Lists are popular ways to convey sets of ideas in an attention-grabbing manner so I’ve given it a shot. I think it’ll also have the benefit of forcing me to improve my thought structure. With the way I’ve planned it out in my head I believe number 5 on the list will be the most important.
Throughout college I flirted with working out under encouraging pressure from my sophomore and junior year roommate. In my senior year I took a step further and enrolled in a weight training class. Looking back that’s where many of my ambitions in the gym developed. For example, my main goal has always been power. I don’t care to bulk or tone but I desire power to be able to dunk one day.
I’ve reached new heights, sustained injuries (and recovered), met interesting people, and learned about myself in ways I didn’t expect. In this post I’d like to share the insights that help in the gym and outside and solidify these realizations in my own mind.
1. Find your balance.
(Corollary: Don’t judge others negatively for their balance.)
Some people want to build their endurance. Some people like to bulk up. And many others are pursuing a variety of other goals. My goal is power and I learned many things from all sorts of people. Between observing people exercising, talking with people, taking a class, and lots of Googling I’ve created a balance in my workout and along those lines I am creating a balance in my life. I am similar to people but also different. This means I can have role models influence the way I lead my life but the finer details are under my control.
When you find your balance every day will be progress. Dreams aren’t achieved instantly but through deliberate habits built over weeks and months and setting up the right mix of personal tasks is the core of reaching dreams.
(Corollary: I don’t want to be negatively judged based only on difference. To earn that privilege I do not negatively judge others because they are different. Some people know better than me in some areas and I am more knowledgeable in some areas. See lesson 2 for the importance of this corollary.)
2. Learn from others.
(Corollary: If someone doesn’t know something, educate them if they are willing.)
Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants” (according to Wikiquote (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton), anyway). Take this to heart. I learned about exercise quickly under the guidance of my roommate, weight training instructor, and after school I learned from people with more experience and knowledge than me. I’m acutely aware of this concept as an engineer: every bit of modern technology is an embodiment of Newton’s quote. It works for all aspects of life too! I’ve learned better ways to organize, better ways to study, better ways to work, even better ways to play games from other people. Always be open to lessons and constructive criticism.
(Corollary: You can lend your shoulders to someone else, too. This XKCD coming is closely related to what I am attempting to convey:
WIth that being said if you are dealing with an uninterested person I wouldn’t bother unless you are required to (such as if it is your job). There are better ways to spend your time and energy.)
3. Consistency is key.
(Corollary: If you don’t actually do something nothing will happen.)
Body development of any sort needs time to take hold. A beginner will see rapid gains at first but these will taper off and only hard work will keep the gains in strength, endurance, power, etc. coming.
This same idea works wonders for studying, work, cleaning, and anything else you can think of. Consistent studying intuitively leads to better understanding and consistent work leads to more work getting done. Keeping a dorm room, apartment, or house clean consistently makes a messy domicile a thing of the past. Good habits take time to build and require consistency to develop strong roots.
(Corollary: This corollary is axiomatic.)
4. If you are hurt, take the time to heal.
(Corollary: Don’t put yourself in a position to be hurt again.)
As I worked to increase my vertical I ran into trouble with my knees. I don’t think it was the exercise so much as playing basketball and ignoring a knee injury I sustained thinking I would just walk it off. It degenerated to a point I felt compelled to go to my doctor about it. Fortunately there were no signs of fracture or other serious conditions but I did need to back off for a while.
Even now I still have knee issues but I am taking the time to let myself heal and also working to strengthen core muscles and ligaments to improve my knee’s health.
I did, however, try to power through it for a while and boy did that HURT. It’s never a good idea to push through pain for no good reason. It happened with my body and it happened with my mind too. I hit some low points in school that I tried to power through when really what I needed to do is slow down and let myself heal. In particular rather than try to push through a period of time when I was figuring out where my academic ambitions were I tried to do everything and ended up sick, miserable, and unhappy.
Life finally got better when I admitted to myself that I am not invulnerable physically or mentally.
(Corollary: Part of the growth here is to not get hurt again. If I broke my leg I don’t intend to repeat what hurt me to begin with and that applies to any situation. I don’t intend to get overwhelmed to the point of depression, for example, realizing that I can have more success focusing on fewer goals than too many. As Ron Swanson would say, “Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.”
As much strength as it takes to giving yourself time to heal it takes even more strength to not repeat any bad habits that could have lead to it (I’m more referencing mental trauma rather than physical here). It’s simple but even I lose sight of it in the heat of the moment. Emotions are very powerful.)
5. Working smart still involves working hard.
(Corollary: It’s okay to have inefficiencies.)
