Monday, December 10, 2007

My Marathon - In Pictures

Date: Nov 18, 2007
Time: 7:00 AM
Place: City Hall, Philadelphia

Around 18000 runners, about 500000 spectators - all at one glance - just can't get better

Run Forrest Run - Running away to glory - at around the half-way mark

The Final Step - after 2 hrs 25 mins 37 secs - etched on history's books

Over the finish line - 13.1 miles - 21 kms - the cherishing moment!!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A magical story : From the start line to the finish line

In a line - I successfully completed the Philadelphia half-marathon in 2hrs 24mins 31secs. And here's as the story rolls...

I drove to Philly the day before to attend the runners expo. I had to collect my Running Number - a sheet of paper that needs to be pinned to my tee-shirt and my Bib (not that one) - a tag used for timing the start and finish and which needs to be tied to the shoe lace. It was my first marathon and I was just surprised to see the festive atmosphere and the tons and tons of people around. Was also getting a bit nervous - I had never actually run 13.1 miles even in practice. Followed that up with a nice dinner at Penang Malaysian restaurant with Niki and her cousins and an early slip into bed.

Then came the big day. I had to wake up at 5:30AM to freshen up and rush to the start line. The official start time was 7AM and I happened to squeeze in there about 10 minutes before the kickoff. It was an amazing feeling - the atmosphere was electrifying - more than 16000 runners - more than 500,000 people in audience - it just cannot get better. It was similar to the New Year countdown with music, frolic and the actual countdown to the marathon. The temperature was just above the freezing point and I had my gloves and sweatshirt on, to keep myself warm. It was starting to drizzle a bit before the start and we were hoping that the rain doesnt come down hard on us.

And moments after 7:15AM came the real start. The 2007 Philadelphia Marathon was ON....
13.1 miles to go. There were markers and time boards at the completion of every mile. Also there were water/energy breaks at every 1-2 miles. Luckily the drizzle stopped in a couple of miles and I had to shed my gloves and sweatshirt as it was getting hot. For the first 4-5 miles, I was making a consistent timing of 10 minutes per mile. After an hour it was getting a bit tough to hold on to the speed. The most dreaded mile was the one from the 9th mile to the 10th. It was a very uphill path all the way and it came at a really bad time - I took about 15 minutes just to complete that mile. After the 10th, the rest seemed to be a pleasure. As I neared the end, the crowd was building up and people cheering everywhere. It was like a shot in the arm and all of us just started sprinting - for a second, all the 13 miles were left behind and it was the 0.1 mile to the finish line that motivated us. As I crossed the finish line, an unexplainable sense of happiness and satisfaction got over me. I have successfully completed the Philadelphia Marathon. All I could do was to turn back and look at my timing clock - it read 02:24:31 - a moment to capture forever - the magical moment!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A marathon story: From the start to the start line

It's been a long journey - one that's not yet reached its culmination point. I'm all set to run for the Philadelphia half-marathon this Sunday.
As I sat down to think about it, I realized that the only thing more arduous than reaching the finish line of the marathon was the very journey which led me to the start line. I still remember the first day - a crisp mid-June Sunday morning, the first mile - it seemed to last forever. Back then, I had never run more than a mile or two. The magic number 13.2 seemed to be a very distant target. And I had no clue what I was in for.
I started the whole journey motivated by two factors - first and foremost was the mere nature of the task and the fulfillment of achieving it. Next was the amazing feeling of participating in the intertwined fundraiser - an opputinity to give back to the world where it matters.
What goes unsaid are the long practice runs every Sunday, the short 3-4 mile runs two times a week (after the busy work day), those small things I had to give up for a short term - the Saturday late nights and the game of tennis (as it hinders with my running) to name a few. But what remains in the end is the satisfaction and the eagerness to march ahead as I approach the final frontier. I'm all set to run down my first half-marathon - hopefully the first of a long list yet to follow.
Will be back with the next half of the story, as soon as history is written...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Project Expense Calculator: Phase 2 kickoff

