I Signed Up For Apple News + For These Five Reasons

So, I signed up for Apple News +. Here are the reasons why:

So many magazines!

It gives me access to more than 300 magazines and a few newspapers. That is very exciting! These magazines cover science & technology, travel, politics, lifestyle, cooking, outdoors, photography, and many more. I am excited to read about practically everything BUT in a restricted capacity. There’s no chance of me going down a rabbit hole or getting overwhelmed by the boundless amount of information, which is a dominant characteristic of websites. If I do decide to read an  issue right from the beginning, I know I will reach the end. That, is always satisfying.

Can easily recover 10 bucks

The catalog has Time, New Yorker, Wired and a bunch of other magazines that I have always wanted to read. Even if I am unable to read all 300 magazines in a month (!), reading just a few of these will make up for the money spent.

Fodder for my blog

I want fodder for my blog. I am really looking forward to getting access to some interesting material about assistive technology that I can write about. As a matter of fact, right after signing up and browsing for 5 minutes or so, I found a very interesting article on brain machine interface (BMI) that I can use in an eBook I want to write about the same topic.

Death of Facebook

Substitute for Facebook: Facebook has become the de-facto source of news for me but it also comes with its own share of noise. Honestly, Facebook has become a nuisance, an addictive nuisance if I may say so myself. I plan to replace Facebook with News +.

Pictures are pretty!

Even if I don’t read much, flipping through magazines and just looking at pictures is always fun.

I cancelled my Washington Post subscription through Amazon which was $4 per month. I am hoping Apple News adds more newspapers to the list. So far, LA Times is the only legit newspaper that it has in its catalog. I am okay with that.

If you are planning to sign up for it too, just know that many of the magazines look super small on the iPhone. It is definitely much better on the iPad.

Seven Things I Will (Continue To) Do This New Year

“New Year, New You!” is the anthem that has been driving (or at least pretending to drive) us creatures of habit to re-invent ourselves  on  January 1 every year!  Just like you, I am a victim of this perpetual new year hysteria. In the past, On January 1, ____ (pick a year of your choice),  I have tried to start new habits and cultivate new talents, but by middle of February or March (tops), I go through the proverbial act of “giving up”, after clashing with my inner desire to actually not pursue these wild new activities. It’s not because I lack motivation or enthusiasm – I mean, it may be true to some extent, but overall, I have realized that my brain is just not wired to dive into certain activities.

A few years ago, I tried to teach myself how to draw comic strips. I convinced myself  that drawing (and even painting) is an ability that would help me get creative in other aspects of my life. I would impress people with my aptitude to sketch a mean strip that will not only make people guffaw with uncontrollable bouts of coughing but also make them realize what an amazing message I conveyed through art.

None of that happened. After several attempts of me coaxing my brain to learn, my heart made me put a stop to it, and encouraged me to learn other things that I have an inclination for. This has happened many times in my life, and after several (failed?) attempts at various things, I am coming to terms with the fact that certain things are just not meant for me.

That’s not a bad thing! The good news is that there are certain other things I am more interested in (and good at), and for me, personally, keeping those other things alive , and using them creatively in various aspects of my life , will be more fulfilling.

So, for this year, here is a list of things I plan to keep doing and enhancing in my life.

Write

I have always enjoyed writing. When I was in graduate school, I maintained a personal blog where I dumped all of my every day thoughts, and the four of you religiously and regularly consumed them. I realize only now how therapeutic it was for me back then – there was something so amazing about jotting down mundane details of my every day life.  It helped me deal with (and sometimes forget) many frustrations that came with being a student.

Since then, I have definitely maintained my writing prowess. I started Assistive Technology Blog in late 2010, and have been continuously writing about technology for people with disabilities since then. I also started Accessibility with Echo as well as my personal website (this) for the sole purpose of sharing information.  So, writing never saw a departure from my life but what I missed was expressing in words the mischiefs my neurons in my brain were up to.

