Tuesday, January 22, 2019

fitness tracking

i purchased an activity tracking watch (garmin forerunner 235) around the end of november. it was an impulse buy, because i saw some discounts online and thought it would be a good thing to get a watch that could track my cycle rides (my earlier fitness band only counted steps, and with an extremely high margin of error!).

i noticed a few changes happen almost overnight, thanks to having that watch on my wrist: i started taking detours on my cycle route to do slightly longer distances daily, pushing myself a bit more just to get myself in a higher heart rate zone, doing a few extra steps when i was close to my target and had a little time to spare, stuff like that.

and then of course there was the novelty value: discovering how my body reacted to things like dancing, motorcycle riding, standing instead of sitting, etc.

however, a month and a half later, i felt i was done with the watch.

i realized that it was quite simple: the watch was just required to push me to be conscious of my body's demands for activity. and once i got there, i didn't really use the watch for much at all. in fact, it was more of a waste of time, spending 5 seconds to lock on to gps before i cycled the exact same route as i used to, to get to work. while i was riding, my speed and effort was more to do with the amount of traffic on the road and what my energy levels were like - the watch just recorded them for me to share to the world. and i'm not sure who would be interested in seeing these rides anyway. the other features were more like distractions - if i forgot my bluetooth on, my watch would vibrate every time my phone did, usually ending with me turning mobile data or bluetooth or both off. also, i liked the heavy feel of my conventional metal watches - after a while i actually started missing them, but the data junkie in me didn't let me take off my smart watch and use my dumb watch - it almost felt like i had some sort of attachment to the watch!

funnily enough, it was a similar experience with the earlier basic fitness tracker band as well - it recorded my activity but didn't do much to motivate me. i was under the impression that this was because the band did a crappy job. i can now say that that wasn't the end of the story.

and so, i've concluded that if you need something to get yourself thinking about your activity levels and establishing a baseline/routine, a fitness watch might help. once you get into the habit though, it seems pretty superfluous. the only use cases i can see for the watch right now is if i start training for something specific (like a 10k or something) - if i just need to push my activity levels, i think just keeping my mind set to it and developing systems to keep my activity levels up (taking the stairs, for example) would keep the momentum going.

curious to know what the experiences of other non serious users are.

Monday, January 21, 2019


once again, this blog seems to have fallen by the wayside. and it's not like i'm short on things to blog about. it's just that somehow, blogging doesn't seem to be a priority any more. in fact, i have a fair amount of free time as well. i think i can just put this down to inertia.

anyway, setting aside trivialities (we have instagram for that), the highlights of the last month or so have been a nice good vacation in india (with a quick dash to thailand at the start!), our 2nd anniversary, and then heading back to belfast to brace ourselves for the rest of winter. nothing particularly noteworthy if you look at it as a summary, but i guess the fun is in the details.

on the whole, a few things seem to be falling into place - my sleep cycle seems back on track after a lot of randomness (nightmares, problems sleeping and waking up, feeling sleepy at weird times, etc). i still haven't gone beyond my regular 40 minutes of cycling daily (work and back on weekdays, and the supermarket or suchlike on weekends) - the free gym in our apartment complex is more thought of than visited, but i have been paying a little more than usual attention to my health and wellbeing. no results yet, but i'm going for a more long-term push than something i'll see in a month or even three.

overall, the year seems to have started on a rather positive note, and i'm glad to say that positive changes happening in people around me seem to be helping me as well.

i've stopped making resolutions long ago (actually, i probably still make resolutions of some sort, but i just don't associate them with the new year or call them that), as i've come to realize change comes not from big bang decisions, but incremental improvements, and from internalizing long term goals.

2018 was a good year, with its start and end being so radically different that they almost seem like different lives being lived by the same person. 2019 seems like a time to think about the direction i want to take, and start pushing myself in that direction rather than drifting there.

i have to acknowledge though, that there are some battles on the horizon that will probably come up sooner rather than later, although hopefully i can tackle them without disrupting my plans.

fun times ahead!

