Apple Yosemite: First Thoughts

I just upgraded my early 2011 MacBook Pro to OSX Yosamite. That too without taking a back up. It took less than 2 hours to do the complete upgrade – downloading 5+ GB OS and completing the installation. The UI looks a lot flat – like Apple did with iOS 7.0. I can’t say if I fell in love the new look and feel. It feels a little bit faster than the previous Maverick version.

YosemiteIf I owned an iPhone, as the story goes, Yosemite would’ve been more useful for me. I can’t see what went beneath the hood, the look and feel update looks marginal. As I play around more with the features, I might discover some usability improvements. Or maybe not.

Highlighting for Evernote is here!

I don’t know about you, but if there was a single feature that I always wanted in Evernote, it was text highlighting. I use Evernote for quite a lot of offline reading blogs and other articles. I wished if I could grab a virtual highlighter to mark what is important and worth remembering. This was the single most feature request, users were fighting for, if you happened to be around Evernote blog. Finally it is here. At least I have it in my Mac version.

evernote-highlight

Click on the pen icon and start marking your stuff.

Thanks Evernote! You guys rock!

Two da Vincian Methods for the Rest of Us

If there was one polymath who would trump all the others by leaps and bounds, that would be Leonardo da Vinci. He has an almost mythical stature among thinkers, philosophers and artists. His brilliance spanned arts, science, engineering and literature.

If you look around at aisles of Barnes and Noble, you would find dozens of books dedicated to help us think creatively. Many of them revere da Vinci as an ideal model that every aspiring creative could adopt ideas from. Among them, “How to think like Leonardo da Vinci” (Michael J. Gelb) is of course a notable one. I too found this book helpful, though the title was misleading. Thinking like da Vinci requires his brilliance that spanned many, many disciplines. That is a tall order to ask for. At least from the vast majority of people.

Two da Vincian Methods for the Rest of Us

1. Collect

While creative excellence is not something we all are born equally with, there are methods and procedures, which we can adopt from the life of da Vinci, that will increase our odds of hitting the creativity jackpot. One such method is following da Vinci’s note-taking methodology, which is simple, yet crude and unorganized. All we have to do is to create a system to capture all our thoughts and ideas and drop them all in one single area. What tool do we use doesn’t really count. The choice of whether it is electronic, physical or something in between doesn’t really matter as much as the act of capturing consistently. The power and potential lie in the process of bringing in disparate and discrete information from different time spans into one breeding ground. News clippings, doodles, jottings, sound clips – whatever. If we are clipping from a web site, getting a small clipping is far more useful than taking the entire web page itself. It will be immensely helpful if we annotate every clip that we bring into this breeding ground. The world that we inhabit doesn’t have scarcity of information. What is in short supply, though, is the intelligent deciphering of the vast ocean of information. Making sense of information and bringing in our own perspective into it are what make us even more creative. When you are capturing ideas, resist every urge to organize them. Ditch the folders – totally. Be happy capturing.

2. Review

What I just described above is only the first step, which is note-taking. The other essential piece of the puzzle is to review them frequently. New thoughts and ideas will occasionally sprout. Capture them as well. If anything sounds valuable, pick it up and expand. Sometimes old ideas serendipitously will join forces with new ideas. Eventually, our mind will get trained to tune in for the footsteps of such epiphanies. In the whole process, just remind ourselves once in a while that this is more of journey than a destination. Enjoy it and make it a life long habit.

New ideas are created when we think about what is possible beyond the edges of current possibilities. Steven Johnson, in his famous book, “Where Good Ideas Come From“, explains this concept as “Adjacent Possible“. It seems that we will find our creative grounds in finding our “adjacent possibles”.

Here is a valuable lesson, which I learned from Seth Godin‘s “Linchpin“. From our school age, we have been always told to “think out of the box”. I think that is an unproductive cliche. Outside of the boxes are arid and empty. Creativity, innovation and potentiality exist along the edges.

How to Add an Archive Index Page in WordPress?

Did you ever wonder how to add an archive page that shows the posts categorized with the post date? When I tried to set this up, it was not easy for me. Partly because I didn’t quite understand WordPress configurations and template structures. I admit that I am still learning. I thought this short HOW-TO will help some of you, who are beginning to set up a blog.  Stay with me for 5 minutes and I can explain how I did it, hopefully it will help you as well. Once you set the page, it will look like this:

archives-sample

 

  1. Install wordpress in your hosting account. If you already have a blog up, (obviously) skip this step.
  2. Install a plugin named WP_EasyArchives from http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-easyarchives/. It may be available from your wordpress dashboard as well. Click on Plugin –> Add New and search for this name.
  3. Once you install and activate, you are ready to go. Almost.
  4. Login to hosting account and open Web File Manager that the hosting provider provider. Navigate to wp-content/themes/twentyeleven folder and create a new file named wp-easy-arch.php. It can be named something else, it doesn’t matter. Edit this file and add the content, under code. The template name you specified on the top will the name of the template available. The key to this plugin is <?php wp_easyarchives(); ?>. Rest of the PHP code is only to standardize your page according to your theme.
  5. Create a new page by Clicking Pages –> Add New. In the page editor, select the drop down Template under Page Attribute and select MyArchives. Once you publish this page, it will be available for you. There are some configuration details, which are self explanatory. All you have to do is to click Settings –> WP-EasyArchives. You can choose if you want Collapsed or Expanded views. If you don’t like the Page archives (I didn’t want to show that), you can uncheck the checkbox Show page items.

