Goodbye, my friend

Goodbye, Vinay

I lost a good friend Sunday.

Vinay Venkatesh, also known as djgraphite, was a friend and co-worker at VMware. We had known each other for many years, since before he joined VMware, from the #adium and #growl channels on irc.freenode.net back when I worked on libgaim and he worked on Growl. Vinay was always helpful , friendly, passionate, and full of creative ideas. This extended to his work on VMware Fusion

A few years ago, Vinay interviewed for a job at VMware in my team. We hired him for the relatively new Fusion product for the Mac. This was my first in-person experience with him, and we quickly became friends. I remember spending hours in his office talking about all sorts of things. New games coming out that we wanted to play, projects we were working on, new gadgets, ideas for Review Board, architectural changes we wanted to make to our products at work, what we did on the weekends… Anything and everything, really.

While we developed separate projects at work, we often ran ideas past each other. Vinay shared my desire to improve the common and per-platform code bases we each worked on, and while we didn’t always find the time to implement each idea, much of my discussions with him led to improvements in all of our desktop products: Workstation, Player and Fusion. Over the past month, I’ve spent considerable time on a project that was largely his brain-child. The details aren’t important, but suffice to say that it’s an important part of the future versions of all our desktop products. Every step of the way, I consulted with him, making sure I was on the right track, asking for advice in the design, and getting code reviews. Continuing on that project without him by my side is something I’m certainly not looking forward to.

His work was just a small part of his life, though. Most important to him was his friends and his family. Making friends with Vinay was easy. He was inviting, outgoing, funny, and loved meeting new people. He had a lot of friends at work and outside of work. I thought I knew a good number of them, but I realized since just how few I knew. We were important to him and he let us know that.

It was also no secret to anybody who knew him just how close he was to his family. He spoke of them often, with praise and love. He would tell us about his sister, how happy he was that she was getting married, how excited he was that she was moving closer to him. He would talk about his parents and tell us how every time he visited them they would ask when he was getting married. We would joke that one day he’d return after a trip with a bride around his arm.

When I think of Vinay, and this is how I always pictured him, I think of him laughing. He was generally a very happy, upbeat guy. Liked to joke around, share stories, and spend time with friends. One of the things he really helped drive at VMware within our team was our Thursday Movie Night. Every Thursday (more or less) we go to dinner and then come back to the office and watch a movie. Vinay loved Movie Nights with us and often provided the movies and dinner recommendations. Outside of work he’d host parties at the house he shared with many of our friends. His last party, which I regretfully didn’t attend due to conflicting plans, was a Halloween party on Friday the 30th. I hear it was a lot of fun, and I’m glad he was able to enjoy himself one last time.

On Sunday, around 1PM PST, I got the terrible news. Vinay had been in a motorcycle accident, and died on the operating table.

I got the news on Twitter, shortly after dropping off a mutual friend at the train station. I didn’t believe it at first. My mind said “No, this is a joke or just a misunderstanding,” but part of me knew the truth. I quickly dialed people, trying to find out what happened. I reached my friend Scott at the hospital, who was with Vinay when it happened. He told me the news that broke me.

I wanted to blame someone, but this was one of those freak accidents. He was with a group of people, riding his motorcycle, when he hit a groove in the road that knocked him off his bike. There were no external injuries, but they couldn’t stop the internal bleeding. He died shortly after.

News spread vast, over both Twitter and Facebook. A group of us organized at the house he shared with others, trying to comfort each other and come to terms with what had happened. None of us wanted to believe it, but we couldn’t deny it had happened. It was a night of hell. The next day wasn’t any better. Very few of us even attempted to go into work, and those that did gave up being productive quickly. Throughout the day, information spread, again over Twitter and Facebook, about the funeral plans, which were set for Tuesday the 3rd.

The funeral was hard, but it was a nice ceremony, as nice as these things go anyway. It was evident just how many people cared for Vinay and how far his influence had spread. The room we were in was not small, but it was so packed that people were overflowing into a second room. The turnout was huge. After we paid our final respects, many of us went back to the house, comforted each other, and shared stories.

It was a tragedy, and certainly too soon. I do find some comfort in knowing that Vinay went out doing what he loved to do. It also brought people together. I met some great people from one of his many groups of friends tonight, as well as finally meeting his family. I wish these meetings would have happened in better circumstances, but I’m certain Vinay would be happy to know that in some way, he brought his friends closer.

