After what seems like an eternity, I thought a bit of re-branding was in order. The URL could definitely use a bit of personalisation, especially since the old one wasn’t doing any wonders. I am worried about link-rot, but I’ll leave that mess to Google to figure out. Or maybe not. If the whole Cambridge Analytica scandal has taught me one thing, it’s that maybe putting all your thoughts online isn’t such a great idea.
I’m hoping I’ll be able to publish a new post soon, at least next week. So here’s to that, and the new blog address.
You know, that style worked much better in Hot Fuzz. Like thousands of other fresh graduates, I’m currently in the market, job-hunting. Sure, the fact that the national economy is in a downturn and 1.5 million jobs have been lost held no weight in my head at the time. It’s been a little over a month since I graduated. In that time period, though I have done nothing more than sit on my ass and eat all day, every day, I don’t want the world to think I’m lazy. Wait a minute!
I guess, at one point or another, almost every blogger has had these thoughts in their minds. And you nailed it down to the last word. The constant filtering that we tend to do, the amount of care we put into maintaining our brand and being consistent, it just takes us away from the main goal of writing: self-expression. Instead, as you said, we’re more self-conscious now. Or selfie-conscious.
This one begins when I paid a visit to the hair salon. No, I wasn’t just visiting them without any purpose, I actually got my hair cut. Most people love showers because of the freedom it affords them. They can sing, dance, think or just battle crippling anxiety and depression while standing under that constant stream of water, a metaphor for the slow and constant passing of time, leading us all to our eventual deaths and the Universe’s stark indifference to our existence and death. Anyway, people love showers mostly because of the isolation it provides them to sing, or think deeply about things they wouldn’t really think about at other times. It’s easy to see why there’s a whole community built around this.
Unlike most people, I prefer to do all this while I’m at the salon. Not the singing and dancing, mind you. The thinking. There’s no situation more conducive for thinking, as sitting in an air-conditioned room with music blasting in the background and a sharp instrument really close to your ears, clipping away at the hair you’ve spent months nurturing and growing. You can’t help but wonder if the barber is a latent sex offender, as he offers you a free face masssage after the haircut. But, experience has taught me over time that this isn’t the case. I digress. Also, haircuts are one of the few situations where I can get the job done, without much talking. That earns it bonus points in my book.
As my thoughts wandered in the salon, I couldn’t help but notice this snippet of wisdom. John Travolta was right in Pulp Fiction. It’s the little things that make two places different. Not the entire tradition and customs or ethnic make up, just the little things. (Note this down, kids, that’s how you generalise things.) It’s the same with barbers. It’s the attention to details that sets apart a good salon from a great one.
One particular salon I frequented, before I returned to my hometown after finishing college, prided itself on its attention to detail. The barber’s cape they would drape over me had the name of the salon embroidered over it. That’s pretty normal, I know, but the design in itself was such that when I looked into the mirror in front of me, there it was, the name of the salon, exactly how it should be, which is to say it wasn’t mirrored. I gazed down and saw that the embroidery was inverted, so that when patrons looked into the mirror, the name appeared un-inverted. And then, the barber got pissed off because I moved my head as he was working on it.
Unfortunately, at the salon I went to earlier this week, that wasn’t the case. It was a plain cape, with no thought put into how the embroidery might look like to a customer in the mirror. There it was, a plain guy, wearing a plain cape, staring at me from the mirror, and the words were all flipped. I guess this doesn’t matter all that much in the end. Maybe nobody else puts so much thought into these things as I do. Maybe they do, but they don’t launch into wordy, winding rants about it online. Nevertheless, this train of useless thoughts had to come to an end when the barber was done with his job. Fast forward a couple of minutes, to skip over an awkward social interaction I had with the barber regarding the pay, and I’m in my shower, thinking about how I never have thoughts in the shower, but during haircuts. So meta.
