Thursday, February 23, 2017

What is Focus

Focus, is to have your very good friend working out with you in the early morning hours and she repeatedly tries to greet you (3 times specifically) and you don't even notice that, let alone acknowledge her, for the only thing going on in your mind is, "will my left knee hold up till the end of the workout, was all that rolling worth it?". 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How easy is it to get hacked?

The below incident happened to me and is true

Other day I was getting back to my office from lunch break and my phone rang, the number that popped up was a 1-800 number. I usually ignore these kinds of calls, but to my bad luck I answered. The caller on other side had a very very thick accent and said he was calling me from AT&T and they are conducting a survey for customer satisfaction and so on, he also mentioned that there is a bill credit of $x per line for taking the survey. Considering I have been with AT&T for more than a decade and have been happy with their service, I was more than happy to answer a couple of questions. Towards the end of the “survey”, he mentioned I would be receiving a message with a number and I should repeat the same back to him to process my credit. I did receive the number and faithfully repeated the same to him. He said thanks and good bye and I did the same.

Once I came to office, I saw a series of emails that my account has been locked and need to be reactivated before I can use my phone. The idiotic me thought this was a hoax and when tried to call my wife it went to “AT&T Fraud Department”,  I cut the line and re tried with the same result. At this point I didn’t have a choice but to talk to the AT&T fraud department who explained to me the following
  • Some one was trying to hack into my account and buy a phone on my account
  • There is a pin number that is established between me and AT&T which should never be given to anyone at anytime
  • There are apps out there that can make a phone call to have come from any number of your choice
  • AT&T never calls people for a survey
  • I have to go to the AT&T store with 2 forms of ID (DL and credit card would do) to get my account re-activated. Which I faithfully did and got my account back.
In retrospect, there were lot of red flags that should have triggered my defense mechanisms. For starters, the call came to me, I didn’t make the call; the guy on the other side had an extremely thick accent (even for outsourcing, it was bad), the bill credit of $x/line is ridiculous considering I have had to fight tooth and nail to get even $4.99 back from them. 

Of course all of these are hindsight, which in most cases is better than 20/20.    

Friday, February 17, 2017

More than one way to show and tell

A very good friend of mine recently pointed to me that our pet Daisy is getting featured on my blogs more than Avni. Not that anything is wrong with it but it means my focus is probably becoming lopsided. So, here goes one for Avni without Daisy.

As part of her kindergarten vocabulary builder and associated show and tell we had Avni do the word “Satellite”. Explaining the concept to Avni and her ability to reproduce were both easily achieved. Now came the challenge of the show and tell. We figured since moon is a natural satellite of earth, we can do moon as the show and tell. But the question still remained how would we show the satellite aspect of moon or in other words it wouldn’t make sense to just show picture or toy for moon without showing that moon goes around earth and that’s why it is a satellite.

Avni had a clear idea in her mind, she said she would make a moon and earth and hold them in each hand and rotate moon around earth. I wasn’t convinced with the idea and asked Dr. Google for help which came up with some sort of kit to show this. Needless to say, Avni wasn’t convinced with Dr. Google’s idea either. So, we decided to implement on our own.

After almost half hour later we had the following, 


Even though the pirated version was more representative, we let her take her own creation for show and tell. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Even Daisy knows . . . . . .

Every weekday morning after dropping Avni to school, Daisy knows its her walk time and to an extent demands it as though it’s her right. She patiently waits till Avni has gone to school and won’t make a single peep till I am back after school drop off. She patiently watches our morning rush to get Avni to school, but the moment I am back, she keeps wandering around me and I guess in her language asking me “Can we go now” or"isn't it time yet".

She is patient and waits by my side as long as I am doing real/actual work like using the bathroom or drinking water or running laundry. The moment I take the phone and start staring at it, she loses patience and starts vocally showing her impatience.  Trust me she won’t stop till I keep the phone down.

I wonder if she is saying “please keep the phone down for in not doing so, you are wasting your time (which is ok) and you are wasting my precious time too” :) 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Science meets Spirituality

Ok, to put the disclaimer this is not the end and all is well but felt a great step. Other day I was driving home from lunch and on air was the program Think from Kera, Texas. I am usually not enthusiastic about this program but this time the interview was with Ian Roberstson, clinical psychologist turned scientist from Dallas TX.

At the time I tuned in they were talking about how people can perform better just by saying “I am very excited” to themselves even under extremely stressful situation, this truly caught my attention. For this was one of the mantras we had chosen almost more than a decade ago (when I had just finished my first Art of Living course), it went something like “Fake it, till you make it”. Essentially meant keep tricking your mind and retraining it to think positive and enable to achieve bigger things by keep telling it you like what you are doing. In those days it was usually related to Art of Living things. As I listened further it went on to how athletes can perform better by keeping the mind in present moment and not thinking about the very recent failure.

I was so excited with these snippets and tidbits and for the first time in my life I Googled the program and listened to the whole interview. he talks about importance of stretching out of our comfort zone, setting up small achievable goals and going at it and most importantly importance of breathing. People who have done Art of Living course will be able to relate to lot of things Dr. Robertson is saying.

