Monday, June 24, 2024

cycling for charity

This month, as I end up doing every summer, I embarked on a charity fundraiser. My cause this time was Cancer Research UK. The challenge is to cycle 300 miles in June (and obviously raise some money).

The last time I took up a cycling challenge, was in April 2021 when I decided to cycle 410 kilometres in a month to raise money for people displaced by climate change. I didn't even have an e-bike back then, and the office was closed for the pandemic so all my cycling had to be done in my free time. We were also in the middle of closing the purchase of our home and then moving to it, so it was a lot to balance! In fact, I'm surprised I got to 400km the first 3 weeks of that month - I was literally going to do 10km in laps of the waterworks (a circular park barely 2km from home) on the last week but that was right in the middle of packing and moving and was obviously impossible. I did set a personal record for longest ride (Belfast to Moira, 70km round trip) which I've only bested once (the around mumbai ride in November 2021, a cool 107 km!)

Anyway, back to this month. 482 km isn't that much more than 410, and it seemed somewhat achievable when I signed up - I was hoping to get the miles in after work, and given I'll have to a minimum of 6 miles (the return trip to work) thrice a week anyway, that'd be quarter of my distance already done and dusted. My strategy was to do two longish rides after work, keeping the middle day strictly a commute, and then doing one more ride over the weekend. It seemed like a decent strategy as I managed 70 miles in the first week, which put me slightly below but close enough to the target.

And then, week 2 happened. Cycling through an unknown neighbourhood after work, two boys accosted me and tried to take my cycle off me. The standoff lasted almost 15 minutes, and left me very shaken. The next day involved a ride to the police station and a few hours spent submitting my report of the incident. Since then, I have been struggling when it comes to getting out and riding. Even though I know it was an isolated incident and I have been cycling around equally if not worse neighbourhoods, in the dark, etc., I can't shake that fear of the incident recurring. After that day, I've mostly simply taken roundabout routes home, avoiding unfamiliar roads. In fact, I've even taken to doing laps of the waterworks, although I don't think I've managed 10 km.

Last weekend was the longest ride of this month, one that has actually been on my bucket list for a while, even though I wasn't sure if I was fully up for it: Belfast to Bangor (and back) by the coastal path. It was scenic, and Sunday was a beautiful day for it, even though I started at almost 3pm, which was much later than I had planned. Still, just 38 miles, so not a significant dent towards my target.

As of today, I have 6 days and 99 miles left. I really don't know how I'm going to achieve it. I'm not feeling my best to begin with, which makes it even harder. Let's see.

Anyway, while cycling is one of the goals, the other one is funraising. So if I've not lost all my readers by now, here's how you can donate:

Saturday, June 01, 2024


5th of May: after much anticpation but not enough preparation, we were off to Spain!

the flight was at 6am from Belfast International Airport, and I did something crazy-ish: drove to the airport, dropped shruti off with the bags, then drove about a mile away to a spot I scoped out on Google maps to be legal to park, unfolded my cycle from the boot, and cycled to the airport! chained my cycle next to another one, and we were off on an uneventful but tiring flight to malaga. landed at 9am, took the bus to Marbella (and literally missed one bus by a minute!), dropped our bags at the Airbnb (Marbella is very hilly!) and then headed out to grab a bite at a street side cafe. walked around a little more, made a dinner reservation at a highly rated tapas place, headed back to the bnb, checked in, and took a quick nap. was so sleepy though, we couldn't bring ourselves to wake up for the dinner reservation at 7pm, but thankfully they allowed us to move it to 9pm and we were ready and fresh by then. after the relaxed dinner, we walked around a bit and clicked photos before heading to our Airbnb. super start to our vacation! 

the next day, we set off for a "local" breakfast place. we had a late start, and it was quite busy by the time we arrived - we would have liked ot sit outdoors but those tables were highly sought after and we concluded it's better to sit indoors without the view instead. we tried what was to become our favourite hot drink of the vacation: "bombon" (coffee with condensed milk). went perfectly with churros!

breakfast was a little hit-and-miss though - the waiters didn't speak english, and our order didn't exactly arrive the way we asked, but we aren't fussy so it was fine.

we walked around town, clicked plenty of photos, shruti shopped a bit (just one dress, to be fair), we made our dinner reservation, headed back to base, and then after a brief nap, we headed down to the waterfront. we walked the "golden mile" (which was actually about 4 miles) of seafront from marbella to puerto banus. it was super hot and we needed plenty of rest breaks on the way, but we made it, and the seafront walk was very well worth it! we had drinks inside pienapples (very expensive, but worth it!) booked the ferry back, had an ice cream while we waited for it, and finally enjoyed the sunset cruise back!

