5 Reasons to Book your Vacation to Hawaii RIGHT NOW!

sunset-1686605_1920Hawaii is one of my favorite places to travel to. I have been to Oahu and Maui islands and they have indeed been my FAVORITEST holidays ever. The breathtaking beaches, mountainous landscape, yummy cuisines all come together in these islands and make it “the experience of a lifetime”. There are way too many reasons to love these islands, but I have done my best to bring down to 5. These reasons are enough for you to pack your bags and take the next flight to this Pacific gem.

The Beaches & the Sunsets
The first thing you notice while landing on the islands is the varied color of waves on the beaches of Hawaii – sea green, light blue, cyan, deep blue…..the different shades are a visual treat to the eyes. The pristine beaches, warm water, sparkling sea and the perfect waves breaking on the shores do make you feel like heaven on Earth.
On the Maui Island, the Road to Hana is a 45-mile stretch which is embedded with high jungle cliffs, bamboo tress, sacred waterfalls and tropical flowers on one side and the other side of the road with the panoramic Pacific Ocean views and beaches like Ho’okipa Beach Park. Oahu’s eastern shoreline reveals more wonderful sights like the Hanauma Bay lookout known for snorkeling, Lanikai beach which is ranked among the best beaches in the world and the trendy Kailua waves.
Of course, the beauty of the beaches is incomplete without the mention of the sunsets! Every sunset here blows your mind and no photo can justify its true beauty. It’s incredible how the sky lights up with vibrant colors and makes it so picturesque!

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Hanauma Bay

The Volcanic Mountains
Driving the way up to the 10,000 foot summit of Haleakala is not for the faint hearted. I got the opportunity to see it and the sight was worth it. There are also the Koko Head Stairs – which is the StairMaster workout for the day with a rewarding panoramic view up top. The Nu-unanu Pali lookout is worth a mention for the panoramic views of the sheer Koolau cliffs and the lush Windward coast. Named “Pali” meaning ‘cliff’ in Hawaiian, the Pali Lookout is the site of the Battle of Nuuanu, where in 1795 King Kamehameha I won the struggle that finally united Oahu under his rule. This fierce battle claimed hundreds of soldiers’ lives, many of which were forced off of the Pali’s sheer cliffs.

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Rare plant on top of Haleakala

Culinary Buds
With the islands nestled in the Pacific, it is an eye opening experience to taste the unique, delicious flavors of Hawaii. You can literally stop anywhere on the side of the road and the food is good. Here the cuisine is influenced from Asia, Polynesia, parts of Europe and other regions of the islands. Abundance of fresh fruits in this tropical area is enviable. Also on Kona Island, there are hundreds of coffee farms that grow, harvest and brew their own coffee. It has a distinct strong taste owing to rich volcanic soil and environment.

Adventures Galore
With the mountains to hike and the whole ocean floor to explore, there are plenty of activities on the islands. Oahu’s north shore are great for underwater and surfing activities while Hanauma bay is famous for snorkeling. Helicopter rides to watch the island from above, as well as Waterfall hikes to get mesmerized by the beauty of Nature. For the History lovers, there is Pearl Harbor on Oahu where the USS Arizona Memorial can be seen and history about the WWII attack can be learnt. The USS Missouri which was the last US battleship ever built and which was the site of the Japanese surrender for WWII is also situated at the same place.

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USS Arizona Memorial at the Pearl Harbor

Spirit of Aloha
Hawaiian way of life focuses on a relaxed lifestyle, balancing between yourself and those around you. The people seemed to be happy and friendly always with a fresh smile. It’s unique and amazing to meet the locals who are carefree. I had the pleasure of watching some traditional Polynesian dancing which is one of the iconic things to see on the island. Apart from the lovely dresses and the leis (flower garlands), their graceful swaying with the folk songs was wonderful to watch too.
The pace is slower on the islands but they give us time to take everything in, enjoy the little things, pause and breathe.

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Hula Dancing

Inner Peace

Inner Peace
The key to true happiness
The keeper of my thoughts
She is a companion, immortal.

As she sweeps her waves
Hitting the shores, splashing on me,
Patiently listening to my thoughts
Reflecting my voice & calming my mind.

Soothing through her touch
Pushing sand under my feet
Makes me aware of my own air
Inhale & Exhale

Through clear waters, whispers to me
What she holds in her universe
The rocky & the soft silky
The warmth & the shiver

Showing the way
In the vastness of the ocean
To find a calmed mind
& Inner Peace

Mahalo Hawaii !!
You are indeed a beauty to behold!
 

How I revived my love for reading books

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Back in late 90’s and early 2000’s, smartphones and computers were less common or nonexistent. On a boring Sunday, it was common for teenagers to pick up a book and hunker down to some reading. In the last couple of years, there has been a steady decline in reading patterns among kids and young adults in the medium of books. An article in Forbes shows that although people are seeing words all the time – Google, Facebook, Twitter etc., they are finding it harder to pick up a physical book and read.

