Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rimming and no good

Acme office has four employees and a manager. All four employees have similar jobs with identical pay and perks. They are all expected to contribute to the company adequately and the manager is tasked with incentivizing to get the most out of them. The complication is that the employees are different people with different needs. Employee A sees his job as a stepping stone to a bigger job with more scope to keep rising. Employee B is purely concerned with the money he makes and is driven to make more however he can. C is one of the creative types, he wants to do his job with interest and minimal compromise. D wants security, stability and a stress-free life. They are all equally good workers so long as they are happy and the company wants to keep them happy. So how does the manager view and work the situation?  

The manager is also a real person. He has certain cognitive biases that affect his choices. He may want to make his job easy and just use money as an incentive to please his employees. He may be of the idea that the job has to be done with pure interest and urge his employees to change their views and buy in on his model. He may be genuinely interested in his employees' welfare and may give them whatever they need without focusing entirely on company profit. Or he may be a dark lord and twist the whole situation to one where the employees are his mindless fearful servants who have forgotten what perks, fairness and a life are. 

How many of us have already made our interpretations, judgements and choices on the matter? How similar are our choices? Is there a single formula or a handful of set formulae? Will our choices change with time and situation? Is employee B a bad person? Is the company evil because it is the company? Obviously management graduates and professionals are the apparent experts and have rolled their eyes a while ago. The rest of us still have to struggle along without the training because we have specific versions of the above highly simplistic situation to handle today and every day; mostly just to manage ourselves (How much of a break do I take? What sort of break? Am I entitled to this?). How we do that defines us entirely. 

Now everybody is defined in his/her own way but I figure that there are three things that are involved in the process:
1. Non-negotiables
2. The formula
3. and the feedback

The non-negotiable is the backbone and everything needs to start with that. It is the condition that will never be sold for a price. There probably are situations where such structuredness may not be useful but those unstructured events are very temporary and hopefully not life staking. The hope is that the non-negotiable is an ethically positive thing like no matter what happens, I will not pirate music. Too many non-negotiables create practical problems too, turning you into a angry hippie.

The formula is to be built around the non-negotiables. It branches off the non-negotiables and can be changed with time and situation, many times needs to be. Even in the simplistic situation above, it is evident that one formula does not fit all. They all need different incentives which the company should hopefully be able to provide without getting sucked dry.

The feedback is what effects changes in the formula. Some even change their non-negotiables based on the feedback they get (referred to in ancient texts as kali kaalam). 

The disaster situation. Also known as our life as it is now.

1. The non-negotiables belong to someone else
In other words, Parental pressure, peer pressure, job pressure, hot air pressure

2. The formula was downloaded from the interwebs.
In other words, I am baffled that the next big thing is not the same as the last big thing.

3. Poor feedback 
In other words, am I truly happy?


Sunday, December 29, 2013


Apparently it is a TV show but sounds more like a disease. A lethal neural disease. 

I enjoy drives but never the muscle car variety. I believe in driving smooth which most often than not requires driving slow and steady. Minimal acceleration and no swerving. The roller coaster experience is for amusement parks and not public roads. Not a tough thing to do but the existence of differing peers makes it a complicatedly judged situation. 

Three things define a quality driving experience - for both the driver and others in the car and outside. 
  • Focus
  • A proper understanding of the rules and obedience
  • Patience
Obviously texting, making tea and club grinding inside the car will make you a murderous psychopath sooner than later, so there is not much to say about focus. There is a clearly distinct line that would require a crazy amount of twisted logic to distort.

Despite the fact that rules exist in print and are completely factual, somehow we feel that there is a lot of play in this sector. We apply the same formula for them as we do for religious texts; they are guidelines. We feel that we can still have extended debates on how much deviation on the speed limit we can get away with. Even if I humor the logic that the speed limit is more of a flimsy guideline than a fixed barrier, the deviation about the limit would possibly be to account for errors in the speed reading. Or our judgment as we regularly wake our foot on the accelerator. That could give a play of < 5 mph. But in excess of that is either proper negligence or pure arrogance. It is a sense of entitlement, that the road was built for us and us alone. That the city and road planners took less than the fraction of a thought that it took us to deem ourselves bigger than the rules. 

