An Accidental Tapas

An observation upon daily activities

I am not talking about the Spanish appetizers, nor the Filipino method of curing meat. What I want to talk about is meditation and its relationship with day to day activities. I have often thought that meditation was an esoteric concept, done by those whose minds are evolved or have spiritual inclinations. I don’t consider myself to be spiritual in any way. Naturally, I failed miserably when I tried to meditate. My brain wouldn’t focus on a single thought for any amount of time. I tried to count the number of breaths but owing to a few years learning to play tabla (an Indian percussion instrument), I reset my counting after four. Even thinking about past crushes or celebrity fantasies fail after a few seconds. And when I try to write out these seemingly endless supply of thoughts on a paper, it becomes blanker than…….. well, apparently it is blank now.

Day to day activities now:doing dishes, cooking food, dusting the shelves, mopping the floor, washing clothes, ironing clothes, scrubbing the basin, watching T.V, staring at the ceiling, etc. We all know how much we enjoy doing chores. The thrill of knowing exactly what’ll happen next is too much excitement to handle. But when these actions are repeated with deliberate action, with careful intention, with needful diligence, patience & skill, the chores performed as such have the potential to be transformed into prayers.

One might have experienced a sense of ‘zoning out’ when doing the dishes or mopping the floor. The initial disgust or even indifference is replaced by cold consistent action without the thought of result. I haven’t had the displeasure of meeting a skilled mediation master, but I imagine that (s)he would agree with me that meditation is more than sitting still and breathing. It involves on just doing, for lack of a better word. Meditation, for me, is a process of finishing a job and while doing that, finding a piece of you own self. It isn’t just a way of living healthy, it is a way of living. The inner voice which doesn’t seem to shut up, becomes surprisingly silent and much more constructive when given a chance to express all that it needs to.

I know, it sounds all romantic and mystic. It actually is. When cleaning the dishwares (I have made it up just now), moving the lawn or watering the garden, I have experienced a simultaneously a slower and a more detailed passage of time. It isn’t a very ordinary feeling, but can be experienced everyday. The feeling comes and goes with time, but it leaves powerful impressions. The time you are alone with your thoughts brings out all the past hurt, the disappointments, the regrets, the guilt, the anger, the suffering, the familiar feeling of heart break and the feelings of excitement, hope, joy, smiles, tears of joy, the familiar scent of her favourite lip balm, the taste of mom’s food and much more. If you have ever defined yourself by your past, you will have plenty of opportunity to redefine them. You will even have the chance to think about possible future outcomes, reprioritise your priorities, make certain new boundaries and maybe make up your mind if you were indecisive about something.

Granted, this won’t happen in a day. It will take some practice and a whole lotta time. To be brutally honest, it might never work for you. Maybe you weren’t born to do even a single chore. I am not asking you to give it a try. You’ll probably do better under the guidance of a teacher. You might even feel worse for it. We can’t be certain of anything in our chaotic universe. To put it fancily: Ignotum Fatum. But I feel a need to share my views with someone. What is better than doing it sitting behind a computer screen, to potentially thousands of people? (in reality, just 4 or five in case of a good month)

Hope that you will find whatever you are looking for, while I continue to do the same for me.

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Dear Diary

I saw someone very beautiful today. It was very awkward at first, my heart was beating so fast afterwards. My cheeks went sooo red. I was pretty embarrassed with the way my hair were not in their perfect shape. I promise I am gonna brush them a hundred times every night from now on.

I could not meet their eyes, all the sensations were heightened tenfold. My insides felt like they were on fire and my knees started to get weak. Breathing & blinking were no longer involuntary actions, but rather progressively difficult tasks.

With great effort, I managed to look at that person in the eye, raising my heavy eyes slowly.

Only to find that I was standing close to a very large mirror.

