May 9, 2008

Fever Dreams

Apparently, dengue and Chikungunya are sweeping through Colombo these days. Being the reclusive people we are, we haven’t been out much nor do we read newspapers or watch/listen to the news. So we really wouldn’t have known about any of this unless both of us hadn’t been struck down by what seems to have the symptoms of one or the other. But then again, Chikungunya has symptoms similar to dengue, so it’s all the same boat anyway 🙂

Anyway, the fever’s still around, nipping at us from time to time like a guerilla force 🙂 Nothing much we can do except to hope we can last out the attack. But one of the more … umm … interesting is not the right word here but I guess it will have to suffice, aspects of the whole experience was the dreams.

The first day of fever, the dream was line of HTML. Yes, I’m not kidding. I would have this one single line of HTML code (or text on a web page, I’m not sure now …) and it would keep repeating and looping through my mind over, and over and over and over, like a hamster at its wheel. I would have thoughts flashing through my mind at the same time in a sequence similar to this:
It’s coming off the default web page!
All I need to do is change the default web page and the text will change!
But where is the web server in my mind?

And that of course, was the real question. Where is the web server of your mind? 🙂

The second day, it got a little more complex. From one line of text, we moved on to a whole book. I had been reading Neil Gaiman‘s Stardust during the hours when I was awake and when I slept, the novel transformed in my mind. The protagonist somehow received the ability to create illustrations which were alive and he in turn illustrated the scenes in the book so that the words were replaced by living, moving images. The dreams this time were of the text turning to images over and over and over and if that wasn’t torture enough, even in my dream, I was questioning the logic of the dream 🙂

I was wondering how the story could stay true to how it was written if the illustrations were alive. What if a character stepped out of the scene – how could the story be told properly? And if all the characters were fixed in space, but are alive, would they grow old? And if they did, would that not ruin the story for later readers who would find an older man carrying out the actions of a teenage boy? And if the images were fixed both in space and time, then was there justification for calling them "alive"? As you can see, I create most of my own trouble 🙂

The third day of dreams was more scattered. It wasn’t as repetitive though it still involved quite a bit of computers, blogging, and so on. So it might simply be that whatever I did during the day has a direct bearing on the dreams that I had. I just wish that I didn’t have to have the same dream endlessly repeated. That’s no fun and I tell ya, it’s exhausting!

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Posted by Fahim at 7:03 am  |  3 Comments

May 6, 2008


Yes, I’m sick. Not the sick in the head kind but the joint-aching, head-achy, whiny, complainy kind of sick. So I probably won’t get back to the blog (or to the All Things Art and Good series) for a while. Unless I buy the big one, in which case, you’ll just have to be left in suspense :p

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Posted by Fahim at 4:54 pm  |  No Comments

September 12, 2006

Weekly update

It’s been a rather interesting week 🙂 The highlights – I pulled all but six scenes from "Honest, the Martian Ate Your Dog" and decided to rewrite it, I started work on a new PIM application and above all, I’ve been communicating with a lot of people and it’s been both good and bad (and yes, I can’t mention some of it here even in broad, general terms due to various reasons :p)

First, the writing news. After reading Simon‘s Hal books (and receiving a kind crit from him about both my query letter and the first page), I decided to plunge in and do something that I’d been considering for a while. I decided to re-write my first novel 🙂 As some of you might know, I’ve been trying to get an agent or publisher interested in the book for a while now. While a few were mildly interested, nothing has come of it so far. I knew that the book wasn’t the usual fare – it was humorous science fiction, it had no definite villain and it didn’t have much action. But I thought that this was my "style" of writing. That it was a personal thing.

However, after reading Simon’s Hal novels, I finally came to realize that my story just wasn’t interesting to everybody out there. Sure, some people will find it interesting because it appeals to their specific natures (like it does to mine :p) but it doesn’t have mass appeal. And that was where I had to make a choice. I could have said, this is a personal work deeply connected to me emotionally and I’m not changing a word, no matter what. Or, I could have said that I’d make whatever changes necessary to get published. Of the two roads, I decided to take the one which (hopefully) will lead to publication 🙂

I enjoy writing and there was a time when I said that I’d simply write for the sake of writing as long as somebody enjoyed what I wrote. I still feel that way but with the advent of old age, I am getting to the stage where I don’t want to simply do something with no goals set 🙂 I see no point to spending months on a novel if nobody will read it. So I’ve decided to put my all into this new version of "Honest" and see if it will get published. If it doesn’t, then its perhaps time to say that getting published is not the dream to follow – or not, I really don’t know. I’m rather fickle that way :p But at least for the moment, that’s the goal.

