Thursday, June 17, 2021

optimism, pessimism, realism... or none of these

i used to think of myself as an optimist: one who sees the best possible outcome in everything.

but i realized that optimism unfounded in reality is not just pointless, it's self-defeating.

and so i decided to be realistic.

but there is actually no such thing as realistic.

reality continues to confound me in unpredictable, unforseen ways.

sometimes, when i realize this, i become pessimistic.

at other times, i just choose to ignore the realization and plod on, mindlessly.

eat, sleep, work, repeat.

at those times, i try not to think too much. because when i start thinking, i can't stop.

what's the point of it all?

what happens when the things (i use that term loosely) that are supposed to give meaning, actually end up taking it away?

it's a strange place to find myself in, and i find myself in the same strange place time and again.

perhaps it's still time to eat, sleep, work and hope i can keep this repeating until things change. in my head, or in the world around.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

post-second-wave?

it's ironic that a little under a year ago, I wrote a blog post about the pandemic being over. it certainly wasn't!

once again, pandemic restrictions are easing up, we can finally do things we couldn't do for the last few months, like travelling, meeing friends, eating out. and all of that is nice.

but there's evidence that this isn't the end of the pandemic. there's already the numbers creeping up in parts of the UK, even though everyone with authority is currently maintaining it's not cause for concern.

there is a research paper I read yesterday about how the most popularly administered vaccine in the UK (and India) isn't very effective against the newest strain of COVID-19.

and of course, the situation in some parts of the world hasn't improved as much as it's improved in the parts we've been paying attention to.

on one hand it makes me happy that most of the world has learned to live with the pandemic.

on the other hand, it makes me sad that the divide between those who have and those who haven't has widened.

i feel that more than ever, it's time the "haves" step-up and focus on helping the "have-nots" level up. not just for altruistic reasons, but because the world really needs it. the pandemic happened for the same reason, and it has played out exactly the way it has, for the same selfish reasons.

the sooner we realize selifhs behaviour only works in the short-tem, the sooner we can build a better world for everyone (including ourselves).

the heartbeat of memories

it's strange how easy it is to fall into this mode of "nothingness" even though you're doing the right things.

I think I have observed this over and over again, but never realized why.

Funnily enough, today, I ended up listening to a podcast by Dr Julia Shaw (more like the soundtrack of a recording of a presentation she gave employees of my workplace) that reminded me why, in a simple line: "the heartbeat of your mind has been missing"

Life during the pandemic has (for me) actually been objectively better than pre-pandemic. Yes, I might be among the lucky few who can say that.

But it has also been more of a blur than any other time of my life. And it's probably because my mind has been missing its' heartbeat.

I've been too bored to shake things up, when there have been more opportunities than ever to do so.

Luckily for me, it's Friday evening, I have taken up a few new challenges (8000 steps a day for the month of June, 51 minutes of cycling or running a week to celebrate 51 years since the start of the "pride" movement), joined a book club with old friends I've been out of touch with, and hopefully, in a week or two, I'll be embarking on a new project.

Let's hope I can keep my mind active and beating, and keep changing things over the months and years to come!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

anti-social media

the less you use Facebook, the more dysfunctional it seems to get. is their algorithm bad or is there a subtle plot to encourage people to be regular users? same experience with Instagram too, until I finally uninstalled it 🤦‍♂️ 

stepping away from twitter for a few years and then getting back made me realize it was always a super-high signal to noise ratio that wasn't useful unless I spent hours on it.

is social media dead? has social media always been dead? 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

setup your own domain and "burner" email addresses

Ever since I purchased krist0ph3r.com 7 years ago, I have been figuring what best to do with what seemed like a frivolous purchase.

Having a handy link for this blog is nice, but the biggest use has actually been quite unanticipated: using "burner" email addresses for sites i sign up to. this means I can sign up to every site with a unique email address, and nobody knows it's the same human. which makes my online experience much safer and more private than the average internet user.

If you think this is something you want/need to do, this is my handy guide - takes about 10 minutes if you know what you're doing, maybe a little more if you sign up with a user-unfriendly domain service. for reference, it took me a couple of days to get right the first time, but has worked absolutely perfectly ever since - so perfectly, that i completely forgot how I did it when a friend asked me to replicate the setup for him!

Anyway, here goes:

