observatory itself is free. However, there are regular shows in the observatory discussing various science topics – these shows cost about $8 per person.
  • Don’t miss out the night view of the downtown from the observatory at night.

Day 3 – The beaches, Malibu Hindu Temple and L.A traffic

On day three, we stopped by the Santa Monica beach and the Venice beach and spent some time people-watching (the Venice boardwalk looked a little rough). There is a bike path that stretches between both the beaches(about 6-7 miles) and it looked like it would be a lot of fun renting a bike.

After that, we went to Malibu Hindu Temple located in the Santa Monica mountains. It was a scenic drive through the mountains and the temple itself was serene and very beautiful.

img_20161126_132821-collage

After wrapping up our visit at the temple, we decided to go to California Science Institute – this is where things took a turn for the worse. It started raining heavily and we got stuck in the infamous L.A traffic. We spent about an hour driving in the traffic and reached California Science Institute around 3 pm. When we reached near the institute, we found out that USC Trojans were playing Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the L.A Memorial Coliseum which was nearby. The traffic was pretty bad and the parking lots were all full. So, we decided to head back to our apartment and just spend the rest of the day taking it easy.

Later that day, after the rain subsided we walked along Hollywood Boulevard doing the walk of fame tour. The street was pretty rough-looking too, but one of the locals we met in the elevator told us that it was pretty safe and not to be worried to much. We finished walking, had our dinner and went to bed early to get ready for the drive next day.

The Food

The variety of food and cuisines you get here in America is nothing short of amazing (yes, even for vegetarians). Yet, of late, I have been sticking to only Indian food when eating outside.

We ate at 3 Indian restaurants while we were in L.A – Lal Mirch, Mayuri and Annapurna. Both of us felt that the Indian restaurants in L.A were not as good as the Indian restaurants in the bay area. They were also pricier than bay area restaurants. The dining places within Universal studios were also a pretty sad picture. Overall, if you want to eat healthy and are on a budget you are better off bringing your own lunch.

From my experience in the US so far, I have developed a theory about Indian restaurants here –

Food from Indian restaurants that have English-sounding names like Royal India, Taste of India is generally not as good as food from Indian restaurants that have Indian-sounding names. I also usually see more Indians in restaurants that have an Indian-sounding name than in restaurants that have English sounding names. Next time, you are in an Indian restaurant take a look around and see for yourself if the theory holds up true.

Back to San Jose

We started from L.A on Sunday morning around 7:30 am and reached home at around 1:30 pm. We again took the I-5 route to avoid any traffic jams. We wanted to take the PCH route, but decided against it when we learnt it was going to rain a lot.

 

Overall, the L.A trip was a lot of fun. We didn’t visit some of the attractions – The Getty Center, The Disneyland, Griffith observatory, several museums, a couple of state parks and a few spots along the coast. We are saving them for the next time.

Backhoes, beliefs and software re-use

  • Backhoes Don’t Obey Moore’s Law: A Story of Convergence  – An article from the way back – 1996 that talks about Moore’s law and the computer industry’s dependence on telecommunication and the implication of this dependence.
  • Survival Guide for Junior Developers – Particularly, I can’t stress #2 enough. It not only helps the junior developers themselves, but others as well. When I joined my current team, there wasn’t a lot of documentation for several things. I documented everything(starting from how to set up the dev environment, documentation of my understanding on several systems and how-tos) on the wiki. As time went by, the team started reaping benefits – it was much easier and quicker to ramp-up the new people who joined our team(4 full timers, 3 of them were new grads and 4 contractors)
  • The Fallacy Of ReUse  – The title of the article was such a bait that I had to check it out. The highlight of the article for me was the distinction between ‘use’ and ‘reuse’ of software. Many times, when we say we are ‘reusing’ a piece of code, we are actually ‘using’ that piece of code – the distinction here is a little subtle.

