the invisible fulfillment

This is an illustration inspired by a product that I had designed as part of my job for an engineering application for use in an infrastructure project. Although not technically relevant, I always glance at the entire art of it. The products that I usually work on as a part of my job are not directly seen, but they’re embedded in structures that serve a larger purpose. They form parts of bridges, tunnels, offshore installations, stadiums, buildings, etc. Although not directly, there’s some sort of professional fulfillment and gratitude in working behind the scenes, invisibly for engineering projects that serve you indirectly from the roadways and tunnels you drive on to the buildings you visit, to the water you drink.

An artistic snap of an engineering component used in the construction of a stadium structure

Bridge Bearings explained for the layman

Using QR presets/filters in Snapseed – Step by Step method

Google’s Snapseed  ( iPhone | Android ) is unarguably one of the most popular mobile photo editors available for free and is known for its ease of use, simplicity and the array of professional image editing features packed into it. It also has the ability to do a lot of effects and adjustments on top of each other and this sequence or stack of edits can be labeled or archived so that you can use the same sequence or package of edits across several images. This allows you to save a set of edits matching your style and liking.  A lot of you might be aware of this app and might be using it regularly. But I’m now sharing a powerful feature of this app that allows you to prepare presets/filters and share it with others. You can also use presets/filters prepared by others. In some other professional editing programs like Lightroom, these presets are files which you’d have to download and use it in the program window. The process remains the same for other major image editing programs as well as of today.  Snapseed has gone a step further and has come up with an intuitive way to use and share presets. They do it through QR codes. I’ll explain it in 4 easy steps

Step 1 – Open any image on Snapseed mobile app.
After opening the image, press the icon as shown below.

Step 2 – In the submenu that appears, click on QR Look.

Step 3 – Press on Scan QR look. This would open the camera and you’ve to scan the QR code of a preset or effect. As an example, below is a sample preset that I had created called Warmia. As a demo, you can try to scan this QR code and a set of effects would be performed on the image.

For instance, below is a preset “Warmia” that I created as a demo. In Step 3, when you’re asked for a QR code, the below QR code could be scanned. You can also create your own effects by choosing Create QR Look in Step 3 shown above.

Step 4 – There is not Step 4. Sit back as your image is being professionally enhanced : )

Over the past couple of years, I’ve created several Snapseed filters for my personal use. As a series, I’m thinking of introducing these presets with my community in several chapters. In each episode of these series, I shall try to share some of the filters and presets that I’ve spent a lot of loved time curating and tuning in with hundreds of images. Stay tuned for those to come in. Let me know your feedback.

Explore Snapseed filter packs from The Border of a Mind:

Warmia – a color palette suitable for objects shot in close range in an indoor setting.

bridge bearings explained for the layman

For almost the entirety of the past decade, I’ve been associated professionally with the design and development of bridge bearings in some way or the other for my current employer in the United Arab Emirates. I’ve worked on other product ranges as well, but my expertise and professional acumen are persistently pinned to this particular product owing prominently to a large amount of time I have spent on the design of bridge bearings over the past several years. Many of the people whom I meet, not necessarily from an engineering or technical background often get curious about what I do and when I start talking about bridge components, they’re bewildered. So I decided to write about bridge bearings for the layman in sort of a lucid non-technical parlance. As a prelude, let me enunciate that bridge bearings, as such is a broad discipline and I’ve worked only with a few types of bearings and is still on the path of learning for expanding horizons and filling knowledge gaps. With that sphere of humbleness, let’s begin.

Next time, when you travel through a bridge or any underpasses nearby, just before entering a bridge, pay close attention to the piers of the bridge and how those segments are held together. If you notice closely, you’ll find some devices at the interface of the top and bottom structures. These special devices are bridge bearings. Chances are that you wouldn’t have even noticed that these devices are in place. In some cases, these devices may not be visible directly as they’re mostly covered by Aluminium or steel cover plates to prevent any potential corrosion risks. But now you know that there are devices like this around.