I always thought that by rule, experience would make us more mellow. That we have a responsibility to be cool because we were given patience until we developed that experience. On the road, we display our experience with increased measures of road rage instead. When I hear of people getting angry on the road, it scares the living daylights out of me. It feels like an angry serial killer is making my meals, guarding my house, handling my finances and being my coworker. He controls my life and could any day turn on me. On the road he has a killer machine that moves like a deadly raging tusker. And he is pissed off with everyone around. Here is his bloody checklist of elements that deserve his fury:
  • Women drivers
  • Senior citizens
  • Learners
  • Children
  • Heavy vehicles
  • Pedestrians
  • Animals (why don't they all just die)
  • Non-natives
  • Old cars
  • New cars
  • Fancy cars that aren't doing stunts
  • Stop lights and road signs
  • Just everything else in his field of vision
My point is simply this - if you are not able to hold on the the above three points, you are indisposed. Take a break and get behind the wheel when you are sober. This is not your kingdom and you are not its despot despite what the hot air inside you cooks up. You have the privilege of sharing this world and these roads with others and you are to honor that privilege by everything you do on it. 

My wife and several others have made observations on how my driving style does not fit a stereotypical Indian male 28-year old. It is unfortunate that such a stereotype exists.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Hope Bias

The recent rape charge against FSU quarterback Jameis Winston has me thinking about how our interpretation of events is (unfortunately or fortunately) a choice and how it can affect other people. Jameis, from what I have seen so far, is a very likeable and smart young man. He is also an incredible quarterback who is leading FSU football through what could be its best season ever. He may finish his collegiate career as the most decorated player in FSU history and take that legacy with him to the NFL. And suddenly there are rape charges against him over an incident in December 2012. If he is found guilty, it could end his high-flying career in a moment. There is DNA evidence of his involvement, there are lawyers who are handling it with utmost seriousness and there are witnesses waiting to testify. And then there is us. 
The charges are seen less as allegations of fundamental human rights violation and more as how it will impact football. Depending on which side of the ball you are on, hope and schadenfreude direct an opinion that betrays that filth that fills our minds, making us the worst offenders of them all. Here is a statistic: In what many would consider a very progressive nation with better rights for women than most other countries, 40% of all rapes in the USA get reported; 8% get convicted. While reporting the case is left to the victim's volition, I am more interested in the 32% cases that aren't convicted. With Winston's case, there is a very good chance that it may come down to his word against hers - a major issue with most rape cases. "What if it was consensual while it happened and the crazy malicious female decided to report it as rape later?", ask the skeptics. I am pretty sure that most of the 32% would have involved this question in some form. 
Most "opinions" on rape come from one of three schools - the hate, the hope and the truth. The haters represent the union of misogynists that would love for a chance to label a victim as another scheming villain that would stop at nothing to destroy their brother's reputation. There are of course haters who would want every accused to suffer in the worst pit in hell too but they are at the other end of the spectrum and fewer than you would estimate. The hopers represent the tired lot that want to only see rainbows and rabbits and would love to wish the rape away. While they may seem like a gentle lot, they end up in the same corner as the haters. Both schools want the rape to be some hoax that the victim cooked up to gain something out of the event. 
I have an issue with that. Let us examine the "gain" part. Maybe they want to make money out of the wealthy accused. Maybe they want some publicity and sympathy out of the event. While one may get these wonderful gifts if one makes a fake accusation, here are some additional prizes that come with the package. 
  • Your private life, your lifestyle choices and your naked appearance are re-imagined and recounted in public, spiced with judgmental flavors from burnt tongues
  •  You are awarded a scarlet letter for life but it is not like a badge on your chest. It is more like a hot iron brand on your face. You could emerge out of it indifferent and strong but that is your own deal
  • You are open game to the hate and hope schools of rape apologists
Obviously, all the gifting leaves very little time or patience for addressing the victim's emotional damage, trauma and isolation should the case be real. So the question is why would someone care to go to the law with a fake case? Sure, if I wanted to be malicious to someone, I could run a fake smear campaign where I could spread my lies to their friends and mine. That brings negligible public damage to me, gets the sympathy I need and I can still control the situation, so the extra gifts can be avoided. Going to the law and pressing charges makes it a much bigger deal though. Almost every aspect of it is now out of my control. It could swing both ways, irreversibly. A little bit of thinking would easily discourage the average mind. No wonder 60% of the cases go unreported. I would like to think that at least 90% of us (just a guess) are of sane mind and would not be so invested in the "positives" of being a victim as to not care about the negatives. That would make about 10% of the reporting victims crazy and malicious, about 4% of total events. Let us not forget, it isn't the greatest business plan either, there is only a 20% chance of success with only 8% events where the offenders get punished. So - of about 96% of total true cases - 89% do not get justice. Then how are you folks, the schools of hatred and hope so easily able to question the motives of every victim? 
I sincerely hope that we would move out, and into schools that are invested in the truth. It is important to be fair to the accused and the victim and being unemotional about the outcome would be necessary for that. But being unemotional does not mean being unemphatic. This event is far from an enjoyable ordeal and it is never something to be joked about. There is no room for personal agendas and opinions that help its confirmation bias. Our judgements are indeed a choice but they can really affect the parties involved, worse than we think. Be empathetic, judge responsibly.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Not guilty as charged

"So when is the baby due?"

