Jul 30, 2014

Awkward conversation in the washroom

This is going to be a socially inappropriate post. Maybe even NSFW. But the irony is that the post is about a conversation that I had with a colleague in the washroom at work. Those who don't want to read any further, this is a good time to click out.

So, this evening, around 7 pm, I went to the washroom to pee. My colleague, a smart young man, also happened to need to pee at the same time. So we both stood adjacent to each other at the two urinal stalls. We were talking about a TV show and we carried on, while proceeding with the act of micturition. Everything seems fine, until my friend asks me:
Kris, what are you doing?

What do you mean what?

I mean how are you doing that?

What do you mean?

You are not holding it!

Holding what? Oh, yeah, I don't need to hold it. Why would you need to?

Doesn't it spray all over the place?

No, it doesn't. Even at this age, I'm pretty darned good at it.
[After an awkward smile/grin/laugh, he says]
This is surely an awkward conversation that we shouldn't be having.

I guess!
And I walked out of the washroom and back into the office and everyone lived happily ever after.

(PS: I wasn't aware that men are supposed to do it. Several of my friends apparently use the technique my colleague was suggesting. I still don't see the need.)


Jul 29, 2014

How do you build a civilization from scratch?

I don't know about you, but I have often wondered about the ultimate consequence of an apocalpytic scenario in which all of humanity's knowledge is lost along with the vast majority of humanity as well. Say, straight out of a sci-fi movie, the Earth's core becomes unstable in a short period of time and it eventually explodes. The only people who manage to escape are the few extremely lucky ones who get to reach far away from the earth in spaceships to avoid destruction*.

Now assume that the bunch of eclectic survivors consists of a few scientists, and maybe some authority figures. All they have left is some computers and a small collection of books--that is, if they remembered to bring any. Assuming that the internet would exist only if the servers on the Earth would be there, the would not have internet. Assuming that these people who got to escape the catastrophe had sufficient time to think about what they would need to rebuild a civilization, they would have predicted that they would need vast amounts of basic knowledge in the form of encyclopedias and basic science text books.

In such a scenario, the only a long-term hope to reestablish civilization if the survivors can find an inhabitable planet or a moon of a gas giant soon enough so that they don't die within the spaceship(s) that they are in already. Let's assume that there is such a place and the survivors have the technology to travel fast enough to reach there, and that they reach the destination. Can they reinvent the combustion engine or a refrigerator? Would they know the basics of the thermodynamics to make things work? Would they know how to build a home that will withstand the climatic conditions of the planet? Would they know how to make new glass, paper, steel, fuel, etc.? Would they know how to efficiently start agriculture or make weapons for hunting? Would they know enough about elementary pharmacology to synthesize medicines to protect themselves from infections?

If you think that this will all be difficult, what if they did not have the time to take in any material for reference? What if they had to start things from scratch? And what if only a few children who have not learned anything are the only survivors? Would they be able to think up all the inventions that we have made over last 50,000 odd years? In any of these scenarios, how long would it take to reach a level of technology that we now take for granted?

Of course, no one will know the exact answer to any of these questions. My guess is that humanity must think of a way to deposit all the knowledge that we have gained at several locations--on Earth and outside it--to ensure that such a thing does not take place. I don't know the exact way, but the planning must be started soon! What do you think?

The reason why I thought of writing this post now is because I heard an interview with Lewis Dartnell, the author of the book The Knowledge: How To Rebuild Our World From Scratch, on Quirks and Quarks, hosted by Bob McDonald on CBS Radio. Mr. Dartnell has written the book for practically the same situation. This is a link to a review of the book. It's a must-have more than a must-read, I guess, but the only thing I'm not sure if whether I should buy it in a hard copy of download it on my Kindle.

(PS: Yes, I realize that this is just like the Battlestar Galactica plot.)

