Peppermint Bark

This holiday I decided to experiment with making a traditional Christmas treat for friends and family, and indulged in some food photography while I was at it. I may have been a little too generous with the peppermint extract (note to self for next time), but it turned out quite well. Some pictures!


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Imagine Peace

Stumbled upon some wisdom from the famous fluxus artist and peace activist, Yoko Ono at

“If people make it a habit to draw a somersault on every other street as they commute to their office, take off their pants before they fight, shake hands with strangers whenever they feel like it, give flowers or part of their clothing on streets, subways, elevator, toilet, etc., and if politicians go through a tea house door (lowered, so people must bend very low to get through) before they discuss anything and spend a day watching the fountain water dance at the nearest park, the world business may slow down a little but we may have peace.”

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Sleep Cycle

New obsession — the Sleep Cycle app on the iPhone. I’m a fan of sleeping and I’m game for anything that makes it better. The app uses the movement sensors in the iPhone to track your activity while you sleep (my understanding says that depending on the phase of sleep you’re in, your breathing patterns as well as the levels of tossing and turning in bed, change) The app claims that it uses the body’s sleep cycle to wake you at the optimal time so you get up feeling refreshed.

I’ve been using it since I purchased the app, which is around a week at this point. I think the sleep tracking is pretty darn right, though it’s been better on some days than others in picking the optimal wake-up time.

Last night though, was perfect —

Sleep statistics for 05 – 06 Sep (Mon).

Went to bed / woke up: 3:26 AM / 10:11 AM
Total time: 6h 44m

Analysis made by Sleep Cycle.

My sleep graph for the entire night:

Missing: The app desperately needs a snooze feature.

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SIGGRAPH 2010 throwback

This past month I attended SIGGRAPH: People Behind the Pixels in Los Angeles, CA. It’s safe to say that I enjoyed the experience enormously. It was a great place to make new introductions, reconnect with old friends, and get inspired. Not to mention, there was a big Carnegie Mellon/Disney/ETC presence and I felt extremely cool by association. The Computer Animation Festival screenings and the Electronic Theatre were some of my favorite events at the conference. The SIGGRAPH team also introduced for the first time, Dailies, which I thought was a great forum to hear production stories from people from the industry. I’m rooting for that to be a repeat feature next year. Here’s a throwback to some of the pieces I was most impressed by —

Logorama, from the Animation Shorts Screening —

Diversifying the content for animations at SIGGRAPH, Ovulation —

Nuit Blanche captures a gorgeous moment between two strangers —

(Original at

And finally, this data visualization made using Processing —

Would I go back next year? Yes.

Can someone else pay for my pass? Please?

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Reclaiming the Reader

It’s been a while since I’ve been the bookworm I used to be. It’s a nagging feeling that continues to unsettle me.

Somewhere between the days of mystery novels being read cover-to-cover and fantasy fiction consuming my waking hours to growing out of the genre completely, the reading habit receded. Of course, there were books that came along that were radical and brilliant. An Equal Music. The Kite Runner. Hegemony or Survival. Rebecca. But I decided it’s time to reclaim the habit. That inspires the summer lineup.

Currently, I’m reading The Pixar Touch by David Price.

A phenomenal book about the making of a company like no other. My housefellow gifted the book to me as a graduation present. Great choice — Inspirational. Lively. Pure genius. Everything Pixar. Not to mention, there’s references to Carnegie Mellon alumni sprinkled throughout the book. Definitely a great graduation read.

Here’s the summer lineup so far —

1. The Golden Gate, Vikram Seth.

2. Les Mis, Victor Hugo.

3. Love in The Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

4. The White Mughals, William Dalrymple.

5. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie. (I started this one a while back, and it is so uncool to leave a book unfinished)

Why the blog post? For personal accountability, mostly. But if you happen to be reading this, drop a recommendation.

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“Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying”

Studying for finals generally lends itself well to the making of new playlists on my computer. Since I have an irresistible urge to sing along to every song I enjoy somewhat and know the words to, finding new study music means one of two things –

1. Listening to house/trance/techno on Pandora (because who purchases techno, really? –
2. Discovering new music in my 25GB iTunes library (and therefore avoiding the problem of compulsive singing)

So here I am studying for my last final ever, and I’ve come once again to appreciate the lyrical genius of Belle and Sebastian. Here’s the last verse from “Get me away from here, I’m dying” (currently, playcount = 40)

Oh, that wasn’t what I meant to say at all
From where I’m sitting, rain
Falling against the lonely tenement
Has set my mind to wander
Into the windows of my lovers
They never know unless I write
“This is no declaration, I just thought I’d let you know goodbye”
Said the hero in the story
“It is mightier than swords
I could kill you sure
But I could only make you cry with these words”

Obligatory link to the song:

Obligatory link to complete lyrics.

