Sunday, December 2, 2012

How Life Can Be Lived One Day at a Time Only

It is very difficult to plan for the future.
You can never say what's going to change, what isn't.

And that makes it impossible to plan everything in advance.
You can prepare for everything. But you cannot plan for everything.

Sometimes, things have to be solved on the fly. 
Situations unseen arise, but so do solutions. All we have to do is to associate them. 

And that requires being present in the moment.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Faults that are Nobody's

More often than not in life things go wrong because of nobody's fault.

But the trouble is when we try to find someone to be blamed.

With the realization that some shit happens because of cumulative errors that cannot be stashed upon a single person, comes the inner peace of not having to argue over split milk.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Are You Cool if You Perform Bad in Your Duties?

It is not cool that you don't touch your textbooks.

Seriously.

I've hundreds (literally) of friends who when asked how studies are say "Who cares?" maybe because they actually don't care, or maybe just to appear cool.
But it's just painful. To think that not studying properly, having fun all the time, makes one cool in a degree college, is like thinking not practicing in the nets will make Sachin a cool cricketer. It's just wrong. You're cool when you do it all.

You are cool when you play carroms till midnight and then learn till you sleep. You are cool when you text your girlfriend "I love you" and then read your books with the same amount of passion. You are cool when 5 or 10 years later you still remember what you study this year in your college. You are cool when you are the most awesome professional in your field inside a 10 mile radius. You are cool when you can stand up in an international crowd of colleagues and speak for 10 minutes without losing attention. You are cool when you just don't give up your integrity and sincerity for the sake of running with the crowd.

It might be something about our classrooms too. Maybe we do not have classrooms where active, interactive, and amazingly creative learning is promoted or encouraged. Maybe we do not have students who are willing to learn what they are not required to. Maybe we do not have down to earth professors.

But that doesn't prevent us from changing it all.

We can direct our classroom story in any manner we find fitting.
We can choose to have lively, enthusiastic, energetic, amazing, persevering, smart, creative characters in our story.

Talk to the professor in the classroom, search all over the world for the derivation of that formula on the board, learn the nuances of your craft, embrace success, be willing to be a master in your art.

And then they'll tell you, you're cool! Only that this time it'll be honest.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Ails Our Higher Education? Let's Stop Blaming The System

This post is intended to supplement the post of the same title in SVYM founder's blog.

"Simple living and high thinking" was Gandhiji's motto.
But most of the Indians have failed to imbibe that.
And that's indirectly led to all problems we are facing today.

Education, from the elementary level, is failing to make children think high. That's because the faculties, the teachers aren't themselves thinking high. And that's because the whole system is only very slowly changing.

And where does that change come from? From people who think different, who go down untrodden paths, who communicate and exchange ideas with foreign cultures, who read books other than prescribed textbooks, who embrace the idea of change, and self improvement.

It's a positive cycle. We stop blaming the system, and improve ourselves. Slowly, the system begins to improve.

And as a student who boastfully regards himself as having broken free from the rat race, I give you a few tips on where to begin.
There's actually just one tip.
Use the internet. The world wide web.
Read blogs, articles, newspapers, journals, magazines of different geographical regions.
Learn about the culture, ideas, notions, and the system at other places.
Find out interesting leads.
Be willing to change.

And to begin go to google.com (No, I am not paid by google for leading you to them)

Go find out "how to win a nobel prize", "life at MIT", "buddhist philosophy", "barefoot running", "minimalism"

You will soon run out of things to search for. But things keep popping up too.

And while reading you'll find out new books, blogs, websites, ideas, philosophies, games!, activities, organizations, mailing lists...
Do not skip any. Follow them. Subscribe to blogs, add yourself to mailing lists, play games, do further searches on things.
And you get more pages.
More to read.
More ideas.

And that's all you have to do.
Slowly, your mind will begin to expand, to see alternate views, to discover solutions that never seemed to exist, to think in new patterns, to imagine, to create, to evolve.
And then you can never go back.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Is Corruption All? : A Look into the Real World Problems in Government Offices

There seems to be a consensus on the idea that all problems that we face in our governmental system is due to corruption. This anecdote might help you see some other complicated and routine sides of the "efficiency" issue of our offices.

My dad is a medical officer, and he told me this story last night.

