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Anomalizer's Journal
Unintended consequences
20th-Dec-2009 10:38 pm - Equalizers and differentiators
Last week, I was sitting on a bench by the street side in a certain lively part of our country observing a variety of people and wondering what has helped in making them all so different from one another and from myself. Unsurprisingly, the answers to those questions were nothing new; just things that people had told me long ago.

For the most part, I believe that if you want to qualitatively do something, then you can do it. For example, if you are afraid of water and want to do scuba diving, you can actually do it. But if you wish to beat Michael Phelps' record, then you may not be able to do it regardless of how much you try. It is important to be able to make this distinction between being able to do something and being able to do something in a certain fashion and under certain circumstances.

As usual, I have strayed away from the main idea so I shall try and get back to it. If you want to be able to play a guitar, then you can. If you want to be able to service a television, then you can. Of if you just want to wile away your time reading a blog that sounds like a self help book, you can also do that.

However, the thing that you need to realize is that it takes time to do anything (including but not limited to doing nothing or just indulging in procrastination). And time we have to do this is something is a thing that we all have in equal amounts. Everybody has the same amount of minutes or seconds or moments in a single day. Till date, there is no practical way by which we as individuals can break away from this constraint.

This is what makes us all equal and different and less importantly, an amusing paradox. While we all have the same amounts of time, we all choose to put it to use differently. And it is this choice that makes each one of us different. For better or for worse, every choice has an amplifying effect as time progresses. For example, someone who has spent great deal of time learning spoken languages might have to spend much lesser time learning yet another new language than someone who is trying to learn a second language. For all the time this person has spent in learning spoken languages, she has not spent that time doing a myriad other things that set her back in all those things she did not do, relative to the millions of people who were indeed doing those other things.

Coming to terms with this idea is both liberating and depressing. It helps in rationalizing why you can't be able to do everything, let alone being good at it. And it also reminds you why you won't be able to do everything, let alone be good at it.

I guess what is acquired by our choices can be deemed as wealth (not to be confused with money) and wealth is something that is used as tool to exchange what one person has attained through her choices with what someone else has attained through a different set of choices that he has made. And this is how we try to make up for our differences; by trading our wealth. Somewhere along the road, people chose quantify wealth to increase the interchangeability of various forms of wealth created this beautiful disaster that we call money. But that story is for another day.
22nd-Nov-2009 09:39 pm - Retention and worthiness
Hello world. Long time, no pseudo-intellectual stuff. So here it goes!

Gautama the Buddha said desire is the root cause of all sorrow. While most of us would agree, we still do not change our ways. And nothing is wrong with that actually. Much of the trouble comes with the difference that exists between what we wish for and what we have.

I now believe everything that everyone has, has come through exactly one of two ways: either by inheritance or by worthiness. Worthiness is something that I use to describe working towards achieving something in the right way and to the right extent. I shall refrain from elucidating on righteousness or even what qualifies as right. Everything else qualifies as inheritance. Right from the literal meaning of inheritance, I mean everything like winning a lottery, stealing from someone, getting an undeserved opportunity, to even something you are on your way to become worthy of but aren't quite there as yet.

The trouble with inheritance is the ability to retain what you have inherited. If you were not worthy of something but just inherited it, then by definition, you lack what it takes to get it in the first place. Chances are, you will not know what it takes to keep it either. There are enough and more illustrations of this axiom. Most lottery winners usually go back to their old standard of living say within 5 years of winning the money. Founder CEOs of even moderately successful companies don't get to keep their job beyond a certain point (though they may be permitted to keep the title for much longer periods of time). Marriages between incompatible people don't last forever.

The one thing that people tend to overestimate is what it takes to actually get something that you aspire for even when you are not worth it. Should you inherit something, one can always work towards becoming worthy of it before it is too late. Or else, sooner or later, you are going to lose it. And then it will cause you all the more sorrow. There really is no solution to this, for you can undeservedly get something even when you are not pursuing it. The only option I see is to always have you feet on the ground have the ability to genuinely assess where you stand with regards to the worthiness of everything you have or shall have in life. Then you either work rapidly towards bridging the disparity or come to terms with having to forfeit it at some point in the future.
8th-Nov-2009 11:16 pm - TED and I
With TED coming to India, all of a sudden a whole lot of people seem to know about it. I knew what TED was almost a decade ago. And I also knew why it was so elitist and aspired to be a part of it someday. Back then, the number of people I knew who knew TED was practically zero. Even 5 years ago, that number would have been less than 10. Today, all of sudden, everybody seems to know what TED.

