Digital dump

20 03 2017

We are in a data explosion era. No surprise there. Unprecedented amount of data is being captured virtually about everything everywhere. Each day we are leaving a detailed digital footprint across the web and through several other applications and connections. Apart from the Internet, myriad gadgets and software applications, each one of us is also accumulating huge amounts of personal data. It’s all over. Filling the hard drives of the multiple computers we work with, storage on smartphones and tablets, and cloud storage services like Google Drive, One Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, Box etc. Not to mention external hard drives and pen drives.

The moment of truth finally struck me as yet another of my cloud storage accounts has reached its limit and refrained me from editing. I could have paid for increasing the storage space, but that’s not the point here. I have several online accounts that I leverage for cloud storage and almost all of them are full – with pictures, videos, documents, and music. Lots of them. And it never seems to end. This hoarding.  I periodically take backups of the contents of my laptop and store them in an external hard drive. I’m not sure how much of it is repeated and how many times. I collect articles, documents, books, my personal projects forever in progress, learning material, notes and many more. And all this outside of what’s in my email inboxes.

Why keep it all in the first place?  Preserving history. You never know what part of your past you might want to look at in future for reminiscing or what part of your past might hold a key to your present or future problems. Or so we rationalize. Storage is cheap. So, we store. Almost everything. Creating a huge digital dump.

Do I always know what all I already have? Not really. Oftentimes I can’t even remember the number of accounts and storage devices I have, let alone the contents of each. Even if I remember that I had something stored safely, often I can’t find or get to it efficiently. This is not just a simple “organization” issue. Though of course, it helps. The sheer scale of the data one gathers makes any attempt of periodically cataloging and maintaining the data dumps appear insurmountable. Even more so because cleaning up and organizing stuff is perhaps one of the least appealing tasks one can do. (Please note that here here I’m speaking more of myself than anyone else 🙂 ) Especially because one has to do it regularly to maintain.

When I started thinking about digital hoarding, I immediately saw that the minimalist approach that we (some of us) try to apply to our physical possessions can be extended to even these virtual possessions.  With physical objects, you can at least get a sense of magnitude by virtue of the physical space they occupy, the amount of money you expend on accumulating them, and the resulting impact on quality of life. But with digital hoarding, it’s difficult to get the head around the extent of your possessions beyond a point. And the fact that the costs are minimum doesn’t help either.

But one may argue that if the costs are minor, why bother. Valid point. But I believe that there are hidden costs. Most of the data just lays there, dormant, waiting, and completely ignored. Passwords forgotten and accounts seldom logged in, DVDs/CDs gathering dust etc. If all that data could think, it might have had some serious existential questions. 😛 . This massive amount of digital data – where does it eventually go? What happens to it? If it’s in the cloud, privacy is definitely a concern. As for the physical storage devices, they create clutter and have some of the downsides of other physical possessions; harder to maintain and difficult to find and retrieve information.

Of course, as with physical possessions, it would be very difficult to let go of your digital history. Especially, pictures. But do you really need all of those tens of thousands of pictures? Anyways, one has to start somewhere while pruning. The easiest task would be to eliminate duplicates. Then tackle obsolete notes and documents. Movies and old music that you seldom peruse can be next. Consolidating, grouping, and labeling help a lot to bring structure to your digital universe.

It’s not about the quantity, but the quality. My guess is that when you tackle the former, the latter will emerge by itself. When you have low inventory, finding stuff and maintenance will be more efficient. There is definitely hope. I hereby avow to embark on the journey to transform my personal digital footprint (at least what’s under my control).





Alamere Falls

12 03 2017

With abundant rains this season, California is finally out of drought and its water bodies are brimming with water. Best time to visit my favorite part of the nature – waterfalls. That Saturday the original plan was to hike to Cataract Falls. But alas! Mudslides the previous day had blocked the access to the trail on both sides. So, the decision was made to head to Alamere falls instead. The last 2 miles drive to the Palomarin trail head was so horrible with unimaginable potholes. Especially in the Porsche Convertible. ( Not my car. I carpooled. 😛 ). Drive past Stinson beach, turn into Olema Bolinas Rd and then take Mesa Road.

It was a 8 mile out and back hike. A sunny clear day after a long time, it seemed everyone is out that day. The trail was so overcrowded. We ourselves are a group of about 20 people.

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Much of the trail was muddy but the hike offered splendid views of the bay on the way.

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Continue on the Coast Trail. Beautiful lakes galore.

 

Turn left into a not so evident trail to reach  Alamere falls at the beach. To my satisfaction, they were lush and roaring.

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Had to climb down the rock to reach the bottom of the falls.

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Access to the beach was limited  requiring one to cross the a-little-too-wide creek.

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I didn’t try crossing the creek. Just spent some time at the falls. Before leaving though, I couldn’t resist recording the sound of the roaring water. It’s music.





