Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Day 57: Connection

Connections are so random.

You may know a person for a long time. Rather, you know of them. You know they exist but you don't know what they're about. You may have met them multiple times, been to their apartment to meet their roommates, been on the same bus and sat next to them everyday without exchanging any words more than pleasantries.

And all it takes is one conversation about one single song from one single movie.
And you've made a connection.

One connection and you know what that person is about.
One connection and you can have multiple conversations with that person for hours on an end about the silliest of things.
One connection and you can talk about the things that trouble the deepest recesses of your heart.
One connection is all you need to become friends.

Day 56: A design note on the Information Visualization of the 2012 London Olympics results

The New York Times visualization for results of the 2012 London Olympics ( provides an overview of the medals won by each country through a bubble graph. The size of the bubbles indicate number of medals, their color and position indicate the geographic location of the country.  

Figure 1: The overview bubble graph showing of the number of medals won by each country in the year 2012 

This visualization allows interactors to filter the timeline to look at the results for each Olympics from 1896. However, considering Shneiderman’s OZFD model, it does not provide any affordance to zoom on details for countries.

Figure 2: The interactive timeline allowing the interactor to filter through every Olympic games

The relational database for the visualization consists of two tables: medals per country and medals for each event. The visualization allows the interactor to navigate to events of 2012 through hyperlinks and access details on demand, creating associative trails. However, these hyperlinks are unavailable for any other years, creating inconsistency.  

Figure 3: The database with two related tables

Each event is in the form of a structured document which includes photographs, articles, breakdown of matches. The interactor can access another level of granularity: specific individual or team events for both men and women, also in the form of structured documents. However, the lack of a navigation bar makes it difficult for the interactor to trace his path back to the overview.

Figure 4: The structured document for each event in the Olympics

Day 55: Gamble

How do you gamble with your heart?
How do you decide which person you want to spend your life with or what thing you want to spend your life doing or what path you want to follow?
How do you give that person or thing that much power over you?

Maybe I've just never felt that strongly for anyone or anything ever.
Maybe that is the reason why I am plagued with these questions.
Maybe I am too naive.
Maybe I just don't get it.
Maybe it is really a gamble.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Day 54: "I want it that way"

One of the most iconic bands that I remember from childhood is Backstreet Boys. 
Yeah, you read that right!
No shame!

I bet everyone from my generation knows at least one song by that boy band. Just play a song by them, and everyone will start singing along. They were the height of cool once upon a time, gaining such world wide fame. They were so 'larger than life'.

I remember being on a trip with my parents and their friends when I was ten years old. Since there weren't any kids my age on that trip, I was allowed to carry my walkman along. I have spent four entire days listening to 'Black and Blue' and till date, I know all the songs by heart.

They made memorable songs, however lame and corny they appear now. They made songs that you can play on a loop on a lazy boring day and all your roommates will start dancing. They made songs that you can play in a karaoke and people from six different countries will know the lyrics too. They made songs that make you revisit your childhood and contemplate just how far reaching popular culture is.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Day 53: Productive

The feeling you get after having a super productive day is just unparalleled.
It feels wonderful to have a productive day after a month of sheer procrastination, spent doing all the things you set out to do.
Your muscles are sore from running and stretching and your mind is sore from working and thinking.
You know you can sleep in peace and not fret about what you could have done.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Day 52: What have I become?

Do you sometimes feel like you are not devoting enough time to the things that really matter?

I am scared.
This maze of Facebook and Twitter and Huffington Post and Buzzfeed has taken over my life.
The need for constant information, the persistent compulsion to be available online feels claustrophobic.
I stared reading a new book today, a book I know I am going to love. Three minutes into the book, I switched the tab to check Facebook.
I am scared.
I feel like my mind cannot handle chunks of information longer than a Buzzfeed post, like my mind cannot spare more than three minuted to meaning.
I feel like my mind is being conditioned to reduce my attention span.

