Friday 25 December 2009

Stuff amidst fluff

Caught up once in a bout of arbit enthu, I added a bunch of "business"-related feeds to my Google Reader subscriptions. Roughly a month after that, I into a routine of diligently reading the webcomics, the occasional update by an XLer or two, items shared by my Google Reader buddies and promptly "Mark As Read"-ing everything else.

Earlier today though, a post titled "Are You Programmed to Fail" from a blog called "Sales Machine" (I know, I know...) caught my eye. This is one of those hardcore "everything you do is a sales pitch" blogs, so one has to click through to the actual website to read the post, which usually annoys me enough that I avoid doing so, barring one or two intriguing Freakonomics posts. But then again, I really did want to If I Was Programmed to Fail.

Wonder of wonders, amidst the most patently ridiculous premise, was actually something interesting!
Everybody has a set of arbitrary rules defining the meaning of events in their life. Most people don’t set these rules consciously; instead, they just “grow” into them based on their temperament and upbringing. Because of this, many people have rules that tend to make them miserable.

I’ve known people who, in order to consider themselves really happy, must be on a wonderful vacation, win the lottery, fall in love, eats some rare delicacy, or some other unusual or even once-in-a-lifetime event.

In almost every case, these same people can find virtually any excuse to be miserable. If they miss a stop light, they get upset. If they can’t get a jelly donut in the morning, they’re upset. If they can’t watch their favorite TV show, it ruins their day, etc., etc., etc. They have an endless list of tiny things that steal away their happiness.

People who have those rules about life, are programmed to be miserable, because they’ll encounter dozens of things each day that irritate them, and very few events that will make them happy. And being unhappy or irritated most of the day is the ULTIMATE expression of failure in life.


The solution, of course, is to get off your emotional duff and start doing the hard work of changing your rules. Because here’s the exciting thing: if you switch the two sets around, you’re re-programming yourself to be happy, and therefore to win.

Want to be successful? Here’s how:
  • Decide to have rules that make it easy to be happy. Let little things that happen every day be cause for celebration. Find every excuse possible to take a little pleasure out of life.
  • Decide to have rules that make it difficult to be miserable. Save your misery for truly awful things, like the death of a close relative, financial disaster, or a major, debilitating illness.
Well played, sir. But. B-U-T but! Seeing as I have no other way of paying for the "content I consume", I urge you, dear readers, to trundle on over to the Sales Machine blog to see what the real point of that post is.

Linky to consume and pay for.

Thursday 26 November 2009

There goes the day

One Hundred Interesting Wikipedia Articles:
As the disclaimer over that blog says: I will not be held responsible for the many MANY hours of lost productivity resulting from the exploratory clicking around that will inevitably ensue as a result of following above links.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Ancient history (sort of) repeats itself

THEN: Xenophon with Cyrus
While a young man, Xenophon participated in the expedition led by Cyrus the Younger against his older brother, the emperor Artaxerxes II of Persia, in 401 BC.
NOW: Xenophon against Cyrus
Senator Nick Xenophon launched a scathing attack on Scientology, citing letters from former followers alleging extensive criminal activity. Scientology spokesman Cyrus Brooks said the senator's attack had been an abuse of parliamentary proceedings.
One expects the battles to be no less bloody, though.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Combining theory with practice indeed!

So tell me, is this how one manages the studies of one's faculties?

Friday 30 October 2009

Apple users are gullible

MediaPost is carrying an article about a study done by a mobile ad network called Quattro Wireless, which looks at click-through rates on online advertisements via mobile devices.

The results:

The article itself also mentions that the total number of ad impressions were the highest for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

So basically, iBlahWhatever users are more likely to click on ads, or in other words, fall for marketer-bait. QED - these folks are gullible and like to splurge on shiny thingummies. As, it would appear, are gamers, but that was never in question :-)

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Kick-ass food!

(My review of Cafe Thulp in Koramangala, which I put up on Burrp! Bangalore, slightly edited)

While I'm not quite the burger connoisseur, I certainly know my meats and breads, and Cafe Thulp is pretty awesome in this respect.

I called up and asked for directions to the place, which turned out to be a good idea, as the placement on the map here wasn't entirely accurate, and had my expectations raised by the courteous and cheerful way in which the chap directed me.

On reaching, both me and the significant other were impressed with the decor of the place - bright, and stacked with board games and books near the entrance!

