Monday, December 09, 2019

LOLCODE

I was going through my photo backups, trying to find duplicates, and get rid of half of them.
Unfortunately, the duplicate images had identical names (and the date was in the name, so it had to be the same image, but the sizes were different. Since data is cheap (but photos are priceless), i decided to keep the biggest copy of each image.

But i digress.

In the process of  double checking I was doing the right thing by deleting 489 indentically named but differently sized images, I happened to open one of them. It was a photo of a screen:

This is code I wrote in 2015. That I took a photo of because I wanted to remember for posterity.

One can't let such excellent code go to waste. And so, I found an online LOLCODE interpreter (possibly the same one I used to write it in 2015) and typed it word for word. It ran! (yes, those guys who wrote the language were smart enough to include the version of its spec in the code - why doesn't anyone else do that?)

ps: anyone want to decipher what it does without running it yourself? Here you go:

HAI 1.2
 I HAS A CHEEZ ITZ 0, I HAS A CHEEZBURGER ITZ 1, I HAS A MONEY ITZ 5
 IM IN YR LOOP UPPIN YR CHEEZ WILE BOTH SAEM CHEEZ AN SMALLR OF CHEEZ AN MONEY
  BOTH SAEM CHEEZ AN MONEY, O RLY?
   YA RLY, VISIBLE SMOOSH CHEEZ "!=" CHEEZBURGER MKAY
   NO WAI, CHEEZBURGER R PRODUKT OF CHEEZBURGER AN SUM OF CHEEZ AN 1
  OIC
 IM OUTTA YR LOOP
KTHXBYE

Saturday, December 07, 2019

imprisoned in japan

i was part of a small team of people selected for this mission. we were strapped into pressurized suits that almost were spacesuits. we were given strict directions: we were to inspect this huge floating steel structure for damage, and report back. we would be followed around and be in constant radio contact with the craft that dropped us at the point where we would start our mission: a platform that looked like a helipad, but on the underside of the structure. the craft looked almost like some sort of alien spaceship, except that it wasn't flying saucer shaped.

when we got out, it was dark, but we could see the glow of the horizon. we were very, very high up. so high up, that nobody on the ground could see this structure floating over the earth. it was a structure that circled the earth, part of a failed project to revolutionize intercontinental travel. since it circled the earth, it held itself up, and wasn't connected to the ground anywhere.

one last instruction was repeated before we started our mission: it's paramount that we stay together and don't deviate from the plan. we had limited time and oxygen, and the craft that we just got out of couldn't get very close to the structure, so if anything went wrong, there would be limited options for rescue. and if we fell, we'd just burn up on the way down.

i was somewhere in the middle of the pack of our team: about 6 or 8 of us. one of the guys had a bulkier suit, and he had the emergency rescue equipment. we had to stay within range of him at all times. couple of the other guys had cutting equipment to take samples.

moving around at that altitude was weird at first, but then it became fun once i got used to it. gravity was significantly lower, and we had to anyway get around by hopping from spot to spot. it felt quite similar to how i imagined astronauts would get around on the moon, except that it wasn't solid ground here, just an endless lattice of layer after layer of girders.

we had some pretty bright floodlights attached to each of us, and it wasn't very hard to see what we were doing or where we were going, or even what the rest of the team was doing.

the horizon was beginning to get orange, more like the colours of a sunset than a sunrise. the sky was an inky clear blue.

i never looked down, but i did glimpse some lights far below us. we were so high up, we couldn't tell land from water - just splotches of twinkling swarms of light. those were probably entire cities.

i was more focused on getting around.

i was enjoying getting around. leaping from girder to girder, the way you'd imagine a chimp in a forest. using my arms and legs, pushing myself sideways, swinging myself around on a girder. all the while, i had my high speed 180 degree camera on, recording video of the girders and their condition.

the girders were thick and solid. the sort you'd expect to be strong enough to hold a skyscraper up. but there was evidence of corrosion. the paint had flaked off in most places, and the metal had spots of rust. some parts were completely rusted on the surface, but they were still solid and thick - there's no way such heavy metals could have rusted through and through. we were told to avoid touching rusted spots with our bodies though, as there was a risk rusted edges could cut or pierce our suits.