Jul 28, 2014

How it all went wrong today

Today has been a bad day. It started off well. I woke up early enough, made coffee, had a quick shower, and headed to the office. Although it was dull and murky, it wasn't raining on my rickshaw ride to work. I had the usual roadside idli breakfast and reached work just before my reporting time. The first hour went really well, when I thought I did well to finish the work on an assignment. Then it all started to go wrong.

First it was the constant barrage of interruptions. Junior editors asking me doubts, the project managers constantly shuffling and changing work, people randomly coming up and stopping by, work-related e-mail and instant messages on your computers. I know multitasking is not efficient, but how the hell do you ask people to stop interrupting you? One could argue that being interrupted is a given in a work environment similar to mine, but I don't think that still doesn't explain why people don't think of ways to establish guidelines to streamline all of this.

And then the personal life interruptions started to mount. Messages and e-mails from my sister and Jay. I simply cannot seem to ask them to stop interrupting me. They probably are having an easy day--well, at least I know that sister was taking a day off to recover from an upper respiratory infection--and they want to share it with. Or so it seems like. I don't want to be rude, but it still does make me stressed and anxious. Usually, my afternoon catnap does wonders. It did today too. But after that, the constant stream of interruptions kept me on edge all evening. How I wish I could just block everything and just do my work.

Then the day became worse. Unnecessary wait for the rickshaw, heavy rain on the way with me getting partially wet, crazy traffic--all of this when I was trying to reach my apartment in time to receive my guitar amplifier from someone that my friend was sending it with. In the middle of all this, there was a playful, teasing Jay, at the other end of a Whatsapp chat. Eventually, I let him know that I would appreciate if he would be a little more understanding and less teasing when things are not working out for me. I don't think he completely understood but there was a temporary relief from the frantic texting.

Then I walked into my building to screaming kids, as usual. I walked into my apartment to find that the maid hasn't come in an done the cleaning. Eventually, I learned that my friend was not going to be able to send the amplifier after all! I was so edgy by this time, that I felt that I need to have dinner and go to bed early. So I dial the restaurant downstairs to only find out that there telephone line is engaged for almost half an hour! In between all this, some more texting with Jay. Eventually I got through to the restaurant and got some dinner.

I tried to read a book for a bit but the most annoying ads in between overs on the cricket broadcast and the screaming kids on the corridor did not let me concentrate. Then I had dinner and I felt slightly better. Jay tried some philosophy on the fucked-up-ness of the world on text. That's probably not what I wanted. Eventually, he asked me if I would like to have a phone conversation. A usual, I refused because I felt that we would have a very edgy conversation. It was hard to make him understand why I must go to bed early.

I watched the last few overs of the test match while sorting out my medications for the next few weeks, putting the cocktail of pills in my monthly pill box. I realized that I was relatively short of one of the six I was on. That means that I have to go get another prescription from the shrink and go to the pharmacy and beg for them to give the drugs to me! Aarrgh! The only other things that I can imagine that could have made this day worse are losing my wallet, getting dumped, and have multiple limbs amputated in a road traffic accident.

I want this day to end. Please.

Jul 27, 2014

A conversation with Vinokur

It's been almost four years since I broke up with Vinokur. The phrase "broke up" seems harsh to describe what had really happened. Maybe I should paraphrase it as transitioning from a phase in our relationship to another phrase, where the balance between friendship and affection is different. Although it was initially difficult for both of us (I think) to remain in touch with each other and be each other's best friends, like we were during our romantic relationship, we maintained contact, albeit sparse, in the initial few months.

The conversations that we tended to have usually started with a background of him needing some advice from me regarding his health problems or me needing him as a friend who I trust to confide in during the darkest phases of my depression. Yes, even now, Vinokur is one of the few people that I trust well enough to expose my precarious mental states during crises. However, despite us hanging up almost every time saying something like, "That was very enjoyable. Maybe we should do this more often," we hardly seemed to be able to keep our word and only Skyped once every couple of months or so. This has been severe since early April, when my present phase of depression kicked in. As the usual trend during such phases, I have been avoiding conversations. However, this time around, I've been avoiding Skype conversations as well with almost everyone, including my faithful confidants. In fact, I think I have had only three or four brief conversations, one each with Blummer, Mickles3, and Billiards, but none with Vinokur.