The top portion is generally called “superstructure” and the bottom portion is called “substructure”. “Bridge Bearings” are devices used for gradually transferring loads from superstructure to substructure. These loads would include self-weight of the structure, traffic loads, wind loads, earthquake loads, etc. They also facilitate movement induced by expansion/contraction of concrete. These movements include thermal movements as well as creep and shrinkage of concrete. To some extent, they can also take rotations as well. Rotations are generally due to traffic loading, construction tolerances and general settlement of foundations, Based on the load capacities, configurations, etc, there are several types of bridge bearings used worldwide in civil installations. These include pin bearings, roller type bearings, rocker type bearings, sliding bearings, knuckle pinned bearings, pot bearings, elastomeric bearings, disk bearings, spherical bearings to name a few of them. Different configurations are designed and manufactured depending on the specific set of applications in which they are being used. Bearings can also be used for restraining movements in one or both directions as well as allowing movements in any one direction. Accordingly, different types of accessories are used on the bridge bearing assemblies to achieve the required purpose.

Some of the components which are used in the bearing include elastomers (rubbers and other engineered polymers), structural steel plates, bolts and sockets, round bars, PTFE (commonly known as Teflon), stainless steel sheets, etc. Depending on the type, a bearing can contain one or many of these components. Bearings are used in bridges, buildings, steel frames, offshore structures and a lot of other places. Many international codes are used by international manufacturers for designing these components.

To give some slice of history, until the end of the 18th century, all major structures were built using stone, bricks or mixed masonry. These structures are least affected by normal environmental changes and any slight movements that might occur are normally compensated by minor support displacements or deformation of materials involved. In the 19th century, cast iron and steel structures were increasingly used which were flexed to larger span lengths and they eventually turned out to be more slender and flexible and were required to be fitted at their support points through special devices. These were the first “bearings”. These could withstand movements induced by expansion/contraction due to temperature changes. Initial bearings consisted of simple metal plates sliding over each other or steel rollers or both of these combined. To provide rotational capabilities, swivel arrangements were extensively used. As technology progressed to the 20th century, Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) structures took steam. After the second world war, the situations demanded and favoured the extensive rapid development of reinforced concrete and pre-stressed concrete. Slender structures started to be reliant more and more on these bearing devices to accommodate rotations and movements. Subsequent years lead to the development of elastomeric bearings made of plain rubber. Later, steel plates were used inside these rubber pads and this specially designed stack became capable of sustaining larger loads and magnitudes. Subsequently, other modern bearings like pot and spherical bearings were developed which includes a combined usage of elastomeric, polymeric and structural systems that work together to be used for achieving higher load capacities, movements and rotations. Elastomeric bearings and its variants (with support plates and accessories) still continue to be the most flexible, robust, cost-effective and maintenance-free bearing solution.

Now, if we delve in more, we’d digress away from the layman terminology we’re using and would enter the techno geeky world. So for now, that’s some basic layman understanding on bridge bearings.

Bearings are an integral part of large infrastructures such as buildings,  heavy buildings and high rise buildings serving critical functions and ensuring the safety and stability of structures.

Vehicle blocking your way in UAE parking spaces/roads? Don’t worry. Have it removed in less than 15 minutes!

I thought of sharing it here in case if this could help some of you in the UAE.

There can be situations when you’ve to go somewhere urgently and you find your car being blocked by some other vehicle parked in front of you. Normally in the UAE, people often have this practice of leaving their phone numbers on the car dashboard so that they can be called in case if we want the car to be removed. But yes, there can be instances when they have not left the phone number on the dashboard and you cannot take your vehicle out without the other person moving his / her car.

Although been in Dubai for a long time now, I was truly not aware of an awesome service that comes to our rescue in such circumstances. Dubai Police app, renowned for its smart features and ease of use has a very interesting feature that helps anyone in such a situation. It’s basically a service that can be used to alert vehicles obstructing traffic. It does great help to tackle motorists who block our way.

So this is the sequence. It’s very easy. It takes only 2 minutes to do this.