I’ve often heard the expression, “Work smart, not hard.” The idea seems to be that if I manage to work in just the right way I will achieve success without breaking a sweat.
After years of conscientious exercise though I claim that expression is bullshit. Here is the way I see it now: Working smart multiples the results of working hard. I can spend a year planning the perfect workout routine but if I don’t actually spend any time in the gym I have gained nothing. Similarly if I keep at a poor routine I will certainly see some gains but I’ll likely put myself at risk for injury and not take advantage of the potential I may have. As I work hard if I also work smart I can constantly be improving my rewards.
This does lead to the mathematical truth where you can achieve the same level of success with less work. You can choose that option but my preference is to try and improve myself and my output as much as possible.
Whether it’s at work or at home I need to work hard to make sure I get things done.
(Corollary: 100% efficiency is not required. I believe the common expression is, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” It’s okay to have time to relax, read for pleasure, play video games, hang out with friends, and more. After all, research is building a case for willpower being a limited resource which means it needs time to recover. Leisure time and pleasure should be a part of the balance – a balance I mentioned in the first lesson)
Writing a list posed some interesting challenges. I had the obvious challenge of stating my thoughts and experience as concisely as possible. I also ran into cases where my thoughts seemed to make sense in my mind where the “flow” of connections can be less structured than in writing. I had to restructure my thoughts for clarity. It made for a better blog post and I feel more streamlined in my mind (which is a great feeling, by the way – I feel like I have really set the foundation with these lessons so that I can build on top of them).
The laptop I used since early 2010 finally died in the middle of this year. I’ve talked about this laptop twice before including one occasion where the laptop failed and HP repaired it. The same problem cropped up again it seems where the laptop would not turn on and flashed error codes. After some research it looks like the CPU failed. It’s been 3.5 years since I got it and I reevaluated my computer usage and surprisingly found Chromebooks to be useful and inexpensive for my needs. I do not like to play games while on the go and I don’t have a history of activities beyond internet browsing when I am out of the house or abroad. Since I already have a Google account and am mired in the Google ecosystem (Gmail, Android, etc.) a Chromebook is just enough to satisfy my needs. Plus it’s a new “toy” to play with and that’s always exciting! (as an added bonus I got a hard drive upgrade for my desktop using the laptop’s hard drive)
I’ll share more detailed thoughts later but I just wanted to share the excitement of opening up my new gadget!
Blogging unsettles me because I associate it with narcissism. The feeling is exacerbated by the limited reach of this blog. However I have found reasons to keep blogging through introspection.
1. Contributing to the documented collective experience of humans.
The internet brought about an unprecedented level of communication between people and a lot of it is documented. Many people are unaware of the extent but it is safe to assume that anything that has been on the internet is on there forever. I find reviews particularly useful as they help me come to an informed decision about a new product I am considering purchasing. I find reading about others’ experiences helpful because it is more information for me to use in my own life. I don’t want to be only a consumer in these and other pieces of communication that benefit people. I want to contribute. Blogging is one way of doing so that balances the skills needed for entry, the time required, and the potential audience in a way that suits my circumstance.
2. Developing and maintaining skills related to writing.
There are benefits of blogging to me that provide the driving motivation to continue writing provided I set my expectations properly. I am not hoping to become famous though I certainly won’t deny that it’s nice to think about. Probably the most immediate and tangible result of blogging for me is improvements to my writing. If I don’t write I can’t continue to improve my grammar, use of vocabulary, and my voice. Rather than lament a lack of development I want to choose to be proactive and practice by writing regularly.
3. A combination of keeping in touch with friends, journaling, and learning.
I want to keep in touch with everybody in my life but that can become temporally prohibitive. There may also be cases where I have the time but my friend does not. These are cases where having a blog can be useful. Especially with useful titles and headers a friend can understand if a blog post is useful or not. My prior flirtations with search engine optimization also indicate that this is good for building a wider audience as well. Mysterious titles may be useful for self-aggrandizing but serve no further purpose. Additionally some thoughts come out better when written than when spoken in a conversation. There are benefits and drawbacks to both forms of communication and maintaining both lines can be helpful.
In the process of revealing various details of my life from my thoughts to mundane details like a new purchase I am also journaling. A quick Google search for “benefits of journaling” finds sources (many of them blogs!) that claim benefits of journaling. Anecdotally speaking I find that I am better able to process my thoughts and feelings, I have some sort of record I can look back on for future reference, and seeing my thoughts in writing often provokes further inquiry and insight.
I think that practically reasons 2 and 3 are what drive me to rationalize blogging as useful via reason 1. Still I think that the thought process is valid so I have no problem with crafting an experience that benefits me if it also serves to benefit others.
