Seattle Sights

Here are some pictures from a quick weekend trip to Seattle. Vibrant greens, beautiful waterfronts, stunning lakes and lovely people. Can’t wait to visit it again!

Sunset Drama

Stunning Colors @ Diablo Lake

Flowing Beauty

Spellbinding Vistas

Mt. Rainier and A Carpet of Wildflowers

Needle @ Night

Seller @ Pike Place Market

Flowers @ Pike Place Market

Downtown Seattle

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Balance

You are sitting on it for the first time and your five year old self is scared to death. Just like its two wheels and two pedals, it seems to always put you in a dual state of mind… should I touch my feet down or just keep pedaling? Luckily for you there is your dad or elder brother right behind you, holding on to the carrier or the seat of the cycle. Coaxing you into taking your feet off the ground, he asks you to just keep pedaling and not worry about falling down. You trust him and start pedaling. Magical! You can’t believe that you are not falling down and still cruising along. Your brother says now he is going to let go but warns you against panicking. He lets go and maybe because in childhood you have an instinct to do exactly what you have been told not to, you panic, lose your balance and crash. You start crying and yelling at your brother accusing of doing this on purpose. You get into a squabble with him but are back on the two-wheeled monster again in a while. Slowly, over time, after falling down a few times you are able to nail every aspect of it and acquire the new superpower of cycling! This is the second, extremely significant time in your life that you have learned to maintain balance on your own, though you are blissfully unaware that your entire life you will end up doing just that… finding the right balance.

tightrope-walker_6_1415255aAs time progresses, those small wheels under you become bigger, bulkier, have more complex spokes, multiply in number and before you know it, you are old enough that those wheels morph into invisible circles and eventually surround you as personal, professional, social and a myriad different spheres entangled into each other. And yet you are supposed to do the exact same thing that you did decades ago… find the right balance. Between academics and cultural activities. Between being offensive and defensive on a sports field. Spending too much money versus saving so much that you become a miser. Watching news against watching the popular brain-dead but funny show. Between following your passions and keeping up with the daily chores. Between traveling incessantly and giving yourself a breather to recollect the beautiful memories. Between buying every little toy that your kid demands and disciplining her to earn her keep. Between writing too long a post in order to make a point versus the risk of losing your audience! Heck, for some people like this family of line walkers, balance is literally a question of life and death. You have no option but to learn to strike the right balance between these and innumerable other things for though your dad or elder brother are still around, even they can’t find the seat or the carrier of your life that they could hold on to, to keep you from falling.

It would then seem that the person who has learned to achieve perfect balance in the most complex situations would be the most successful person, right? Yes and no. It depends on how you define success. If it means having a simple life and meeting your goals across varied aspects of life, if you want to be an all-rounder then yes. But if success to you means fame and fortune of the highest level, of making a significant difference to the world, then it’s a totally different game. If we study the lives of the most iconic people in any field, there is a significant period when everything is in disarray, where balance might be the last thing on their minds. In due course, it seems that they do finally achieve what they set out for and the scale of balance looks just fine.

Apparently, even how to maintain balance through your lifetime is a balancing act in itself!

Maui, Hawaii – Part 1

Landing into Maui.

Landing into Maui.

Tiki torches adding a Hawaiian dimple to the lovely smile of the setting Sun

Tiki torches adding a Hawaiian dimple to the lovely smile of the setting Sun

At the Haleakala National Park.. up at 3 am, drove for 2.5 hours to watch the sun rise from below the clouds!

Few places can match this setting for a sunrise

The ocean of clouds!

The ocean of clouds!

Lanai island waking up to a beautiful morning

Stunning golf courses!

