Laptop issues

A week before my daughter’s school started, we were facing an issue where the laptop would switch off in the middle of a session. So, I decided to get it fixed before the school begins.

I was not sure about road restrictions heading towards the laptop repair center. Hence, I picked a laptop repair center nearby. He replaced some parts and the laptop worked for a grand total of one day. Then, as I shared earlier, the laptop died right in the middle of a school session.

I decided to go to my original repair center to fix the issue this time. Once fixed, the laptop ran for a couple of days. Then, the laptop died again over the weekend.

In the midst of all this, I had upgraded from Windows Home to Windows Pro, when the option appeared in the Updates page of the control panel. This is that throwaway line that you read in the novel and you skip past thinking it is insignificant but which turns into a world ending event later on in the novel.

The laptop repair center informed me that my laptop’s Intel Core i5 processor is not available and needs to be replaced with an Intel Core i7. He assured an extension of life of at least 2 years for almost a quarter of the cost of the new one. I took that offer.

When I got back home, the laptop worked well but got a “Windows not activated” message. Trying to fix it myself did not yield any results. So, I took it back to the laptop repair center. The center rep reprimanded me for upgrading the version and said that I now had a pirated version of Windows and he would have to crack the version. He informed me that I would never be able to update Windows ever again.

He returned the laptop to me to enable me to store the data before he cracked Windows.

Once I returned home, I considered searching a bit more to try and save the situation. This is when I found the article that saved me and enabled me to go back to my Windows Home edition with a new install.

When you upgrade from Windows Home to Windows Pro, you get a 10-day window to go back to Windows Home. If you miss this window, you need to do a fresh install of Windows. Windows now comes as an ISO image which you can boot from a pen drive. Also, BIOS has been replaced by something called UEFI.

All of the technical details are linked to in the article. The answer to look at is one by Andre Da Costa.

The See Listen Read Better Podcast Episode 2 – Rest, Cal Newport and The Vault of Vishnu

Running, TV journalism and Rest The See Listen Read (SLR) Better Podcast

  1. See – Matt D’Avella – The Most Overlooked Way to be More Productive
  2. Listen – Cal Newport on the Rich Roll Podcast
  3. Ashwin Sanghi – The Vault of Vishnu (2020)

The Vault of Vishnu (2020)

I had purchased all Ashwin Sanghi books up to Sialkot Saga as and when they came. I purchased The Vault of Vishnu on pre-order. When the book came I realised that Sanghi had written more books in the interim that I had missed.

Book Cover – The Vault of Vishnu by Ashwin Sanghi

During this time, I was trying new techniques of reading multiple books at the same time. In mid-May this year, I realized I could not read like this. I also found that I could not read the next book until I broke the log jam by writing a review about it on my blog. In fact, this log jam affected everything else in my life as well. Hence, I am writing this now to break the log jam so I can go on to my next book.

I always liked how Sanghi wrote his book from multiple stories that coalesce some where in time. I particularly liked the leisurely pace at which the book started. I kept switching between books until I wrote the review for the 7 Brief Lessons in Physics and then I finished the book in one sitting. Now, you might understand why the second paragraph of this review was essential.

The book neatly merges facts and fiction. For all the facts, Sanghi has a nice appendix with all the reading he did to research for the book. It merges timelines across time and space. It merges spies and history. I like how his writing style has improved so much since the Rozabal Line.

Official trailer of The Vault of Vishnu by Ashwin Sanghi

When I read the title, The Vault of Vishnu, my Malayali mind immediately leapt to the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvanantapuram and the hidden vaults under the temple. That is why I ordered the book. Turns out the referenced temple is the Chidambaram Temple in Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu.

Sanghi begins his novel with the events that happened at Doklam in 2017 between India and China. Given the situation at the border now, the novel may be relatable? Then the story moves between India and China and across centuries. Even in the novel, we are dependent on help from the Americans for intelligence. There is reference to limitation of RISAT-2 which keeps an eye on India’s borders with China and Pakistan. There are references to our glorious past – especially the Cholas, Indian contributions to Kungfu and Shaolin and Bodhidharma (no Indo-Chinese fiction book is complete without him).

The story line of the Chinese monk travelling to get to India is a little slow through the book and adding a map to understand the path he took would have been a great add.