So, what’s changing this year? I will definitely continue to write blogs. Besides that, I will journal my thoughts regularly. There is something so refreshing about journaling – it keeps my mind clear, and helps me plan and think through things. It is especially helpful when you have so many thoughts in your mind and you want clarity on one of those. (the  most important one, perhaps!) In my case, a lot of it will go into my personal journal but some of them may end up on my website.

h/t to my Wonder Woman to help me revive my habit of journaling. She is an avid journaler and that habit of hers definitely rubbed off on me!

In addition, I plan to write a book. Yes, you read that right – I will write a book! Announcing my goals in public is my mechanism to make sure I complete them. So, yes, I will write a book this year mofos! More details to follow but it will be on a topic I am quite comfortable with.

Read

Or continue to read. Reading is an ongoing source of self-schooling, delight, peace and frustration. Frustration mostly because there is so much to read but so little time. I am surrounded by books that I haven’t finished – some not even started! The good news is that the antilibrary keeps me grounded, and constantly reminds me about a) how much I still don’t know, and b) how much I still need to learn.

I got more books as gifts this holiday season! I am now surrounded by some really exciting books, thanks to my very thoughtful Wonder Woman who is always encouraging me to read and learn.

See for yourself:

a stack of books resting on a desk.

Some of these I was already reading, and the others are brand new. To not get intimidated, and to not make these wonderful books end up in the antilibrary, I have decided that  I will read one chapter from each of these books every day. If a chapter is too big, I will read at least 15 pages of that chapter and move on to the next book. The plan is to mark these books “read” from “currently reading” on goodreads! So, yes, a bit of an aggressive goal but the idea is to read a lot more, and on a daily basis. I will keep you posted on how I fare.

PS: A couple of years ago, right around this time, I went to a bookshop in Bangalore to buy some books. On my way out, I grabbed around 2 dozen free bookmarks. Soon after, I felt pretty dumb for doing that. What was the need for picking up those many bookmarks? Will I EVER read those many books simultaneously? Well, turns out, the Universe has a plan for me. It’s not 2 dozen books that I am currently reading, but it’s pretty darn close. Yes, I DO need all those bookmarks!

Photography

Taking photos is another activity I consider therapeutic. I haven’t taken photos regularly in maybe a couple of years, and i plan to change that this year. The plan is to take a little bit of a structured approach – through “projects”, If you will. There are three projects I have in mind:

A Photo A Day

I will take at least one purposeful photo a day and post it somewhere – either in my personal journal or on my website. The photo should resonate with me, and I should find some meaning in it. A condition I have set for myself for this project – It will not be taken with my phone camera! I will use my compact mirrorless camera that I will keep in my backpack all the time, along with the USB powered shaver (!) that my sister gave me for Christmas.

Community Project

Just like any other city, Minneapolis has segregated pockets of ethnic communities in different parts of the city.  My goal is to get to know the local Somalian, Ethiopian, Hmong communities better by getting actively involved in these communities, taking photos and sharing them with everyone.

Data Project

I love data. I am not a data guru by any means but just like many others, I am fascinated by it. This project, that I have a rough idea about, will be an amalgamation of data and photography. We will just have to see what I come up with.

Music

I haven’t touched my guitar in a while too. I plan to play the guitar at least for five minutes every day. I miss the ability to be invincible in front of an imaginary crowd. I miss the calluses too.

PS: Solomon Linda turned in his grave after watching this.

Fun With Wonder Woman

This is not necessarily a resolution but more of a relationship goal. I will continue to do fun things with my Wonder Woman. I need to make a conscious effort to make sure all these personal projects listed above do not become obstacles in my relationship. I am fascinated by Wonder Woman’s brain and heart, and how they operate on a totally different level. I wouldn’t want to put a stop to all the fun we have together because of my selfish goals!

So, these are what I consider “major”  goals for the coming year. They are not necessarily brand new. They don’t have any shock factor. I am already familiar and comfortable with them. I just need to continue working on two of them (reading, writing), and pick back up the other two (photography, music) and be as creative as possible.

