Of Work and Horror

June 12, 2016 at 1:40 am (Uncategorized)

Abstract: I briefly discuss some observations I made this past week while working at my ongoing internship. Naturally, the presentation isn’t all alliterative, but an attempt will be made to toe the line between employing fun literary devices and being pretentious. Subsequently, I provide some tips for watching a horror movie at the cinema theater. The scope of this article does not include a discussion of horrors in the workplace, or of methods for working up a sense of horror. Discussions of this nature are earmarked for future investigation.

I have worked for companies in the past. I did a couple of internships in my undergraduate years – the first with a small tech firm and the second with a large FMCG company. I worked as a consultant for two years. I am now doing a research internship with a revenue management company, so my work is naturally quite different from my work in any of the jobs I’ve held in the past. It is the unexpected experiences related to non-work aspects that are the subject of the first part of this discussion.

Since my consulting days are now behind me, I will discuss not 3, not 5, but 4 of these experiences:

  1. Technological revolution in the restroom – Designers of restroom technology are the unsung heroes of modern engineering. The cardinal rule of designing toilet technology seems to be to put a sensor-motor pair in everything. Cases in point – the automatic flush, the automatic hand dryer, the automatic paper towel dispenser, and the automatic basin faucet. The latest to join the bathroom party is the automatic soap dispenser – place your hand under it for a measured mound of freshly frothed hand soap (note: food employees must wash hands before returning to their stations). The first day I used the facilities at work, I was bothered by a new sound that I couldn’t locate the source of. I looked around, excited at the prospect of stumbling upon a new marvel of sanitary science. It turned out that the elevator shaft shared a wall with the restroom and the sound I was hearing was of an elevator whizzing past. I took a moment to allow myself to feel the full force of my disappointment, but before I was allowed to, something else caught my attention: the motor that drove the soap dispenser was not placed in the vicinity of the sink, but somewhere behind me, near the urinals. Every time I washed my hands, I heard a motor spinning behind me – how strange is that!? My efforts to locate the motors were in vain. My work-plan for the next two months is to locate these motors.
  2. Kettle Cooked Jalapeño Chips – Complimentary snack trays are strategically placed at various locations in the office. While the places I worked at before also had some free food, the placement was never this well thought out. The snack trays at my current workplace are stacked in a way that different foodstuffs present themselves to you at different heights. Right at the bottom are the fruits – apples and oranges. At around eye level are the chewy granola bars (with chocolate chips), and flavored crackers. Right at the top are the Kettle Cooked Jalapeño Chips – glowing in their matte packaging as they sit in their place of pride! I can’t help but reach for them.
  3. Confusing stairwells – Walking around in malls, I expect to have trouble finding my way around what with the escalators landing at different spots on each floor. I did not expect this of an office building, but things rarely go according to expectation. At work, the stairwells are in different locations on each floor, and there are no re-entry rules on some floors. I now understand the real reason behind people preferring to use elevators!
  4. Multiple monitors – I’ve never worked a job where I sat in one place for extended periods of time before, so I wasn’t aware of how big a deal having multiple monitors is. People apparently really prize the ability to see two maximized screens at the same time. I spend about 10 minutes every morning repetitively dragging windows from one screen to the next and back. Multiple screens make me giggly.

What doesn’t make me giggly though, is a horror film. Horror films terrorize the living daylight out of me. This brings me to the second part of the discussion – my methods for coping with horror movies. These methods were successfully tested at a screening of The Conjuring 2, so they’re legit. I’m a sucker for jump-scares, so these methods are specifically designed for people of similar dispositions. Please consult your family physician to determine whether these methods apply to you.