Rest in peace, my friend. We love you, and we’ll never forget you.

Armed robbery in progress

Our Christmas this year was very nice, with lots of good presents, time spent with family, delicious food, and an opportunity to foil an armed robbery. Yes, an armed robbery. How do I continually get myself into these situations?

While heading back home from my stepdad’s parents’ house, I spotted a guy standing in a small field at a street corner near my parents’ house, holding what looked to be a gun. The guy was probably late teens/early adult, Caucasian, and dressed in all black. His actions looked instantly suspicious. He was pointing the gun to the ground and made some motion as if he was checking the ammo or something. He seemed pretty lost in his own world, apparently not even realizing he seemed very suspicious.

My Mom was driving, and decided to slowly drive away from home instead of toward it, and then turn around, giving us time to watch and see what was happening. We knew there was a gas station across the street and wanted to see if he was going to head in there. If so, there was a good chance we’d be witnessing a robbery.

Sure enough, he started walking across the street to the TowerMart, a gas station/convenience store. We parked the car and my Mom grabbed my phone and called 911 while my brothers and I carefully watched from behind a building, making sure we weren’t noticed. We saw the guy walking back and forth at the side of the building, looking very nervous. He was wearing long sleeves with his left hand exposed and his right hand (which was holding the gun) completely covered. As my Mom talked to the police, we continued to watch, and the guy eventually psyched himself into going into the store. He put the gun in his pocket and went in.

The store was pretty crowded, and we weren’t sure what to expect. Would people be running out screaming? Would people be locked in? Would we hear gun fire? Or would he just leave?

We never saw him actually leave, but we could only see the one side of the building. A couple minutes later, six police cars drove up, two right beside us. Two cop cars pulled up alongside us. One of them hopped out, grabbed a big ol’ semi-automatic, and approached the building, pointing the gun, ready to fire. Three other cops did the same, surrounding the building. A couple other cops went in and got people out of there, with another couple cops asking those people if they had seen anyone matching the description we gave, or saw other suspicious activity.

They spent some time going through the TowerMart and eventually came back out once they were sure he wasn’t hiding in there. It seems at some point, he had left the building. We weren’t able to see when. However, he was definitely in there. Practically everyone they talked to noticed him, as he was nervously walking in circles around the building, completely covered. He had either grown nervous with the number of people in there, or heard the sirens come. Either way, he got out of there before doing anything.

As most of the cops started to exit the building, the one who had pulled up closest to us walked up and asked what we saw. Then he said, “Oh, I talked to you before.” We all thought that was strange, since he hadn’t actually talked to us, but then he pointed out that he remembered us from the assault back in May. Good memory.

We walked with him to the field and pointed out roughly where we saw him standing. He found the footprints and was calling out the detectives to take pictures or whatever. We chit-chatted briefly before returning home. He told us we very well may have saved the store and a lot of people from experiencing a robbery on Christmas Day. I just hope the guy didn’t make another attempt elsewhere.

We found out that an hour or two later, the police were still all over that place. About an hour ago, they apparently had arrested someone not too far from here. Whether related or not, I don’t know. Given that they had video footage of the guy, testimonies and descriptions from a bunch of people in the store, and his footprints, it’s probably only a matter of time.

The rest of Christmas proceeded without police intervention. Merry Christmas!

Racism, Sexism, and now Prop 8

I found out this evening, to my dismay, that my site was littered with “Yes On Prop 8” banners. Now, for those who live outside California and haven’t been following this, Prop 8 is a measure designed to introduce an amendment to the California constitution to ban gay marriage, basically ensuring that certain people would never have the same rights as others in this state.

Now I normally try to stay away from politics on my blog, but I want to talk about two points.

First, I don’t mind banners on my site that are designed to sell a product. People generally understand that an ad for an online web service or a product of some sort is not necessarily endorsed by the site it’s running on. Ads are everywhere and most people generally get that it’s provided by an ad service, and just ignore them.

What bothered me about the Yes On Prop 8 ads is that it felt as if I’m endorsing Prop 8. Somehow, it feels wrong to me. I’m not morally outraged about Sun Microsystems wanting to sell a server system or Microsoft wanting to sell an office suite. I am outraged about Prop 8. Products are fine to advertise on my site. Controversial freedom-limiting propositions I’m completely against are not.

I look back in our history and see that by and large, our generation is regretful of how we’ve mistreated people in the past. Shooting Native Americans used to be fine. Stripping away their rights and making them unequal was socially accepted. It was completely understood that if you’re black, you’re property. If you’re a women, you had no rights to vote and your opinion didn’t matter.