i moved swiftly and as deftly as i could, avoiding those rusty patches, taking bigger and more ambitious leaps, looking for a spot to grab on to only while i was mid leap, making a split second decision about which girder to grab, or if there wasn't any safe enough, kick at a girder to launch myself again into another leap.

it was exhilarating.

the rescue guy warned me i was moving too quickly, and he was having trouble keeping all of us in range.

the radio operator on the craft told us everyone (including msyelf) had made better progress than anticipated, and it was almost time for us to return. he gave us a few minutes more, and instructed us to move to the next landing pad (some distance away) in time.

and that's when i slipped. it was a badly judged leap, i hit my "foot" sideways on the girder, and bounced off. i heard the rescue guy panic as he saw me miss.

i still remember the scene. the sky getting light (but not quite), the earth a shimmering dark mass, no longer dominated by tiny twinkling lights. it was probably dawn on the ground, or almost so. the girders bright enough for us to see without our lights. the bright but cold light of the sun almost dazzling us through our tinted 360 degree visors.

everything seemed to happen in slow motion.

i managed to grab another girder with my finger as i flew past it. just about. it didn't stop me, but slowed me down and swung me towards another girder. i grabbed it and hung on, while my breath and heart beat caught up with me. something started beeping. probably my heart monitor or the radio, i was too panicked to tell. i was hanging from the underside of the girder. below me was nothing but thousands of metres of thin air - and eventually solid ground or ocean. i couldn't even look.

everyone rushed towards me. everyone was trying to get me on the radio. i finally managed to mumble that i'm okay. the radio guy on the craft said the mission is over RIGHT NOW!

the rescue guy latched on to me from a distance with a special magnetic link attached to a long cable.

and then i blacked out.

the next thing i remember, i was in a hospital bed. it was a somewhat shabby hospital, and it lacked air conditioning - there was a table fan whirring. it smelled like a hospital, but also slightly musty. the walls were discoloured, as if there's been a bit of dampness seeping. there were no windows. just two doors, near opposite corners of the room.

i was strapped down in the bed. i had a leg in a cast. i had sheets over me so i couldn't see what i was wearing, but i suspected it was a hospital gown.

not long after i woke up, a lady came over to my bed side. she was wearing a nurse's uniform. she looked asian. probably japanese, i thought. i didn't think i'd have ended up in korea or china.

she asked me how i felt. somehow i don't remember anything about her voice - or her face. but i do remember she was quite gentle. she took my pulse, checked my blood pressure, and asked if i would like to have the restraints removed from my hands.

i was too full of questions to answer her, but she told me to be quiet as soon as i started with the first one. she said we were being listened to, and we'd have to move out from here soon, so i had to make the most of the hospital for as long as i was allowed to be here.

she asked me about any aches and pains, while lying down, while moving my head, or arms. she asked me to sit up and took my leg (which was in a cast) out of its sling. she asked me to move without getting off the bed, and let me know if i had any aches, stiffness or anything out of the ordinary. i told her the only thing that seemed out of the ordinary was my leg in a cast.

she asked me if i was hungry. i was, so she went through one of the doors and brought me a bowl of soup in a plastic bowl, with a plastic soup spoon. she asked me if i wanted to try eating it myself.

i put my hand out to take the bowl, but it was shaking wildly. it was almost out of control. try as much as i could, i couldn't get it steady. holding the bowl was not a good idea. trying to have the soup was out of the question.

she sat beside me on the bed and fed me the soup. when done, she helped me up, and gave me a crutch. i was too unsteady to walk with the crutch, so she had to prop me up on one shoulder while i had the crutch under my other shoulder. she struggled with my weight, but we managed.

the other room had a wash basin, a kitchennette, and some cabinets. very basic and furnished with stuff that looked exactly like this one hospital i was in as a kid.