If we were to (re)use a piece of code in only one part of our system, it would be safe to say that we would get less value than if we could (re)use it in more places. For example, we could say that for many web applications, the web framework we use provides more value than a given encryption algorithm that we may use in only a few places.

So, what characterizes the code we use in many places?

Well, it’s very generic.

Actually, the more generic a piece of code, the less likely it is that we’ll be changing something in it when fixing a bug in the system.

That’s important.

However, when looking at the kind of code we reuse, and the reasons around it, we tend to see very non-generic code – something that deals with the domain-specific behaviors of the system. Thus, the likelihood of a bug fix needing to touch that code is higher than in the generic/use-not-reuse case, often much higher.

The lessons from the article, which I agree based on my experience so far, are

– “stay away from reuse” – that is, don’t write specific/non-generic code

– “minimize use” – write generic components, but be careful and minimalistic while adding dependencies between generic components.

 

  • The Newsroom – started watching The Newsroom – I know I’m late to the party, but man what a great show! What I like most about the show is how optimistic and non-cynical it is. And, with what is going on in the world right now, I don’t think there could be a more ironic time to watch this show if you haven’t watched it already.

  • Crony beliefs -this was a super interesting post. The author’s idea is that beliefs can be viewed as ‘hired hands’ for the brain and their job is to make sure we survive. He classifies beliefs into two types:

– merit beliefs(beliefs we want to be factual and accurate so we monitor them actively) and

– crony beliefs(beliefs that are essential to for us to continue be a social animal. we don’t actively monitor these for accuracy).

The post further talks about how to identify crony beliefs and what can we do about them.

Service workers, code smells and hiring

  • Service workers – an Introduction – learnt about service workers .
    • You can think of service worker as a static web-app(js and css) that gets cached and ‘registered’ to your web-app url in the web browser. You can register a service worker for a whole domain (like www.example.com) or for a specific path (like www.example.com/example). Think of them as offline code that is stored in the browser.
    • As they are ‘registered’ to your web-app url, they can act like a network proxy for calls from/to your web-app url domain – i.e they can see the request you send to your server and the response the browser receives and can manipulate them both.
    • Because of #2, you need https to register a service worker.
    • They use javascript web workers underneath- so, they can do multi-threading stuff within your browser.
    • If you think “they are cached in the browser so I can use them to store global state” – don’t.
  • A Method I’ve Used to Eliminate Bad Tech Hires – Overall, I agree with the idea of giving the candidate a take-home test , then bringing the candidate on site to discuss the solution and paying the candidate for her/his effort. However, I highly doubt if such an approach will fly in big companies (that are comfortably set in their old ways). Additionally, this approach is also biased against people who are on H1B visa like me – we can not take on such contract work since it is a violation of our visa status. Perhaps, a gift card instead?
  • 8 ways to become a better coder – a simple and straight-forward article on eight things you can do to become a better programmer. My favorite quote was

 “The code works” isn’t where you stop; it’s where you start.

….

Part of that process is defining what “better” means. Is it valuable to make it faster? Easier to document? More reusable? More reliable? The answer varies with each application, but the process doesn’t.

It might sound obvious, but I have met many who think that’s about it. I liked how the article kept what ‘better’ means as open-ended.

  • Code smells – A good list of code smells to watch out for. Something to share and discuss with your team.

Simple problems, Ray Allens’ letter and practice

  • The most complicated simple problems  – a nice little article on how problems that appear simple on the surface can be quite complicated. A lot of these complications don’t have anything to do with the problems themselves, but with the availability of data, our ability to process available information and most importantly our inability to know whether or not we have all the data that we need. My most favorite quote from the article was:

It’s hard to know the difference between incentives and motivations. Here’s the simple difference: Mark Zuckerberg in the early days of Facebook was motivated. The Wells Fargo employees who opened fake accounts to meet their targets were incentivized. Both worked on a system of, “If I do X, I’ll be rewarded with Y.” But one wanted to earn the reward – it was like an emotional mission for a cause larger than himself – while the other only wanted (or needed) to get the reward. Without hindsight it can be hard to tell which is which.

