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© Rakhesh Sasidharan


Apple Music sounds better than Spotify

I use both Apple Music and Spotify. And I pay for both too (esp. Spotify as I prefer the higher quality music). I always felt however that the same song sounds better on Apple Music than Spotify, though until today I didn’t read more into this. Turns out that, yeah, Apple Music uses 256kbps AAC while Spotify is 320kbps Ogg Vorbis (don’t be fooled by the numbers, AAC is a better format the Ogg Vorbis so the 256kbps actually translates to something higher if we compare like for like). Am glad to hear that in a way coz Apple Music is my primary music player, but I am also bummed to realize that I may not be getting the best possible quality with Spotify. 

I love Spotify for being able to discover new music. I like its UI, and I find myself turning to it when I am in the mood to discover new stuff. With Apple Music I have a bunch of playlists etc., but often I am just in the mood for someone to make a decision for me. With Spotify I can go to the Discover section and it usually points me to something good. I have discovered so much new music through that. They have great play lists, and most of the time I enjoy whatever it points me to. 

Should I be cheap and use Spotify purely for discovery and actually play the discovered song in Apple Music? I guess not. That’s not a very smooth workflow. Also, Spotify isn’t bad if I am listening on speakers. It’s only when I have my good headphones on that I notice the difference. I should just remember to use Apple Music if I am on headphones. (Also, the type of the music matters. If I am listening to movie scores or something classical, then the quality matters. General pop or fusion etc. aren’t that fussy about quality). 

Ideally I should be signing up for a lossless streaming service like Tidal, but that isn’t available in Dubai yet. Sucks!

A simpler setup; no more external keyboards

I spent a lot of money on keyboards this past 2 months. I started with the Kinesis FreeStyle 2 Blue for Mac and while I loved it a lot I didn’t like the delays because of BlueTooth. I should have just purchased the wired version instead, but I decided to go for some other brand instead (just to try things out) and went with the even more expensive Das Keyboard 4 Professional for Mac. I had high hopes for it, being a mechanical keyboard and NKRO etc. but today I decided to return it. It is a good keyboard, mind you, but I dunno I wasn’t that blown away by it. I mean not blown away enough to justify the super high cost; and it wasn’t entirely pleasurable to type on either. As with other keyboards I’d find the space and X keys to sometimes stick – I think it’s just me, I am jinxed with these keys. I hate delays. I tend to type very fast, and the smallest of delays irritate me. And I don’t like stuck keys (no one does, I guess). Plus coming from the split keyboard design of the Kinesis FreeStyle 2, the Das Keyboard felt very cramped. 

What I loved about the Das Keyboard was its integrated USB 3 hub and also the giant volume button and media keys. These were a pleasure and these are what I am going to genuinely miss. 

Why am I going to miss these? Because I decided to simplify things. The whole reason for going with an external keyboard was for better ergonomics, but somehow it wasn’t working out. I don’t mind the MacBook Pro keyboard, and in fact I had gotten used to it the first few months; and while these external keyboards are way better to use over the MacBook Pro keyboard due to the extra travel etc., I realized I better get used to the MacBook Pro keyboard. For one, I will be traveling and at that point I can’t lug around additional keyboards; and for another, my desk was having a complicated look with the extra keyboard and its cable etc. If I go wireless I notice a lag. If I go wired I still notice the occasional lag, plus the keyboard wires mess up my desk. Plus, since I have a keyboard and 2 screens, I have to keep the MacBook Pro at a distance and not really use it as a 3rd screen (except for say having iTunes open on it) and I wasn’t too happy with that either. 

So enough with all this mess. Keep things simple. MacBook Pro + it’s inbuilt keyboard (which needs some getting used to, granted). Plus the two screens that I already had. Plus an extra trackpad (which I already had, coz I prefer the extra trackpad so I can use my lefthand too for tracking). Plus the Logitech Mx Master 2S mouse (which too I had purchased as part of my experimenting around, and which is useful for my right hand when I need a mouse as such). It’s a good feeling to be honest. Removing the keyboard and putting the MacBook Pro back at the centre of my table kind of brings a symmetry. I use the inbuilt MacBook Pro speakers for casual music listening and now they are back to being in the centre of my desk and so the music isn’t coming from one side of the desk (where the MacBook previously was). I can use all 4 USB-C ports as the MacBook Pro is again centered and so I don’t have to worry about distance. The headphone jack too is nearby so I can skip the long extender cable I had – and that’s one less cable on my desk. Everything is great, except that I have to get used to the butterfly keyboard again. :) That takes some getting used to. I mean, I don’t mind the keyboard, and I can type reasonably well without mistakes on it (and the autocorrect helps a lot) but it is not a 100% error free and a 100% love. Something with more travel would definitely have been preferred. But well, you can’t get everything. Am pretty sure my hand is going to start hurting soon. :(

Another advantage of removing the keyboard is that I feel “free-er”. As in, now I am no longer tied to my desk or need all this extra paraphernalia. If I am bored of sitting at my desk or want to take the MacBook Pro elsewhere, I can just unhook it and go away. I don’t need to carry around the keyboard etc. coz I am not longer used to it. I have a StarTech Thunderbolt to Dual HDMI adapter that drives my two monitors, so unplug that and simply move on … whenever I need to. A very nice thing about the macOS is that when I later plug in the adapter again, it automatically places the windows back on the screens they were at. So convenient! (The window manager isn’t without its faults, but I love this feature and also the fact that even after a reboot it places everything back the way they were). 