A Phone For Her

Apple, Samsung, Google… listen up! I am not sure if your mobile divisions are working to the best of their capacities. I wonder how else would they otherwise not target a demographic that constitutes almost half of the entire population! Don’t you think not having a phone specifically for the fairer sex is a bit, um, unfair? If you still cannot see the gaping hole in your product lines affecting the one that you could make in their purses, let me tell you, it is huge! Before your product managers start sweating over hammering out the requirements for this game-changing phone, please allow me to propose a few features that I humbly think would be revolutionary: phoner-for-her

  • Colors. Metallic black, plastic white? What were you thinking? Take a leaf from Microsoft’s phones full of (ghastly!) colors and come up with something zesty. Better yet, collaborate with L’Oreal and release the same phone in at least 100 different shades. I know this  drives up the production costs but think of all the girls who are fanatic about matching every color from head-to-toenail and you have a niche market right there!
  • Size. 4 inch, 7 inch screens, seriously? Girls die for things small and delicate. So a 2 inch screen should be more than enough. The biggest advantage is that the phone will stay in her jeans’ front pocket and not back. Why on earth do you think a phone should put a dent, or a weird bulge in this case, in her JLo inspired workouts? Can’t have a phone this small without sacrificing on functionality? The next point is just for you.
  • Motion simulator. Gone are the days of accelerometers and gyroscopes. What we need is a full blown motion simulator built into the phone. That way when those huge phones are buried into the deepest and darkest trenches of her oceanic purse from where no sound shall reach the surface and where no hand shall reach within 10 rings of the phone, the motion simulator can make the phone jump up and down and intimate its bearer of an incoming call with a tsunami-like urgency!
  • Apps. This could be a whole post in itself, but let me highlight a few must-haves:
  • MatchIt: With this app she basically takes one picture, either of her earrings, nail color, heels or any accessory and the app creates a detailed suggestion of all the other accessories shes owns  that go well with the pictured one.
  • SpeakOn: This is the simplest app to implement. All it does is says “hmmm”, “that’s true”, “you were right, dear” etc. at regular intervals, preferably in the voice of her male partner or better yet, in the voice of Ryan Gosling or George Clooney! The app should, in the background, detect if the girl and a guy are having a conversation, if she is talking for more than 3 minutes straight and if so, it should automatically launch itself and do its thing.
  • Maps: Google, I’m sorry to say this but Maps in its current form is one of  the most non-intuitive things you have ever developed! (Apple, I’m not even talking to you!) Do you know how much she has to stress herself out just because you can’t do your job with precision?  You need to sense when she is lost and re-route her accordingly. I know you do that even now, but please improve your re-routing algorithm to do its job within a fraction of a second. Or throw all your machine learning horsepower at detecting that a wrong turn is going to be made and prompt before that happens! You obviously don’t want the most used part of your app to be slow, right?

So there you go! Please ask your product managers to further research and come up with something innovative like this and not just launch the exact same product, only in different sizes for decades. With such well thought-out features, I am sure now you see why she would buy such a phone. Heck, there are reasons enough that even her male partner would gift one to her. I am looking forward to your announcement at the next I/O, WWDC etc.

P.S.  I had this eureka moment while I was trying to figure out which phone I should gift to my wife on her upcoming birthday. But as there is no such phone yet, and because my wife is smart enough to read between the lines of this post, I think it’s better to head to the jewelry store first!

Why Photography?

I am sure you have noticed that suddenly the interest in photography among the 20-30 age group has become a trend rivaled only by that of cat memes. The top answer to this Quora question says it all:

http://www.quora.com/Indian-People/What-is-the-latest-fad-among-the-youth-of-India (If you don’t have a Quora account, please get one. You will thank yourself for doing so.) photographers

I bet there is at least one friend you know who has bought a shiny new DSLR and who shares his photography on Facebook, fielding for Likes and comments. Typically in an album named “Through my digital eye”, “Clickography”, “Experiments with my camera”, “My photography”, “Frozen Moments” or some variation of these. Unless the person has been toying with a camera for more than a few years, the subjects of the pictures will mostly be a nicely focused shot of a flower, a slightly blurred bird, a beautiful sunset, random people on street, food plates, froth designs on coffee and such others. There is a high chance that some filters will be applied in such a way that the effect itself becomes the subject while the main subject is almost filtered out!

