Tag: life

I read this heartfelt post at McSweeney’s by Jen Coleman, a high school English teacher, on children already returning to schools amidst the pandemic. It makes no sense to me that someone somewhere is making a decision that puts these budding souls at risk just so that the perception of “we, the leaders, are handling it well” can be maintained. I am happy in my developing country if that’s how a developed one handles crises.

That Sharpie tells me everything I need to know about teaching through COVID. We could have poured resources into prevention. We could’ve spent all summer enforcing mask use and social distancing. We could’ve sacrificed small pleasures for the greater good. We could’ve kept this from happening. But instead, we’re blindly barreling toward reopening even though we know teachers and students will die. We’re going to treat COVID the same way we treat school shootings.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Hunter S. Thompson

Ever since I travelled back to my hometown, I have not been able to keep up with my routine. I’m not sure of the reasons, but things have been tricky.

One reason I believe is my mindset. For years now, I have been travelling to this place, to my other home, only on vacations. I would take long leaves, be off work and spend some relaxed time in the city where I’ve spent the majority of my early years. I feel I’ve grown accustomed to the air here and now I associate it with relaxation. Hence it has been extremely difficult to do anything else.

I’ve been sleeping a lot more. I’ve been eating a lot more. I’ve been slacking a lot more. I can do my office work, that doesn’t seem to be affected. But every other routine task is. I was waiting for things to naturally get back to normal. 2 weeks in and I don’t think there’s any chance of that happening.

So I am forcing myself now to get back into the routine. Time to bring the diaries, the journals back. Get the diet, the focus apps out. Reset those snoozed alarms again. Close eyes for those mindful 2 minutes. Stare regularly at the blinking cursor.

I need to stop treating the weekends as special. I stay up late on the night before, ergo I get up late. I am getting more lone time, I convince myself. I have now realized that’s not the case. The late nights can give me some hours when all are asleep. But I enjoy the early mornings much more.

I am fresh, I can sit and relax with calmness surrounding me. No one’s awake. Not in my house or on the outside. The only “noise” is the crickets in the dark, busy with their routine; that calms me.

I get to hear the nature wake itself up to the rising dawn. I need not plug my ears to shut out any distracting sounds. Every sound is stimulating; I read better, I write better. As someone who gets distracted by the slightest of the noises, that’s also the best time to get into a meditative state, something I am trying to do daily now.

My habit of treating weekends as different from the regular work days has been ruining the routine that keeps me freshest throughout the day.

Proposed Captcha for the AI Age

I recently read this brilliant comic by Zach Weinersmith at SMBC. And the first thought I had was this “has to be the most foolproof way there exists to prove yourself human”

Seriously, I am tired of proving to Google that I’m human by selecting grids with zebra crossings in them. This task has to be a lot easier for bots than it is for me because I suck at it every time.

I think, maybe, just maybe we need some other ways to test if users online are humans. Just test us for what we suck at.

  1. Keep showing us optical illusions and check how we freak out. Our eyes keep making a fool of our minds and we let them. Of course, we are already being crazies by training computers to fall for optical illusions. Why, why?
  2. Show us a street full of people coughing and sneezing around openly and ask a single question “what’s the risk that you will get coronavirus if you walk out on this street without a mask?” Apparently, no human will say 100%.
  3. Show the departure time of the flight. Show us the distance to the airport, the traffic en route. Ask us then when should we leave the house. Bots will always make us reach in time. Humans, on the other hand, will be either too early or too late, even when provided with all the data.
  4. Show us a video of people playing basketball and make us count the passes. Then just make us randomly predict when will the pandemic end. If a user selects “before August starts”, has to be Human. Yeah, and also show us next the walking, chest-thumping gorilla that we missed in the video.
  5. Just put a simple multiple-choice question, “What will you name some random street?” with one of the options as “I don’t know… name it whatever the fuck man”. Majority humans apparently will select that.

You get the idea. Don’t judge us by our smartness. If there’s anything that the last few months have proven, it is that we ain’t an intelligent species. It is our dumbness, our frailties that make us humans now.

One of my dad’s closest friend passed away today. Understandably, my dad was very sombre for the whole day. He told me he had spoken to his friend just yesterday when he was all fine.

Just last week, my aunt too had lost her father. She also told me she had spoken to her dad just a day before and even he was all fine.

They both died due to heart failure. They both shared one more truth, though. They both already had a weak heart and both said that all the news around COVID and the resultant lockdown were making them lonelier. They felt burdened — even though they had their close family and friends always around them for support.

Will we also add these deaths to the this pandemic’s toll? Because, of course, these aren’t isolated cases. The psychological fallout is far-reaching than immediately noticeable symptoms.

We should. It has curtailed many more lives than those that get reported.

What else could I do?

I am making sure I stay sane, healthy. I am spending time on, for and with myself. I am taking care of myself to the extent that I never did before.

What else could I do?

I am making sure my family stays safe. I am sharing stories, laughing a lot with them. I am playing with my daughter. All her games, without judging them. I go on an unplanned date with my wife right at home every now and then, spend a cosy morning with her in the balcony with a cup of hot tea. I am spending time with my family to the extent that I never did before.

