Vitae

(“vitae” means “life” in Latin)

What I said “Bye!” to in 2016

  • God/Religion: I became an atheist in 2016.
  • The fear of awkward conversations: One consequence of wearing your heart on your sleeve and always wanting to be open and honest with the people in your life is that it can lead to awkward, scary conversations. I used to be a bit afraid of them. However, I had so many of these talks (for better or for worse) over the course of 2016 that I can now have these conversations WITHOUT avoiding eye contact with the person I’m talking to.
  • My old job: I left LinkedIn in 2016.
  • ~3 inches on my waistline: I went from 30-31 inches at the beginning of 2016 to 28 inches as of December 2016. I’m still a bit amazed by this, because I wasn’t explicitly trying to lose weight.
  •  One of my best friends: One of my best friends moved back to India after being in the Bay Area for ~3 years. It was really sad to see him go, because I was so used to him being a part of my life here, and being able to hang out with him easily. In this digital day and age distance is a not a barrier between friends and we still message each other almost everyday, but I’ll miss all the adventures we had together when he was physically here.
  • Expectations: (still trying to decide how I feel about this) Towards the end of 2016 I realized that life is better when you have no expectations from anything or anyone. That way you’re always surprised when good things happen to you, because they’re always unexpected.

What I said “Hello!” to in 2016

  • A new most favorite person: 247cae00bedc4032b015212c1c72e800cf7b6dc2e4a41886d77bdceed4de6ee6
  • A new job: I joined Uber in 2016.
  • More respect, admiration, and love for my family and friends.
  • Running: 2016 was the year I started running seriously. While I’m not quite ready to say I love running just yet, I will say that I do enjoy it quite a bit.
  • Incredible books, albums, concerts, and research papers.
  • Emotions and Feelings: I experienced a wide array of emotions and feelings over 2016, some of which I never felt before. Looking back I think 2016 was the year I grew the most at an emotional level. I learned things about myself that I did not know.
  • A sense of style: I put in effort (and money) into dressing well and generally improving my stylistic sensibilities. I think on average I look better now than I did in pervious years. What do you think?
  • Improved writing skills: Apart from writing a lot (or trying to do so) on this blog, I also wrote a small book (~10000 words) in 2016, and a speech for my best friend’s engagement ceremony.
  • A Kindle: I bought a Kindle Voyage towards the end of 2016 and I adore it! While I still love physical books, my Kindle is now firmly entrenched in my life.
  • A nose piercing!
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2016 Favorites: Book

One of my goals of 2016 was to read 24 books over the course of the year. According to Goodreads, I ended up reading 33 books. This makes me happy.

Here are (in no particular order) some of my favorite books that I read last year:

It’s quite hard for me to pick one book as “Karan’s Book of the Year” for 2016. Each the books above had great stories, were well written, made me experience a smorgasbord of emotions, and had something that stuck to my soul long after the book was over. If I was forced to pick one, I would have to say that book would be The Nightingale. I felt that this book was pure literary perfection. As I said about the book in September

I LOVED this book! It’s beautifully written, with an engaging story, a haunting backdrop, and well developed characters. It made me cry quite a bit. This is one of my favorite books of all time

(why yes, I did just quote myself)

This simplistic review doesn’t even come close to describing how breathtakingly sublime The Nightingale is. Please read this book.

 

2016 Favorites: Album

My top 20 albums of 2016, in no particular order, are:

If I had to pick one album as “Karan’s Album of the Year” for 2016 I would say that would have to be Magma by Gojira.

When Gojira announced that they were releasing a new album in 2016 the Internet was abuzz with excitement. Me? Not so much; at that point in time I liked maybe 1-2 Gojira songs. However, given the excitement I sensed online I decided to give Gojira (just like I’d given Deafheaven) another chance.

I’m so glad I did.

Gojira’s music blew my mind. The guitar and bass riffs were groovy, dark, and crushing. Joe’s vocals were perfect for the tone of the music. Mario quickly became one of my favorite drummers. The musical atmosphere they created with each album was unparalleled.

In the months leading up to Magma‘s release I listened to Gojira almost every other day.