  • Letter to my younger self – Ray Allen, a former ten-time all-star NBA player and two time champion writes a letter to his 13 year old self. This is one of the most inspiring pieces of writing that I have read in the recent times. There are too many amazing lines to quote here, however, my most favorite part comes towards the end:

When you walk in the door, the receptionist looks at you and says, “Ray? What … what are you doing here?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“But … you just won the title.”

“Yeah, I just wanted to get out of the house.”

“But … it’s eight in the morning. And you just won the title.”

“Well, I still got some work to be done on this tooth. Is he in?”

Your dentist walks out of his office.

“Ray? What are you … what?”

“Couldn’t sleep.”

This is what success looks like for you. You’re the kind of guy who goes to the dentist the morning after winning an NBA title.

I know, man.

I know.

But in order to achieve your dreams, you will become a different kind of person. You’ll become a bit obsessive about your routine. This will come at a heavy cost to some of your friends and family.

Most nights, you won’t go out. Your friends will ask why. You won’t drink alcohol, ever. People will look at you funny. When you get to the NBA, you won’t always play cards with the boys. Some people will assume you’re not being a good teammate. You’ll even have to put your family on the back-burner for your job.

Most of the time, you will be alone.

That won’t make you the most popular person. Some people simply won’t understand. Is the cost worth it?

Only you can answer that.

Who am I supposed to be?

Tomorrow when you get off that school bus in South Carolina, you’ll have to choose.

Every day for the rest of your life, you’ll have to choose.

Do you want to fit in, or do you want to embark on the lonely pursuit of greatness?

I write this to you today as a 41-year-old man who is retiring from the game. I write to you as a man who is completely at peace with himself.

….

Get your work in, young fella.

Most people will never really get to know the real you. But they’ll know your work.

There’s one discipline they all share as well, which appears only in varying degrees in the earlier levels: Without exception, they possess a very deep and intimate knowledge of their tools. Be it the editor, the compiler, or the framework, they know the ins and outs of its features and they navigate efficiently. They use a much wider array of features because they know exactly how the tools work.

Knowledge of tools, coupled with an extensive, tested palette of programming techniques, and the ability to remember large amounts of the code base, while relating low-level details to the whole with unconscious ease — these are the traits I see most often in great programmers. And they’re the skills I continue to aspire to in my work.

Particularly, the ability to remember a significant section of the code base while keeping track of low-level details really does separate great programmers from the rest. Funnily, the current trend of asking generic problem-solving questions doesn’t really test for this trait. We, as an industry continue to do this because that’s what everybody is doing(so I don’t really have to put thought into the process and blindly follow)  and more importantly we think we are ‘measuring performance‘ and have a ‘scale‘ and are ‘being objective‘, so this process is better. (I’m guilty of asking these problem-solving questions and making a decision when I interview people, but I have never been completely convinced or comfortable with it. This is something I’m going to re-evaluate and change myself)

 

 

The Secret rules of Modern Living: Algorithms

I watched a documentary on Netflix called “The Secret rules of Modern Living: Algorithms” produced by BBC 4. I thought it was a super fun Algorithms 101 documentary. If you want to introduce your kid to Computer Science and Algorithms, this is an excellent starting point.

The same documentary is also available on Youtube and you can watch it below here.

Why I started writing here

@patio is one of my favorite people on Twitter and he often tweets great stuff. He recently tweeted this:

This tweet made me think that I should  write about why I started writing here. I have had this DigitalOcean droplet since late 2014, but I mainly used it to host a few personal projects; I did not have any blog posts here even though I have always wanted to write. It all started with writing a private, every day journal.

I started writing a journal sometime last year. I started it because I realized I simply consumed too much information – it kind of struck me that in spite of consuming so much information – via blogs, twitter, reddit, hackernews and books I created very little. Particularly, after a couple of weeks into writing a journal, I realized it doesn’t matter how much I read – unless I write about it – give my thoughts some kind of physical form, they disappear very quickly.