Update: Freedom is … sweaty

This is for anyone else who Googles on “sweaty palms and MacBook Pro” and doesn’t find thing of use. Yes, there are plenty of results, but those are mostly to do with how to protect the keyboard for your sweaty palms – not about what causes them in the first place! I don’t have much laptop experience (I usually plug in a keyboard) so maybe it’s not a MacBook thing, maybe it’s all laptops, but I noticed that when I use the MacBook Pro keyboard my palms are more sweaty. After one day of using the MacBook Pro without keyboard, my palms are constantly sweating. And I know this is not a on time thing coz the previous time (a 2 week stretch) when I did us the MacBook Pro directly without any keyboard I had the same issue. At that time I Googled and convinced myself the issue is with me rather than anything else … and just moved on (got myself an external keyboard basically, later on). Today I realize it is probably coz of the keyboard. 

Like I said, may not be MacBook Pro related as such. But the lack of travel of the butterfly keyboard does stress my palms and that’s probably a large contributing factor. I hate this lack of travel, and I find the layout a bit having to get used to … my fingers are definitely a lot more cranky since I started with this keyboard. 

Update 2: I tried, but decided to give up. I sit long hours with the MacBook Pro so it is not good posture either for me to sit bent on it. I should ideally be staring at a monitor or the MacBook Pro raised – like I was doing so far – so why am I trying to disable myself by taxing both my neck and hands with poor posture. If I raise the MacBook Pro in the centre of my desk, and use the keyboard again with it, neither am I hurting my fingers nor am I hurting my neck. So this post eventually turned out to be about nothing as I am back to where I started. :D 

Law of the Quantum of Solace

One keep hearings of “Quantum” dots with CES 2019 going on, obviously in association with the physics concepts of Quantum computing and very small in size etc. in the context of TVs. But when I think of “quantum” I think of the following passage from the “Quantum of Solace” James Bond short story by Ian Fleming.

The Governor paused and looked reflectively over at Bond. He said: “You’re not married, but I think it’s the same with all relationships between a man and a woman. They can survive anything so long as some kind of basic humanity exists between the two people. When all kindness has gone, when one person obviously and sincerely doesn’t care if the other is alive or dead, then it’s just no good. That particular insult to the ego – worse, to the instinct of self-preservation – can never be forgiven. I’ve noticed this in hundreds of marriages. I’ve seen flagrant infidelities patched up, I’ve seen crimes and even murder forgiven by the other party, let alone bankruptcy and every other form of social crime. Incurable disease, blindness, disaster – all these can be overcome. But never the death of common humanity in one of the partners. I’ve thought about this and I’ve invented a rather high-sounding title for this basic factor in human relations. I have called it the Law of the Quantum of Solace.”

Bond said: “That’s a splendid name for it. It’s certainly impressive enough. And of course I see what you mean. I should say you’re absolutely right. Quantum of Solace – the amount of comfort. Yes, I suppose you could say that all love and friendship is based in the end on that. Human beings are very insecure. When the other person not only makes you feel insecure but actually seems to want to destroy you, it’s obviously the end. The Quantum of Solace stands at zero. You’ve got to get away to save yourself. 

I copy pasted more than I wanted to so there’s some context for the quote. But the part italics (by me, not in the original text) are what I really love.

Various bits and pieces

I listened to Ian Fleming’s “Quantum of Solace” now as part of the “For Your Eyes Only” collection narrated by Simon Vance. Wow, that was an amazing James Bond story. My favorite now, next to “Casino Royale” (which I listened to the version narrated by David Tennant). No guns or action in this one, just a story on human nature … and boy was it better than everything else! The narration enhanced the story. I love Simon Vance’s narration and he outdone himself in this one.

Speaking of audiobooks I have been laxing on them recently. In fact I switched to an alternate-monthly plan after emailing customer service as I simply wasn’t able to keep up with my purchases. This way I get 6 credits a year – a purchase every other month – and I continue to get access to the members only sales and Audible Originals etc. Not a bad deal.

There’s simply too much stuff to listen to now. Audiobooks plus a lot of fantastic podcasts. I have split my podcasts amongst two apps mainly coz I like both apps and want to keep a foot in each but also because I use each app for a different sort of podcast. I use Overcast to listen to a lot of the TWIT and Apple focused shows and try it use it like one would use Twitter – i.e. dip into the stream of podcasts as and when I can and try not to get too fussed if I am falling behind on my listening (which I almost always am). Side by side I use Pocket Casts to listen to “stories” – podcasts I would like to listen to from the first episode to the last, or at least in order or even just try and keep up more regularly. This too doesn’t always happen but I try and keep it that way. There’s simply so much stuff to listen to now!

Speaking of podcasts check out “Homecoming” by Gimlet. The podcast is fine, but the TV show based on it is amazing. That takes the podcast to a whole different level. Speaking of TV shows “Bodyguard” was a good one, so were some stand up comedies on Netflix like the Adam Sandler one “100% Fresh” and Trevor Noah’s “Son of Patricia”. I have been slacking on TV shows too.