I got so excited I even ordered the book in kindle edition. I am sure I will be posting one more post when I am done reading the book. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Carnival Cruise to Mexico

Going on a Cruise was one of those curious things that I wanted to explore ever since couple of my friends went and were very excited about the whole experience. Of course the friends experience is more than 4 years old and I did try booking back then itself only to be cancelled multiple times due to Carnival Ship issues.

Guess the saying goes, third time is the charm but in our case we succeeded the 4th time. After much deliberations and discussions we booked our cruise for middle of December and were very excited about the whole prospect.
  • Boarding the ship is probably one of the slowest things one can imagine, park the car, take the luggage, then the first step of document verification and next stop for one more document verify and boarding pass issued
  • They claim to have done staggered boarding but still the boarding time takes a while, so be patient
  • Once on board at around 3:30PM they will have the emergency drill at around 4:00PM which is mandatory and all need to attend, no exceptions. It is one of those “what you resist will persist”, they will make sure everyone shows up and no exceptions
  • Once the drill is complete, you are free to roam around and on your own
  • Neither the adults only pool nor the all access pools are heated, if the weather is warm then bearable else utterly cold (specially when docked in Galveston)
  • We didn't get to try out much of the entertainment portion much for our daughter was happy being in the water and they had something or the other going on on top deck
  • May be different in other ships, in ours the only place to cross across the ship end to end was on floor 5 (deck with casino and bar)
  • We went with the ship onshore excursions for both Progresso and Cozumel, so no comment on off ship hiring
  • Progresso has some sandy beaches and somewhat reminded me of Port Aransas, water is neither blue nor brown (like in Galveston) and somewhat in between.
  • Cozumel is a totally different story, crystal clear blue waters, the ocean looks like one gaint swimming pool. If you are into swimming then definitely try snorkeling while there.
  • The support staff on the cruise were from all over eastern Europe and Asia. Did meet a bunch of Indians in the support staff and one couple from Bangalore
  • The staff were very kind and courteous.
  • Food was great, even the oily burger and burritos were great tasting
  • We could have potentially used room service but didn’t find any menu to order from and the suite itself was small that we were discouraged to use room service
  • For Dinner out of the 5 nights we had Indian option on 3 nights ( one night we ate in the buffet)
  • The best thing for me on the ship was being off the grid, I just put my phone in the locker and kept it there for all the 5 days.
  • The vastness and calmness of the ocean was to a large extent therapeutic
  • Be careful of the wind gusts specially in the night
  • The passengers on the cruise were all sorts and kinds
  • Did I say embarkation was painful, de-embarkation was even more painful. It took us almost 4 and half hours to get off the ship and start driving
  • It is not the ship facilities but the terminal to check us back into US was the slow process
  • Self checkout by carrying all our bags would have saved us around 30minutes of our time
  • Everything costs ~1.5X on the ship that what it would cost on land, I have to mention the duty free shops at Cozumel port was beyond joke
  • They had a big sale of watches on the ship on the last day and lot of people were buying too, may be Christmas time or they did see a genuine value in those watches.
All in all it was a fun experience and definitely recommended. We did not have any seasickness to any extent, I did learn a trick that a green apple a day can keep seasickness away (may be that explains the lack of red apples on the ship).

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

History brings perspective

Growing up as a kid, I hated Social Studies and specially history. Looking back I blame it on the teachers who refused get us fired up about history. Thanks to my dear friends for getting me hooked up with podcasts and I am becoming a history buff. Granted I still can’t remember the exact dates of events and I am now listening for fun instead of an exam.

One should study history and not just once own country’s history but world history or at the least the major events that shaped the world we live in. I have been listening to this podcast on crusades back in the Middle Ages (1100-1300 ad) and I think it has added a new dimension to my view of the world.  

Before the crusades podcast, my interest in history had been either Indian history or the biggest event of modern times the world war II and to some extent world war I. While listening to the podcasts on ww II I was mind boggled by the scale at which the war took place and finally got to appreciate the fact that  our (Indian) then leaders like Gandhi and Nehru supported the British against the axis forces, that's a separate blog post in itself. It made me believe human consciousness evolves to an extent in parallel across the globe irrespective of the distance.

Now back to crusades podcast, after listening to almost 90 odd episodes each 25 minute long spanning from 1st crusade to king Louis crusade I have learnt the following things
  • Back in those days the whole world believed in pillaging and looting of conquered territories
  • Back in those days mass killing of captured population was part of common culture
  • No empire or kingdom lasts for ever, Rome got destroyed by the barbarians from Europe and Byzantine empire got destroyed by crusaders, the Muslim empire got destroyed by the Mongols and so on
  • Intolerance towards practice of other religion was truly up to the whims and fancies of the kings/rulers and their needs.
  • If I think Hinduism has too many castes/sects, Christianity and Islam have their own with each one claiming superiority over other
  • Infighting and Traitors aren't patented to India alone they exist all over the world
  • Destruction of property or materials that are sacred to other religion or conversion of their place of worship to your own was also a common practice
  • Feudal system and practice is not a patent of India alone, it existed all over the world
  • Money and trade always and mostly trumped religion
  • Catholic church in the middle ages was corrupt beyond my imagination, I never truly comprehended this till I started hearing the podcasts
In short, I have been blaming the Islamic invasion of India for destruction of property and looting and killing of innocents and I have to an extent come to terms that the world was like that back in those days and I do feel we have come a long way since then.