Thursday, February 24, 2011

Media Fast for twenty five days. - Updated

I waste a lot of time daily doing a lot of things but in reality, I don't do much. Today was a relatively free day at office and I have been meaning to complete a small project from the last week. But I am always putting it off for just a few minutes whenever I get a sense that I am free. It typically goes like this. If I feel I am free from 11:45 am, I decide that because anyway I will go to lunch at 12:30 pm, I will just check what is happening in hacker news. It will go till 12:30. I will go to lunch and I come back to my desk by 1 PM. Then again, I want to start working on the project but I remember that there are revolutions going on in Libya, Bahrain and else where in middle east. I open up nytimes and guardian to check the status on that. I know that I can in no  way influence the outcome of that but still I can't keep myself from checking those sites. Then I check gmail. I will get a mail from facebook saying so and so person has left a comment on your post. I follow the link and see the comment and reply to that. Also, I see the links and statuses and photos that my friends have shared and in no time, I will be diving deep in the chain of links and by the time I come to my senses and start working, it will be 3:30 PM. I work for half an hour, go for a tea break and come to my place. Again I want to check twitter to see what my friends are saying.  Again I drown in another sea of links. By the time, I am rescued, it will already be time for my leaving. I come home and hope that I can do something at home atleast. After coming home, I start checking sites of telugu movies like idlebrain, etc and by the time I see the interviews, news and videos I am starved. So I just pull me up, cook something and eat  and by that time, it will be time for calls to India. By the time I am done, I can only sleep. 

                This is kind of frustrating.  I just tell myself tomorrow will be better daily. The days have become weeks and weeks have become months. With such an addicted situation, it is really a wonder that I have been able to complete an android app. So something has to change. As I have mentioned in my resolutions review conentrating on something is not a problem thanks to pomodoro once I have started, but starting itself is a big problem now. So I have decided to extend the pomodoro technique to get me started also. In the classic pomodoro technique, we start working on something for 25 minutes without any distractions -any distraction is  attended to after this 25 mins-, now I want to start something and work on only that thing of 25 days and leave the other 5 days to attend to any distractions. 

                    So I will not visit any news sites during these 25 days. I will check my email and facebook only once everyday and that too at the end of the day. Ideally this would be best if I start it at the beginning of the month, but then I don't want to lose the motivation now, so I am starting it now. If I am able to successfully complete this, then I will take an extended break at the end of march. 

Update- 1: So It has been one and a half week since I started this fast. I would say I didn't succeed wildly in this becuase I am still seeing the websites and news sites I will visit. But still, there is a marked change in the way I see reading. Before I read anything, I am asking myself if it will help me take any action - If yes, then only I am reading big articles. Ofcourse I am just glancing over the news, which I would have previously read. But still I can be better. I followed the Ipad 2 announcement live on Endgadget. But over all, I am very happy with the decision. I have been very productive this two weeks. I will continue to observe the fast and tell you of all the updates.

Update - 2: It is going really good. To be frank, I am not really forcing myself to not go to websites and I am checking them intermittently, but the key word their is intermittently, I am not getting stuck there. I am visiting them only as break in my work. And it is working too. I completed my first Django web application and deployed it here.

Update -3: After the success above, I should say, i completed hit the wall. But the media fast ends. It is one thing which is very difficult for me. I am a sucker for news... The Japan earthquake and the surrounding media hype was too much to ignore. Now it is the cricket world cup. This will never end, but this week has be disastrous in the sense, I didn't even work for one pomodoro after I come home. Saving grace is that I am reading and summarizing Keith Ferrazi's book on relationships - 'Never Eat Alone'. Check out the posts here. Meanwhile, I have also  have to do a lot to improve the app which has been languishing without any improvements. You can follow my progress and encourage me here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The role of organized religion

In 2009 when I was thinking a lot about religion and our place in the world, I wrote these

Following a religion gives us hope, faith and confidence about problems which we cannot solve ourselves...and a sense of humility which is very necessary in this random world.It also is used to give some sort of stability, checks and balances in the society so that it will not degrade..

All these things (castes and rules)  make me feel these things were only created for manipulation and power-grabbing. 
After that I argued that I didn't need someone else to set the rules and that we ourselves can make our own rules for life. 