Sherry inquired with an expression that did not give away her mockery. I dropped my injera and nearly knocked my glass of water over. She smiled and I realized that it was a joke. We were having a delicious dinner at this Ethiopian place at Indy with my wife's cousin and his wife. "I'm sure you get that all the time", she added. "This would be the first time", I replied. We all reflected on how the Indian society around us has managed to get past its stereotypes with hints of pride. We continued eating as the conversation moved on to college sports and Indiana places for the rest of the evening. 

My wife and I have often discussed the Indian culture around the concepts of love and marriage. She is a fan of unopposed love stories. Since a ban on pre-marital romance was what Indian culture advocated, any form of involvement of Indian social norms in a romance would be bad. I was not so sure. I have heard of my share of stories where all that was wrong about a couple was some parent's ego. But I have also known situations where some element of tradition has gotten people to take their commitments more seriously. It has structured relationships to decrease some of the impracticality and drama that an unbridled or aimless romance could generate. We just needed to upgrade ourselves on traditional ideas that are still relevant and ignore ancient stupid ones. I was pretty sure she wasn't entirely right.

Turns out, I was quite wrong myself. On the contrary, yielding to tradition is not like blueberry picking. It is more like picking pomegranate arils. In multiple ways it is the unnecessary gift that keeps giving. Or taking.  Either:

1. Selling itself as some higher science that most scientists don't understand but curiously the unscientific masses that heard it on some propaganda machine understand perfectly.
2. Channeling your emotion to rise to some non-existing higher cause because yeah.
3. Deeming that your youthful immaturity or lack of answers is a condition that is curable by tradition.
4. We are decent family and you are disappoint us.

Uncle sham wants you

My turn

The first point has been countered in better ways by smarter people. We have the good fortune of not having to deal with it on a daily basis and have developed the skills to deal with it clinically should a threat arise. 

A: Don't you care about how they have killed our people a long time ago in a galaxy far far away? And blah blah and more-corrupt pseudo-secular galactic party sucks up to them? 
Me: Aaron Hernandez is still a murderer. 
A: Then why don't you quit and move to some other planet, you unpatriotic turd?
Me: No. Why don't you quit and move to some other planet.

As you can obviously note, my quick-witted responses can win me any argument. Next.
While this overlaps with point one in a few ways, it is the execution that makes it different. This method creeps up on you and will pick on you when you have a low moment. Instead of letting you learn a life lesson, the culture cops will try to suck out your brains and make you their zombie foot soldier. And the cycle will continue. This is an individual's fight, choice and consequence.

And this is the one we are currently dealing with. When you do not care about the boogie monsters and Hell apartments for the ungrateful dead, what you care about can be used to guilt you. Pretty effective trick It seeks to prod the child in you into pleasing your folks by yielding and joining the fold.  

In an effective ploy to drive me further away from my hopes to embrace useful, milder traditions in some form, there are new requests (not kids. Yet). Of course, they are directly more at my wife than me and I am going to assume that it is because she is a nicer, more obedient person. It is not adequate that you get the job that strikes, marry what fits, and be good, there is more. You need to light the lamps, fast, pray, do rituals, and observe what needs to be observed "to be happy". Our married friends on facebook and twitter that are quick to display photos of their achievements on Indian festivals don't make it easy for us.
Achievement unlocked
In addition to pleasing the folks, you also have to do it to keep up with the Joneses. It is saying, I put up with your ungodliness as long as you were single and prancing around but now that you are married, let us get serious. The disagreeing reader would say, 'Fine. Then don't do it. We don't care'. Unfortunately you do; you just want to be spared the grief.

The thing is you either become a complete heretic or join the cult as a all-observing life member; there is no true respect for the intermediates. The element of question and choice are just show pieces to draw the unguarded. If other forms of emotion or stupidity have not reeled you in, emotional blackmail still has potential and that is why it is used. A choice to check out of religion and bygone tradition is apparently also an indication of a plan to check out of the family and do bad things. The choice to have a life that is more rational-thought driven is a major threat to some old-wives' tale and nothing more. The whole emotional tie with tradition or some acquired culture is your own and no one else's and it does not have to belong to someone else, however close. Cheers.