If you go to his Community Health Centre (a small hospital with a few doctors, in-patient facility and operation theater, and just over 20 rooms) you'll find 3 rooms fully filled with old tablets.
To know where these came from you need to know a bit about the way tablet distribution works. The government orders a huge amount of tablets from companies, and distributes it to each government hospitals of the state according to their need (mostly freely). This need is calculated by multiplying the number of doctors working there with the number of tablets they prescribe. So, in dad's CHC it'd be, say, 7 * 300 per month (like for ORS, 10 packets are easily given away per day). And the government gives 2100 ORS packets. Now, 3-4 doctors go on leave. And so, no matter how many people get diarrhoea, there'd be an excess of at least 1000 packets in stock. And then these get expired. Laws are that 6 months before expiry date the pharmacist must distribute these to needy organizations like orphanages. But there's so much of about-to-expire tablets that when he asks the organizations whether they need tablets, they ask the same question in reply. And the pharmacist keeps them with him safely. Let's assume this kind of loss is minimized by asking only around 1000 packets from the government.
But there's another problem. If in any hospital of the state any tablet is found sub-standard, a committee sees to it and blocks the distribution of tablets of that batch number throughout the state. And these kind of sub-standard batches occur every year. Since the tablets are costly, the pharmaceutical company is written a letter informing the defect and reimbursement is asked for. After a month, the company doesn't send any reply. Another letter is sent as a reminder. No reply. (And sometimes these letters are not sent at all. Companies could bribe clerks at the office to prevent the letter being sent) Now, a registered letter is sent. No reply to that either. And then, everyone forgets about the matter. And back at the hospitals, the pharmacist is left with a whole batch of tablets that he can't distribute because they're of low quality, can't burn/dump because he needs to return them in case the company decides to reimburse and asks for the tablets.

Thus, hospitals get filled up with tablets.

Whom do we blame now? If the Lokpal bill had been introduced whom would we want hung?

This is just that kind of a cumulative error which Nedumudi Venu points out to the court in the movie Anniyan and gets laughed at. Errors for which you cannot blame a single person.

And it happens because human beings are not machines. Human beings are, well, humans. They make mistakes. And our rules do not make a differentiation between humane errors and human greed. It doesn't matter whether you do something slightly wrong because you're stupid or because you're corrupt. In fact there's no "slight" wrong before the rule. And that's machine logic. 1 or 0. Corrupt or pure. That's not how human beings are. Human beings can  be something in between.

No, I'm not blaming the legislature. Because to codify the various processes, the algorithm by which we decide what is right, what is wrong and what is in between, is equivalent to designing artificial intelligence. You can't do that.

And that's why we have courts! Courts are rules with a human interpreter. In fact judges are allowed to interpret rules. They decide who's wrong, who's right and who's slightly wrong, by applying human intelligence.

So, why do we have corruption though we have courts. Because courts are slow. Not all cases reach courts. Not everyone gets to present their cases fairly before justice.
And if we try to hasten, the decisions could become inaccurate. If we try to expand, the average intelligence of the judiciary might go low - it takes years of experience to become a judge, that's because you learn to apply non-extremist, non-digital (non 1 or 0) logic to questions, and it takes people years to learn that (or for others to be sure they've learned that).

But it's not just the courts that are slow or inefficient. Offices, officers, administrators, organizers, chairpersons, presidents. Anyone could be inefficient. Because just occupying a government seat doesn't automatically make a man superman. He's the same adolescent turned young man turned adult who has all the follies, imperfections of a human. He will make mistakes when work becomes tedious for him. He will make the wrong choices when presented with too many choices.

And where we go wrong is when we think that forcing them to do the right, putting pressure on them to perform will make them do the right. It may or may not. But I know something that has a better chance for working. And that's technology. Sure there are things that cannot be modernized. But still, we've not yet achieved that much which we can. The GoI is definitely taking the right steps by implementing UID and related projects. That's just a start. Everyone, every office, could benefit from technology. And it's the software engineers, IT professionals, etc who can identify these areas. Funny that I didn't start writing this post with this intention. But I suppose, if you're an engineer, and you've been told that a career in medicine or administration is the best way to serve the people, well you've been misinformed. You have the key to the solutions of our 20th century problems.

And I'm just trying highlight human imperfections that need to be corrected not with stricter rules, but with productivity tools.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Be Fearless

"Be not afraid of anything. You will do marvelous work. it is fearlessness that brings heaven even in a moment." ~Vivekananda
What is the root of all miseries in the world? Worries.
Why do we worry? We are afraid something will happen. Fear.
What is one major reason we fear? We have done something wrong, something that others should not come to know of.
How do we prevent this fear? Do only right.

