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Took a long hiatus to get married, move to a new apartment, get a new job – all the usual.

I’m working on many new things now, and will attempt to keep posting to this site (which is now hosted on Azure, btw).

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This is a video of Commander Chris Hadfield, Commander of the International Space Station, doing a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. From space.

This has got to be the most awesome cover ever.

This is an example of the kinds of things that make me feel that all is well in this world. The fact that someone is up in space singing David Bowie.. that gives me hope.

The previous few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. I have a new job now, and it’s a lot of fun. Also a lot of work, but that’s why it’s fun. I get to do stuff that’s really interesting, and to set up programs and processes from scratch; hopefully for good. I’ve always liked to fix things, or build them, and the work that I’m doing now is a reflection of that.

Just what is it that I do? Simply put, I’m the social media lead for VCE. This involves a lot of different things—marketing, technology, communications, psychology, imaging, design, and so on. All that aside, the job means making things interesting so that people will read and remember what we have to say.

I traveled to Vegas for EMC World last week as part of my new job. Vegas brings many things to mind; you ma be sure that I didn’t do any of those things. I found the place something of an oddity. It’s escapism made real. There’s something there to get you away from whatever it is you want to get away from. If, on the other hand, you don’t want to get away from anything, it’s not half as much fun.

The landscape around Vegas was nice though. Very similar to my home town; and in fact, Vegas has a low range of hills in the distance, just like Jaipur has the Aravalis. The air feels very similar—hot and dry. The sere ground outside the city reminded me of Rajasthan as well. I don’t mind admitting that I was a little homesick.

Back in India, meanwhile, my brother and sis-in-law are about to have their first child. Quite literally, sometime in the next few days. Here’s hoping that everything goes well and the baby and mother are both well.

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Horrible news out of Boston. I’m safe, as is everyone I know.

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Back in November, I wrote this.

“The rest, of course, is history. I was instantly captivated, and read the book at one go. It’s been fourteen years, and I’ve read all of Pratchett’s works, and am captivated today as I was fourteen years ago. The guy is brilliant, which makes it even sadder that he has Alzheimer’s disease. Very, very sad. He’s one of those authors whom you really feel you know personally (Ian M. Banks is another example, as are Asimov, Heyer, and Wodehouse).”

Today I find out that Iain M. Banks has terminal cancer, and has less than a year to live.

Asimov, Heyer, and Wodehouse shuffled off the mortal coil awhile back.

Sigh.

This is the kind of thing that makes you feel old.

Still, I did have something nice happen to me today. Oddly enough, related to Pratchett. So it goes.

I’m going to have to re-read all of Banks’ work over the next couple of weeks as a tribute to the man. It’s not going to be hard to read, either.

In other news, I start a new job on Monday. I moved from one TLA to another. From EMC to VCE. Never heard of either? Don’t worry about it, it’s all enterprise tech stuff. No, I don’t do tech personally. But I work for a tech company. No one who knows me is surprised.

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Do you sometimes go to Ankh-Morpork?

Do you go for the humor? or the humidors?

For the golems or the dwarfs or the vampires? Or the werewolf in the Watch?

Or perhaps you go for the once and future king..who is content to be plain old Captain Carrot?

I go for all of these, and for other things that rattle in the night.

From the Unseen University to Vetinari’s palace, across the plains to Sto-helit, and sometimes as far as Uberwald.

I go to remind myself that there are other worlds than these.

I first read Terry Pratchett when I was 16. For some odd reason, he had escaped my attention prior to that. The circumstances of getting to know Pratchett are rather interesting. I was in high school, and had recently met a girl from MGD, whom I later dated for rather a long time. MGD, of course, is the Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls school, an old and prestigious school set up to educate girls by a progressive royal (very Pratchettian, come to think of it). It’s a cross between St. Claire’s, Mallory Towers, Eton, and any old high school with quite a lot of repressed young women.

So this girl, who shall remain nameless since this really isn’t about her (though you’re not fooled are you, gentle reader? You know exactly whom this is.) read Pratchett. I had read one book of his before I met her, Strata (which was set on a disc-shaped world and preceded his Discworld novels) but had never read a Discworld book. Now, naturally, being a red-blooded young guy, I was rather disdainful of books recommended to me by a mere girl. Don’t roll your eyes, it’s a mysoganistic age, and I wasn’t all that bad, I’m exaggerating for effect.

I’d see the books in the shelves when I visited, and finally one day, picked up one at random. Soul Music.

