Not Today

June 22, 2018 Leave a comment

Something is troubling you.

You do not know what it is. You cannot pinpoint it. You try to turn the dial to bring into sharp focus the spectrum of emotions so you can hear them clearly – but find only vague incoherent static. The tuning mechanism of your life-radio is broken; you cannot tune out the static.

It’s not a sharp pain. It’s a dull, undefined general feeling of malaise and unease. It’s not isolated or diagnosed to a particular cause. It’s just there – pervading your general life experience. Like that persistent irritation which will not go away no matter how many times you clear your throat. Like that headache which doesn’t stop you in your tracks, but doesn’t let you ignore it either.

So you keep going about your daily routine. And there is no problem as such. But you frown when you wake up in the morning, as you have to make an effort to throw off the covers and drag yourself out of bed. You stare for a few seconds too long, first at the wall as you sit up on the bed trying to will yourself off it, then at the stream of water emerging out of the faucet in the bathroom, avoiding looking at yourself in the mirror when you brush. You don’t even really want to brush your teeth, but you do. You forego the shave, however – that one day old black stubble is like … glitter. It’s there, betraying you to the world if they care to look closely. You iron your shirt, but not your trousers. Your shoes stay unpolished. It’s just not a day for shiny shoes. Not today.

You walk to work, but take a longer route. If someone saw you, they would see a man alternatively staring off into the distance, and intently staring at the asphalt he is walking on, almost like he is counting the number of cracks on the road. You linger around at the cart serving coffee outside your office building – staring at the wisps of white smoke emerging out of the blackness of the liquid, but unlike other days – you do not smell the coffee. It is not the day for such pleasures. Not today.

You walk up to your office, passing by the usual hordes of office-humanity – trying to tune out the static that is a confusion of spoken words, sighs patient and impatient, clacking shoes, dinging elevators and ringing telephones. Today everything is a little blurred. The whites are a little more yellow than white, the greys are a tiny bit greyer than usual. Your smile at the receptionist is a tiny bit colder. Your response to your boss’ greeting is a tiny bit delayed, as he catches up to you on the way to elevator. You are a tiny bit miffed that you would be forced to share the elevator with another person. Just for today, you wanted the 10 second journey up to floor 23 to be in solitude. Maybe, this is good, the small talk is what stops you from falling deeper into the hole, the edge of which you are teetering on. You are miffed anyway. You’re not ready for small talk. Not today.

You walk past the mahogany door, past the hospital-like sterile sameness of cubicles, the green carpet, the grey cubicles with frosted glass, and the grey frosted people inside. You don’t even say good morning to your colleague who looks at you with expectant eyes – wanting – you know – to talk about the incredible football game last night. Not today. Not today.

You hurry past it all to your own cubicle right in the middle of this row of cubicles. Your special place in the sea of corporate sameness, housing replaceable, expendable faceless, nameless cogs in the machine. They are all the same. Everything is all the same. Different. But same.

Is this sameness the problem? Is this why you feel like a screw that is drilled in ever so slightly off center? A screw that will do the job, but is not just so? Is this what is bothering you?

The thought crosses your mind, flitting across the surface like a pond-skater, creating tiny ripples. But you don’t pursue it. This thought will have to wait. You cannot give it your attention. Not today. Not today.

Categories: experiment, Uncategorized

Growing up.

October 26, 2014 1 comment

*Clears Throat* … Hello there… *looks around sheepishly* … Go ahead. Laugh. No really. I mean, after making a big deal about writing more regularly, I disappear for 3 months… It is lol-worthy. I know I would laugh at myself. But anyway.

It’s been an interesting three months…

My folks came to visit me, here in the states.While my father had been to the USA before, it was a first for mom. I saw them after a year, so that was nice. We visited a few places, so that was nice too. I got good homecooked food, which I duly stuffed myself with, and put on all those pounds I shed while I was training for the half-marathon (I think you’re growing old when the deliciousness of mom’s food starts competing with the need to “watch your weight”… Not sure how I feel about that).

We took a trip together, the three of us, and *that* was really nice… I’ve been working for a decade now. I’ve been living independently, by myself, for most of that time. However, all this while, going home, meant going back to a place where there’s someone to take care of you..

This time, though, it really felt the other way round. It felt like I had to take care of my folks. I had to be responsible for them. This is not to say that my parents couldn’t do anything without me, because really, they are more than capable of taking care of themselves. However, it felt like they depended on me for a lot of things.

And honestly, it was a lovely feeling to just be able to take care of the two people who’ve spent more than half their life, taking care of you. I sure as hell wasn’t perfect doing it, and frankly, I think there’s a lot of things I could do better (perhaps a post for another day). But it felt nice to finally be able to repay, even if in an infinitesimally small way, that kindness my parents have showered on me. It felt great to realize that you are someone who is capable and willing enough to do that.

I felt like I had finally grown up.

So, thank you mom, dad, for being who you were and are. I love you. Just so you know, your little boy, is finally growing up..

