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.

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.

Why everybody should watch Good Mythical Morning

Why everybody should watch Good Mythical Morning

Read this in the epic movie trailer voice: 

In a world filled with Fallons, Kimmels, Olivers and Colberts… Two best friends host a daily talk show on youtube, without celebrities *BAM* without a customary Donald Trump joke *WHOOSH* without the help of multi-billion dollar media companies *WHAM*… They set out to get ten million subscribers and two billion views by doing what they do best… Comedy. Continue reading “Why everybody should watch Good Mythical Morning”

Sorry hollywood, but this is the real India. #rant

Here’s the deal… India is not a land of snake charmers. I have been living in India for the past 25 years (all my frickin’ life) and have seen exactly two snake charmers.

We are not all cab drivers or customer support or software engineers. Also, there is no language called “Indian”.

There is a growing resentment among Indians about the way India is portrayed in hollywood movies and about how the rest of the world perceives them. Continue reading “Sorry hollywood, but this is the real India. #rant”

My bread and butter is my cup of coffee

My bread and butter is my cup of coffee

Disclaimer: Dear reader, please don’t take this post literally. Trying to sip and swallow your toast can lead to choking and even death. To those who did it anyway: please don’t haunt me.

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
– William James

Somebody told me that I am good with computers. Yeah, I was young, twelve maybe.  Continue reading “My bread and butter is my cup of coffee”

Get a time machine, think like the old you and be fearless!

I would like to start by asking you a question. Think about this:

What if there was a time machine that can take you five or ten years back in time, with the amazing ability that you will be younger as you were at that period of time? Also, you get to keep all your memories and your knowledge that you have right now!

Now I have to ask you…

Will you still be scared to get on a stage in front of thirty ten year olds? Continue reading “Get a time machine, think like the old you and be fearless!”