-Excerpts from  My Diary from a parallel Universe

The Better Productivity Hack

A Rant on Productivity

Ladies and gentlemen! I would like to welcome you all to yet another episode of ‘me ranting to things that make sense but I still do it because I can’. This time, the subject is productivity. To start is off, what do I mean when I say I want to increase my productivity? The most untrustworthy source of information aka wikipedia describes productivity as “A productivity measure is expressed as the ratio of output to inputs used in a production process, i.e. output per unit of input”. Lol! I say. Although this definition is applicable to machines and systems, people often extend it to people too. We all want to be successful. But , we want it to happen right now. We are sure that if we have the next latest gadget or the newest app, we’ll be able to take the world by its throat.

Sadly, the world doesn’t work that way. All good things need work ; constant work. You want to be better? Be better everyday and work at being better. All good things require constant effort. But, we aren’t about philosophy of work & life, at least not for now.

What we are talking about here, is the secret to productivity. It is…. your attitude, rather your state of mind, actually, your reaction to the stimulus. There have been many events where I ought to have been bored to death by the monotonicity, but the person I was talking to/task at hand held my curiosity just for the sake of it. I was able to go through the task at a relative ease. I have often felt more energetic on less than 6 hours of sleep than when I had eight hours. I have stuffed my belly to the max and yet, was able to perform better in a physical taste than when I would have considered to have eaten a well balanced diet. The deal is, nothing works; at least not all the time. The various studies, that have shown that one sip of water every five minutes makes you more productive, will never be able to tell you if that procedure is effective for you. Who knows? Vaccines may even cause autism for your children. Or might even cure it in your case.

If you ask Coldplay, they’ll say “We live in a beautiful world”, but it is also quite probabilistic instead of deterministic (a fancy way of saying you can’t be sure of anything). Meaning, whatever holds true for masses holds true for individuals too, but just not with you 😛 . You should always take the list of 10 apps that’ll make your life more productive with a large pinch of salt (just don’t leave the salt on for too long else it may cure the list). Keep trying things that work for you and don’t let the internet feed you information which might be false, or worse, true.

Resist to fill the so called void with meaningless gadgets and/or apps. There is nothing wrong with being sad or feeling a bit lonely every now and again. There is no void waiting to be filled, there’s no promise of heaven after the next task, just more tasks that need to be finished. And if you somehow manage to not drown in your day to day tasks, someone else will drag you into theirs.

Of course, to do lists help people organize their tasks (for those 1 out of 10000 people), you’ll be better off drinking 8 litres of water everyday, Evernote is a brilliant application and porn/social blockers will definitely do what they were designed for. But selling them as a cure-all for your laziness and lack of competence wont get you very far in life.

Splitting Hairs Part Two: The Vacuum Cleaner

A series of my inconveniences with household gadgets – The Vacuum Cleaner

The Vacuum Cleaner is probably the only gadget which I hate exactly the same amount as much as I like. I know, you could have been reading brilliant books that would have changed your perception, listening to amazing podcasts or even watching interviews of really famous people, but here you are, reading about a guy ranting about vacuum cleaners, and that gives me a hope for mankind.

Vacuum cleaners aren’t the magical pills that’ll remove dirt or trash from the interplanetary space, instead they help you remove vacuum from places where you don’t want it to be. For example, on your carpet: You wouldn’t want a vacuum on your carpet, it traps in all the dust particles and pet hairs. Thus, removing vacuum from the carpet renders it clean, though it loses a bit of its thermal insulation. Curtains are basically carpets for walls, except that they seem to hang on for their lives to flimsy suspended rods.

Windows are another example. vacuum adversely affects windows (MacOs, Linux, Chrome Os users are pretty much at a risk too). Vacuum deposits on window panes will cause all the air from outside as well as inside to be drawn towards it, making a tiny whirlwind in your homes. I believe that it was ancient mayans that said “Vacuum swallows your money, quite literally.” Keep your important documents, currency notes, tissue papers, hamster pets away from a window’s vacuum else you might blame your cat for the disappearing tweety bird or your pet goldfish.