* Download Dubai Police application
* Authenticate. You can enter your phone number and they’ll send an OTP to verify.
* In the “traffic services” section, look for something like “obstructing traffic flow
* Click on report obstructing traffic flow offense
* They’ll ask you to snap a picture & enter any information you’d like to.
When you take the snap, try your best to show the vehicle number and also demonstrate how it is clearly blocking your way.
* Send it to Dubai Police

Immediately Police will send an SMS to the car owner instructing to remove the car and they’ll give you a phone number to contact in case the vehicle is not removed in 15 minutes.  I have tried this from Sharjah and can confirm that it works. For instance, the below message is that I got after completing a report.

I personally had to travel urgently for a medical-related matter and found a car blocking my way. I checked on the dash and there was no number left on the dashboard so that I could call and ask the person to move his car. In this situation, I looked online on a workaround and found this solution. I would recommend all of you staying in UAE to have Dubai Police app installed as they have a lot of amazing smart services that’ll save you a lot of time. If you’re traveling for an emergency, this app is truly a Godsend. They can handle minor violations online and can even help you file a report for smaller accidents. I truly believe that these small things matter a lot for citizens and residents and would be conducive to having a great experience and simply have them so happy interacting with government services and the UAE government’s smart services are truly remarkable & way ahead of time in these aspects.

Google Photos – Geeky Uses!

Google Photos definitely is an industry game-changer. Over the past few years, it has completely revolutionized the way in which people organize and curate their photo archives. Powered by world-class artificial intelligence and neural networks, Google photos take photo organization and curation to the next level and also allows an option for unlimited storage of photos. As many of you might be aware, we can search for specific items or entities *within* a pool of photographs and you can get quick results. You can combine the searches with a lot of other keywords like familiar faces, location or other metrics. Different people use it tailored to their requirements. You can use it in a novice fashion or you can even delve into the depth of the system to use several features.
I’m sharing three uses of Google photos that are often unused by many.

Tapping the potential of Google Lens.

Using Google lens to identify and copy text in a photograph.  As their website puts it, it is basically “searching what you see”. Google Lens is an image recognition technology developed by Google, designed to bring up relevant information related to objects it identifies using visual analysis based on a neural network. [ Link ]
The below screenshots are for some demonstration:
When you open the image and click on the magnifying lens icon in Google Lens, it’ll read through the image and find possible correlations depending on the context. For example, in the first image below, we have a beautiful bougainvillea flower and when we tap on it with google lens, it provides some contextual information and provides details about it. In the second image, when we click on the photograph of a car, it recognizes the model of the car and shows some relevant information. That’s really helpful.

Similarly, we can copy text from an image file containing text content. For instance, please see the below image. It has text in it and Google photos can be used to copy text from that image and you can even translate it right away. How cool is that!

You can read more here.

Untapping AI searching capabilities
Using AI algorithms and neural networks, Google can find what you’re looking for.

Eric Griffith writes for PCMag :

Try some searches in Google Photos, using terms common and obscure. Google’s auto-tagging of images is pretty amazing, beyond just the face recognition (which I found could ID people in photos even if they’re in the background). For example, a search of the term “dog” got just about every image I could conceive of with my pups in the pics—even some with just a pup statue or paw. I didn’t tag any of those pics with “dog” or “statue,” by the way: Google just knows. Location searches are also easy with geo-tagging, making it easy to find, say, all your vacation pictures at once.

Using Google Photos to embed images in blogs or websites.
Inherently, by design, Google doesn’t explicitly advertise itself as an image host service for blogs and websites. Considering that the entire repository of our photographs are archived at Google photos, it makes a nice photo host. Labnol has released a nice little tool to embed Google photo images into blogs and websites. Once you copy-paste the public link from the image, paste it into the website of the tool and it’ll generate an embed code that you can put on your blog or site.

digitize better.