Yup, life has a lot of pressure! :) Don’t get me started on the books I have in my Kindle and physical to read but which I am barely making progress on. It’s like entertainment is no longer just entertainment – you have to choose between multiple options, there’s pressure, try and not waste too much time on stuff you don’t like (and not feel guilty either about leaving things partly if you don’t like them) … so much pressure! I like to listen to music too but that’s taken a huge backstage probably recently as there’s only so much ear time I have. That said today morning I spent about an hour or two just listening to music. That was awesome indeed!

I am also getting up to grips Macs and macOS. I bought the latest Mac Mini and setting it up hasn’t been as pleasurable an experience as I was imagining it to be. For one, I went with the base model and so don’t have much storage space, but I did that hoping I can just point my iCloud etc. to an external drive and be done with it. You see, I wanted this Mac Mini to be sort of like my file server at home, hosting all my iCloud files etc., and I know in Windows I can point the iCloud drive to a different drive/ folder and so I incorrectly assumed I would be able to do the same on macOS too. Nope, you can’t. iCloud drive has to be in your home drive, and if you are stuck like me with a small home drive then you are screwed. So I had to fiddle with having the home drive itself be on an external drive, then realize that I can’t automatically mount it as I have to enter the password of the drive (not like Windows with BitLocker where you enter the password for the main drive and all other drives can be automatically mounted). On top of that I learnt that since my system drive too is encrypted I can’t even remotely connect to the Mac until I login via the console (eugh!) (it makes sense though, so while I say eugh I appreciate it). What I ended up doing finally is turn off encryption in my system drive, have my home drive mounted to an external drive, and each time I power on the Mac I’ll SSH into it remotely and will mount the home drive partition after entering password so that I can then login via console and proceed to do whatever I want.

Speaking of which. 1) the VNC based screen sharing sucks. Doesn’t just expand to the correct resolution like Microsoft Remote Desktop would do. and 2) I can’t figure out how to mount all my other non-encrypted drives automatically or via CLI as it only seems to happen once you login. I tried fiddling with the fstab file but didn’t make progress. (Again, none of these are huge complaints. If it were Windows I would have similar issues like being unable to enter the BitLocker password for the root drive without connecting to the machine directly … but yeah, I sort of didn’t expect it with the Mac Mini. My fault for assuming iCloud can be easily re-pointed elsewhere without moving the whole home directory itself someplace!)

My Mac Mini troubles aren’t ended yet as it currently doesn’t let me do time machine backups and complains it can’t take local snapshots. I haven’t had time to look into it so left it for now.

Interesting podcast episodes

Quick shoutout to some interesting podcast episodes I listened to lately. Sorry they are Overcast links than links to the podcast site. I am being lazy here.

  • The Tradeoffs of Information Hiding in the Control Plane – this one’s from the Packet Pushers network and while the title sounds very techie it is actually a discussion about a book written by the podcast host and the person he is talking to. The book seems interesting, I must buy it sometime to read (or at least add to my library).
  • Episode 221 of The Committed podcast – again an interview, with the author of a productivity book. It’s less of an interview (as both podcasts are) and more of a discussion. Both host and author share a lot of their workflow and apps they use. The apps are mostly Mac or iOS based but it’s a good listen.
  • Episode 222 of The Committed podcast – listening to this currently. I liked the discussion. It’s about books and reading and I resonated with a lot of the discussion. Especially a bit where one of the hosts mentions that he has cut down on his audiobook and podcast listening recently as they were taking up all his time, and started listening to more music. Same here. In my case audiobooks were taking up all my ear time so I have cut them down over the month to listen to more podcasts and also a lot more music than I usually do. Hope that pattern sticks! It’s difficult because my huge Audible library of unheard books make me feel guilty and so I tend to subconsciously prioritize audiobooks unless I actively counter this tendency. :)

Life and all that…

I went traveling to a different country recently. The day after reaching there I realized that I have loose motions. Not sure what I ate that disagreed with me as I was fine all night long and only had this sudden urge to rush to the toilet an hour after I woke up (during which I ate nothing). Coincidentally, on the day that I was leaving for this place I had also packed my Imodium tablets (they put an end to loose motions, they are amazing!). I hadn’t packed them for the trip but when I woke up that day I had a headache and so decided to pack some Panadol just in case. Looking for extra supplies in my medicine drawer I chanced upon a pack of Imodium which was expiring this month and so took it along just in case. And the very next day they turned out to be useful. “How lucky!” my mind thought.

But is that luck? Wouldn’t luck have been not having loose motions in the first place? I am “lucky” in that I generally don’t get loose motions when traveling (in fact the last time I remember getting loose motions on a trip was maybe 4-5 years ago) so considering I had to get loose motions, yes I was lucky that events conspired such that I took the tablets along; but I would have been luckier if I just didn’t get loose motions at all.

I suppose I should be thanking God for the stroke of luck. But then again couldn’t God just have prevented me from getting loose motions (either through a more resilient stomach or just pointing me away from whatever food triggered the loose motions). If God is all seeing and thus all this is predestined then I was meant to get loose motions and also meant to carry tablets along – so this is all just pointless no?

I don’t get a God who is all seeing and does pointless things just for self-amusement or something. A better explanation is that there is no predestination and God isn’t all seeing. Things just happen but God is someone who is more aware of the probabilities and multiple futures. I too as a Human can calculate these but I am nothing compared to God who is able to calculate things infinitely better and with more nuance perhaps. He can then nudge me along such that I am better prepared for things. This is the God in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs”. The God who arranged for things such that the family was able to kill the aliens and the preacher’s brother nearly escaped having his kiss messed up forever by the girl puking into his mouth.