For me, the book reemphasizes our open borders between India, China, Persia and Central Asia. Knowledge, legends and myths have traveled on these roads for centuries and the modern nation-state has sought to destroy these ancient connections. I think we are poorer as a result.

From the books page on his website, I realised that he has published many more books than I anticipated. I am yet to read The Keepers of the Kalachakra in his Bharat Series, all books in his Private Series and some of his later books on his 13 Steps series. I had read 13 Steps book on wealth and luck.

The SLR Better Podcast – Episode 1

Running, TV journalism and Rest The See Listen Read (SLR) Better Podcast

See

Zettelkasten Learning Method – Simply Explained

How to Take Smart Notes – Zettelkasten Method in Roam Research

Listen

The Moving Curve – the podcast episodes and show notes.

Read

In the podcast, I kept calling the book Seven Lessons instead of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics!!

Here is the link to my blog post about the book.

SLR Better Podcast – Episode 0

Running, TV journalism and Rest The See Listen Read (SLR) Better Podcast

This is a trailer episode for my new podcast.

This is a recommendations podcast. I have been trying out different iterations of this podcast since December 2019 but never got around to it. An episode will be out each Wednesday.

Malayalam YouTube channel recommendations

I wrote a Twitter thread last night about the Malayalam language YouTube channels I discovered over the last month. As I kept watching these videos, YouTube’s algorithm started surfacing more Malayalam content for me after a week. The English captioning for Malayalam video is currently awful. This list is expanded and includes more channels that I follow.

MalluTraveller

I started following MalluTraveller following his video from the COVID-19 ward in Kannur. He had passed through Iran on his Kerala to Europe tour and was hence denied visa to travel to Georgia. He was stuck in Azerbaijan. When he managed to return to Kannur, he continued posting to his vlog which I think showed people the level of preparedness in Kerala to face the pandemic.

MasterPiece Live

They are two people who go around interviewing other Malayalam YouTube creators on their channel. I am not sure what’s with the name. I like them more for surfacing other YouTubers than for their content.

M4 Tech

This channel is a DIY channel and is more Kerala centric with some the ideas that they build. I found them via a YouTube reaction video. I think you will be blown away by the energy of the guy presenting. There are two of them here too. They are friends and not brothers.

Strell in Malayalam

He is always in a helmet. He talks about bike riding, learning to ride a bike, bike maintenance, and moto vlogs on his channel. His videos are very safety oriented.

V K Adarsh

I used to follow Adarsh on Twitter. He created a YouTube channel recently and his explanation of loan products for entrepreneurs and business people is great. One of his recent explainers was on the moratorium provided by the RBI due to the lockdown.

MommaCool

I started following this channel for parenting advise but the channel recently did a lot of content on development milestones for children and good books to get your child as per age. The channel talks about baby care, parenting and pregnancy.

Ratheesh R Menon

He does video with tech tips and app reviews on his channel. My wife used to follow him on Facebook where he provides tips like how to find hidden cameras in hotel rooms etc.

Happy Life TV

This is a channel that talks of family, parenting, personality and sex. My wife and I used to follow this channel for his talks related to family. His point of view is conservative but practical.

7 Brief Lessons on Physics (2015)

I was listening to the On Being podcast where Krista Tippett was interviewing Carlo Rovelli. Rovelli is an Italian physicist working with the Quantum Gravity research group at Centre de Physique Theorique in Marseille, France.

As soon as the episode was over, I went over to Amazon and ordered the book he had been talking of – Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. This is an English translation of Rovelli’s Sette brevi lezioni di fisica written in 2014. The book was translated into English by Simon Carnell and Eric Segre in 2015.

In his discussion, I felt that there were still parts of Physics that I would like to explore and read up more on. Although the book does not have footnotes that would help me to learn more. It is an intense book packed with information. I read this book between March 17, 2020 and finished it on May 26, 2020. The book is 79 pages long.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics Cover, Fair use, Link

The first lesson of the book explores Einstein’s theory of general relativity published in 1915. But, before we get there we have to realise that in one of his three papers written in 1905, Einstein suggested that time is not the same for everyone. The Theory of General Relativity suggests that gravity is the curvature of space.

In the second lesson, Rovelli deals with Quantum Mechanics. In 1900, Max Planck conducted an experiment to measure the electric field in a hot box. For calculations, he considered energy to be lumps of energy that he called quanta. While the results agreed, it disagreed with what was known till then about Energy.

