Aspie rant

Today I asked someone to “please” not to bcc spam to my email inbox. They responded back rudely, rather unusual considering that person was a “Program Manager”, whose entire job depends on communication skills. What sent me in a spiral was the remark that I was “strange and weird”. Of course, I recovered in a few moments, like always – “normal, calm and composed”.

Everybody perceives me as the guy who avoids social situations and doesn’t talk to anyone. The guy who sits with headphones on throughout the work day. The guy who eats lunch alone at 3 PM when nobody else is around. I’ve gotten comments from every single manager I have worked with, that I am very good technically and very detailed in analyzing problems, but should talk more around people.

The strange part of living in India is that 99% of the population don’t know the common signs and difficulties. This includes my parents, teachers, friends and almost everyone I have ever met. This means that I can never talk about this to anyone without receiving either pity, distrust or laughter. Not to mention ignorant comments like – Oh you cannot have it because you are successful / you are intelligent / you are not a child anymore… etc.

I’ve met a thousand people in my company. Believe me, I’ve looked for signs, there is no one like me at my workplace. One in sixty eight? Is everybody good at faking it or did they not make it here? I’m not ready to become the corporate poster boy by coming out.

Just don’t remind me that I am different, because I did not ask to be. Its hard enough leaving the safe confines of my room every morning, dragging myself to the office, telling myself to maintain eye contact during every conversation and not to lose focus every five minutes because some people decided that they needed to have a discussion literally one feet away from my desk. Mirroring helps for maintaining conversations. Initiating one is a completely different beast to tackle.

I am happy to have come this far by just identifying and adapting to situations. I am lucky to be in the right career and right mindset. Just not in the right country, I guess.

What the fitness?

Hi, I am 27 and I sprained my shoulder lifting up a bucket of water. And recently, I couldn’t climb twelve floors of stairs without stopping once. I fucked up.

Twelve years ago, I was doing karate three times a week, sometimes playing soccer, was in the national cadet corps and was cycling kilometers to and from school. These days, I am wiped out after 5 PM even though my entire work involves just sitting and coding.

To my body’s credit, I haven’t put up a lot of weight. And all the weight I have gained is in my belly. Just a skinny dude with a paunch. I am against body shaming, but I see all these people at work having a blast working out everyday and can’t help but feel a little ashamed. I don’t really care about looking good or getting buff or being able to run 20 kilometers (like WTF coworkers?). I just want to be able to climb stairs and lift buckets of water.

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Do you even lift bro? I am getting tired lifting my own body weight, mate!

Anyway, I’ve been researching for the past few hours. I’m putting together a basic workout routine that I can follow at home. In theory, it should hit most parts of the body and should be able to bring my lungs and decrepit nervous system back in shape.

Pushups – chest, shoulders, triceps

Squats – legs and booty

Situps – ab region

Dumbbell shoulder press – shoulders

Dumbbell bicep curls – biceps

Planks

I’ll keep track of everything here – what works and what doesn’t and constantly modify the routine to include better workouts as I learn about this fitness thing. True to the nature of this blog, I’ll have to keep it a secret, but this time to see if anybody I know notices any difference by looking at me. I’m excited!

What trying to learn the guitar has taught me

Being able to play a musical instrument was a childhood dream of mine. Unfortunately, my family couldn’t afford to buy one.

Two years ago,  around the time I started this blog, I felt completely lost in life – a quarter life crisis. On a whim, I bought a guitar. I didn’t even check if the guitar was ok, I wouldn’t know how!. I just trusted the guy at the store who inspected it, played a couple of tunes and handed it to me.

I was eager to learn from day one and did not know where to start. Everybody online suggested JustinGuitar. I glanced through the beginner’s course, which is exactly as it sounds –  you should be able to listen, identify and play the basic chords with few strumming patterns and a few songs based on those chords.

The beginner’s devastation

Week one, I went through few videos in the beginners’ course and learnt to play three chords – no songs, just the chords, at an extremely slow pace, with errors. After putting in several hours over the week, I was disappointed. My fingertips which held the strings down were in pain. Surely, I was missing something? It cannot be this hard. I went through the forum for tips on the course. People stated as a matter of fact that the beginners course would take a year to complete. I was devastated.