Bathroom is another fine example. A deposit of vacuum on your toilet maybe the stuff nightmares are made of. Imagine excreta, toilet water, soap gunk, etc clinging to vacuum and ruining an almost transcendental experience. I wonder why the flush makes such a loud noise like a monster. It might have been flushing down some vacuum along with itself. And so on… What we have established here is that vacuum needs to be cleaned out from various paces and we need a vacuum cleaner for that.

A very fun-damental aspect of vacuum cleaning is cleaning the vacuum cleaner itself. All the vacuum needs to be removed from your vacuum cleaner, and you might need another vacuum cleaner to do it. Now, don’t be hasty and buy a third vacuum cleaner to clean the second one, just use the first one. Just remember that vacuum can never be created nor destroyed, just transferred from one vacuum cleaner to another. But it can be cleaned though.

PS: I have used vacuum a total of 30 times in this post, but I don’t feel that it is the primary reason it sucks (Did you think I wouldn’t crack this joke at least once?)

Fountain Pens

An Introduction to Fountain Pens

Despite my heart’s deep desire, fountain pens aren’t named so because they squirt inks into the air. 😦 Or even because they were found at the fountain of youth. A fountain pen is called a fountain pen merely because it has a reservoir of ink for a continuous flow rather than constantly dipping them in ink as opposed to dip pens. The first guy to be credited with the invention of fountain pen was Petrache Poenaru in 1827.

The Fountain pen writes with ink delivered through a metallic nib (stainless steel, gold, iridium,titanium etc). The ink is stored in a hollow body which rests on the writer’s hand. It may be made of metal or plastic. The ink may directly be stored in the body or in a cartridge/converter. The primary force that sends the ink to the nib is our most hated physicist Newton’s Gravity and Capillary Action.

Now, what makes a fountain pen different?

Many reasons actually. It is eco-friendly, lots of customisations of body weight, nibs types and inks are available. It adds a certain style to your personality. Fountain pens have that rustic old charm even when they are made of cutting edge technology. Fountain pens force you to slow down and pay attention to what and how are you writing. It is temperamental, lasts a lifetime if taken proper care of, will be a great conversation starter and will become a writing companion to you, if you let it be.

But none of the above compares to holding a pen in your hand that isn’t disposable. The mere act of holding that pen is what I might say, transformational. The ritualistic process of refilling and flushing (a fancy term of washing) your pen, the weight of the pen, the unique design of the writing nib, the ease of ink flow, the body that reminds you of a love tucked away in the corner of your heart makes you want to write things out on a paper. Get yourself a quality paper and fancy ink and you’ll feel the poetry of motion. This might even inspire you to write poems/letters dedicated to your loved ones, or even make you want to write that book you always wanted to write.

I get it, not all of you would like to have a writing instrument with a personality. Just give a try and who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself in a lifelong affair. It’ll definitely give your signature and your handwriting some metaphorical weight.

A fair bit of warning though, the pens come in variety of costs, sizes and nib types. Make sure to do a bit of research before spending a lot of money on a pen that you turns out to not be what you have imagined. Or even worse, you might become an addict and start hoarding various types of inks and pens. Keep in mind, the pen is not an end. You need a decent quality paper and ink to truly enjoy the writing instrument. A basic information on how the ink flows through the veins (feeder and nib) of the pen, typical issues like nib drying, ink being too wet or too dry on the paper, false starts, jumping, etc will make your life a bit easier.

If you are one of them who use pens just of a quick note or doodle, or just plain hate any maintenance on your writing instruments, but still want to upgrade your writing instruments, by all means use a gel or a ball or a roller pen. If you feel that you are comfortable with pens and still want to level up, buy a dip pen or use feathers as quills. Don’t blame me if it proves to be too demanding.

Splitting Hairs -Number 1: The Induction Cooktop

A series of my inconveniences with household gadgets – The Induction Cooktop

We have established that I can cook. I use gas stoves and induction cooktop both. The induction stove is 1600 watts max, operates on 220 Volts and 50 Hz current. It can heat only steel and its other alloys. It has a 9-step heat adjustment mechanism and a countdown timer plus a few preset time & heat settings for about 7 food items. The heating area is about 10 inches in diameter, makes limited noise and the device weighs around bare 4 kg.

