Author Archives: kamaldeepsingh

About kamaldeepsingh

A Climber, A Reader and unfortunately a software engineer

What should I cook tonight?

The question that dooms everyone (every evening), unless one loves eating out every single night. I didn’t particularly try hard to answer this question, but its indeed a real-world problem and someone, somewhere in the world is probably writing a ML algorithm to solve it. He/she may as well arrive at solution to help them buy right stuff to stock in advance and computer bots can work with robotics arms to cook it. It’s not available to utilize these as just API’s now and I am not a brilliant coder to start coding it from starch.

Design engineer Brian Conti from North Carolina has created magnetic strips called bottleLoft to hold beer bottles in fridges (shown). They stick to the top of the fridge and hold up to six bottles. The device can be bought for £12 ($20) and is currently on Kickstarter

While someone makes that massive effort, there probably is a reasonable solution:-

Alexa

What if, Alexa recommends with option to cook in the order, when food is about to expire: –

  • Smoked Salmon
  • Chicken Briyani
  • Aloo-gobi or Indian style potato and cauliflower

How can this work?

  1. We all know smart fridge exist and I have seen one from LG that suggests what all is going to go bad(expire) soon.
  2. Once Alexa knows this information, It can give some recommendations and then find recipe options for you.
  3. Bingo now the easy stuff – Alexa read out the recipe and people have already done this.

After writing this article I realized – someone has attempted this already in a hackathon however it’s not yet live, so my assumption is someone is already working on it.

There are also some other real world problems which can be solved with similar data set: –

  • Alexa can ask you what all you may like to eat next week and build up a glossary list for next week based on what already in the fridge.
  • You like something on street , Click a photo of something you want to make at home- Alexa tells-> Oops – missing ingredients e.g low quantity of milk, let Alexa add this in your list.

If you find other good use-cases of this data-set, feel free to comment.

 

 

 

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Alexa->Echo->Computer

After feedback from one of reader @teplife , I managed to change name of my Amazon Echo Dot from “Alexa”-> “Echo”. It actually worked. We sometimes by mistake called the unit “Alexa” but soon after we started to correct our self.

Our Son – He still loves the blue circle LED on Echo dot, however I am yet to wake him up with keyword “Alexa” but his brain his registering his name more now.

Next week Echo will be called “Computer” and we will continue to move it in round robin fashion

PS: I must admit the voice recognition of Echo dot is not great with keyword “Echo” – or may be its to do with our Indian English Accent – my wife seems to suffer more than me. We both like the name “Alexa”.

 

Why did I unplug – Amazon Alexa?

With bit of a geek left in me I planned to carry out some degree of home-automation. To achieve this,  like everyone I spent some $$$. I upgraded some of my old gadget and bought couple of new ones. The latest addition to the stable were Amazon Echo Dot and a smart plug. The next one I suppose will we smart lighting. The trigger for getting these was set-up of my 8 months old son’s new room. Echo-dot is positioned near my other devices like Router, Cloud Drive on TV unit, connected with Smart Plug and JBL Flip speaker in my son’s room.

The use-cases thought of were enormous:-

  1. Alexa to play music and lullaby in my son’s room
  2. Alexa to Start and Stop Heating in the room.
  3. Alexa to switch light on/off
  4. Alexa to play music in my wife’s home office setup in lounge.
  5. Alexa to manage to-do list and shopping list.
  6. Alexa to setup reminders and alarms

One of the use-case which I didn’t think of when I bought was a play toy for my son. Every time I called “Alexa”, my son would crawl to TV Unit, stand up and start watching her blue spinning ring and response. It started as entertainment for us and this became an addition for 8 month old. This addiction to word “Alexa” became so bad that my son would wake up at 6:30 AM from his deep sleep to every Alexa Command. He wouldn’t otherwise respond to “Mama”, “Papa”, “Daddy” or his own name.

With all the above happening and I can vouch that potential for these assistive devices is enormous in coming years and I will use it. For now with 8 month old while he is learning to walk, talk and listen – he needs to unlearn the word “Alexa”.

Result – Amazon Echo Dot is un-plugged for a month and word Alexa is forbidden to be used.

The North Indian Road Trip – Day 8

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Day /Date– Monday, 27th June
Journey – Leh-Khardungla Top-Leh
Distance – 90 kms

Road Condition – Superb considering we were climbing highest motor able pass on planet.