So two night's back, Vinokur wrote me after posting a photo of me on Facebook, which got a lot of reactions. I have also been off of Facebook since early April and all I get are notifications in my email. So I didn't know which photo it was and what the reactions were like. Vinokur had simply written, "Will you have time to talk?" When I receive such messages from him, I usually end up worrying whether there is some big problem in his life that he needs my help with. That's how my mind makes me think. That is, it makes me think that the only reason why someone ever would want to have a conversation with me is because they cannot help avoid it.

My apprehension was slightly alleviated after I told Jay (my boyfriend) that Vinokur had written me. As always, Jay calmed me down and said that may be Vinokur simply wants to talk with me. May be he simply misses you and wants to get back in touch with you. Along with that, Jay forwarded the aforementioned photograph on Whatsapp. Vinokur had taken that photo at a market near our apartment when he visited India in 2008. I felt relieved to see the photo--my fear of something wrong happening in Vinokur's life forcing him to have a conversation with me seemed less likely.

We finally had our conversation last night, and it lasted almost four hours! Just like the good ol' times, with the only pleasant change being that I was sipping a nice blended scotch the whole time. It's amazing how we can sustain a conversation over such a seemingly long duration. We talked about everything--such as, his health, my health, my depression, the books we were reading, the things we were watching, the podcasts that I wanted him to check out, why I'm not being on Facebook (because of it being intimidating, something that I posted on Reddit and got a few interesting and supportive responses for)--in between spells of laughter and linguistic lessons (from him to me). It felt really good.

Anyway, during this conversation, I introduced him to the concept of mindfulness meditation* as well as the other measures that my shrink/therapist duo are employing in their efforts to get me back on track. Within a few hours of us hanging up, almost serendipitously, I received a link from him which seemed to tie up several things that we were talking about last night. More on that below**.

It may seem strange to others when I confess that I get a lot of strength and courage out of such conversations/interactions. In fact, this entire series of events--from Vinokur posting a photo of me to Facebook to the conversation that we had about me not being on Facebook--may eventually lead to me thawing myself out from Facebook hibernation! Wish me luck! Also, thank Vinokur and Jay! :)

*If you are unaware of mindfulness, I strongly recommend that you check out this video of a Google talk by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the guy who made meditation mainstream in the world of modern medicine.

**I have written in detail about what this link is about on Neverlast. Here's the tweet that Tumblr sent out after I posted it. If you are interested in psychology, you may want to check it out, especially if you have had problems with depression and anxiety.

Jul 26, 2014

Your potential blog audience

Once you are a blogger, you will always remain one. Agree?

Who are bloggers anyway? Individuals who want their words and thoughts rants to be read, appreciated, and commented on. Although this trend has been significantly dampened by the vicious onslaught of social networking platforms, some bloggers like me remain rather resilient.

Ever since I have been more active here and on Neverlast, I have restarted thinking in terms of who I encounter in my daily life will like what I post. This is what I tweeted earlier.
Although its quite obvious that everyone is promoting their content/themselves in some way or the other, I feel a tad ashamed. Am I being shallow? Does every blogger think this way? I would love to know your answers.

Jul 21, 2014

Additions to my WHILTHS List from the Stargate universe

As I wrote in my last post, I quite urgently need to update my With Him I’d Like To Have Sex (WHLTHS) list. Considering that the last few months have been dominated by my discovery of the Stargate franchise and consumption of related content, it is most pertinent to add a four delectable men from the Stargate content what I have watched so far.