  1. Combat recoil by sinking into your chair – I have found this tactic to be very handy in preventing injury from a jump-scare instigated recoil. Sink into your chair. Then sink some more. And then some more for good measure, until your head and neck are completely in contact with the cushioning. Your head can’t jerk backwards if it has nowhere to go. Since this position can get rather uncomfortable, remember to reset to standard seating posture when the scene shifts from night to day, and shift back when darkness falls again.
  2. Hug something – This one should be pretty obvious, I think. My go-to object is a well padded backpack.
  3. Keep a drink with you, and activate “cheapo” mode – Make sure to have a drink with you, and make sure it has no lid on. Make sure you are feeling particularly cheap. Your mind will want to avoid the guilt you will face from spilling your overpriced drink, and prevent your body from jumping when a frightening image comes up.
  4. Carry something translucent – Put a translucent object between your eyes and the screen – this is a well-established shield against the supernatural. A clear bottle does wonders for this.

It is hoped that the information presented in this article will be of use, or at least of feigned interest to some subset of its readers. Happy second weekend of June!

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An adult account of childhood minutiae: Episode 1 – The Haircut

June 8, 2016 at 3:34 am (Uncategorized)

Of the numerous events that became regular features of my childhood, few are as unexpectedly rich in fascinating trivialities as the monthly haircut. This account, apart from allowing me to relive those wonderful memories, offers you a glimpse into this enigmatic experience.

Growing up, I did not play or watch sports with my father; the haircut was our de-facto father-son bonding activity. Haircuts were typically taken on Sundays, shortly before noon. Clad in yesterday’s t-shirt and shorts, my father and I would begin the walk to Central Hair Dressers, Shivajinagar (fondly referred to by my dad as Saloon Sri Central Haircutting) shortly after breakfast.

The route to Saloon Sri was always bustling with activity. As we turned the first corner, we would see families buying bathroom fittings at P C Mallappa & Co. and elderly men haggling over furniture prices at Saleh Ahmed & Sons. At the next corner, we’d inevitably find a respectable middle-aged gentleman of medium height trying to replace his scooter’s battery at the Amaron store (lasts long, really long, lasts long, really long). Cars, buses and autos would execute their respective Brownian motions, leaving their fates (with much success for the most part, I might add) to a higher power. The sights of chaotic motion, the sounds of honking horns, and the stench of exposed sewage would join forces, becoming a rich treat to the senses.

Saloon Sri was typically busy on Sunday mornings, but inventory was turned fast. Entertainment in the waiting area involved watching old Telugu movies on an 8″ portable television. The wait for me would typically last 5 minutes: two chairs almost never freed up at the same time, so my haircut would always commence before my dad’s.

There were two pieces of haircut apparatus that I avoided like the plague – the electric trimmer and the manual razor. My discomfort with the trimmer had a simple reason – plain old fear. My aversion to the razor had a slightly more nuanced reason. Saloon Sri rarely changed the blades on their razors. Moreover, behind the curtain in one corner of Saloon Sri, grown men would take off their shirts and get their underarms shaved. By the same set of razors! I’d rather not have some uncle’s underarm sweat on my cheeks, thank you very much!

With these requirements in mind, my instructions to the barber were rather simple. “Medium-short. Razor beda, machine beda“. In hindsight, I’m surprised that I never questioned this “medium-short” business. What on earth is medium short? This was along the lines of what I ended up getting, and I’m sure medium-medium would’ve turned out better, but I never tried it.

So, the medium-short haircut would commence. I would sit back while the barber draped a cloth (which I suspect was a discarded bedsheet) over me, sprayed my hair with water till it was soaked, and attempted (with minimal success) to comb it down. He would then proceed to measure hair out with a comb and cut it with his stained stainless steel scissors.

My damp black locks would fall onto the drapery, and I would keep my head fixed facing forward, using my peripheral vision to check on the progress of my dad’s haircut. Since there wasn’t much to do when my hair was being cut, I would devote all my mental faculties to ignoring the itch that had begun to tickle my nose. After my haircut was complete for the most part, the barber would bring out his hand machine to shape my sideburns and trim behind my ears. One particular barber had a peculiar custom that he followed when he was doing this – he would let out a couple of loud burps. While normally, a burp would be perfectly acceptable, I recall being a bit peeved that he insisted on burping when he was right next to my ear.

Once the burping and shaping was dispensed with, he would bring out a mirror to show me the shape on my neck, at the back of my head. I had no idea what I needed to look for, and I would always nod saying “sari“. Excess hair was then brushed off, talcum powder was applied, my dad would pay a grand total of Rs. 30 for two haircuts, and we’d begin the walk back home.