This post is about such people who are just getting into photography and while it may seem like I am mocking them, that is not my intention. Simply because at one point or the other, I have myself done some of these things as I grappled with figuring out my specific interests in photography. Wondering what has caused this sudden explosion in the desire to be a photographer, I think the following might be some of the important reasons:

Affordability. This one seems like the most obvious. Prices of cameras have plummeted. Compared to what they were just a few years ago they are a lot more affordable now. But still, while a DSLR costs me about a third of my monthly salary in US, it would cost me the entire month’s salary in India. Each new lens only adds to the cost. So though it’s a contributing factor, I don’t think affordability is the main reason. If it was a key factor in picking up a hobby, we would see a lot more writers and painters than DSLR slinging photowalkers.

Learning curve. Photography is an art which is closest to science. The basis of science is logic and the basics of photography operating a camera are nothing but plain logic. All you have to tweak is three controls, aperture, shutter speed, ISO and balancing them works just like a simple math problem. It’s hardly surprising that so many engineers love to pick up photography as their hobby! Set good exposure settings, focus with a touch lighter than on a TV remote, zoom in or get as close as you can to create a nice blurred background and voila, you have a nice looking picture… ready to share! You can hardly get such a good result so easily in any other art form. The scores of free tutorials on the internet, for taking pictures as well as editing them, which can easily be emulated step by step make it even easier to move from a novice to an advanced amateur level.

Instant gratification. This might be one of the biggest reasons why photography seems to be attractive. If with such minimal effort you can get Likes and comments by the dozens and appear to be doing something constructive with your life outside of office hours, why not? Hooked on to this appreciation, soon the photographer starts shooting more, sharing even more, putting watermarks on photos, © symbols in captions and before you know it, they have a Facebook page, “TM Photography” like any true professional would have. Oh and don’t even get me started on the apparent cool factor in doing photography, the biggest victims of which are the Instagrammers.

Creativity. Peeling off all the layers, I think this might be the most important reason. While some tend to nurture it more than others, I believe all of us have innate creative urges which need to be fulfilled. By creativity I am simply referring to a longing for creating something. If that something is relatively easy to learn, makes you feel good about yourself, is appreciated by those around you, consumes less time and can be done in tandem with hectic day jobs, what can be better than that? Photography fits this bill as snugly as a glove.

So what should we make of this proliferation of cameras and these self touted photographers? To keep this post from getting longer than the queue for the next iPhone, I am planning to write a follow up post about that. If you have given any thought to this subject, I would love to hear your views. But before you voice your opinions, can you please Like the photo I just shared on Facebook?

Moonstruck!

I knew it was going to be great! I was anticipating a lovely picture of the sun setting majestically against the backdrop of cars racing into a blur. Driving home from office, I was already thinking of just stepping in, picking up my camera bag, tripod and making a dash for it. As I arrived at the spot, I looked east and saw one huge cloud hovering over Mt. Hamilton. I hastily took a few pictures and turned my attention westwards. That’s where I thought, almost arrogantly, the action was going to be. My expectations kept rising as the sun kept lowering.

Huge, beautiful clouds, a break just above the mountain-lined horizon and the color started to appear. And just like an eccentric actor who makes an appearance under the lights but on a whim, does not put up an act and deserts the stage leaving the audience confused and confounded, the sun called it a day and left with only a sliver of bright yellow lining on the closest cloud. That was it! Arrogance melted, dissolved in disappointment.

But just as I turned around, dejection instantly turned into elation as if someone had flipped a switch! I saw a huge white blob rising slowly onto the purple tinged canvas. The huge mass of cloud still hanging over Mt. Hamilton looked as if a painter had touched it lightly with a brush that had more color than needed for the canvas. I rushed to capture this treat, relished doing so and left content having witnessed a beautiful end to a beautiful day.

At times, what we seek is indeed what we get but only if we change our perspective!

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