I like to think we’ve come a long way from that. People pride themselves on how we’re more mature now. Black, white, red, men, women. It doesn’t matter. This is the land of the free, the land of equality. So why is it that it’s still okay to discriminate against someone because their love of someone makes you feel uncomfortable?

It’s okay to not feel comfortable with gay marriage. A lot of people don’t. But do you feel more comfortable being part of a group of people that knowingly discriminated against another group, stripped them of certain rights that you yourself enjoy, simply because something you don’t have to deal with on a daily basis makes you feel uncomfortable to think about? Are you going to be okay with the thought of your grandkids or your great-grandkids feeling embarrassed because of how you voted, like how you feel about your great-grandparents’ racism? How much is preventing marriage for two people who love each other, in order to feel less uncomfortable, worth to you?

The Yes On Prop 8 advertisements often show the clip with the mayor of San Francisco saying “It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not!” It’s a good strategic clip for them to have chosen, as it can be interpreted as him saying “you have no say, we’re forcing gay marriage on all of you.”

I see it another way. I see gay marriage being inevitable not as an attack, but as the inevitable rise in tolerance that, over time, we’ve come to develop in this country. As a country, we don’t have the best track record of tolerance to new things, but we always mature in the end. This is not the last time we’ll face such mass intolerance and the limiting of rights of a group of people, just as this will not be the first time that we as a people will overcome our fears and begin to see us all as being equal.

So this is important. It’s not just about your level of comfort with those who live a different lifestyle. It’s about equality. It’s about overcoming personal fears. It’s about making an effort to keep this country on a path of freedom. Because if we start going back to our old ways of discrimination and fear, all we’re doing is regressing and limiting the rights of others out of some fear of the world spiraling into chaos. We’ve worked to abolish racism. We’ve worked to abolish sexism. The world is still here. We can do this again.

Vote no on Prop 8.

Random friend seeking on Google Talk?

Has anybody else noticed this?

Over the past several months, I’ve had a few people add me to their Google Talk account, claiming they want to make friends. The conversations start simple enough, asking basic “getting to know you” questions. Nothing seems too prying, and it certainly doesn’t seem like a bot. However, in each case, something doesn’t fully seem to add up, or maybe I’m just being paranoid. Either the person doesn’t remember how they found my address, or they claim they were just trying random addresses. Some people are from India, some from the US. However, they never seem to be able to find a picture when requested. They look and look but never manage to find one, and then suddenly have to go.

I’ve IM’d with a couple of them for a few days, a week, just to see if they were going to ask any questions indicating they were looking for specific information, but they haven’t really.

I’d feel bad if these were actually real people just “looking for a friend,” as they’ve said, but the fact that nobody can seem to give me a good reason for how they got my info concerns me, as does the behavior about a picture. Have other people seen this? Is it some new kind of weird spam/info gathering attempt? Or what?

I just wanted a hamburger

What was supposed to be a quick 10 minute trip to the nearby Carl’s Jr. for a hamburger ended up with blood, police and arrests.

I’m back home visiting my family for a few days, and my brothers and I decided to make a quick run to grab a couple hamburgers. It was about 1 AM, but we’ve done this before, hundreds of times, and never had a problem. It was pretty quiet out, and trouble is the last thing we expected.

We got our burgers and began to walk home. Across the street from the burger joint is an AM/PM. There’s an alley way right behind that that takes us to a small parking area off a street that connects to our street. It’s a nice quick shortcut, well lit, and safe enough. Usually.

As we were heading through the parking area, we heard footsteps behind us. I turned around and saw three guys, but they were a distance aways. I had a bad feeling, but thought I was being paranoid. As we continued to walk, they continued to keep their distance, until we walked onto the street in an unlit area.

One of the guys (they were all teens) pulled his shirt or jacket over his face and grabbed my food. He said, “Give me the food. Give me the food!” I held onto the bag and he pulled hard, breaking the bag in two. He took it and started to laugh. Without hesitation, my brother yelled at him to give it back, and threw his little Dixie cup of water at him. The guy turned around and started to punch him in the face.

There was blood everywhere.

This all happened so fast that I couldn’t react in time, but immediately after I saw another one of the guys start to go over to my brother as if he was about to join in the fight. I jumped between them and said, “Hey, it’s cool. Just take the food and go.” I was frightened that they would pull a knife or gun on my brother and wanted to just end it right then.