In order to do this, I’ve decided to restructure "Honest" completely. I’ve dropped everything but the first six scenes and even those are being changed to introduce more conflict and get things happening more quickly. I’ll be bringing back some of the older scenes depending on how the story develops but at least one sub-plot will be completely dropped and I might change the current four-threads-of-story format to something different. Besides, the current format gives equal time to all four threads and that wasn’t working either :p Let’s see where it goes when I take up writing again.

But writing’s on hold for the moment while I work on my latest coding project – a PIM (Personal Information Manager) which allows you to store all kinds of information using a treeview format. There are tons of other PIMs along the same lines, right? Yes, but the thing is that none of them have the one thing I really want. The ability to tag information so that I don’t have to rely on the tree paradigm to categorize and store information. I’ve found only two PIM apps which actually allow tagging but they don’t have anything besides basic editing features for their notes. So I decided to create my own. But things have been so hectic that I am not making as much headway as I’d like. Ah, well …

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Posted by Fahim at 7:02 am  |  No Comments

June 17, 2006

Breaking the partitions

Yesterday was my day off and I thought, "What would be a fun thing to do today?" and decided to install Mac OS X for Intel on one of the computers … just for kicks :p OK, I exaggerate. I had been planning on trying out OS X and yesterday was the first chance I got to give it a whirl.

The first machine I tried would not get beyond the boot up stage. But then again, that one’s about two years old. So I decided to try the newest machine we have in the house – my work machine. Yes, bad idea :p But you know how it is, when you really want something badly, you gotta go ahead and do the best you can … or something like that 🙂

Anyway, I had about 20GB free on an extra partition that I’d used to install Windows Vista on. I had heard so much about how Mac OS X would not install in a partition but needed a drive of its own that I wasn’t sure that this was going to work the way things were set up. But I wanted to see for myself and so I booted up with the OS X disk and what do you know? It came up fine but had no destination disk selected. However, on nosing around a bit, I found a utility which would allow me to browse my disks, create partitions, format them etc. I discovered that all I had to do was actually format an existing partition into HPFS+ and I could install OS X on that. And that’s what I did.

It took about two hours to complete the installation and once it was complete, I ran into my first hurdle. The new OS X installation would not boot up. It would boot fine with the installation CD but not into the OS X installation on the hard disk. After some nosing around, I figured out how to get things to boot into the OS X installation but then I hit my second hurdle – there was no dual booting and so I was unable to boot back into my Windows install on the same machine!

I spent about three hours booting via a Windows XP installation CD into the recovery console and trying various disk fixing methods but nothing worked. I knew what had to be done – just set the Windows partition as the active one so that the computer would boot into XP. But there was no fdisk in the recovery console and diskpart did not seem to have the option to set an active partition 🙁 I also spent quite a bit of time trying to get a USB thumb drive bootable so that I could boot via the USB stick and use fdisk but that didn’t work either. Finally, I remembered that I had an old LiveCD of Mandrake Move (or Mandriva Move as it is now known). I booted into Linux using that CD, ran fdisk and set the Windows partition as the active one and was finally able to boot into Windows 🙂 (And the interesting thing was that soon after that, I was able to get my machine to boot using the USB stick as well. Then again, that’s how it always goes, isn’t it?)

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Posted by Fahim at 5:36 pm  |  1 Comment

June 14, 2006

How do you find the time?

I believe it was Stephen King who said, "Read four hours a day and write four hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can’t expect to become a good writer." I admire people who can do that. I know I certainly can’t 🙂

Sure, I would love to read four hours a day even if I can’t write four hours a day – I’d probably get too tired of writing after a couple of hours. But what with working eight hours a day, doing a hundred other things in between, finding an hour to write a day is a big deal. No, this is not going to be a whine. Or then again, this is perhaps a bit of a whine but it’s also a look at how much time you can realistically devote to writing if writing is not your primary occupation. (Heck, at the moment, writing is not an occupation at all as far as I’m concerned :p The only money I get from writing these days is from some Google ads on a site I blog at …)

I can understand the need to keep to a regular schedule. Writing is a job just like anything else. You have to keep at it daily if you want to get anywhere. But the issue is always, how do you keep at it when there are so many other things clamouring for your attention? :p When I wrote my first novel, I would set aside a couple of hours every evening after I finished work. I would write till I had completed 2,000 words – that was my daily target. I think it took me about three months at that pace to complete my novel. Now that I’ve started my second novel, I find that I can’t be even as ambitious as that. So far, I’ve gotten like two pages a day and that is barely 500 words a day! Perhaps once I pick up steam I’ll do better or maybe I just need to let go of this whole idea that "I have no time to spare" and simply write? 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 6:47 am  |  3 Comments

June 7, 2006

How do you cope?

