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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.

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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.

FIRST Things First

July 26, 2013 2 comments

Readers of this blog (yes, all three of you), already know that this (former?) lazy ass has caught the running bug. Yes, I’ve been running fairly regularly over the last year or so. I’ve done a couple of 10k races, and a half marathon. I run slow by most standards, but I can run far, and I enjoy it.

If you’ve not been in touch lately and are right now arching your eyebrows up as far as they will go, surprised about my foray into (and enjoyment of) physical activity, you’re not alone. Every time I think about the fact that after a year of running, I still enjoy it, my eyebrows do the same elaborate dance yours are doing at the moment. What can I say? Miracles do happen.

After my first half, when I just ran 3 times a week, by feel, increasing the distance I ran each week, I decided to follow a more structured approach to training. I tried to follow Hal Higdon’s intermediate training plan for my next half marathon, which was supposed to be on 7th July 2013.

True to tradition which I established with my first half, I woke up late this time too. Only this time, I did one better and woke up so late, so as to make it impossible to get to the start in time. So I did not run the race. One day, a kindly soul will have mercy on me, and organize a race in the evening. Surely, I am not the only evening person who runs?! Anyway, that tradition and its discussion is for later. This is more about the training plan.

For my second HM, I had in mind a goal time of 2:00 hours. Listening to popular wisdom, I decided I’d have to run often and more, to get faster. Higdon’s plan called for running 4 times a week. One day of the week was dedicated to “speedwork” – 400m intervals, or 30-45minute tempos. This was an aspect wholly abent from my earlier training. There were some “pace-days”, which called for running upto 8 kilometers at the pace I wanted to run in the race. I also incorporated (tried to anyway) some strength training into my routine.

However, the training was a bit hit and miss. Partly because of unforeseen commitments, laziness, work and also because I don’t think the plan worked for me, the way it was structured. Here were my grouses:

  1. Speed-work wasn’t enough, I thought. It led up to 10 laps of 400m or up to 45 minutes of tempo. The tempo run required you to hold 10k pace for only a few minutes. Considering that I was gunning for a lot more improvement, I am not sure how much it would’ve helped.
  2. While I ran more through the week, the individual runs were short. 5-8 kilometer runs every day didn’t really do it for me, except make me comfortable running that distance. I felt wholly unprepared for the long runs.
  3. In fact, my long runs became slower, and more difficult. They were slower than when I was training for my first half, and I didn’t feel ready enough to be able to complete it. A long run of 16kms when you’ve been running (mostly slow-medium pace) 8-10km at max through the other runs of the week, seemed impossible to do, and I had to give up and walk home a couple of times (oh the shame).
  4. This was compounded by the fact that the run of “sustained HM pace” was followed immediately by long-runs. So, in effect, the hardest workout of the week was followed by the longest. Did not get the logic, me.
  5. Higdon’s guidance on pace, is limited. Most runs are done @ slow / easy pace. How long to stick to tempo pace isn’t specified, and so on. Overall, I think “run slower, get slower” is what I suffered from.
  6. Time was a factor. 4-5 times a week seemed a little much. A lot of workouts were missed, because work, lethargy, other commitments. I frequently didn’t feel the urge to run, as opposed to earlier, when I really wanted to run. And given that I was running almost all week, a missed workout was a missed workout – There was no way of compensating. In the end, that affected the training.

So, in summary, Higdon’s intermediate plan was perhaps not right for me. While I had started out with a goal of 2 hours for the half, I wasn’t hopeful of doing any better than 2:15:00 – 2:20:00 at best, and realistically, I was looking at a time of 2:30:00. We’ll of course, never know, given that I didn’t do the half I registered for.

Anyway, I was looking at something else to try, for my next half, whenever that is. And I stumbled upon the FIRST half marathon plan.

What appealed to me was:

  1. There are only 3 days of running, with each workout being a quality, key workout, targeting a specific aspect of running – intervals for speed, tempos for lactate threshold, and (relatively) quick long runs for endurance. This means, limited outlay of time, which combats laziness, helps with recovery, prevents injury and accumulated fatigue (more rest time), and more importantly, because I run in the evenings, allows me to get my workout in during the week.
  2. Intervals are not just 400m intervals, but span a variety of distances (400, 600, 800, 1000 etc). This allows the body to get used to running quickly over a variety of distances
  3. The guidance on pace is very good, and based on your 10k pace. Even tempo runs are broken down into short and medium tempo paces. The paces are challenging, and there are no “easy miles”. Each workout is challenging and pushes you.
  4. Distances you run in each run, are longer, thus conditioning the body to go longer, and faster. This also works now that I have a year’s worth of running long distances under my belt. I don’t need to BUILD UP to the half-marathon distance, and I can focus on getting better.
  5. My shoes. When you spend ~8k ($150) on shoes, you want them to not die in 6 months. And I am not going to buy 2 pairs of shoes to alternate, given the cost. Running thrice a week, means the shoes get time to “recover” too, and (hopefully) they’ll last longer.

