Excursions by Amit Gawande

I recently changed the pair of glasses I was using. I do not like to go through the pains of this whole process.

First, one needs to select a frame that would suit his or her face — something that looks good” on the face. It is bloody difficult to see if something looks good if it is the see aspect that you have problem with.

I don’t know how it looks on me because you have taken away from me the very object that I can look through.”

Testing eyesight that follows is a similar hassle. I am surprised that there is still no better and foolproof way to do this than actually putting glasses of increasing powers on your face.

Or if there does exist a better way to do this, may be I need to visit those clinics.

Anyway, thankfully this time I was lucky with my glasses - I think the frame does look good on my face.

Tue, Sep 24, 2019 thoughts

I find it fascinating that Twitter recommends me to follow someone that hasn’t been active for more than two years. Why, why should follow” that person? I am yet to come across any recommendation engine that works.

Tue, Sep 24, 2019 thoughts

While cleaning up my old notes back from 2009, came across this wonderful quote by Hunter S. Thompson.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!”

Mon, Sep 23, 2019 likes

I have been planning to refresh the look of my blog for quite some time now. I, finally, managed to get the things changed a bit today.

The biggest change was the addition of the theme switcher — if you don’t want to read with a light background, you can change the whole theme with a toggle at the top-right corner. I haven’t made it any fancier than it needs to be, it is a plain simple round button.

I was a bit hesitant for a long time to put a manual theme switcher on the home page. I thought anyone can already change the way they read the content with the reader mode of the browser. However, what’s the fun in that. Plus I never found that one perfect mode I liked across the devices and browsers. So I decided to include one that at least I would enjoy reading right here.

I have also added the support for prefers-color-scheme media query to future proof it against the upcoming system-wide (iOS, Android, macOS, Windows) dark mode preference - no manual toggle for you if you are on a dark mode on your system. I haven’t tested this thoroughly yet though. I will continue to experiment with this further.

I am very picky with the fonts and the colors I choose across the site. So I did not want to touch the existing setup till I was sure I had enough time to get this done properly.

Sun, Sep 22, 2019 update blog

Recently, I have been seriously considering moving my Wordpress account to a paid plan. It hosts my old blog with posts from ages ago — it currently acts as an archive of the un-migrated posts for me.

There is a reason why I am a bit itchy with my writing workflow. I am struggling to get stuff written across systems, mainly mobile and desktops, at home and work, with drafts kept in sync. Sure, I can use Dropbox as my file store and access the draft posts using iA Writer or other Markdown text editors. However, I am very particular with not signing into and linking anything personal on my work machine, so this workflow does not work at work.

I would have really liked something that is web based. I have been, since long, trying to find a micropub client with a satisfying writing experience for long form posts, along with drafts support. I still haven’t found one. Neither have my attempts to just create one ground up gone anywhere, mainly for the need for multiple working drafts.

I do have a Netlify CMS setup for my main Hugo driven website. However, though it works fine from a desktop, it has a terrible experience on mobile.

Wordpress solves this particular problem for me. I have come to realize finally that it has a nice, clean writing interface on desktop. And with its stable mobile app, the workflow is manageable on mobile too.

But, boy I am ruined by markdown - I can’t write in Rich Text” any more. Plus, I can’t host my posts on a website which does not have the Indieweb principles baked in. I am aware that Wordpress has a IndieWeb plugin. However, one needs a business account to install plugins. And that’s too much of a cost to sign up for this casual experiment.

So my search for the online writing interface with support for sync and drafts and satisfactory interface on desktop and mobile continues. With Wordpress, it’s so close, but far.

Fri, Sep 20, 2019 thoughts writing

I am tired of people making fun of a feature just because they cannot think of a use for that. This attitude recently came to the fore with Apple’s introduction of slofies” - the slow-motion selfies. The call for stop trying to make slofies happen” was loud and clear from the tech community. Apparently, no one else wants to use it because we do not want to use it.

That’s a terrible take. Sure, may be the feature can be graded low on the usefulness” parameter, but it stands high on the fun scale. And our smartphones today are the most personal devices we carry around with us today, and that is not just because they are useful. They are equally fun too.