While the levels of hygiene at Saloon Sri were admittedly worrisome, the combative actions taken at home more than made up for it. The moment we set foot in the house, we were banished to our respective bathrooms and provided with special buckets in which to place our used clothes. These clothes would be washed separately. The bathing process was almost ritualistic – mix 1 part Dettol and 3 parts warm water and apply in generous quantities on talai, paying close attention to close-cropped areas. I’d come out of that shower feeling so thoroughly clean and germ-free! It felt almost cathartic; I would beam with an intense glow that would last for weeks. And then, it’d be time for my next haircut.

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Who?

April 24, 2013 at 8:30 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

I am the guy your orthodox relatives disapprove of. The guy with the long curly hair and two-day stubble, clad in a black T-shirt with a violent illustration on it. The guy who listens to Metallica, Megadeth, Maiden and Motorhead. The guy who goes “fuck dude, did you get a load of that riff?”. The guy who’s ever too easily written off as pretentious. Whose air guitar and air drums skills are construed as “wannabe” behaviour. The guy who is most comfortable stringing together a coherent sentence in English.

I am the guy sitting at the table, headphones pressed into his ears, listening intently to the Floydian sound waves tenderly caressing his eardrums. The clean shaven guy in the vertical striped shirt and khaki trousers. The guy whose laptop screen toggles between the spreadsheet and the music player, and whose his head toggles between analysing numbers and deciphering basslines. The guy whom some might call academic. The guy who’s not sure of himself, and who will not in his heart of hearts accept a label he doesn’t feel he’s earned. The guy who tries a bit-half assedly to live up to the tags he wants to be associated with, and plans to succeed some day.

I am the guy seated bang in the middle of the fourth row at the carnatic music kacheri, on a plastic chair. The guy listening with rapt attention as the sounds of the vocals, the tambura, the violin and the mridangam mix into a rich melange. The guy who reacts to an emotionally charged moment in the recital with silent tears welling up in his eyes. The guy who doesn’t understand a word of the lyrics, but believes he understands the music.

The guy without a distinct, well formed identity. The guy whose silhouette is a faintly decipherable outline morphing itself into new shapes in a manner quite unlike clockwork, dancing in sync with a changing tune. His tune.

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Chain

April 19, 2013 at 2:57 pm (Uncategorized)

White – blank, quite empty. White – very pure, but a bit boring? White – white no more as grudgingly, specks of black begin to trickle in. A bit like a platoon of unwilling NCC cadets woken up on a lazy Saturday morning. But the attendance will be ticked off. And the promise of free samosas and rossagollas keeps the soldiers marching on, determined to see this mini-ordeal through.

Determination – a celebrated virtue. Determination – the greenest of green grass, but perhaps a bit too much so? Determination – the oddball child born to both the most noble and most base of motivations. Delivering on a promise is almost always the right thing to do. Almost, I say. What was the machinery that churned out the promise in the first place? And what was it that the machinery churned?

Churning – inhibiting stability. Churning – disturbing the placid waters, but can you ride the wave? Churning – displacing what’s often set in stone, but sometimes revealing treasures that lie beneath. How valuable is the treasure, though? Does anything come of excavating it? A matter of perspective, I suppose like most things. A shade of grey. One specific shade of grey. One of far more than fifty. Decide by understanding which grey it is – resolve it as best as you can.

Resolution – clarity, mitigating uncertainty. Resolution – the fog light in the hazy highway, but is it always best to know what lies ahead? Resolution – use it judiciously or it will poop on your party. Or won’t it? If we conducted ourselves with mathematical precision, the computed probability of the pooping event will dictate our decision. You fix your threshold and I will fix mine. And if our thresholds aren’t within a narrow band that I define, you’re not invited to the party. Please RSVP with your threshold, because I need to know how many people to expect.

Expectation- human calibration. Expectation – the intricately crafted networks binding emotions, but perhaps too strongly? Expectation – set it with caution, or have your fingers burnt. Yes, you can “apply cold water to burnt area”, but be warned that some scars are forever. Like diamonds. And The Floyd.