1. Richard Dean Anderson (older version) as Captain Jack O’Neill in SGU
This may come as a surprise, because, to be honest, Richard Dean Anderson in SG-1 is really attractive. But I got goose-bumps when I watched the SGU pilot when the now aged Captain knocks on the door of a mathematician geek boy Eli Wallace asking him to join the team. The most attractive aspects are the accent and the sarcasm.
Captain O’Neill in SGU
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Captain O’Neill in SG1
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This character is the prototype of my tastes – rugged, coarse features, strong masculine voice, and the balded head/silver goatee.
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3. Erick Avari as Kasuf as the Leader of Abydonians in Stargate (1994) and SG1
He’s actually the first among this list who I really fell for, primarily because he was the only eye candy on the film Starage (1994) for me.
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His character has almost everything that I go for: power, authority, wisdom, righteousness, baldness, shortness, and, and of course, the accent. Below the photographs, you will find a YouTube vide where Master Bra’tac addresses him as Hammond of Texas for the first time.
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(PS: I think I’m about 20% through the entire Stargate catalogue on offer. The movie Stargate (1994), 3 seasons and some of Stargate SG1, and most of the first season of SGU Stargate Universe. This is quite strange because I started with SGU. After the pilot, I was so hooked on to the concept that I decided that I had to go the Star Wars/Planet of The Apes way of watching sci-fi series. So I started from the movie that kicked everything off and the follow-up series. The rest of the episodes of SGU have been watched with the BF – he wants us to watch something or the other every night and we have to find new things that we both can stand.)

Jul 20, 2014

Things that I've been doing

I have not been blogging too much lately. It's not because I don't have things to write about. Rather, I don't feel that what I write is not going to be interesting enough for reading. I guess this is very much part of the negative thought loops associated with depression. I have been reading a couple of books about depression that have opened my mind about this.

This  post is about what I have been doing, apart from worrying/being depressed and working, in the past few months (from January 2014):

I can't believe that I get triggered so easily - positively and negatively.

The last time I changed my blog template, I guess I was in a darker place in my life. I'm not saying that I've come out of it but I see slivers of neutrality in the way I perceive the world. So this afternoon, I was out doing strange things—strange considering that it was a Sunday where I had planned to stay in my apartment, be a hermit, and do my things (i.e., watch sport, read books, work on my guitar-playing skills, and watch TV series).

I took a shower and walked out the door for letting my maid get some time to tidy up my apartment. The only must-do thing on my list was get a strip of an antidepressant medication that I was having trouble getting. I placed a call to the pharmacy to find out that they still haven't received supplies from the company.

I didn't know what to do. I could have come back up to my apartment and sort of crawl into the bed with my Kindle or something. But I didn't. I went to the coffee shop across the road instead and read the book that I was reading, sipping two cups of americano. Strange. Americano has been by go-to-coffee for a few weeks now, after a coffee machine was installed at the office.

Being the state that I am in, I was very distracted. I went about reading like an ADD-affected individual*. Checking my phone every few seconds, zoning out to the two streams of conversations going on in the shop, and reading a few sentences of the book. I was very conscious of how distracted I was.

I must have checked my Twitter feed and something triggered the memory of a blog post in here. The post** is titled My "With Him, I'd Like To Have Sex" (WHILTHS) list". The triggers were two: a tweet from my friend about her Book-et list and my sudden remembrance of an actor from Stargate SG1 who I was horny for.
The result was an instantaneous tweet.
After doing a couple of other things—getting a shave and doing my groceries listening to a podcast—I came back home all excited and got on my laptop. I looked at my blog. The template that I have been using for a couple of years looked stale and sort of wannabe. I was impatient and I instinctively went for this design. I hope I would like it a couple of weeks from now.

Plus, I have a few ideas for posts. After this is done, I'll start writing them. :)

*I may be an ADD-affected individual, you know.
**Coincidentally enough, this post was posted almost exactly 10 years ago - July 10th, 2004. :-O

Jul 13, 2014

For those who are not aware of what depression is

I just stumbled on this on Reddit, which turns out to be one of the best places to learn more about issues from people who you can relate to.

http://www.wingofmadness.com/what-is-depression-and-what-is-it-not/

Last week, I was feeling not so great and a couple of my friends made things worse by asking me why I'm depressed. I was upset with them. In my conversation with the BF, I vented my frustration. He said something similar to what the article in the above link refers to: people who act like how my friends did are not indifferent but are ignorant.