The place-mats on the table had some funnies on them, and the menu was a delight to read (funky names for the items, and a couple of margin scribbles), which made us delay our order by quite a bit! We finally settled on a hummus with pita bread, a chicken sub (The Funky Chicken) and a vegetarian spaghetti (don't remember the name.. Alphonse something?), a lime-mint cooler (Sour Puss) and the apple/cinnamon smoothie. We also packed a grill-cheese sandwich (PETA ka Beta) and a burger (Moo with Cheese) for a friend.

While the food was outstanding, the Sour Puss really only felt like watered down Limca with a few pudina leaves and a lemon slice floating around (our standards for lime-mint coolers are sky-high - we hit the Fruit Shop on Greams Road in Chennai pretty often!). Also, the smoothie/milkshake felt slightly meh - probably not enough ice-cream, too much milk? I dunno.. But this wasn't too sore a point - I plan to come back later and try out the other shakes (including the Snickers Blizzard, which sounds yum..)

Summing up: both of us loved it, and the friend who we parceled the food for also loved it. Hence, while I haven't eaten at too many burger joints in Bangalore just yet, for now, this is the best of them all!

A few nit-picks:
  • Personally, we felt the tables were a bit broad - i.e. when sitting facing each other, we seemed to be really far apart..
  • The waiter in his enthu to be enthu, comes uncomfortably close to the diners (read, me) :-|
  • The bill took AGES to arrive - but this might not be the norm, as the staff had vanished to the back of the restaurant temporarily for some major dressing-down the manager seemed to be dishing out :D

Monday 26 October 2009

Such is life

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner gave me a good couple of hours, when I read Freakonomics. "Exploring the hidden side of everything" was (to me, at least) a novel concept, which was why I also gobbled up The Undercover Economist by Tim Hartford.

These days, though, when the advantage of information (and data!) asymmetry is being gradually eroded by the likes of the Big G, 'counter-intuitive' pronouncements require a phenomenal amount of legwork, and nobody can get away with being contrarian just for the sake it, thanks to the meddling bloggers.

Hence, after Levitt and Dubner get called out again and again, and continue to not "take responsibility for their failed attempt to be cleverly contrarian", I was reminded of a Seth Godin conclusion from about a month back:
You don't have to like the coming era of hyper-measurement, but that doesn't mean it's not here.
Such is life.

Wednesday 7 October 2009


Dan Gilbert, Harvard psychologist:

Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don't get what we wanted. And in our society, we have a strong belief that synthetic happiness is of an inferior kind. Why do we have that belief? Well, it's very simple. What kind of economic engine would keep churning if we believed that not getting what we want could make us just as happy as getting it?
Wow. Quite possibly, the most enlightening 21 minutes of my life. Watch it. Ideas worth spreading indeed.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Tech fundoo

"Tech fundoo" is term first made known to me by Krishnamurti (G, not J). It appears to me to be the Indian form of a hacker, as defined in its 'original' form.

I have always felt that I was tech fundoo, and sometimes attempted to back it up with a few blog posts. But most tech fundoo I have felt was, curiously, NOT when twiddling with hardware/software innards or some arcane Linux-y fundaes. These two occasions, by some weird coincidence, involved the use of the Character Map in Windows XP.

The first time was when ant poop had eaten into my laptop's keyboard circuitry, rendering some keys useless. As Murphy would have it, one of these alphabets had a double occurrence in my Windows password.

Living in a relatively boondocky area in Chennai then, rendered me completely unable to get a USB keyboard, so some other ingenuity had to be thought of. Which is when I used a cybercafe computer to look up the Alt code for the missing alphabet of my password, and used this to peacefully log in to Windows. Such technological satisfaction. Such tech fundoo-ness. Ah!

The second time was the previous night, whilst waiting to board a Jet Airways flight from Bombay to Bangalore. (Aside: This was via Jet Airways Konnect, but Travelocity losers never informed me of this in any manner throughout the booking process, or in the e-ticket. And I would rather go hungry than pony up Rs.100+ for a sandwich that wouldn't be enough for Kate Moss.) The waiting area at the boarding gates of the domestic terminal at Bombay Airport has 4 Internet kiosks. Two of them are your standard kiosk fare - LCD screen, hobbled laptop keyboard with touchpad. The other two are touch-screen LCDs, one of which was switched off. The other one was running, and logged in to WinXP, but had no keyboard, and no apps running! This explained why people would wander near this terminal, scratch heads for a few minutes, and walk away. So the question now was: how were we to check up on cricket analysis/bulletins?