Since all our permits were sorted by the guest house owner at very reasonable commission, hence we had no tension at all. In the morning we had a leisurely breakfast at the Guest house itself. The cook there was actually very good, working 50-50 by splitting time between Goa and Leh. Our typical breakfast @ Guest house included pan cakes, omelets and parathas followed by amazing cuppa of Tea. Farzin wanted to change his Engine oil in the morning since there was lot of leakage and the obvious worry was engine seizing. I also got the air-filter and spark plug changed because my Electra wasn’t giving very optimum performance.
Since our bikes were all fine tuned for Khardung-la we started our ascent for the world highest motor-able pass. I wasn’t keeping very high hopes about the road conditions after my encounter with Zoji-la. Typical climb to Khardung-la top (18380 ft) from leh (11500 ft) takes about 1 hr 30 min to 1 hr 45 min. Farzin and I looked at each other and acknowledged that this is going to give a good kick. Farzin hinted to take it slow and try to take some pauses en-route to acclimatize and drink loads of water during the ascent.
Considering most of passes have bad roads this one turned out to be an expressway. The number of river streams was like 2-3. Mikhil &Pravin led the route and took some stops for clicking pictures. We made it to the top in little less than 2 hrs and the feeling really was top the world. The view on the top were phenomenal from the highest view point of the region 18380ft. We clicked pictures near the milestones. Farzin complained that he isn’t feeling very great after. It was about 1:30 PM we decided to have the Maggie and black tea @ world highest café which had a whole lot of history behind it.
Farzin as usual even though not feeling very well had the most of the Maggie soup.  It was already about 45 mins we spent at such an altitude and before AMS starts kicking in we decided to start out descend. We met few cyclist also (mostly foreigners) who took an interesting push-bike decent  where (Jeeps takes you up, gravity takes you down. Few of these guys were descending @ >60kmph and I was unable to overtake these cyclists on my Motorbike. That’s what I call thrill of life, just scared with the fact that if you miscalculate your breaking, there is only one way ride down for life.
M&P took some shots of these guys and I was going conservative on my fuel as I had already hit reserve mode. I barely had gas left for 25 kms on this low oxygen terrain. The bike started showing signs of missing a thump about 6 kms before Guest house. I slowed down further and farzin tagged along with me to give company. We reached Moon light Guest house @ 4PM and somehow were super tired after just 5 hrs of biking. We all crashed on our beds for a power sleep of 2 hrs.
As always I take too much tension so I got up at about 5:30 and decided to leave for Airport road for getting my bike fixed. I went to Tashi mechanic and he tried to fix the missing problem, this time he totally messed up with the carburetor setting. I was now super pissed with the way bike was performing. I had to give in extra throttle to ascend on simple inclines. I tried to venture out on other mechanic on Airport road and all answers were no since it was dawn and there was no electricity. I decided to meet renowned mechanic Mohan again and expressed that I have urgent need (guess all guys that would come to him will have urgency due to tight time schedules we plan).  He opened up my spark plug and boom it was dead. The bike was still not picking up after putting in new spark plug. He opened up complete carburetor assembly in the light my mobile phone torch. He changed the fuel intake scale and said this is the reason my sparkplugs are blowing up. He also suggested that once I reach Manali get the setting to the original setting as this will reduce the fuel intake to engine which corresponds to the oxygen intake at height above 10k. Finally I had a breath of relief and reached guest-house back with a happy mood.  Farzin wasn’t feeling very great due to throat infection he had fever. I re-assured Farzin if he isn’t well tomorrow I am okay to spend one more day @ Leh. We had Pizzas for dinner at a nice café in the night and super tried we all crashed down @ 11:00 PM.

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The North Indian Road Trip – Day 7

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Day /Date– Sunday, 26th June

Journey – Leh River Rafting on River Zanskar

Distance – 0 kms on Bike

Road Condition – 2+ grade Zanskar Segment on a 8 man Raft.

Today was fairly lazy, we got up around 8 AM – considering it was our leisure day. Farzin had very bad throat and high fever and he had been coughing all night. I had to re-confirm with him, if he really wants to do white-water rafting in this situation. He said yes in a very non promising tone, and I understood that he is quite screwed. I tried to convince Farzin let’s not overdo anything – we have a long way to go. He agreed and then said he will medicine and see what happen to which I had to agree. We had a quick breakfast @ our guest house.

We reached the meeting point at 9 AM and Farzin bought cough syrup and antibiotics. A Tempo Traveler  came at 9:30 and we met a guy named “Prem” of Argentinian origin but settled in Pondicherry with his mother. We also met another Gujju Business group (all of them between 26-28) who are fairly rich and were exploring Leh by SUV.

After picking up the Gujju Gang from there posh hote, we started our journey towards Zanskar River. We reached the starting grid at 10:30 AM (1 hr ride from Leh) and walked towards the river for debrief. All Instructors were kind of Pro’s and I felt that we are in very capable in white water.

All 5 rafts were now deployed and teams were divided. I and Farzin decided to be the Forwadee (Front Paddlers of the Raft). On our Raft we were 6 members(1 Family inc. Uncle, Aunty and 2 lads around 14-15 yr old) and Ram an experienced raft leader. First thing for me was to check water temperature by putting my bare feet and only 2 words I could spell out (f#*k&nG Cold).