Besides these, I also have some “minor” goals for this year. Starting with:

Close all Browser Tabs

On my computer, I have at least 50 tabs open on each browser window. I tell myself that (almost) every tab has important info, and I will keep them open to revisit them later. Well, I never revisit them. Never! I don’t turn off my computer for weeks because of these tabs, and finally when I do, I feel a bit of a tingle in my body. I just lost all that valuable information that I was never ever going to read! 

That is coming to an end starting today, January1, 2019! No more hundreds of open tabs for weeks/ months. Every night, this computer is getting turned off, whether I like it or not!

Floss

A part of me feels ashamed admitting this in public but for the life of me, I cannot get into flossing. I have no issues with the activity itself but it’s just the intrusive nature of it that I have a problem with. It’s too much work making it get between my wonderful teeth (my dentist’s words!) to clean them. Also,  why is it always the dental hygienist who is all about flossing but the dentist doesn’t really give a shit? [“Your teeth are in excellent condition!”]

Anyway, I am happy to announce that flossing is a go starting today! I bought a water flosser that is a pleasure to use! All it does is shoot a stream of water right through the gaps in your teeth, so it’s not intrusive at all. I honestly don’t know if it’s really cleaning my teeth but according to the 12,363 reviewers on Amazon, it is! So, dare I say it but I look forward to flossing every night now!

So…

here I am. I have a list of things I want to not only do but also succeed at this year. To me, my goals are about making my personal life more meaningful. I do not want to get stuck in a rut involving my professional life, which I absolutely love. These little things will act as reminders to switch off, log out. I want to constantly find ways to be creative, live a wonderful life with my partner, and enjoy more things than just work.

What are you doing to spice up 2019? I would love to hear about your plans in the comments below!

Silver Bay Marina Breakwater: A Beautiful And Rusty Adventure In Northern Minnesota

Serendipity is wonderful.

Sometimes, something passes you by for a split second. You observe it, photograph it in your mind, try to make sense of it, and determine that what you just witnessed seemed exciting, and that you should go back, spend some time re-visiting it, and figure out if it was really that exciting or a damp squib.

It was a cloudy, July morning – not too hot but a bit unusually chilly from all the (Superior) lake wind. Driving back from our camping trip up north in Minnesota, we passed a spot on Highway 61 that had many docked boats. There’s nothing special about docked boats but what really caught my attention was a breakwater extending into the lake. The glimpse that I caught of the breakwater, for a fraction of a second, was enough for me to exclaim in excitement in my mind. It seemed like something I had never seen before, and something told me that it was worth visiting. It seemed like a (not so) hidden gem – something that people would pass by without even noticing. That’s what even we almost did. We did notice it but didn’t stop to see what it really was.

In case you didn’t know, Lake Superior is a giant water body! It’s grandiose beauty extends for miles, in every direction. At various intervals on the north shore, there are several points of interest. However, this, what I had just observed seemed a little unmarked. It had boats which meant that people definitely visited it, but it must only be the ones with boats, right? Why else would you want to go there?

After having stopped at some sort of a garage sale just a few miles down, we decided to head back to this spot. There was something intriguing about it, and I really wanted to check it out. I am glad I saw the name of this place written on a board right at the entrance.

 Silver Bay Marina

We went back a few miles and found this magical spot. It was the Silver Bay Marina on Highway 61. We entered, parked our car, and walked around a bit. There was a little trail, a restaurant, and a bunch of boats. And then there was the breakwater. Made up of giant boulders, it extended quite far into the lake. What was so interesting about this one was that at the other end of this breakwater, it connected to an island, which I later found out was Pellet Island.

