The Day I Die

The day I die

Be it with a Bang

Or more likely, a whimper

I ask only this

Don’t mourn that I am gone

Be happy that I was.

 

The day I die

Take for the needy

My eyes, my kidneys

My heart and lungs

Take all you can

I won’t need them anymore.

 

The day I die

Use all the money left

It won’t be much

For every cent saved

Means I worked more

Than I ever needed.

 

The day I die

Gather all my cronies

Keep a picture of me

And drink to the good times

And times that were bad

When we were together.

 

The day I die

Laugh and be merry

Celebrate a life

That was complete in every way

The tears that might be shed

Be bittersweet, not sad.

 

The day I die

Bury what’s left

Plant a tree

Fertilized by me

So what’s left behind

Can flourish and give hope.

 

The day I die

And you plant the tree

Put it on a hill

With a view of the sky

That’s where we are from

And where we will reach.

 

The day I die

As I cease to be

Don’t feed lies to kids

About better places

About angels and Gods

Tell them instead, about eternity.

 

The day I die

Waste not a prayer

Or a breath on sorrow

All I ask, all I need

Look at my tree

And remember me.

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A Few Thoughts On Tesla Versus Edison

Last year, on this very day, I wrote about Nikola Tesla. 10th of July is always special to me as it is his birth anniversary and he remains one of my idols for profoundly changing the course of human history through brilliant inventions in electrical engineering.

A few months ago, Matthew Inman aka The Oatmeal published a comic proclaiming his love for Tesla and listing the reasons why just about every invention was invented by none other than him. While I initially liked it, it portrayed Thomas Edison as a evil schemer in the vein of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.

Alex Knapp from Forbes quickly wrote a response to the comic and Mr. Inman quickly followed up with a response of his own. And just when it looked like there was the chance of this debate assuming the proportions of the war of the currents, the discussion stopped. Most people I know read The Oatmeal more than they read Forbes (and tend to support Mr. Inman), I get the impression that most people still believe Tesla to be the nice genius who always had the better solutions and Edison was the evil Corporate CEO who destroyed everything Tesla stood for.

The fact is, situations are never quite so black or white. Science makes progress when the focus falls on the shades of grey in the middle. One of the key aspects of this whole debate is that neither Edison nor Tesla could have predicted how the world of electricity would be towards the end of the 20th century.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the main use of electricity was for industries and for lighting. Edison’s DC system was impractical because required power plants to be located close to where the power was utilized i.e. the generation had to be located close to the load because the longer the distance, the greater the loss of power over the wires. AC had the advantage of low losses while transmitting power over long distances which meant that generation could be located far away from loads which meant power generation could be centralized at locations where it was easier to use natural resources like coal and transmitted to cities several miles away. AC won the bout handsomely.

But times have changed. We depend less and less on Edison’s flagship invention – the incandescent light bulb. We use compact fluorescent lights and LED lights. Our loads are no longer just heavy machinery but we use computers and other devices which all work on DC. While Mr. Inman makes an important point that to get power to our sockets we still need AC, he misses an important fact (excusable because I don’t think he is an electrical engineer).

The development of power electronics has made it cheaper to transmit electricity over long distances using DC. This High Voltage DC transmission system is now in use throughout the world and is fairly mature technology. Though it has it’s challenges, above a  certain distance, it is undeniably cheaper to transmit power using DC rather than AC.

My entire Master’s thesis was based on the determining feasibility of using DC power over AC and where it is particularly advantageous to use one over the other and I can speak with some authority on this. It gets worse for Mr. Inman’s arguments because there is a paradigm shift in power generation. The centralized power plants of decades past are becoming less and less feasible with dwindling resources like natural gas and coal. The world is slowly starting to move towards decentralized power generation using renewable technologies like Solar energy and fuel cells which already produce DC power.

Without going into the technicalities, I put forth the argument that neither Tesla nor Edison was wrong. Each had his own ideals and Edison was undeniably more aggressive in defending his. Whatever his faults, to deny Edison’s  own accomplishments as an inventor is just giving in to personal bias without understanding the ground realities.

There is no denying Tesla’s genius and Edison’s “douchebaggery” but the complexities of today’s electricity system have ensured that both technologies must coexist. Arguments today about who was “better” is doing a disservice to both men because in his own way, each would have been proud of what he had accomplished in his life.

So here’s to a genius on his 156th birth anniversary. Thank you once again, Mr. Tesla.

 

 

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Well Played Zuck. Well Played.