So stop mocking anything that you will not use. Selfies. Crazy filters. Slow-motion videos. Loop and Bounce effects - the boomerangs. They all make these dull devices a lot more fun. And their fun factor is what makes them sell in masses.

Thu, Sep 19, 2019 thoughts tech

I wonder what the purists think of the recent computational photography trend.

Google started it with its all-in-cloud touch up of the photos. And then they moved it on-device in the camera app. Every photo one took was stitched together from multiple shots with different settings. And eventually each OEM made their cameras smarter, AI-driven”.

Latest iPhone 11 stitches a single photo from 4 under exposed frames taken before the shutter button is clicked, one normal picture and 1 over exposed frame. They call this process semantic rendering. What follows is some heavy processing. Here’s snippet from the The Verge’s review of iPhone 11 Pro review.

Smart HDR looks for things in the photos it understands: the sky, faces, hair, facial hair, things like that. Then it uses the additional detail from the underexposed and overexposed frames to selectively process those areas of the image: hair gets sharpened, the sky gets de-noised but not sharpened, faces get relighted to make them look more even, and facial hair gets sharpened up. Smart HDR is also now less aggressive with highlights and shadows. Highlights on faces aren’t corrected as aggressively as before because those highlights make photos look more natural, but other highlights and shadows are corrected to regain detail.

What you get as a result is an extremely clear picture with each object in the photo appropriately visible.

But with so much processing of each image, should this even be called photography any more? Here’s Wikipedia introducing the term.

Photography is the art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film.

What we do with our smartphones is neither an art nor is it creating a single image.

All parts of the photos are independently captured (and even pre-captured) with the best suited settings, processed post-capture, with even some live sections including audio recorded. This is not creating an image” any more.

Someone might say it all started when the digital photography became mainstream - when the physical limitations of the analog methods did not constrain the person with a camera in his hand. However, what we capture is no longer a single image anymore. A more apt term for these might be visual memories”. Common people are interested in doing just that, they don’t care if they are called photographers.

Let Photography stay an art.

Wed, Sep 18, 2019 opinion tech

It's just some bottled clay..

I had no idea that there exists something called Nation Play-Doh Day. It does, and it is today.


This toy” always fascinates me. After all, it is just clay, plain simple clay. I remember a time, as a child, when we regularly played in and with clay. At that time, it was frowned upon - playing with clay was synonymous with getting dirty. Good boys do not do that”, we were told. I was always the obedient one, but even I deferred at times.

I remember one such rainy evening — we friends neglected not one, but many such restrictions. It had been raining cats and dogs throughout the day, our playground was muddy wet. And the only game that we knew of that we could play in such conditions was football1. We only played this English game on those rare occasions when playing cricket wasn’t feasible. And today was one such day.

Ground was slippery and it continued to rain. So of course, playing wasn’t going to be easier. Running around with the ball by our legs was a big task. Especially for us occasional footballers. So it was only natural that there would be one tenderfoot who would slip and fall down. And he won’t like running around alone with the dirty clothes. So he would pull someone else around. And those two would a few others. It didn’t take long for all of us to resemble the ugly prisoners of The Longest Yard.

It was only after getting crazy laden with mud that we realized, boy oh boy, we were in big trouble. It wasn’t just our clothes that were dirty. The whole of us was. And it had already gotten dark and we had to cross a section of woods to get back home.

To add to our troubles, it had also stopped raining. So the only way for us to clean ourselves up was with the water dripping from the trees in the woods. We did try that, we shook the trees violently at times. But all the attempts were in vain. Now we were not just wet and dirty, but also itchy. That day, I quietly entered the home through the door at the back, went straight to the shower under cold water and even washed off the clothes with my hands.

The walk through the woods that day followed by that cold shower were one of the most tense moments of my childhood.

I still convince myself that my mom did not see me ugly that day.

I know the cutesy games that my daughter plays with her Play-Doh can never be compared to our ugly rolling all over in the mud. But I still haven’t succeeded in explaining my mom how someone managed to bottle some clay and make it one of the hottest selling toy in the world.