In 1905, one of the three papers that Einstein submitted showed that Planck’s view of the world is true. He showed that light is made of similar packets, called photons. This paper birthed the field of Quantum Physics. The rest of the second lesson explores how Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg flesh out the field of Quantum Physics with Einstein objecting and rejecting the results that the field proposed.

The 1905 introduction to the paper begins with “It seems to me that..”. Rovelli suggests that genius hesitates and great scientists doubt till the end.

The third lesson is a chapter filled with diagrams. The reason why is explained beautifully by Rovelli, thus:

This lesson is made up mostly of simple drawings. The reason for this is that before experiments, measurements, mathematics and rigorous deductions, science is above all about visions. Science begins with a vision. Scientific thought is fed by the capacity to ‘see’ things differently than they have previously been seen.

Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lesssons in Physics, Third Lesson, pp 21-22, 2015, translated into English by Simon Carnell and Eric Segre

The diagrams refer to how our view of our world changed from Earth below to sky above to us being in an ordinary solar system in an ordinary galaxy. The diagrams describe the structure of our universe.

The fourth lesson talks about particles. It goes into the development of quantum physics and then ends up discussing the various issues related to the Standard Model. The Model is a series of equations that has “never been taken entirely seriously by physicists” and seem to them “piecemeal and patched together”. The Model when applied directly leads to nonsensical predictions. A process called re-normalization is used to make them sensible. One of its limitation is an inability to explain dark matter. However, this Model provides the best answers to the phenomena we witness in the universe.

The fourth lesson also introduces an important concept. It introduces us to a “world of happenings, not things”. He explains:

The nature of these particles, and the way they move, is described by quantum mechanics. These particles do not have a pebble-like reality but are rather the ‘quanta’ of corresponding fields, just as photons are ‘quanta’ of the electromagnetic field.

Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lesssons in Physics, Fourth Lesson, pp 30, 2015, translated into English by Simon Carnell and Eric Segre

The fifth lesson introduces us to a conundrum in the world of physics. General Relativity is our best theory that explains things at the cosmic scale and which led to the development of fields like Cosmology and Astrophysics. Quantum Mechanics provides our best theory that explains things at the quantum scale and led to the development of fields like atomic physics, nuclear physics, physics of condensed matter, etc. However both these fields do not agree with each other.

Many theories are being postulated to try and bring these two laws together and fit them together. The author himself is part of such an effort called Loop Quantum Theory. He is part of one of several groups trying to integrate the two theories.

The sixth lesson deals with concepts of heat that I was not aware of. The nature of time is dependent on nature of heat.

The difference between past and future only exists when there is heat. The fundamental phenomenon that distinguishes the future from the past is the fact that heat passes from things that are hotter to things that are colder.

Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lesssons in Physics, Fourth Lesson, pp 51, 2015, translated into English by Simon Carnell and Eric Segre

He then says that the answer to why heat flows from hot bodies to clod bodies is very simple. It is just probability. The rest of the chapter flows from probability towards the concept of the heat of black holes. This still unanswered question brings together the field of quantum mechanics, general relativity and thermal science.

The book is a lot of information to take in about 79 pages. Even writing this review of the book took me more than a week. I don’t think I have done justice to the book. But, writing more would have become the equivalent to just writing the book here. What I have sought to do here is to try and build an outline of the book and introduce you to the mysteries that pulled me towards reading the book.

This is a book that provides a simple, deep understanding of the Physics of the twentieth century. It helps you understand where we stand and throws a light on where we are headed.

Blog Anniversary

WordPress.com notified me today morning that it’s been 14 years since I joined WordPress.com.

I used to blog on Blogger since 2004. I have lost some of the older posts I wrote. I have tried recovering some of the blog posts using Internet Archive. However, the earliest post that I could recover are from 2006.

I moved to WordPress from Blogger after finding it on a Tibetan blog talking about alternatives to Blogger which had just become a Google owned service. I have since used Drupal, Tumblr, Vox, LiveJournal, self-hosted WordPress, Posterous, Write.as and many more platforms that I hope to play around with to power my blogging.

Static generated websites are my latest fascination. Static generated websites provide you with a stack of HTML files that you can upload to your server. They are considered to be better as they don’t depend on the existence of blogging platforms. They generate HTML files which you can write in case these companies shut down. They are also considered more secure as databases are not involved in generating the website that you see on the browser.