Two years ago, I found myself in a similar situation. Graduating with Master’s, I had a few weeks before I would start my new job and had lots of time to idle. I had lost touch with reading books not related to my studies. So I decided to revisit my childhood hobby and picked up my first book from the public library. As I was taking up this hobby after a long time, I found my concentration waning after a few pages. I had to take a number of steps to increase my concentration span and keep my interest in books.  Here are some things I did to revive my love for books:

#1 Start with familiar books

I realized that it was important to choose my books carefully, in order to renew my interest in reading. I started with reading books from authors that I was familiar with, like Agatha Christie, Robert Ludlum etc. When I got comfortable with their style of writing, I started enjoying reading all the more.  Gradually I was able to experiment with new authors and move back and forth between fiction and non-fictions.

#2 Using Book Recommendation engines

A chance conversation with an old friend introduced me to the book recommendation, social website – Goodreads. This website gave personalized recommendation based on books I had read and my favorite genres. I found this website extremely useful in finding what books my friends and peers were reading, and also keep track of what I had read in the last couple of weeks. Goodreads also runs a year-long reading challenge that motivates readers to keep a track of their read books. Here is a wonderful blog outlining how one can benefit with this challenge .

#3 Keep track of Book lists

There are plenty of book lists available that you can take a look and use for inspiration in finding your next read. One of the common book lists which was voted for by writers from around the world is the Top 100 books of all time. Surely, 100 books are enough to keep anyone busy for a considerable amount of time.

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft also maintains a wonderful blog of his books that he has read and reviewed. Some of my favorite books that I read from his list include the two books series – The Rosie Project, Hyperbole and a Half and How Not be Wrong.

Also one of my role-models, Andrew Ng is an avid reader. He recently published a list of books that he recommends. I would definitely vote for this one from the list.

#4 Frequenting the neighborhood public library

Books can be expensive in US and one tends to be more cautious in buying books when we are not sure if we would like its contents or not. So I prefer to get my books from the public library, so even if I don’t like the book, I can just return it without any hassle. Most public libraries have a centralized system too. So if they don’t have the book you wish to read, they can order it from a neighboring library for you. Reading in the library also gives a good reading environment and peaceful atmosphere. I found to easier to read a book while being surrounded with similar like-minded people.

Hope this was a useful primer in ways to find books to read and improve your reading skills. Would love to hear from folks on your thoughts, challenges you faced in getting that right book to read etc.

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Trip to Computer History Museum, California

The Computer History Museum (CHM) is located in the heart of Silicon Valley and contains hallmark artifacts which have transformed the way people around the globe live, work and play. This museum explores the history of computing, its ongoing impact and its future technological, social and economic implications, through unparalleled collections and exhibits.

As a technology geek, when an event at my company was going to be hosted at CHM, I naturally jumped at the opportunity and registered for it. After the event got over, I decided to tour the museum with my colleague.

We started off the collections tour with the calculating devices, compasses, slider rule, logarithmic tables and early calculators. Using the Multi-media exhibits, we were able to understand how the slider rule and the abacus were used.

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Understanding the Slide Rule

The tour continues with the Birth of the computers, Memory & Storage devices, Supercomputers and then ventures into AI & Robotics, PC, and Mobile Computing and to the latest Web technologies.

While touring the museum, you can’t ignore the many contributions of IBM to the computer age. Some of the legendary products of IBM are put on for display. The Hollerith Machine helped US government complete the 1890 census in record time – and in the process launched the use of punched cards in business. The IBM/USAF SAGE Air Defense system in 1961 developed by IBM was a real-time computing system and at one time involved some 60% of the world’s programmers. Also we saw the IBM RAMAC Disk drive which was the world’s first disk drive invented by IBM in 1953 in order to process data faster than using punched cards. This stack of 50 disks held about 3.8 MB of data.

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IBM RAMAC Disk Drive on the left side of the picture

In this museum, we also come to know of contributions of women in the history of computing, from business to leadership, from engineering to marketing the products. These pioneers influenced the design and programming of some of the first computers and languages, and laid the groundwork for women’s expanding involvement in technology and business. We took a look at the exhibit of Grace Hopper where her work in early computers and development of advanced software programs was showcased. She was also involved in the development of the COBOL programming language. Thereafter, we came across an interesting invention by Honeywell called Kitchen Computer which was a system for housewives to store their recipes.

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Honeywell’s Kitchen Computer

There were many other artifacts like the Apple-1, Atari Ping prototype, Shakey the Robot etc. One of the notable presentations in Computer Graphics was the revolution that came when a Bit became a Pixel. It was very informative and showed the journey from Pong games to the latest computer-animated films.

Overall, I loved the presentation of the collections, combined with backstories and media stations with vintage footage, providing a rich and fascinating account of the evolution of computing. Without these countless innovations, discoveries and risks, perhaps I would not be sharing my enjoyable visit on this blog! Indeed, CHM is a good place to spend an enjoyable afternoon learning about the people who have made this huge impact on our society.

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