Creating a service that allows people to connect with multiple people instantaneously – Check

Being able to monetize said service – Check

Becoming one of the world’s 30 wealthiest people by age 28 – Check

Marrying long-term girlfriend and learning Mandarin in preparation for a trip to China with her – Check

Pledging away 50% of personal wealth to charity – Check

Mark Zuckerberg – Living life like a boss.

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Being Young

My dad loves to tell me that age is only a number. When a 60 year old man whom you love to death says that, you realize how true it is. We are the fittest we will ever be, we will never look better than this and we might give in to societal pressure and never again take the risks we can take right now.

But it hold’s true for everyone, not just the 20 year olds. You are as old as you feel. So let’s just go out take back the world.

I leave you with this catchy song that’s being played all over the radio.

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A Little Xenophobia

The very first thing that Indian students are warned about when we come to India is, “Kallu log se bachke rehna”. It literally means be careful of black people. What is it about being “black” that makes people so afraid? I have had the opportunity to interact with lots of people from diverse backgrounds and I have found them all to be pleasant and welcoming.

Indians are inherently racist and xenophobic. We find ways to split ourselves into ever smaller pockets of people. Any dark man becomes “Kallu”. Anyone from south India becomes “Madraasi”. Anyone with oriental features is “Chinki”. These are our own countrymen but more importantly, they are fellow human beings. Everyone just wants to do things that make their life easier. Then why do we share these xenophobic thoughts?

When we have all descended from common ancestors, it’s about time we acknowledge that fact. Others who merely look different or come from different cultural backgrounds are not inferior or superior to us in any way. They are individuals just like us with their hopes, dreams, fears and desires. Let’s just leave the subtle xenophobia aside and try to get along with one another. In times like these, the world could use more of that.

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All About The Will

Every time I have a conversation with someone about how my half-marathon went and when I mention that at the time, it was not too hard, the response I get from them is a slight shrug of the shoulders, a look of disbelief and a sentence along the lines of, “I don’t think I could even run one mile, leave alone 13.”

While I understand people not wanting to try a half marathon or any race because running does not hold an appeal, what I sense the most is a feeling of desire. A longing to do that elusive half-marathon or even a 5k. And I tell you it is not that difficult.

I had always wanted to run a half marathon but I never knew where to begin. When I was studying, I was irregular in running so I could not train well enough for a proper run. When I started working, I saw that my evenings were mostly spent watching something on my laptop so I decided to go back to an old love – running. Running once helped me lose 25 kilograms. I used to weigh an impressive 97 kgs.

I decided to buy a good pair of shoes and started running again. But this was still informal running. It was running to keep fit without any real point to it beyond not sitting at home and gaining weight. But come 2012, I wanted to seize the opportunity and run my first half marathon.

Up to that point, I was able to run up to three miles continuously on the treadmill but 13 miles? It seemed impossible. But I downloaded a training plan and started to stick to it.

When you do something often enough, it becomes a habit. Running gives me a real high and so it wasn’t so difficult to start running. What really got me was the ever-increasing distance. The first time I ran 5 miles, I couldn’t wait for it to end. I felt every step and I just wanted to give up and start walking slowly. But I always recalled what Patton said – “Make the mind run the body”.

It’s not about the muscles, it is about the will. Yes it gets hard but surely you can’t want something like this and imagine it would be easy. That rush of adrenaline, that realization that it’s all going to be over in a few more feet, the view of the cheering crowds and that finish line. It’s all worth it. So just get out there and do it.

 

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Visionaries

After a recent comic on The Oatmeal, everyone seems to be talking about one of my heroes Nikola Tesla. Visionaries like him are hard to come by but I am disturbed by the ire thrown at Thomas Edison.

Of course “The war of the Currents” is well documented and Nikola Tesla did win it; but dismissing Edison because he was an “enormous douchebag” is a mistake. Tesla’s genius aside, Edison himself was a prolific inventor. He is fourth on the list of individuals who hold the largest number of patents. He invented the first device that could play recorded sound! He can’t just be good at “douchebaggery”!

What is surprising is that the same people who are now shouting out about what an evil cunt-nugget Edison was and how he was just good at selling things waste no time in fawning over Steve Jobs. Like Edison, Jobs saw opportunity where others couldn’t and created a market space for products that people didn’t know they wanted. Essentially, Edison was a geekier version of Steve Jobs.

While we can go on arguing about who was greater, Nikola Tesla or Thomas Edison, the fact remains that both men changed the world in their own way much like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak did decades later. While selling “Edison is a douchebag” t-shirts is taken in good humour, it is important to remind ourselves that at the end of the day, these men are visionaries without whom we would still be lighting candles at night and generally have a very poor quality of life.

 

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