When Magma finally came out I listened to it on repeat for several days. I fell in love with this record. It was very different from Gojira’s previous releases — it was less heavy, featured clean(er) vocals, and was shorter and more straightforward (in terms of musical composition). But it was still a fantastic, beautiful record. It dealt with love and loss in a way only Gojira could. The picture it painted with its music was sublime. Each song is powerful and evocative on its own, and together they mesh together to create a aural masterpiece.

Sea

(summaries of and key takeaways from two papers I read in December)

Paper: Three States and a Plan: The A.I. of F.E.A.R (this was the first game design paper I’ve read and it was pretty awesome, combining two of my Computer Science interests — graph theory and A.I)

  • Enemy A.I.in F.E.A.R = FSM to express states + A* to plan sequence of actions to reach goal state.
  • Separating goals from how the goals can be achieved (i.e. actions) leads to less complex code, code reusability, and facilitates code composition to build more complex systems.
  • The planning system in F.E.A.R is called Goal-Oriented Action Planning and is based on STRIPS with several modifications.
  • A* is used to find the sequence of actions with the least cost to reach a goal state. A* is used on a graph in which the nodes are states of the world and the edges are actions that cause the world to change from one state to another.
  • Effects and preconditions for actions are represented as a fixed size array capturing the state of the world AND as procedural functions.
  • Squad behavior is implemented by periodically clustering A.I. that are in close physical proximity and issuing squad orders. These orders are simply goals that the A.I. prioritizes (according to its current goals) and satisfies if appropriate.

Paper: Kraken: Leveraging Live Traffic Tests to Identify and Resolve Resource Utilization Bottlenecks in Large Scale Web Services

  • Kraken is a system that load tests production systems (data centers or services) at Facebook by diverting live user traffic to the systems under test, and monitoring metrics like p99 latency and 5xx error rates to determine if traffic to the system under test should be increased or decreased, and by what amount.
  • Real user traffic is the best representative of load to your system. By using real user traffic to test production systems you don’t have to worry about capturing complex system dependencies and interactions that arise out of a SOA.
  • Kraken diverts traffic by modifying edge weights (from POPs to data centers), and cluster weights (from web frontend cluster load balancers to the web frontend clusters), and server weights (from service load balancers to individual servers that make up the service).
  • Kraken reads test input and updates configuration files that are read by Proxygen to implement the edge and cluster weighting. Kraken then reads system metrics from Gorilla to dynamically determine how to adjust the edge and cluster weights based on how the system under test is performing.
  • Kraken tests allow Facebook to measure a server’s, cluster’s, and region’s capacity.
  • Kraken helps increase system utilization by exposing bottlenecks. By analyzing system metrics and how they change under different levels of load, Facebook was able to fix problems in their system. One of the issues identified in a system was poor load balancing, for which pick-2 load balancing was used as a solution.

Quotes: December Edition

I wrote a blog post talking about how I write down lines from books I’m reading. Here are some lines that I loved from the books that I read in December:

Time devours all. — The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

All life is an experiment. — The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

In the face of the inevitable, the only choice is to adapt. — The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

What’s the point of jumping onto a reef just a few steps from shore? — The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

There are many ways to say I love you in this cold, dark, silent universe, as many as the twinkling stars. — The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

He said nothing, either in her mind or aloud, which was his way of saying all that he needed to say. — The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

“The fading sunlight holds infinite beauty
Though it is so close to the day’s end.”
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

We are defined by the places we hold in the web of others’ lives. — The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

Every night, when you stand outside and gaze upon the stars, you are bathing in time as well as light. — The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

Our lives are ruled by these small, seemingly ordinary moments that turn out to have improbably large effects. — The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

It’s one of the central paradoxes of archaeology that in order to excavate a site so as to study it, we must consume and destroy it in the process. — The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

Somehow, though, and I’m sure you’ve met people like this, he was able to appear as merely part of the background, even if he was standing at the front of a line. — The Book Thief

A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship. — The Book Thief

She closed her eyes and her ears held the notes. — The Book Thief

Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness. — The Book Thief

There were not many people who could say that their education had been paid for with cigarettes. — The Book Thief

It was a style not of perfection, but warmth. Even mistakes had a good feeling about them. — The Book Thief

You can do all manner of underhanded nice things when you have a caustic reputation. — The Book Thief

“His hair,” she told him, “is like feathers.” — The Book Thief

How do you give someone a piece of sky? — The Book Thief

“I am stupid,” Hans Hubermann told his foster daughter. “And kind. Which makes the biggest idiot in the world.” — The Book Thief