Women’s Day

8 03 2017

Today is International Women’s Day. To be truthful, I have little knowledge of what exactly that signifies. I can speculate and draw inferences though from other “Days”.

We have Mother’s day, Father’s day and Valentines’ Day. On those days we express our gratitude and appreciation for those special people in our lives. Usually there is one each. One mother, one father, and one valentine (hopefully). On a side note, I don’t understand why kids in US exchange valentines’ day cards and treats in school. To be truthful, given my Asian heritage, even the concept of Mother’s day and Father’s Day sounded very absurd at first. I see it as a distinctly western concept. But I eventually came to realize the purpose of it. The culture has spread everywhere. I reckon there is also Grandparents’ Day. And many others I would imagine.

And then we have other types of days – Earth Day, Aids day etc.. These actually represent a cause, are intended to raise awareness, and propel people to take some kind of action. For example, save energy on Earth day by switching off electricity for an hour.

So, what kind of day is “Women’s Day”? Who should celebrate it? Who should be celebrated? Should men celebrate the women in their lives or  should everyone, irrespective of their gender, express their appreciation for women in their lives? All women? Special women? Should women celebrate themselves? For what? For being women? Why? All I observe around is the hullabaloo in the media and women wishing each other or taking time out to chill out. Our men are generally quiet. 🙂 I would think women’s day belongs to the latter category – the one that represents a cause, rather than the former – a celebration of the subject in consideration.

I figured from a rudimentary web search that my hunch is indeed right . International Women’s Day is not the celebration of women themselves but rather of their achievements. It calls for gender parity. For centuries women had been underprivileged and it’s only recently that they have started penetrating and making strides in all possible spheres – economic, cultural, social, political etc.

I don’t mean to discount the women or the day. I just want to highlight that it’s important to truly understand the significance of the moment and feel the spirit of the day, not just be taken for a ride by commercialism, media, and just wishes.

I hope every woman pauses today for a moment to cherish and take inspiration from all the achievements of herself and other women around her. I hope everyone else take a moment to acknowledge the women’s progress so far and the journey ahead to achieve true gender parity.

Kudos to all the wonderful woman achievers. A couple of mentions here off the top of my head:

  • Just finished listening to Angela Duckworth’s Grit this morning. I appreciate her contribution, as a research scientist, to the body of knowledge. Her work on passion and perseverance is influential.
  • I should mention that I work for a company led by a woman. I appreciate and draw inspiration from all the wonderful women who are part of the organization.

Happy Women’s Day! 🙂





Havasupai Falls (part 2)

6 03 2017

Click here for part 1.

The Havasupai campground was spread for about 200 meters along the stream. We set our camp beside the stream right at the beginning.  There was cool spring drinking water available. It was delicious. No hassle with filtering. No campfire allowed though.

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We spent the next morning taking pictures of all the three falls.

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Little Navajo Falls

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Fifty Foot Falls

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Havasu Falls

We encountered a wolf-like dog, who accompanied us along the way, stopping where we stop, following us, and at times leading us up and down the trail. It’s a wonder how I kept my cool without freaking out or paralyzing with feat at that proximity of such a ferocious looking animal. I pat myself on the shoulder but I think I derived my courage from the others in the group. Can’t imagine my plight if I were alone. 😛

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We headed to Mooney falls in the afternoon. It’s a very short walk – about a quarter of a mile – from Havasu Falls on the other side of the campground. They have the same aquamarine look as the Havasu Falls. In my opinion, Mooney Falls are even more beautiful and magnificent than Havasu Falls. But these are hard to reach. The climb down to the foot of the falls is a little bit dangerous, requiring one to pass through tunnels and hold on to the chains and use the ladders installed while climbing down the mountain. But there were strong foot holds, so it wasn’t totally risky. I was trying to compare this with Zion’s Angel Landing climb and at first was very reluctant to take the risk.

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But I’m glad I pushed my boundaries and moved on. Experiencing the falls from the bottom was heavenly. I had a great time.

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The distinct aquamarine color of the water is a result of a chemical reaction between the minerals in the soil and the desert weather. The details of the involved chemistry might sound a little boring, but the result is nonetheless magical.

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Mooney Falls

There were one more falls 5 miles down the stream – Beaver Falls, but were told that at that time it requires wading through waist-deep water to reach them. So, we called the plan off. Maybe next time. 🙂

There were a few, including me, among our group who decided to use the mule service to carry our backpacks back to the hilltop. I’m glad I made that decision as I enjoyed my hike back a lot taking in the beauty of the surroundings. You don’t have to take the hard path. 😉

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Havasu Falls, and Mooney Falls are undoubtedly the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen so far. It was a splendid trip made more memorable by the entire group. Lots of teamwork and camaraderie. I’m so grateful for the whole experience.