Sometimes I just don’t know what to write about. At those times I try to find just a little bit of humour in even the most shittiest of situations, just to find some semblance of sanity in my life. Sometimes, I try to think of all the people I might have killed without my knowledge, simply because of my action or inaction, one event leading to other, forming a chain, and affecting a person thousands of miles away, maybe a couple of years later. The reach of the Butterfly effect is too vast to even try to comprehend, at least when you’re not high.
Would the world have been the same if I hadn’t done that thing I did last week? Would the Universe even exist today if I had completed my assignment on time yesterday instead of sitting on my lazy ass all day long? Who knows? Thing is, the only constant that would be capable of escaping the long slimy hands of the Butterfly effect would be time. Time would go on regardless of whether the Universe still exists or gets destroyed in a freak chain reaction initiated by my assignment.
But is that really true? Would time really be free from the effects of a Universe-shattering butterfly effect chain of events? What if time itself is destroyed by the events? In that case, there truly is nothing that is constant in the face of the ever-changing status quo created by even the most minor decisions or actions taken by each and every being or object or atom in the Universe. That’s when I zone out and quit seeing things for what they are. Things could have been, things might have been, things wouldn’t have been; it all depends on one small thing and that’s all it takes for the butterfly effect to be initiated.
So why this rant about the butterfly effect? A couple of days ago, I noticed first hand the impact of the butterfly effect: how one friend’s decision to dine at KFC led to another friend going broke two days later. I should probably add that Friend 2 was in no way involved in- or even aware of- the whole KFC Dining Grand Plan. The plot could have been thickened a bit if he was involved, but we’ll just let it go for now.
Being that March is usually a busy month for most of us, and unusually for me, here’s what I’ve been upto recently. Aside from the tons of workload and assignments I’ve been flooded with at college, I’ve been binge-watching Grace Helbig’s videos. Like, a lot. On repeat sometimes. Also, I’m back into the podcasting bandwagon; the listening part, that is. RadioPublic is a great Android app I’ve found that helps me subscribe, manage and find new podcasts. So yeah, 99% Invisible, Reply All, RadioLab are all back in my life now, along with a couple of new entries. You might say all this is in preparation for the release of S-Town, a new podcast from This American Life and Serial, which drops on March 28!
So will I be listening to S-Town on March 28? You bet I will! Unless my decision to have lunch at Restaurant A instead of B leads to a complicated chain of events that causes the world to implode on March 27th,that is.
A new year and a new semester has started, so I wanted to just post a couple of updates before I get lost in the sea of work.
A recent trip to Kodaikanal, a hill resort in the southern state of Tamil Nadu with friends was a refreshing change to the routine existence I have managed to carve out. The various spots we visited, the hundreds (possibly thousands) of pictures we took, and most of all, the experiences I had were definitely the highlights of the trip.
Remember Prompt Replies? My little experiment in fiction in which I used daily prompts from The Daily Post to craft a connected story. I figured that instead of spamming this blog with chapters of the story, I could move it to a blog of its own. Not only would it keep this blog clean, but it’d also provide a nice home for the story. That’s why, Prompt Replies has moved to a new home.
These are the small updates I have for you now. More fleshed out, longer posts are arriving soon and as always, thanks for reading.
The first teaser trailer for Rogue One dropped yesterday. The first standalone movie in the Star Wars saga, Rogue One tells the story of how the Death Star’s plans got into the hands of the rebellion. The story is set between the events of Episode III and IV, closer to IV though.
Rogue One is the first of more standalone movies that Disney intends to churn out, as Star Wars fans become thirstier than ever before for new content. Personally, I like the direction Disney has taken with regards to the whole Star Wars universe, with the similarities to the Original trilogy, the design and sets and practical effects in Episode VII.
So even if you aren’t a big Star Wars fan (Come on, who isn’t?), this teaser is worth checking out. Me though, I’ve been yelling “Shut up and take my money” since yesterday. Rogue One hits theatres on December 16th this year.