Easy. Fire up the Character Map, click-select 'cricket' letter by letter, open up IE, focus on search box, Page > Paste (This took a couple of minutes to figure out - IE8 is frickin' counter-intuitive!), Go. Bam, reading Cricinfo!

Happier still this made me, when after we were done, the stream of people to this kiosk increased. As did the subsequent head-scratching and walking away. We did end up slightly miffed that we'd forgotten to erase the browsing history, so an enterprising kid fired up the browser and used the History to get to CricInfo.

Occam's Razor takes a while to slit one's throat though - I realised much too late that happy online-ness could have been attained via the free airport wi-fi on my trusty Nokia N82.

Still. I am tech fundoo.

Friday 25 September 2009

On mistakes

Today's so-called 'avant-garde' crowd over-rates making mistakes. The precise load of horse-manure that captures this kind of thinking is spewed by Alyson Hannigan as Lily in How I Met Your Mother:
OK, yes it's a mistake. I know it's a mistake, but there are certain things in life where you know it's a mistake but you don't really know it's a mistake because the only way to really know it's a mistake is to make the mistake and look back and say 'yep, that was a mistake.' So really, the bigger mistake would be to not make the mistake, because then you'd go your whole life not knowing if something is a mistake or not. And dammit, I've made no mistakes! I've done all of this; my life, my relationship, my career, mistake-free. Does any of this make sense to you?
What a steaming load of tripe. Some things are just wrong, religious or philosophical eloquence notwithstanding.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

The gut is right!

Preface: BOCTAOE.

Happiness usually results when one's subjective instincts are validated by more or less scientific methods.

In our somewhat sports-nutty home, Sumana and I made the observation that top mens' tennis players, as general practice, seemed to cruise through their early games without expending too much effort. Basically, they would take it easy, clinch a break, and sail through the match, one set at a time, and by and large on a single break of serve. Imagine my delight when I found out that not only did economists agree, but that this had also been objectively proved!

The basic premise of the linked blog post and the PDF are actually different: the post talks about how the clustered scoring system in tennis differs from a cumulative one like, say, basketball, and the paper is about "Gender Differences in Performance in Competitive Environments".

The paper is pretty revealing about several aspects of tennis though, and a particularly good commentary on the state of the sport in the 2006-2007 period. From its abstract:
It finds that at crucial junctures of the match the probability that a point ends in an unforced error increases substantially for women, but remains unchanged for men. Data on serve speed, on first serve percentages and on rally length suggest that women play a more conservative and less aggressive strategy as points become more important.
I am going to use the blog post and paper to make some (wholly unsubstantiated by data, as of now) observations.

On the whole, in the last 5 years or so, mens' matches seem to be more evenly matched. This can be attributed to both the phenomenon of the top players cranking it up a notch at crucial points, but also to the fact that the 'spread' in the abilities of the top mens players appears to be a whole lot lesser than the similar 'spread' for the good ladies of the WTA Tour.

I suspect that the top players realise both this and the findings of the paper intuitively, and hence the women set out to 'demolish' their easier opponents, while the men prefer to conserve energy to 'peak' at the right time, which might be proved if one looked at the number of bagels and breadsticks for the men vs those for the womens' matches, over the last 5 years.

Ah, if only there were a StatsGuru equivalent for tennis!