We are living in a world wherein documentations are increasingly handled digitally and governments and institutions are pacing swiftly towards a paperless future. Every one of us has important documents that we need for different purposes. These important documents may include your national ID card, passport, driving license, ATM cards, credit cards, health cards, vehicle licenses, insurance documents, visa copy (in case if you are an expat living in a foreign country), any other relevant certificates, etc. There are instances when we need to have them shown or submitted for a variety of administrative or clerical purposes. People generally have their digital versions scattered all around the place. Either it might be in an email abyss or in some pen drive or some cloud service which is not organized well. The core reason for relying on digitization of any sort of document is retrievability.  If we cannot retrieve a particular document when it is exactly required, that defeats the purpose of documenting them in the first place. In this post, I shall share some of the ways that I have been using for several years now for digitally organizing documents.

The first thing is to have a scanning app on your phone. My recommendations are Scanner Mini and Microsoft Office Lens. This will help you to quickly scan any paper documents you’ve. After you have the documents scanned and available, you can try any of these options:

Google photos has been really useful for everyone to organize their photos very conveniently and curate them well using AI technology. But we can use it as a tool for storage and retrieval of our documents as well. Let’s say you have a driving license to be scanned. Use any of the apps specified above and get it scanned as an image. Rename them as “Driving License” and save them to Google Photos. In Google photos, select this photo and add it to a new album and rename it as “Driving License”. So the next time, when you’re outside and you quickly need to have the soft copy of your driving license, just search by “Driving license” in your Google photos library, and the license would pop up as an album. I recommend spending an hour digitizing all the important documents that you may need to retrieve for any purpose.

In the same way, cloud backup services like Dropbox, Box or Google Drive shall also be used to store these documents. All the relevant documents can be properly named and archived with any of these services. The same approach can be also used for other documents like receipts, certificates, etc as well. Scanning alone is not sufficient. Archiving is closely tied with a proper identifiable organization of these documents and their swift retrieval. Archival, identification and retrievability need to be a cohesive process. Each person has got different sets of requirements and the way of archival would also be different. The key is to adapt the method that is the most effortless for you.

We can’t underestimate the convenience and ease of use that this practice of digitizing documents and organizing them properly ensues in our daily lives. Let’s be more organized. God bless!

Virtual Reality(VR) Spiel

I got my first hands-on experience with a professional VR system last August. The set I tried was an HTC vive. I had assembled a classic Google Cardboard system couple of years back to get a tiny glimpse of how an entry-level VR system works, although not the best in quality owing to its cardboard body and lower quality lenses.

The headset makes use of  “room-scale” tracking technology, which allows the user to move in 3D space and enables interaction with the environment through the use motion-tracked handheld controllers  Gyrosensors, accelerometers, and laser position sensors are generally used to track the position of the head. A plethora of additional accessories are normally accompanied with a VR unit for expanded experiences depending on the function of the accessory.  Special thanks to dear friend AR for his kindness in showing me these stuff knowing my sort of invasive curiosity in these things. In the short time frame to try it, I could test Google Earth VR and also the inevitable test app of any VR experience you name – Roller Coaster. Google Earth’s VR basically allows you to casually stroll through any international destination you could think of. They’ve facilitated enhanced content for locations of international interest and adds to the fluidity and overall richness of glancing at them and being ‘present’ in that space. Roller coaster VR version of vive was the most immersive among the similar ones I have experienced so far. On a broader note, the shift of experiences to this “out of home” sequences stands in pretty stark contrast to the quintessential social media narrative of documenting experiences and sharing it on a social platform. In VR, since the entire experience is on a virtual space, I normally reckon it as a benefit due to the exclusivity of the experience, though people might differ in opinion on that aspect depending on the way they organically intuit.

Nate Goldman puts it well on the Great Escape :

“ this era of social media escapism, even those aren’t enough. We take out our phones and escape further into the screen, placing greater importance on the documenting of an experience rather than the experience itself. Virtual reality stands out as one of the few new experiences that preclude that option of escape — and instead demand our presence. We may not be in the physical world, but we are completely immersed in a new one: no splitting our attention or pressure to prove we were there. It’s just you, whoever you’re with, and the game. And in this day and age, that in itself feels like a new idea.