Before I begin, let me be honest with you. This draft has been sitting idle since January, longing for my attention, but it’s just now that I actually got around to editing and posting it. I’ve been interested in the world of podcasting since late 2014, when Serial blew up and became the poster child of podcasting. I remember downloading single episodes of Hello Internet and RadioLab and liking them, but not enough to actually revisit them.
In late 2015, however, I got hooked onto listening to podcasts. I would download episodes as soon as they were published, slowly growing my library of audio files with intense reporting and light humor in them. Sure enough, it became an obsession of sorts, waiting for new episodes to be posted, pondering over the discussions in the podcast itself. So 4 months into 2016, here are the podcasts I’m listening to, in 2016.
Serial: Serial is an investigative podcast, with host Sarah Koenig, that involves a true story and discusses every side of it, week after week. Think of it as True Detective for your ears. For instance, Season 1 looks into the homicide of a high school student Hae Min Lee, in 1999. Her ex-boyfriend was convicted of the murder, but there’s just a whole lot of evidence missing in the case. Over 12 episodes, Serial lays out the whole story, the inconsistencies, the doubts and the people who were involved in this incident. Sure enough, if you go online, you might find a lot of people complaining about Season 2. Compared to Season 1, Season 2 just isn’t there yet, but it might, in the coming episodes. Season 2 is still airing, and it deals with Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban in 2009 and rescued in 2014. Now, I won’t spoil everything for you, but do check it out. [UPDATE: Season 2 of Serial is over. You can still download the episodes from their website.]
Welcome To Night Vale:This just might be my favorite podcast soon enough. Welcome To Night Vale is a podcast that’s presented as twice-monthly updates from the sleepy fictitious desert town of Night Vale, somewhere in the USA. It reports on the strange, strange, strange, events taking place in the town, which are sometimes recurring and mostly humorous. Nevertheless, listening to WTNV will definitely have you up at night, creating new conspiracy theories and what not. This podcast debuted in 2012 and new episodes come out every 15 days. I discovered this podcast just this year, so there’s a lot of binge-listening going on right now, to catch up with the latest episodes. Check out WTNV to know more about the dark hooded figures, the lights in the sky and the dog park where dogs aren’t allowed.
TED Radio Hour: A great podcast by NPR that clubs together TED talks on related topics and brings the knowledge straight to you. Add in Guy Raz’s smooth voice that slowly cajoles you to sleep, without boring you, and it’s a great show to listen to, night or day. You have shows dealing with half a dozen talks about open source, creativity, our digital lives and more, keeping you entertained for nearly an hour, filled to the brim with knowledge, wisdom and the occasional TED-talk humor, adapted for audio.
RadioLab: RadioLab is not just science radio at its best, it’s also radio at its best, mostly. Episode topics vary wildly and are mostly about science and topics in philosophy, like morality. It’s just a pleasure to have all that knowledge come in, irrespective of what it’s about. RadioLab has been awarded several times for its audio production style and also the content. If you want new information to just flow into your brain, like when you’re binge-watching Vsauce, choose RadioLab.
Reply All: Reply All is a podcast about the Internet by soon-to-be podcasting unicorn Gimlet Media. It’s a podcast about how we, the people who use the Internet, shape its very existence. Reply All takes the stories and Web culture that most of us are familiar with, and presents the stories of the people behind them.
And now, just for laughs, I’ve included Star Wars Minute, a podcast that discusses each minute of the Star Wars movies in each episode. Starting with Ep IV in the original trilogy, the podcast is now onto minute 90 of Ep I in the prequel trilogy. Whew, that’s quite a lot to catch up! Each episode is about 10 minutes or so long, because let’s be honest, how much can you discuss just one minute of a film?
And well, that’s my list of podcasts that I’ve been listening to. What are your favorite podcasts? Know of any awesome podcasts that I’m not listening to? Let me know in the comments below!