YouTube is a fascinating place for any beginner who is trying to learn guitar. There are tons of great guitar videos and musicians – well known in real life or just internet famous. These guitarists play amazing songs without breaking a sweat. What nobody told me about was the thousands of hours they spent practicing over the years. What nobody tells you is that to learn to play a song perfectly, is to be patient and practice the song in pieces, over hundreds of times.

And my first song took a month. It was the theme song of game of thrones. It was the most beginner version possible, picked note by note, and sounded like the ringtone of a 90s phone. I was proud of this achievement. And then I quit playing for the next four months.

It’s complicated

I learnt a few things during my time of giving up on guitar. That my fingertips had hardened and the pain had become insignificant. That playing one hour everyday during a week is better than playing five hours on one day and not playing for the rest of the week. Muscle memory takes days to develop and not hours. I just needed time and a lot of patience to see things through.

I learnt that playing a small part of the song at an extremely slow pace without errors and then gradually increasing the speed is the right way to practice. There are no shortcuts. As a beginner, I have to accept that I cannot play complicated songs and it is not going to sound like those YouTube guys, not in the first few years at least. There is no law that I have to complete a beginner’s book or an online course. I should just try learning any song that I want to learn and see where it takes me.

During this time, I was obsessed with watching YouTube guitar videos. I realized that I am never going to sing or perform for anyone. Not that I wished to. I never had any dreams of becoming a rockstar or to play in a band. I just wanted to play for myself to hear and nobody else. I needed an escape, to keep myself occupied.

Back to guitar

When I finally picked up the guitar again, I couldn’t play the song that I learnt. The pain in my fingertips were back. But I kept watching YouTube guitar lessons. I practiced bits and pieces of songs. Over the next year, I was able to learn 13 songs. Not without errors, maybe not at the right tempo, but it did sound like music to me. There were times that I had to practice the same song so many times that I developed a strange ever-so-slight dislike of the song.

Why am I writing this?

So that I can come back here to read this again in future, to remember what’s going on in my mind right now. I was pleasantly surprised today, because a couple of days back, my team at work asked me to play for them. But I couldn’t as I’ve never played for anyone before. So, I decided to make a video and send it to them.

The people at work loved it! I am in shock. Looking at the video, I now realize that I’ve never truly recognized my progress before, however little it was.

I do hope that one day, I become good enough to not call myself a beginner anymore and be able to learn a new song in few days or even write my own songs. Even if that day is years from now, I am ok with it. Till then, I’ll tell myself to be patient as everybody’s journey is different because everyone is different.

Solo in Siem Reap

Solo in Siem Reap

It’s been a month since I *secretly* traveled to Cambodia. I am lazy with my posts, but better late than never.

2017 had been a shit show for me. Have you heard of the quote “every recall is a re-frame”? It means that every time you recall a memory, you modify something about it, based on the mood that you are currently in, before putting it back into your brain noodle. So, if you think about your darkest times when you are happy, you could possibly make that shitty memory a little bit better. I am no psychologist but I didn’t want to remember 2017 the way it was, I guess. It has always been good for me to do something crazy once in a while. And visiting this place has put me in a good mood for a month.

Anyway, never have I been so excited for my birthday. I wanted it to be memorable and so bought the tickets to Siem Reap couple of months back. Temples, pubs, street food and friendly people all around, I was completely blown away by the experience!

Continue reading “Solo in Siem Reap”

2018

This is it folks! This is MY year, right here.

Not even kidding, I GOT THIS.

Have you ever woken up one day feeling that everything is possible again?

That you can clench your fists tightly again and feel a rush of strength in your body?

I have always thought that a better version of oneself silently exists within, constantly guiding and teaching right from wrong. I feel that I have to become that person now. Is this part of growing up? Am I just another snowflake spewing his own bullshit views over the internet. I don’t give a shit!

I must be growing up.

Till dawn do us part


This is my entry for The Obsessive Writing Challenge – Week 2. I’m coming out of writing hibernation and therefore a little rusty. Actually, I’m completely useless, so please bear with me.


Nothing but moonlight illuminates her, our rooftop and our world. We lie on the floor, staring at countless stars of the night sky. I realize the coolness of the constant breeze as it contrasts the warmth of her head on my shoulder, her hand on my chest, her hair, her smell and her heartbeat. We see planets, jupiter and saturn, right above us, so close that we would be able to hold them like a basketball if we stretched our hands. We talk about us, we talk about life, we laugh.