and finally, we had just enough time to shower, change and grab dinner - roast suckling! it was really, really good!

tuesday was our last whole day in Marbella - we headed to the local breakfast place again in the hope of getting an outside table, but the queue was longer than ever! bombon and churros again, and the waiters even remembered us from yesterday!
we then walked around and checked out the local "municipal market" - amazing produce, including seafood - and best of all, a cafe serving more local food! second breakfast/brunch downed, walked around a bit, and got back to our room for a bit of a siesta. we were trying to decide what to do for dinner, and shruti mentioned that we are right next door to a two michelin star restaurant. literally 5 doors down on our street. and they had tables available - nobody had booked a table for that night! shruti wasn't entirely convinced (it was a lot of money!), but to me, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity - one that begged to be taken. after about half an hour of indecision, we reserved our table for 7pm.

the dinner was exquisite and deserves a blog post of its own (after my 40th birthday dinner's blog post - my first michelin starred restaurant experience, just under a year ago!). after dinner, we were well and truly satisfied (and me, also a little tipsy as I had chosen to go with the wine pairing - I really went all out that night!).

back in the bnb, we hastily packed, after I made sure i uploaded each of my photos with the right title. i didn't want any record of that exquisite meal to be lost to the sands of time!

next morning, we headed back to the local cafe for bombon, churros and a sandwich, then checked out and dragged the bags back to the bus station - uphill this time, so even more exhausting! we missed a bus thanks to it being full, but it was already running late, so we were on the next bus to malaga at noon. exactly 3 days in marbella!

all nighter

every few months, I end up staying up till sunrise. usually a Friday night, usually because I lost track of time and by the time I realised it's too late I figure I might as well stay up and pull through the weekend.

not this time though. it was jetlag. 

turns out my plan of getting enough of sleep on the flight and avoiding coffee and alcohol failed - miserably. two days of being unable to stay awake during the or fall asleep at night later, I'm out of ideas.

that's the weird thing about staying up all night for me: I usually hope it's going to fix my sleep cycle, but it never does. this time, I promise I'm going to do everything to reset it - exercise, get plenty of sunlight, not nap before bedtime... and sleep at bedtime! 

today is a lovely day to be up early - clear, sunny and warm. I'm also going to be a ride leader for one of the longest routes I've led if memory serves me right. and when I'm back, I plan to mow the lawn too. if my brain is still functioning after that, there's brakes that are overdue for replacement and a rechargeable torch that I might be able to fix.

also, there's something nice about a cup of tea while the first birds turn up for breakfast - sparrows and starlings in the backyard and a young magpie in the front. also, the neighbour's cat was hunting insects at 6am. fun times for everyone!

anyway - I have an hour before it's time to leave. time for a shave! 

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Write a blog post about my concerns about personal blog posts being written by AI instead of humans

In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has made significant advancements in various fields, including content creation. One area where AI has made a notable impact is in the creation of personal blog posts. While the idea of AI-generated content may seem convenient and efficient, it raises some concerns about authenticity and human connection.

As a writer and blogger, I have always believed in the power of personal expression and storytelling. Each blog post I write is a reflection of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It is a way for me to connect with my readers on a deeper level and share a piece of myself with them. However, with the rise of AI-generated content, I worry that the personal touch and authenticity that make blog posts unique may be lost.

One of my main concerns about AI-written blog posts is the lack of human emotion and empathy. While AI algorithms can analyze data and generate coherent sentences, they lack the ability to truly understand and convey complex emotions. As a result, AI-written blog posts may come across as robotic and impersonal, lacking the warmth and sincerity that human writers bring to their work.

Additionally, there is a risk that AI-generated content may lack originality and creativity. As a writer, I take pride in my ability to craft engaging and unique stories that resonate with my audience. However, AI algorithms are programmed to follow patterns and formulas, which could result in repetitive and uninspired content. This could ultimately lead to a homogenization of blog posts, making it difficult for readers to distinguish between human-written and AI-written content.

Another concern is the potential for misuse and manipulation of AI-generated blog posts. In the wrong hands, AI algorithms could be used to spread misinformation, propaganda, or harmful content. Without the ethical oversight and critical thinking skills of human writers, there is a risk that AI-generated blog posts could perpetuate harmful stereotypes, biases, or falsehoods.