The journal was first on a Google doc and I continued using it for a couple of months. Once the habit caught on, I started needing additional features that Google doc doesn’t support. For example, I started consolidating ideas under a title; then I wanted to add tags to each title; then I wanted a way to search for titles so that I can add and edit stuff; I wanted to be able to search by tags – clearly, a Google doc wasn’t sufficient anymore. So, I moved my journal to a private wordpress installation. I have been writing my journal for about 7-8 months now and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. (One motivation for starting to write a journal is the Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – an excellent book that I can not recommend enough)

Still, I couldn’t bring myself to start writing a public blog. Because, once I started writing my journal, I found out that my writing sucked (still sucks). So for a long time, I kept postponing the idea of writing a public blog. Things changed when I came across the blog post  by @patio.

Particularly, the above sections of the post convinced me that  excellent communication skills are far more important than technical chops to be a successful programmer; and instinctively, writing seemed like the easiest way to improve my skills since I like to read. Writing allows me to put down all my thoughts and go back and edit/revise until I’m satisfied with the outcome to publicly publish. The surprising part of this process is how my thoughts and ideas actually change during it. Writing allows me to see the trail of my ideas and thoughts, be more thoughtful and think about them deeply than before – it has helped me reduce my mindless consumption of information and spend more time creating some, however insignificant they may be.

I also see a lot of parallels between programming and writing. Both result in a very tangible product; it is easy to create a shitty product in both and extremely difficult to create a aesthetically beautiful one; both require lots of hard work and years of training to get good at. I’m hoping to get better at both of them by continuing to write here.

Setting up Apache Nutch with ElasticSearch, Naval’s podcast and new books

I made some good progress on my Apache Nutch set up. I finally got Nutch to fetch and parse walmart.com. I also managed to get Nutch store index on ElasticSearch. You would think that setting up a basic web crawler using Apache Nutch in 2016 would be an easy, a couple of hours worth of effort. Turns out it isn’t.

One of the issues I ran into while trying to set things up was specifying certain config values across a few files for Nutch and Hbase to work together correctly. You can grab these config values at https://github.com/balajiathreya/nutch-hbase-config-setup

View post on imgur.com

The above is a screenshot of my local ElasticSearch instance containing an index created by my crawler. The next step is to figure out how to get Nutch extract and parse a specific section of the web page – particularly, the item name, price and number of items available.

Finished the book – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki that I picked a couple of weeks back. I quite liked the book even though the book ended with some loose ends not tied up. I gave the book 3/5 stars on goodreads. (A random thought that popped into my head while reading this book – I have read quite a few books by Murakami and I don’t remember any one of these books ever mention the atomic bombings even though the stories take place in Japan – not even a casual, off-hand mention. I thought it was quite weird. May be, Murakami indeed has mentioned the atomic bombing in his other books that I have not read yet.)

The Rational Optimist

Picked up two new books from my to-read list. The first one is “The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves” by Matt Ridley. This non-fiction book was a recommendation in a podcast by Tim Ferriss with Naval Ravikant, the founder of Angel-list. In this podcast, Naval shares his thoughts on life, habits and start-ups; once you get past the first 20-25 minutes, it gets really really interesting and perceptive.  My favorite moments from the podcast:

The best way to prepare for the future in 20 years is find something you love to do. Build an independent brand around it with your name. Make creative work, so that you stay interesting, you can stay ahead of the game. Anything that is not creative society can replicate and not pay you full value overtime, so it’s better always solving new problems and doing new things. Get comfortable with working in a boom/bust fashion where a couple of weeks at a time you can have a lot of work and then a couple of weeks at a time you’re on vacation.

The future will be gradual and then it will be sudden. The best way to prepare is just not to give up your independence in a first place.

