What is God?

I was born to Muslim parents in India. Mum was and is still a staunch muslim. Dad used to be an atheist, but goes to the mosque regularly now.

My brother and I read the Quran daily for 6 months or so, when I was 10 or something. I understood parts of it, as much as I could comprehend as a kid, but then never again went back to reading it. I occasionally go back to it whenever I want to look at all the contradictions in it.

My brother hated religion growing up, partly due to being forced to read the Quran when he could have been out playing. Years later, he would give up his job in the US and return home, so he could live a pious life. He’s still pious, relatively sane, and often tries to convince me to follow the path of Allah.

Dad had a big influence on me with respect to atheism. Mom force feeding religion didn’t help either.

My brother and I went to Christian missionary schools in Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad and elsewhere. Fortunately or unfortunately, we never made it to the madrassas.

Growing up, we watched a lot of Hindu epics, like Ramayana and Mahabharata. I read a lot of comics based on these epics and other Hindu stories. These stories would give me a perspective on Hinduism.

After college and university, I moved to Bangalore and remained an atheist. My friends and I would ponder about all things metaphysical, spiritual and philosophical. And, it was in Bangalore that I was introduced to Buddhism and Zen.

There was always the question of the self, who I was, what I was and what I was doing. It still remains a question, but has perhaps become irrelevant over time. Like most questions.

In the Wellington summer of 2011, things changed. An easel, a palette and some painting happened. I had a revelation and then some. Things weren’t what they seemed. Too many questions came to the fore.

During college, my muslim friends would often try to convince me about Islam (some of them still do) and I would ask them, if god created everything, then who created god? Figures that applied to just about every other religion in the world. There never was really a good answer, beyond blind faith.

Once you started asking questions, the questions never stopped and it felt as though you never got any reasonable answers. And so, here I am, summing up what I’ve to come to believe over the last few years.

So, what do I believe in?

  • I believe we are part of a bigger whole – warts and all – good and bad
    • E.g. the whole would be the body and the parts would be atoms in the body
    • We are part of the universe and the universe is us – B^2FH
  • I believe that our actions and lives are predetermined
    • We were seeded with a random number, so to speak, but there’s only so much randomness
    • We always act in a very predictable fashion, even though we think we are unpredictable
    • There’s no such thing as a free will – Radiolab
  • It is unreasonable to expect things to be reasonable – they never are, never have and never will be
  • We have to traverse this ocean of reason and unreason the only way we can – the only way we know how
    • That path is unique for each and every one of us
    • Only you can acknowledge that and act accordingly

And this part in Baruch Spinoza’s wikipedia page, completes the picture of what I’m trying to say:

… envisages a God that does not rule over the universe by Providence in which God can make changes, but a God which itself is the deterministic system of which everything in nature is a part. Spinoza argues that “things could not have been produced by God in any other way or in any other order than is the case,”; he directly challenges a transcendental God which actively responds to events in the universe. Everything that has and will happen is a part of a long chain of cause and effect which, at a metaphysical level, humans are unable to change.

Chana Saag (Chickpea Spinach Curry)

Well, you gotta write something. Why not write the recipe I used to make Chana Saag or Chickpea Spinach Curry tonite.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 tsp of mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 onion – thinly sliced or chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
    • Alternately 1 inch of grated ginger and 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 can of diced or pureed tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp of garam masala
  • 1 tsp of salt or to taste
  • 2 15oz cans of chickpeas
  • 1 pack of frozen spinach or 1 lb fresh baby spinach
  • a pinch of chilli powder (cayenne)

Let’s start cooking. Make sure you have your favorite apron on – it’s important.

  1. Start with some oil in a saucepan on medium heat.
  2. Once the pan is hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick and curry leaves.
  3. When the mustard seeds start popping, increase the heat to high and add the onions. Saute them until they’re golden.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add turmeric powder, chilli powder, garam masala and salt.
  5. Add the ginger garlic paste or the grated ginger and minced garlic. Stir and mix everything well.
  6. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes until everything is mixed well. Ensure there are not chunky tomato pieces.
  7. Add the chickpeas next and mix everything well. Stir regularly and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.
  8. Add a pinch of cayenne chilli powder – for extra spice. You can skip it if you don’t want the dish hot.
  9. Add the spinach and let it simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on.

And that should be it. Serve with some warm roti, naan or basmatic rice. It’s gonna be yummy!

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

It’s a new year and new things to come, built on old ideas and thoughts that have been lost and forgotten.

This year, I intend to:

  • be more confident
  • be very specific
  • plan vacations
  • save to buy a house
  • take time to think
  • but decide quickly
  • be open to possibilities
  • paint more
  • write more
  • read more
  • be healthy

And finally a quote by Ai Weiwei:

“A small act is worth a million thoughts.”

