Pictures from Zion National Park

Have you been to Zion National Park ? Would you like to check out some of the pictures I took using my iPhone while hiking up to Observation Point at Zion? Technically, I can’t really see if you are excitedly nodding ‘yes’ or disapprovingly nodding ‘no’, but the magic of the internet does allow me to take many liberties, one of which is to take the easy way out whenever in doubt. So, let’s all agree together that we all want to see these amazing and semi-amateurish pictures I took this past Memorial Day weekend.

Picture 1: When you start the hike, you feel really tiny. The mountain walls literally tower over you.

Picture 2: A clear broadside view of Angel’s Landing (that is the red peak in the front)

Picture 3: This is about halfway of the hike to the top.

Picture 5: Almost at the top of Observation Point. You can’t see the Angel’s Landing from here.

Picture 6: That is the official metal seal from the official US Geological Survey, 6608 ft from sea level. That pointy hill to the right of the image is Angel’s landing.

[Post: 286 of 365] [Days Missed: 102](Oh, how I feel the shame!)


How to Change a Flat Tire in the Dark

Say you are walking out to your car at 9:17 pm to get some groceries only to find the front passenger side tire completely flat. Your car, which you and only you consider to be far superior to all other automobiles, a super-mobile, if you will, now looks like it lost its footing at a ditch, which sits at the parking lot slumped forward with a right-side tilt. You need to get groceries and more importantly, you need to drive to work tomorrow morning. What do you do? You man up, and fix it.

What you need:
Spare tire, the Jack and the tire iron. In most modern cars, the tire iron does double duty as the wrench for the wheel lugs (fancy name for the large bolts that secure the wheel to the plate) and the handle for the jack. You will find all three of them in your trunk.

The barely noticeable black metal objects are the Jack and the double action tire iron.

Assemble your tools near the flat tire. Let it know what’s about to happen.

Spare tire, Tire iron and the Jack

Make sure your car gear is set to “Park” and is actually parked on flat ground. Don’t jack up the car yet, since you can use the car’s weight to loosen the tire lugs. When the car is jacked up, the wheel can move a bit, which makes turning the tight lugs a tricky affair. Using the wrench side of the tire iron, loosen the deflated tire’s lugs. For the first turn or two, you may have to step on the iron to unscrew the lugs. They are, as the saying goes, tough nuts.

This step will make you a bit tired

Once they are loose enough that you can turn them without much effort, its time to jack up the car. With your hand, feel the underside of your car just behind the mud flap of the tire. What we are trying to find is the metal frame which can support the jack. Mounting your jack to any place other than the main frame of the car can cause serious damage to that part. It should be easy to find the frame, so once you locate it, slide in the jack right under it and start raising the jack using the dual-purpose iron.

All Jacked Up

Now, we are ready to remove the tire and put on the spare. Since you had already loosened up the lugs, they should be easy to come off. Once all the lugs are taken out, stow them safely and then remove the flat tire from the plate by sliding it off the grooves. Without the air, the tire won’t be that heavy, but be careful to not hurt your back.

Tire Off. Half way through our ordeal

Now grab the nearby spare tire (You did keep it nearby right?). Mount the wheel by lining up the lug grooves with the holes on the wheel and slide the wheel in. Personally, this was the toughest part about changing tires in dark. There was no light on this side of the car, and it was impossible to see the bolt grooves so I had to go by the sound and feel of the metal groves against the wheel. It took me about 15 minutes to line up the five grooves with the holes on the wheel.

Spare tire, although crucial, is not pretty

Still have those lugs? Now is the time to screw them in. Here is a pro tip – Don’t tighten the screws individually. Instead, place all the lugs in their respective grooves first and then tighten them by alternating between opposite lugs. You tighten the top one first and then switch to the bottom one – the one that is directionally opposite to the top one. Then you do the left most one and the right most (opposite) one. Keep alternating between the lugs this way and you will end up with a wheel that is perfectly lined up against the plate, and you will feel no wobble while driving.
Since the car is jacked up, the wheel will move around a bit. So you won’t be able to tighten the lugs completely. Screw them as tight as you can and then unjack (is that an actual word?) the car.

Spare tire completely installed.
Ready to Roll.

Now that all four wheels are back on the ground, get back to tightening (this is a kid friendly blog, so I am not using the word ‘screwing’) the lugs as tight as you can. Again, don’t get too excited and hurt yourself. Once they are all tight, you are done. Stow the Jack and tire iron back where they belong and secure the old tire in the vacant place previously occupied by the spare tire.