Eyes – Windows to the Heart

The title seems to bemuse on the outset, but that’s exactly what came to my mind when I happened to read about Google’s new AI algorithm that would predict heart diseases and complications by looking (scanning) at your eyes. It’s amazing to see how machine learning implementations open up new possibilities and seemingly much capable things which we often rendered improbable in the past. In the coming years, I believe they’d partner with healthcare firms to work on even larger data sets and come up with specific pattern identifications and customized algorithms and deep learning applications that would further open up non-invasive diagnosis methods. Definitely, this is the future.

The Verge‘s James Vincent writes:

“Although the idea of looking at your eyes to judge the health of your heart sounds unusual, it draws from a body of established research. The rear interior wall of the eye (the fundus) is chock-full of blood vessels that reflect the body’s overall health. By studying their appearance with camera and microscope, doctors can infer things like an individual’s blood pressure, age, and whether or not they smoke, which are all important predictors of cardiovascular health.”

Brandon Specktor reports for Live Science.

Whether you’re getting your eyes scanned by a trained ophthalmologist or Google AI, the biggest clues to your overall health may lie in your blood vessels.

Blood vessels can provide a valuable snapshot of your heart health, revealing clots, constrictions and other abnormalities associated with various cardiovascular diseases and conditions. But because most blood vessels in your body are hidden beneath your skin and other tissues, it can be hard for doctors to access them without potentially expensive or invasive procedures.

The large vessels on the back of your retina — the light-sensitive layer of tissues at the back of your eyes — are an exception. Retinal veins and arteries are directly visible through your pupils, meaning a simple, noninvasive eye scan can reveal whether your retinal blood vessels are constricting from hypertension, clotted with cholesterol or afflicted with various other heart-health risk factors. Doctors look at retinal scans primarily to diagnose glaucoma and diabetes-related eye disease. Increasingly, however, researchers have been using eye scans to screen for high blood pressure and all of the cardiovascular ailments that go along with it.

Absolutely exhilarating!. I am very eccentrically inquisitive of how far they can explore the wide sea of engineering, preferably in finite element analysis or structural engineering. I already came across several firms that have software products with AI built in automating a lot of calculations for structural components used in building design and infrastructure projects based on international codes of design practice.


Let’s speak of skeuomorphism today. Interaction design foundation puts the definition lucid if you aren’t familiar with this concept before.

Skeuomorphism is a term most often used in graphical user interface design to describe interface objects that mimic their real-world counterparts in how they appear and/or how the user can interact with them. A well-known example is the recycle bin icon used for discarding files. Skeuomorphism makes interface objects familiar to users by using concepts they recognize.

Skeuomorphism is related to what ecological psychologist James Gibson termed “affordances.” Affordances refer to action possibilities of objects or other features of the environment. The most commonly cited examples of affordances include door handles and push buttons; their physical designs inform users that they can be rotated or pushed. Skeuomorphism represents affordances in digital user interfaces. It fits with our natural interpretation of objects—but in a digital world.

Skeuomorphism’s use in making interfaces more familiar and thus easier to use stems from the early days of computing and mobile computing. For instance, early versions of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, used skeuomorphism heavily across its user interface (e.g., buttons resembling glossy ‘real’ buttons, photos with white borders looking like physical photographs, etc.). Skeuomorphism in iOS was widely regarded as part of the reason it was so intuitive to use by people who had never used a touch-based smartphone before.

I use an old iPhone 4 running iOS6 on dual boot as a second phone for nostalgic reasons with skeuomorphic design in all its glory!

I truly believe Skeuomorphism should come back to modern web and mobile app interfaces.  Simply put, this design methodology uses objects in software interfaces (buttons, graphics, etc) that closely resembles their real-world counterpart. You’d easily recollect the “trash can” icon, which is probably the easiest skeuomorphic object recognizable in modern interfaces. From the 1980s, it was predominantly used by Apple across their product interfaces and Steve Jobs was an ardent fan of it. From around 2007, this design method was on a downhill and was replaced by the flat designs that became trendy in tech. Approaching 2020, I really wish Skeuomorphism would renew itself on a modern context across all platforms for the better. There are some hopeful developments.