While this is a good thing for TED (both the speakers and its newfound audience), personally I feel betrayed that something that was so elitist that I knew and most people didn't know has become a lot more commonplace. This is akin to me knowing Deepika Padukone some 2 years before her debut in Bollywood or google back in early 1999.

How do you react when you see the possibility of mass popularity of something when it is relatively obscure and then it does indeed become commonplace?
1st-Nov-2009 10:49 pm - Proper blogging
It has been a while since I wrote anything in the name of a blog regardless of how pointless it is. Not surprisingly, that coincided with me starting to use twitter. Twitter is awesome is so many ways but certainly not meant to be a substitute for elaborate writing. I've seen a lot of old time bloggers temporarily give up on proper writing when they got hooked on to twitter and it wasn't any different for me either.
I'm making this post from my E63 just to see how hard is full fleged logging from a QWERTY mobile device. Apparently it is not that hard. Anyways, expect to see more of me here.
4th-Oct-2009 10:49 pm - On me being late to the party
I am an exceptionally slow person when it comes to catching up with things. Right from learning cycling say paying attetion to grooming or even using something like a blog; I've been years behind others. One thing I tried to resist was using twitter but I finally got on to it (beyond nominal presence).

Usually, I curse when I try out new things. Surprisingly, I am not doing this with twitter. People talk of user generated content democratizing the world. Until twitter, that just hadn't happened. Also, the six degrees of separation is now staring at my face like never before.

There is something about the way twitter has caught on. The fact that I have sense of what anyone from Werner Vogels to Gul Panag is upto never happened. Never before could I know that Werner had a bad day with Paxos or Gul just landed in BIAL. And also, this is first time I see 6 degrees of separation in action. I know someone who prepared for the IIT entrance exams with Chetan Bhagat who in turn seems to be in touch with Shashi Tharoor and Neha Dhupia.

Heck, inspired by valhenson's post, I think twitter should be the main thing outside of email to stay connected in the online world.

Update: Scott Adam's timing couldn't be more appropriate http://dilbert.com/fast/2009-10-04/
2nd-Oct-2009 10:56 pm - Kitchen chicken
Today I finally got down to making a simple chicken dish all by myself. And it didn't turn out to be half as bad as I expected. I don't know what to call it but it is just getting some "Real Good" boneless chicken, slice & dice, add some seasoning and cooking it. Also, I managed to make rice today which again is no big deal in large scheme of things but was a first for me. If only I were more serious about learning to cook, I'd have gotten much further by now.
28th-Sep-2009 11:30 pm - Meme aaj kal
I tried using a bit of facebook blasts and a few followup on twitter but I realized I just can't help but be loquacious much like Saif in Love Aaj Kal (and the similarity probably ends there). For lack of better things to do, I finally decided to go see that movie knowing three things: there is an element of my second home, my idea of a pretty woman and the first 10 minutes of the story.

For the most part, I found it to be an exceptionally mature story. And when I say mature, I mean literally; not the connotations attached with "mature content". What I found refreshing for a mainstream Bollywood movie is that it lets the two protagonists be completely accountable for their actions. There are no random circumstantial twists, no confusing triangles or pentagrams or some other external forces in play. The notion of you can be as stupid as possible, mess things up as much as possible but that it you ought clean up the twisted little world that you built for yourself was brought out elegantly. Of course, the entire dual story with the flashback seemed like more traditional Bollywood stuff but I guess that was put in to probably help bridge the gap for people with orthodox expectations.

Another completely different aspect of the movie is that it was scattered with a lot of memes from my life. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. Just to make it clear, I'll try and list a few: thinking everything will be ok as long as I'm playing some stupid game (on a PC or the likes of a gaming console), a very specific aerial shot over the Thames that seemed very close to a sighting I had when flying over London, mulling in front of the two towers: iron pillar & qutb minar (which happened to be my phone wallpaper for 2+ years), believing pursuing one's passion as profession is everything in life, hopping aimlessly on and off those cable cars, look at a bunch of people dance and struggle hard in attempts to fit in, using the expression "angreez ban raha hain" and then indulge in something similar at a later point, etc. etc. Of all the movies I've ever seen till date, this one had the maximum numbers of bits and pieces from my life strewn in a different sequence, in a different context but certainly in ways I could relate to.

All in all, watching the movie worked out for me but for anybody else, the maximum they can hope to derive of it is as earlier said: a Bollywood movie with a mature storyline.
26th-Sep-2009 02:27 pm - We didn't start the fire
Found this page that makes We didn't start the fire all the more enjoyable.
15th-Sep-2009 11:34 pm - Round the sun we go
It has been a year since a few things happened. First off, there is no denying that I miss my previous incarnation and I will remain eternally grateful to it. With that being said, I'd venture to say my current avatar has taken my understanding of life to place in ways I could never imagine.

