Sleep Lessons from an Insomniac

Cutting yourself off when you’re most productive, and then lying in the same position for 8 hours at a stretch, waking up more tired than went you went into deep slumber; could there be a bigger waste of time?

I have trouble sleeping. Well, not the act of sleeping but shutting off my activities and going to bed. I think I’ve mentioned this before, on this blog’s previous incarnation (even asked the cat for some advice). Every day I delay my sleeping time, leading to a loop that ends up a few weeks later me sleeping at 8 in the morning. And then I reverse my cycle over a painful period of 3-4 days.

But I think I’ve figured out sleep. After so much of first hand experience with the sleep monster, I think I know pretty well what causes problems, and a few solutions. There’s a saying I could have used here but I just can’t put my finger on it.

All of this is knowledge based on my own experiences, and wherever I say you, I mean me.

Insomnia comes over if you stay up more than an hour after you first feel sleepy. It’s your mind forcing itself into a second wake cycle, but your body still wants its sleep. Essentially your body is too tired to work any longer, and your mind is actively thinking up new shit.

My first bit of advice is to go the fuck to sleep when you feel sleepy. Nothing better than doing that. I sometimes practice regular sleep timings, and for a week or two I manage a strict 12 a.m sleeping schedule. Those days I wake up fresh.

If you’ve lost your way for a few days and want to get back on track, it’s a little difficult sleeping before your new usual time. Drink lots of alcohol, or smoke up. Bound to knock you out at any given time. Be sure not to knock out more than 4 hours before your usual sleep time, because this will trigger a nap, leaving you wide awake a few hours out. That state is so twisted even I’m yet to figure it out.

If you do enter into a state of insomnia, get up, eat a lot of food. Don’t eat carbohydrates or things that will turn into sugar. Meat, eggs, milk are the good stuff; basically heavy foods. Eating cookies is the worst thing you could do at this point, tempting as they might be. Don’t do this every day though, as it’s bound to muck up your digestive system.

Your thoughts also need to be conditioned. Think of vague things. Don’t think of the thing you’ve just been working on. Those are the things that will keep your mind engaged and ruin your sleep. Think of improbable things that you could only dream about (see what I did there?). It’s time to bring up those unholy fantasies (though careful not to take them too far or someone else will wake up).

Never listen to music or read something while on the bed. This is one sure fire way to stay awake. Unless you’re really sleepy, and you’re sleeping at your regular time, music and reading will trick your body into staying awake in that position (unless it’s some vague dreamy music—though I still tend to pay attention). Reading is especially bad—Instapaper being the main culprit here—because when you’re done reading, your mind can’t just switch off. I know this, and have since done my reading while sitting with the lights on, or even standing, and only going to bed when I really mean it.

I regularly can’t fall asleep. I often can’t fall asleep even when I feel tired. Once asleep, I generally sleep through the night just fine. It’s nearly impossible for me to wake up early in the morning. Pulling an all-nighter is surprisingly easy for me. I generally direct my lifestyle to avoid morning commitments.

Jason Freedman

Lighting. Apparently there’s some warm light cold light shit going on. I read this article by Jason Freedman, which talks about bad light. Apparently, evolution has tuned our body to waking up with bright cold light, and falling asleep to warm dull light. And we need to model our environment accordingly. The first thing I do when I wake up, is walk the fuck outside. I get my sunlight units no matter what time of the day it is. This first of all flushes all the sleep out of me, and second, resets my bio clock to mark this point as the day’s beginning. Now what do we do about night? I’ve switched my cold flourescent tube with one that glows warm. I also use f.lux, which automatically warms my Mac’s display temperature; although I had been using it more because it’s soothing to the eyes. I don’t know whether this works, because I’m too darned stupid to follow a schedule, but it does make a lot of sense.

But the most important thing, is you can’t keep your phone or notebook, or iPad next to you. The motherfucker will ring in a new email, your cunt of a brain will want to check Twitter, and its back to square one. Being woken up just as you’re drifting asleep is the worst thing that could happen, and you’ll inevitably land up with another hour of tossing and turning. The best thing you can do at this point is wake up, do some work, and then reset your mind into going back to bed.

Even with all this knowledge, my sleep problems still remain, as I write this at 7 in the morning. God help me. Oh wait, I forgot, he doesn’t exist. But that’s a topic for a different story.

On why I’m leaving Facebook

I left my fans friends on facebook a little something to think about after deciding to quit the blue poison. The open letter in its entirety. God I’m going to miss those birthday wishes.

Dear Facebookers,

I hope you’ve been having fun on the world’s most popular social network. I must admit, after learning to ignore useless apps and hiding unwanted nitwits from clouding my news feed, I’ve been enjoying myself as well. But this is not about how lame facebook is, or how awesome twitter is. Those are two cold truths you will never realise, and I’m okay with that.

This is about Facebook, and how it’s treating your privacy. More importantly, why you should give a fuck.