Yes I had to.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Tennis the menace

I secretly love sports. Watching football and basketball is fun but playing just about any sport is awesome (except for when you play with competitive killjoys). I signed up for a new intramural league sport every semester in grad school and that turned out to be quite useful in a jack of all trades sort of way. I blew my knee out a couple of years back though, as a result of which there is a narrower range of sports that I can play now. No cutting-jumping motions - so no badminton, football, ultimate frisbee, soccer, basketball, and sprinting. Unfortunately those were my favorite sports and now I was forced to find new ones that fit better. I can still play racquetball, racquetball is fun.

I have been trying to get a grip on tennis for close to six years now and most of my best cricketing shots have happened on a tennis court. The muscle memory from playing other racquet sports makes you even more clumsy on the tennis court. Only recently I have managed to get enough of touch that I can actually return a hittable ball to the opponent. But my play is not of exhibition quality, so I mostly pick late evenings and hidden courts to do my dance.

This week, we started playing at the apartment complex court at about 8:30 pm. Twenty minutes in, I was starting to find a groove. A couple of rallies happened. 'I must be getting better at this', I reflected. Just that moment, a balding man with a white t-shirt and frayed shorts walked up to the enclosure. He said something inaudible, so I moved closer. And then the horrifying thing happened.

"Can my son play with you guys?", he requested. He moved aside to reveal a scrawny 8-year old kid clutching a racquet, his pockets bulging with tennis balls. Ignoring all niceties, I inquired seriously, "how good are you?". "Actually, I'm really good", the kid replied nervously. I spat inside my mouth and probably made a face too. "Why not?" my wife said and the kid propped open the gate and entered the enclosure. "Thanks", said the dad and stayed outside to watch.

Now I don't really hate kids and I definitely don't mind playing with them. I just have some scars from my past. I remember playing a reluctant chess game with my (then) 6-year old cousin when I was about 17. He beat me in less than ten moves. Thrice. It hurt bad. I am a pretty competitive person, it is just that I am also simply incompetent. The sensitive ego makes it worse. From then on, I restricted myself to handicap games that still look fair.

So I now had to manage this crisis. I signaled for my wife to join my side of the court. The kid held two balls in his hand. It was surprising that he could fit one in those tiny hands but he held one firmly and bounced the other one on the ground in preparation. He arched back in a perfect semi-circle and let loose his cannon serve at me as I skipped slightly in my spot so nobody would notice me shivering.

BANG! It rammed into the net. I smiled in relief. BANG! The second serve hit the net too. And a third. And a fourth. "Can I just serve like this instead?", the kid asked nervously and motioned to make an underarm serve. "Is that allowed?", I asked my wife with a grin. She ignored me and nodded at the kid.

It was not too bad a game as things turned out. I let the wife serve the entire time. This kid had a talent for apologizing for everything. He raced around the court to take my erratic returns, often with a sorry when he missed (and I chuckled). The dad got his workout around the court enclosure as he picked up and returned balls from my home runs back to the park. I noticed that my wife was a better player than I thought. With a proper opponent, she was able to hit the ball back with a lot of zip on it (though she did not get as many apologies as I did. Ha!). I mostly stared at them play, occasionally chipping in and making the kid run more. Half hour later, it was over and we walked home. I was still grinning.

Lets do this again sometime kid.


Monday, August 05, 2013

Two company

I married Ramya two months ago. Thank you. It has been a fun journey right from the development stage and the wedding has been a cool twist in the tale. While it has been a regular, clean and fun relationship all along, the fact that it was meant to become a marriage at some point infused some seriousness in the matter; what I would think is a positive and valuable addition. Not seriousness to make the relationship intense and energy sapping but enough to structure it. However, as gen Y beings, we needed some reasons and rational values to make us take it seriously beyond just new clothes and happy moms. Why marry now? Why marry at all?

Fantasizing about big weddings is probably the number one quality reason for a gen Y wedding - you are fulfilling your fantasy and that is great. Except we did not fantasize about getting married. We were still wondering why we should care; a little over a year ago, we had no idea that this would happen. Would a married status make it unbreakable, perfect and happy forever? There are a growing number of examples that say not really. On principle, people should honor a relationship with or without the marriage tag. There of course is a substantial lot that does not care about such principles, should they get in the way of their pursuit of pleasure. I had a friendly acquaintance once tell me in very learned fashion that only married individuals were off limits to her, every other form of a relationship did not warrant her respect. The onus was on them to stay in their pants if they wanted to. While I agreed that the ones in the relationship carried a greater responsibility, I wondered (rhetorically) if she would have been perfectly OK with someone else exercising the same rule with her significant other. In current society, that is at least mildly disrespectful and few enjoy that. It was also interesting that her territory extended beyond just the population that agreed with her; even the ones that would prefer something long term would get teased. But I digress. So maybe a wedding is to prove a point to such people that this one is mine and mine alone. Or to state that I will honor this relationship even if I did not honor other ones. Or maybe it is a license to have children and not be frowned upon. After all, a wedding is a social construct. Maybe it was to tell society and ourselves that this relationship needed to be respected, since just principle and honor do not work well enough. 