Project Expense Calculator: how it all began
Many a time, we find missing those simple things which make a big difference. Hmm, what happens then - something you just sit and brood. Sometimes you just decide to make the move and make it happen.
Here's one such story - all I wanted was a simple expense management tool which consolidates all my group's expenses. I hang out with a big group of friends and often consolidating all the group expenses (since usually only one person shells out the card) is a huge nightmare. I tried out a number of online expense management softwares - some dont do what i want, some are way too complicated to use, some just lack the transparency - it never worked out. And so it began - i wrote my own simplistic group expense manager tool which caters to my needs. And the platform - our very own simple Microsoft Excel.

Phase 2: The motivation
Its been almost two years since I rolled out ver 1.0 of the Expense Calculator and till date been a tremendous success and still accomplishes the purpose. But then, I realized that every product had to evolve over time and this is no exception. One is never really satisfied in achieving - you just gotto raise the bar. A clear thought on a fine day made me realize that while the Expense Calculator is good, there's room to get better.
Also I work at an investment bank where they use plain old Microsoft Excel to develop a trading system which churns out billions of dollars on a typical day. This heightened my respect for Excel. And there begins the groundwork for Phase 2 of Expense Calculator.

What's in Expense Calculator v2.0?
A small list of features added in
- Categorize your accounts
Now you assign a category (Food, utility, entertainment, etc) for every expense that you make. The rows are colored based on the category and it also provides a category based breakdown of the entire expense sheet.
- Customized for one and all
Now the expense calculator is fully customized for a layman. Start off the first time by customizing the list of people and the categories that you want. And the sheet does everything else for you. With tons of checks and helping aids you can never go wrong.
- Automatic payment calculator
The current version merely gives the net account value of everyone involved. And it was left to the user to decide the actual transactions as who pays whom to settle the accounts. This was quite a daunting task considering the fact that there are tons of possibilities. So the next gen calculator will have an automated system to propose the payments. What's unique about this is the fact that it analyzes tons and tons of possiblities and proposes the one with the least number of transactions.

There we go - a limited set of goals but those which will make the whole job of gathering and settling accounts a pleasurable experience henceforth.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A new wand - a new beginning

Well, yes - it is that time of the year again. Time for the wizard to replace his wand. The wait is over and in comes the iPhone.

Evolution and Revolution - two factors which drive every product, every business, every industry. A hearty mix of both is what drives a healthy balance. Every product evolves over time - a slow process taking one step at a time. And then comes the revolution - a big bang which redefines the basic equations and opens to a new world of possibilities. On the same context, I would place the iphone as a revolutionary product as it redefines the basic principles on a lot of factors. And with this, I begin my long story of 'The good, the bad and the ugly'.

After a few months of painful wait - i finally got my very own iphone. I've toyed with it for almost a week now and here are my first impressions.

What makes it a Killer
  • The interface: Mindblowing is the only way I can describe the user interface in iPhone. The 3.5 inch touchscreen, the uncomplicated and intuitive layout, the cool "scrolling" and the multitouch zoom - all stack to account for the amazing look and feel of this device. Everything is integrated so seemleesly. Actions seem to just flow from one step to another.
  • Internet browsing: Surfing the web from a mobile device has always been a challenge. Buoyed by a 3.5" screen and the revolutionary Safari browser, iphone neatly scales up to the challenge. But for the slow AT&T Edge network, browsing is now exactly the same as on a computer.
  • The best iPod: With the touchscreen and the coverflow feature, this is easily the best iPod to date.

What kills the iPhone?
Well, its no big secret that most of Apple's first generation products are ridden with harrowing bugs and voids and the iphone is no exceptions. Here are a few which kill the iphone.
  • The phone: At the end of the day, the most important function of the iphone is being a Phone itself and this is where it falls short. The call quality is strictly average, the phone volume isnt so loud, the speakerphone is but a misnomer. Definitely more work required on this front.
  • Apple's narrow-minded approach for third party apps: Apple wants to dictate what apps should be present on my iPhone and to me this is highly unacceptable. I need to be the one to decide what is on my phone. Moreover, with a device so powerful, opening them to third-party software can unleash a whole new exciting world. No apps, no games - are you kidding me? Most of all, I miss the Poker game and the brickbreaker game.
  • Sub-par camera: With no zoom and no video capture, the camera of iPhone falls way behind its competitors.