You are now ready to roll. Remember that the spare tire is intentionally smaller than the standard tires and it is not safe for regular driving. With the spare tire it is ok to drive around a bit, just enough to get your car to a workshop, but fix your regular tire and put it back to work at the earliest.

Now go get that grocery.

[Post: 252 of 365] [Days Missed: 69]
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How To Assemble A Computer And Take Pictures

After the external build of my desktop computer, today the time arrived for completing the build by assembling all the hardware into the computer case and installing the OS.

All clean and empty ready to be filled with hardware. Notice all the mesh? its for air flow.

This case has bunch of brackets for HDD and optical drives I won’t be needing, but comes in handy for future expansion.

First to go in- Hitachi SATA 500 GB 3.5 inch  hard disk drive. This case is pretty awesome since there is no need for screws to attach the hard disk. Just add the plastic sliders and insert the bracket and you are done.

Screw in the power supply unit.

The big cheese! Motherboard, with CPU cooler and RAM go in as a single unit. Had a bit of hard time with putting in all the metal standoffs to support the board but everything else went pretty smoothly.

Make sure to line up the out-ports with the sockets.

Now the easiest part. Untangling the wires, connecting them to correct sockets and hoping the static from my hands don’t fry the ports!

The other side is even messier!

All connected up and everything looks nice and dandy. Word of advise to fellow builders – make sure to use the manuals provided with the mother board and CPU case. Trial and error is not a strategy for this step.

Arrange the wires with some tie-downs and it almost looks professional.

Nice graphic. Actually its pretty good looking 🙂

And here is our final setup. Its strange that all the work done for the past hour or so is hidden completely away. The case looks exactly as before I assembled the hardware inside it. Time to fire it up.

Moment of truth – connect to power and push the button. Red light, that’s good.

Fans are running and the blue LED is lit up. It’s looking good.

Ahh, the familiar BIOS error. Its the same error we saw when we did the external build. Fortunately I have a hard disk connected so its time to do some BIOS setup and OS installation.

I have to say, of all the OS I have installed on any machine, installing Ubuntu was the easiest and most hassle free. 20 minutes later, we have OS.

10 minutes later, there is a computer in the living room! Brilliant.

[Post: 198 of 365] [Days Missed: 62]
Did you like what you found here ? Consider clicking the ‘Like’ button below, it will mean a great deal for me. Better yet, share it with your friends using those little social-networking icons shown below. I’d appreciate it.

How To Build A Computer And Take Pictures

‘Let’s build a computer’

My friend S said this to me just a few weeks ago during the final days of Dec 2011. We were watching back to back episodes of ‘The Big Bang Theory‘ on TBS and while lounging in our mutual friend K’s apartment in New Jersey he nonchalantly said that we should build a computer. It’s not so much that he said it, but he said with that voice, the one that seems like it’s the most sensible thing in the world. It’s the same voice God used when speaking to Moses and more recently to Tebow. Its the voice that often flicks a switch in one’s head that one never knew existed. There is no defense against that voice!.

As soon as he said it, I said ‘Yeah, Let’s build a computer!‘. The exclamation point at the end signifies the level of excitement I registered with my own voice at that moment. After coming back to Arizona the material procurement began. There is a bit of research involved but with help from couple of my office colleagues, it wasn’t as troublesome as I thought. Here is the external build (meaning, connecting the units outside the CPU case) I did to check if everything is working.

Spec: Intel i5 3.3 GHz, Hyper Cooler, 700W power, 2×4 GB RAM,500 GB SATA HDD, MSI P67 Board

They look much prettier out of box. The processor is under the smaller fan.

MSI P67 Board. NewEgg website says this board is a winner of customer choice award, but I didn’t get to vote. Note: Make sure you don’t have static on you. Static discharge will fry your board easily.

And this tiny little thing is where the magic happens. Looks far too small for a 3.3 GHz processor with built in GPU.

Fits nice and snug. Seriously, don’t try to push it down. Just settle it over the socket and clamp it.

Time to attach the CPU cooler. Now it may seem like I miscalculated how big the CPU fan actually was before ordering it. I want to assure you that its true. It’s freakishly massive for a device that sits on top of a tiny processor.

The best thing about this CPU fan unit is that the package included everything from hex-screw heads to heat paste which is not commonly included with many coolers. Installation was a bit tricky since the cooler was awkwardly heavy for the board. And the printed circuit meant that there were sharp soldering points at the underside of the board which made holding the board mildly painful.

Pop in the brilliant blue RAM modules. You can see that the first RAM socket is unreachable because of the bulky fan.