After learning the commands and instructions we did a bit of training on steady waters and Ram wasnt very happy with my abilities to be a forwardee on the raft. He got a bit agressive as well, since there was a family along and my best guess was he wasnt expecting much from the family to run the show. I eventually leaned out more of the raft and started to paddle strongly. Farzin and I realized it was not going to be easy 7 km ride.

All rafts started to get in white waters and we were the last raft to step in. Wow, it was like a roller coaster ride – we all were screaming and also paddling. After the first shock the instructor got bit frustrated on everyone saying “its my raft and only I give command”. Sh#t this was serious business, I recalled there is a narrow gorge also en-route which passes below a road bridge. The lady (kids mom) wasn’t very interested, seemed like she was dragged in because of adventurous uncle. There were big and small whirlpools, rocks – all in all fairly bumpy ride, on reaching the gorge the leader told this is the toughest section. Have to say everyone was breathing heavy, there were no trees or vegetation for miles. We followed the Ram’s instructions with forwardee paddling first, rear group following the pattern and Ram making sure raft is in right spot at right time.

Wow, what a ride. We all were joyous, we continued to paddle while the rest of rapids were fairly of lower grade. I saw some of members jumping in river from the raft, and I jumped asking farzin to drag me up with the techniques we learnt. Wow – the body was chilled in 5-7 secs to the bones. Heavy weight Farzin easily dragged me up. The guy from Argentina even dared to swim to the shore about 30 odd m swim and was super freezed. We reached the shore and changed in bus which were waiting for us to take back to Leh.

Enroute to our surprise there was lunch organized by the tour organizer. We had the much needed lunch and reached Leh back by 3PM dead tired, cold.

I decided to doze up and woke up at 6:30 PM. Rest of the day was lazy and we roamed around Leh Market and had food at local cafe to call it a day.

The North Indian Road Trip – Day 6

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Day /Date– Saturday, 25th June
Journey – Kargil-Leh
Distance – 230 kms
Riding Time – 10 Hrs – Hilly route through out with clouds defining colour of mountains.
Road Condition – Not so bad road to Lamayuru with some good patches. Post Lamayuru brilliant metallic road.

We started at 6:30 AM with an idea that road ahead are relatively nice , but tough luck. After refueling at Kargil Gas Station and made our way quickly through bad patches of road. Four of us had a nice rally following each other and pushing further and further. We reached Mulbekh about 35-40 kms from Kargil to have breakfast. Two Years back I remember having lunch at the same Dhaba opposite a small monastery. We jammed inside couple of parathas and restarted jourey at 9 AM.

Post Mulbekh, some patches of Black Metallic roads started coming in to give some riding pleasure. If I put this in my words “It was like orgasmic feeling on metallic road and when  a bad patch use to come it use to turn-off”. This job of making roads in Ladakh region is one of the toughest in the world – there are no trees, oxygen level at 3500+ meter altitude is very less, very less water to add on to scarcity . Hats of the workers of BRO – Border Roads Organization who are constructing/maintaining these roads. I read a quote on Army brdige – “difficult will be done immediately and impossible will take some time” and could make a proper sense out of it. Every year after winter icebreakers crawl on these roads and damage the roads in order to clear of the ice deposited on roads and BRO starts all over again – A perfect unavoidable vicious cricle .

We crossed our only pass big of the day – Fotu-la @ about 13478 ft by 11:45 AM to make our way through to Lamayuru Monastery. Mikhil and Pravin decided to pushed further faster as now roads in Farzin’s words were like ‘sex on the toast’. I and Farzin were bit tired, so we decided to take a small break at Monastery for some snacks. I bought a Ladakh map(eventually lost it the same day in Leh Hotel) some post cards. It was now blazing mid day hot at 10k+ height all throughout.

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At 1:30 we resumed our journey and all throughout only thing that could be talk of ride was, this is beautiful, I wanna live here forever. The purple mountains, the mega penis rock, black metallic roads, all dry weather, narrow gorge at >12000 ft. Enroute  there was  big traffic Jam in the gorge. Road maintenance was in progress, and wait time was no more than 30 mins (which is very effective considering the nature of terrain). We saw a robotic drilling machine – drilling holes for dynamites, which was operated via remote control (an un-common sight in India). I was standing in a zone which was going experience mega blasts in the Night. It was bit of a scary sight that we were in a cave like structure and rock above us was loose with trucks and car standing below it. Our bikes were the first one to cross after road was cleared.

The orgasmic roads continued and top speed we could gain on these roads was 80kmph.  I was really surprised that our bikes use to run at 100-110 on NH01 at sea level and this is what oxygen levels could do. (For Information: Royal Enfield Electra 4s 2005 performed better than Royal Enfield Thunderbird 2010 Twinspark).