In conclusion, while AI technology has the potential to revolutionize content creation, it is important to consider the implications of using AI to write personal blog posts. As a writer who values authenticity, creativity, and human connection, I believe that there is no substitute for the personal touch and emotional depth that human writers bring to their work. While AI can be a useful tool for generating ideas and improving efficiency, it should not replace the artistry and individuality of human storytelling.

ps: The same prompt generated a similar response last year, except that this time, chatGPT has stopped acting like itself and is now pretending to be me! 🤦‍♂️

Saturday, May 04, 2024

a shaky start

it seems there's always something about me and starting a new job that somehow means things go off-piste quite quickly. there was the time i got locked up in the fire escape, or the previous job where I forgot the one thing HR asked me to bring along (my passport) and had to be sent back home. this one was more eventful.

to begin with, I asked quite well in advance, what my first day would be like - where and when i should report, and to who. I also specifically asked for contact details, somewhat prescient of the drama that was about to unfold - and while everything else was replied to (after about a week!), no contact details were supplied. in fact, during my farewell evening out, my previous team asked me where's the new office, and when I told them I don't know, they asked me if I was sure I'm actually signing up for a legitimate job! coincidentally, there was a news article about the company moving to a new building a couple of streets away from where HR said I'll have to report to.

anyway - I happened to be in the area the evening before, to lead a ride, but as nobody turned up, I used the time to cycle to the building where HR told me I'll have to report. It was past 5pm, so there was nobody at the reception, and I asked a guy who was leaving the building if he knew about the company, but he worked for another one and hadn't heard of it. a peek through to the large board over the receptionist's desk showed the name of the company though - which was reassuring.

I looked for bike racks but there weren't any to be found - I had to chain my cycle to the fence while I tried to ask around for the entrance etc. luckily, the ground floor of the office building also housed a gym, and there were people there. one of the staff said there's no bike racks that he's aware of, and I'd probably be best off inquiring with the reception of the office space.

the next day, I decided to take the bus due to the dodgy bike rack situation, and turned up at 9:20, so 10 minutes early. the receptionist let me in, and told me to take the elevator when I pointed at the company I named on the board behind him. The elevator stopped at a floor which had literally a 10 + 10 foot L shaped passage, one conference room to one side, and a fire escape at the other end. The conference room was big enough for about 6 people. there was literally nobody about so I wondered if the room was the office space, and obviously nobody was in because I was 10 minutes early! It did seem very weird though, as there was no computer equiment or any hint that it was being used as an office space - just an oval table with 6 chairs around it.

thankfully, I heard some (loud, excited) voices from the other side of the fire escape door, so I opened it and had a peek. there were two guys and a girl. it was a bit of a strange sight, as one of the guys was trying to pick up the girl (literally - he had his arms around her from behind and was leaning backward to get the most leverage) while she and the other guy were squealing excitedly. they were caught as off guard as I was, when nervously I asked them if they worked for the company. they didn't, and helpfully told me they were literally just clearing out that company's space as they had vacated it a month ago! they directed me to the main reception, on the next floor, who told me the company had just moved,  and told me where - just two streets away, and in fact could be seen from there! she also gave me the mobile number of someone who worked there, and wished all the best for my first day!

the guy who answered the phone confirmed that they had indeed just moved two streets away, and told me someone would come to received me at the entrance.

the rest of the day was uneventful, but I did inquire about bike racks and was told we have access to bike racks at a nearby building owned by the same landlord. I was given a form I had to fill to get access to the racks, and I left after submitting it. I left the laptop, headset etc in a locker as I didn't have a bag to take it home.

the next day, I cycled to work. I had to make a stop on the way to pick up medicines, which delayed me a fair bit, but eventually made it to office. chained the bike nearby, and tried to use my access card to get in. the reader flashed a weird colour (blue, red) instead of the expected green. a few tries later though, it did flash green after flashing the other colours, and the door unlocked.

I pressed the button for the elevator, which bore a sign saying "authorized users only - do not use without a valid access card". the elevator seemed to be having issues the previous day, as it was incorrectly programmed to let us in on the wrong floor - so we had to first swipe the access card and go to the 2nd floor, and then swipe again and go to 1st. not today though. swiping the access card and pressing any combination of floor did not work. nor did the exit/door open button. after some time and attempts, all the lights in the elevator went into some sort of power save mode - there was just a very dim glow of some sort of emergency lighting, and the only button brightly lit was the alarm button!