So what makes things happen? I dunno. Random chance I guess. Is God able to influence things? I dunno. If he can influence things directly – like send a thought to my head to take medicines or avoid a certain food – then it doesn’t make much sense as he can avoid a lot of the drama of life by just making sure certain things don’t happen. So direct influencing doesn’t make sense to me, it has to be indirect. He can arrange for things to sway the probabilities this way or the other perhaps, but what eventually happens is not His direct doing. Thus He can arrange for me to wake up with a headache (make sure I have a bad sleep and I will wake up thus) then arrange for things to be such that I open my medicine cabinet to look for headache medicines and see the stomach upset medicines; but whether I actually take the medicines along or not depends on me. That bit is my decision, he can only arrange things so I have a decision to make.

Thus God is not responsible for my actions or those of others. But He can influence actions – both mine and others. Because I wake up with a headache chances are I might go pick up a fight with someone or be unnecessarily rude, but that choice still rests with me and what I do is my responsibility. The cards are stacked against me but it is my free will to act out. A lot of times I will fall into His trap and act poorly, a few times I will act better. This too has His influence written all over it because the person I am today is a result of my past and the events there, and if He so influenced my past events to be one which has left me full of negative thoughts and a depressed nature chances are I will react very poorly to the events in my life (making my future prospects poor in turn). He has slowly nudged the probabilities to be better able to nudge me the way He wants. I was probably a clean slate when born (sort of, coz my environment and parents etc too matter of course) but over time He is able to influence my actions more.

One could split God into the God and Devil I guess. One tries to do good by you, the other bad. Or there could even be a host of Beings I guess. I mean who knows. Even if there’s just one or a whole lot, the question is why should any one or more of these care for me. Why should they try to do good by me (take medicines for instance) or bad (eat food that causes a stomach upset). What’s their stake in it? Is it because I pray and so God wants to do good by me and the Devil wants to hurt me; or am I just a pawn in a game between them where things have to happen for the sake of the drama? I dunno. I don’t like to think in terms of black and white so this concept of God and Devil sounds rubbish to me. I prefer to think of things this way: one, there’s Life which is the random happening of events; two, there’s Beings that can influence things one way or the other because they can see more of the big picture in space and time; and three:, there’s us Humans (and other Animals?) who can make individual choices which may not necessarily be easy to make because the Beings I mentioned could influence our decisions but we nevertheless have free will and so the decisions are ours in the end and these in turn feed into Life and affect others and have an interplay with everything. Life + Beings is what one would refer to as the Tao I guess.

Why do these Beings do what they do? Are they just impartial beings or themselves influenced by other things? Maybe they are influenced by Humans too via their deeds and prayers (or lack thereof)? Maybe Beings influence each other, maybe the random events of Life influence these Beings too? My “guardian angel” Being (for lack of a better term) had some interest in ensuring I don’t have a shitty trip (literally haha!) so ensured I took tablets along. Other Beings have negative interests towards me for whatever reasons so They ensure a lot of other things don’t go well with me. Or maybe it’s the same Being who both didn’t want to spoil my trip but otherwise has it out for me in certain matters so spoils them and helps out in other matters however He can. Who knows.

Part of me knows that this is me anthropomorphizing things. Things happened, I was lucky to take tablets along, now I am trying to find a reason of explain things. Big deal! But I don’t think so. I don’t feel life is entirely random. A lot of times things seem to have a pattern. It’s like a fractal. Seems very complex and varied but there’s a kernel of a pattern which influences the overall structure. I find life to be like that. It’s a mix of random (the capital L Life) and some non-random ordering (God; Beings) working together. A sensible philosophy for mental peace would be to accept things and find understanding but it doesn’t work that way. It is irritating when things don’t work out even though you may put in a lot of effort, or things always seem to go a certain way as if there’s some bad luck or jinxing involved. What does one do here? Keep trying? Work harder? Pray!? :) I don’t know. I don’t think praying or pointlessly trying is an answer. But I do feel that one must try as much as one can, without getting frustrated. Try because that’s in ones nature, but couple it with an understanding perhaps that there is a non-random element at work too which for whatever reason nudges things around so you may not always get what you want (and will sometime get things when you least expect it). If there are some non-random sequence of events which work to ensure that you are never stuck without loose motion pills in case you have to get loose motions during a trip, then there are also non-random sequence of events which will work to ensure the probabilities are always stacked against you in certain aspects of life and how much ever you try things will always seem to work against you. There’s nothing you can do in the latter, but that doesn’t mean you give up. The same way these Beings can’t make you win by taking tablets, They can’t make you fail either. The only time you really fail is when you fall down and stay down (I am paraphrasing this from something I read). As long as you get up, even though your legs might be broken, you haven’t decided to fail. At the end you might have failed because the cards were stacked against you but you (the capital H Human in this game of life) hasn’t given up.

Before wrapping up, something I want to add as a reminder to my future self reading this. If things have conspired to make it a bad day and are nudging you to make bad decisions, remember the final decision is still yours. It is hard to resist because of all the environmental factors, but remember you have a choice and try to exert it.

Ps. Typing this post on my iPhone from the beautiful (but hot, wrong time to visit!) Armenia. Maybe all these thoughts are thanks to the monastery visits or the long hours spent half asleep half dreaming in the car rides to these monasteries. I didn’t know Armenia had such a rich heritage until I visited the place. I knew of Armenia somewhere in the back of my mind but didn’t realize how old and historically rich it was.