In 2013, I received an email from Pocket. Apparently, I was one of the Top 5% of Pocket users that year, having read close to 750,000 words within Pocket. In 2014, I made it into the Top 5% again, with 1.5 million words read in Pocket. That got me interested. I wanted to quantify what I was reading within Pocket. With that mission in mind, I set up an IFTTT recipe that added what I’d archived after reading in Pocket to a Google spreadsheet. After a year of checking and adding, the spreadsheet was finally filled with the results on one year of reading. You can check out the spreadsheet here.
Everything was good, but there was just a small problem. I couldn’t get the number of words in each article. IFTTT, though it uses the Pocket API, doesn’t provide users with the word count of an article. And to manually enter the number of words in 800+ articles in a spreadsheet would be a crazy thing to do. Indeed, I tried copy-pasting the article text into an online word-counter tool, and gave up after about 9 items.
So, after being one of the Top 1% of Pocket users in 2015, </humblebrag>, I thought of using Pocket’s API to accomplish what I wanted: word counts for the items I’d saved. This little pet project soon morphed into a sort of subset-archive of my data on Pocket. The recommended way to get around to doing this is to develop your own application, but I used cURL on Linux, with the standard bash terminal, to make requests and pull the data off Pocket. If you have experience developing your own programs, you can do this pretty easily, but I’m just a noobie programmer, so using cURL to make the necessary POST requests was the way to go for me. This little tutorial will help you pull your account data from Pocket through the recommended API requests, in a clean way. Before you begin, please copy the code provided throughout this post and save them as .sh files. This will make it easier to execute them later on.
You’ll need to save the commands provided here in a text file as a .sh shell file. Then you’ll need to chmod +x the file, to make it executable. For instance, let’s say you’ve saved this .sh file to your Desktop, as PocketRequest.sh. You’ll need to type
chmod +x ~/Desktop/PocketRequest.sh
to make the file executable. Once you’ve done that, simply type in the location of the file in the Terminal to run it.
The first thing to do is to get your Consumer Key from Pocket. This is fairly simple. Just visit the Pocket Developer Console and register a new application. Fill in the details and you’ll be provided with your Consumer Key, like in the screenshot below.
Open up a text editor and type in the following lines of code. You’ll need to enter your own Consumer Key where it says your_consumer_key_here.
Assuming you’ve already saved this code to a shell file, you can execute it in the Terminal, as
This will get you a Request Token. Note that I’ve provided the URL to Google as the Redirect URI. This is because I don’t really have an application that the user can return back to. It’s just a hackey fix.
Once you’ve made the request, you get a response from the Pocket server, straight in your Terminal. It will look something like this:
Note this Request Token down somewhere, because this is what you will be using to authorize this ‘app‘ with your account. Next up, open your browser and go to
Remember to substitute YOUR_REQUEST_TOKEN with the code you received in the previous step. Again, we are using Google as the Redirect URI. This means that, after you authorize the application you created to access your Pocket account, it will take you to the Google homepage. If we had an actual app working here, the Redirect URI would be a way to get back to the app/website we have.
On visiting this URL, you’ll be presented with the Pocket authorization page. Here you can allow your app to access your account. Click on Allow and then return to the Terminal. You’ll need to execute the second file now. The commands are as follows, which you can save to a .sh file for easier execution.
For all future requests, you will use this Access Token and your Consumer Key that you received in the first step.
Now that we’ve finished authenticating your application with your account, we can get to the actual process of getting your data. In case you want to download all of your items from Pocket, with their URL and word counts, save the following code in a .sh file.
A problem you might face when executing this command is that the response is dumped straight into the Terminal. This means that if you have lots of items in your Pocket list and archive, your Terminal screen will be filled with tons of gibberish data. To prevent that, when executing this file, we pipe the output into a temporary JSON file, like so.
~/location/file.sh > Temp.json
If you check your Home directory after executing this file, you’ll notice a new file named, obviously, Temp.json. Depending on the number of items you have in your Pocket, the file might be large and be filled with loads of relevant data, like the URL of the article or video, its word count, title, website it’s from, time it was added and so on. For now, we only need the title of the article, its URL and the word count.