Jul 8, 2014

Worry list for today

  • BF’s health
  • The relationship, and how my depression is ruining it
  • About the next meeting with the BF and what will happen
  • About all communications with him, wondering when the next argument/fight will start
  • Wanting a bigger backpack to carry things around, but not wanting to disappoint him by not using the bag he bought me.
  • Because of the bag situation, packing for staying over at his place, what not to miss.
  • Forgetting things in different bags
  • The perennial fear of losing/misplacing things while in transit
  • Running out of money, long term and short term
  • Getting change for 1000 rupee notes, which is what my new bank’s ATM is giving me
  • Not finding the new bank’s ATMs
  • How to start investing/saving
  • How to sort through the company-provided health insurance papers, while realizing that the closest person in my life won’t benefit from it, thanks to Indian law
  • Reading articles “positive thinking” and similar self-help articles and wondering why I can’t do any of what they say
  • Feeling of being unable to finish any task apart from work (e.g., read a book, learn something, watch a movie)
  • About making errors at work and causing client complaints
  • About how soon I’ll leave work and when I’ll reach the place I have to get to
  • About getting late for things (BF’s apartment, appointments, errands)
  • Income tax return filing
  • Wanting to exercise (walk/cycle) but not being unable to
  • Wanting to wake up early and do something productive, but being unable to
  • About how to manage watching live sports and spending time with the BF
  • About medications - how to get them (pharmacy is always out of stock) and when I’ll run out of them
  • About what I’ll eat in my next meal
  • Running errands in general
  • Communication with friends
  • Impending social outings with friends
  • Losing friends because of my antisocial nature
  • About making friends and loved ones worry about me
  • About the vast amount of things to learn but having little time for it
  • Everyday commute in the rains
  • Increased travel expenditure, especially suburban rail passes
  • Grocery shopping - the experience and how to not forget things
(Originally posted on Neverlast)

Jul 6, 2014

Telebphobia again

I’m generally never in a mood for a phone conversation. Especially, after a tiring movie + grocery shopping trip. That too, after a boring movie. Tonight, I just had too many calls that I purposefully couldn’t/didn’t answer.

Two friends tried calling me multiple times when I was at the supermarket, disrupting my podcast listening People find it hard to understand that I just don’t want to talk on the phone. On top of that, I need to text them back and explain to both that I don’t want to talk. Otherwise, they would think that I’m trying to kill myself or simmering. That is one guilt trip.

I always wonder why people don’t ask by text if it’s okay to call? I don’t buy the argument that friends don’t feel the need to. I try to ask by text before, especially if I am calling randomly. What if someone is doing something that they don’t want to interrupt? In my case, I hardly ever am free to talk or feel like talking.

Unless, it’s urgent, I don’t think phone conversations are necessary. My friends, if they know me, they should know that by now. People should respect others’ preferences and cooperate.

 (Originally posted on Neverlast)

Jul 5, 2014

Something hit me and I'm still down

Everything was great in the first week of April. Something happened then. Since then, I have been feeling not-so-good to horrible.

Triggers everywhere. I don’t want to do many things I used to love. I don’t want to be with most people I know. I don’t want to be at most social events that I used to go to. I want to be in a cave by myself away from the society, doing very few things, but wanting to do them a lot.

Out go Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Viber, and Instagram. Whatsapp and Email are minimum, and I sound rude when I do respond. Enter guitar learning, Stargate watching, and sports following (cricket, sports entertainment, and now football). .

Every now and then, I seem to come out of its clutches. Then I fall back. Pharmacotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy help me survive.

I hurt most people in my life in one way or the other. I don’t want to, really. But I can’t help it. I hope I won’t leave it too late, before everyone’s had enough of me.

(Originally posted on Neveralst)