  1. Buy your domain. It could be any domain (.com or the more interesting/quirky/local TLDs all will work). Just make sure you buy it from a provider that offers a basic control panel that allows you to setup custom DNS records. Nothing fancy, just custom MX and TXT records. Ask their sales team if you aren't sure. This is (at the time of writing) your only expense for the most basic setup. I've used namecheap.com (because it's cheap! but it's also probably the simplest interface to get the job done. Takes no more than 5 minutes here if you're a slow reader) but I have also used other providers that I can't remember any more, and all of them have worked well. Notably, godaddy.com works but is super user-unfriendly as I discovered while helping a friend do his setup yesterday. I haven't tried this with subdomains, so no idea if you can set that up - DNS does support subdomains but I haven't tried to even read up.
  2. Setup an email address to receive your emails. Could be any address on any provider, a new one or an existing one (in which case no setup required - but I don't recommend this). I use gmail, because it allows some interesting things (and used to allow more things than it currently supports, unfortunately they've been trying to monetize the platform so things aren't as easy/free any more). For the basic stuff, any email will do.
  3. Signup at improvmx.com - this is the site that makes the catch-all burner email setup possible. It's free at the time of writing, and has been free for at least 7 years now, with some premium features that you don't need to get this setup done. They need your domain, and the email you need to forward it to. Don't create aliases unless you need this - just one (*) will do the job.
  4. Use the step-by-step view at improvmx.com for guidance regarding the DNS setup. In short, it's two things: setting up 2 MX records (to route mails from your domain to improvmx's servers) and a TXT record so improvmx knows it's you. I had my domain without the TXT record all these years and it worked, so I'm assuming the TXT record bit has been added in the last few years. For completeness, these are the two MX records I needed setup:
    • Host: @  Value: mx1.improvmx.com Priority: 10
    • Host: @  Value: mx2.improvmx.com Priority: 20
  5. Wait a few minutes for DNS records to propagate (shouldn't take too long, but you never know - 30 minutes max). Send a test mail (send it from an unrelated email address to be sure it's working) and it should show up in your inbox! Improvmx is quick and reliable :)
All geeky happiness aside, this solution has one glaring deficiency: you can't easily send mail from your burner email addresses. Sending mail needs a SMTP server and while these used to be common a few years ago, they aren't any more (for a good reason - SMTP servers open to 3rd party domains are the easiest target to bounce spam mail off!). My own solution is to setup a SMTP server on my own machine, dynamic dns aka ddns (namecheap comes with ddns support and a "beta" client, not bad!), port forwarding on my router, and finally point my gmail to it. And only turn it on when I need to send a mail - because I don't want spammers to be taking advantage of my pc! This is definitely not for the faint-hearted/technologically challenged, and definitely not as easy as getting incoming mail setup. There are easier ways to do this, but these aren't free, so I haven't bothered trying them out.

Either way, that's it for now. I might write the SMTP/outgoing mail guide later, and I definitely need to write up the bit where you can point your domain and custom subdomains to your blog(s) - probably more for myself than anyone else.

Have fun and stay safe!

Friday, March 26, 2021

boring

this is probably not the first time i'm feeling this in the last one year... but i'm bored. proper bored.

i'm on top of my work, email, chores, sleep.

i have a decent balance of entertainment via music, movies, south park, books, blogs, web-comics, chatting with friends (somehow even my friends don't seem to be chatting as much as they used to).

i've been cycling when i can. more than usual, in fact.

nothing interesting is happening at the moment. all the interesting things that could happen are time-bound and will/might happen sometime in the future.

i don't even have weird dreams any more.

Friday, March 12, 2021

the path to normal

it's reassuring to see news of COVID-19 infection and death rates falling, hearing about vaccination successes, and reading about leaders' reassurances that this unlock is "one way" and we can firmly put the last 12 months behind us.

the timing couldn't be better, as today is exactly one year since I started working from home, as part of the pre-pandemic precautions by my employer.

it's easy to see normal as the way things were before the pandemic hit: meeting friends and family, traveling for vacations, not having to worry about how close we were to others, or even the chances of infecting each other (one slice of wedding cake shared by 8 people on our wedding day, seems quite unimaginable now!)

but this return to normal is also an opportunity to not normalize things we did earlier without thinking about the consequences. everyone's list will be different, but here's mine:

  • physical activity and the outdoors: i never realized how much my well being is dependent on it. going out is forced on you if you're commuting, but when working from home, it really becomes vital. and that's when I realized the quality of "outdoors" matters - as does the quality of activity when outdoors.
  • food: in the rush of our daily lives pre-pandemic, food often took a backseat. just throw something together, eat it, pack the leftovers for tomorrow, eat in a hurry, eat while working. but one year of working from home and eating from home taught me that there's much more to food than just that. that quick-fixes may give time but take away health and energy in exchange. sometimes immediately, sometimes long-term and subtly. after almost one year of "detox" i can't imagine going back to how things used to be.
  • relationships: one year with shruti, locked indoors for the most part, and with her even when out and about, taught me the value of maintaining healthy relationships. when we can't distract ourselves with other people, or even work, we were forced to focus on what really keeps us going. when we get back to our office lives, socializing with our respective circles, etc., we will never try to use those things as distractions/ways to tide over problems in our relationship. it's more difficult, but more rewarding.
  • free time: this year has given me more free time than ever. at the start, I pretty much ran out of things to do! not any more. I have learned to focus on things that energize me, instead of taking the easy way out and distracting myself.
  • communication: this year has been an overdose of calls, video calls, texting, and also of other less fulfilling forms of communication like forwards, endless scrolling through pointless posts and websites. i have cut down on my "online time" (ironic, given that i'm blogging at the moment) and online distractions to focus on meaningful communication.
I'm sure i'll think of more, but it's time to sleep now.

happy "new normal" to you!

optimism, pessimism, realism... or none of these

i used to think of myself as an optimist: one who sees the best possible outcome in everything. but i realized that optimism unfounded in re...