  1. English football, Soccer for the US readers.

Mon, Sep 16, 2019 memories life

It was a different day today. It was a different birthday today.

There was no late night, or early morning, cake cutting celebrations. Because I have come to prefer a time when my daughter is completely awake and can thoroughly enjoy the celebrations.

There was no partying in the night with food that my family doesn’t enjoy. Because what matters more is everyone around me has a great time.

There were no loud and over-the-top plans — just a day of togetherness with people that matter the most to me. Of course, that also meant things couldn’t just be perfect.

There was a crazy rush to get ready and cut traffic to reach theaters so that we can watch a show of movie with the whole family together. There were discussions, to the point of exasperation, over the inevitable traffic jams and the needless security checks. There were squabbles over meaningless stuff that ended with guffaws and family portraits. Even awkward at times.

But all said, it was a day well spent. Everyone decided to stay home. And everyone tried their best to make my day special.

I do not have great pictures captured of the day. But I have some wonderful memories made. It was a different, a special day today.

Mon, Sep 16, 2019 update life

There are so many of these apparently great films of the 21st century that I haven’t seen yet. I have seen few, but they are mostly from before 2010. I can see a correlation with the changing priorities in my life. And I forgot Gladiator belongs to the current century ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Mon, Sep 16, 2019 thoughts

I wonder what’s the best way to make note of the fleeting thoughts, say adding an item to a list of things that one needs to do. I know my memory is not my friend here — it gobbles stuff, but fails to let it out timely.

Digital methods are easy to use, convenient, but are unnatural. You lose touch, context, of the written words after some time. They end up being a plain dump of words with no background.

I can capture more context with analog methods — a quick sketch or the current location — but it isn’t convenient. Either I do not have a piece of paper handy or I can’t stop and capture the thought (being in middle of traffic, let’s say) right at that moment.

I am waiting for the day the digital assistants would be smarter to help capture such thought. Today they aren’t. First, they can’t be easily summoned — “Ok Google” or Hey Siri” doesn’t work in middle of traffic, blaring horns or loud chatters.

Second, they are terrible at capturing unformed thoughts. They need structured inputs, which quick notes aren’t. Using digital assistants today is a painful battle between reality and expectations. Former is driven by the technology limitations, later by the out-right spurious promises in the advertisements.

With all said and done though, I have recently - and after enduring lot of pain - learned that heavy reliance on one’s smartphone to lead a structured life is not very sensible to do. There is a chance that it can lead to utter chaos when you don’t have your device on you. It can completely paralyze you for thoughts.

Sun, Sep 15, 2019 thoughts

If a website doesn’t function on a browser other than Chrome or with content blocking on, it loses me as a visitor. I am tired of web developers being clumsy — prompting that we won’t serve content because you block ads is one thing. A nonfunctional website reeks callousness.

Sun, Sep 15, 2019 thoughts

Recent partial failure of the Indian lunar exploration mission — communication loss with the lander Vikram — made me think how crowded the surface of moon must be.

There have been many such hard and soft landings and crashes on the surface of the moon since way before as part of numerous attempted Moon exploration missions, 137 to be precise. And there is a huge list of artifical” objects that we have magaed to send on the way to the surface of the Moon. Boy, so much to grasp there. Especially dates. Just look at the first entry on there - Luna 2, the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the Moon, and the first human-made object to make contact with another celestial body”. We, as species, complete 60 years of that achievement today. Fascinating!

Humans have left over 187,400 kilograms (413,100 lb) of material on the Moon, and 380 kilograms (838 lb) of Moon rock was brought back to Earth by Apollo and Luna missions. The only artificial objects on the Moon that are still in use are the retroreflectors for the lunar laser ranging experiments left there by the Apollo 11, 14 and 15 astronauts, and by the Lunokhod 1 and Lunokhod 2 missions.

Sat, Sep 14, 2019 thoughts

Apple needs to stop being so stingy with the storages they provide. I do not recall they putting much emphasis on their storage plans, on-device or cloud. It’s worrying that they get mocked all around for this and they are fine with it.

Thu, Sep 12, 2019 thoughts