The observable examined

Archive for January 2011

strange dream

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This past Sunday, I spent a lot of time, collating Lechi’s print photos (for scanning and creating digital images), from early childhood, through the time I acquired a digital camera (2002). It was very emotional, to say the least. It brought back a flood of memories (our trips to Carmel, Seattle, San Diego etc.,). Also, looking at her as a innocent little girl as well as an adolescent, time traveling, to think what was in store, in the years to come, choked me up. The unfairness ( who is the arbiter of what is fair?) of it all, was a little hard to swallow. {The next day, I was watching a slide show of the scanned images. Makat happened to walk in, stared at a few pictures and suddenly burst into tears!)

Later in the day, while driving, I was involuntarily thinking of something that I would have shared with Lechi (or it may have been a trip I wanted  to make to the mall together). Suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks, that she was, forever now but a memory, and that trip was not possible.  It left me drained.

That night, although tired, I had a lot of difficulty, falling asleep. At some point, I did. I had the strangest dream. I found myself in a temple. There was a Sivan shrine to the left and I can’t remember the diety on the right. I believe I was in an argument with Siva. I had expected the temple complex to be large with people milling around, but when I looked around, its extent was confined to a small area, and the doors of the temple were closed. It was semi-dark and I was alone. I panicked briefly and was then trying to figure out next steps, when I suddenly felt my whole body tighten in response to some very strong external force. I woke up right after and could’nt really tell if this was a real physical reaction or an imagined one……..


Written by asterix98

January 26, 2011 at 7:00 am

video games – are they any good?

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Jane McGonigal holds the title of Director of Game Research at the Institute of the Future. She thinks very highly of gaming and thinks they can be leveraged to motivate people to solve real world problems. See article. But the debate rages on.

Here is another counterpoint article/review that does not take kindly to McGonigals book.

It is interesting to note that McGonigals first article has grossly exaggerated claims  while her second article is more tempered and advocates proper balancing of reality with gaming.

Ironically, for the use models she is advocating, the games themselves need to be grounded very much in reality else the solutions discovered through gaming would be utterly non-transferrable (read useless/irrelevant) to real world problems. But I can definitely see the value of gaming environments in making learning difficult concepts, a lot more fun.

Written by asterix98

January 26, 2011 at 6:22 am

Posted in video games

Kara – first session

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Last Wednesday, January 19th, Mahati and I attended our first group counseling session at the Episcopal Church on Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto. We were welcomed by the facilitators as well as Liz, Kara’s director. They were very nice and introduced us to the other families.

There were separate parallel sessions for the kids and adults. We introduced ourselves to the group and provided some background on the loved one we had lost.  The peer group was mostly well matched in terms of the circumstances surrounding the loss.  Some members in the group had been going to Kara for a long time. After some ground rules were established, the floor was open to the group for unstructured interaction. There was some comfort in finding out that the experiences faced by the group members were very similar. It was also abundantly clear that the loss was unique to each individual. More importantly, the atmosphere was very conducive to a free exchange of thoughts. (One person said she had been in another group at a different location and there was a bunch of older people who were feeling sorry or pity for her which was not very helpful).

Some in the group shared the difficulties they were facing and others responded by sharing what had worked for them in similar situations. It was amazing to see how easily strangers bonded in this environment of sharing. Sometimes members were just voicing their thoughts and not looking for any feedback. 

The feedback from Mahati was positive. She engaged in fun activities while sharing.  She has a time capsule that is to be opened a year from now. She is looking forward to going back.

One of the facilitators is trained in expressive arts. He explained through juggling (and accompanying commentary) how losing a parent increases the responsibilities for the remaining parent. This demonstration is intended for the children. Very powerful.

I now feel motivated to volunteer (as a facilitator) for future groups.

Written by asterix98

January 26, 2011 at 5:10 am

Posted in grief counseling

missing mom

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Yesterday, on Mahati’s insistence I took her for a haircut. This activity was a first for me, having been Lechi’s domain. I did consult Mathangi. (thanks Mathangi!)

Children are amazing. I suppose, during the day, Makat had been imagining herself with different types of haircuts. Towards the end of the work day, she had been calling me, every few minutes, to discuss her preference. One minute, she would call and say, “Appa,I think I want chin length hair.” Next phone call, in a few minutes, and it would be better if it were shoulder length, and so on. Eventually, she settled on shoulder length and layers.