For starters, it has completely redefined my notion of responsibility. It is fun no doubt, much life how there are fun things to do all your life (if you aren't having fun in your life, go fix it) but there is certainly a difference much the one between the fun and carefree life as a 8 year old and the fun and not so carefree life of a 20 year old. What I do know is that at the end of the day (or year to be more precise), it has been totally worth it and I am happy for myself that I was able to make the so called giant leap from a big organization to a small place which I've heard (and also seen first hand) many people find extremely hard to do.
12th-Sep-2009 12:43 am - The importance of trying earnestly
About 5 years ago, I went to a sushi place for the first time. It was also the first time I was in the US&A and never before did I have to figure out using chopsticks. Not knowing how to use chopsticks when dealing with Sushi and more importantly Wasabi is a nightmare that is hard to explain. Despite all the damage, I still liked Sushi. A few years late, I managed to import large quantities of chopsticsk and began my self inflicted training of trying to use it on many food items. The hope was that one day, I will be able to gracefully handle Sushi. Today happended to be the day of reconing when I unexpectadly ended up at shiro and had to put my skills to test. Suprisingly, I had no issues dealing with it and it seemed simple. All the years of practise did finally pay off.
9th-Sep-2009 11:05 pm - Tying the loose ends
I've always been a disaster at tying shoelaces. It always gets undone within a couple of hours. On Sunday, I discovered a new way to tie your laces. And the works like a charm! Finally I don't have to feel like a retard.

The only downside is that I am compensated a gift to make up for my inability to get the laces right: I can stand on just one foot, lift my other foot up and tie the lace. It has been quite a showoff fact, especialy with ladies (not that it has anything more than a momentary effect) and now that skill will be rendered irrelevant thanks to Ian.
2nd-Sep-2009 10:56 pm - After you are gone
People worry about what will happen to a lot of things after they are gone. The funny thing is that it matters only until you are not gone. Once you are gone, it doesn't matter to you.

A good example is what happened to this. Apparently it has gone on to earn certain kinds of honours. The funny thing is that I find a lot of random (read people outside that team) people congratulating me for it. It was the last big thing I did before I was gone. I still don't have an iota of an idea of how I'm supposed to react. Am I supposed to feel happy for the team? Am I supposed to feel proud of myself? Or am I simply supposed to solicit advice on how I'm supposed to react?
1st-Sep-2009 09:35 am - WFH?
Maybe they are talking of people who don't go home and work from office all the time but to me this ad seems borderline crazy

some banner ad
Install wvdial. Have the following setting in /etc/wvdial.conf

[Dialer Defaults]
Init1 = ATZ
Init2 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Init3 = AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","airtelgprs.com"
Modem Type = USB Modem
Baud = 460800
New PPPD = yes
Modem = /dev/ttyACM0
ISDN = 0
Phone = *99***1#
Password = airtel
Username = airtel
Stupid Mode = 1

Thanks to CadCrazy for the original post.
24th-Aug-2009 11:53 pm - Calling it quits
I've been hooked onto tribal wars for the past one month. I got so addicted and loved it so much that on Friday night, I actually bought the premium service for a month. I was high that I was playing a massively multiplayer game and also that I was paying for it (don't ask how that got me high).

Since yesterday, the game has gone so downhill for me that I realize I just cannot play such games. I intent to quit TW forever.

This is quite a natural thing for me to do. I have such tendencies in many walks of life wherein if I don't like the odds of the game; I just walk out. I am not the kind of person who will generally keep on fighting. There are very few things where I show that kind of commitment and when I do, it shows. TW is not one of them :-)
18th-Aug-2009 08:29 pm - The longest read
On Sunday, I finally managed to finish reading Catch-22. It has taken me something close to 4 years to actually pull this off including one restart after being halfway through it. In fact, after restarting, it has been less than an year. That in itself says a lot on what I think of this book.

The problem with the book is that it is extremely disconnected. The chapter titles are mostly irrelevant. In fact, the last 20% of the book is very different from the earlier 80% to the point wherein I believe two different people have written this book. The last part is extremely linear and actually made me want to read through it.

I'd prefer Catcher in the rye any day over this.
13th-Aug-2009 11:17 am - In the end, nature excels
Claim: Swine flu has freaked out far more people than any so called terror attack. Case in point: me.

Since yesterday, I've been trying hard to convince myself that I am not yet infected by it. Put it another way, the hypochondriac and the paranoid in me are both working overtime. My ears have become extra sensitive; every time anyone coughs, my mind registers it. At one point, I concluded that almost everyone is coughing. That is both a relief and a disaster. It relieves me to know that there are other people who cough say once every hour. It also scares me that they have all been sent into this world to give me swine flu; it is a game of odds and numbers.

