Birthday Wishlist Update

It’s been four months since my birthday and (what seems to be) my last birthday gift arrived yesterday. After being alive for 26 years I can tell you that sometimes birthday gifts don’t arrive on your birthday. Since all my gifts are here I felt obligated to take a picture with all of them in it and update you on the state of my birthday wishlist.

Birthday Gifts
All my Birthday Gifts
Another birthday gift!
Another birthday gift!
Yet another birthday gift!
Yet another birthday gift!

 

Here are the gifts, in (approximate) order of arrival:-

  1. The set of New York City cards from Surabhi: It made absolutely no sense that she gave me these before going to New York but it’s a sweet gift nonetheless.
  2. T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism: I gifted this to myself just in case the rest of you failed to deliver. I felt like I needed something hardcore. I’ve read about a third of it so far.
  3. The electric guitar strings from Anil: No, the guitar itself is not a birthday gift. There’s no way I could include the strings in the picture without the guitar itself. As you can see I’m already putting these to use. The guitar is a loan from Arvind while he’s off studying to be a Business Administrator. I guess it would be a gift if he never took it back.
  4. Dan Mangan’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice from Kitu: This really is a beautiful album. I suggest that you listen to it if you haven’t already.
  5. The Portal 2 Companion Cube Ice Tray: This is another gift from me to me. I found this when looking for awesome birthday gift suggestions to give you people. When I found out that nobody was planning to buy it for me I decided that I must have it no matter what so I bought it for myself. It makes the friendliest weighted companion ice cubes you’ve ever seen.
  6. The beautiful bottle of Mezcal from Apeksha: I have no idea what Mezcal is like but I’ll be finding out soon. It has a worm at the bottom of the bottle. I’m not yet sure how I feel about that.
  7. Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down from Ann: I just started reading this yesterday and it seems quite fun. I can’t remember the last time I read a book written by a Brit.
  8. 2 Packets of Vietnamese coffee from The Murd: Yummy. This completes the gift collection
  9. There was the bottle of Cafe Patron that Lokur got me but there isn’t really anything left of that to take a picture of.
  10. I’m terribly sorry if I forgot anything. Four months is too long a time for my ageing memory to accurately track.

Internet guidelines*

The internet is not a place for you to vent your hatred. There are real people here who are affected by the things you say. Be polite, be helpful. Create something useful, help people trying to create something useful. Don’t be a troll. Don’t argue with a troll. Call out a troll. There’s a lot of things you can do here and some of them are almost magical. There’s a lot of people whose lives you can affect here, the number is almost unfathomable.

However little your consequence may be, you are swaying the attitudes of everyone here. The direction you sway them in matters because you are going to meet a lot of these people in your life.

*Every bit of these guidelines is just as relevant IRL.

Birthday Wishlist

A couple of people have asked me what I want for my birthday so I thought I’ll make a list and put it up here the way this stranger on the internet always does. Here’s a list of a few very affordable things that I would like gifted.

  • Dunlop .50 mm plectrums.
  • Decent electric guitar strings.
  • Vietnamese coffee. (I have decided I will settle for any good filter coffee)
  • A Bacardi Breezer. (To be consumed on my birthday, of course.)
  • Your favorite album (that I don’t already love. [This applies to everyone reading this post. Everyone must at least give me this. Online listening links will be accepted.])
  • This, or something like it: http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/f036/#tabs
  • A (good) Guy Fawkes mask.
  • A can of spray paint
  • A book. (literary fiction / modern science fiction / music theory / guitar / an autobiography of someone I’ll really like)

 

Please note that this list is only suggestive and items from outside this list will also be gladly accepted. This is just to get you thinking in the right direction. If you’re too broke to afford any of these things then other non-material things will also be accepted. Such as hugs, love, and company to dance in the rain with. (“Happy Birthday” wishes on the other hand, are quite worthless. Please do more than that.) On the same note, don’t feel restricted to get only one of these things, multiple gifts will also be accepted. In fact, the first two suggestions come nicely as a pair.

Expectantly yours,
9RJ.

The sum of small parts

I have an attention span of maybe 20 minutes. For as long as I’ve indisputably been an adult I haven’t gotten really good at doing something, and I usually blame this 20 minute attention span. The few things I’ve got good at doing are things I can do for hours, but such things are few and can be counted on the fingers of one hand. I’ve known for years now that there’s another handful of things that want to get good at but I’ve made depressingly little progress since I’ve started working. Work is another great thing to blame my lack of accomplishment on.