How do you decide what is right?

Choose your principles wisely, and stick to them.

How do you choose your principles?
Look at great others.
Gandhi had just two principles - truth & non-violence. (These are almost enough to live a safe life)
Buddha had an extra principle - unconditioned love.

And you could add other principles from other greats too. (Just try to avoid thinking people who live to please others, people who live to make money or people who live like slaves are great)

Not many principles are required for a blissful life. Choose whatever you feel necessary. And then stick to them.

When you do, you will find that you begin to fear less. And then you become fearless.
Courage is the absence of fear.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Proactive Change

There are 3 kinds of people. Let's call them versions 1, 2 and 3.

Version 1: won't change
These are the people who hold on to their pasts. Once they are labeled something, based on something that they did or something that they told; they tend to retain that feature forever. Change is not a word even in their electronic dictionaries.
The bug with this version is that people are never born great. Which means imperfections are engraved on marble for these kinds.

Version 2: will change when proved wrong
Upgrading to this version requires this version. It's a catch-22. In other words, if you can change yourself, then you can change yourself into a person who can change themself. Let's forget about the paradox for now. These people change when they are proved wrong. If they participate in a debate one of the following is essential: they win, or they switch sides.

Version 3: proactively seek change
This is the highest version one can reach. People of this kind change, and think of all the ways they can change, without the need for being proved wrong. They are like scientists - constantly redefining their theories, striving for perfection.
And an upgrade to this version is rarely complete. Most often than not people behave like v3 only in some aspects of life and remain in v2 or even v1 in others. But the very nature of v3 is such that it seeks out which areas have failed to upgrade to v3, and upgrades those areas too.
Thus, slowly, the person is readied to attain eternal greatness.

How to upgrade
The only glitch in the process is that upgrades aren't automatic. It always takes a self initiated command. And you are the administrator of your machine.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Complaining about Rape

All you idiots out there who want to castrate the guys who molested the girl in Guwahati, your anger is misdirected. It's not their fault, it is not the girl's fault, it's your fault that your society has problems regarding sexuality. And that's because you fail to talk about it. You consistently fail. And you make sure younger generations fail too. You can't even talk about puberty to your son, forget about talking sexuality with your colleagues. You ain't gonna get out of this mess till you begin to lose shame, inhibition. And you will certainly not grow up till you learn to admit that guys like breasts and girls like (oops, I don't know what they like, because I've never got a chance to talk) whatever they like.
And Indians fuck. All of them have sex. Because without that, you can't explain how we maintain the population competing with China. After all, divya garbha is only in our fairy tales. And you all have a dick or a pussy (if you lost it in an accident, I'm not responsible, shut the fuck up). And all of you, thanks to evolution, has the desire to get laid. And there's nothing to hide. So be it, be talking about sex.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Are your parents the best?

I believe vehemently that our character, intelligence, everything depends on nurture, rather than nature.
Whatever you do, however you respond in a given situation will have something or the other to do with what your parents/teachers/friends/books/culture/family/siblings/environment taught you at some point in your life.

And then comes the question. Do you have the best parents? Did you learn in the best school? Did you grow up in the best neighborhood? Did you read all the best books? Where you nurtured in the best way possible?

And, how will you explain your imperfections? Nurture.

Realizing that what you've been taught as a child may not be the right/best thing to do in a situation helps you also realize the potential for growth.
And that will lead you to sources - people/books/ideas/cultures/thoughts that will make you grow.
And then, you become perfect.
"Where you come from does not determine where you can go"

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Monday, July 2, 2012

What do you perceive as reality?

Just saw Shutter Island, and I should tell you it's the most amazing take on memories and how they define reality and what neuropsychiatry is all about and omg, what not!

SPOILER WARNING: If you've not seen the movie, and are planning to, then don't read ahead.

So, here's where it all matches what ideas I've been having about how the mind works.

Recap: There are only memories. Procedural, declarative, everything. And then, a stimulus appears. It rains, or someone talks, or you fall, or a lion appears behind you. And then, the impulse, the message travels from your sense organ to the brain; it's sorted out and sent to whichever memory/neuron it corresponds to; (again sorted) from there to the procedural memory that it demands; and then to the respective effector organ, and finally you have a response.
[I should tell that I've not yet learned about how this sorting out thing works. I'm assuming it does that, somehow]

So, that's it. The basics.