while washing my hands, she whispered in my ear that nobody in this hospital knows why i'm here. we can only talk in secret while the water's running. while we were in the main room, we were being watched through a one way glass in one of the walls.it could be a person or a camera, we'd never know. but they were also listening in both rooms. she told me there will be time for me to ask questions, but for now i had to focus on recovering and getting out of this place where we were being watched and listened to all the time.

back in the other room, she told me it's best i rested so i could recover quickly. i couldn't move unassisted anyway, and this hospital didn't have elevators and i wouldn't be able to manage the stairs, so i might as well stay in bed as much as i could.

i spent most of my days sleeping and waking. there was no clock on the wall, and i didn't have my watch either. in fact, i didn't have anything. not even my old clothes. i tried asking her, but she told me it's too soon to ask questions.

i asked her if i could at least see the daylight, as i had been indoors and the room had no windows or clock. she opened the other door, and daylight streamed in. there were trees outside, and i could see the narrow corridor running outside the room, but not much else. people passed by, mostly in hospital overalls but nobody looked inside or showed any sort of curiosity.

once i was back on my feet and able to walk about we moved to a small apartment. nearby. i remember we took a cab to get there. it was a white coloured cab. i don't remember there being any bags or stuff that had to be moved - it was just the two of us moving empty handed. i don't remember what I was wearing but it wasn't a hospital gown any more. she was dressed in regular clothes as well. i had become quite used to this enclosed, convalescent life, her quiet company and just doing what i was told. and i wasn't even curious about my surroundings, despite it being weeks since i was outside and this was a completely alien city. all i remember was that the streets were lined with trees, and they looked quite green from the cab.

the apartment was on the first floor and there was no elevator.

(note: at this point i forgot about this post, so there are now huge gaps in my recollection! the rest is what I remember now, which is more of just glimpses from the dream)

i wasn't keeping track of the days, but it must have been a while. i was eventually allowed to go out alone for walks. i didn't want to speak to anyone. i was never given anything to do when i went outside. i sometimes jogged when i felt like it.

one morning i jogged further than i remember going before. i tried to keep my route as simple as possible so i don't get lost on my way back. i was in a weird run down suburb which had one huge swanky looking hotel smack in the middle of it. i stopped to catch my breath and decide whether to turn back. i had gone far enough for today, for sure. as i was turning around to head back, i saw a guy get out of the hotel's front entrance and light up a cigarette.

he must have been the first person i actually paid attention to besides my nurse/attendant since the incident. and he was Will.I.Am!

I walked up to him and said hi, asked if he didn't mind me chatting with him while he's smoking. I told him I was on a walk and ended up here, and it's quite a surprise to see him. He said sure, he wouldn't mind a walk himself. We walked (sauntered, actually) and I asked him if he remembered me. He was surprised and asked if we've met before. I told him i was one of the guys on stage at a gig of his many years ago. I don't remember now if I was supposed to have been singing or dancing (given that I'm quite terrible at both!), but I was part of a bunch of guys who were behind him. He asked me which gig, where and which song. I told him, and he still couldn't remember me. I thought that's understandable, given the number of gigs he's done over the years, and that it was just one song. But then he suddenly remembered the live video of that gig is probably on youtube. He whipped out his phone, searched for it, and sure enough, he found the video!

I recognized it and yes, that was the one! We stopped walking and played through the video together until there was a close up hot of him with 4 guys behind on stake. I was like yes! That's me! The third guy! He paused the video, looked at it with a puzzled expression.

I looked at the scene more carefully myself on the tiny phone screen. I knew I was third from camera in the row of guys. But it wasn't me! It was a guy who looked completely different from me!

I told him I'm very glad I met him and this will probably change my life from now on, but I had to go back. He was very confused by the abruptness of my reaction and just stood there surprised while I ran back towards where I had thought I had come from (we were walking in a slightly different direction, I was hoping I wasn't lost, but I had to run!)

I realized everything that had been happening since the incident has been some sort of massive game. I was being brainwashed! I was being planted with fake memories! I was losing who I really was!