She heard his stomach growl — and he was giving people bread. — The Book Thief

“I love you.” He says this quietly, the way he has always done, as if it were the sound of breathing and heartbeat. — The Algorithms for Love

I started crying again. This understanding, this pain. Was this what love was about? — The Algorithms for Love

Goal Tracking: December Edition

At the beginning of the year I published a post outlining what some of my goals for the year were. In the spirit of being transparent, here is the progress I made on them over the course of December –

  1. 100% self availability over the course of the month.
  2. Volunteered for 0 hours  😦
  3. I definitely procrastinated. In my defense, I was on vacation for most of this month.
  4. Was as honest and open as humanly possible. Maybe even more. To say that this lead to an emotional roller coaster of a month would be an understatement.
  5. Wrote a bit of Rust code.
  6. I read 4 books in December — Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fiction and Illusions (first Neil Gaiman book that I disliked), The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories (I discovered this book via the Goodreads Best Books of 2016 awards. This is an INCREDIBLE book. Each short story left me with a sense of wonder and discovery), The Book Thief (I had high expectations from this book based on what I’d read/heard about it. It was very good, but lacked something (in my opinion) that would have elevated it to that status of a great book. I felt that the ending was a bit cliched), and The Algorithms for Love (another Ken Liu short story that touched my soul).
  7. I read two research papers in December — Three States and a Plan: The A.I. of F.E.A.R, and Kraken: Leveraging Live Traffic Tests to Identify and Resolve Resource Utilization Bottlenecks in Large Scale Web Services.
  8. I wrote 0 posts in December.
  9. I didn’t play guitar at all in December.
  10. (a) (goal achieved)
    (b) (goal achieved)
    (c) (goal achieved)
    (d) (goal achieved)
    (e) (goal achieved)

Quotes: November Edition

I wrote a blog post talking about how I write down lines from books I’m reading. Here are some lines that I loved from the books that I read in November:

His own age was on the older side of completely indeterminate. — Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

It seems odd, don’t you think, that the quality of food should vary inversely with the brightness of the lighting. Makes you wonder what culinary heights the kitchen staff could rise to if you confined them to perpetual darkness. — Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

He seemed more like a succession of extraordinary events than a person. — Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

I’ve certainly never come across any irreversible mathematics involving sofas. Could be a new field. Have you spoken to any spatial geometricians? — Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Well no, not married as such, but yes, there is a specific girl that I’m not married to. — Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

I told you that coincidences are strange and dangerous things. — Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

“Ah,” said Dirk, “it is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto nonexistent blindingly obvious.” — Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Will I ever feel better? If you’re reading this, I guess the answer is no. — When I’m Gone

His cheeks hurt from smiling so much, or maybe his facial muscles were out of practice. — When I’m Gone

Goal Tracking: November Edition

At the beginning of the year I published a post outlining what some of my goals for the year were. In the spirit of being transparent, here is the progress I made on them over the course of November –

  1. 100% self availability over the course of the month.
  2. Volunteered for 0 hours  😦
  3. No procrastination!
  4. Continued being honest and open over the course of November. A lot was said in the eleventh month of 2016.
  5. Zero Rust progress.
  6. I read 2 books in November — When I’m Gone (some parts were good, but overall I thought this book was OK), and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (SO, SO, SO GOOD. I’m a huge fan of Douglas Adams, and this book is a great example of his literary genius).
  7. I read zero research papers in November.
  8. I wrote 7 posts.
  9. I didn’t really play much guitar in November.
  10. (a) (goal achieved)
    (b) (goal achieved)
    (c) (goal achieved)
    (d) (goal achieved)
    (e) (goal achieved)

Merci

Continuing my tradition from last year, here’s I’m thankful for in 2016:

  • You.
  • An awesome new job at a fantastic company. My co-workers at Uber are incredible, and inspire and motivate me each and every day.
  • My friends and family. I care for all of you deeply. Thank you for all that you’ve done for me. Thank you for always being there for me. Thank you.
  • All the new art (books, music, concerts, food, etc.) that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience.
  • Karan Parikh from December 2015 — for coming up with a list of personal goals and resolutions for 2016. Even though they have been hard to follow/accomplish, I feel that they have made me into a better person than who I was at the beginning of the year. What do you think?

Happy Thanksgiving!