Saturday, February 23, 2019


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).

Saturday, February 09, 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.

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