Now comes the difficult period of forming a habit so that I can reap the benefits.
I’ve been playing Age of Empires Online and I am distressed.
Let me add context: I love video games. Video games provide an outlet of expression for developers and gamers alike, a new art bringing untold potential to humanity’s table. Personally video games have helped me get through tough times by relieving stress, catalyzing the learning of life lessons, and, in the case of the Age of Empires series, teaching me history in an interactive experience.
As a gamer and as a fan of the Age of Empires series I had high hopes. I should have known that these hopes would be obliterated like a castle bombarded by an army of trebuchets (for anyone unaware: a reference to Age of Empires 2).
To be fair the core game is amazing. The real-time strategy (RTS) portion of the game (as opposed to the quests and crafting) is rock-solid, in my opinion. The game is paced just right and the resource gathering, combat, and other aspects are – in my opinion – spot on. There are not many civilizations available for selection but there doesn’t have to be. Each civilization has a unique feel.
Beyond that the AI is competent which is a very pleasant surprise. And collaborating with other gamers or finding a sparring partner for PvP is dead-simple.
The icing on the cake is the stylized graphics and cheeky humor. Age of Empires Online has personality. How many game can claim that? (In case you don’t know my answer, here it is: not many can truly claim that)
I could expand on the good qualities but alas for all the good Age of Empires Online has it has been weighed down with cement shoes by some mafia boss of a manager or producer. Some moron decided to take Age of Empires Online and slap onto it a free-to-play system. On top of that the idiot-in-charge ignored any successful model for a free-to-play game and set up something frustrating and inadequate (I mean come on, League of Legends was right there!). To be fair I don’t know who made the decisions behind the scenes but I can see where some good people tried to make the best of a bad situation but…
There’s a good reason the developers had to announce no further developments for the game: the people in charge screwed up. Read this portion:
Why no more content?
Because creating top-tier content, as we have been for the last year and a half, is very expensive—too expensive to maintain for long, as it turns out. We can no longer afford to keep creating it. AOEO already has a very large amount of high-quality, hand-crafted entertainment, and adding more is no longer cost-effective.
In other words the game makers failed to pull in the revenue needed to continue with the game. Or they never planned on going beyond what they’ve done anyway – which is, in other words, create a standard retail game and disguise it as a free-to-play game.
Whichever the case may be the developers made critical errors in judgment:
The priorities are backwards. The core of the game has always been a great skirmish/sparring mode with an interesting campaign added on but here the developers somehow created an extensive campaign (sometimes interesting, sometimes not) and walled off the interesting things (read: PvC and balanced PvP) with a financial barrier to entry. The carrot on a stick here is that it’s theoretically possible to earn entry without spending money but at what cost? More time than it is worth. I’ve put in more than 60 hours and have not gotten close to unlocking anything without paying.
The game is unfair without purchasing premium. Many powerful items that you can equip or use (an idea I am fine with) are locked away from free players who have not upgraded a civilization to premium. At lower levels and towards the beginning of the game this doesn’t prove to be an issue but when computers start using items that give them an unfair edge over the player it becomes a frustration rather than an incentive. It’s not that the computers are using items that is an issue – it’s that when compared to items available to non-premium players the premium items are overpowered leading to an imbalance that can only be corrected by paying.
There is little value for any money you do put into the game. At 900 Empire Points, or EP, to unlock a civilization the price can quickly become steep for unlocking 3 or 4 civilizations. Add to that having to unlock the skirmish mode (PvC), Champion PvP (PvP without items and everything accessible) and other modes you get a full-priced game disguised as free-to-play. If this is how they were going to price it they should have just made it a more traditional release than with all these other extraneous trappings. There is a great cognitive dissonance (is that how this expression works?) between what the game claims to be and what the game is.
Apparently the idea of making a good, satisfying free-to-play game is difficult even after successful examples have proven themselves.
Sometimes parents are unaware of the turmoil they cause their children.
I’ve outlined my ambition to improve the world before to my mother. I wanted to – and still want to – improve the quality of life for every individual. In typical fashion for my mother she dismissed the idea as pointless, stating I should instead focus on helping my family first. There are a myriad of issues I could address within my family in many capacities, such as being a doctor.
Well, it’s been several years since the last series of conversations that involved ambitions but over this past Thanksgiving it happened again. I shared my goals beyond getting my PhD and it got dismissed again. One of the reasons was amusingly enough that my mother didn’t want me to do something difficult so that I wouldn’t go bald. The other reason is that she wanted me to focus on helping India as a whole instead of worrying about her and the family as my focus has honed in on lately.