The breakwater, and the giant boulders that made it, were very inviting. The boulders looked rugged yet peaceful. They didn’t look dangerous. The path that they made were so wide that there was no chance of us falling/slipping into the lake if we just kept to the middle. The boulders were giant enough to give us stable footholds, although you still have to be a bit cautious about where your foot lands. The breakwater is substantially long, and you wouldn’t want to frolic too much and end up twisting your ankle somewhere in the middle! Pellet Island on the other end is a beautiful reward, and once you start heading towards its direction, coming back without touching it just seemed unsatisfying – like going to a candy store and walking out without buying any.

Rusty Boulders

As soon as you start walking towards the island, you notice that the rocks are really rusty. North shore is a hub for iron ore mining. That area has Taconite and other igneous rocks in abundance, and turns out, the boulders in this breakwater comprise mostly of these rocks that oxidize when they come in contact with water and air, and form a beautiful rusty texture. They are vivid! They are bright, and have a very vibrant marigold-orange hue. Some of these rocks are covered with rust, and they are just so beautiful that you cannot help but stop and look at them in awe for a minute or so. The entire stretch of the breakwater is full of such rusty boulders!

The Ladder

A ladder?

After around a half hour of carefully jumping from one boulder to another, we finally get to the end of the breakwater. We reach the adjoining island, only to see a man made ladder hung from the top! Did I say earlier that the breakwater was inviting? There was no way in hell that we could have gone back without climbing up the ladder and going up the island to see the other side. The ladder, made purely of ropes and wooden rungs, was decently sturdy. We climbed up it, walked around a bit only to find another couple of small islands in the back covered in white. They were full of seagulls just sitting there – the wind didn’t seem to bother them at all.

We spent maybe 15 minutes up there before heading back down. Going down these makeshift ladders is always fun! With a bit of nervousness, we went down the ladder, and it took all of 15 seconds or so to set down.

It took us another 20-30 minutes for us to head back to the marina. On our way back, it was really cool to see different rust patterns on the other sides of the boulders that we couldn’t see when we were heading towards the island.

Worth It?

Totally. Check out the photos below to see what it’s like. It’s a different kind of adventure – something that you don’t come across everywhere. If you are heading to Northern Minnesota, definitely check out this breakwater at the Silver Bay Marina.

To show what the breakwater and the boulders look like on a cloudy, windy morning, I decided not to edit the photos. Click on the first one to see bigger sized photos. There’s a video right after the photos too!

 

 

MayDay Parade!

One of the events I thoroughly enjoy, and look forward to every year is the MayDay parade. An event that not only acts as a major confluence of art, music, and dancing, but also touches upon various social and political causes that affect the local community, country, and the world. It is incredible to see so many people working so hard, and coming together to raise awareness through art. Just like me, there are thousands more who await this day every year.

I have been going to the parade for four years now,  and I plan to not stop going in the future! Big crowds of like minded people congregating for this parade gives me hope that many of us are keen on learning about what’s going on around us – low wages, police brutality, global warming, barrel bombing, 9/11 conspiracies, to name a few  – and plan to do whatever we can to make some positive impact in our lives.

You will see some galleries below of photos from each year’s MayDay parade. One thing you will probably notice is that although these photos are capturing the social messages and the getting together of the local community, they also focus on specific individuals, the role they play as part of the parade, and their interactions with others in their immediate surroundings.

I hope you like these photos.

MayDay Parade May 7, 2017

 

MayDay Parade May 1, 2016

 

MayDay Parade May 3, 2015

MayDay Parade May 4, 2014

 

Lætitia Tamko of Vagabon

I like her a lot. I have started listening to her while I write in the mornings. Her voice is just so perpetually soothing, and her mannerism blows me away. How can someone be so soft spoken, and polite? I want to sit under a tree with her and just listen to her talk about things for hours. Her voice is just so therapeutic. It is also powerful yet kind. Her guitar picking and distortion add excitement to somewhat ephemeral melancholy brought by her singing.

Dimmed lights recommended.

 

Image Source: Village Voice

People Watching

I hear folks say that they are going out for “people watching”. If not, wherever they are going, they say “people watching” would be spectacular there. But, aren’t those “people” saying the same thing about them?