About 30 kms before Leh crossed a zone called magnetic hill, this place showcased an unusual phenomenon – A car with switched off engine and in neutral gear will start climbing in the uphill direction due to magnetic pull. We both had a heated up argument, I was defending the magnetic pull as reason and farzin said it’s a slope which is not visible due to terrain location. We did test by throwing up a litre of precious water and it started climbing upwards/downwards as per Farzin (ironic) . When Farzin tried to do iron key test by bring the bike key closer to ground it showed strong magnetic pull and attracted it back. We left the argument there as no solid reasoning could be established. At about 5 PM we checked in New Moon Guest House,Leh-Khardungla Road (I remembered this guesthouse from my last stay in Leh, it was very cheap 400 rupees a night only).

We took some rest and decided that since our permits are not going to be sorted tomorrow as its Sunday, lets do White water Rafting. We booked in our self on rapids of Zanskar River which was Grade 2+ and definitely not for beginners. Mikhil and Pravin called us and they had booked in a different hotel near market. We  had wonderful dinner together @ German Bakery and called it a night.

The North India Circut – Day 5

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Date/Day – Friday, 24th June
Journey – Srinagar-Kargil
Distance – 202 kms
Riding Time – 10.5 Hrs – Climb To Zojila, Descend to Drass and Hilly route to Kargil.
Road Condition – Metallic road till Sonamarg, Tiny (non metallic) road on Zoji-la Ascent, plenty of bad patches post Zoji-la.

We decided to push of early, as idea was to get through the difficult part in first half of the day. It is a good idea to cross passes early morning because of river streams as intensity of ‘nullah’ increases  because of glaciers melting.

We left guest house at 7:30 am. I took out 10 grand from ATM, and we started our journey towards Sonmarg. We missed sight seeing of Dal lake during our stay in Srinagar, so we clicked some pictures enroute. The sight was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist to pull osut the cameras.

This is the view, why people like Srinagar as a honeymoon destination. The house boats, the shikaras, the mountains, the trees – a splendid view. We pushed further and reached a village before Sonamarg for a quick breakfast. Both of us realized that our trek gloves are no good for motor biking so we picked up another pair of resin gloves (Rs 100 for a pair), it turned out to be a horrible buy.  We corssed Sonmarg and majority of the view was of of a defence transit camp in a beautiful landscape. I had bit of butterflies in my stomach now i.e how is my bike which is un-tested on passes going to pass through tough terrain.

We started our ascend to Zoji-la (13500ft), to be very honest – we both are not very experienced bike riders when it comes to mountain pass climbing and this was our first mountain pass. The ascend started with a very good road, green trees, some snow patches, then a little un-even road, moving on to terrain with no road and no trees. The terrain became very dusty and we had to do an ascent over sharp hair pin turns of the pass.  I managed to stop my bike in middle of 60 degree ascend, and I failed to start my bike after 3-4 kicks. To increase my anxiety level, a Truck was ascending and blowing horn to move away as it can not afford to loose momentum. I started feeling breathless and now nervous because of height gain, thinking if my bike will give up here.  I calmed myself and kicked with giving in proper decompression and bingo. After ascending 6-8 kms we reached a straight road, it was about 2-3 kms long slush of mud, patches of glacial water streams on so called road. We understood that we have reached the mountain pass, and decided to hydrate ourself and click some pictures.

We started our descend to Drass at 12:00 and reached there by 1:30 pm to have lunch @ a local Dhaba (Farzin was happy to find non-veg food here). At 2:30 we pushed off for Kargil, hoping to reach there by 5 PM. Enroute we saw few defence walls, which were designed to shield army trucks from enemy attack. We crossed the Tiger hill which had a history attached to it (1999-2001 Kargil War). I was wandering how Indian army survive in this area during winters and even made me wander what happens at siachen glacier. After few kilometers we reached a War Museum, constructed by Indian Army in memory of the martyr. Farzin and I mutually decided that we will be spend some time here. It was very touching story of the Indian real heros we heard first hand from the soldiers(of 14 Sikh) guarding the museum. One of tehm narrated the complete war – the Heros, how Pakistan breached the Line of Control, how we regained our position over tiger peak. It was very difficult for me to believe that beyond tiger hill is Line of Control from where we could see Pakistan camps and activities. We met Mikhil and Pravin, two guys were completing the same circuit as we had planned but on a Maruti Alto. We started together from Drass, these guys were hoping somehow reach Kargil and buy new tyres, as both of there rear tyres had given up on Zoji-la. We all reached Kargil at 6:30 PM, these guys bought new MRF Tyres and checked in a local hotel. We had dinner in Shangri-La restaurant  on the main road to finish the day. Our plan was to start early the next day to reach Leh by 3:00 and try to get the permit of Khardung-la/Pangong/Tso-mirori.