Sunday, December 02, 2018


movember meant a little more than the usual (and I guess 4 years qualifies for some sort of usual) to me.

for the first time, I had a lot of time and the right situation to think about why I was doing it. and it was for two reasons.

first of all, I officially got involved. I created an online mo-space (sadly, didn't do much after creating it), but as part of the process, I also was exposed to others' thoughts about movember. and I grew a proper "mo", unlike my usual full beard approach (which, given my usual shaving habits, makes it hard to differentiate between making a statement and just being lazy).

but more importantly, I felt like people cared. I wasn't some freak, I was a genuine person with genuine problems which could be solved if people wanted to. and I'm glad to report, there was real, concrete progress.

I also realized that just making it externally clear that you stand for something, makes a difference.

honestly, I still feel that being a man, my problems are far lesser than what women have to deal with. and so, I remain a feminist first and foremost.

I don't even know if there's an adjective for someone who envisions a better world for men. but I do know that by my actions, I'm making it possible for more people like me to exist. and just like it's taken decades for feminism to make the slightest dent in the crap that the average woman has to go through, I'm fine with the world making its slow and steady progress towards a better life for everyone, and a greater understanding of the fact that the problems men face are both the cause and effect of the problems that make the progress of feminism so slow and difficult.

yes, I'm a proud mo-bro!

Sunday, November 18, 2018


yesterday morning, my wife woke me up, thinking i was sobbing in my sleep.

i explained to her that this guy had just won the lottery, but he lived in such a remote place, that his only means of outward communication was a crow that he had trained to deliver messages. so he sent the crow with the message, but was worried that the shop he had purchased the lottery ticket from, would toss the message away as "some trash this crow dropped outside my shop".

and i found that so funny that i was actually laughing while asleep.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

all filler, no thriller

at what point do you stop doing things for the thrill, and start doing them just to fill your time/life?

I had a month to experiment with this thought.

it turns out, the point is much sooner than I thought.

but it also turns out, it's not about what you do, but how/why you do it.

if you keep your mind open to experimentation, and positively pursue it at least a few times a day, it becomes enough to keep yourself on the edge. but if you don't, complacency sets in quickly. and complacency becomes contagious.

for example, my playlist: listening to my ipod on shuffle sounds like it might be un-complacent, but it turns out that not having to think about what you're listening to is actually less experimental than picking an album for your mood. at the very bottom of the scale is of course listening to the same album over and over again because you can't be bothered to change it... as opposed to wanting to listen to the same album over and over again for whatever experimental reason (eg. I sometimes do it to create correlations with feelings/activities/whatever have you, just one of the infinitely possible *conscious* reasons!)

if found that it takes me about two days for complacency to turn into boredom, and suddenly, everything turns into "fillers". life loses its essence.

complacency is a many-headed monster. I've seen it in others, but without asking them (which I haven't done yet), I may be operating on a flawed premise. when it comes to myself though, I've seen it actually varies between extremes of optimization and non-optimization. and this itself is self-propagating. non-optimized activities force me into firefighting, basically hyper optimization. and that comes with the general feeling of not being in control. and of course, how do you experiment when you're not in control? you don't.

it's actually much harder to slip out of complacency than to slip into it. complacency almost seems addictive. experimentation, on the other hand, is self-propagating, but needs constant effort and revival.

and so, the experiment is over, and luckily, I'm back to experimentation with a vengeance.

time to finish my strange-but-nice cocktail (lager + tonic + ginger ale + lemon), the photo of which I did NOT instagram, turn off the radio, and go to sleep on the other side of the bed ;)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

beyond lucid dreaming: daydreaming?

I've been having a month of almost-daily lucid dreams. At the start of October, it was so extreme that I would wake up multiple times each night, at the end of a dream, only to lie there and drift off to sleep and wake up from another dream few hours later.

It reached a point where I was almost wishing the dreams would end, or at least reduce in frequency.