They turned around and started to leave. The guy who punched my brother said something like, “I sure was hungry!” and they laughed and continued down the street. We saw them turn onto this one fairly long street. I immediately called my parents, waking them up, as at this point I really wanted more people nearby in case those guys realized they could get our wallets instead of just our food.

I then called the police. They were here within two minutes, faster than my parents even. And not just a couple police. Two police cars sped past us, down the street those guys went (as I described to the operator on the phone), and then two police cars stopped where we were. A third came by later. And a fire truck. And an ambulance.

It turned out that they were expecting something big a block away and thought this might be it. So they sent in the cavalry. Fine by us. They took our statements, had us each identify the suspects (who they had nabbed almost immediately). I was able to positively identify one of them, though he wasn’t the attacker. My brother, however, was able to give a positive identification for the attacker. We were told he’d likely be in jail before the night is up, and maybe his accomplices as well.

So at least we got them off the street. My brother, though, is currently at the hospital getting stitches, and I’m feeling guilty as hell for talking them into coming with me for a burger. I just wanted a hamburger, and instead I got my brother a trip to the hospital, and some guys off the street. What a night.

Everything breaks :(

So.. My Wii stopped reading discs. Just as I came home with Mario Galaxy. It makes some pretty sad clicking noises and then informs me that I should join in on its sadness.

I can’t say I’m at all surprised. I’m pretty good to my electronics. They just don’t return the favor. Let’s take a journey through the past.

  • 11 dead Palm PDAs (one right after the other until I got one that worked).
  • 7 dead harddrives in the past four years (latest 2 months ago).
  • Various fan problems, motherboard problems, display problems and keyboard problems across two different ThinkPads in the past two years.
  • 2 dead motherboards on two desktop computer (both mid-2006).
  • 1 dead LCD (a few months ago).
  • 1 dead DVD player (just a few months ago).
  • 1 dead MP3 player (just gave out one day).
  • 1 dead UPS (earlier this year, just stopped one day).
  • 1 dead car radio (a few months ago, just weeks after buying the car, which has always been in great condition).
  • 1 defective gear shift brake circuit (same car, couple weeks after the radio).
  • 1 dead Wii.

There’s more. I just can’t remember off-hand. Either the quality of everything sucks these days or anything electronic just commits suicide in my presence. I’m not sure which.

Universal segfault

(I’m sick today with a stomach flu and have recently consumed NyQuil, so this may make much more sense in my own head. I’m also not an expert in quantum mechanics, so please excuse any misconceptions I have.)

I was reading an article about quantum mechanics and how many scientists in the field want to find a definite reasoning for the whole “Spooky action at a distance,” where two particles can be quantumly entangled, causing changes to one particle to affect the other, regardless of the distance between them.

So I began to think about this. I imagined the universe as a simulation program, exposing basic building blocks into the simulator that everything was built upon, so tiny in comparison to anything the developer would expect to grow or evolve in the simulator. The developer powers it on, watches for a bit, goes to grab a cup of coffee, and checks back periodically. Perhaps he even interferes just a bit in the affairs of the simulated life inside the system, and then goes away for a while.

Now at some point the “life” in the system gets curious and starts heavily investigating those basic building blocks. So far the simulation has been pretty stable, but now the basic building blocks are being messed with, poked at, accessed in ways that weren’t intended. And like any software, there’s bugs. The lifeforms in the system manage to get two of these objects to entangle with each other. They marvel at the fact that the objects are still somehow linked even across great distances. To the developer, this wouldn’t have been that surprising. Afterall, they’re just two objects with various properties, and location is just one of them. Perhaps they’re even designed to share certain types of data for memory optimization reasons, and they don’t sanity check locations between linked objects for performance reasons. It may not matter that much to the developer, but it certainly managed to confuse the lifeforms in the system poking at the objects. Fortunately it appears safe, but they’re poking at a whole lot of different things that weren’t meant to be exposed, and no program is bug-free.

So pretend for a second that this was the case for our universe.

What if it crashed?

Terror on Amtrak Bus 3717

This past night, Thursday the 8th of February, I journeyed home to see my family by way of Amtrak. It was a typical train ride, followed by what should have been a typical bus ride for the final stretch home. Not surprisingly, the bus was delayed an hour and a half. When it finally arrived, the bus driver told us “Tonight is going to be a very late night.”