We all Need the Eggs…

July 27, 2014 Leave a comment

My parent’s have been here for the last couple of weeks. It’s nice to see them after about a year. Not because there is so much to talk about but even in silence, there is a sense of belonging. The house feels like a home…

There’s an interesting Woody Allen quote from Annie Hall, that’s been bouncing around my head for a while now… It’s about relationships, and applies to a whole bunch of them. Anything I say is not going to be as good. So I’m just going to leave that here.

I, I thought of that old joke, y’know, the, this… this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us… need the eggs.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

The Facebook Experiment

July 16, 2014 Leave a comment

An interesting tidbit about Facebook was in the news recently. Apparently, Facebook played around with newsfeeds to make them more positive / negative. They were trying to determine if mood of the timeline affects the mood of the user. Evidently it does.

Predictably, the pitchforks have come out at the supposed audacity of Facebook to manipulate people like that. I am not completely sure what I feel about it, because I haven’t really given it a whole lot of thought.

But there are a lot of different aspects to this story, that I am not sure how to reconcile… Besides, thinking takes time, which I have limited of. And it’s not like you pay me for high-quality journalism. So, dear reader, I am just going to subject you to a laundry list of the initial unstructured mess that is my brain, on the subject:

  • I am scared… Are we really sheeple, people? Does the mood of a series of posts on Facebook really cause our mood to be changed? Are we THAT easily manipulated? As a corollary, how much misplaced confidence do we have in ourselves, that we walk through life thinking that we are immune to the ways of the world, when all it takes to influence us are a few written words on the screen?
  • How does this help Facebook? Will Facebook try now, to be “your happy place”? Is Facebook’s business model going to be to keep you happy, so that you keep coming back. I wrote a post, earlier, on the  “Like” button. Is that just an extension of the “keep people happy” philosophy?
  • Will this philosophy work for Facebook? Or is it going to backfire for them, spectacularly? At what point will the constant stream of “happiness” attributed to others, start making us jealous and negative instead of happy, as intended, so we “flip the tables” so to speak, and never return to Facebook again?
  • Are we increasingly becoming swathes of data, in the eyes of these companies that have our personal information? At what point is the company obligated (if at all) to view us as human beings, and consider that manipulation of our feelings is not “just another experiment”?
  • On the other hand, what cause do we have for outrage? Facebook never promised that we will see the truth. They provide us one way to view our relationships and they’ve never said it is the truth. Besides, A/B testing is a reality for most internet companies. Isn’t this just another form of A/B testing? Why, then, do we expect to be told about it?
  • If Facebook as a service, has a goal of seeing us happy, then isn’t Facebook within its rights to make changes to it’s “product” to gauge customer reaction? Do we have a right to demand that we be told about it?
  • What is the unwritten set of expectations that Facebook is fulfilling, and that we expect them to fulfil? At what point do the “ethics of humankind” supercede the “nature of Facebook’s business”? Are people just angry because we’re scared of how easily we are manipulated? Do we see this as an invasion of privacy (which I don’t think it is)? Are we just mad at Facebook because we don’t like being guinea pigs without knowing about it?
  • Does it warrant this amount of outrage? We don’t really think of all the ramifications of giving up our personal data and information to services as long as we get some value out of it. Every new shiny feature on Google of Facebook comes at the cost of our information. Privacy, in this day and age, is just dead. Why then, should it matter at all what Facebook does?
  • Is this indicative of the general distrust of Facebook vis-a-vis other large tech companies? I mean, I doubt there would’ve been such a big hue-and-cry if Google had done this…
  • If this is indeed how Facebook can influence us, how much about our relationships is defined by Facebook? If Facebook doesn’t show me status updates by certain people or businesses, how does that impact my actual relationship with them? Do I forget about some people because I never see updates? If so, how much power does Facebook really have over not only individuals, but also groups and indeed, corporations (by dint of wielding this power over individuals)?

I think I’m a little bemused, and quite a bit scared… What do you think?

Categories: facebook, technology

To Like or Not to Like…

July 10, 2014 1 comment

I’ve been getting back on to social media after a fairly long hiatus. And most social media services have changed a little bit in that time. What hasn’t changed however, is how stuff get’s shared around these places.

Google has +1, Tumblr has “reblogging”, Twitter has “retweet” and Facebook has the “like”… And they rely on these nifty sharing mechanisms to decide what you see.. what bubbles to the top, so to speak.

Out of the four, however, only Facebook has something that is a known word with a known meaning. And that makes things interesting…

Linguistically speaking, liking something is to inherently tag it as “good”. In Facebook’s context therefore, there’s likely to be a cognitive bias towards “liking” only stuff that is actually worth liking. That means, that status update someone made about cancer, or losing a loved one, or losing their dog isn’t going to get “likes” . and is therefore not really going to be on your timeline for a long time.

On other platforms, it’s easier for those kind of things to bubble up, A +1, or a reblog isn’t as “emotional” …

I wonder which is better? Personally, I think a true representation of what your friends are interested in is served by something like +1, or “Share” or “Retweet” or “Reblog” because it doesn’t have a positive or negative connotation attached to it. It just indicates your “support” toward the content. With like, however, you’re likely to not get a balanced picture.