Back home, it was interesting to observe her get used to her own new look (plenty of visits to the mirror). I was fascinated thinking she was updating her own mental image. I guess she was also running scenarios in her mind about how her new look would be perceived by others.

I was also thinking Lechi would have been delighted and she may have exclaimed something like “Aappu, Sheela, Deepa, Azhaga irrukaale!” and given Mahati a big hug.

I am not sure what was weighing on her mind, going to bed. She woke me at about 4AM and asked “Appa, how many pieces of the Wish Machine have you completed?” I answered 700. (Our target is 1000 pieces to build the Wish Machine – the magical tool that would grant you know what. This is part of our own year of magical thinking). In the darkness, I felt her silently wiping away tears. Gut wrenching stuff! All I could do was hug her.

Today, in the bath, out of the blue, she said “Appa, can I take the day off from school on Mother’s day? You know they make us do stuff during Art class. Besides, what is the point? Even if I make something who would I give it to? I’d rather do something on Father’s day”. I was tongue-tied. These episodes tug at your heart with the biggest hook there is.

A few days ago, I did try asking her if she would permit me to hang a picture of mom in the house. She straight away refused.

Tomorrow, both of us will visit Kara.

Written by asterix98

January 19, 2011 at 7:19 am

Posted in children, mom

Western moms

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Here is the rebuttal to the Chinese mom article : In defense of the Western Mom .  As before, I urge you to read the comments section: some are pretty lame, some are very insightful.

From this pissing contest, it is amply clear that each parent thinks they know what is best for their kids (ironically, it is rarely that you will find complete agreement, even between the two parents in a household, on how to raise their own child ).  While every parent wishes that their child/children is/are successful (again the operational definition here can vary), what is important, in my mind, is not to fall prey to the danger of making one’s progeny vicarious vehicles for acheiving your own dreams and ambitions. In other words, they are not your showpieces.

PS: You will not find very many Jane Goodall’s, or a Jacques Cousteau if the parental influence is to always “color inside the lines” (a phrase I borrowed from one of the commentators).

Written by asterix98

January 16, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Posted in parenting


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A long standing wish, this year I finally decide to visit the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, on Friday January 7.  It was pretty interesting. But no wow gadgets to speak of.  Here are some pics from the show.

Just as with the ipod, there is a whole cottage industry surrounding the iPad and the iPhone.

An iPad based cash register

Selection of cases for the iPhone

Extremely small factor modular computer.

This sells for about $850. The innovation here is that the motherboard is now in multiple pieces instead of a single board. So you can selectively upgrade portions of the motherboard. Target is enterprise deployment.

Samsung had a massive presence!

Attractive ladies draw traffic to the booth

Solar cell based back packs


Some other notables. A wireless USB media stick that can deliver your media files to any display. Retails for $119 at best buy. see hsti.com. I believe Canon (maybe Sony) has come out with a 3D camcorder. There was a proliferation of tablets and literally hundreds of new models of cell phones. Nokia’s qt (they pronounce it “cute”) booth was interesting. Nice UI on mutliple platforms.

Clearly, wireless is a red-hot space. Qualcomm (Snapdragon) and Intel (Atom) were out there in full force peddling their latest offerings. ARM is the runaway leader here so these two companies are really jockeying for position.

Some stats : there were 2500 exhibitors (to cover them all I would have had to visit approximately 300/hr in the 8 hrs I was there!). Expected number of attendees was around 120000.

Written by asterix98

January 11, 2011 at 6:48 am

chinese mothers

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Here is a really interesting article for you. The title : Why Chinese mothers are superior?

The author is a Yale professor, no less. She offers what amounts to a sure fire recipe for raising extremely “successful” kids. Some key ideas. Parents know what is best for their kids. Humiliation and coercion are extremely important to get them past the initial hump in any endeavor. Self-esteem is overrated. Rote learning is absolutely vital. Well, you get the idea.

Not everything she says is outlandish (like practice makes perfect or kids intial resistance to try hard to accomplish tasks) but I can’t help marvel at her audacity to put out an article like this and WSJ condoning it to boot. I think it is totally tongue in cheek. Because it ignores so many things: base rates, motivation, creativity, and innovativeness, etc., etc., If she were really this clueless, it would really be a stretch for her to have made a full professor.

I also recommend you read the comments section for the wide spectrum of responses to this article.

Written by asterix98

January 11, 2011 at 4:27 am

Posted in parenting

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