No plus, no minus
Some features which have their own niceties and their own drawbacks
  • Touchscreen keypad: I must agree that I was very skeptical on a touchscreen based keypad. After a couple of days of using it, I am able to type in pretty accurately. And this is partly helped by the neat spelling correction utility. Still I miss the tactile feedback of a physical keypad. Also this index finger typing will never be as fast as the two thumb typing in blackberries and smartphones.
  • Sms: Impressed by the neat tagging of Sms messages into a single conversation but highly disappointed by the lack of Mms support.

What I want to see next up in the forthcoming updates
  • Flash support: Easily the most desired feature in the iPhone. Web browsing looks a little incomplete without flash support. Every mobile company is on a race for this.
  • A2DP: Audio over Bluetooth is something nice to have and is a basic feature in most modern phones.
  • Cut copy paste: Well a lot of lives just revolve around this. A must have.
  • Games, games & more games: Leave alone third party apps and games, it's high time Apple started supporting its own games and utilities.
On a final note, I think the iphone is an amazing phone, and ofcourse has its own shortcomings. And I really hope Apple improves the phone with some good software updates.

PS: If any is a good indicator of how fast you can type on an iphone - this whole article was written and posted from one.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Techno Corner : My fiddlings with my Wand

Technology has always fascinated me. So has the increasing dependence of mankind on the world of technology. Though I must admit that I am scared that one day technology will be so advanced as to belittle and take over mankind. Hmm... letz not get into that.

Amongst those mini, micro gadgets is the CELLPHONE - a device which keeps the time-based distance between any two points on earth to less than 5 seconds!! They have evolved from those hard-rock, brick-like communication devices to sleek smart all-pervasive gadgets where the name 'cellphone' is nothing but a misnomer.

The world of integration is the key to the future. Mobiles are not just used for communication anymore. Put in a high-end digital camera, chip in a classy music player, and add in outlook and other web tools, and also throw in a few gigs of storage. Well thatz what the phone of today look like - incredible!

But, besides all these, the one thing that fascinated me the most is the idea of plugging in an Operating System. BOOM! Now you've bridged the gap between the phone and the computer. And out come the Smart Phones - the truly smart ones - with tons of softwares and tools. Well, other than the huge display and the keyboard, now I can't see a reason why the mobiles can't obliviate the computers in the future.

And the wizard has met his wand - my first fiddlings with my smartphone sparked out the great magic that I can perform. And SO IT ALL BEGAN. Herez a glimse of my wand and itz encompassing world. Bringing magic to your fingertips - thatz what this is all about.

As I set down to spin my web of magic, I started to ponder over the enormous list of applications that I can create. The key is simple - itz not to just develop an app, well, you gotto build a killer app. Skilled workmanship by itself is deadly. But that powered by artful innovation is the ultimate solution.

The key idea is that, despite the limited capabilities of mobile devices, one can develop killer apps which can leverage on their strengths. Today mobile phones are an inherent item in one's arsenal and go almost everywhere with the person. And any application which leverages this feature will be a killer app. And so I came up with two ideas which can kick off well.

1) Expense Manager
How many of us would love to keep track of each and every expense that we make. How many of us would want to know our monthly expenses on food, rent, transportation, groceries, etc. A desktop software is painful as I need to remember all my expenses and key it in when I get access to a computer. However a mobile software can alleviate all these issues - whenever you spend on anything, anywhere, just pull out your mobile and key in the expense. Darn simple!!!