I’m not going to try and use this twenty minute span rather than fight it for a while. I figure, if I do 20-30 minutes of 3 things I want to get better at everyday, that’ll only take an hour to an hour and a half. These twenty minutes should add up to something in the long run, and this time will mostly come out of time that I sit wondering, “what do I do today” after getting done with work. There’s even studies that show that doing half an hour of something everyday is better than doing three hours of it once a week because of neural pathways that get reinforced and neurons that fire in your sleep and other-such-convincing-biological-stuff.

I practiced scales on the guitar for half an hour yesterday and fifteen minutes today. But even those fifteen minutes felt pretty good. I also spent around twenty minutes writing this blog post today so that’s something. You should keep your fingers crossed and hope this isn’t just another blog post about a plan to do these things that I always wanted to do that gets forgotten about in a week.

Running away

I think about running away from time to time. Not running away for good but running away indefinitely. I have a feeling most of you do too. There are times that last far too long when I don’t feel anything at all and all I want is any form of stimulation.  Most of these times, thinking about running away is enough but I’m sure that there will be a time when escaping in fantasy won’t suffice. When this time comes, you should keep a few things in mind.

  1. You’re most probably going to come back at some point, don’t burn too many bridges.
  2. Travel light. Don’t take more than you can carry on your shoulders. Baggage will only hold you back.
  3. Let at least two people know how to find you if you need to be found.
  4. Wear comfortable shoes with strong soles.
  5. Carry a notebook and a pencil.
  6. Find a place where the people are nice.
  7. It’s okay yo go back even if it’s only been three days since you left.

Wealth

Yesterday I found out that Bitfloor, the Bitcoin exchange is being forced to close their bank account. I have about 360 USD in my account with them that I will not see for a while. There’s even a small chance that I won’t see it again.

Yesterday two friends who I’ve spent a lot of time with of late made me feel like the awesomest person in the world and unintentionally showed me that they love me at least much as I can possibly expect them to love me.

I’m quite certain that today I feel richer rather than poorer.

Off the grid

I’m bad at multi-tasking. Unless I’ve had an overdose of coffee I would be much better off doing one thing at a time. And that’s only because if I have had an overdose of coffee there’s nothing you can do to constrain me to one activity short of putting me in a straitjacket. I’m bad at multi-tasking, and this is a difficult thing to say with surety because we seem to be a generation of people who think they were built to multitask. We’re surrounded by televisions and laptops and tablets and smartphones that scream out for our attention all the time.

I’m immersed in the internet. Trying to keep the internet out of my thought-space on a normal working day is almost as hard as trying to hold breath in my lungs. The last time I did something uninterrupted for more than an hour was probably years ago. I’m so deeply addicted to multi-tasking that I don’t even want to tell you how I plan to make it better right now. I only plan to conduct an experiment, to see how much of a difference not being distracted all the time can make. I plan to spend 2 hours off the grid everyday. Fine, we all know that’s over ambitious. I plan to spend 90 minutes 3 times a week, not counting Sunday, off the grid.

This can be anytime after 10pm, so I have to make sure that I finish work by 10pm on these days. And if I want more, then I can easily spend 4 to 6 hours off the grid on Sundays. This will be 90 minutes where I turn off the internet and my phone. No TV either, but I can use a computer if I want to, as long as it’s offline. I know I should ideally turn the computer off too, but computers have music and audio recording software and lessons on music theory, or whatever the latest thing I want to learn is.

I worry that I know almost for sure that I’m a less interesting person than I was three years ago. I’ll let you know how this goes.

An Empty Room

This post is coming to you from an empty room which has no furniture in it except for this computer table. This room also has the most beautiful sounding reverb that makes almost any music sound nicer. And so I’m going to do something I’ve never done here before, I’m going to post a recording of a song. It’s not my own song, it’s by a band called Blind Pilot. And it’s recorded on a terrible inbuilt laptop mic. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Three rounds and a sound

Bookstores

Note: I wrote this post quite a while ago but it needed editing and I was too lazy to edit it and post it until now.