As I ran, I tried to think back. I tried to remember my past. But most of it was blank. I had few weird glimpses of memories, but they were jumbled and confusing. Nothing made sense, there was no timeline or consistency of my memories. In fact, in one of them, I was a little girl!

As I turned the corner and could see the apartment, I concluded I was being imprisoned in my mind.

And that's when I woke up.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

forgotten blogs

i opened my rss reader today after years. i'm guessing those guys who run it assumed i'm never coming back, because when i signed in, everything was unread. i read post after post. some interesting, but mostly mindless. all of them said they were posted today... until i clicked through to the actual site and it showed the real date: 2 years ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago.

i wondered to myself, what happened to these blogs? what happened to these bloggers?

did life happen? (that's a joke. life always happens - but people still blogged 10 years ago, while life was happening)

did they find better things to do?

are they numb and bored, sharing facebook post after post, retweeting to hundreds or thousands of bots and a few humans who follow them, adding a word or an emoticon as their only contribution?

are they snapchatting with weird animal eyes and mouths and freaky lights?

are they too busy binge watching their favourite show that just has a new season coming out?

are they keeping up with hundreds of messages that flood their whatsapp and facebook groups, some from friends but mostly strangers, or people who might as well be?

either way, they seem to have found better things to do than good old writing. putting stuff up for posterity, for the world to see.

or maybe, it's because the world isn't interested any more. who but the most deranged of the bunch have the time to scroll through screen after screen of tiny, monospaced text, often in strange colours?

i was going to close my reader and let those guys forget i existed once again.

but then i happened to click through one of the posts.

a dark poem that hit home.

it was written today.

i sent a comment. said hello to the fellow. thanked him for writing something real.

he hasn't forgotten his blog.

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

Saturday, February 23, 2019

words

today, I happened to watch this 2012 movie, "a thousand words". it wasn't a particularly great movie, but the concept got me thinking. it's about this dashing go-getter of a guy who through some barely explained mystic quirk of fate, ends up with just 1000 words left in his life - after he says those 1000 words, he's supposed to die.

about halfway though the movie, for some reason, i didn't particularly want to speak any more. there were things i was going to say, but instead of vocalizing them, i just ran them through my head.

after a few instances of this, i was almost convinced it'd be a nice experiment to conduct.

we're surrounded by words. we're continuously speaking, listening, reading... and if nothing else, thinking. in words.

in fact, one thing about this increasingly connected world that we live in, is that it's overly dominated by words. even a picture-dominated place like my instagram feed, for example, wouldn't be much (i think) without the captions.

is it possible that, by over-emphasizing the linguistic centres of our brains, we're letting the rest of it atrophy?

and so, shruti and i decided: we'll try to keep speaking to a minimum. we'll do our best to communicate non-verbally.

but that's just one aspect of the experiment for me.

i want to enhance my non-linguistic thinking.

i remember this one time when i was so overwhelmed by the amount of music that was playing in my head, that i decided to give up voluntarily listening to music until my mind was in silence again.

it took me about 3 weeks.

after those 3 weeks, i enjoyed about one week of inner silence.

that was about 6 years ago (i think).

language seems to be more difficult to avoid. the overwhelming majority of things that seem to occupy me, involve words. i can't text people. i can't speak to them. i can't use facebook. i can't read books. heck, i can't work!

and this also means i can no longer communicate with people who aren't physically in front of me.

so i'm guessing this experiment can't be absolute, like the music one.

but i'm gonna give it a try anyway.

let's see how long it takes before words stop running through my mind all the time!