We always talk for hours till dawn, it’s been our weekly routine for three hundred years, I thought to myself.

“The sun’s here”, she says while lifting her head to look at me. I look at my watch instead.

04:59:59. As I turn to look at her, beep… and then a blinding light engulfs the fully dark sky in a split second and I cannot see her face.

Beep. I wake up, my eyes looking outside my bedroom window. I angrily hit the phone’s snooze button and flip it, so that it’s light wouldn’t bother me again.

Wait… A dream? What was I dreaming about?. A sudden rush of guilt and longing hit me like a brick. “Maybe I can go back… what was I dreaming about?” I shut my eyelids hard trying to remember, trying to get back.

After minutes of trying, I open my eyes. Still looking outside the window, now at the rooftop of the building a block away. A door opens and a figure of a woman frantically paces on the rooftop looking for something.

My heart races, I jump out of the bed, and I shout.

“JUPITER!!”

“Why did I do that?”, I ask myself. She freezes, turns around, looks at me for a couple of seconds, and yells back.

“YES!”

Beep. Something tells me that I should not turn back to snooze the phone.

Beep. Something tells me that I shouldn’t take my eyes off her. We both stood still looking at each other waiting for dawn.

Truth according to the internet, a real-life horror story.

“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” ~Abraham Lincoln, 1927

So, imagine for a moment that you are in a quiz show. There is a buzzer in front of you and you are competing with one other person who is standing in the dark. The anchor points right at you and says, “Question 1, What’s his favorite food?”. Before you even begin to think, the other person hits the buzzer and says “It’s spaghetti, he had it eight days back while binge watching Game of thrones. But his selection of porn later that night… now that’s what I would call Stranger things!”. The crowd laughs. The following questions continue to be all about you – what’s in your bank account, your favorite band when you were nineteen… And you always lose and the other person always has the right answer, each time delving into more embarrassing, excruciating personal details.

I was lying. There is no such person in existence, not yet… But there are entities that know more about you than you do – entities that live inside hundreds of thousands of computers owned by different corporations, on large datacenters spread across several continents and some even under water.

There is a data model of you that can accurately define not only your daily life, but also your mind – your passions, religious, political and ideological beliefs.

So, man created Artificial Intelligence (AI) in his own image. And it passes judgement on others, just like people – you and me, who judge others’ lives based on their Instagram or Facebook. But the difference is that the AI has no envy, fear of missing out (FOMO) or subsequent depression.

An AI out there can determine that you suck at grammar, based on your Facebook comments. Another AI out there can predict you that you will gain seven pounds of fat in the next three months and may have a heart attack in the next fifteen years, based on the history of foods that you ordered. There can be an AI out there that can confirm that you cheated on your spouse on “that date and this time”, with your ex boyfriend number three, based on your GPS and heartbeat data. An AI can tell you that someone fancies you, based on the number of seconds they paused on your Instagram photo.

The AIs that I am describing are possible. In fact, not rocket-science and easy to code, if the data is accessible. There are corporations that have this data. Make no mistake, the information collected about you right now, can be worth thousands of dollars over time and costs only a couple of dollars to store it in a hard-disk. It’s never going to be deleted and your grandchildren and their grandchildren will find the models of you on the internet, long after you are gone.

It’s frightening how much of human history is being written by machines.

Some suicide bomber killed hundreds of people in Afghanistan? Oh, it’s not on the first two pages of a Google search? There is no such guy and it didn’t happen, so let’s not talk about it, ever!

But, but, we know what is happening around us. It’s in our memory goddammit! and no AI can rewrite the history in our memory, right?

Wrong. You hate someone, say Donald Trump. You will be bombarded with articles and tweets which claim that he is evil and videos that criticize his every second of existence. The more you read them, you will be offered more of the same, effectively putting you in an echo chamber of people and their thoughts that all seem to agree with you. You subconsciously conclude that everyone in the world share the same view and the history right now matches with what is happening in your mind. Now think about the people who like Donald Trump and imagine the content that is put in front of them by the internet and the echo chambers that their minds live in.

As someone who works in the software industry, I’m sorry to tell you that this is the new normal and we cannot escape it. A part of the world economy depends on our personal data and the time that we spend inside these echo chambers. We are here to feed and be fed by the machines.