That said, WordPress now powers 36% of the internet. That statistic is increasing day by day.

It’s certainly been a long journey. There have been long stretches with no blog posts. There have been stretches with more than a blog post a day. After a lot of nagging, I finally got my wife to write her first blog post.

Daughter’s School – First Working Day

Daughter ready for her online class in Nursery

It’s a new world.

The first day at school (yesterday – June 10) for my daughter involved an hour long session for Parents Orientation. My daughter, my wife and I sat in front of my laptop awaiting for the session to begin. Today (June 11) the working day begins.

Several parents logged in, tried playing with the settings. Muting audio and toggling the video settings. The pre-primary coordinator introduced us to the school, its founder and the principal. The principal made a brief statement welcoming us to the school’s family. She said that the times were unprecedented for both parents and teachers. She asked for our support during the first few days as we both adjusted to not being physically present.

We were asked to turn on the cameras and the students got to see their teachers for the first time on a video call on Teams.

Our laptop died on us right in the middle. It took us a few minutes of worry to switch to the mobile phone app. Afterwards, my wife took it to another repair shop as the guy who repaired it earlier was out of Pune for a two day visit to his parents. We got the laptop repaired in the evening.

In the QnA session thereafter, a parent asked if the school could start later in the day as kids wake up late.

Parents use the Teams chat feature to get other parents’ mobile numbers and started a WhatsApp group. My efforts to try and quit WhatsApp remain difficult. The conversation in the evening turned towards how unfair it was to have kids studying in Nursery take their class online. News from Karnataka added fuel to the fire.

Many parents felt that physical presence of teachers (who were trained for this) was needed. The stress on the parents has certainly increased. Working parents would find it difficult to sit with their children.

There is a triplet in our daughter’s class. Do the issues multiply 3x for them or do these things get better with scale?

The classes for the first two weeks is just an hour long. They begin with a “morning assembly”. That is followed with a 5 minute break. The first class begins at 9:30 am. This goes on for half an hour. This is followed by a 15 minute fruit break. Then there is another class for half an hour. This is followed by a 5 minute break. The day ends with a “closing assembly”.

Daughter’s First Day at School

Today is my daughter’s first day at school. She is in Nursery.

First, let me acknowledge my privilege in being able to afford a school that is starting on time during a pandemic. The classes are online. Being able to afford a separate laptop for her with enough internet bandwidth to attend class and for me to work from home is a blessing.

We were thinking of moving to Kerala in May 2020. I was working from home and schools were not slated to open till September 2020 this year. The interstate pass system had opened. We were applying for passes planning to drive down to Kerala. The request got rejected. On the evening of the same day, we got an email from my daughter’s school that school would open with online classes on June 10, 2020. June 10 is the day schools normally open in Maharashtra, where we are based now.

This stopped us from seeking a pass to go to Kerala and we decided to stay put here. Although classes are online, we were not sure how easy it would be to travel between Maharashtra and Kerala at some point in the future.

Many of the smaller private schools and government schools have still not opened and are wondering how to ensure that everyone can access academic content. There are concerns around content delivery and access. My daughter’s school has assumed that it’s parents have the privilege to access a laptop or a smartphone at home with good bandwidth.

A few days before the announcement, I was listening to Rukmini’s podcast, The Moving Curve. She was talking about the importance of opening up schools and day care facilities as a precursor to parents returning to work. In India, working parents choose and depend on schools to take care of their kids most of the day to enable them to go to work.

In a recent episode, Rukmini spoke of how a disruption of even a year in the student’s academic track leads to a loss in pay of about 15% per year later on in life. That’s getting one pay grade less than one deserves for the rest of life.

This helped me realize the importance of privilege of being able to have my daughter attend school now.

I was watching this video in Malayalam of efforts people are taking to prepare their child for school online. Cleaning up the background, setting up a desk for studying and providing water and sufficient lighting during studies. There are also health considerations like keeping a safe distance between the child’s eyes and the screen.

Online class about to begin… video in Malayalam

I lent the table and chair I was using for working from home to my daughter. We put a sofa cushion on the seat so that the camera is at the correct height that she can be seen. We have moved furniture around so that the background is our wall. We also did a few test runs with my parents last night.

My daughter’s classes are on Microsoft Teams, a software that even I was only introduced to last year while I was working with State Bank of India. She has her own email id for accessing content and for school work.

My best wishes for everyone who are on this journey.