Reducing the size of a docker image

I’ve been building a docker image for Heketi and noticed that the image size was more than 3 times the size of a base Centos 7 image. Searching on google, I came across this page on optimizing docker images. Now, I understand why the Dockerfiles spread across github have multi-line RUN commands.

My docker image started with a size of around 698.2 MB. Now it’s just 198.5MB.

$ sudo docker images
REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             VIRTUAL SIZE
heketi/heketi       centos7             eda2e47811c6        15 seconds ago      198.5 MB
docker.io/centos    latest              ce20c473cd8a        5 days ago          172.3 MB

You can take a look at the Dockerfile I created.

Vagrant and Fedora 22

I’ve used Vagrant previously for testing something and forgot about it. Now, I need a Fedora server to test something. So, I thought, why not use Vagrant to do what I want. And as I’m wont to do, I wanted to document it. So here goes nothing and everything.

I’m using a Mac, so I’m obviously going to use Homebrew to install everything I need. Before we proceed, let’s first install cask, cause we’ll need that to install our packages.

$ brew install caskroom/cask/brew-cask

That’s done. Let’s install vagrant and virtualbox next.

$ brew cask install virtualbox
$ brew cask install vagrant

Next, let’s get the Fedora images. Make sure you get the image for vagrant. Here’s the one I downloaded:

~/Downloads $ du -h *.box
209M	Fedora-Cloud-Base-Vagrant-22-20150521.x86_64.vagrant-virtualbox.box
~/Downloads $ shasum -a 256 Fedora-Cloud-Base-Vagrant-22-20150521.x86_64.vagrant-virtualbox.box
2513342f70c00310e161a110e34973a133691fedd866859e65904fa056ae7a0c  Fedora-Cloud-Base-Vagrant-22-20150521.x86_64.vagrant-virtualbox.box

To be able to use our downloaded image, we’ll need to add it to Vagrant.

~/Cave/Fedora22 $ vagrant box add ~/Downloads/Fedora-Cloud-Base-Vagrant-22-20150521.x86_64.vagrant-virtualbox.box --name fedora-22
==> box: Box file was not detected as metadata. Adding it directly...
==> box: Adding box 'fedora-22' (v0) for provider:
    box: Unpacking necessary files from: file:///Users/sidcarter/Downloads/Fedora-Cloud-Base-Vagrant-22-20150521.x86_64.vagrant-virtualbox.box
==> box: Successfully added box 'fedora-22' (v0) for 'virtualbox'!

After adding the image to vagrant, create a Vagrantfile that’ll use this image.

$ cat Vagrantfile
Vagrant.configure(2) do |config|
  config.vm.box = "fedora-22"

Let’s start them engines now, shall we? In the directory with the Vagrantfile, you can do a vagrant up and you should see this:

~/Cave/Fedora22 $ vagrant up
Bringing machine 'default' up with 'virtualbox' provider...
==> default: Importing base box 'fedora-22'...
==> default: Matching MAC address for NAT networking...
==> default: Setting the name of the VM: Fedora22_default_1444702096982_14160
==> default: Clearing any previously set network interfaces...
==> default: Preparing network interfaces based on configuration...
    default: Adapter 1: nat
==> default: Forwarding ports...
    default: 22 => 2222 (adapter 1)
==> default: Booting VM...
==> default: Waiting for machine to boot. This may take a few minutes...
    default: SSH address:
    default: SSH username: vagrant
    default: SSH auth method: private key
    default: Warning: Connection timeout. Retrying...
    default: Vagrant insecure key detected. Vagrant will automatically replace
    default: this with a newly generated keypair for better security.
    default: Inserting generated public key within guest...
    default: Removing insecure key from the guest if it's present...
    default: Key inserted! Disconnecting and reconnecting using new SSH key...
==> default: Machine booted and ready!
==> default: Checking for guest additions in VM...
    default: No guest additions were detected on the base box for this VM! Guest
    default: additions are required for forwarded ports, shared folders, host only
    default: networking, and more. If SSH fails on this machine, please install
    default: the guest additions and repackage the box to continue.
    default: This is not an error message; everything may continue to work properly,
    default: in which case you may ignore this message.
==> default: Installing rsync to the VM...
==> default: Rsyncing folder: /Users/sidcarter/Cave/Fedora22/ => /vagrant

That’s looking good so far. Let’s login to the box now and look at what we got, shall we?

~/Cave/Fedora22 $ vagrant ssh
Last login: Tue Oct 13 02:10:25 2015 from
[vagrant@ip-10-0-2-15 ~]$
[vagrant@ip-10-0-2-15 ~]$ cat /etc/fedora-release
Fedora release 22 (Twenty Two)

Fantastic! We’re done here. I hope you find this useful.