Saturday, 26 September 2009

How to remember things

For a few months, I've had this chronic problem of lack of hunger. After waiting around and procrastinating for around three months, I finally visited our family physician two weeks back. He diagnosed me for "agnimandyam" (which roughly translates to a slow-down in appetite). He gave me a medicine, which I had to take twice a day, once before breakfast and once after dinner. It went without saying, any miss in the schedule, and the medicine would not have the desired effect.

Now, how is it that I take an instruction like that, and make sure I follow it? How does my brain know automatically from the next day, that I have to have the medicine as soon as I get out of bed? Of course I could write it somewhere where I'm sure to see it, or set a reminder on my mobile - but the point is, the brain is actually capable of remembering without these external aids.

I actually managed to follow the course, without any such device, even without anyone having to remind me. I tried a new technique. The basic idea is, it is possible to condition your brain and make it remember what it needs to remember. Here's what I did, I repeated to myself several times before I went to sleep that night, that I have to remember to take the medicine the next morning. While I did this, I imagined myself actually taking the medicine, tasting it, and feeling it go down my throat. The next morning, to my pleasant surprise, I automatically remembered to have the medicine. The repetitions that I did, and the mental image that i had carefully built the previous day had helped my brain form new neural pathways to remind me of the new thing that I had to remember from the next day. It was a lot easier the next day, I didn’t have to remind myself as hard as I did the first day and gradually, this conscious effort gave way to unconscious habit, and soon I started to remember to take the medicine almost like I remember to brush my teeth.

Well, finally last night, I finished the course of medicine, my appetite is now back, I am eating and sleeping as good as ever. And most importantly, I have finally cracked the mystery of memory - after countless lost umbrellas and locked cars.

Funny thing though, I just remembered, I forgot to have dinner yesterday..

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The earthquake that didn't quite reach Marappalam

It happened yesterday. I was in the middle of a search through my email archives for a rather old email (which I was certain existed). As is usual during email-archive-searches, I was starting to have doubts whether I was imagining things. That's when there was a sudden jolt from somewhere behind the Bhavani building I'm working in. Just a heavy jolt, as if something really heavy had hit the building. "Did a plane just hit the building? or a meteorite? am I imagining this?", I think to myself.

All of a sudden, there is a flurry of activity, I hear frantic calls being made, some are hurrying to run out before the building fell. Tedy instant messages from a few cubes over and theorizes that it was probably a meteor that fell around 50-60 miles north of Lakshadeep. (We later go upstairs to check the horizon for smoke, but don't find any - so we decide to accept the earthquake theory)

I call home to verify if there indeed was anything they noticed. Nobody picks up the phone, I get worried, was there really a bad earth quake? By this time, I hear that this is being shown as flash news on all the news channels (for once, a real flash news I thought)

I try dad's mobile. After a few rings he picks up. "Hey, did you feel the earth quake?", I ask.
"No, what earth quake? the earth seems fine around here " comes the answer.
"Come on it's there in the news channels now, it was felt in almost all places in Trivandrum".
"Ah, actually I don't think I could have felt it, I'm driving through the Kuravankonam - Marappalam road now", he said.

The picture above was taken last month, when the now famous Marappalam bridge was still under construction; The bridge is done now (phew), but the approach roads practically do not exist on either sides for almost a kilometer each.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Austerity - the economics and the politics

A subject that has suddenly become hot and discussed-about in the country today, thanks to some recent news items.

I'll keep it short. What beats me is this - If Shashi Tharoor stays in a 5 star hotel at his own expense, why on earth should that become an issue? How an individual spends his money is entirely his business (provided he obeys the rules of the land).

I'm no economist, but I think I have my fundamentals right when I say that the only way for an economy to survive is by commercial activity. Regardless of whether the money is spent on luxuries or necessities, the activity of spending money in exchange of goods or services is what keeps an economy rolling - and helps the people in it make a living. Austerity-measures on the individual goes directly against this. I don't think there are any examples of economies that have recovered from bad patches by curtailing spending by the individual, it is on the contrary by getting people to spend, that economies have bounced back.

Now, austerity does make sense when tax-payer money is involved. The logic being that the money spent on certain areas (like business class flights for example) can be spent on more important welfare schemes like the NREGS.

But, having said that, to expect the individual to exercise a similar discretion is Utopian and may even backfire. All this noise about austerity has nothing to do with economics, but distressingly, everything to do with politics.

Monday, 14 September 2009

The baldness survival guide

I've been thinking about writing about hair loss for a while, but I kept putting it off; which in fact turned out to be a very good idea; because you know, all this while I’ve been getting better qualified for the job.
The scope and purpose of this document is to list out a few survival tips for my bald and gradually balding fellow beings. Some handy tips and thoughts that will help you cope. So here we go:
  1. Think about bald and successful men, like Rajnikanth , Bruce Willis, Vladmir Putin, Mahatma Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi etc. (some idiots may tell you these men became bald when they were like 50, but see, what really matters is that people know them as bald men).
  2. Observe other bald men, and find out ways in which you are better looking. This might be slightly difficult in the beginning; the trick is to pick the right specimens to compare with.
  3. Never spend too much time reminiscing at old baby pictures, I mean those taken when you were 2-3 years old, and you had as much hair as a hippie bear.
  4. Surround yourself with a support group of bald men (this will also help you with # 2 above)
  5. If you haven't gone completely bald yet, start working on you hairstyle. Never go for the drag-and-drop style (you know what I mean). Keep changing your style gradually exposing the baldness. Try growing a beard and see if the distinguished scholar look suits you. Or shave all your hair (don’t worry, they will grow back…well if they don’t...tough luck dude) and grow a French beard for the intelligent techie look.
  6. This is something I picked up recently from one of my balding friends (see, this is why point#4 is so important). Don’t let your hair grow too much. Counter intuitive as it may seem, the more hair you have, the more it will contrast with the bald areas. So get regular haircuts.
  7. Important: If you stay away from friends and family, send pictures to them often enough, so that they can take the shock when they finally see you in person.
  8. How do you respond to those comments from the smart asses who happen to have more hair than you? This is something that I’ve pondered a lot about. I’ve got to admit, I’m still very much at a loss here. I’ve tried a lot of responses…like oh it’s the water, or that it’s in my family, or, that girls like bald men. No clear winner so far.
  9. Start believing that girls actually like bald men. Given the fact that this is still pretty much a gray area for modern science, who knows, you may actually be right.
  10. Read the Gita. How it helps? Well, read through, you’ll figure it out yourself.