Rubios hai hai!

They have done it again. And this time it deserves a ‘hai hai’ (disapproval) post.

Rubios is (or in current state of disapproval I am, I should say ‘was’) my favorite place to eat inside price center for it is the place with nice vegetarian burritos complemented by great chips’n’salsa, which feels like a complete meal. The first time rubios disappointed me was an year back when they cut down upon the variety of vegetable they used to carry, inspite of those vegetables being popular in UCSD. They stopped keeping stri-fried peppers and onions, lettuce and corn. which were the items that always used to be in my burrito and I sincerely believed that burrito without them would be half as tasty.

But then what could I have done ):, in about a years time, the mere mortal I am, I got used the non-pepper-onion-lettuce-corn burrito. Whenever I had dinner at Price Center, I never used to think what should I eat – and rubios slowly caught up back gaining the top spot. The chips’n’salsa was the deal maker, acting as pseudo-papad and pseudo-chutney, infact I also started taking the jalapenos, which were like pseudo-achars. All this, with a peg of sprite at the end was in my opinion perfect for a price tag of $4.19. But today they did the unthinkable.

The first shock I got was when I had to pay $4.62 for ordering the ‘same’ meal. Thats like a whole f-o-u-r-t-y t-h-r-e-e cents more that it used to cost me. That like 10% raise in the price without any raise in my income. Thats like night light robbery. Thats like I dont have words to express it. Rubios again slipped my charts, but still hung on the first place owing to its huge lead, but the real shock I got was when the ‘same’ meal no longer remained the ‘same’ meal but now was a ‘different’ (read stripped-off-pseudo-papad-) meal. How would you feel when suddenly everything ‘same’ becomes ‘different’ Huh? How can rubios ever do this! Not to give your loyal customers the love of their meal. Thats even worst than chipotle not giving its UCSD customers the customary free drink. Comeon rubios, do you really want to loose of of you most loyal price-center-dinner customer?

New Ideas…

There are a couple of ideas floating around in my mind from some time now. I think these are brilliant ideas and if anyone implements them soon, it should be really useful to the pubic. I dont have the cost analysis, but will hopefully do some research to find its profitability. However, in todays world, more than often it happens that whatever idea you have, someone has already thought of it before and at times even implemented it. An my humble self has not done any googling to find if the solution exists. If you know of some products that solves the problems mentioned below do let me know.

Wireless Speaker

Now, if you think that a wireless speaker already exists, you are right you can purchase a good set of wireless speakers for about $100. Even a good wireless headphone comes for about $90. But my problem is exactly that. While I can buy both wireless speaker and headphones separately, it is inefficient as

  1. The ‘wireless’ part in both speakers and headphones is common
  2. I cant use my existing speakers and headphones
  3. Its expensive and there is no wireless version of ‘cheap’ headphones or speakers for travel use.

My solution to this problem is to have a wireless unit decoupled from the speaker. The base will connect to your sound device and it will have a receiver in which you can plug in any speaker or headphone.

The technology for this already exists and just by doing behind the envelope math, I think it could be easily sold for $10 – $20 which in my opinion is the right price for a ok quality product useful for the masses.

Personal Pandora

For those of you who dont know pandora – its an online personalized radio station. They have paid professionals to tag thousands of songs and then do matching based on those tags. You specify a song or an artist and they will play streaming audio, trying best to match the properties of your chosen artist/song. But

  1. It only for english songs
  2. I cant use it on my personal collection

My solution to this is to have a simple software that captures basic features of a song – beat, tempo, instruments, style – and matches them with other songs on my local harddisk. Now this one is a bit challenging. There is a lot of research going on in finding what are the best features to use to find similarity of two songs, but those people like most researchers are trying to ‘solve’ the problem, but what I need is a ‘noisy’ solution. It does not matter to me who composed the song or who sang it or what are the instruments playing, I just want something that automatically selects the songs based on ‘some’ basic features. Something like, “Give me the product right now and keep improving it later”

An extension of this could be used in personal parties where you need a DJ to find high tempo songs.

Super-resolution using videos

Now this one is half baked idea which just came to my mind today, and a thing of the future. The problem here is that how do I take photo at the right moment! Its difficult to time the shot in fast motion – like a person falling. And many motions cant be repeated with ease. Is it possible that you take a video of the motion and to rebuild one frame using information from the adjacent frames?

any takers?

Inspiration

“In this world anything is possible”, “You can become whatever you want to become”, “Dedication and hardwork can yield wonders” are some of the cliched statements we hear bazillion times that it looses its importance, seems pedantic and ultimately remains just a juxtaposition of some words.

Although proponents of this belief usually justify their claim based on real life examples of people achieving what they wanted to achieve, the disbelievers counteract by elucidating that for each success there in an improportionate number of people who failed even after trying, trying real hard.

I still think that everyone carries some such examples, some tasks which inspires them and they think that its inhuman to do it. A nice progression of one such example I really like in my life. Just try to be in different framework and you’ll enjoy the progression as I do.

6 years back if someone told me that he biked (all through the passage bike would mean bicycle) from Pitampura to India Gate (a distance of about 20kms), he would have been my example. 6 years back I had just entered the real life. All my examples were constrained by the small community I interacted with. But then Italy happened to me, and I myself did a 25km bicycle ride, 20km loosing its might. I still felt that a ride from Kanpur to Lucknow (a distance of 80kms) is a daunting task. Graced with some exposure of the real world, this was a suitable distance to cover, for someone I could quote. Then again we went for the kaza trip where we did about 150kms on hills, and Kanpur-Lucknow lost its charm.