The rest, of course, is history. I was instantly captivated, and read the book at one go. It’s been fourteen years, and I’ve read all of Pratchett’s works, and am captivated today as I was fourteen years ago. The guy is brilliant, which makes it even sadder that he has Alzheimer’s disease. Very, very sad. He’s one of those authors whom you really feel you know personally (Ian M. Banks is another example, as are Asimov, Heyer, and Wodehouse). I’ve recently been rereading his books, and they remain fresh. It’s like Wodehouse; some books and characters will endure forever (have to mention Sam Weller here, my all-time favorite character).

I spent some time wandering about the library in Mendon today. Mendon is a town of some five thousand people, so the library isn’t exactly the largest in the world. It had some good books though, good enough to make me sign up for a library card and take four books home.

One of these is the real world equivalent of Pratchett: James Thurber. James Thurber has a story called “The State of Bontana” in which characters, challenged to think of a state beginning with B (there isn’t one), guess “Bontana”, “Butah”, and “Bassachusetts”, among others. The payoff is when the next challenge is to name a bird, and one of them says “Beagle!” (It’s funnier when you read the story; the guy who yells that out is bored, sleepy, and barely paying attention. Of course, everyone makes fun of him, and he wants to kill his wife.)

Anyway.

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Yesterday,a hurricane blew through town. This is not a metaphor; there really was a hurricane. Thankfully for me, the brunt of it was further south, but we got some significant rain.

This really has nothing to do with what I’m writing. I just wanted to mark the day. For futher reference, etc etc.

I’ve run into some issues writing this journal. On the one hand, I want to keep it personal. Not in the sense of private, but rather, in the sense of this being a place where I write about anything I like. Without too much forethought, or editing, or trying to polish it up so that it sounds like something you’d want to hire me for. On the other, I do want to write about things that interest me professionally, without juxtaposing them with stuff I write about cats (not that I ever write about cats, but I could).

So naturally, I do what all good men would do in a situation like this. I temporize, and procrastinate, and do neither. And (also naturally), not taking a decision either way leaves me feeling just as dissatisfied, so it doesn’t really solve anything.

I have decided.

I will keep this journal true to what it started out as, six years ago. A place where I can write anything I like, whether it be silly, funny,serious, profound, unintelligible.. whatever. And as fas as writing about subjects that might be of more professional interest, I’ll either create a new blog, or simply a new tab on this blog, and let things proceed.

Whew! Now I feel better.

Let’s take stock, then, shall we? What’s been happening? Lots of things, but I’m not going to talk about them on this blog. If you know me well, you already know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t know me well, you don’t want to know. Simply put, work goes very well, but some other things that ought to have gone well, didn’t.

I watched a great movie tonight. Back to School. Very 80s, but a whole lot of fun. One of those laugh out loud movies, with snappy one-liners and a very young Robert Downey Jr. playing the role of a faux-intellectual iconoclast at a university. Downey only has a small role in the movie; the main man is Rodney Dangerfield. It was a nice break from the doom and gloom that seems to be on TV these days.

I get the feeling that with winter coming, I’m going to be watching a whole bunch of old 80s movies. When I’m not snowboarding, that is. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I got something in the mail today… my season pass to go snowboarding! I tried boarding a little a couple of years ago, and I had fun. By the end of it, I was able to come down the easy slopes without wiping out (well, not too many times). This year, I’m determined to get much, much better at it. Enough that I could legitimately put up some pictures without looking like a pretentious ass… you know the sorts, the guys who pose with surfboards, snowboards, and near fancy cars pretending that they’re just about to get in and go. I wouldn’t want to be that guy. Nope.

Anyway, this post is just me easing back into writing here. It’s a process, and I’ll be writing more as things settle down around me.

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Driving through, taking it easy.

What am I thinking of these days? Lots of things, and I want to get down to writing posts on some of these thoughts soon:

Amazon is the biggest threat to traditional enterprise storage vendors
Why trees change color
Watching MythBusters

and a bunch more.

I’ll be writing more as time goes by; just wanted to start again after many changes.

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For all too long this journal has been silent. The only noises here have been the sound of crickets in the MySQL database.. chirp chirp. It’s almost as deserted as Google+! (See what I did there?)

Briefly then, let me bring you up to date, gentle reader. It’s now the month of May, in the year two thousand and twelve. I’ve spent the past few months working on a few projects.