That makes it sound so hollow though. Some of us that wish to embrace the "natural" human tendency to have partners as and when we please would easily dismiss marriage as unnatural and conservatively imprisoning. However, jealousy, possessiveness, positive companionship and the need to be part of a stable team are all natural and need to be accounted for. There are people that talk about how rewarding a long term marriage that played by the rules can be. No matter what you want your relationship to do for you, even a marriage may not guarantee it, because the world does not owe it to you. What you want can also change with time and marriage does not completely insure you against that. The bottom-line is we all want different things at different times and marriage may be just one umbrella that does not fit all. Our reasons just have to be our own. Preferably positive, sacred-sounding and not hollow. 

I function better as a team. It may be an obviously losing team at most sports but just the fact that I have a loyal team is good enough for me. My marriage is an inauguration party. In some ways I am adding a team member, in other ways I am joining a new team. I am happy about it and I want to share it with people that are happy for me. Why now? Simply because the timing was right. Timing is a very undervalued element in relationships; I would say that timing factors in at about 50% in determining the longevity of a relationship.  

As individuals, we were as ready as we could be. As a family, we had the resources now. We had the right level of freedom to make it happen. We had the maturity to appreciate and value a good relationship. We had the pliability to change and start living together. Most of all, we had each other.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I was recently discussing with a friend, the possibility of humans creating machines that are smarter than humans; something that fiction has warned us of in agonizingly repetitive detail. She was absolutely sure that it can and will be done in the future (quoting various technological singularity advocates), once there is enough understanding of neurobiology and the molecular basis of intellect and sentience. I differ. While I am sure that humans have already created many beautiful machines that are perfectly capable of ending all life on earth, or subjugating human life adequately, that is no indication that these machines are necessarily smarter. 

The fact that humans would be able to create a smarter sentient machine would mean that that smarter machine would be able to create something even smarter (setting up a possibly infinite series of smarter entities). This has a few logical issues. If any of these entities are smart enough, they would simply not allow a series of this nature. A series of this nature would be both super-intelligent and mindless at the same time, introducing a paradox of sorts. And what really defines intellect? Is it the ability to make faster decisions? Does it fuel the drive to be more perfect with decisions to a level that the super-intelligent beings would live prefect lives? What defines perfection? Each of these questions create their own paradoxes and anomalies. A truly perfect decision-making intelligence should be able to predict the future.   

My primitive perspective suggests that the factors that would influence quality decision making would depend on IQ, experience, sanity and emotional intellect. These factors are mostly independent of each other and therefore defining a "smarter" intelligence would really depend on which of these factors would be required (and at what level) to make the optimal decision. Sometimes ignorance would be better suited! And what really is an optimal decision? In what time frame? You get the idea.

We would like to think that we have a good-wrap on the ideas of IQ, experience and even sanity. It is emotional intelligence that seems most elusive; the ability to make quality decisions despite thinking from the heart (figuratively speaking). The very idea that you are thinking from the heart (riskier but more emotionally fulfilling) seems to stack the odd up against good decision making. It is highlighted by the fact that plenty of people that are conventionally accepted as intelligent are poor with making emotional decisions. Think of your friends that have made obviously bad personal choices, despite having the IQ, the experience and the sanity to do otherwise. However, making unemotional decisions at all times is a bad solution because it is devoid of empathy. This makes emotional intellect a very critical element in ensuring our well-being. It is this emotional intellect that determines how much of your knowledge translates to realization. Outside of that, there are no quality ways of measuring emotional intellect yet, it is not really a markovian thing.     

This complicated mesh forms an unstructured network - your generalized decision tree. This unstructuredness is probably the most definitive aspect of sentience, a hallmark of which is the ability to make mistakes and accidents that turn out to be a good idea in an intangible future. It allows us to strike an effective balance between a gratifying aimlessness and a functional logical order. We require this unstructuredness for sustenance and are meant to treat this unstructuredness as a boon and embrace it if we wish to be content and happy.  

The point is that our own programming involves functional ordered chaos; three contrasting and mostly conflicting ideas. Our predicted super-intellect would be programmed to strike that perfect balance between the three. To have the "right kind" of randomness and more importantly have it pop up at the right times. To be perfectly imperfect. Lolz.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tech retrospection

This day, a decade ago, I did not have a cell phone. Two decades ago, I did not know what the internet was. Just about six years ago, I did not know what a smartphone was. While, it would seem that my personality has not changed much over time, my lifestyle has been undergoing a massive transition over the last decade in quick jumps to become a lot more minimalistic. I have had a sweet affair with minimalism, at times with borderline OCD-level tendencies to organize and use one tool to its death. This is my love letter to all the technology that has made my life today.