You will need to install a tiny utility called jq for our next step. To install jq, type in
sudo apt-get install jq
in your Terminal. Once it’s downloaded and installed, type the following code in a text editor and save it as a .sh
Again, executing the code snippet above, will just flood your Terminal window with the output, so we’ll pipe the output to a final document file. The following is how you execute this last shell file.
~/location/file.sh > Pocket_Data.doc
This will create a .doc file with your whole Pocket library and the word counts of all items inside it. There you go, you’ve successfully authorized and downloaded your Pocket Data. There are several other combinations of parameters that you can use to download your data, which you can read about at the Pocket API Documentation pages.
If you have any suggestions to improve this hackey solution, please do let me know. Also, I’m not an expert on the Linux command line or about APIs in general. I created this whole solution with a little bit of Google-fu and lurking over at Stack Overflow. Nevertheless, I’d be happy to know how this little experiment worked out for you. Let’s discuss in the comments!
We live in an age where almost anyone can be an online celebrity overnight, where any quote or photo or person can achieve meme status in the blink of an eye. We have YouTubers raking in millions of dollars every year, simply by playing games, which all seems a little counter-intuitive compared to the real world.
This is the great equalizing power of the Web: it makes it possible for anyone to reach millions of eyes and influence them. The Web is a level playing ground, where no one has any undue advantage, where everyone can be heard and seen. It’s like the biggest meetup in the history of mankind.
And yet, that very thing is what often drives a lot of people. Be it bloggers, vloggers, budding musicians and artists or even just entrepreneurs, everyone wants to be famous like the incumbent celebrities of the Web; the stars of Instagram and Twitter, the ephemeral kings of Snapchat, the thought-leaders of the blogging world. We try to mimic their meteoric rise, we set their metrics as our goals: likes, retweets, traffic hits.
But the truth is, it’s incredibly disorienting.
The things we love doing are those that we do without any pressure or incentives. Think about something that you do alone. Like maybe cooking a simple comfort food. Or writing little haikus or poems. You don’t do that for Internet fame and money, you do that for yourselves, and it feels great doing it.
I believe it’s the same for blogging. I’ve been blogging since 2010, on a variety of different blogs that didn’t last too long. I used to love it, even though I wasn’t really consistent and the writing wasn’t that good. Every little thing I used to write about resonated with me on a special level, be it reviews of cool new services I’d found online (RIP StrawberryJ.am) or startups in beta. It was a great way for me to share my thoughts (and the occasional beta invites) with the world.
That was until I became a stat-whore. I became so enamored with my traffic stats that I lost track of the why of blogging. I was attached to the number of visits and views, the number of shares, the geographical distribution of visitors and all that. I wanted thousands of hits on my blog every week, and I wanted it now! I started hating the very concept of blogging, simply because it didn’t show any results. I kept writing, trying out every trick there is to attract readers, but none of that reflected in my stats page. In trying to emulate the success of other bloggers, I had devoted myself completely to my stats and away from the reason I loved blogging.
Over time though, this infatuation with stats and fame and pingbacks just wears off. I’ve come to realize that we don’t all have to be blogging legends or millionaire YouTube celebrities. We don’t all have to jump over to Medium, just because it’s the new hot blogging platform and it’s got great network effects.
The best work we produce will often be invisible. It will not get as much attention as we hoped it would. And that’s okay, because what we think of as our best work isn’t our best work. We often produce our best work when we have no pressure on us, no worries about the hits or likes or retweets it might get. Our best work comes out when we are the only ones who can enjoy it. It’s like a small secret of ours, not shared with anyone else. And that’s what gives us the most joy, no matter how stupid the writing might be.
One blog is enough, and the low number of hits I get now, is enough. Frankly, I don’t even have any expenses on blogging that I need to recoup. I have a lot of thoughts everyday, and I find some of them worth sharing, out into the void, if not with other people. That’s why I blog. Online fame and money, if any, is a secondary reward for just showing up and blogging.