 

Code (Click here to download)
arch-php

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Earth Hour, its meaning, and the lack thereof

Yesterday, my family joined the millions of others celebrating The Earth Hour. When the lights came back, it left us with a great reminder of the undone task of carbon cleanup that we all walk away with. On the other hand, like the Labor Day, on which we think mostly of Labor day sales and vacations, this too becomes routine. It helps us feel that we achieved something to save our planet and could go on with our lives as it was yesterday, everyday. Celebrating the Earth Hour gives us an opportunity to clear our conscience and clean up our guilt, the guilt of messing up our beautiful planet. If the Earth Hour gets really popular, they might even start offering Earth Day sales at the malls.

Unfortunately, the giant elephant in the living room remains. The task of saving the planet has barely begun.

Like postponing our most important project, till it becomes due the following Monday, we are pushing off addressing this problem, unless we absolutely must. Until it reaches the tipping point, which we can’t even predict before it really tips us all over, we will conduct hundreds of discussions, form committees and commit to empty resolutions. Human species is unfathomably strange.

This is our only home. I fear that our children’s generation would fight many wars over who controls land, water and air. I am not talking about the air space, but the real, oxygenating air. Millions of people would be displaced. Vast amount landmass would become arid and infertile. It might even trigger a mass extinction event. After 4000 odd generations of generally sustainable human existence, my generation would preside over dismantling the fragile equilibrium that existed for thousands of years.

In a world so huge and complicated, we are left with at least some personal choices. It could be as simple as walking a few steps to recycle the empty soda can that we thought of throwing into the trash. Or deciding not to print every email and toss it out after the next meeting. Eating local produce and using public transport when possible could mean a lot. Responsible living in every step of its path is hard, but surely fulfilling.  It could help a lot if we could teach our children how to live responsibly without defacing our planet. We could teach ourselves not to take things for granted. We could resolve to live a little differently every day, in a personally meaningful manner. I am fully aware that these choices will have little effect in reducing our carbon footprint, if not whole-heartedly adopted by a whole lot of other people as well. But still..

At least we could leave lesser footprints of guilt.

  • Photo by Viswa Prabha

Missing Women of India

For the last 100 years or so, March 8th is being observed as International Women’s Day. This is the day that we all must resolve ourselves to end violence against women. The day of the year that we commit ourselves to end gender-based discrimination and make our planet safe and secure for our women/girl-children. The slogan for this year is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.”

Most progressive nations adopted universal suffrage, equal pay for equal work and enacted tougher penalties for sex offenders many decades ago. Still issues surrounding gender-based discrimination and violence go far deeper than a legal system could ever address.

According to the national census of 2011, estimated population of India was 1,210,193,422. It was also estimated that for every 1000 males, there are 940 females in India. Except for Kerala and Pondichery, all other states and union territories have lesser female population than male population. For example, the now-infamous Delhi has 866 females for every 1000 males. But Delhi natives don’t have to feel too bad about it, Daman & Diu, a union territory, has a shamefully low ratio of 618 females to 1000 males. To put things in perspective, the USA has 1038 females for every 1000 males. Not only the United States, most developed nations have similarly higher number of female population. From a biological standpoint, women seem to have better chances of survival. Even after taking child-bearing and breast cancer risks into consideration.

Only if, we were to leave our matters to mother nature. We now have elected officials, appointed bureaucrats and self proclaimed holy-men to control our lives.

Of course, this is more than an interesting statistic. These were real people with unique potential if they were allowed to live. Some were purged before birth – we call it female foeticide. Many more lives were nipped in the bud. Female infanticide, deprivation of nutrition, education, health care and equal rights, “honor killing”, dowry related crimes,  – the list goes on and on. And the situation doesn’t seem to be getting better over the years either. It is as though, India has been missing an appalling 118 million (118,598,955) women. That is two times the population of United Kingdom.

We often get enraged upon hearing news about brutalities against women. Unfortunately, this form of systemic social brutality hardly gets media attention at all. No candle light vigils are organized to protest against this injustice. It is as though the social psyche got used to this atrocity. It is way overdue for action, but better late than never, NOW is time to end all forms of violence against women.

All forms of violence.

Because I want to …


After a tiresome day at work and a long commute, I walk into our living room. In one corner my four year old would quietly be drawing and coloring bizarre forms of art in her typically atypical style. She would draw in seemingly counter-intuitive colors – green dogs, blue horses or pink monkeys. All resting under an ubiquitous yellow Sun. Why did you color your pictures this way?, I would enquire. Because I want to, she responds with conviction. I would formulate the question in many twisted ways but she insists that because she wants to.

I think there is some beauty in her perseverance. She truly believes that she is an artist. I hope that conviction lasts for long. I am not sure. Soon she will be going into the education industrial complex and start unlearning her ability to treat herself as an artist. In a few years of time, I fear that her answers would reflect, not her desire to do things, but rather that of others. Demands of her teachers, parents and peers. In her daily thrashing to complete assignments and homework and to keep up scores with impressive grades, she would forget her four-year old self. The attitude of openness and creativity and boldness of “because I want to”, will be systematically forgotten.

If you walk into a corporate office, the situation is no different either. Work is done because of the fear of losing or the prospect of gaining something – a bonus, a promotion perhaps. In either case, the spirit of “because I want to” is almost non-existent.

Let us pause for a moment. What if we could transform the world in one day and motivate 7 billion people to be themselves and to do things meaningful for them, instead of clamoring for someone else’s dream? Surely, that system may not be a wealth-producing super engine. But it could produce abundant reserves of happiness and thus bring prosperity to this world. The simple idea of “because I want to” has such profoundness. It is not an abbreviated version of the more common “because I want to get ahead in the game” narrative. Rather, it is the genuine desire to do something meaningful.

How does our education achieve this “feat” in a matter of few years? May be that is the reason, author Ken Robinson says that our schools kill creativity?

May be?