Wednesday, October 09, 2019

idea factory

I have an idea, to create a portal that lets people exchange ideas, comment/vote on them, and also take ownership of an idea and pursue it to fruition if possible/document the roadblocks and constraints to anyone else who chooses to subsequently take over.

If you think this is something you can lend your ideas/time/resources/brand to and partner with me, please let me know.

I'll be starting work on building this in my spare time and will try to rope in other volunteers to get this off the ground, but I don't have capital to put into hosting, etc., and since this is in my spare time, it's on a best effort. It's something I believe would improve the world for all of us though, and it's an idea i'm passionate about.

Let's see how far we can take this!

Saturday, October 05, 2019

near miss

it's been over a year since I started cycling in the UK, and surprisingly, this week stood out as a disastrous one. someone vandalized my cycle TWICE in the last week, and it was disgusting becasue they just seemed to be doing it for the fun of it - there's obviously nothing to be gained from derailing the chain of someone's trusty cycle when it's chained outside a supermarket.

but no, that wasn't it.

i had an accident on Tuesday. a cabbie parked illegally right next to a cycling path, and the passenger opened the door without looking. bam!

i survived without much damage (to myself or my two wheels), but it was more luck than anything else: I was moving slowly, having just gone through an intersection (the same one the cabbie drove through before parking), and the door was opeend so quickly, i didn't have the time to grab the brakes - because if i did, it would have been my fingers instead of the brake lever that would have taken the impact.

my first reaction was shock: i checked myself, my bike (obvious damage limited to the flimsy headlight i got with the cycle popping into its two parts, one of which was on the road), and when asked if i was ok, said i'm fine, and rode off after accepting the cabbie's and passenger's apologies.

but as i turned into the parking lot, my shock turned into anger and regret: i should have given both the cabbie and the passenger a piece of my mind.

the passenger, for not looking before opening the door (the incident happened in front of my office, and she was a co-employee - so i somehow expected a baseline of safe behaviour from someone who worked here)

and of course, the cabbie, for stopping in an illegal spot (double yellow lines, anyone?) and so close to a heavily used cycle track. and also for him shaking his head at me as if it was somehow not his fault. this dude is obviously going to to do it again and again and put more people in danger.

as i hopped onto my cycle on the way home that evening, i turned on my lights on, in flashing mode, even though it wasn't dark yet, thinking to myself that anything i do to help myself being seen could potentially save me, even if it was a 1% chance. something i haven't been doing all this while, even though in hindsight i can't explain why i haven't been doing so.

the next day, it was raining, so i wore my high-vis jacket over my usual jacket. another thing i had not done that morning (and indeed, for the few months preceding it).

on my way to work, while passing a row of parked cabs, a cabbie opened his door and stepped right out. he would have been right in my path if it wasn't for me moving towards the right of the lane well before i passed the parked cabs.

when i filtered between queued vehicles at a red light, i made sure i was slow enough to come to a dead stop in two feet or less.

and of course, as i mulled over the on-road events of the last 24 hours, i kept an eye on every driver/passenger in every vehicle i passed.

and that's when i was forced to admit, it's easy to blame the passenger and cabbie for my accident, but i have also started taking things easy on the road. defensive driving is not limited to motored vehicles: defensive riding is also a necessity.

and so, the last two days, i've gone back to doing over my shoulder every time i change path or anticipate braking - things i should have been always doing but have simply gotten lax about.

this post is a reminder of the near miss, how things could have been worse, and that they most likely will be worse if i let myself be lulled into taking things easy when on the road.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

tipping the scales

i turned 36 a few days ago. it was about as low-key as turning 35 was last year: i went to work, got home, cut a cake. and just like last year, i didn't really feel like bringing in the birthday at midnight, although i did make it past 12.

guess the biggest difference was the company: mom and dad this year, as opposed to a couchsurfer from france last year. also, we went to church this year, breaking a streak of not sure how many years. mainly because they have evening mass on feast days in ireland (in mumbai, i'd never be sober enough to attend morning mass - that's how things used to be before i turned 35!)