Before I rip into this, let’s be clear that parents are also human. They develop and change over time. They learn and experience new things. They understand and gain perspective on old things. My mom in particular has been through a lot including a lot of illness. Perhaps more importantly she’s discovering a life of her own after my brother headed off to college and I officially moved away for my job.
I understand all of that but lest I mislead you with my charm and stunning good looks, I must disclaim that I too am human and I need to vent.
Get your ducks in a row because every major decree you’ve proclaimed for my life has lead to me breaking my figurative back twisting my life to fit your mold the best I can while still retaining my sanity. I worked beyond my means to try and get a biomedical engineering/mechanical engineering dual major when all I wanted to do is mechanical. It’s not that I’m not capable of it but that I am – as I shamefully admitted earlier – human. I have a finite amount of energy, willpower, and attention span (there is evidence indicating all three of these are finite). Don’t forget that I also have a finite amount of time.
Let’s not forget that you’ve basically encourage me to eschew deep and abiding friendships in favor of academics and yet I can see you with your friends (and I have seen Appa with his too). I know you didn’t just study all the time no matter how much you want to portray it that way, and I know how lonely you get when your social interactions start to decline due to a variety of reasons.
And then, after ALL OF THAT, you have some magical revelation that drastically changes everything you’ve ever taught me.
Amma, you’re the reason I arrange my shoes in my apartment so meticulously. You’re the reason I’ve seen every episode of Friends and enjoy chick flicks so much. You’re the reason I love to vacuum. You’re the source of inspiration of how I fold my clothes after washing them.
You’re the reason I wake up and part my hair on my left, whether lightly or sharply, every day.
If I’ve picked all of that up, how can you not expect your other lessons to carry through as well? Can you not understand how strenuous it is when you’ve molded me into the being I am then suddenly turn 180 degrees on everything you’ve ever taught me? Without consistency from you I have no firm foundation to craft a sense of well-being and value and end up adopting wild ambitions that spiral into unfathomable obsessions that lead to pain and misery.
More than any of that it seems more and more like you’ve given up on yourself with these new teachings you have for me. I mean, come on, since when did the plight of India ever mean more than your family? Than your father, my thatha? Say what you will now but I will burn this existence down to the ground if it means better for my family. That’s you, Amma. But as I was saying, with these new teachings and all the other things you’ve been saying are disheartening, as if you’ve concluded there’s no point for you to be alive. Lucky for you I somehow have some foundation within myself, as twisted and odd as it may be, to hold myself upright but all you’re doing is just confusing my little brother.
Certainly Appa isn’t helping with anything but who can really do anything when there’s nothing consistent to love, to adore, to praise, to uplift?
Get a grip, Amma.
This is not something I’ll say anywhere else – again because of how you raised me – but I love you. I love you so much, and it hurts me to see you this way. I don’t care what happens within myself because I’m screaming through life at a breakneck speed like a cheetah desperately hunting down its prey. I’m tougher than you’ll ever give me credit for (but that’s okay). Nothing is going to slow me down. The cross I wear over my heart is for you.
(For any non-Tamil readers out there, which might be a lot, I apologize for the following):
Amma, do you remember this?
That should sum up what I think.
I know I’m not following in the exact path you want. I know I’ve absorbed cultures from around the world that you may not prefer I did. But forget the tradition, forget what you consider your duty. This is just between you and me – and I want you to be happy.
And on my part, know this: Probably more than you know, I am a deeply flawed individual, but that is the consequence of the other immense positive qualities I have. An easy example is my social awkwardness as a trade-off for the vast amount of learning I have. I understand this world down to the quantum level better than most people and more importantly I know how to use it.
My point is this: Whether or not you agree I should make you proud, I am the result of what you have taught me and I am a great man as a result.
Well, that came out differently than I expected at first. I suppose that’s a good thing because what started out angry was not really angry, just frustrated. Amma, if you happen to read this, just remember a simple entry in a blog cannot convey everything you are to me. To any other parent out there, it seems my advice from all of this is to let go of expectations, traditions, norms, and really anything that is not purely you and your child. Does that make sense?
That’s enough venting for the day. Hopefully you got something useful out of it. Or something interesting, at least.
Lately on the radio I’ve heard Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City collaborate on the song, “Good Time.” There’s one part in the song that gets my brain going all fuzzy so being the lazy spendthrift I am I simply looked it up on YouTube. And thus began a crisis of existence.