The Crazy Old Bishop

That’s what my daughter called my bishop today in a game of chess with her and the bishop single-handedly killed pretty much all her pieces and checkmated her king in the end with my king. Funny! She’s 9 years old and I won the game, but it was fun coz of the father daughter bonding and also I think I am playing chess after some 15-20 years (or at least completing a game – I haven’t had the patience to do that since I left school!).

Hadn’t realized my bishop was on a killing spree until I lost my queen to teach her something and she mentioned my crazy old bishop was still around killing people! That’s when I noticed that she was right, this bishop was on a roll and killing most of the opponents even with me losing many of my “more important” pieces. Here’s the crazy old bishop – never underestimate it! :)

Castro podcast player (and moving on from it)

I am an avid podcast listener and have been a long term fan of Pocket Casts. I’ve even paid for their web-app even though I don’t use it much, coz I liked their iOS and Android apps and wanted to support them.

However I also get bored of using the same thing again and again :) and I also wanted some way to manage my unlistened to podcasts. I tend to subscribe to a lot of podcasts (well at least I used to, I cut down on a lot now) and it is difficult to make time to listen to podcasts, audio books, and music – so I also wanted some way of keeping a “handle” on the podcasts. There are some podcasts that I would like to listen to every episode of, there are some podcasts I listen to in the background while working or doing other things, and there are some podcasts I listen to actively but I don’t necessarily want to listen to all episodes. I tried using playlists in Pocket Casts for this but that didn’t work out well; and I also tried other apps like Overcast (in combination with Pocket Casts so I have some podcasts on Overcast) but that didn’t work out well either. In fact, most people seem to rave about Overcast, but I didn’t like it much. The UI isn’t that great, and I generally found it confusing & cumbersome (don’t ask me what I found confusing – I just did).

Fast forward to last month and I discovered Castro. That was a great find and I loved their triage interface. Now I had the podcasts that I listen to in the background or which I wanted to listen all episodes to in Pocket Casts, and the ones I wanted to listen to actively but pick and choose episodes in Castro. I subscribed to the podcast of the creators too and overall it was a pleasant experience.

Some small niggles though. Castro seems to suck at downloading. Maybe it was my home WiFi coz it seemed to be ok over 4G/ LTE (and it blew up my allowance in the process last month!) but Pocket Casts had no issue downloading over the same WiFi so I am not sure. I also didn’t like the fact that when I wrote to their support address regarding this issue no one replied. It’s not a biggie but it put me off.

This past weekend however I came across a big niggle that totally put me off. I knew that Castro was an iOS only app and considering I am an iOS and Android user that’s something I was willing to put up with coz I liked Castro. But on the weekend I took out one of my other iPhones and discovered that Castro doesn’t do any sort of sync between iPhones either. That was a bummer! It can restore my subscriptions and episodes from the other phone but there’s no way to keep the two in sync. This was a biggie for me as I like to be able to keep things in sync at least within iOS. I like to change phones around and use multiple devices, so keeping things in sync is a basic necessity in my books (or at least I realized so this weekend). Castro, I love your interface and way of handling podcasts, but as long as you don’t have some way of keeping my subscriptions and progress in sync I am sorry I won’t be able to use you. :( Yes I don’t need it on a regular basis but that’s something I draw a line at in terms of not wanting to be tied down to a device.

So today I went back to Pocket Casts. Added all the episodes and subscriptions back to Pocket Casts and created playlists etc again. Dunno if I will be able to continue listening to podcasts as quickly as I was with Castro (coz of the triage interface where I could pick and choose and discard easily) but let’s see. Got to try again!

Update: Trying out Overcast in conjunction with Pocket Casts (i.e. as a replacement for the role previously filled by Castro basically). Thing with Pocket Casts is that even though I can make playlists I can’t sort them my way. It’s either oldest to newest, or reverse. There’s a few podcasts I am catching up on and I would like to have them in between my regular episodes, and there’s no way to do that with Pocket Casts. But I can do so with Overcast so thought I’d try again. So many people recommend it (including the Packet Pushers podcast whose weekly episode from yesterday had Greg and Ethan mention Overcast as being great) I must try again in case the issue is one of me being stubborn.

One niggle with Overcast though is that I can’t have some podcasts sorted a different way (unlike Pocket Casts). So it’s either everything sorted oldest to newest or newest to oldest. I can sort playlists however I want, including custom reordering (which is such a pleasure on Castro BTW – love their drag and drop!) so it’s not really a big deal.

Bug in Apple ad

Came across this Verge article today about a bug in iOS now appearing in an ad. Funny!

I’ve been hating iOS since version 11. It’s not as butter smooth as before. There’s jerky animations, regular crashes, an overall feeling of something not right. In fact, I switched to the iOS Beta channel on my main device last month hoping that at least any newer fixes will get pushed there first (along with any newer bugs too, but I am stuck with those anyways :p). Gone are the days when iOS was stable and “just worked”.

I don’t mind the mismatched fonts and stuff. Yes they reflect an attention to lack of detail and are symptomatic of the larger problem but I can live with those. It’s just the jarry animations and general slowness that get to me.

On top of that Audible on iPhone – which probably my #1 used app – is rubbish. It constantly freezes and crashes. Irritating!