and ironically, it was in church that it struck me that my birthday marked the point in my life that i've spent more time as an adult than i have as a child.

childhood doesn't seem very far away - especially the years leading to my turning 18. but in all honesty, the first half of my life does seem to be fading out of my memories. these days, it's hard to tell the actual memories apart from the "memories" conjured up by photos, conversations, and sometimes pure imagination.

just like i used to have these "lost years" of my childhood which were just a blur of reading, cycling, playing with my brother and neighbours, birthdays at home with family, summers at the beach, etc., i'm now conscious that i have these lost years of my adult life: drinking at dive bars, weekends at the beach with college buddies, goa trips every long weekend/year end/whatever have you, drinking myself silly every birthday (and usually writing unintelligible blog posts at the end of them). riding my bike for ever-increasing distances, camping at beaches when weather permitted, and in between, commuting to work, trying to find variety in the mundane, new ways to keep myself entertained.

the lost days (or months) when i lost my sanity, lost my grip on what i need to do and what i shouldn't. my love-hate relationship with sustainable, healthy living. the years spent in the long-fruitless pursuit of true, lasting love.

the only difference is, they aren't exactly lost. they're all saved for posterity. blogs, tweets, facebook, texts, email, photo archives. i'm not sure if orkut still exists, but i'm sure my "scraps" are saved in an archive somewhere. i have archives saved in formats that I don't have programs to open. i even have yellowing diaries with random pages scrawled on (since i could never maintain one with regularity) and obviously, i don't have the time to read through any of it.

at some point, memories become pointless. the highlights are nice, but i've come to terms with the fact that i'm a product of my past, and history is just fluff.

and so, here i am.

i have a long way to go.

i'm going to leave my trail.

but i have no idea where i'm going, and (obviously) how/when it's gonna end.

in a sense, i probably don't care anymore. i've ditched my compass and started following my whims.

i wonder if i'll find this post 36 years from now. and if i do, i wonder if i'll care.


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

one year in belfast

(yes, this post is long overdue!)

it's been a year since we moved to Belfast. in hindsight, we took even less time to settle here than we did in the home we rented after we got married, in Mumbai. Going through my memories on facebook, it seems that in just a month we went from eating supermarket ready-to-eat stuff in an airbnb to cooking our favourite foods in our kitchen, with pots and pans we purchased the day we moved in, getting our daily fix of youtube on the chromecast hooked up to our tv, which is ever-so-slightly bigger than the one we had in India.

so... what did we do in the remaining 11 months?

we got our social groove on.

we resumed traveling (not the same pace as we used to in Mumbai, but we'll get there soon!)

we got our own bicycles, tent, and other outdoor stuff.

we got a turntable, amp and speakers. transported some of my old records here, and also purchased a few more.

i got my lego here. oh yeah!

we also resumed collecting souvenirs.

i tried my hand at gardening, and gave up when i realized i didn't enjoy it much.

i'm in the process of learning to drive, and also in the process of getting my motorcycle license. and eagerly waiting for the day i can get my own two wheels!

it's hard to put my finger on the exact time i could say our move was complete, but i can definitely say that when we visited india for a vacation in december, it felt like we were leaving home.

i guess it'll take a long while for Belfast to feel as familiar as Mumbai does (did?), but that's just a matter of exploring the city and its surroundings. i could still say that i know this city as well as i knew mumbai after my first 18 or so years in mumbai!

it's very interesting to see how quickly we settled in, mainly because it seems like moving seems easier to us now.

i'd go as far as saying that we could probably pick a spot that appeals to us on a map, and if circumstances were right for us, we'd settle there happily.

this one year seems to have changed us in ways we never imagined it would.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

dreams and cynicism

i haven't blogged my dreams for a while. but this isn't the first such hiatus. this time, though, the reasons are quite different. i'd usually not blog dreams if i'm either facing sleep problems (ie not having lucid dreams), or having way too many of them, and it's getting overwhelming to note all of them - i usually don't have time to blog my dreams on the very day, so i'd make notes and keep them for later, but if i have too many dreams, this system falls apart.