How do you cope with all the stuff that needs to be done in one single day? I’ve often talked about Stephen King‘s assertion that life is like a pony – that it sometimes canters, sometimes gallops and sometimes walks. (Or words to that effect – I couldn’t find a reference online after doing a casual search :p) At the moment, the pony of my life is galloping for its life – in fact, its running so fast that its likely to break its own fool neck :p

I’m so far behind on stuff that I need to do that I can’t even see the back of the line :p I’ve got articles that I need to write for TechPedia; a crit that I’m supposed to send out to my crit pal of his next chapter and I’m working like crazy on my blogging app, Blog, every spare moment I get to get some features that I really want working. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. I’ve also got to do at least two installations – one an auction system for a friend to test out and another a forum + WordPress integration installation to test out some functionality. Yeah, life is full 🙂

No, this is not a whining thread where I talk about how hard my life is :p I actually wanted to talk about how you deal with such a situation. What do you do when you feel overwhelmed when things are piling up and you feel so pressured to get things done but all that happens is that you get more and more worked up and everything starts crowding you in? First of all, take a deep breath. Then do the same thing that you do when you walk – lift up your foot and put it down and do the same with your other foot 🙂 Just take things a step at a time. That’s about the only way to deal with a situation like this. Of course, it would also help to prioritize but for somebody like me who does things on impulse, that doesn’t really work. So do what comes naturally (except to panic that is :p)

There will always be things to do and most probably, all of them are going to be urgent. The trick is not to let things get the better of you. Tell yourself that you are in control. Do what needs to be done now and put the rest off till later. Hopefully, you’ll come out on top … if not, I’m already at the top of the tallest building I can find and you can join me there … to enjoy the view of course :p

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Posted by Fahim at 6:56 am  |  No Comments

May 17, 2006

Moving blues …

We are getting ready for another move. When we were kids, we used to have to move like every couple of years since my Dad was in government service and the government doesn’t like keeping people in one place for too long. Over here at least, they believe that familiarity leads to corruption :p Basically, you get too established in one place, know everybody really well and then you start cutting corners and making allowances for your acquaintances. But that’s another story.

Because my parents moved such a lot when I was a kid, I should be used to moving myself. But I’m not :p I hate moving! I hate the work involved in getting everything together and the break in the routine while we pull up stakes and move elsewhere. When I went to the US, I took two suitcases with me and I vowed that I wouldn’t accumulate too much stuff because I wanted to be able to move quickly and without too much hassle. Four years later, when I wanted to come back to Sri Lanka, I realized how unsuccessful I had been at keeping my vow :p I had a house, a car, some furniture and lots of DVDs and books. So much for that!

When Laurie and I got married, it was the same story. We started out with about four suitcases of clothes and not much else. After moving houses twice (so far), we’ve got some furniture accumulated now and it is becoming more and more tedious to move because there’s a lot more stuff to be moved :p Actually, we got rid of some stuff after the last move because our current place was pre-furnished. So this move hopefully will not be as bad as the last one. But still, there’s all the little tears, breaks in the wall, the cracks that accumulate after a move that makes it even harder. Your stuff just doesn’t take a move too well and we have a lot of sensitive stuff :p Ah well …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:21 am  |  1 Comment

April 23, 2006

Whine, dinner and song

I’m tired today. I’m soooo tired today 🙂 And it’s all because of lack of sleep. I am one of those people who need at least eight hours of sleep a day and I didn’t get more than six hours today. So what caused this break in regular sleeping patterns? It was a party at my brother’s in-laws :p

We were invited to dinner yesterday and I figured that it was going to be a normal family dinner which would be over in a couple of hours and accepted. Only after getting there did I realize that it was not to be that kind of dinner 🙂 It was not just a family dinner but an evening of music, dinner and company. My brother’s in-laws had invited over a bunch of friends and family and had also gotten a bunch of musician to play live music!