I’ve done this for a couple of weeks, and I like it so far. The workouts have been challenging and have kicked my backside. The interval workouts leave me feeling like roadkill, without damaging my desire to run fast. I look forward to running again, and that itself is half the battle.

There are of course concerns I have about, “not enough mileage” and reliance on cross training – which, frankly, I loathe – and I have no clue how not doing it religiously is going to change how the plan behaves (Because I don’t see myself doing it). As it stands, the plan puts my HM finishing time at 2:10. I’m going to aim for 2:05. If I can get to 2:05, I’ll consider this plan a success.

I’ll report progress. Hopefully, my laziness is going to prove helpful this time 🙂

* Starts looking for a half-marathon to sign-up for*

Empty…

July 23, 2012 2 comments

Empty.

The house was empty. And the emptiness bore down on him. It approached slowly but surely, making sure he saw it grow and envelop him, suffocating him, crushing him – sitting on his chest, like a giant weight, that made it difficult to breathe. He had to escape.

He drove. He turned up the volume, till the music filled up the car, and he couldn’t hear his own thoughts. Thoughts about how much she despised this music he listened to. Thoughts about what good music meant…

The church was full of people. The pastor preached and he listened. The Word of God would save him. It would take over. He closed his eyes and sang along with the multitude. They were the same songs he remembered her singing beside him, her hand in his. He saw in His eyes, the love she had had in hers. The love he missed.

The mall was full of people. The low homogenous rumble of the mass of humanity going about its business. It was like static. Calming, filling, non-specific. His mind lulled, he walked about, losing himself in things – clothes, watches, shoes, books… Until he got too close to a snatch of conversation; that penetrated through the ether and stabbed at his mind. And the illusion was broken; the quiet was no more…

He was at the beach. Sat in the sand, and looking at the waves gave him peace like it always did. The natural rhythm of waves was unceasing, hypnotic. They slowed, they accelerated they grew bigger and they became smaller, but they never stopped. They kept coming back…

Just like the memories…

He tried to crowd them out, he tried to fill the void up. But it was like the house. The new IKEA sofa-set, the bookshelf, the new wardrobe with a bunch of new clothes, a new set of dinner plates, the new bed with the latest memory foam mattress, things – little and large… All that stuff… it did nothing. It only served to magnify the existence of what was not there. All it did was tell him, scream at him, how he felt…

Empty.

Categories: life, Ramble, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Source by James A. Michener

June 16, 2012 1 comment

The SourceThe Source by James A. Michener

Uses the background of an archaeological dig, to chronicle the rise of religion (specifically Judaism) from prehistory (30000 yrs ago), to the modern state of Israel (till 1960s, when the book was written). Defines the relationship of Judaism, with other derivative religions – Christianity and Islam.

The book moves and skips in periods of centuries, Each chapter defines an important period in the history of religion, and is based on the levels uncovered during the dig, by the archaeologists. It chronicles the adventures of the members (descendants) of a single family (of Ur) starting from the first shreds of civilization.

It’s a long read (1000 pages), but doesn’t get boring. Written in simple language, without being too judgmental about anything that happened during the time (Except towards the end, when it turns decidedly pro-Zionist). Each chapter relates modern attitudes (through conversations within the group at the archaeological dig) with the historical perspective and precedent of why the attitude prevails. Michener, while speculating on where the future might hold for Israel and Jews, doesn’t burden the book with his judgments, or force them on us, and largely sticks to the relating what happened. While the stories ARE fictional, the book is incredibly well researched insofar as the major events of times are concerned, and the generally accepted narrative of history.

If you do not know about Judaism, and it’s rise, and the attitudes it signifies, and like reading about the history of Judaism and Christianity, and history in general, give it a whirl, and it won’t disappoint. It’s a wonderful romp through a large swath of time, and definitely better than reading dry academic records of the time. All you must do, is keep reminding yourself, a lot of it is fiction. Because it is very easy to believe a lot of those stories actually happened!

So, if historical fiction and the history of religions interests you (like it does me), I recommend it wholeheartedly. You won’t be disappointed, as long as the book is. Just remember, it *is* fiction. Or read it as a collection of tales set in different historical times 🙂

My rating: Beautifully done. 4 of 5 stars

Categories: book, review, story, Uncategorized

Night…

April 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Because 55-words stories are fun, while not taxing the brain too much, they are a big draw for the imaginatively challenged and lazy person in me. Here’s one I wrote for a contest organized on twitter by the good folks of Flipkart and @vivekisms.

The theme was “Night”…

His eyes were red, face swollen. The lacerations on his wrists smarted. Larger ones on his back burned.  He was tired. Hurt.

 The monsters of the dark had come a-calling again. Hungry, violent, clamoring for flesh, unstoppable.

 But the sun was rising. He was safe for now. He could rest. He closed his eyes.

 Goodnight.