Luckily for me, the frequency seems to have reduced. I don't wake up in the middle of the night any more, but I do have the occasional memorable dream that I half-wish I could blog, but for the lack of inclination.

Thursday night, (or more like Friday morning) though, was different.

I was back home in Borivali, with the parents and brother. We were sitting at the dining table. It was evening, slightly before dinner-time I guess. We were expecting friends over: Natasha and Komal, my friends from college. And also, for some reason, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar, the Bollywood actors.

I had a wireless mic, and was running a radio show of sorts. I'm not sure what the show was supposed to be about, but in between talking on the mic (it was one of those weird mics that I've seen cricket commentators use on TV, that have some sort of hood to block out outside sounds), I'm assuming there was music being played, but I wasn't playing the music.

Natasha and Komal arrived, and we had dinner together.

Somehow I skipped the bit where the actors arrived, but after Natasha and Komal left, I started taking questions on the phone (I must have had earphones on, though I don't remember them, and I wasn't using a phone myself - was I being patched onto the calls that were taken at radio station?)

Somewhere at that point, I woke up, and I was lying in my bed.

But the dream continued.

I got a call from the actors, who were both in a car together, driving to wherever they lived. They wanted to answer some of the questions their fans asked on the show.

When they were done, I announced that it's now 10:30pm, and time to wrap up the show for the week, and that I'll be back on next Sunday, as usual.

My parents asked me if people actually listened to such trash.

I told them that unlike a few decades ago, Sunday night is mostly either spent watching TV or eating out, so we have very few listeners - among the lowest listeners of all week. And apparently the show is quite popular among people with nothing better to do.

They started reminiscing about how back in the day (before they were married or even met each other), Sunday evenings would be spent with their respective families around the radio, listening to the songs, singing along, and even dancing.

I told them there's nothing that stops people from doing the same even today - and I might ask listeners to give it a go next Sunday.
That's when I checked my watch and realized it was 5 minutes past my second alarm, and that I had to end the dream or I'd be late for work.

It was weird, dreaming while awake, and yet feeling so detached from the dream that I didn't feel the need to influence it (unlike most dreams that I think I try to influence when I'm somewhere in the waking stage - but then again, those dreams end when I'm awake!)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

the boiling candle

after waking up from this dream, i decided to light the bedside scented candle. and then dozed off.

when i woke up, the candle had been burning for a while, much longer than we usually leave it burning. i looked in and noticed all the wax in the holder had melted and i could see through the translucent green wax all the way to the bottom. and then a curious thing happened. the wax began to boil. first, in tiny bubbles, and then abruptly, it became a rising opaque mass of foam, with bubbles so tiny that it almost looked solid! the foam rose to the top of the candle holder, and i was scared it would spill over, so i started blowing gently at the centre of the candle, near the wick.

blowing at the boiling wax started to break the bubbles and halt its rise, and strangely, also kept the candle going, because the bubbles had crossed the level of the wick.

i decided to take my chances and stop blowing, and see what happens.

the foam of wax bubbles extinguished the flame, and the foam died down almost immediately.

i tried lighting the candle again, to check if i could reproduce the phenomenon. sure enough, i could.

i then tried waking shruti up, to show her the candle's strange behaviour.

it was early in the morning, barely past sunrise, and shruti understandably took her time to wake up, and definitely wasn't interested in watching the candle.

meanwhile, the wax cooled down, so when i tried lighting the candle again, it didn't boil over. irritated, shruti went back to sleep, while i continued to watch the candle burn.

sure enough, after a few minutes, the wax began to boil again.

i extinguished the candle before it fully boiled to the top.

i woke shruti up again, and told her to check out the candle. she told me the candle was off.

i turned to light it again, and then realized the candle was solid, and hadn't melted or boiled at all.

in fact, it was all a dream!

ps: i then did light the candle, just for this photo :D

fitness tracking

i purchased an activity tracking watch (garmin forerunner 235) around the end of november. it was an impulse buy, because i saw some discoun...