Friday 4 September 2009

Random thoughts on growing older

(as paraphrased from arbit website - note to creator: don't sue me, pretty please)
  • Is it just me, or are 80% of the faces in the "people you may know" feature on Facebook, people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?
  • You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day.
  • Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realise you're wrong.
  • I don't understand the purpose of the line, "I don't need to drink to have fun." Great, no one does. But why start a fire with flint and sticks when they've invented the lighter?
  • Have you ever been walking down the street and realised that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.
  • I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.
  • The letters T and G are very close to each other on a keyboard. This recently became all too apparent to me and consequently I will never be ending a work email with the phrase "Regards" again.
  • Do you remember when you were a kid, playing Nintendo and it wouldn't work? You take the cartridge out, blow in it and that would magically fix the problem. Every kid did that, but how did we all know how to fix the problem? There were no internet or message boards or FAQ's. We just figured it out. Today's kids are soft.
  • There is a great need for sarcasm font.
  • Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realise I had no idea what the fuck was going on when I first saw it.
  • I think everyone has a movie that they love so much, it actually becomes stressful to watch it with other people. I'll end up wasting 90 minutes shiftily glancing around to confirm that everyone's definitely watching and laughing at the right parts.
  • I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.
  • I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.
  • The only time I look forward to a red light is when I'm trying to finish a text.
  • Was learning cursive really necessary?
  • LOL has gone from meaning, "laugh out loud" to "I have nothing else to say".
  • I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
  • Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart", all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart".
  • How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?
  • I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a dick from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!
  • While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and instinctively swerved to avoid it... thanks Mario Kart.
  • Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in' examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot. Today I had to spell my boss's last name to an client and said "Yes that's G as in...(10 second lapse)... ummm... Goonies".
  • Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
  • I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.
  • Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.
  • I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a dick from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!
  • I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.
  • Bad decisions make good stories.
  • Whenever I'm Facebook stalking someone and I find out that their profile is public I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who just got the Red Ryder BB gun that I always wanted. 546 pictures? Don't mind if I do!
  • Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVDs? I don't want to have to restart my collection.
  • As a driver I hate pedestrians and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.
  • There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.
  • I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.
  • "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.
  • I hate being the one with the remote in a room full of people watching TV. There's so much pressure. 'I love this show, but will they judge me if I keep it on? I bet everyone is wishing we weren't watching this. It's only a matter of time before they all get up and leave the room. Will we still be friends after this?'
  • I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Darnit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?
  • I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.
  • When I meet a new girl, I'm terrified of mentioning something she hasn't already told me but that I have learned from some light internet stalking.
  • I like all of the music in my iTunes, except when it's on shuffle, then I like about one in every fifteen songs in my iTunes.
  • Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
  • I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
  • Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time...
  • I wonder if cops ever get pissed off at the fact that everyone they drive behind obeys the speed limit.
  • I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
  • More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.
  • The other night I ordered takeaway. When I looked in the bag, I saw they had included four sets of plastic cutlery. In other words, someone at the restaurant packed my order, took a second to think about it, and then estimated that there must be at least four people eating to require such a large amount of food. Too bad I was eating by myself. There's nothing like being made to feel like a fat bastard before dinner.

Thursday 27 August 2009

The Not-So-Big Read

Picked this up from some random blog. Just because it's been a while since I've actually picked up a book, here's hoping that this provokes me enough to stop reading only Reader and become an actual reader.

The original list was flawed (clubs entire series together as one book, and it doesn't accurately reflect The Big Read's Top 100 books) so I've taken the liberty of modifying the meme with the actual list.

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.
  • Look at the list and bold those you have read.
  • Italicize those you intend to read.
  • Mark in RED the books you LOVE.
  • Reprint this list in your own blog.
  • (this point added by me) Having seen the movie/cartoon/TV series is not the same as having read the book.
The List
  1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
  2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
  4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
  5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
  8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
  9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
  10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
  14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
  15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
  16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
  18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
  20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
  23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
  24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
  25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
  26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
  27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  28. Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
  29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
  32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
  34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
  35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
  36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
  37. Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
  38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  39. Dune, Frank Herbert
  40. Emma, Jane Austen
  41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
  42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
  43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
  44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
  45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
  46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
  47. Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
  48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
  49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
  50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
  51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
  53. The Stand, Stephen King
  54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  55. Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
  56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
  57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
  58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
  59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
  60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
  62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
  63. Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
  65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
  66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
  67. The Magus, John Fowles
  68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
  69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
  70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
  71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
  72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
  73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
  74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
  75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
  76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
  77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
  78. Ulysses, James Joyce
  79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
  80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
  81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
  82. Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
  83. Holes, Louis Sachar
  84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
  85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
  86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
  87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
  89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
  90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
  91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
  92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
  93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
  94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
  95. Katherine, Anya Seton
  96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
  97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
  98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
  99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
  100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
And just because I can, and because the number is ridiculously manageable, I tag whoever reads this blog post :-)

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Say it isn't so!

Is IIT-M going the way of IIPM? Or was this deliberate? One can never know. Found in the Super Manager event page for Shaastra 09, the rules & regulations read thusly:

I suppose if a manager is 'doing their undergraduate', then they REALLY must a super manager..

Tuesday 18 August 2009


Computers never get old. They just become incompatible with the state-of-the-art.
Well said, sir.