The extremis Iron man. Except it is me.

While I have always stayed regularly updated on tech news, my fanboy tendencies have not involved much purchasing. Somehow the purpose has always been to become an informed buyer, so when the need arises the geek-gadget bought is one that will last its true life with minimal upgrading (and my handling); a long-term release. So when cellphones became commonplace at the start of the millenium, I bought one four years later when multimedia cellphones were being perfected. The main priority has mostly been, to avoid a prototype and find a smooth and lasting experience. My favorite tech picks:   

PSP: I bought a Star Wars: Battlefield limited edition PSP-2000 in winter 2007. I did not want to use my computer for gaming and I was looking for something versatile. I still use the PSP for most my gaming. The experience has not slowed down over the years and some of the titles (GTA: Chinatown wars, LittleBigPlanet, Ratchet and Clank: Size matters) have had tremendous replay value. The portable media capabilities alone would warrant the buy. Just a great piece of hardware that has lasted its value and more.

Macbook pro: Child please, I am not a mac person or something. I just want a device that works smooth and lasts long with minimal maintenance. The Mac experience has been a hard one to beat. I have used this one for five years and it still has not become crusty despite constant use and abuse. It tend to use shell-scripts and home-made scripts often and the unix base has cooperated well. Zero virus issues, mostly bug-free, fast-enough load times - it has allowed me to focus more on what I am doing rather than how.

Nexus: I was fooled into trying out the Motorola Bravo device (awful at best) before I found the Samsung galaxy nexus a year ago. Most cell phones have a very short half-life and the nexus is not one of them. I am a heavy google user; I had my contacts organized on google since 2006 with no idea that this device would someday import and synchronize them; a very pleasant surprise. This device is my mp3 player, gps, organizer, running planner, accelerometer and reading device. It makes a decent communication device too. A lot of my friends and family live far away from me and this device has allowed for smooth, bug-free distance bridging. If only I had more friends using google+.

Google: What can I say about google that has not already been said? I wrote a bit on it some years back. I do not think that google wants to take over the world. They have a bigger agenda than that. I love having synchrony across platforms and devices. 

Wii: When is it OK for the minimalist to have a second gaming device? When you get the second one for free. Babysteak gave me his device, with some excellent titles - Mario Kart Wii, Super Mario galaxy, Kirby's epic yarn. I love the backwards compatibility and the innovative design, well, in games that use it properly anyway (The legend of Zelda: Skyward sword). Just watching my mom beat me and others at video games is a sweet experience. 

I have a draft on the crazy awful side of technology that I will someday publish. Today the world is just beautiful.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

star vyar

Been in an origami mood over the last few weeks. Some creations from a galaxy far far away a long time ago.

Grand finale - The millenium falcon

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


The human obsession with success is a sickness that will have us become the flesh-devouring zombies that movies predict someday. Not one thing is allowed to be out of place, not one thing is allowed to go wrong; we will not compromise on anything short of first rate. And we sell it like that too - every one of us needs to be wielding the best phone in the market and holding the best position available. The Florida Gators have to win the national championship every year but so do the Ohio State Buckeyes. We dope our children up on want-success juice and expect every hop they make to be a productive one that will have them pole-vaulting in the Olympics someday; and win gold.

While we draw up the inspirational tales of the folk that have managed to win it all, what we are not accounting for is that these stories are told in retrospect. With our mania for success, the only stories that sell are the ones that are told by the winners and we assume a happily ever after there on. Until they fail, in which case the story becomes irrelevant. While it is fine to pick on which stories you like, it is important to pay attention to the stories where the work done may have been harder but resulted in grand failure. Not to depress oneself but to learn to accept failure with grace.

Indeed, the inability to handle failure is one of the biggest mental maladies of the human race. We do not teach our children to know how to deal with their egos when they are rejected. We do not promote the idea that it is alright to try hard and fail too. That success is not guaranteed just because you wanted it bad and worked hard for it. There are a billion extraneous factors that could influence the outcome of any event and therefore the victors of a race may have been determined well in advance, with nothing to do with the tangibles involved. 

I want to hear talks from people who are happy with their moderate income desk jobs. I want to know how they get past daily hurdles. I want to hear from graduate students that are somewhat content with their thesis time despite not having any papers to show for it. Most of all, I want to hear from people that look at failure as a stepping stone and not an agenda of the universe against them. The people that accept moderate outcomes and still work hard because they want to. I would buy that any day over a boring success story.

