Thursday, February 20, 2020

motorcycle servicing

I was in Mumbai on vacation. but I hadn't taken a flight there from Belfast - I had taken a ferry! and that was because I wanted to ride my UK bike (Vicki) and not my India bike (Carly) this time. I was quite nervous about having a big bike in Mumbai though. parking at my parents place was tight - it was pretty hard to get Carly into position, and Vicki had double the turning radius! I also got stopped by cops because Vicki doesn't have a number plate in front, but they did buy my story about having shipped her down for a month - not sure how, but I showed them everything from my passport, to my UK residence permit, Indian and UK licenses, my return tickets, and obviously my bike papers. I remember thinking to myself that I don't have a carnet (the legal document most countries require to temporarily allow foreign-registered vehicles). phew.

also, I happened to bump into my regular mechanic. he was in awe of my big bike. I told him the story of how I moved to the UK, etc. he asked me if there was any work that had to be done on it. I told him I wanted to learn to do an oil change myself. asked him if he had any idea what sort of oil filter would go in. he didn't know, but  he would take a look and see, while we were doing the oil change.

next I knew, I was riding on the highway somewhere. it was definitely somewhere far, and I didn't find it familiar. and then, I saw a mechanic by the highway. with plenty of big, imported bikes outside. I decided I should get the bike checked here. I rode in, asked if they'd service my bike - nothing major, just oiling and greasing, and free up the brakes (I have a problem with the brakes binding with the disc). the main mechanic was a lady, who definitely didn't look Indian - seemed more British or Irish in fact. the people working for her seemed like locals though. they all wore a dark blue uniform. they got down to work, while she supervised them. they oiled everything, took the brake pads off and re-set them after a cleaning. while putting the bike back together, they installed an engine immobiliser as well. strangely, they didn't ask me if I wanted one - just fitted it. in fact, I didn't even get a chance to see how and where they fit it. the immobiliser came with a remote, that I added to my keychain. it was multicoloured, back-lit, and had 4 buttons. it looked sealed, so I wondered what I'd do if the battery runs out. I asked the lady where exactly the immobiliser was attached/wired in to the bike. she refused to tell me, claiming that once the word was out the bike would be easy to steal. that didn't make sense, but she refused to budge.

service done, I was ready to ride off. I asked her how much. 125 rupees! that was shockingly cheap, so cheap I wondered if she meant pounds (although 125 pounds would be a fair bit more than what I expected to pay). I asked her if I could pay by card, still not believing the bill could be that low. she said that only cash would be accepted. I checked my wallet, and I didn't have any rupees - only pounds. I offered to overpay generously, but she insisted that I pay in rupees, and in cash.

I tried to convince her that I needed an oil change shortly, and I will come back for that with enough cash on hand. she agreed, reminding me that she could disable my bike with the immobiliser if she wanted to. 

I left, wondering how I'd explain to my regular mechanic why I didn't need an oil change after all. 

and that's when I woke up. 

Saturday, February 08, 2020

the problem with trying to solve people problems

i've always felt the urge to solve human problems. mine as well as those that are not directly mine, but indirectly affect me (every problem affects everyone!)

my own problems are usually simple: the solution is usually about doing something that seems obvious but not very appealing. and the solution is usually incremental - i got here through many tiny steps in the wrong direction, and i just have to retrace/go the opposite way and i'm sorted. the big bang problems are generally not obviously visible to me until someone calls me out on it, and in that case as well, the solution is usually tiny steps in the opposite direction.

when it comes to problems that are indirectly mine though, it's interesting. as an outsider, tiny incremental steps by others in the right direction seem inconsequential, and i tend to focus my thoughts on chunkier things. the reasons for this are many:

  • for every person seeming to do the right thing, there are others doing the exact opposite. unless there's an overwhelming majority moving in the positive direction, it's easy to get lost in the perception bias and conclude there is no net effect
  • solving problems incrementally depends on consistency, and it's hard to perceive consistency in other people.
  • it's hard to tell if tiny incremental steps are due to an over-arching strategy or just correlation. if it's the latter then nothing is being solved since the above 2 points are dominant.
  • the obvious possibility that i'm wrong - if it's tiny steps, how do i correlate cause and effect on a macro level?
i could probably go on all day. but in short, that's why small steps do not lend themselves well to observation and solutions of people problems. and so, i'm unavoidably attracted to big picture problems/solutions. but again, trying to solve big problems, leads to a strange progression of thought: every problem leads to an underlying, even bigger problem. sometimes it leads to multiple problems. and eventually it leads to such a big problem that the solution seems to be... annihilation of the human race. that is a definite, conclusive solution to all people problems, isn't it?