The musician’s played old Hindi and Tamil movie songs. Songs from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s without any vocals. It was a good trip down memory lane for some of the guests since they’d actually seen the movies when they were young 🙂 I loved most of the songs myself though I had not seen the movies when they were originally shown in theaters here. Instead, I’d heard some of the songs on radio or TV and had seen the song clips but I had not seen most of the movies myself.

The thing is, these songs are so very soothing and melodious that you can listen to them for hours. Maybe it’s just nostalgia but these songs have a quality that songs today just don’t have. In fact, my brother’s father-in-law said that a doctor known to him recommended listening to old Hindi music before going to sleep or something. Sort of a transcendental meditation thing 🙂 Whatever the case, the music kept us there till late at night and I’m still sleepy due to the late night. But I sure did enjoy the music!

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Posted by Fahim at 10:17 am  |  No Comments

April 22, 2006

The Farooks go to The Agency

Every once in a while, I do come out of my shell and the two of us manage to sneak out somewhere outside the confines of our castle …err … I mean our home :p Yesterday was one such day. Laurie and I were to go out for dinner at a new restaurant, The Agency.

Lest you fall into the misapprehension that I am in the habit of taking my wife out for dinner every once in a while, let me disabuse you immediately – this was a freebie :p Laurie does restaurant reviews for a Sri Lankan travel magazine and tonight was our night to review the cuisine at The Agency. We left home around 7 o’clock and go there just around opening time – we like to eat early 🙂 The place is situated in one of the busier parts of Colombo and usually in Colombo, restaurants tend to be tiny and crowded, even where space isn’t at a premium. This place as huge and it had a huge parking lot as well – an added advantage 🙂 I was really surprised to find such an abundance of space in an area which has so many businesses and offices and whatnot crammed together like a bunch of unruly kids at a lunch counter :p

But I won’t go into too many details since Laurie does have to write a review about this and I don’t want to come out with a long review of my own. Suffice it to say that I was really impressed. The food was fabulous! The decor was quite and unobtrusive. The food was great. The atmosphere was nice and they had a live band playing. Did I mention that the food was brilliant? :p

What was unusual about the food was the presentation. Here in Sri Lanka, people usually tend to just slap the food on the plate and serve it. There is no thought about the presentation. At The Agency, every dish was a work of art 🙂 Everything we ate was arranged to be eye pleasing as well as to be appetizing. Heck, as I told Laurie, the meal was worth it for the bread alone – it was so fresh, so fragrant, so yummy! Yes, I wax poetic :p I guess I could go on at length about the cuisine and how good it was and what a great chef they have but that would again be treading into review territory. So I guess I’ll simply say that if you are ever in Colombo, you’ve got to give The Agency a try 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:31 am  |  No Comments

April 21, 2006

Where do they come from?

I guess one question that a writer gets asked often is "where do your ideas come from?". To be honest, I’ve never been asked this question though I’m told that other writers do get asked this question often. Of course, this might be just an indication that not many think that my ideas are that spectacular :p Or it might simply be that they can already see where my ideas came from 🙂 I have no idea.

Anyway, I’ve not been writing much lately. There have been way too many things to do that were not writing related. There’s family stuff going on post-wedding (I think I mentioned that my brother got married, right? :p), I’m having hardware trouble and a friend of mine is in the process of moving servers and I’m helping him out. What with all this going on, I haven’t had time to concentrate on the writing.

I did finish my last short story and it still needs editing but now it’s time to start work on something new – as soon as I get done with the editing on the short story. I know there are many writers who have hundreds (if not thousands) of story ideas crammed in their heads – or in their handy, dandy notebook :p I used to be like that. I would jot down ideas all over the place so that I could write a story about it someday. I stopped doing that years ago because the ideas keep coming and trying to write stories based on all of those ideas would be an impossible task. However, given that I’m obsessive-compulsive, I’d probably try to write a story for each and every idea and that would have been something to see – me trying to keep up with myself :p

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about that 🙂 Now what I do is simply wait for something to come up when I want to write a new story. Sure, I do have a few ideas in back burner. Most of these however are the for the series of novels that I’m writing. Not short stories. So we were watching a collection of Hindi songs and I saw this one song from "Asoka" which affected me greatly at this particular moment. It wasn’t so much the song as the back story, which I was already aware of, and the location, which was isolated, beautiful and somehow heartbreaking in that particular context. That moment, believe it or not, gave me my next story idea 🙂 The story as it has evolved so far in my mind has nothing to do with Asoka directly, and once it is done, might not even have a link as to its origins. I don’t know how it will develop once I start writing it. But it all began with a song 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 6:44 am  |  1 Comment

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