According to the internet, it actually is not a scary thing for most people and they can recover with little or no medication.
10th-Aug-2009 10:54 pm - Do all SPOFs need to be solved?
In my line of work, people have to say "No SPOF" every other day to sound credible. It parallels to U.S. presidential candidates having to kiss babies; you just cannot run for the office without doing it. The solution always involves (at the very least), having one more of the single thing that is bothering you. Of course, it takes a lot more to ensure that there are no failures. The worst place to end up is to have multiple points of failure. It can be mathematically proven that the more things you have, the chances of at least one going wrong increases.

But what got me to wonder about this is not computer systems but what I saw moments before reaching home. In my great city, office shuttles drop people home. There is a certain law I believe that requires that the last person being dropped not be a woman or else, the employer needs to provide a travelling security guard. The well intentioned rationale goes like this: the driver is a male and poses a threat to the lonely woman in the vehicle. No matter what happens, the driver cannot be eliminated and so he is the SPOF as far as the woman's security is concerned. Having a guard is supposed to mitigate the risk.

This works if the belief is that harm will be caused to the woman either when both the driver and the guard err or the well intentioned soul can overpower the evil one. But somehow, somewhere, this sounds like a security theatre. Maybe I am wrong and more importantly, hopefully I am wrong for I am no expert on human psychology.
7th-Aug-2009 05:46 pm - Devolution
Last friday, I accidentally left the phone behind at office. After a bit of panic and a few calls, I managed to locate it and picked it up the next morning. Ever since then, I've become extra sensitive to the missing bulk in my pants (the phone you pervert!). A while back, I got the feeling again and realized that it has been missing from my pocket for about 10 minutes. So I started running around looking for it. After a bit of running (and opening doors), I still could not find it. Then I was wondering why was I finding it a bit hard to open the doors. And then it dawned upon me that all the while I was talking on the phone!

I guess the unfamiliarity of phone conversations lasting longer than 30 seconds when I'm at work disoriented me. Or at least that's what I like to believe.
25th-Jul-2009 04:52 pm - Filling the empty suit
On Thursday, I actually did something that I'd been planning for a while: to go to work in a suit. It turned out to be a worthwhile experience and I was completely pleased with the result. The motivations were many fold but we shall not go into them for now. I have two suits: one about 6 years old and another about two and a half years old. No points will be awarded to those who guessed that I can no longer fit into the older one. I was initially happy that I fitted comfortably in the newer one only to remember later that it was woefully oversized when I'd actually bought it.

My first discovery was that when it seated position, a man is supposed to unbutton his coat but that does not work very well when you are driving a car. It then raised the question of if a man in a suit is even supposed to be driving a car. The other thing that was becoming painfully obvious very soon was that temperature changes seem to be amplified when inside a suit. The switch from home to just getting into the car to the AC actually taking effect to stepping out in a basement and then into office was a lot of change in temperature for one hour which otherwise did not feel so.

As I stepped into office, I got very strange stares. For those of you who don't know about my past, I've been the a top contender for the most shaggy look at work. Within 10 seconds, someone yelled something to the effect of "Did you get engaged in the morning or is it happening later today"? The conference rooms are largely transparent and my boss came running from some meeting to ask if I've been hunting for a new job. Very soon, people started playing a game of who can come up with the most plausible and also the most outrageous explanation of my behaviour. The fact of the matter was that I was able to wear it for just 2 minutes and found it be a literally stifling experience. I then had conversations with a few folks who actually do wear suits or have worn them regularly in the past. The opinion that seem to come across consistently was that wearing a suit is an accquired habit.

In the afternoon, I did manage to wear it for almost 2 hours but that was after I'd got perfectly accustomed to the ambient temperature. My old belief of "When not in Rome, don't do as Romans do" was reinforced with this experience. As I was heading home, three people decided to hitch a ride on that day (for completely unrelated reasons). I was pointing out to all three of them that on this day they are far more successful in life than they had ever imagined for who'd have dreamt of being chauffeured around by driver who is in a suit!

As for my motivations for indulging in this unwarranted activity, I had at least three good reasons to start off with. Firstly, I wanted to see that if the need ever arose to wear a suit, would I fit in the ones I have. Secondly, I was wildly curious to figure out if I can actually manage to wear it for a day at work (in terms of physical comfort). Thirdly, I knew that I'd be ridiculed for doing something like this and wondered if I could actually take it. There were a few other smaller reasons but I think that this list in itself is good enough. The only saving grace is that no one has the presence of mind to visually immortalize this act on the internet.
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