Here, take a look at the video:
The premise of the video seems to be a group of friends gathering in an ambiguous location surrounded by trees, ostensibly a camping site in the middle of a national forest. The video and song ooze qualities of a bohemian lifestyle and glorify it. Certainly nothing harmful, at least intrinsically, but for a guy who tends to study and research in his free time there’s a little bit of bitterness for where nothing glorifies my lifestyle.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. In fact, I enjoy it and take pride in it which is why it stings to never see a engineer’s life glorified. We are the people who bring to you everything you have yet everything indicates that to have a “good time” we must abandon what our instinct drives us to do and what our heart tells us we enjoy.
Heck even within engineers I get the sense that a large gap exists where there are those who have answered a calling and those who simply got a degree in engineering. I get the feeling more and more that finding a fellow engineer as passionate as I am is extremely rare (and for that matter I’m really lucky to work in a company with so many amazing, enthusiastic engineers).
It’s a sore spot for me that the lifestyle I’ve chosen for myself is never seen as “fun” or “cool” except among others who share that thought. I’ll never see 50 Cent rapping about the engineer life, for example.
Then again, maybe I just feel this way because I don’t find as many people around me with the mindset. Where I live is not exactly a hotbed for technology.
What does it mean that I’m wondering this at all? I certainly love what I do, but there is the realization that I’m at a sort of stagnant point. Of course, that’s on me though. I have to break through this barrier.
Mark my words: I will succeed. I will excel. I will innovate. I will change the world!
It occurred to me as I attempted to organize my bookmarks that over time I’ve accumulated several hundred bookmarks. I’m sure it pales in comparison to others out there but I think there’re interesting insights to be had in the midst of all these links.
I find that the links that stay on my bookmarks list are bookmarks that resonate most with my being. Take for example the following image I saved in my set of bookmarks (it’s a bit long, but I think it’s real good):
For me there exists a somber sense to this image, this comic, this snippet. This and other links with a similar feel make it while other things I’d saved on a whim get culled.
Other topics of note in my set of bookmarks includes engineering and programming links.
The introspective insights were unexpected here. My bookmarks reveal a man drawn to sadness, enthralled by the possibilities of engineering, and excited by everything he encounters.
What do yours reveal?
While browsing Reddit I saw an article titled, “Running on empty: big airlines in big trouble”. As a fan of aviation and being in the air this is disheartening. Reading through the article there are two trends that are dominating the industry currently and an uncertain future ahead.
One trend is smaller aircraft. Even the A380 hasn’t stopped that trend, apparently, instead mostly being used in cargo applications. This could mean that if I have children, it’s very likely they may never get a chance to experience being awestruck by the sensual curves and the incredible size of the 747-400 as I did when I was a child.
Another trend is packing more and more passengers into a plane. The example cited being Air New Zealand, which went to a smaller plane and decreased seat size and aisle size to fit the same number of seats in. And then there’s the interesting phenomenon of what is supposedly called the “chub class”, a set of wider-than-normal (though the normal is already pretty narrow) available for a premium.
The author goes into more things but these two trends themselves are very disturbing for me. The only way to see my family conveniently (meaning without having to spend say, weeks at sea just to get there or some odd combination of sea and land) is to fly, and these types of trends make it more and more difficult each year.
The drastic increase in price of flying has already stymied my ability to spend time with my family and this is really just insult to injury. The UN has said the Internet is a basic right but it’s okay that every year it gets more and more difficult to see my family, to not be a part of my cousins’ lives, to not be able to help my grandparents in their dying days, to not be able to hold on to my heritage?
It’s even difficult to see my parents in Florida! I could drive 12 hours or fly for a few. If I just have a weekend off the clear choice is flying for a few to maximize time spent with my parents. The troubles the airline industry is having wreaks havoc with my ability to experience my family fully.
Furthermore after college all my best friends moved all over the country. Again, if I want to see my roommate for 2 years and one of my best friends I could take a 30 hour drive to California or fly there. The flight is preferable yet is so cumbersome and expensive that it’s infuriating.
Sadly I don’t have an immediate answer. Perhaps a government subsidized airline, along the lines of public transportation already in existence, would alleviate a lot of issues. It could at least provide inexpensive, adequate hops from Virginia to Florida though international flights are still unresolved.
I do have something I’m working on though. Increasing oil prices have a dramatic impact on the airline industry from fuel to the plastics used in the electronics, seats, components, and more. My goal is to make that irrelevant and my path is to discover better energy harnessing or new forms of energy and/or propulsion. Wish me luck!
Lately I’ve felt at odds with my ambitions at a daily level due to lacking energy and efficiency. I suspect the primary culprit is a lack of sleep. I’m doing my best to get back on track. You’ll hear more from me once I do!