Category Archives: Random

Precomputed Choices

We make tons of choices in life. Some are the choices we make more consciously and carefully – the big hairy audacious choices (after BHAG) such as choosing a job, or graduate school, or a life partner and some more mundane ones – going to the movies or staying in, getting a drink at a pub or going to a fine dining restaurant, reading a book or going to the gym.

Frequently a lot of the latter aren’t choices at all. They are so instinctive that you do them without the act of ‘making a choice’. Thus, in everyday life, one has a ‘precomputed set of choices’ – time spent on work, with your better half,  friends,  video games etc. A precomputed choice is a choice that one has made after (typically unconsciously) factoring in all the other choices that existed.

It is both a challenge to change them – that is why changing a habit is hard – because while you did something unconsciously before, you now have to make an active effort to make a different choice – example – giong to the gym instead of sitting at home. The other issue arises when other people don’t see it for what they are, and instead assume that your consciously choose to slight them, and therefore have misplaced choices – for example, choosing to spend more time with one set of people or another.


Stay Organised

Note to myself: Cleaning up through the mess is a lot more difficult than keeping it organised in the first place.

I always have these cleanup sessions on my PC where I spend a few hours moving files which I have piled on to my desktop and random arcane folders into relevant folders. I guess it is just easier being slighlty less lazy and putting a file where it belonged in the first place.

On the flip side, I actually end up looking at a file again and can sort of reassess what to do about it – which might not have happened if it wasn’t to be moved. Though I must admit even in this case there is more noise than signal.

Of course, you will tell me : install Google Desktop. Or you will tell me : once tag-and-search become ubiquitous this organisation may not be needed at all. But for now I would like the organisation of my digital life to mimic the physical. Because the the latter will probably never mimic the efficiencies possible with the former.

The Male Stereotype

Found this T-Shirt lying around in my wardrobe. I think I had bought this sometime in third year of college.

What a way to reinforce the male stereotype.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering – no it didn’t help :)

Chinese Whispers

I am sure all of us have played the game of Chinese Whispers at some point in our life. You sit in a circle, whisper something into the ear of the person sitting next to you, who passes it on to the next person and so on so forth, till it is revealed, and sounds nothing like what you said originally. So “I am a popstar” may become “Wondrous monster” or something equally inane.

The game is a lot of fun, but is also a potent allegory on communication in real life.

Think about it. Aren’t we are always playing Chinese Whispers?

We use a tool called Language to communicate with each other and ourselves. Yet, my understanding and usage of Language would be subtly different from someone else’s even though we use the same Language – creating the delta of communication.

In real life, Chinese Whispers is manifested on multiple levels. At the micro level I can think of two. The most basic and trivial is limited to single words. As an example, consider the use of the word ‘smart’. As a kid, I thought ‘smart’ was a synonym for good looking as against intelligent. And I think a lot of us Indians still think that way. So later when I did realise what the real meaning of the word was (initiated by the amused smiles of people who knew the correct usage), there were some teething troubles in terms realigning the semantics of the word in my head. However, at this level it is easy to resolve as it is a single word. The second level is about thoughts expressed via a combination of words. A couple of (gender-biased because I can’t come up with any other right now) examples, think of phrases like “Can I have a cup of coffee”, or “Where is this relationship going?”.

However, the most potent manifestation of this effect is at the macro level, when the deltas get compounded exactly the way it happens in the game. As an example, this whole Chinese Whispers thing came to me because of the following incident: my project manager at my previous company told a colleague of mine about something that I had said. Somehow this colleague mentioned it me, and though I don’t remember what it was, I remember saying something like “When did I say this?”, or even if I had I definitely didn’t mean it that way. But whatever I would say or do now, would not change the understanding which my manager has or this colleague has of my words. Whose fault is it? No one’s.

Look at the number of agents which compound the delta, not just in this case, but also in general,
1. Multiple agents of communication (i.e. multiple people). Error introduced when the words were understood and when the words were retold
2. Memory – one of man’s biggest enemies. You say past is constant. No. Past changes because memory is fragile. I don’t remember what I said two months back to any one person. That person, remembers ‘something’ that I said, but not the whole.
3. Fiction – one of man’s biggest indulgences. Who wants to boring? All of has the tendency to overstate or understate facts. Fill in holes where facts fail us. Some of us create entirely fictional accounts of other person’s lives just to entertain (I am extremely guilty of this – and I have seemed to pass on this habit to some of my friends – Amarjeet Kumar are you listening? – and now the joke’s on me).

Thus we live in a world busy whispering the Chinese way and can do nothing about it.

Post Script
A couple of interesting things


In the movie Before Sunrise (Repeat Quotient:10) , there is the following exchange between Julie Delphi(Céline) and Ethan Hawke (Jesse)
Céline: Have you ever heard that as couples get older, they lose their ability to hear each other?
Jesse: No.
Céline: Well, supposedly, men lose the ability to hear higher-pitched sounds, and women eventually lose hearing in the low end. I guess they sort of nullify each other, or something.
Jesse: I guess. Nature’s way of allowing couples to grow old together without killing each other.

I now write at WordPress

WordPress seems a lot more useful than Blogger. For starters it offers categories – something integral to me whose thoughts fly all over the place. Also, it appears I can directly write posts from Netvibes, which does seem to be the case with Blogger.I can also toss around other reasons which I do not fully understand so I shall spare myself right now.
Sad that I can’t modify the theme for a free WordPress blog. Update: Also not easy to add images to a free WordPress blog.

Only trouble now is porting everything from Blogger here, though the good part is that I have no comments :D