 

At the end of the day, I think you have to work on your internal state until you are free of as many biases and conditioned responses as possible…. these are extremely hard skills to build; they are not things you are gonna build by reading one book and ah ha… I don’t believe in the epiphany theory of self development… you read one book, you read a phrase and thats it… this changes myself…. you scrawl on it a paper and look at it for a long time… you make it desktop background.. life doesn’t work that way… what you kinda have to do is build skills. I think happiness is a skill, dieting is a skill… skills get built over decades with feedback loop and you keep working on it.

True happiness comes out of peace. And peace comes out of fundamentally understanding yourself. It comes from looking inside yourself.

 

The act of judging something separates you from that thing. Overtime as you judge, judge, judge, you invariably judge people, you judge yourself. You separate yourself from everything and then you end up lonely. That feeling of disconnection, loneliness is what eventually leads to suffering. And then you struggle, you resist the world the way it is. Happiness is the absence of suffering. It comes from peace.

 

The most important trick to be happy is to realise that happiness is a skill that you develop and a choice that you make. You choose to be happy and then you work at it.

 

Individual entrepreneurial efforts often fail, but individual entrepreneurs over their careers rarely fail. As long as you can keep taking shots on goal and you keep getting back up eventually you’ll get through.

 

It’s only after you’re bored that you’re going to have good ideas. It’s never going to be when you’re stressed or busy or running around or rushed. Make the time. Same way with people. You need to have space in your life where you’re not booked with the people that you already know. You have to be pretty ruthless about saying no to things, about turning people down and leaving room in your life for serendipity.

This podcast became so popular that Tim and Naval met for a second time – I’m yet to listen to this one.

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The second book I picked up is Dune by Frank Herbert, a popular science fiction book. I started reading it last year, but had to return since someone had made a hold on the book and I couldn’t renew.

My fiancee visited me for the weekend and we spent sometime preparing for interviews. I couldn’t help but think that the interviewing dynamics would be quite different and interviewers would be a lot more empathetic if he/she doesn’t know the solution to the  problems already.

Other than that, the weekdays were quite uneventful and passed quite fast.

Weekly update – 3/14

This week was quite a busy week at work – the code I have been working on for the past 2-3 months went live and I was busy in preparing for the release, smoke-testing, fixing last minute bugs and making sure nothing is broken in production. The smoke-testing will go on for a couple of more days before the code is fully rolled out. It was quite an interesting few months of work and a great way to begin this year!

My contributions involved:

  1. migrating 3 business rule engine policies(related to managing seller risk) from an old platform to a new platform.
  2. updating the new platform to process these policies (adding new datapoints and code to handle what to do with the outcomes of policies)
  3. and some clever maneuvering(at least, I think so 🙂 ) in a legacy codebase so that sellers can be seamlessly made to go through the new platform instead of the old platform.

As a result, I had little time to read “The Count of Monte Cristo” during the weekdays. I’m kind of in the middle of this 1400 page book and I hate to not finish a book after picking it up. However, I made good progress with “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki” – the other book I have been reading. I think I’ll probably finish the book sometime in the middle of the next week unless it gets too crazy at work.

Interesting reads from this week:

  1. Peter Norvig, the director of research at Google on making errors:  Link
  2. The usual H1B visa discussion you see on hackernews every couple of months – Link – the anti-H1B sentiment on hacker news is nothing new, but I can’t deny that I learn new information/perspective every time one of these threads crop up.
  3. StackOverflow’s developer survey – Link . I’ll save you click – 2015 has essentially beenAnd, referrals continue to be the number one means of getting jobs(Link) – one thing I really wish changes.
  4. Make your own bubble in ten easy steps – Link
  5. turkeypants comments on What phase are you going through on reddit – Link

I also made some progress with my side project with Apache Nutch but not too far – setting it up turned out to be more difficult than I expected. I got Nutch to fetch and parse web pages, but I’m still having issues with storing the index on elastic search. It is probably a couple of hours of work –  I need to spend some time reading the docs to figure out what I’m doing wrong. I’m hoping to work on it again next weekend.