but if that's the solution, isn't that where we're headed after all? why speed up a process when my now nihilistic perception of our race already predicts that as the inevitable destination?

and if that's the solution for our race, why should I attempt to go the other way?

nihilism quickly leads to hedonism - if we're doomed, we might as well enjoy the journey, and damn the consequences, right?

but then, i'm no longer part of the solution: i'm now part of the problem! and that's obviously something I don't want to be, because if that's what everyone else was, we'd be brought to a pretty swift end.

in short: since we have arrived at a contradiction, my premise must be incorrect: there's no point in solving big problems that affect other members of society before they affect me.

so, i must solve my own problems. fine.

but as part of solving my own problems, if i do not try to let others reuse my solutions if they desire, am i not wasting my solution?

so, i must solve my own problems incrementally, while helping others solve theirs by speaking about mine.

but again, i need to know what problems i'm solving for others, so that i'm not just pouring out an overwhelming stream-of-consciousness thatg dilutes my solutions to the point of them being lost, right? and for that i need to know what problems i want to solve for them!

there sees to be no correct approach to this, so i'm probably going to pick a few thing I feel are important, and focus on them consciously.

watch this space.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

my problem with everything

  1. too much opinion, too little fact. way too much opinion passed off as fact.
  2. nobody talks about their intentions. everybody can see what, nobody knows why.
  3. judging everyone who is too different for us to ignore.
  4. "patching" of problems instead of moving towards real solutions.
  5. the world has been rewired to keep us on a stimulant cycle.
  6. there is no common goal, or even the motivation to find one.
  7. i have fallen into all of the above traps and am currently refusing to get out.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

the mask that became me

i think it's time to remind myself that everyone lives behind their masks, and the only thing different about this new layer is that it has been externally prompted. maybe it's time to be thankful that i've gotten this far without having to feel this way.

- Kris, almost 4 years ago

i've thought long and hard about why i don't blog like i used to. it's easy to blame things on being busy, but that's not the real reason.

this blog never really was a commentary about the world around me. it was about me.

and there's something that's changed about me that i can't really bring myself to show from under the mask.

we all have our secrets. our dark side, even. and unlike in the movies, we can't just embrace it dramatically in public. we could, but then we'd probably be quickly consumed by our inner demons or something (i don't know. i've been too afraid to see what happens when i let loose).

life seems fragile.

trying to be be the best version of yourself means there's too much at stake: too many chances to do something you'll regret for a long time.

my mind always seeks out the worst case scenario. sometimes, it seems like it's the only way i can keep myself away from the path of quick self destruction.

but that path sometimes seems like slow self destruction.

another rushed morning, another day at work that passed in a blink, another mindless evening that would probably be kept sane if i don't assert myself or think too much, another night of not enough sleep (even if it's sometimes 12 hours).

halfhearted attempts at eating healthy because i've wired myself to guilt-trip every time i do something else, getting to my activity goals because my phone reminds me to.

because: why?

most of what I do is not because I want to do it. i don't even know what I want to do. when I start thinking about it, everything falls apart.

i remember this friend who, over 15 years ago, said he hits the bottle every night he's alone because that's the best way to stop thinking, because when you think too much, everything falls apart.

i thought he was addicted or something. maybe he was. but i now know how he felt.

anyway.

it's not that terrible.

my problems are possibly not that bad. i know plenty others who have it worse.

my problem is that i thought i could see through everyone else's mask without attempting to see beyond mine.

and, so, here i am. at the end of a long winded blog post that lost its point, just like i did. just like (or so it seems to me) humanity did.

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.

motorcycle servicing

I was in Mumbai on vacation. but I hadn't taken a flight there from Belfast - I had taken a ferry! and that was because I wanted to ride...