Floyd – that eerie, ambient, intricately constructed sound that keeps me warm, cools me down and flies me to the moon (the dark side of) and back. Floyd – the ever-faithful bedfellow that puts me to sleep every night with that softly spoken magic spell…

Yes, weird. But oddly cathartic.

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Half a page of scribbled lines

June 19, 2012 at 7:10 pm (reflection) (, , )

It is 9:20 pm on a Monday evening. The office, replete with motion sensitive light fittings, is now lit by the lone live light above my head. There are absolutely no fluctuations in the pressure field in the room – the lone ranger threatens to go off, rendering the entire room, floor, and perhaps building dark. I wave my hands violently to prevent this , my eyes all the while remaining fixated on the dancing numbers in the spreadsheet open before me.  I key in the last formula, and the mathematical and logical bindings work their magic, producing a single number which I append to the output deck with a flourish.  I pack up my laptop and notebook, and do the three tap touch before exiting the building, leaving a trail of lights switching on in my wake.

Even the cabs seem to have called it a day rather early today. I hop into an auto-rickshaw that will take me half the way home. Using the ticking fare meter and my rather accurate perception of standard time units, I attempt to estimate the speed of the auto while I go fishing in my bag for my earphones. I crank the volume up a notch, just enough to drown out the sound of the blaring horns, and hit the well worn “Play” button.

In a matter of a few seconds, I have relapsed into a Floydian state of being. It is a strange feeling, quite distinct from anything else I have experienced. I feel almost removed from reality, with the airy instrumental layers generating thoughts in my head and initiating unspoken dialogues between myself and myself. I feel both unbalanced and completely aware at the same time. I have begun to see the world through a different lens, but the rest of the world doesn’t even take notice. It is like looking down at people on the street from a window, knowing full well that although they can see you back if they turn around, they won’t.

I mechanically ask the auto-rickshaw to pull over at the planned stop, and quickly go through the motions of lightening my wallet. The random number engine driving the Shuffle function on my phone has decided to throw “Time” into the playlist now, and I decide that today will not be a customary “Lead-me-home-Google-Maps” day. I feel like getting lost.

I begin the walk home. As the ambient keyboard sounds and the congos blend into the powerful vocal lines, I feel a shiver run down my spine. Nothing gets me quite as emotionally captured as an intense Floyd experience, and I can tell this is going to be one of them. I  push the limits of my already substantially dilated vocal range and sing along, completely undisturbed by the fact that anyone within 10 metres of me can hear me in spite of the noise. I hear  every track distinctly. I view vocals as just another instrumental track – I do not process them as a sequence of  linguistic elements, but just as sounds. Strangely enough, I believe I still know exactly what they mean.

She sees me from across the road. The brief moments of hesitation are palpable, but only fleeting. Her lips mouth “waiting for someone or something to show you the way” in perfect synchrony with the music being pumped into my ears. I journey on and she joins me. I register her voice blending into the already dense mix of the audio track and my overly loud voice, but nothing seems to be dissonant. She has no earphones on, but the knowing look on her face has me convinced that she has the nimble bass lines, the cymbal-heavy drum lines, the rich organ textures, and the wailing guitar tracks committed to memory.

We trudge on, walking in beat with the music, taking any potholes that come in the way in our stead, while actively noting the implicit pun generated by our doing so. “Home, home again” – Gilmour, she, and I proclaim in unison, but my steadfast refusal to use maps today has us in front of a coffee shop. “Do you take your coffee with one sugar or two?”, I ask.

I had started out the journey intending to get lost, but I’m not certain I was any more…

The above is an almost completely fictional account. Should there be any applicants interested in making this a reality, please find a suitably creative way of telling me as much and we can take things from there.

On a side note, this sudden burst of activity on my blog was a direct consequence of me overcoming my metaphorical pig. My metaphorical pig (Lidzoo)  hampers productivity by convincing me to listen to Floyd instead of recreating/creating music, watch plots evolve on TV instead of writing some of my own, and to type into chat boxes instead of blogs/documents. But I think Lidzoo’s getting a bit lonely, so I’d better go indulge him a little bit.