 





Heavenly Falls – Havasu

5 03 2017

It’s only a few months ago that I came to know about the amazingly beautiful Havasu falls close to Grand Canyon. My love for waterfalls meant that I had to visit these for sure. The catch though is that since it’s part of Indian reservation area, one needs to apply for and get a permit. This process itself isn’t very easy, usually requiring one to contact the office through phone, which would be too busy to be reached at, requiring one to try at least for a few days to succeed.  I heard that, given the popularity of the falls, the permits for the whole season would be finished with days of opening the reservations for the year (Feb 1st).   It’s a 10 mile hike to the falls, which is not bad. However, day hiking is absolutely not permitted and you have to either camp in the campground, just beside the falls or stay at the lodge in the Supai village, two miles from the falls. When I gathered all this information, I decided that I wouldn’t want to do it alone, uncomfortable with dealing with all the hassle myself. Luckily, some of the people I met through a meetup planned for backpacking to Havasupai this year and I was super delighted. After several members of the group calling the office for a couple of days, it was discovered that they have opened up online applications for the permits this year. Hurray! The permit was obtained and we were all set to go. The timing too was perfect for me.  It was as if the entire universe conspired to make me go.

Since rain was forecasted during that time, I tried to prepare my backpack for rain and wetness. I thought 25lb is a good weight. I’m a newbie to the backpacking world, having done only a couple of short weekend backpacking trips earlier.  But I don’t know why, the hike down was challenging. Maybe the backpack wasn’t fit properly or maybe the last few extra pounds were too heavy for me. The 10 miles seemed to stretch forever. Especially the last 2-3 miles.

We started on the hilltop at around 10 am. It was cold and windy at the top. The first 2 miles was downhill, not as steep as I have imagined. The rest of the hike was all flat, with only minor elevation changes. Given the forecast of rain, I dressed myself in weird suit and poncho for the hike. I’m sure I looked hilarious, like someone from a science-fiction movie. 😉 The weather was pleasant for the hike notwithstanding the rain and showers on and off along the way.

We reached the village after about 8 miles  where we got our wrist bands at the registration office. These we had to wear throughout our stay. The campground is a little over two miles from the village.

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Entering the Supai village

We came across Little Navajo Falls and Fifty Foot Falls along the way beyond the village. We went back the next morning to savor the beauty of these falls in leisure. They are truly spectacular.

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Little Navajo Falls in the front; Fifty Foot Falls at the back

But of course  the true stars of the show are Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls.  When I first glimpsed Havasu Falls, just before reaching the campground, my reaction was one of unbelievability.  They were totally ethereal.

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Havasu Falls

It was dusk by the time we setup our tents in the campground. Despite the fatigue, we couldn’t resist a quick trip to the falls. We relished the cool aquamarine looking water to our heart’s content. I especially cherish the moments when a few of us visited the falls in the dark. It’s just the cloudless dark sky, falls and absolute silence except the roaring water. Bliss.

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To be continued in the next post.





Wardrobe routine

22 02 2017

One day: Wow, look at all these amazing pieces of clothing and accessories I have. I can wear this or this or that one today. Looks like I have a whole range of stuff to wear for days coming. I don’t have to shop for at least a few years. I have more than enough. I feel blessed!

Another day: What can I wear today: to suit my mood, weather, depending on level and nature of social interaction anticipated during the day, to go with the new set of accessories I absolutely have to wear today, something I haven’t donned on in at least the last 2 weeks, a different color and style from the ones I wore over the past few days, …. This wardrobe is useless. I can’t find anything suitable. Damn!

 





Awesomeness

17 02 2017

Awesome. An overused word. Perhaps one of the most.

I read/heard somewhere a long time ago that using “awesome” a little too much is a sure sign of one’s lame vocabulary. It need not and shouldn’t be used as a one-size-fits-all adjective to describe anything positive. The message is  – fight the urge to use it everywhere, get a grip and summon up the appropriate adjective from the depths of your vocabulary pool instead. It totally makes sense. But time and again I find myself lapsing and using the “a” word too much.

So, what can we use instead? In my opinion, adjectives are the most beautiful words in any language. The English language provides us with plethora of adjectives for all occasions. I know old habits die hard! But there’s hope. So, let’s start small.

To appreciate someone’s work:

  • Good/Great job
  • Excellent
  • Brilliant
  • Impressive
  • Outstanding

To admire nature/beauty:

  • Beautiful (simple, isn’t it?)
  • Stunning
  • Breathtaking
  • Splendid
  • Lovely

Expressing awe:

  • Awe-struck
  • Mind blowing
  • Magnificent
  • Wonderful
  • Fantastic

So, what about “awesome”? It’s a real word. isn’t it? What’s the appropriate use of it? It means “something that inspires awe”. So, it has its legitimate use. But, maybe, just to compensate its overuse all around, let me use its other synonyms instead for a while. 😛 ( I actually need the solemn looking hand over chin thinking emoji here! )