Monday 10 August 2009

This is awesome

(I hope the commenter doesn't sue me for the verbatim lift. Linky 1 and Linky 2 from a Hacker News discussion on useless Time magazine article on why exercise is useless.)
Self-restraint is a hackable psychological phenomenon in one's brain. I agree that it is not an innate moral power, but I disagree that it is a distinct human quality that can be strengthened. Self-restraint boils down to optimism. People can put themselves through anything if they have faith that it will pay off in the end. Rational knowledge doesn't help, and it isn't a matter of simply being harsh with oneself, either: harshness and pessimism just produce a paralyzed, chubby, self-loathing person. If passing up a cheeseburger leaves you with a dead feeling inside -- "I'm deprived now and screwed in the long run anyway, what a waste" -- then you won't be able to keep it up. If you have faith that passing up the cheeseburger will have a long-term payoff, then your brain gives you a down payment of happiness that cancels out the displeasure of depriving yourself.

That's why thinking about a distant, glorious end result (like a smoking hot beach body) works for some people but is counterproductive for others. It's motivational if you really believe in it. For many people, though, it's just a reminder that they're making sacrifices for something that they don't believe in at all. Those people are better of thinking of less distant payoffs that they can really believe in, even if the payoffs are trivial by comparison.

Some people think that your brain will simply not accept passing up food that your body thinks it needs, that it's completely unnatural and therefore impossible. But you do things all the time that have energetic costs and distant, uncertain payoffs. Hard work, saving money, hell, even just getting out of bed: these are things that impose immediate costs. Your brain does emotional bookkeeping to incline you to avoid costs that have no payoff. If you've ever been depressed, you know that getting out of bed is sheer misery if you believe that nothing good will come of it. Yet it's normal to get out of bed, get to work on time, and work at a job for a payoff that comes a few weeks later. (Or, for a startup, months or years later.) In the same way, it can be normal to pass up food. You just have to have faith in the payoff. You might think that food has some special status in your brain, and it might, but your brain is surprisingly abstract and adaptable. (Consider the recent article about money!) Also consider that physical labor is basically the opposite of food, but people manage to habituate themselves to physical labor despite the complaints of their body (which are, initially, totally out of proportion to the physical cost.)
Having faith isn't easy; in fact, it's really hard. But it demystifies the question of why people eat or don't eat, and why they feel good or bad when doing so. I find it much easier to deal with my "faith" than to struggle directly with my impulses.

[...]The strength of one's restraint is measured against the strength's of one's desires. You improve results by strengthening restraint and weakening appetite.
I see self-restraint as a limited amount of discretion that a person has to override his natural tendency to maximize emotional reward. As the article says, self-restraint is tiring and unnatural; it's a stopgap measure at best. The primary conflict is in your emotional brain's cost/benefit analysis of the situation. You have to hack your emotional reward system so you don't have to employ as much self-restraint. When you naturally derive satisfaction from eating well, because you have faith in the ultimate payoff, your natural tendency will not be as strongly tilted in favor of overeating.

Your subconscious/emotional/whatever brain is smarter than most people think. You aren't doomed to have an out-of-touch brain that fills you with irresistible, self-destructive impulses to overeat. We may have evolved on the savannah, but if you can stand on a subway platform, surrounded by strangers whose personal feelings about you are unknown, waiting for a huge steel structure to come whizzing by you at high speed, without feeling scared, you can learn to leave food on your plate. You just have to program your brain properly (cultivate faith) so that you feel, subconsciously, that limiting your eating leads to well-being and happiness (and, according to the highly publicized recent study, more sex if you're a man.)
Like another commenter said, made me think in a way that I've never thought before.


I flit about every day, one Slashdot post after another, one Hacker News article after another, one Google Reader entry after another. Snippets of work. Email, Facebook, Twitter. Sporadic bursts of exercise. Passing off pretty much anything edible as food (glorious food!). Books. Reading beyond books. Meeting friends. Conversation. Some of it stimulating, some of it inane. All of it fun.

The fact is, I quite enjoy almost EVERY aspect of my ‘typical’ day (except fending off diatribes on how I need to eat better – another day, another post...)

Then along comes some young whippersnapper who, barely into her 3rd month of the ‘corporate’ life, has the audacity to look for purpose in life. While there are those of us who are waltzing through it with nary a thought about what the future holds in store, there are these little ones who are actually want answers! This can NOT be good, I tell myself. What’s MY purpose? Where’s my drive? What do I want to become?! Who will I end up with?!? Oh wait, that last one’s answered... well, that still leaves the others.