The first: my job. Yup, that’s a project like any other. I’m quite enjoying it, especially since I make sure to keep my geeky side alive in this vast company. It’s all too easy to start talking of ‘low-hanging fruit’, and ‘piggy-backing’ and ‘all-hands meetings’ (this last one always makes me think of a room with a bunch of hands in it…), and so forth, but I’m resisting that. I do lots of interesting stuff, from Final Cut Pro to figuring out complicated schedules and crafting roadmaps(which is a fancy way to saying “figuring out what to do next”) and what not. Y’see, I’m what they call a Senior Program Manager, and Program Managing basically means getting things done. Doing it myself when I can, and when I can’t, there are people who help out. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m learning many new things, technical and otherwise, so I’m happy.

The second: the more personal side of matters. Now, long time readers of this blog (Hi, Mom), know that I do not speak about my life in great detail. Much to your disappointment, I’m not going to start now, so you can sit back in your chair and sigh. What I can say is that I started writing this journal in 2006 (2005, actually, but I wiped out my databases and learnt the value of backups..read the first post on the blog), when I was in my fourth year of law school. Many bits have flowed through the Intertubes since then, and now it’s 2012, and many things are new under the sun. There should soon be much to announce on the personal front. Read into that what you will.

I’ve not been home in almost two years now, and I miss it quite a bit. Some things I don’t miss (the incessant din of honking being right up there.. I’m not sure why we Indians believe in the physical properties of sound so much.. the horn is NOT going to magically vanish the car in front of you), but there are many things I do. We should hopefully be travelling (and no, the collective pronoun is not a typo) to India soon, to fly some kites, and eat some food, and meet that wild and wooly collection of _interesting_ people, otherwise known as the extended family.Can’t wait!

The cool thing about being in the US is the ability to access all the stuff that we didn’t used to get back in India. I was forever hanging out on Newegg, looking at the very latest GPUs and CPUs, dreaming of the day that I would be able to buy them. And now, I’m here, and I can easily afford to buy them. So what have I bought?

Nothing, of course. Now, don’t look smug. This is not because I suddenly don’t want them anymore. Far from it. I may be almost 30 now, but in very many ways I’m exactly like I was at 15. I still read Anandtech everyday, still go to Slashdot, Arstechnica, El Reg.. Heck, I’m even making simple PHP/MySQl websites just for kicks. And of course, I’m running multiple servers in the “cloud”, on Amazon Web Services, and on other sundry clouds. It’s just that the technology market seems to have stagnated for a while in terms of GPU power. I really think we need a new generation of display technology to use all the dormant power in today’s GPUs.. And I’m waiting for the new HiDPI Macbooks to buy my new shiny toy.

But this is a topic for another day. For now, let me stop and post this, and of course, let me wish my wonderful mother a very Happy Mother’s Day! She always let me do what I wanted, and a direct result of that is the servers running in the cloud; so Mom, Amazon thanks you as well :)

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If you need to pull all the content from a blog via its RSS feed and dump it into Excel, how do you do it?

If the blog has been archived by Google Reader, it’s pretty easy to do. No-one seems to have written a guide to this online, so I thought I’d do it.

How-To:

1. Use this special URL:

http://www.google.com/reader/atom/feed/[RSS]?n=[N]

Replace [RSS] with the URL of the RSS feed, [N] with the number of posts wanted (max. 1000)

Example:

http://www.google.com/reader/atom/feed/http://adityanag.com/journal/feed/?r=n&n=1000

N=1000 tells the API to provide the previous 1000 posts.

2. The resulting page can then be saved as an XML document, prior to importing it into Excel.

3. If you want more than 1000 posts, you have to modify the URL somewhat. First, save the XML file from the previous step. Open it up in a text editor, and look for a tag that looks like this:

gr:continuation CO6a-c7Z_awC /gr:continuation

The tag is located right in the beginning of the file, before the content of the blog starts. If you can’t see this tag, that means that either there aren’t 1000+ posts, or Google doesn’t have an archive of the earlier ones. Google only archives posts if someone starts following it in Google Reader, or uses Feedburner to create a feed. Most popular blogs are fully archived, but smaller ones (like this one) only have a few hundred entries archived.

4. Once you have the Continuation String (the text inside the gr:continuation tag), you have to craft a different URL:

http://www.google.com/reader/atom/feed/[RSS]?n=[N]&c=[C]

Replace [RSS] with the URL of the RSS feed, [N] with the number of posts wanted (max. 1000), and [C] with the Continuation String.

5. Using this method, you can retrieve 1000 posts at a time, till you reach the end of the archive. Keep saving the files as XML’s and then you can combine them later in Excel to create one large file with all the data.

Note: Excel 2011 (on the Mac) won’t work here. It opens XML as a flat text file. Excel on Windows creates an XML schema, and this allows for easy manipulation of the data. Once the schema is created in Windows, the resulting file can be saved as an XLS and then opened in Excel 2011.