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Meta

December 13, 2011 at 11:51 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Unshackled, bereft of defining form
She rears her “ugly” head
The purists discuss, debate, decry
They stone her and leave her for dead

But she is made of sterner stuff
The bullying shall not cow her down
Self-contained, like clockwork, on her own terms
She stands up and puts on the crown

The structure of the crown, however she notes
Is an aspect of much interest
To some it’s a box with treasures abound
To some – just pass a self-test

Unshackled, reborn, the crown on her head
She stands up mighty and tall
Although only four verses long, she knows
In herself, she’s answered her call

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True Randomness

April 13, 2009 at 1:05 pm (Uncategorized)

Possibly my first truly random, unorganized post. Also the first post in April, but that’s irrelevant (although relevance is hardly of relevance in a post consisting of pot-pourri).

I have a theory. The theory concerns post frequency on a blog. My theory is that the reason I don’t blog even when I have an idea for a post is that it’s easier to not blog than to blog.

Self referential structures and recursion are awesome. Really. Think about it. Think about thinking about it. See what I mean?

There are a lot of little things in the world that we take for granted. Case in point: dosa. How many of us have actually thought about how dosa was invented/discovered. Isn’t it too awesome an invention/discovery for us not to know to whom the credit for its invention/discovery is owed? How can it pass unnoticed. The human race is fallacious. Who cares who invented the radio! I eat a lot more dosa than radio!

I’m starting to introspect a lot. It could prove to be dangerous. Do I lack focus in life?

I wish I’d invented music. I’d have been awesome.

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Amro ak shopon

March 19, 2009 at 6:53 pm (Uncategorized)

There’s this feeling I get when I enter a library. It’s not a feeling I get very often, primarily on account of “I’m not in the library very much”, but whenever I am, I’m overwhelmed by it. An erudite craving; the desire to sap up as much of humanity’s progress as one can in his short time on earth. Of course, reality strikes soon, and I realise that I’d rather join my friend for lunch at Billoos than sit in the library all day, but the feeling is good while it lasts.

When I’m in a more pragmatic frame of mind, I wonder what I should be wondering about (Hey, I meant pragmatic on a relative scale). I get my dose of Physics tidbits from the hair and the weird next door. That’s enjoyable. I get my share of trivia about intoxicants from Grass in 205. I get my share of “tactics to employ to prevent yourself from getting screwed over by the big bad world”, from Coolio in 204.  Mechanical funda? 213/KGP residential quarters.

Something I don’t get enough funda about, though, is the working of dreams. I’ve always been fascinated by dreams. It’s such an open ended (at least to me) field. Why does time move much faster in a dream? How do we do mental calculations in our dreams? What determines the direction a dream is going to head in? Are dreams determined dynamically or statically? Why is it that I dream only at home and not when I’m in college.

I think I can safely hazard a guess as to the answer to my last question. It’s the same reason I blog when I’m at home, and not when I’m at college. It’s merely because I have a lot more time when I’m at home than at college. Corollarily(?), I have a lot more time to sleep when I’m at home than when I’m at college, leaving more room for dreaming.

I had a very odd dream the other day. The structure of the dream leads me to believe that dreams are dynamic, but you be the judge of that.

There’s another facet of dreams – they seem a lot cooler when you’re dreaming them than when you narrate them later. I think the coolness factor drops off exponentially with “time after dream”. I’m not the kind of guy who strives to be cool or anything, but I sincerely feel the dream is too lame-ass to post, even for a blog with as low standards as mine. It suffices to state that the dream was extremely wild, at many points illogical and counter-intuitive, and more than a little lame-ass.

My point is, dreams are awesome. This is the abrupt end my (beautiful) friend. My only friend, my lonely friend, the end…

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Break on through to the other side

December 18, 2008 at 7:12 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

I don’t think it would be correct for me to call myself a rebel. I’m not the kind of guy who doesn’t follow norms laid down by society. A good part of my conforming behavior stems from the fact that a lot of societal norms make logical sense.