2) Mileage Calculator
Almost everyone of us have a car at home. And we've always wanted to keep track of its fuel mileage and find out how fuel-efficient our cars are. Herez finally a solution - just plug in a few details every time you fuel up and it does the rest for you.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Man's Doomsday Conspiracy

Well, a very strange topic indeed. An end to mankind - how shall it all come!!! Will it be a gaint meteor swooping down to leave all to ashes n dust? or will it be an evolution - a new creature that evolves (like man did) to annihilate all the predecessors? or will it be that one fine day, the profilic sun stops shining and the earth just withers away? or will it be the day when all other plants and animals decide or organize the monsterous coup in the history of (ironically) mankind.

Hell, no! Man needs no enemies. He's his own enemy and will bring about his own end. Gone are the days when noble men strode along with the humblest virtues . Today those thoughts are but withering whispers. So much deceit, so much ill-will, so much violence, so much greed. Where kindness unseen, where truth and honesty unspoken, where love and compassion unheard - the very norm of the day changes and the doom becomes imminent. The gloom of unhappiness casts its dark blanket. And it all ends.... only to make a new beginning!

A simple push did it all. Off the cliff he went down the deep gorge. He was falling! falling all the way down! Mixed thoughts and emotions raced through his mind as called aloud to the Almighty One, "What fault did I my Lord, to deserve such punishment, to be deceived so dear. Those I trust, those I believe, those I helped when in need - the very those deceived me here. What fault did I my Lord?". The skies shuddered, the winds shimmered, the rocks quivered as the Almighty One replied "O great son, I know not that danger was near. Thy virtues are those that lead to thy fall. The evil man has taken the world. But fear not, my son, fear not! Thy greatness deserves not such treatment. Cometh my Angel to scoop thee and land thee safe!". And he swayed down the gorge and saw the angels appear amidst the skies. Then came his voice, loud and clear, "No my Lord. Let me fall. I wish not to live. Let me die than to live in such misery and deceit. Forgive those who did this for time shall answer them all. And as I fall, wipe all memories of this happening, so I carry forth all great memories and remember no misery or deceit. So I fall, so I fall".

Dream your dream!!!

In hiding we lay, waiting for time to say,
'rise my friends and make your moment'.
aeons passed, many a sun had risen.
still no signs. we layst still,
tuggin on a rope by the name of hope!
Then came Time, one final moment,
to lend a hand to the riders of HOPE.
And off we flew, like the Pheonixes from the pyres,
to dream our dreams and live them too....

Arise my friends. Itz time to rise and shine, and LIVE OUR DREAMS!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Where IT all begins! Me to begin with...

It is but the beginning of a long journey. And what better way to begin than to begin with me.

Ahem, a whole page to boast abt me! dont get that too often n so let me do it with pride!

the story goes so on. two roades leadst the way. two choiseses that me may make. one road sayeth so - 'take on me, no turns, no toils, sail smooth, the same sprawling meadows stretch till any eyes can strain, the yellow daffodils and the singing winds to keep thee company, and remain it shall the same - forever n forever'. the other one lookst n sayeth 'hold hither, a journey me promises not to be sweet, roll the tide, toil the roads, thee may fall to never rise, or thee may rise to never fall, i tell you not what holds for thee but i tell you this - few reacheth the end of my mighty journey!'.

Well, life is always full of choices. times where thee may sit and let the time roll thee thru - smooth it may seem, pleasant and nice, but behold for the wicked deceiver by the name of TIME leadst you on a journey where thee have everything BUT CHOICE!!! thee goeth where the tide takesth thee, where the time leadsth thee but not where thee want to goeth! And then thee longs to take the ROAD NOT TAKEN - where thee toil against the tide, where thee play against the time to reach where thee wants to goeth. But then, it's all too late... so make not that mistake my friend, strive for what you want and fault not - those beliefs, those virtues, those goals, the pleasure is hard-earned but also more sweet. so arise, awake n act now!

things do not change by themselves, mountains dont move by themselves - there is someone who changes every small thing, somebody who moves those mighty mountains, so ask yourself this simple question - WHY NOT IT BE YOU?

I am IT. (Ayn Rand - Anthems)

kool dniheb eht dnoyeb rof ereht seil eht erutuf!