Monday, February 11, 2019

moving abroad and keeping your old number

i should probably write a post about all the aspects of moving abroad, but until then, this post about a problem I only recently solved to my satisfaction will be a start :D

so one of the bigger problems related to moving abroad is related to your phone number. if you, like me, have used the same number for a while (13 years!), you probably wouldn't want to let go of it that easily. also, you probably have stuff linked to your mobile number that you simply cannot or sometimes would rather not link to your number in a different country. in general, you have three options:


  1. activate international roaming, and keep your old number active. this might turn out to be expensive. not sure about other countries, but in india it's way more expensive to keep a number active for an extended period on international roaming. and then you need both sims (old and new) to be in a phone to be useful. my phone forces me to choose between a second sim and a memory card, and i would be quite sore if i had to take out my 128gb memory card out!
  2. find a way to forward everything without having the sim in a phone. again, calls are expensive to forward, especially if the majority of them are spam calls. i have no idea if forwarding sms without the sim being in a phone is even possible!
  3. give the sim to someone trusted (either pop it into their dual sim phone or give it to them with a phone that's frequently checked) and keep it active remotely. this obviously works only if you have someone trusted who is willing to take calls on your behalf.
after carefully considering option 1, i went with option 3.

there are a few operational hurdles with this approach though:

  • the person needs to take calls on your behalf (obviously!)
  • sms needs to be forwarded somehow.
in my case, i don't get many personal calls (do i even get any personal calls? i don't think i have, in the last 7 months!) so the first concern isn't a big deal - all my trusted custodian needs to do is politely decline (and also tell them the number no longer belongs to me, in the hope it reduces unwanted calls!).

when it comes to sms though, it's a slightly more complicated problem: most phones that i know of do not let me access sms remotely out of the box. my first solution was to ask my custodian to forward sms to me on whatsapp. it was quite a bit of work though, as i actually get a LOT of sms! there's also timezone constraints, which are a significant problem. an automated solution is the obvious answer.

i've been using smsbackup+ for a long time (ever since i started using android, some 10 years ago!), but it was for archival purposes - when i tried using it for remote access, i realized that sms took about half an hour to be sync'd, despite it being set to 3 minutes in the app! this defeated the purpose of using it, as many (probably all) uses of sms as a form of two factor authentication are time bound to a 30 minute limit.

so then, my next option was IFTTT (if this then that) - a very flexible digital automation tool that also supports forwarding sms to email as well as saving it in a google docs spreadsheet with all metadata - perfect!

except that it randomly stops working in realtime, and then i'm stuck with the problem that smsbackup+ had.

and so i found a two pronged strategy: ifttt is on all the time, but if i need realtime sms and it's not working, i have a plan b - airdroid. airdroid lets me remotely access the messages on the custodian's phone. it's so good, i probably don't even need ifttt!

also, there seems to be a tendency for some phones to close background apps to save power, so you need to make sure these apps do not get cleaned up to save power.

tl;dr: if you have a trusted person willing to keep a phone charged and connected to wifi, install ifttt, setup the sms to email and sms to google docs plugins, and then install aidroid + enable messaging access, and disable power saving for both apps (cos some phones tend to aggressively close apps to save power).

Sunday, February 10, 2019

terms of endearment

recently, when thinking about the factlet that eskimos have over 50 terms that describe snow, i realized that my wife and i have over 10 ten "secret" terms we use with each other... to call each other fat.

in fact, we have entire conversations that solely involve calling each other fat. there may be days when the only chats we've had involve calling each other fat (and that carries over to in-person conversations as well - though not as exclusively). we usually start and end conversations with calling each other fat. when we want to call each other, we frequently simply call each other fat.

we have never actually used the word fat though. it's always mild metaphors. in fact we use these terms so frequently that we now use acronyms. we have acronyms for combinations of these terms. we sometimes say those acronyms to each other on the phone and in person instead of expanding them. we have even created backronyms for fat.

we call each other fat so often that we have even forgotten that they mean "fat"

in hindsight, it's amazing how we have evolved our own language to communicate endearment while effectively calling each other fat.

ironically, we're not particularly fat (although opinions might differ), and there was a time when shruti was positively thin - i had to repeatedly tell her that she really doesn't need to lose any more weight, or she'd be unhealthily thin!

it's like how most people mostly use the f-word without associating it with sex.

like all languages, i'm sure this one will continue to evolve.

but we'll probably continue to call each other fat.

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

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!

LOLCODE

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