Along the same lines I find that there are two types of artists - the talent and the technician. I will define artists as people that do something. Like your Subway sandwich artist.

The talent is a pick of the lot. He has the natural factors that can make him work the art like a fish takes to water. He has the flamboyance that makes the highlight reel. He has the mutation that grants him super-strength. He has all the girls and he has their moms too. We hate him and we love him. In other words, the talent is always celebrated.

The technician does not have the talent but has the liking. He made a choice to put in the hard work it takes to try and function as an artist. He is every one of us if we are not the talent. 

The problem? The talent is our success story; the one the got it right on the first try. The technician is our side-plot - you'd expect to be paid by the hour to hear this one. Why is it a problem? By need the talent is one of the few, the elite, the 1% and the rest of us are potential technicians. These definitions are made by social constructs and pressures to identify the fittest. The problem is that we are not in a race for survival all the time, sometimes it is just about making it through the day. 

I want to hear stories about technicians that were not born fancy or went on to become fancy but are content with having the show running. I want to hear stories of people that not stopped singing because they were turned down badly by super singer. Every parent is a technician because there is no national award for best parent (there may be Razzie awards for worst though - many of them trying to "create" a talent). 


I have an uncle who was a professor of Geology in a government college in India. He had a modest income that was able to support his wife and daughter. He worked until he turned 60, after which he retired. Over the years, he saved money to build a small but comfortable home and support himself and his wife through his retirement years. He has a economy class car that serves his needs. He was also able to support his daughter so she managed to get a PhD. of her own. He even saved some for those trips and things that were always on the list but never happened until later.

If the time is right, this may be the most amazing story one could hear. Kudos to all the people that make them. We think you are awesome!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The horror scope mania

Cross posted from Let it be!. Of some perspective problems in the Indian convention of arranged marriages and more, Ramya says...

I think we Indians live in a pseudo modern world where we want to seem broad minded. We don't want to be seen following age-old customs blindly, but on the other hand we're also too scared to let go of some traditions. One place where I see this most is during horoscope matching for weddings, and how some astrologer has predicted what will happen to them. Here's a conversation I had with one of my friends in India who is trying to find his life partner through the arranged marriage setup. Although I'm taking his example, I know a lot more people on the same boat.

He: I spoke to this girl just now, she called me after seeing my profile on the matrimonial site. She's very bold, forward thinking and independent. She's really pretty too.  
Me: Wow that's excellent news! So you're going ahead with this one right? 
He: No I think she's nice but I have to wait till they check if our horoscopes match. 
Me: Wait, so you're saying if horoscopes don't match you'll let it go even if everything else about her is exactly what you're looking for? 
He: My mom said horoscopes absolutely have to match. And I also believe in it. 

I was quite amused that a person from my generation was willing to make life changing decisions based on how the stars and planets were aligned at the apparent time of his birth. But, I don't question people's beliefs so I left it at that. However, what's more interesting is what he told me after talking to the previous girl that he had met through a similar arrangement. The horoscopes had matched. The parents were very happy. But he said the girl was too traditional, did not have a mind of her own and was not "good looking".

End result: He is frustrated. The parents are worried.

This is the case with a lot of others too, both boys and girls. So what is the problem? We have a picture of this perfect person in our minds, and we keep waiting for that Prince Charming to come. He should be cute, rich, funny, loving, sexy and my parents should love him and our horoscopes should match and he should cook for me and do all other household chores as well because I'm all for feminism and shit. In return he'll have my conditional love. Come on, isn't that enough?
Harish sent me an article with 60 short love stories... and this was one of the favorites.

Today, when I asked my grandfather for some relationship advice, he said, “Honestly, the moment I stopped trying to find the right woman, and started trying to become the right man, your grandmother walked up to me and said, ‘Hello.’”

Pretty much sums up what I'm trying to say.

Coming back to the horror scopes. I have another friend who's doing a PhD that told me that she believes that only if horoscopes match, the marriage will work. And that her astrologer has correctly predicted that she will be married this year.

(Now the same astrologer had predicted that she will get married even last year).

I have no problem with astrology. I know that there are some really strong astrologers out there who know their stuff. But here are some of my problems with the blind rigid following.

1. Your entire horoscope is prepared based on the exact time of your birth. How accurately do you know your time of birth? The clocks in the hospitals may have been running ten minutes fast. The doctor may have taken a few extra minutes to note down the time after having you delivered. What if there was day light saving? ;)

2. Many times, two kids are born in the same place same time. But one dies immediately after being born. They have the same horoscopes don't they?

3. Have all the marriages that have been made through horoscope matching succeeded? No diseases, no deaths, no problems? No. I have examples from my family, and I'm sure you do too.