Bored :)

Watching “Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey” nowadays. 

Also completed “The Leftovers” Season 1 yesterday. Great show, especially the last few episodes where there’s a lot of talk about purpose and such – which is still in my head. 

Now sitting at a restaurant, bored, eating chicken kababs. Thinking: life is so easy for humans now. Ages ago we had to hunt for food. Each day was an unknown – whether we would get something or not. Life itself was unsure. Survival during hunting for instance. But now – here I am, a chubby spectacled nerd who probably wouldn’t have survived at all during the hunter days, sitting here eating a piece of chicken with a fork. How things have changed. 

I guess that’s why we have no sense of purpose now. Back then we had a purpose – survival; fight against nature. Now we have troubles but most of it isn’t of the survival kind. So there’s no sense of purpose – there’s an emptiness. Nothing to do. Work is what we try to find purpose in. But that’s not really purpose. Mostly it’s a means to earn money. And it’s filled with politics and whatnot. It’s not purely about “your” purpose – it’s about the company and the people in it etc. 

Ok time to go, cutting this short! :)

Thoughts on leaving things midway

When I was a kid I used to always finish whatever book I was reading. Once I reached college and was generally lost in life my reading habit took a turn for the worse and many a times I didn’t manage to finish what I began reading. I took this as a negative thing and much later when I became relatively less lost in life I started reading avidly again and tried to finish whatever I started. I didn’t read every book I bought – mostly because I was still sort of lost in life, but also because the books I started reading since college were mostly non-fiction and I just never got to reading them all due to changing interests. However, if I started a book, I did my best to complete it especially if it was fiction. 

I don’t know if this is a good decision though. I don’t have an answer either ways – I am just unsure. The reason why I take this habit of “not finishing a book” as bad is coz that’s what gets drilled into your head. If you start something but don’t complete, it’s generally frowned upon. Plus I read this essay as a child where the author said that young people do more coz they don’t have a choice – they are forced to do from school or parents etc and so they do what is told even if they don’t like, and generally manage to do something of it – but as we grow older we have choices and so become spoilt/ pampered and just give up at the first time something doesn’t go our way. 

I get these points but nowadays I also feel that maybe wasting time finishing something just coz we have to finish it is probably just a waste of time. Yes it’s an accomplishment that you don’t leave things half way, but maybe it’s better to just restrict this philosophy to stuff that matters? Like say if you are a person who does a half job of everything – then yes, not good! But maybe you try and do a good job of most things, and mostly succeed too, so perhaps it is ok to ignore it when it comes to some areas (such as reading)? I don’t know. 

If I am watching a TV show or movie and leave it midway I don’t chide myself. But I do when it comes to reading a book. That’s because reading a book is more effort than watching something, but end of the day both are entertainment after all. If the objective is to be entertained then why must I give more importance and suffering when it comes to reading?

One reason why I am thinking all this now is due to Audible. They have their Great Listen guarantee wherein if you don’t like an audiobook you can return it. That’s amazing coz sometimes I just don’t like an audiobook – not coz of the narrator or narration or quality etc, I just don’t like it. But since Audible is giving me permission to return it back I don’t have any guilt that oh I bought something and will be wasting money not listening to it. If I am not enjoying it, I can return it – period. There’s nothing Bad involved. Wish similar programs existed for eBooks too!

Recently for instance I started reading two books. “The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window and Disappeared” and also “The Winter Fortress”. 

“The 100 Year” is great in movie form, and sort of interesting in reading form. I guess coz that sort of content translates well to a movie structure with good score and camera work etc; while if you are reading it all the coincidences and luck get trite after a while. 

“The Winter Fortress” is a great non-fiction book about the efforts during World Wor II to destroy a factory in Norway that produced heavy water (used in making nuclear bombs). I read about a third of it and it was a great read. I didn’t know most of it. Then I got side tracked with some other stuff (father in law passing away) and I lost the flow. Now I am trying to get back into it and not in the mood coz I simply have lost the flow. I tried to cheat by purchasing the audiobook version but a) I am still not managing to get into the mood and b) the narrator wasn’t that great (I didn’t like his voice). But I was able to return the audiobook thanks to Audible and so felt no guilt, but I had a heavy heart deciding what to do about the eBooks. Finally I decided it was pointless wasting more time with these two books and so decided to move on. And thought I’d write this post too putting my thoughts down. :)

Part of me feels bad at leaving these two books midway. But (a larger) part of me is relieved at moving on coz I would just have been depressed trying to get “entertained” with these books and not getting anywhere. 

Recently I also finished hearing James Franco’s narration of Stephen King’s “The Dark Zone”. This book was nothing like I expected – coz it was quite detailed and the overall plot was simple but what mattered was the details and descriptions and thoughts etc – and while I struggled to finish through it, I didn’t let go because it was manageable. I knew it was only a case of me expecting something else, but the book was well written and narrated and I could hold on till the end. Sometimes it’s worth it; sometimes (like now) it isn’t. Just got to make a case by case decision I think rather than some overarching “policy”. 

Self-learning; picking up new stuff

I realize over time that I am not good at learning things. As in, if I have to pick up something because say it’s a new topic and I must read about it, or maybe there’s an exam/ certification I wan’t to clear and so must study for it – I just can’t do these kind of tasks. I am also not good at just picking up stuff by doing it – like say maybe learn Linux but installing a distro and spending some time with it. I just don’t work that way. 