None of us had any idea how true this would be. Aside from one person, perhaps — The Terror on Amtrak Bus 3717.

Sitting in the shadows at the back of the bus was a crazed man who was very high on something, and it wasn’t life. Few knew he was even there, at least for the first 10 minutes of the trip. And that’s when we first heard him speak:

“Three of you are going to die a painful death tonight.”

Half the people on the bus heard his words, but most paid no attention to it. Just a common jokester messing with friends, some of us thought. It wasn’t long, though, until someone began to panic and called out for the driver.

“Driver! Driver!!”

There was a loud scream.

The bus came to a sudden stop and the lights flashed on. Everyone turned to look at the back of the bus. The crazed man was repeatedly punching an older lady in the face as her daughter watched in horror.

Without hesitation, four men jumped up and pinned the attacker down. Two held on to his arms, holding them such that any movement would cause the arms to twist painfully. The third had a hold of his feet, while the fourth had a grip on his head and neck, strongly hinting that he would gladly snap the neck if the man dared struggle.

The victim’s face was covered in blood and the daughter was crying with fear. Seeing that the man was restrained, the bus driver immediately called for the highway patrol.

10 minutes went by, though it may as well have been hours. Eventually, the police pulled over and stepped onto the bus. Two went to the back and cuffed the crazed attacker, while a third attended to the lady.

The next hour and a half was a blur of testimonies, uniforms, and contact information exchange. By the end of this, we learned two things.

  1. If the attack had not happened, the attacker would have left the bus on his next stop, which was a mere 15 minutes away; and
  2. There was already a warrant out for his arrest.

Finally it was all over. The assailant was gone, people had been let off at their stops, and the lady was deemed “well enough” to avoid an ambulance trip.

Remember, boys and girls (especially the girls). Make sure that when riding a bus, you sit as close to the front as possible. It’s far safer and gives you more protection against the hidden terrors that lurk in the shadows of the back of the bus.

Happy New Year!

Another year come and gone. Hopefully everybody is out having a good time or recovering from a good time. I just finished up for the night and am planning to get some reading done before bed, but thought a quick blog post summarizing the year was in order.

  • This year marks my second year living in the Bay Area and working at VMware, and my first year really heading up some larger projects. I began the year by working on what would in time be known as VMware Server, and spent the first half of the year head down at my desk working on each release. Following that, I’ve been working on specifications, feature implementations, and even Tango-style icons for VMware Workstation 6.0, which I will continue with for some time.
  • Jamie and I have now been dating for just over two years.
  • For the first time, I was invited to FooCamp, hosted by Tim O’Reilly. Awesome event that I really hope to be invited back to next year.
  • I learned to boogie board with a couple of friends in Santa Cruz. Later in the summer, Jamie and I took a nice vacation in Santa Cruz and spent most of it at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
  • I had my second trip to Boston this year for the GNOME Summit. I went with Jamie to Salem and explored the touristy little town. Fun place, and I’d definitely like to spend more time there in the next couple of years.
  • I went with some friends to Castro St. in San Francisco for the first time for the big Halloween costume party that they have every year. We found out the following day that there was a shooting not too far from us, which was unnerving.
  • I got a Nintendo DS and a Wii, and have spent far too much money on both. I’m going to just start signing over my paychecks to Nintendo.

I’m sure I’m missing a few things. 🙂

Now, New Years Eve doubles as my mom’s birthday, which I imagine was not fun when growing up. I think the only day worse for a birthday is Christmas. It was certainly fun tonight, though. The night was spent with my mom, stepdad, brothers, sister, and Jamie. We watched Cars and played Scrabble, Bomberman Touch! for the DS (fun game!), and Cranium. We ended up spending most of the evening on Cranium, which has to be my favorite family game. We kept laughing so hard that we got ourselves sick.

Jamie brought over a bottle of champagne for us to drink. It was a late Christmas present, intended for New Years. We’re not heavy drinkers, so we only finished half the bottle, but it was very nummy. Along with that, we had a variety of snacks, including cheeses, beef sausages, vegetables, sodas, and pizza. This was, I think, my first New Years with my sister Jenna, as she had always been visiting cousins on New Years. She was pretty good most of the night, considering she had to stay up until midnight 🙂

January 1, 2007. With any luck, this year will be more exciting and eventful than last year. There are changes I hope to make, projects to abandon, projects to take up, and places to go. I think I’ll get some sleep so that I can get a head start on that.

Happy New Year!