I gave some serious thought to pressing the alarm button, but suddenly the elevator seemed to recover  by itself, the lights were back on, and the exit button opened the doors. I was so relieved I didn't even check if my access card now worked, as I didn't want to get locked in the elevator again!

I got out of the elevator, and breathed a sigh of relief. today was getting to be quite the adventure, already competing with the incidents of 29th May 2012!

I took the stairs to the 1st floor, but nobody was able to see me through the locked fire escape door. I tried knocking it and nobody answered either. I called the same guy I called yesterday, and explained the situation. I told him I was at the fire escape door. He said he'd come let me in. I waited for what seemed like a minute, but nobody opened the door. I was quite sure that was the only fire escape door, and that they only other door to the office area was the elevator. I took the stairs back down to the lobby, and waited there instead. he eventually turned up and let me in through the elevator - his access card worked, so it was just mine!

eventually someone explained that my access card had been deactivated last night - triggered by my application for it to be activated for the bike racks! these things happen, I guess. I was going to get a new access card in a couple of hours. back to work.

that's when I realized I had locked the laptop in the locker, but had not carried the key! the key was on the keychain I used yesterday, while the one I had with me today had the cycle keys but not the locker key!

thankfully my only teammate was not in yet, so I dropped him a message and left back home. I asked the guy who let me in, how I'd get in without my access card, and he showed me how the intercom system at the entrance worked. in fact, he was the one who had let me in as the intercom buzzed after an unsuccessful swipe of my access card - and that's the precise moment I swiped my card, and it flashed green as he let me in. hah!

anyway, cycled back home, collected the key, cycled back to office, got in through the intercom, unlocked the locker with my laptop, and I was finally able to get started with work after two hours of drama. what an adventure!

The rest of the day was uneventful - I was showed the bike racks too, my access card worked everywhere and all, so yay!

working from home was not as eventful - the laptop worked without any fuss, although I didn't bother setting up my home screens until almost 5pm - I was just not in the mood to fiddle with wires today. my skype also stopped working on my phone, but that turned out to be a microsoft outage, as the helpdesk guy's phone was affected too - much to his surprise. fun times!

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

leaving las vegas

yesterday was my last day at my job. I've only worked 3 full-time, corporate jobs in my whole life, and this is the first one that I quit just to change employers - for all the preceding ones, it was something else.

conventional wisdom says you shouldn't be emotionally attached to an employer. but in this case, I was - for personal reasons. if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have been in Belfast. unlike Shruti, who had to build her friend circle the hard way, I was surrounded by friendly, welcoming people at work from day one.

and so, changing jobs because I wanted to change employers is a strange feeling. specifically, it was not to change my work. I loved what I was doing. I even loved the people I was working with. It was all the other things. the pay, the policies. the fact that something someone did to me a while ago could have a long term impact on my prospects despite my best efforts. the fact that the management couldn't do anything to set right what seemed to me to be an obvious wrong.

anyway. enough about the past. it's time to look forward to the future! this is the first time an employer actually provided me coaching to help me succeed at my new job. it was supposed to be an hour but we covered so much in half an hour, that that was all I needed. i feel armed!

I planned to have a week off between jobs because I wanted to do a motorbike trip to clear my head before I start. Unfortunately, the motorbike trip seems unlikely - "Lisa" has been out of action for three weeks - she literally died getting out of the garden and into the driveway with an electrical fault that the mechanic has been unable to diagnose yet. My to-do list is never ending though, and though the initial plan was to take my time between jobs as "me time" and keep the to-do list for "business as usual" time, fate seems to have conspired to do the opposite. Time to mow the lawn!

As I cycled to work yesterday, Sheryl Crow's "leaving las vegas" happened to play. This line struck me:

"Such a muddy line between
The things you want
And the things you have to do"

Monday, February 12, 2024


A couple of months ago, I decided to maintain a daily online journal. I wanted it to be a low-effort thing, available to the public on the internet for now, but not publicized to feed into my social feeds like this one.

I managed to keep it going for a few weeks, but right after the holiday season was over and the new year began, I started falling behind. it started with writing 3 days entries back to back with whatever I could remember, then turned into a couple of days of entries after a few skipped days... until i finally stopped completely. as of today, my last journal entry is dated 8th January.

When I started the exercise, I wasn't sure if it would work long-term, but I wasn't sure why either.

I think I do, now.

I can't stick to a routine. Even if I follow it for 21 days.

ps: popf;ret are the two opcodes in x86 assembly that execute a return from an "interrupt" subroutine. this just popped into my head from like 25 years ago, thanks to a youtube video about using chatGPT for programming assembly!

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