The truth is – I don’t know. I thought I knew, but I don’t. And, for better or worse, I do not seem to care. I have settled into a comfortable routine punctuated by intermittent blips up and down. Do I need a purpose? Is current and immediate-foreseeable-future happiness not enough?

Thursday 30 July 2009

Sudden outbreak of common sense?

Well, almost. So while the Delhi HC giving the finger to a couple of PILs against 'Sach Ka Saamna' (the desi 'Moment of Truth' - like the 3 readers of this blog (including me) needed any explanation) is a step in the right direction towards slapping down the morality crusaders, the judgement also set up this neat, lubricated-for-your-benefit-with-the-best-WD40-money-can-buy slippery slope:
"You are asking us to entertain an area which deals with perceptions and opinions. Further, morality yardsticks are to be decided by the government. We cannot decide the issue," the judges told the counsel for petitioners...

Yay. Such joy fills the heart. What could possibly go wrong?!

Edit: Bombay HC nixes a "think of the children during dahi handi" PIL, but says the government can frame guidelines. (HT: @aadisht) Retard PILs? Check. Courts saying the government can pretty much do what it wants? Check. WTF is going on?

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Cricinfo FAIL

Edit: A little clarity for the ???? crowd - where is the 'smiling Ricky Ponting'?

TOIlet paper living up to its name

Taken from here:

The text in the article reads (reproduced verbatim):
HYDERABAD: A 15-year-old girl chained by her father for not obeying him, was rescued by Longerhouse police in the city here.

"We have rescued the girl and her father Akbar was taken into custody," Nagender, Sub-Inspector of Police of Longerhouse police station, who is probing the case said on Tuesday.

Angered for not heeding his warnings Akbar, an illeterate, had chained her daughter of his second wife Unissa Begum to a table for the last 10 days in their house in order to control her movement, he said adding that Akbar had warned her daughter not to go outside without informing him.

Though Unissa Begum pleaded about the inhuman treatment of Akbar, he did not freed the girl.

The police swung into action after Unissa Begum lodged a complaint at Langerhouse, the SI said.

Amidst the so many things wrong with the above, lies nestled the delicious irony in the mis-spelling of 'illiterate' :-)

Monday 13 July 2009

Open letter to motorists

Dear motorists,

Turn indicators and hand-signals are used for signalling intent to go this way or that. They are NOT meant to advertise action currently being undertaken. I can see (and crash into) what you are doing at this instant. Please to be indicating at least 3 seconds in advance.


Thursday 30 April 2009


Or, Google Truly Is Your Friend.

Burdened with the onerous task of moving out of my comfy, convenient Bandra (West!) digs by the end of April, I decided that I had to get a move on with all the packing. Such thoughts thus thought, I lugged out the luggage, only to reach a startling flaw in my assumptions. My giant suitcase's combination was NOT, in fact, 000.You know, the ones that look thusly:

Having exhausted all 'known' possible combinations, I came the to rather dreary conclusion that I would have to manually plod through all of 'em, 000 to 999 minus the 12-something I'd already attempted. So I fired up a playlist of some 12 episodes of Arrested Development and got to work. But when I reached 225, brainwave hits, and I consulted with the Big G. And whaddaya know? The Big G is all-knowing, all-seeing.

And all this happened 10 minutes back. Psyched me up so much I had to post!

p.s: In other, unrelated news, I believe Andy captures my current feelings perfectly:


Thursday 23 April 2009

'Trade secret'?

Ultimately what we seek are protocols for a series of tests that ascertain what
the best drug for each patient is at a given time in the development of the

When we look for donations, "Give us a million $$s to find a
cure for cancer" sounds a lot better than "Give us a million $$s to find a
million cures for a million types of cancers".

So often, the thing that enlightens, also scares. This is one such.


Innovation, more often than not, comes about by looking at a problem differently. So, unemployment could be looked at as either:

People not having JOBS!


PEOPLE not having jobs!

Japan chose the latter, and is offering a ‘citizenship buyout’ to people of Japanese origin who were born abroad, but are now settled in the country. Weird, possibly effective, and very creative!

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Thursday 19 March 2009

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Growing up

The older I get, the less I believe in capital punishment.

Friday 6 February 2009

Monkey business

Between 50 and 100 monkeys

I'm most like Between 50 and 100 monkeys.

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