I would never rebel for the sake or rebellion. I refuse to conform, though, when practices don’t make sense to me. This is one such time.

Why should an entire blog entry be devoted to just one topic? It places a constraint on creativity. I don’t know if my non-existent readers experience the same thing that I do when they try to blog. What happens to be is that a set of many (often unrelated) ideas flow in at one point in time. I decide to blog about them. One of two things happens:

1. I forget what the hell I wanted to blog about
2. I blog about one thing, and save the others for later. Unfortunately, later doesn’t work for me. I end up forgetting what else I wanted to blog about.

This is indeed a sad fate for fertile ideas to meet. It’s a shame really.

I choose to walk the path that is less treaded on. I choose to blog about multiple things in a single entry.

Actually, I have a better idea. Since this entry has turned out to be of respectable size already (by respectable, I mean that non-existent readers will probably not feel the urge to close my blog because the entry is too small [no innuendos intended here]), maybe this blog entry can be about rebellion itself. That’s the beauty of blogging. You don’t have a commitment to fulfill when you start out writing an entry. Things can change as the entry progresses. It’s such a dynamic art form.

So, I hereby christen this entry the entry that heralds my breaking away from the shackles – my breaking on through to the proverbial other side. I shall rebel. My entries shall no longer be forced to be about one topic.

Geez, hang on there. I started out this entry wanting to talk about a list of three things. Did I just manage to convince myself (in an entry encouraging myself to rebel) that laziness pips rebellion? My head is doing cartwheels. In a blog entry heralding my rebellion, I chose not to rebel. Does that qualify as rebellion in the new paradigm of rebellion, that is, am I rebelling against my own rebellion?

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The vivid imagery and crisp voice in your head

December 11, 2008 at 6:48 am (general, phobia)

You know your head? The one that has a mop of hair on it, and is supported by the neck? That thing is extremely powerful. It can do a lot of cool stuff without you realizing it.

For instance, when you read a book, isn’t there a voice in your head reading it out to you, accompanied by vivid imagery? What I find pretty neat about this voice is the fact that the voice changes depending on the book/piece I’m reading. The Famous Five series always rendered the voice of a middle-aged woman with a thick British accent (there’s only one country where you can get away with using the word “horrid”). I could also see the person speaking it if I tried hard enough. It was a woman of friendly disposition, rosy cheeks and short hair. This in spite of me having been under the mistaken impression for a long time, that the Famous Five series was written by a Grid Blyton. She really must work on that signature of hers. Except that she’s no more, so she can’t, really…

The voice in your head and the imagery become all the more apparent when it comes to music. In my experience, I’ve found that a lot of people don’t look at all like they sound. Case in point – Till Lindemann – Rammstein Vocalist. The fact remains, though, that the brain associates, using some algorithm, a voice with a face. If you listen to the lyrics of a song carefully, you’ll probably have a movie of it playing too – your own personal music video.

Speaking of music videos – I’m not much of a music video guy. Most videos are beyond my comprehension. I prefer to make my own videos (in my head).  For example, my version of the video of Fade to Black has a guy in a room writing a suicide note. The walls are damp and have goo leaking from them, representing the subject’s life falling apart. He plunges the knife into himself at “goodbye”. The guitar solo has his soul rising to heaven, where he knows it’s gonna be a lot better.

The problem with the imagery is this:

I had beautiful videos playing for two songs –

The first was Last Christmas by Wham. I’m given to understand that the song has a video, but I’ve never seen it. The song is beautiful. Nice picture of two lovebirds playing in the snow, and the guy getting all sad because she left him.

The second is Something About the Way You Look Tonight by Elton John. A lady in red ballroom dancing with her man, with a chap at the corner of the room playing the piano.

I’ve never been the kind of guy who gives a rat’s ass about being politically correct. In fact, I’m openly homophobic. The more perceptive of my readers would have figured out that this is where I’m getting from the two song illustrations. The whole “music video” that I’d built up in my brain and played many times over was shattered when I realised that they’d probably written the songs for men.

Gay people are freaky!

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