I found a different perspective regarding organized religion in Sebastian's blog. 

because people attribute things like discrimination or war to religion, but I think that’s mistaken. We naturally draw lines as humans, and support the people on our side of the line. Sure, religious groups often promote themselves at the expense of other groups. But so do trade organizations, national organizations, race-based organizations, and so on, and so on. Humans naturally divide themselves into groups, support people in their group, and oppose people outside of it.
So I’d say, even the worst implementations of religion tend to get 80% of things correct. They all pretty much say don’t steal, don’t kill, do charitable and good deeds, be hospitable, purify and master yourself, serve and do good works…
If you belong to an organized religion, you know how people are generally expected to act, you know it’s pretty good, and you know everyone’s consistent about it. You have some people that you know are going to back you up if times get tough, and you’ve got common ground to connect on and work together, socialize together, and build families together.
Y’know, a hardcore athiest that focuses on the mystical side of religion and says it’s ridiculous is kind of missing the point. Organized religion greatly simplifies people’s lives by giving them a reasonably good belief structure and standardizing a large group of people’s customs, culture, and expected conduct. It makes life easier and allows for strong connections and alliances and agreements.

 So he says, religion has made life easier by giving us a culture and standard beliefs. This helps in creating and maintaining relations and being together amicably. Though I argue that if we are all intelligent, we can think about and form our own beliefs and understand that our well-being lies in live and let living, I will not.  Because, 

guy that can research, strive, examine, think, brainstorm, and scratch and claw your way towards having a uniquely developed, cohesive, powerful set of ethics.
Most people can’t, and don’t want to do that. It’s a lot of work, and it leads to a lot of doubt and confusion and then no one understands you. Having your own ethics is lonely. Very lonely.

Hence religions have spread and established with the help of the charisma of the people spreading them. But I think his perspective is very useful to understand religions influence in the world. His blog is very good and he writes really interesting stuff. You can read it here

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Utopia is just a dream

Friends, I just watched the movie 'Inside Job' which clearly shows how the financial crisis of 2008 was an inside job by the big investment banking companies like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Meryll Lynch with the support of the credit rating agencies like Moody's , S&P and Finch. Apart from that it shows how the CEOs and directors of those investment banks become the economic adviser to the US government, the head of Federal Reserve ( the central bank of US like the Reserve Bank of India) and still maintain their loyalties to the banks. It also lays bare the lobbying the financial companies do to create laws to decrease their taxes, increase their leverage and no regulation for their activities.  They sold things to the investors which they knew were junk.  It increasingly proved that and the documentaty states - "It is a Wall Street government". Yes, money speaks. No, it was not only Bush.

Obama who came to power on the promises of financial overhaul, did nothing, virtually nothing to address the root cause of the problem. Now here is where I am convinced that Utopia is just a dream. I wonder if we always have to cheat a few poeple to live?  You might be innocent, but your bosses might be lobbying for some tax cut for your industry.  And then we ask the question  - Why should we pay tax? What is the right amount of tax that we should pay? Who decides which industries should be exempt from taxes?  I don't think anybody has answers to these. May be,  it is the nature of humanity - survival of the fittest. The more I see and understand the world, I think dishonesty is the norm and honesty is the exception, not on an individual level but on a group level. What I mean here is you will not cheat your colleague, you might be cheating your client by not working for their interests. The Wall street wants its company to get profits so they didn't see any harm in cheating the investors. I really wish that is the not the case, but it seems to be.

Now what if we don't want to do such stuff and want to live honorably? Till recently I thought it was, but I think except if you escaped into a cave, it is virtually impossible. But may be at our individual level we can strive to do the best we can. Call attention to any cases of cheating and fraud. And somehow, the feeling of guilt in cheating the faceless government is decreasing day by day. I think humans have had such problems all over history and people with money have always brought laws to favor them and grew more rich until it became unsustainable and people revolted . Then some sort of level playing field is established during the revolutions like the French Revolution, or the Russian Revolution. Then once everything settles down, new players comes, they get some money (honestly or dishonestly) and again with the money, they make favorable rules and the cycle continues. It looks like this has been the way of life. It looks its indeed the survival of the fittest.

I would love to hear a different perspective from you guys..!!!