The video card (not pictured in the materials pic shown above) came in late – it’s a funny story, for another day – and it’s the last part to go in. This one is 1GB PCI-Express- Express meaning its faster than the PCI-normal type. FYI, there is no PCI-normal type, they are called just PCI.

Moment of truth. Time to connect the power supply and switch it on. This motherboard comes with a sweet little power button which many other boards ignore. Let’s see, blue LED is ON and both fans are spinning joyously. We’re in business. Just one more thing to confirm.

Awesome!! Just to be sure, yeah, its an error message and it is totally expected. The BIOS is complaining that stuff have not been initialized properly yet. We don’t have an OS yet and that’s only because we don’t have a Hard Disk connected!! I’ll set them up once these guys are safely setup inside a CPU case.

Next up, disconnecting these units, attaching them inside the CPU case and then connecting them back. Then the Hard disk will go in and then the new OS. Just for fun I am planning to go with Linux. I know there are multiple flavors of Linux out there. I am looking at Ubuntu now, but does any one have suggestions/advise for total Linux newbie?

[Post: 195 of 365] [Days Missed: 62]
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10 Quotes For The Season

T’is the season to make resolutions and goals. Here are ten quotes to inspire you.

Perhaps imagination is just intelligence having fun
We never grow up. We only learn how to act in public
When you have to make a decision, flip a coin. Why? Because when the coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you're hoping for
You sometimes think you want to disappear, but all you really want is to be found
Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine
Monsters are real, ghosts are real too. They live inside us and sometimes they win.
Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
Go at least once a year to some place you have never been before
Remind yourself that it's okay not to be perfect
All we needed was some good friends ans a song to sing along

[Post: 166 of 365] [Days Missed: 58]
I am on a blog-a-day-for-a-year crusade. Keep me motivated with your comments. Or tell me how to speak really slow.

At The Opera

Day 3 at SFO. Created a bit of history today by going to my first live Opera performance at the San Francisco war memorial opera house. The show, named Carmen, was sung entirely in French with brief English supertitles. In case you did not know what supertitles meant don’t worry. I learned today that supertitles are simply subtitles that are shown above the performance instead of being shown below. It was my first time witnessing an opera so I am not completely sure what to make of it, but one thing for sure. Those actors can sing. Remember all those TV commercials where some opera singer holds a musical note long enough to shatter a wine glass? It’s all true! These performers, men, women and children, are incredibly good at singing in deep voices for a very long time.
Before going to the show, we spent some fun time in Fishermen’s wharf. It’s Mecca for any sea food lover. Also went on an awesome ferry ride which went under the Golden gate bridge and then around the Alcatraz island. Don’t miss this one when you are at SFO next time.
Now, today’s pictures. In order, Clam chowder in bread bowl at Fishermen’s wharf, pimpin ride near the wharf, inside the opera house, opera orchestra and scene from the opera show.

[Post: 145 of 365] [Days Missed: 51]
I am on a blog-a-day-for-a-year crusade. Keep me motivated with your comments. Or tell me why long weekends run out so fast?

Mobile Blogging Is Hard!

Okay. I admit it. Traveling without my laptop was not a good idea. I knew that I had to blog from SFO where I will be for this entire weekend but I falsely imagined that I will be able to replace my laptop with my iPhone for blogging on the road.
Typing on the iPhone is a lot like running on beach sandals. They satisfy most of your needs, but, not all of them. This is especially hard for someone like me who has minimal mobile texting skills to type entire paragraphs on a less than 4 inch screen half of which is covered by the virtual keyboard.
Since I’m traveling this weekend I figured I could just blog about that, but given the difficulty with typing on a Mobile device it’s very hard to keep your train of thought together long enough to finish typing a full sentence and go through all of the auto suggest options from the phone. Honestly it feels like the phone could write an entire blog by itself without human intervention. For example I just typed imtevrntin and it changed it to intervention automatically. I’m telling you guys, soon robots will rule the world and us humans will be relegated to playing angry birds all day.
Anyways to alleviate some of the difficulties of mobile blogging I might use some pictures that I might take during what might be my day. I try to take interesting pictures, most of the time, and its true that a picture is worth a thousand words. So technically my last blog was over four thousand words.
In case you are thinking that I’m taking a short cut I have only one thing to tell you – you are totally right. But look at the bright side; it’s only for two more days.
With that here are few pictures for today. In order, Japanese Tea Garden tower, tea at Japanese Tea garden, Salt and Pepper crab at R & G Lounge, night view of Golden gate bridge.





[Post: 144 of 365] [Days Missed: 51]
I am on a blog-a-day-for-a-year crusade. Keep me motivated with your comments. Or tell me how to get the SFO’s terrible freeway system.