What else could I do?

As I go outside, I always wear a mask. I do not have or present any justification to not wear one. There can’t be one. I try to enlighten others, closed ones and those that aren’t so, the importance of being responsible once outside of homes.

What else could I do?

Well, there is so much more that I could do. I do not openly express my anguish looking at the adverse situation the impoverished lots are going through. I do not stand for the rights of minorities world around as much as I should. Or contribute towards changing the clearly imbalanced societal status quo.

Or speak up openly when I see a gender bias in play. I haven’t yet told that one guy to not keep saying “guys” in a meeting with many of my female colleagues. It is wrong. I cringe every time. But I could also speak up.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” — Mother Teresa

Change doesn’t always need radical corrections. I could bring the minor shifts in my behaviour and make my surrounding a fair place for all.

So, what else could I do?

Well, I could not ask that question because I know there’s so much that I do not do. Let me make an effort to be a better version of myself because there’s no doubt that I can never be perfect.

I’m not going to write about…

  • Facebook and Zuckerberg. And I think even the big publications all round, the likes of Wired and NYTimes, need to stop writing about the issues inside Facebook. They call their edits “exclusive”, tag them as an inside look at what transpired behind the tall walls. But that hardly matters – nothing ever changes at the crazy place. Because the people who can bring the change, don’t want to. For some reason that is hard to fathom to outsiders, they all are conflicted within.
  • Apple and Google. Too much is said about everything big and small about these companies. It piques interests in readers and so every publication has something to report about them. I can’t add anything more to what has already been said, that too by minds a lot smarter than mine. I don’t want to add to the noise.
  • Politics. Talking about the doesn’t help my morale. It rather makes me a lot angrier than I need to be. And to no avail.
  • Meta rants about Blog. Not my writing workflow. Not the minor tweaks I keep making every now and then. Not the struggles I go through to get things exactly right. Just write and edit what I wrote. Keep the place the way I like to see it. Hear what others have to say about the place, the workflow, tweak it if needed and forget.
  • Things I need to do. Announce them when ready. Instead of writing about it, start doing it. Get started.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

Mark Twain

Update on the no-news experiment

It was exactly a year ago that I had posted an update on my then-recently undertaken no-news experiment. It primarily involved –

  • consuming news only through the morning newspaper
  • no news related apps on my phone
  • no notifications from social apps (including messages, WhatsApp)

I am pleasantly surprised that the things begun then have more or less stayed the same. I still consume my news primarily from the morning newspaper. I still avoid visiting the news website. I still have the notifications from social apps disabled. For that matter, I have become more aggressive in disabling notification access to any app.

The only deviation has been that I have installed a few news apps on my phone. I always had that urge to open some editorial on the browser when my mind was momentarily free. This minor change has quenched that.

Of course, I am still extremely picky about which apps get installed. I have installed only a couple of news curating apps (also known for doing their job well). And The New York Times app.

Digital Detox – No YouTube

I have also recently undertaken a digital detox experiment. I want to check which additional service I can get off my routine. It should be something that I carelessly spend a lot of time on.

I had recently been consuming a lot of stupid content on YouTube. I used to open the app every time I had some free time at hand. Or for that matter even when I was busy doing something else. It garnered a subconscious tap. Such absent-minded behaviour is never healthy.

So I have planned to be off YouTube for at least a month to reset the terms of my relationship with this service. It has been 15 days now and I already feel better. I no longer have that urge to tap into YouTube any more. I have observed am following my routine a lot better.

However, YouTube has become too important a destination for all kinds of videos. That includes videos relevant to my work too. So it is difficult to completely get rid of the access to the service.

Of course, then, I plan to allow access to the app in a controlled manner. This time, however, I will set the terms again consciously. I am also planning to clear the YouTube view history before I do that. I believe this will help me reset the recommendations. I am, however, yet to decide the exact terms under which the service will be allowed back.

During this month of digital detox, I also plan to indulge myself with some analogue activities that I had never done before. I have started doodling more. Sure, am not good at it. But I hit the web for inspiration and try to simply emulate.

I am also spending dedicated time with my daughter without any digital devices around. It can be as less as 15 minutes. Involving simple talks. Or some silly games. But it has to be focused time.

It is too early to see the effects of all this. One thing is for sure, though. I feel a tad less burdened on the inside.

I recently had my wisdom teeth extracted. Boy oh boy, if I had known earlier that the road to the recovery from this procedure is not straight forward, I would have never undergone this without much thought.

There are so many precautions to be taken — from keeping the mount clean to monitoring what you eat. This is in addition to easing the swelling and the pain. I would have liked to time this better. With just a day to go to start going to the office again, it would be some difficult times ahead.

Sure, my dentist did explain all the intricacies involved before the procedure. He also mentioned what all I would have to be careful about. But it was only once the teeth were pulled and the gums stitched back that I became cognizant of the complications.

And all this for a set of teeth whose only purpose is to jam up the number 32. Sigh!