And then there's this experiment, the split-brain experiment, just google it: Someone has his corpus callosum, the main communication between left and right hemisphere, removed; and he's shown an image to his right eye, say that of ice, and he's shown too many other images to choose from, to associate this ice with, and he chooses a shovel (because you needa shovel the ice). And his left hemisphere is out of the story, it knows nothing about what just happened. And then, the guy is asked why he chose the shovel, while being shown a bird to his left eye. (Should tell you, it's the left hemisphere's Wernicke's area that controls all logic, reasons, etc in most people, sure you've heard that left is rationale and right is creativity). Here's a bird, and here's a question why choose shovel. And suddenly, the left side cooks up a story: "Because birds poop, and you need to clean up that"

Now, that's where Shutter Island comes in. The hero, all he remembers, is from the beginning of the movie, he's in a ship, to shutter island, as a US Marshall. And that's his observation. Now, he's gotta cook up a story consistent with the observations. And he's clever enough to make a perfect one. And there you have! You're insane!

If that didn't make it clear, lemme explain.
Right now, you have all your memories, from your age 5 or 4 (or to be very precise, memories begin forming whenever your nervous system develops, right? Because you do remember the first words you were taught while still struggling on your back) or from the beginning, and then you have a consistent story about the reality out there.

And that reality is based on all your memories. If all of a sudden you were to wake up with none of your memories from the last 2 years, what would you do? How would you feel? If you'd ever fainted for a while you might have experienced this. (Like I fainted, interestingly the first, and as of now the only, time I donated blood, and then I wake up, as people said, 10 seconds later, and all I see is people all around looking at me, and I don't remember what happened, and so instantly, in seconds I am thinking "I've just been in a road accident." And if I was lying down on the road with blood splashed all over my body, I'd just believe that forever. But gladly, I look around and then I remember I was donating blood and the people around, they fill the 10 second void in the memories, and ha! I'm back in my reality.

What if it was not that easy?
What if suddenly somewhere inside your brain, a stroke or something knocks out an year or a decade of your memories and nothing, nobody can explain to you or make you remember everything, everything that happened, to fill in that void?
Suddely your brain, without even letting you* realize it, cooks up a story to fit in all that it remembers and sees. And there you go, you're in a mental asylum which's your home, the psychiatrist is your family friend, and the nurses are your sisters or daughters or servants, and the whole world is crazy!

*Who's this you? Are your brain, your mind and you three different realities?

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Attempting to Solve the Hard Probelm of Consciousness

I remember asking one of my computer science friends a few months ago when he was coding a small game "When your program plays the game, does it actually know the rules, or does it just act as per your algorithms as to how to proceed at each imaginable point that comes up during the game? Is the program conscious of the game?"

Now, I think, that question of mine was invalid.

We go inside the mind of a human baby, an infant.
It knows nothing - a blank slate. Very importantly, what we call consciousness, or the awareness of the self is absent. Somewhere along the line, it becomes conscious and begins thinking of itself.

[I'm gonna be putting seemingly random thoughts throughout this post, just make sure each one of them are agreeable]

How do we learn something?
As small kids, we are shown or we see everything around us. Cats, people, stones, toys, moving things, immobile things, living things, non-living things, this, that, everything.
Right from the delivery bed there's a training process that begins. Mom points at a moving thing and says "DAD". Then, "CAT", "DOG", "PEN", and so on...
There can't possibly be any understanding as to what "dad" or "pen" means at that time. BUT, very importantly there are memories, or conditioned reflexes formed. [Remember Pavlov's dog? After Pavlov repeatedly struck a bell before feeding a dog for a few times, just striking the bell brought about salivation].
So, the next time you see the same pen or the same cat, you, as a baby, remembers to associate with the sound "CAT" or "PEN"
That's initial variable declaration kind of memory formation.

Then, you learn categories, methods, activities, etc.
This is a cat. This doesn't move. This is not even 3D. This is just a "PICTURE" of a cat. Cats in pictures can't move.

Then you go school. Teachers tell you:
Cat is an animal. Dog is an animal.
Cat can change its position. Cat can move. Animals are those things that can move.
And then, all your memories of cats, of movement, and of cats moving surfaces in your mind.
Of dogs too.
And then you learn what it takes to be an animal.


I repeat. A baby knows nothing.
How does it learn? By conditionally associating words that it hear with the visual (or tactile in a blind person) stimuli that is accompanying the sound always.
Not just objects. Methods like motion, fall, rise, rolling, everything is associated to the words for it.

I do mean LANGUAGE IS THE BASIS OF INTELLIGENCE

Then there are categories. And there are inherited methods, inherited properties.