I am not sure what would have been my next limit, but it seemed that another factor of 5 would have been suitable and a 1000km of bike ride seemed the right distance to set an example. This time well into the real world I was talking some distance. A distance I still feel is not possible for me, or atleast I would have to think hard to even consider it as an option. And when I was informed about a guy coming from Alaska to California (a modest distance of 3000km) by Diwaker, it remained my example for long, one reason being that I knew this guy by two degree of relation. I had no plans of changing my example by accomplishing this feat myself, that I read on national geographic about another inhuman who went all the way, this time from alaska to chile, god knows whats the milage of that trip (cant recollect the link. Sorry!).

Just today Dubey showed me this – Around the world using muscle power! In 13 years. Now we are talking world records. How about this as an example now? Too far fetched for real life examples eh! So get off your lazy beds and start riding!

Fasting Ver2.0

Khatri Bhai: Babaji, navratra is in two weeks.

Me: Hmmm…

Me: So should we do it this time too?

Khatri Bhai: <shrugging shoulders> I have no problem.

Me: So be it.

This was all it took to put us both again into the realm of fasting. Six days of controlled food, with hopefully controlled lifestyles too. Our first experience with fasting happened around the same time last year. But things were different this time. For one, we had the first hand experience of what it takes to fast, and two, I had read ‘Miracles of Fasting’ by Paul Braggs over the summers. Although filled with marketing pitches, repetitive information, and debatable anecdotes, this book did have an impression on me to increase the intensity of our fast.

We started it on 15th Oct, deciding only to eat fruits and vegetables, and drink just water. I personalized it with adding honey and lemon to my permissible list and Khatri bhai added milk. It might not be obvious from the list that this list meant no salt, no sugar, no milk products, no grains, no lentils for about a week (no chocolates too ;). To add to it, one day we would fast just on water. Again I personalized this to a 48 hour stretch just on water, occasionally mixed with little honey, and Khatri Bhai decided to add to his water fast a silence fast for two days Рno talking to anyone except in case of emergency.  In toto, it was a bit more strict fast than we undertook last year and consequently the experiences were also a bit different.

The one thing this fast reaffirmed my belief in is that it is not too difficult to fast given the right mindset. A lot of people ask, “dont you feel hungry all day?”, and my honest answer is, “No”. I did feel the bouts of hunger in the initial days, but those are only when the body clocks tells it that its time to eat some food. A glass of water and little patience is all it need to satiate it. Apart from that even on days of water fasting hunger was not something that occupied my mind. Yes, weakness does creep in, and one does feel low on average due to lack of energy which one derives from food. This is especially true for water fast.

Another question which people usually asked was “Why?”. I would have loved to answer this question with a simply by saying – “For the spirit of adventure”, but thats not probably the only reason I decided to go on fasting again. I do believe that during fasting the body starts a cleansing process to remove toxins. Once we stop eating, the body stops is building process and diverts its energy to the cleansing process. An this “belief” motivates my fasting endeavors. I also believe that, for this to happen in a proper manner, the body should be relaxed – both physically and mentally – all throughout fasting. This is what I missed last time, and this is what I missed again – a complete state of rest all throughout. Somehow or the other, living in a society, and fulfilling your responsibilities, complete relaxation does not really happen, however hard you try. So, I think it would not be wrong to say that a strict long fast is probably not in the best interest of the body in everyday society conditions, unless you are confident enough to achieve a restful¬† state.

It might be better to have a one day weekly fast for the conditions I am living in, probably not a water fast, but say a fruit fast or something to that scale. That might be a slow cleansing process, but it does fit into the contemporary lifestyles better than a week of fasting with 48 hours of water fast. Anyhow, it does feel good to have done the fast, to have controlled your desires and senses, to realize that hunger is overrated and we eat much more than we might need. It does help you to slow down your pace, to develop a real sense of taste. It does open your mind.

Motorcycle Diaries

‘Che Guevara’ – This name had no significance for me a month back, but amusing co-incidences happened that I was repeatedly exposed to this man, in various forms. For people who know him, it will be trite to answer this question, and for people who dont, the question is set up such that it trite for them now, but a month back if someone asked me who is he, inspite of seeing this face on numerous tshirts and some demonstrative posters, I would have not been able to answer it.

The first correlation of the photo and the name happened in the introductory class on histories of photography, where this photo was shown as one of the most iconic images ever. This was the first time I took notice of the name ‘Che Guevara’. The next week, ‘Che Cafe‘ (a student run cafe at UCSD) reopened after probably two years of hibernation. And as you might have guessed the cafe was named after Guevara, and was a place for student activism in the 1970-80’s. At its opening I saw this iconic photo again and the correlation strengthened. I was surprised to the core, when I heard the very name on a online “hindi” news radio (hindi bbc radio) a week back. It was the 40th anniversary of his execution and they felt it important enough even for the hindi speaking audiance, to have a 10 min presentation about his life history. The final blow comes today, after seeing the movie Motorcycle Dairies (courtesy: Khatri Bhai).

Guevara was a doctor by profession, but is now best known as a revolutionary. He undertook a long journey across South America in 1952 with his friend Alberto Granado on a motorcycle. This was the trip which transformed him from a everyday doctor to the leader of Cuban guerrillas. The movie is based on a book written by Che himself with the same name and in my opinion is an exceptional movie to watch – both for the movie in itself and for what the movie represents.

From the technical standpoint, I felt the cinematography was top notch. Somehow all these latin american movies that I have seen recently – Amores Peros, The City of God to name others, have really saturated images which looks like direct positive and gives a strong feel to the movie. The background score was apt and catchy, with some good dance number thrown it. Given that the movie has a serious note to it, nevertheless it is filled with light hearted dialogs throughout, funny enough to make you smile if not laugh your gut out. I’d recommend this movie to anyone who wants to see a movie with some substance.