this time though, i've been having interesting dreams, with a non-overwhelming frequency, but i still haven't been making notes (so obviously cannot eventually blog them either).

i noticed this happen a while ago, but haven't really thought about why, until today.

i had a nice dream last night. when i woke up, i described it to shruti. she liked it, asking me for details, which i narrated to the best of my memory. but i didn't even once think about blogging it. i've considered other recent dreams to friends who happened to be in them, but not blogging them.

so... why don't i want to blog them?

the easiest answer springs to mind: i have too much high-priority stuff on tight timelines to keep myself busy, and let's face it, blogging is not anywhere near my top priority.

but i do find the time to do pointless stuff. stuff that probably shouldn't be a priority at all. so why not blog my dreams?

the answer seems weird, even to myself.

blogging dreams is now too easy for me.

when i started off, there was an excitement. i loved the twists and turns and fantastic imagery my dreams brought to me. i loved being able to express them here, knowing that nothing i conjured with my normally rational mind could match up. but with time, i dare say, i've gotten better at it, and it's no longer exciting. and eventually, it's even stopped being fun.

also, i've started to "see through" my dreams, in a sense. in a large number of cases, i can actually attribute various features of my dreams to other things. the web of fantasy is beginning to unravel into a boring juxtaposition of influences.

would i resume blogging my dreams? maybe. but i'd have to find other reasons (or a change of priorities) for doing so.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

earth hour

last night, we observed "earth hour" - but went beyond the bare minimum: we didn't just switch off the lights, we switched off all our electrical devices (except the fridge of course). we lit one solitary candle in the living room, and sat on the couch. switched off our phones (after i clicked the mandatory photo) and set them aside.

and then thought about what earth hour means to us.

how our lives are no longer centred around the basics: physical work, food, family/in person time, rest. things that don't really have much of a carbon footprint/environmental impact beyond the basics. instead, we have desk-based work, quick-fix food, screen time, weird sleep hours.

belfast is a bit of an improvement over mumbai, as all our travel is on foot/cycle (i haven't sat in a bus for local travel in months!), but our carbon footprint has probably increased anyway: while our non-recyclable-trash bin fills up only once a month, our recyclable trash seems to fill up even faster! and recycling is not the "get out of environmental jail free" card it seems to be: while less damaging, it still costs energy, and is not sustainable in the long term. also, interestingly, our electricity is partly generated by "clean" natural gas, which is not as clean as it sounds - and coal!

also, in mumbai, we were consuming 30 units of electricity per month. in belfast, we're consuming a whopping 150 units! we're still very conservative electricity users - most people consume more in a month than we do in a quarter (our last quarterly bill came to barely 53 pounds)! and then, we use gas for a lot more here: warm water, in addition to cooking (yes, we have officially survived the winter without room heating!). a proper comparision, even with back of the envelope calculations for gas are complicated, but we were billed as much for gas in a month in belfast as were were for a year in mumbai!

and so, i can honestly say that while we feel better about our carbon footprint here, we've actually doing far worse. and we're still doing better than average.

so, what's the solution?

it's hard to say.

on one hand, we're almost at the limit of how low we can go, under our present circumstances.

on the other hand, we're surrounded by people who barely care - for varied reasons.

and then again, as the environmental crisis worsens, we may just have some sort of forced change of circumstances. but given how insulated we are from the effects of the crisis, it may just be that the realization hits too late, and we've nowhere left to go.

on a slightly less somber note though, that one hour in flickering candlelight, snuggling on the couch and talking about the environment was refreshing, although i can see it getting boring quickly if repeated often. maybe that's the change we need to make. incrementally re-wiring our brains to get used to a more environmentally conscious life.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

boring

doing the same thing over and over again, no matter how well you do it, is bound to get boring eventually. the real fun is in doing things badly, and then getting better!
- kris, one bored saturday afternoon

idea factory

I have an idea, to create a portal that lets people exchange ideas, comment/vote on them, and also take ownership of an idea and pursue it t...