Obligatory album cover:

And yes, this song is becoming increasingly distracting as far as making progress with programming is concerned, considering I had an urge not just to listen to it, not just to sing it, but to write about it.

Playcount = 42.

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Brick Walls

“Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people.”
– Randy Pausch ( 1960-2008 )

“Brick walls are currently messing with the wrong person.”
– Me

“I know, I feel bad for them.”
– Ravi

Sometimes you just need a friendly reminder.

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When Technology Meets Design

Technology is ever changing. Evolution follows revolution and if there’s one thing we can take for granted, it is that technology today will become obsolete tomorrow. So how do we leverage creativity independent of the medium? As architects of experience in integrated media, we must learn to innovate not just through technology, but also in spite of it.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with addressing these temporary trends of the entertainment industry. Whether it is social gaming in the game industry or the 3D experience in cinema, the underlying concept and design is what ultimately decides if the product of your creation is going to be a passing craze or a collectible.

Take for example, a technology that is transforming the entertainment industry today, 3D stereoscopic vision.
3D film has been around since the 1950s but the technology has made tremendous progress in the last decade. 3D projection is based on stereoscopic vision, which is the ability to create the illusion of depth by using special techniques to record spatial information of a scene. Some attempts at 3D filmmaking have been somewhat successful, others, not so much. In the summer of 2009, Duncan Jones’ Moon was opened as a limited release 3D experience. Science museums and theme parks have been dabbling in 3D entertainment for a while but the end of 2009 delivered 3D in a way unlike seen before in the form of box-office hit, Avatar. While the movie presented a simple enough story, Avatar was a brilliant example of refreshing story telling and innovation through technology.

Yet, James Cameron, director of Avatar, says in an interview with Peter Jackson, director of Lord of The Rings –
“A lot of media attention is switching to technology in the wrong way. They’re saying the industry is in trouble; will 3-D save it? That really doesn’t have anything to do with it. The industry is in trouble, but it has nothing to do with technology, nor is technology going to necessarily be the savior.”

It will always be true that the jaw-dropping moments and the awe-inspiring scenes will have a strong thread of ingenious story telling behind them. The experience of emotions, while becoming more immersive through technology, will continue to be the same primal experience – sometimes private, sometimes collective, but always, gracefully, human.

The looming problem of not-enough-innovation plagues the game industry as well. With new business models bringing in a new genre of games, new gaming platforms and new consoles opening up the market, a plethora of games are being churned out with no real innovation in game design. It becomes increasingly important, not only from a designer’s standpoint, but also from an analytical perspective, to understand which trends show signs of longevity. As a developer, you don’t want to design a pop-song equivalent of a game, and as a publisher, you don’t want to jump on the bandwagon for an idea that will crash and burn in 9 months.

Here’s an excerpt from class, commenting on the trend of games from 1981 to 1998, that exemplifies games as artifacts as technology –

“I believe when the history of games is written, that the period from 1981–1998 will be viewed as a vast wasteland of games that promoted the worst in gamers . . . The hidden desire we have to retreat from our fellows and be alone. I believe games are social experiences and are meant to be played together.”

The trend for a long time has been to make accelerated improvements in computer graphics, better visuals, and better frame rates. Game studios admit that somewhere along the way, the focus on innovating in game design was lost. This is now being reclaimed.

Social gaming is directly challenging social isolation issues that are often incorrectly blamed on the game industry. I think the industry is in the process of recognizing that human interaction is the pinnacle of why games are fun. It’s not just the socially networked audience that has opened up the possibility for designing games. There is another demographic that is now a part of the emerging gaming community. Many game studios are creating online experiences for kids, which is great way to expose and educate the next generation about online etiquette. Toontown by Disney, Pixie Hollow by Schell Games and Nick Jr.’s Dora and Diego worlds, all address a brand new, much more technologically savvy generation. Yet, these games are successful because they got the basics right. A solid foundation in the principles of game design, story telling and interactivity is not an option, it is a requirement. And hey, if these principles are not lost in translation as the rules of the medium evolve, you have a recipe for success.

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/ˌsɛr ənˈdɪp ɪ ti/

It’s been an oddly fortunate week.

Touch wood.

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Poetry on a Bathroom Wall

This weekend  I took some photos in the women’s bathroom at Kiva Han, a cafe near Carnegie Mellon. I wonder if I can get a guy spy to sneak into the men’s bathroom…

Here’s the whole photostream on Flickr – Poetry on a Bathroom Wall

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