A baby learns to categorize things. It learns that if a rat is an animal, it'll move too. (Even this is taught. You've got to remind her "Idiot, it's an animal. Animals move")
So, the baby now learns to identify, categorize, etc.

Now, we move on to the hard problem of self awareness.
It's not really hard.
The baby is taught about the existence of self.
It's taught that whichever part of the universe is under its direct control is called "self".
And there always is the unconsciously learned skills like moving own hands, feet, etc. which leads to an image of the body being formed in the brain (cerebellum).

(I say, if we were to keep something contiguous with the body 24x7, 365 days for a non-leap year, it'd finally form a part of the body image.
In fact when we grow up, and we start using mobile phones, we get addicted to it, then it becomes so repetitive that even the mobile handset forms a part of the body image. But this is usually prevented by the fact that we keep the sets down at times. But what I mean to say, is that if we were to associate, consciously as the mobile being an extension of our body, it'll finally become a part of our self. Maybe this is true with prosthetic limbs and all. No, they will tell you it feels alien, but that's because they have not tried to consciously associate with it, nor do they get sensory stimulus from the prosthetic)

Thus, the baby begins to identify itself. (Even this is just an information stored in the neurons)

Now, consciousness.
The fact that there is something that's observing my thoughts.

I am thinking hard.

It's hard to solve.

Emotions, etc can be explained with hormones, and the sense of well being. Like negative words are associated with bad memories, bad memories bring on the be wary mode, leading to release of be wary hormones, which would bring about a bad mood - negative emotion. Vice versa with positive emotions.

But who is feeling this well being?
That, is really hard to solve.

And I go back to the question I asked my friend. He should have retorted with this question: "What do you mean by 'conscious'ness?"

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Only Way to Win The Mind

There is something special about a medical college hostel. You wake up in the middle of the night and walk through the corridor to the loo, whatever be the time, you'll see one or the other guy awake, under the lamp with his textbook.

Hard work might be the secret to success. But in medical college it is the only way to survive.

Getting the first shot of it, I started preparing for the first year exam over a week ago.
And it has led me to the following understandings.

If you try to negotiate with mind, you'll end up with a bad deal. The only way to win your mind, is to shut your mind up and do what you need to do.

The way the mind tricks you can be very easily observed with self awareness.
"I'll check out the social network notifications just for a minute, and be back"
"I'll listen to just this song, and be back"
"I'll send just this sms and be back studying"

All those are the deals mind throws at you. And if you accept just one?
"Somebody has tagged me in a post, omg, he's uploaded the party pics, lemme comment on each one of them"
"That song was so good, feel like listening to another of the same artist. How about some chips too. Ah! Relaxed drowsiness"
"Wow! I got the reply so soon? And lemme ask her about what she's doing next weekend"

The story is always the same. The presenting deal was fair. But, once you sign in, the terms and conditions are changed unilaterally.

But fortunately, there's a way to prevent losing to mind.
And that is, to not accept any deal. Strict no!
"You have a deal, go to hell with your deal"
"I'm not using my phone, I'm not using my internet, I'm not listening at all!!"

And then, mind will shut up.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Nobody is the King

Had occasions when you wonder what you should do and what you should not?
Ever felt out of the group in a party/dinner/function?
Had to ask/listen to somebody's lecture on friend/couple/family/stranger manners?

Not any more.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, there is only one rule you should know - "be comfortable".

And that refers just to you. You be comfortable. And do everything it takes for you to feel comfortable.

People are always gonna tell you you should not have done this/that/itlikethat because they are confused what to do.

You've got an identity, you hold onto that. Never ever feel the urge to be someone you're not.

Because trust me, you're the king!

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Monday, January 2, 2012

2011: The Year of Conversions

"2011 is the only year I studied both in a school and a college." ~SMS forward

January - Started studying seriously for entrance examinations. Carefree to careful.
February - Turned 18. Minor to major.
March - 12th standard board exam is over. End of English as a subject.
June - All exams done. Time to commit to one very big life decision - college.
July - Enjoy, wait eagerly for college.
August - Join MBBS, marvel at the size of textbooks. +Start the challenge of living without a computer for an year.
September - Make friends.
October - Sleep.
November - Loose sleep studying for internal exams.
December - Rejoice at the failure. Learn from it. And start afresh. This time, it's a happy new year!


---

I have some serious ideas about studying medicine subjects, especially anatomy. It'd be worth another post after I finish the experiments.

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