So, every relationship can go either way. The only reason for it to work is that you want it to work :) Instead of adding to your list of criteria the partner should have, work on being the person they'd want. And get rid of blind beliefs, replace them with faith in yourself. There's no star or planet in the universe that can control your life more than you yourself!

Ramya is an aspiring armchair critic and internet troll. In her free time, she enjoys eating Chinese food and learning Thai. Or eating Thai food and learning Chinese. Whatever.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Exhibit 1:
Exhibit 2:
Exhibit 3:

Coming soon

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Act of god

A friend of mine had a tree fall on his car last week. Nasty incident. One half of the car was crushed under the weight of the tree to a flat sheet. He just got done paying off the debt for the car too, so he was really upset about the situation. The situation had happened on university premises though, so in addition to filing an insurance claim, he got in touch with a university official to find out if the university could help make amends. I did not expect the university to pick any tabs but what caught my attention was the email response from the official. It was god's will, he said. My friend thanked him for his empathy and ended the dialogue.

Of course I have heard stories of people talking like this, just never seen it happen this close. Peace.   

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


My first world problem for the day? The smartphone and its games.

I have an interesting situation at work. So if I keep the smartphone on the left side of the desk, it is too far from the wifi router - no internet but one bar to receive calls. If I keep it on the right side of the desk, away from the window (yeah I have a window and the view is awesome!), it loses that one bar but grabs on to the wifi signal - no calls, just internet. Which one do I pick?

I thought for a bit, picked the phone up, stuffed it into my pocket and started working. Problem solved.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


A big part of the technique of teasing involves identifying a good target. Someone that will show an emotional response easily; someone whose pants can be pulled down faster. Most everyone tends to lose interest in teasing someone who does not budge to the first few tries. Successfully getting rid of gender bias is going to require a heavy lack of budging and this post will attempt to discuss that.

Now it is not always specific people that need to be identified as much has their specific blind spots. With women, slut-shaming is the most effective means of hitting that blind spot. Even the most secure and forward of women have a hard time handling it. Part of the problem, at least in the Indian context, is a poorly paced feminist movement. It is hard and pointless to figure out whom to blame for it, but somehow the liberalization process has chosen to move so fast that it has skipped an essential step - the actual liberalization. So now we have the markers of a liberal society but not the thought that should go with it. We have people engaging in pre-marital sex to beat others in the race to lose one's virginity. We have people dressed in new-age attire to prove a point. The problem with that is the confidence that should go with the superficial progress fails to achieve the desired threshold. We are now more vulnerable to bad judgement and negative press on two levels.      

So the offenders reach straight for the silver bullet. They call you a slut and you're shot through the heart. And who is to be blamed? The offenders obviously, for being uncivilized. Advocates for abstinence will indirectly blame you, the victim, by painting the world in irreversible cruelty and suggesting that you remove your modern-age markers. The thing is blaming, while it needs to be done as a future deterrent for the offender, is not part of the solution for you. Have you ever tried slut-shaming a man? They would laugh at you, because no such derogatory concept seems to exist. Accuse him of lechery and he will gladly embrace it with a grin that knows no shame. Ironically, the only way to demean a man on the same count is by calling him a woman!

This is a battle of strength to be fought by weak that are trying to get stronger. The next time you get picked on, don't fall for it and get slut shamed. Take a moment and ponder the rationale of the concept. There really are worse things to be than a slut. It is quite difficult to harden oneself to the idea but it needs to be done if we are to fight through and win this battle. They slut-shame because they are afraid of your progress. They slut-shame because they do not want your inner confidence to catch up with the confidence your body shows. They slut-shame because they do not want to share their place on top of the hill. We will need evasive action if we want to keep moving up the hill and abstinence or hurt will only impede our progress. Keep those pepper sprays, pocket knives and tasers and let hell loose on anyone that will dare to touch you, but for all other verbal artillery, keep calm and party on.

Monday, January 07, 2013


"What does depraved mean?" Mom asked without looking away from her computer screen. She was reading an article from an Indian news channel website. I was in the middle of getting ready for work so I just said lowly and continued packing my lunch bag. "That can't be right", said mom. I walked over to her as she pointed at her article. 'Delhi rape accused will be produced in court today' read the headline. She pointed to a line from the middle of the article that said 'The fifteen year old was the most depraved of the accused'. I had a number of different thoughts immediately. I probably have the meaning of the word wrong. The article was probably poorly written. I had to rush to catch my bus though so I put those thoughts on hold and returned to my lunch bag.

I just checked the dictionary meaning for depraved on the bus. I did not have it wrong. Sigh.