So much for the introduction. There are a lot of things I like about it and almost the same amount of things that I don’t.

Likes:

1. Portability – It is easier to carry around the house and to other houses too if needed.

2. Eco friendly nature: It doesn’t use fire for heating, but uses electricity which is generated by burning up stuff in thermal power plants. All in all, it uses indirect heat from far away more efficiently than it’d if it were heated directly. It doesn’t produce too much smoke and makes staying in kitchen more pleasant.

3. Quickness: It heats the utensils faster than I am used to and to a pretty high heat (enough to burn your hands).

4. Hating Insects: The cooktop has an in-built hatred towards arthropods, particularly cockroaches. So much so that it refuses to work properly if a cockroach comes near it.

5. Timer: It has a built-in timer which can be programmed to supply heat for a specific number of minutes (max 2 hours).

Dislikes/Drawbacks:

1. Non-Versatality:  Doesn’t heat up all utensils, only specialized flat base cookware work with it. It is also not very good for searing, stir frying or any technique which requires a good amount of heat.

2. Temperature Issues: It stops heating if the glass surface heats up to a threshold.

3. Heating Technique: It uses eddy currents produced in utensils to hear them up. In the bottom half of the control settings, the device just heats for a minimum short period time instead of decreasing the intensity. It is the equivalent of taking the utensils on and off the stove to keep the heat low.

4. The Food: Due to heating my magnetic rubbing, the pans get heated on a very specific spot. Even the medium thick pans tend to cook the foods unevenly, causing a not-so-easy cooking experience.

Few incidents:

– I have burnt milk, oats, rice , lentils, etc at the bottom of my pan.

– Once there was a power cut during cooking and I had to eat uncooked pasta for dinner.

– I tried to heat water in an insulating steel mug, I have maybe damaged the mug and the cooktop both.

– Metal chains, spoons, coins and key rings are best kept away from the heating coil (learnt it the hard way). 

– I was very confident in the portable nature of the top, but it is highly dependent on the vicinity of a power outlet.

Having finished this article, I thought of deleting it about three times. But what kind of a man would I be if I deleted the posts I didn’t like? Answer: A thoughtful one. So I decided to write out a series of articles about what I own and what I like/hate about it  The induction stove was one of my favourite pieces of kitchen equipment and probably still is. Hope the next one is as fun to dissect as this one. 

The Taxi Fare Problem

A Solution to an old problem

 

This problem was probably the first problem that was presented to children learning linear equations in one variable. The objective was to simply put a mathematical equation of the given word problem. Simple, isn’t it?

 

The statement: Design an equation to calculate the fare of a taxi subject to following rule- 80 units for upto first kilometer and 50 units per kilometer after the first. (I used units because…well because I fancied it).

Now, if x is the distance travelled in kilometers and y is the total fare, then the equation comes out to be:

y = (80+50x)

Once again, simple. However, I was smart and asked my teachers if I should pay 80 units to the taxi-man even if I traveled 0 kilometers.  My teacher glared at me and made a correction on the board.

y = (80+50x) , for all x>0
y = 0        , for all x=0

He also dared me to try and travel negative distance and figure out the fare then.

I considered it a low-blow. Now because I couldn’t prove him wrong, I had to accept that he was right (mathematics is full of clever proofs in similar manner).

Fast forward to 8 years later:

I made a small but significant change to the original equation:

y = (x/x)(80+50x)  , for every non negative x

Now what would that change? I think that we wouldn’t need to develop a step break in the function. My function would just cease to exist when a traveller travelled zero distance. Which kinda makes sense because if I didn’t travel anywhere, I’d like to not pay the fare. Which isn’t the same as paying the fare of ‘0’ rupees. Naturally, I didn’t play with the left hand side of the equation because I didn’t want to touch the dependent variable.

My friend thinks that this isn’t the optimal solution, but this is my blog, and I’ll write whatever I want.