I had to go to work on Diwali but it was not as bad as working on normal days because I got there and back much quicker since there was no traffic, and also perhaps because we had some beer with lunch. I got off the bus home before 8 pm yesterday which usually never happens even if I try to leave at 6 pm. Since I had some time to spare I decided to go to the Landmark book store to find a good book to read. The books section has been getting smaller for years now. It used to be about 80% of the store but after making space for all the stationery and music and movies and games and gaming consoles and kids toys the real books take up only around 30% of the store.

I’ve always loved looking around at book stores and even though I do it rarely, it invariably makes me feel better when I’m bored out of my mind. I’ve gone to Landmark and bought books knowing nothing about them in advance and having read only a page or two and the summary on the back. More often than not, I’ve liked the books I picked this way. There are, however, two or three books that I bought impulsively and have never really tried reading. Bookstores are also one of the few places where I feel like I can start a conversation with absolutely anyone. As long as they’re browsing the right sections, of course.

One time when I was similarly bored out of my mind and quite broke, I went to Landmark and decided to read an entire book at the store without buying it. This Landmark, like most other bookstores has a few sofas and a few people sitting around on the floor reading books so this isn’t that hard to do. I also wanted to (and still want to) read an entire book in a bookstore just as an accomplishment. I looked in the Literary Fiction shelf and found a small-enough book titled “A Slipping-Down Life” which was about an introverted teenage girl who gets infatuated with the singer of a rock band she likes or something like that. It seemed to be interesting, lighthearted, and pretty much what I needed.

I picked it up, found a sofa that would be out of people’s way and began reading it. It took a while for me to get comfortable and I’d initially move my legs each time anyone passed by even though they had enough space to walk. After a few pages, I didn’t care anymore. I stayed there for about an hour and a half and read about a fifth of the book. I’d have to come back four more times if I stayed for the same amount of time, or just twice if I stayed for three hours to finish the book. Disappointingly, I went back only a month later and I never found the book again.

I’m sure it’s not there anymore because the Literary Fiction section is now less than a third of how big it used to be. The Indian Writing section is huge, and in a way I guess that’s a good thing. The Religion section seems to be about the same size of what it used to be. Science fiction is now just one bookshelf. Literary Fiction and Science Fiction is where I spend most of my time in a bookshop, excluding the bestsellers section. At Landmark, this is now an approximate total shelf area of twelve-by-five feet. And even here, more than half of the books or authors are ones I’ve heard of before. I’ve seen more impressive collections of books in people’s houses. The possibility of finding an awesome new random book to read is greatly diminished. So yesterday I came back home empty handed and today I ordered a friend’s recommendation, “We Need To Talk About Kevin” from Flipkart so I should have it by Saturday.

A trip to Landmark still makes me feel better when I’m bored and they still have just as many sofas and people sitting on the floor and reading. It still does everything it used to do except its primary function, which is that I can’t go there to find a new book. I wouldn’t buy a bestseller because I can almost certainly find someone to borrow them from. I don’t buy books to keep them partly because I’m broke but mainly because I have no place at home to keep books. I read them, and then tell my friends about the ones I like and then tell them to borrow them if they’re interested. I need a bookstore to find a book because if I already knew what I wanted then I’d just order it online. I guess that’s the root of the problem, bookstores can’t be as profitable as they used to be now that everything’s available for cheaper online and so they sell other stuff as well. I guess the only way I could preview books in even remotely the same way before buying them would be if I bought an ebook reader. It would be awesome in a way. I could find authors online I’d never find in a bookstore. It’s just a little sad that I can find a new book, and separately have the experience of going to a bookstore, but I can’t have both together anymore.

If you see me, don’t come say hi

I’m not an interesting person right now. If you come and talk to me, I’ll bore you. I won’t start any conversations worth having and I won’t tell you any stories that you’ll like to hear. I have stories, I just don’t tell them. I may make many entire sentences using only monosyllabic words, like the title of this post. I haven’t read anything remotely thought provoking in the recent past. Not  a book or a story or a blog or an article anywhere on the internet. I’ve only been reading Tweets and subtitles on TV shows and advertisements and text messages. I haven’t found any new music to love in months and I’ve hardly put any new music on my iPod in a year. It all feels like a waste. I don’t think I could justify having been alive for the past couple of months.

So if you see me don’t come say hi unless you think that you can be interesting enough for the both of us. Otherwise just give me something to read and walk away.