I knew this from before but used to consider this a negative quality of mine, mixed with fears that maybe I am not good enough. But nowadays I realize that while it still is not a good way to be, that’s just how I am and there’s no point overly thinking about it. Just have to take it in the stride. 

Like now for instance – I attended a Citrix course some months back and want to do its certification. Thought I’d get the list of objectives and course material and read through it and prepare myself. But I am just unable to focus. Knowing this nature of mine I had previously tried setting up a Citrix lab to get a hang of stuff. While that was a better success than this current idea of reading, that too didn’t get to the point I want to because I am not good at creating my own objectives – especially when I know it’s a “fake” one. It’s sort of like how I enjoy walking, but ask me to do a treadmill or just walk outdoors for exercise and I can’t do it. I’ll walk if there’s a need to – I don’t hate walking, in fact I love walking and think I am quite good at it – but I am not going to go for walks just for kicks. Weather and mood permitting I might for a walk just to listen to some podcast or an audio book; but that wouldn’t be coz I want to walk, it would be coz I want to listen to something and walking will let me do it peacefully. 

This is a difficult situation to be in when you are an IT professional. If your workplace is one where there’s plenty of new projects happening or things to do, it is a good state coz I know I will jump into these and quickly pick stuff up and do wonders; but if your workplace is not of that sort then I will get bored and get into a rut soon – stagnating and becoming pretty useless. This nature leaves me at the mercy of my environment than letting me be a self-driven person. That sucks!

Anyways, time to go back and read Citrix. Enough distractions via blogging. :)

Time and all that …

This is something I wrote while killing time in the metro today … was in a bit of a “mood” so this is not one of my typical techie posts. Feel free to skip. You have been warned! :)

Listening to Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone” read by James Franco. I pre-ordered it after watching “11.22.63”. From the book blurb I thought it would be more sci-fi or horror, but so far it’s been slow, thoughtful, and quite well-written (yes I know I have no right to say that, just that I expected the book to be something else and am pleasantly surprised by what it has turned out to be). I don’t know where the story is going yet… there seems to be one main strand with a few little strands strewn over so far and am guessing they all intersect at some point. I am only some 3 hours into a 16 hour book, so plenty of time left! 

Listening to this book reminded me of ‘time’ from “11.22.63” (same author) as well as “Slaughterhouse-Five” (same narrator). Both talk about ‘time’ differently but with the same idea. Both books treat ‘time’ as frozen/ pre-determined and “11.22.63” especially has this idea of time fighting back if you try and change it. I liked that and wish the book had elaborated more on it. 

If you view ‘time’ as frozen (i.e. this moment has already happened, the future has happened) then ‘time’ is ‘fate’. The question of changing your fate or trying to change your luck then becomes a case of trying to work against ‘time’. Which is sort of interesting coz then you can see ‘time’ working against your efforts. I hate that but also find it fascinating because that makes ‘time’ or ‘fate’ kind of sentient or purposeful (like they are really “out to get you” :p). 

A long time ago I had come across Dilbert comics author Scott Adams’ “affirmations” concept. Basically you think of something you want and keep repeating that idea as a sentence many times a day. For example: “I will get a score of 100/100 in my exam on Saturday”. Write this sentence down say every day morning for say 20 times. That’s affirmations. The exact details are variable – as in maybe you could type it down or just say aloud to yourself; or maybe no need to do it in the morning but just at some point during the day or at regular intervals through the day… you get the point. I had tried it many years ago and nothing happened. At that point I felt maybe I wasn’t doing it correctly and so left it (and in fact later on things kind of turned out to be opposite to what I had wished for – story of my life! :p). Didn’t think much of it and left it. 

Some months ago I came across this idea again from one of his books and also a few podcast interviews. Tried it again this time, with more earnestness, and this time I felt there was a sudden “kick back” from time in terms of changing things such that the things I were affirming for were no longer possible. And then I saw “11.22.63” and the concept of ‘time’ fighting back entered my mind and it’s been sitting there since then. I’ve tried a few other things similar to affirmations (both before and after watching “11.22.63”) and every time there’s been a kick back – often a strong one to completely derail what I was wishing for. These kind of events reaffirm my thinking that time is frozen, and if you try taking a blow torch to thaw it a bit, it fights back! :) I guess words like “frozen” and “blow torch” are not the right ones – it’s more like the path is bound with strings tied to other strings in a sort of self-correcting machine mechanism, and if you try to make changes the mechanism kicks in and sorts things out to ensure you stay on path.

It’s a depressing way of thinking, but everyone has a path set out, and there’s not much we can do to budge from it. And in the few instances where we do feel we’ve managed to change things, that’s probably coz that change itself was written in the path.

Sad times…

My father in law passed away yesterday morning. It wasn’t unexpected. He was unwell and suffering for over 3 long years, so I am glad he’s finally managed to move on. Of course I wish he didn’t have to have the disease (cancer) or suffer in the first place; but given the fact that he was going through pain I can’t even begin to imagine and the humiliation of hospital visits and your body no longer being yours, I am happy he has moved on. 

Death is a shitty thing though for the people you leave behind. 

His wife has been sad and crying since then. Obviously. She’s going to miss him and whatever us children do it’s not going to replace him or her relationship to him. But more than all that, what saddens me is the constant throng of people and relatives. I guess it’s just me and my introvert nature – I can’t imagine what I’d do if I were in pain such as this and had people around me. I would be able to be myself around them, and I’d just hate having so many people around. 