Invariably, we are all a part of a massive people watching phenomenon! Unknowingly, we end up entertaining each other, and finally end up on the Internet.

Reasons Why I Love Libraries

Third floor on the Central Library in Downtown Minneapolis. To the left and right are just stacks of shelves, and in the center is the computer area where people come and use them for various purposes.

I have been part of the coffee shop culture for a long time. I have frequented them enough to be called a regular. Like many others, I don’t go there necessarily for the beverages, but to get work done. I sit there for an hour or so, and write, periodically sipping on my beverage. Coffee shops are fine, but it is easy to get distracted there. Music, people going in and out, sometimes people chatting fairly loudly..

There’s nothing wrong with any of that, really. I, personally, get distracted by all of that. It doesn’t help either that these coffee shops are really tiny at times. It’s not easy to escape the hullabaloo.

I function quite well when it’s quiet around me, especially when I am required to read and comprehend something.

So, why do I love libraries?

Libraries are the exact opposite. Their gargantuan sizes spoil me – what floor should I go to today? Where should I sit? A desk or a couch? By the giant windows that would let me look at the hustle and bustle of the city but not hear any of it? Or by the exhibition room that shows art work by local artists? Just entering a library is an activity in itself because I have to make all these exciting decisions as I approach the main floor. Having procured a seat, I can’t help but notice how quiet everything around me is. Everyone maintains the sanctity of the library, and avoids unnecessary chatter. For me, that is a great start to my reading and writing. I can now spend hours going through my material without getting distracted by movement of people. There’s no one playing chess around me either.

The sizes of libraries always fascinate me. Extremely high ceilings, huge walls, open spaces, and yet, there are so many shelves of books around me. In the middle, there are people working on computers – filling up application forms, watching YouTube videos, going through semi-nude photos – there is so much a library accommodates! It doesn’t just hold furniture and books but also gives space to people to accomplish what they had in mind when they entered the library.

Every library is an architectural marvel. The one I go to, Central Library in Downtown Minneapolis, is a beauty made of glass and steel. Everything is clean and transparent, and the structure of the building is so gorgeous that it makes me stare at it in awe every time I approach it. It is always nice to work in a building you admire.

Libraries give me the energy to accomplish my goals. Sometimes, it almost feels like it looks after me – there is a subtle, positive energy I feel inside a library. The library really wants me to succeed. I don’t feel that energy in a coffee shop.

Our cities have provided us with a very important asset. Many of us overlook it, and don’t give it much importance. I, cherish our libraries. They are not only a tremendous source of knowledge for me, but they give me a space to grow and evolve. They welcome me, and make me feel  comfortable.

That is why I love libraries.

Image Gallery:

This Is The Beginning

Messy Desk

Hello.

My brain, just like yours and everyone else’s, is full of thoughts, ideas, and ramblings. It is like a very busy city that has a lot of traffic and people. The only difference is that people living in that city have destinations to go to, but thoughts in my brain don’t. They keep circling within, and constantly remind me that I should do something with them – either implement them into positive actions or just get rid of them. Sometimes these thoughts excite me, other times they bother me.

Well, that’s nothing new. We all are like that.

I dabble in a lot of things, and I have lots of ideas (I really do!) as well as several random thoughts. I thought that writing and sharing them somewhere would help me do something with them. Some of you may even read them, and either like them or think they are just dumb. Or boring. Or just ordinary.

That’s totally okay.

This section (“Reverie”) will have random thoughts and musings. You may find them interesting and thought provoking, or just utter shit. Depends on who you are as a person.

Through this website though, I would like to share with you the world I live in – it comprises of technology, data, cooking, art, music, outdoorsy things, photography, and of course, my brain. I hope you find some of it useful, or maybe even a tad bit entertaining. If you think it’s another shitty website with nothing substantial to offer, then I am sorry for wasting your time.

Welcome to my world.