Is this a flaw, then, on Facebook’s part? Did they miss an opportunity to be “truer” to the world? Or is “like” by design and they WANT only other people’s happiness to show through in your timelines, because they know that’s what we want to see? Is Facebook banking on the fact that a lot of us are voyeurs who live through others – either sharing in people’s happiness, or being jealous of it.. which is why we keep coming back to Facebook?

Or is “Like” just such a “brand” in itself now, that changing it to “Share” or “Support” just doesn’t make any sense any more?

Perhaps only Mark Zuckerburg knows..

Categories: facebook, technology

The Power of Stories…

July 1, 2014 Leave a comment

I have been reading The Story Bible by Pearl Buck. It is The Bible, but without (most of) the “religious stuff”. What it does is recount the stories in the Bible in short 10-12 page chapters. And as I read, I realize that as a story, the Bible is quite interesting.

And in that, it is not alone. The Quran, at its heart, is a story. The Bhagawad Gita, is just a small part of an epic called the Mahabharata. And most religions are underpinned stories about key figures and their deeds.

And that says something about the power of stories. Most of what we remember has a good story behind it. A good movie, a good book, an incident you remember in vivid detail – there’s a good story behind it. Want to preach – Tell a story. The best adverts – tell a story. A successful sales proposal – dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that it chronicles a journey, draws a picture, tells a story. Customer satisfaction, brand recognition, are all about stories. Have you ever got tips on how to improve your memory? Chances are you’ve been told to connect disparate elements together with the wackiest story imaginable for the strongest recall.

I don’t know why. Maybe the human brain likes to fill in the blanks between disparate facts. Maybe connections between neurons are analogous to connections between facts. Maybe it’s that and the fact that human brains are the best pattern-recognition machines. If a certain group of “connected pieces” in a story are similar to something that we’ve experienced before, the brain just groups them together and invokes similar feelings to what we’ve previously experienced, making the feeling stronger.

Whatever be the reason – Plain simple facts are forgotten. A story endures.

And the best stories reinforce already existing emotional structures, enhance experiences. They need an “investment” from the consumer of the story, so they feel a part of it.

But as we move towards a world with limited attention spans and overload of stimuli, the window of this “investment” becomes shorter and shorter. What we end up with is a world of instant gratification – one that does not allow time to build “connections”, the one that isn’t built to endure. I wonder if the world seems a lot more ephemeral, the pace of change so fast, BECAUSE there is no time to stop and listen to stories. I wonder if life seems “incomplete” because we’re not part of a story or narrative – living life instead, as a series of transactions. I wonder if the lack of stories is what has caused this to happen.

Perhaps, what the world needs, is more connections, in more ways than one.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Here We Go… Again

June 18, 2014 6 comments

So, I have decided that I’ll start writing again.

Now, anyone who knows me, knows how fits-and-starts my writing is (and has always been). You perhaps have already rolled your eyes, and decided to wait for this to fizzle out again. And you might be right. But, hear me out, dear readers (yes both of you (look at me trying to pretend like I actually have two readers)). This is going to be different (I think).

I’ve never taken writing seriously. To me, it was just an outlet of thoughts that sometimes stick around long enough, or are forceful enough to make me want to write. Most of my posts have been “vomited” out in less time than it takes to fire up my laptop. Mainly because I don’t spend a lot of time formulating blogposts. Things just come together in my head, and those are the ones that come out on paper. Until the point when that perfect post is formed in my head, it is not coming out.

However, on reflection, I have come to believe I’ve got this backwards. Writing isn’t about putting fully-formed thoughts on paper, or even putting my thoughts out there for everyone to see. What is important, is the process of writing itself. The process of forming and formulating the random half-formed thoughts into something that is much more meaningful. Of connecting the multitude of “dots” that already exist from the everyday life, to create a picture.

And isn’t that what creativity is? Creativity is just the ability to smash two already known ideas together. So, in effect, by waiting for “inspiration to strike”, I am relying on the sporadic twitches of my “creativity muscle” to produce something good, instead of forcing myself to make those connections, working the muscle, making it stronger.

And really, I find that not writing consistently takes away my capacity to reflect, structure and connect everything in my head. Ergo, not writing is possibly only serving to atrophy the creativity which is already in short supply. And by writing more, I hope to be able to reverse this phenomenon.

Now, I recognize that this is probably going to be painful for the readers, in that, the quality (lol?) of this blog will go down. There’ll be some days that will be atrocious, incoherent and random… But if my theory is right, the atrocious and random should decrease over time, and we should see interesting juxtaposition of ideas in later posts. And if not, it’ll be an interesting study of how my interests and writing evolve over time. (And maybe I can finally give up on thinking I write quite well. Which by itself, makes this an endeavour worth undertaking).

And so, I’m going to write. I’m going to write at least twice a week, perhaps more. About technology, about football. About life, the universe and everything. I’m going to write, like no one’s readin.. oh, wait.