What have I become?
What has our generation become?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Day 51: Aamti

Isn't it always about the simplest things?

When you think about what food you crave, it is usually something your mother prepared. The first things about the food you miss are the elaborate dishes she prepared for some special occasion, or the crab curry which would prepared only on Sundays.

And then there are the simplest of preparations, like the aamti (daal), prepared in your house every single day as an accompaniment to the rice. The same recipe, every single day. Certainly not the tastiest dish, nothing fancy about it. Just the normal staple fare.

Next thing you know, you've bought all the necessary ingredients to make aamti. You're excited, second guessing every ingredient you add, whether the jaggery will be enough or whether you put too much red chili powder, all the while wondering how your mom did this every single day. Surely it didn't take her this much time!

When you finally taste what you've made, you know it isn't as amazing as the aamti you ate every day of your life. Perhaps it never will match up to those standards. However, underneath all the clumsiness of your inexperienced culinary skills, you can taste a hint of the food that was a constant companion during your formative years, the one thing that would be present in your plate no matter what, full of ghee and tasting of home, comfort and love.

Day 50: What? Who? When? Why? How?

While designing anything, these are the questions that I ask myself every single time.

Asking these questions right at the onset of the design process makes it easier to keep certain aspects of the problem in focus.

Currently I am working in a lab which explores the idea of using modern technology to follow television series in a more cohesive manner. We were discussing the target audience for a project and then someone succinctly asked the following questions.

Who am I looking at?
Why should I care?
What is going on?
Why is it happening?

I think I am going to ask these questions from now!

Day 49: Chicken for my soul?

I didn’t eat chicken for six entire weeks. That is the longest I’ve gone without touching chicken.

In Maharashtra (India) where I come from, we follow the lunar calendar. And in the month of Shraavan (around August), we do not eat meat. There are some religious reasons, some superstitious and some scientific reasons. Fish breed during this time so people don’t want to fish. The monsoon season takes place around this time, so people don’t want to fall prey to water-borne diseases.

A lot of the people around me asked me why I was doing this, why I was not eating chicken, why I was going on this apparent starvation mission. I was actually doing this, quite simply, because I felt like it. I wanted to test my limits and see how far I could go. I chose the month of Shraavan because I just wanted some external reason to follow this too.

The first two days of my chicken-refrainment were quite bad. The only thing I wanted to eat was chicken, mainly because I couldn’t eat it. After that, things got much better.

I am proud to say that I never felt the need to eat chicken during the entire time. I am living in the US and I was worried I wouldn’t find vegetarian fare in most places. I’m very happy to say that I survived, never starved and ate quite delicious food in a lot of places. 

After six weeks, I ate one of my favorite chicken dishes. Unsurprisingly, it was fast food: a deep fried spicy chicken burger. I expected fireworks in that first bite, feeling some amount of satisfaction. Weirdly, I felt nothing at all. Eating chicken did not make any difference to my life. I rather think I’m better off without it.

Day 48: Pain

It always happens when you are in the midst of something happy. That is when something terrible transpires.
Something which you had expected, something everybody had expected, but it hits you in the gut with a stupendous amount of blunt force and you’re left with a massive pain .
It hits you and you don't know what to do, you can't know what to do.
It hits you and you're left trying to breathe.
It hits you and you're gasping
It hits you and you're left crying
It hits you and all you can do is try to clutch at some shred of meaning

It hits you and you hope that time is what will help.

Day 47: DK

There are certain people who've been in your life forever. You don't even know when they entered your life but you know that they are a permanent part of your life. If you look back at your life, they have been a part of every important event. They are more family than most of your actual family. They've been with you during the highest highs and the lowest lows. Any occasion is incomplete without them.

How are you supposed to go on without them?
How is the void created by their absence ever going to be filled?

The only wish is that they're in a better place now.

The only solace is that they're free.

Day 46: Grief

Sometimes, no words come to mind.