Well actually, I can’t even imagine what sort of pain I’d be in. I don’t get close to people, and even the ones I do get close to haven’t really resulted in any deep inseparable bond sort of thing. (Again, just me I guess. I aim of this “ideal” in relationships and how I am. I dream of an abstract but intense relationship. Reality doesn’t work that way so I don’t know how I would even react to the loss of any loved on). 

Sitting here in Kerala, one it’s so boring; and two, I can’t help think that all this “process” is just holding everyone back. Today is day 2 but we are all still stuck in day 1. (By “we” I mean his wife and daughter etc – people with feelings). We are waiting for the son to arrive before the last rites can commence. He is due to arrive today night, so all that stuff will begin tomm morning. And that’s a ritual in itself. First his body will be brought from the cold freezer in the hospital. Then there’s a whole bunch of rituals to be done by son & daughter & other interested parties, after which the body will be cremated. During all this time there’ll be people and relatives – oh so many people! After cremation there’s more rites I think, but I am not sure. Then some 5 days later (or maybe it’s 3 coz I am not sure if they start counting from the day of death which was yesterday) there’s some more rites. Then we have to put his ashes and remains in a river somewhere. Then a few more days later (the whole thing ends in abt 11-12 days) there’s some more rites and rituals. And with that everyone is able to move on… I think. 

The thing that strikes me is how we are all just holding on to him. I don’t know why, it feels so unreal to me. Like why do we ‘need’ to do all this to remember someone? A loved on dies, it’s a private thing. Let that person go – the body at least – and then mourn in private or with friends and relatives, and try to just move on. I am not saying forget the person, but just move on. Try to get on with life. Incorporate that person into your life, make him or her a part of you/ your memories/ your base, and then just get on with it. Spending 12 days in rituals (I am speaking of Kerala Hindus by the way, specifically the community of my in-laws, things could vary for others) holding on to the one who is no more, crying, remembering, mourning… it just feels so impractical or negative. 

Right now for instance, we had to remove all the furniture from the main room because tomm morning that’s where the body will be kept. His wife burst into tears seeing that. I empathize with her. It is a sad sight – seeing things removed off your house (“their” house, their furniture, their dreams and reality) to place to dead body of your loved one in its place. It’s heart wrenching. And it leaves your last memory of everything in a bad place. Your last memory of your loved one is all this – not just pleasant ones if your time with him. 

And now I have a relative trying to socialize with me so I have to abruptly stop this flow of thoughts. Bah! 

Never mind he’s left. :)

My wife’s sad that she will have to do last rites tomm as she doesn’t want the last image of her father to be him in this dead state all skinny and lifeless. I get that. When I am dead I wouldn’t want anyone’s memories of me being my lifeless body or this sad state. Yes I would want them to miss me. Every day. Think of me, miss me, terribly miss me in fact – but I would still want them to be able to live life as usual and I would want their memories of me to be the good and bad times we had together, not a corrupted image of me lifeless with nothing more of “me” in it. And I would definitely want them to move past my physical body. That’s not me any more. That’s just what I was. Now I live on inside you, as part of you. Keep me alive that way instead of feeling sad that I am not physically around any more. If I love you I wouldn’t want you to be sad, and definitely not on my accord. 

Anyways. Death is a shitty business. And I have to go through the motions for the next 11-12 days. Definitely not looking forward to it. 

I didn’t know my father in law much though. He was a good person though and I’d like to think we respected each other. We didn’t speak much. I am an introvert and prefer reading a book or watching a movie instead of interacting with people. He was an introvert too, lost in his books and farming and teaching etc (to be honest I don’t know what else as I wasn’t too close to him). But he was a good person. A person filled with morals and all that good sort of stuff. He cared for his kids and family, wanted the best for them, secure their future, try and do what he could. Most of all I think he was a very simple person. You know he is wasn’t cunning or wily and that whatever he said or did was simple and from his heart. That’s probably *the* quality of his that I admire and remember most. It’s rare to come across people whose actions and words reflect their inner thoughts. Most people (myself included) aren’t simple. He was. 

Someone needs to arrange lamps now for tomm’s ceremonies. I guess that’s one good thing of having people around. You can ask someone to help out as everyone’s there to help out. I would rather not having people or rituals, but considering you are stuck with both it’s good to know that both work out for each other. Your role (as family) is mainly to participate in everything – rituals and socializing. 

Had to go socializing again now. Someone I have no idea of has come to visit. So go through the usual motions of hi hello and receive condolences etc. And then they sit and stare into the emptiness for a while and you to do the same (except in this case I am bored now and typing this post!). That’s a very funny thing about this business. Everyone just sitting around staring into the emptiness. I know why we do it – it’s to express sadness. Wouldn’t make sense to have a loud conversation or chit chat, so best is to just stare into the ether with a sad look. 

I think it’s time to stop blogging. More visitors coming in. More socializing to do. More staring.  Sigh. 

You know you are getting fatter when…

… when you put your phone in the left pocket and the Bluetooth music streaming starts to stutter. 

At least that’s what happened to me just now. 🙂 I don’t recollect having any issue with the phone in my left pocket and streaming via Bluetooth from there until today. I think it’s coz the headphone has its Bluetooth receiver on the right side so the left pocket to right ear traversal is more sensitive to increased tummy fat! Sigh.