Most people are narcissistic attention seeking gargoyles, who’s sole goal is to get their activities seen by as many people as possible. Myself included. And Facebook seems to be the best place to do that. Had a wild party last night? Upload that album to Facebook and get a hundred likes and comments. You will of course complain about the number of notifications you had to deal with the next day, but deep down you’re smiling. Smiling wide.

Facebook wants to help you attain your goal, but trust me (rather, don’t trust them) they don’t really have the same intentions in mind. If Google wants to control you from the outside in, facebook has been going from the inside out. Here’s a chart that illustrates facebook’s privacy settings.

Those are some serious changes in privacy. The chart is best seen in its full CSS glory on Matt McKeon’s beautiful page though.

But it’s a win-win situation, right? After all, Facebook is showing more of you, to the whole world. That’s a good thing. Fulfills that narcissistic ideal I pictured above. Wrong. Facebook wants to sell your privacy to advertisers. This is not traditional advertising, where the ad is brought to the user. It’s the other way round, and in its creepiest form. Imagine a company knowing where you’ve been, what you’re planning on doing, what you like, your location, your phone number, your relationship status. Facebook isn’t concerned with your life getting fucked. They’re worried about posting good quarterly results and they’re using your data to get to that.

You’re on some blog. It was just a meaningless gif of a cat jumping about. It has Facebook’s new ‘Like’ button. Little do you know, the website owner has been given the right to publish posts directly to your News Feed. There’s talk that if you like an ad on Facebook, the advertiser gets more than just access to your News Feed. A car company knows that you (the individual you) likes that particular car, and know your lifestyle, relationship status, and phone number, and could keep their call centres busy ringing your phone. This is right now, and without your permission; they aren’t going to hesitate in giving out more info in the future.

Let’s not forget about collateral.

You say something about your work. Your boss isn’t in your friends list. But he’s in your friend’s friends list. Taking into account Facebook’s new default privacy settings, he see’s your status. You’re fired.

Some guy is stalking you. He sends you a friend request. You ignore that. He befriends a friend of yours, and inadvertently gets access to all those pictures you’ve uploaded to facebook. Fuck that. With the default privacy setting for new users, a stalker doesn’t even have to sign up on facebook to see those pictures.

When it comes to Facebook, you have an illusion of privacy, while all your information is really shared across the web. When you say something, you think you’re saying it to your closest friends. When you upload something, you don’t realise the whole internet can see it. And you have a right to believe so. It was like that when you signed up two years ago. Just that Facebook got greedy, and decided to pull down the curtains without asking anyone.

Facebook of course offers you a way out. You can customise the hell out of your privacy settings—there’s so many of them. And that’s the problem. There’s so many of them! Take a look at Facebook’s privacy settings. There are over 50 settings spread across 6 categories. Compare that with Twitter—public or private (and no sheepish fucking around thereon). You might argue that this gives you more control. Bullshit. It’s meant to confuse and tire the user into succumbing to their corporate plan—the sellout of your privacy. Moreover, there are things that are beyond your control. Like how all those Like buttons are popping up on various websites, without your explicit permission.

You might say I’m a lunatic proclaiming an apocalypse because a light bulb went bust. Truth is, even Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks so. “A small fraction of our 400-million-plus active user base.”, says Zuckerberg. Yes, he’s not concerned about what I’ve just said. He’s just concerned that a small fraction of his userbase is aware of it. The tech community of course doesn’t let things slip by. The last time when Facebook wanted to legally own all your data, they fought back, and Facebook returned ownership rights. Now I, along with many others, am quitting facebook. I doubt it’s going to have an impact on Facebook’s hold over the internet, but it’s the least I can do.

Part of quitting is understanding the nature of the problem, and there have been a number of recent articles and posts that do a much better job than us at articulating what’s wrong with Facebook. We encourage you to read them and form your own opinions. Moving on will be easier to do when you have made a clear and conscious choice about why you’d prefer your online life to be Facebook-free. — Quit Facebook Day

Now I’m sure you won’t leave facebook no matter what. All I ask of you, is to be aware. Do consider going through your privacy settings thoroughly. Don’t allow permissions to suspicious applications. Consider the implications of your actions. Be smart. Trust your friends, but keep an eye out for when they might not really be your friends. And if you have to Like something, like this ‘note’. That’s safe (for now).

This is going to be my last post on facebook. I might return some day. Probably not. I really am going to miss all those Likes and comments. :-*

iPad Diary

It’s the gadget of the century, and I must have it. No, I must. I will.

January 27th: Steve announces the iPad. My mind is hooked.

March 12th: The pre-orders start. I, of course, am in India and can’t do anything about it.

April 3rd: I wrote about it. Possibly the worst day of my life. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as when I crashed the car and had to deal with a bitch and a half, but it was pretty fucked up. I couldn’t stand it. I closed twitter.

Ankur had offered to get me an iPad at the beginning of May. I took this as my only opportunity. I said yes.

April 5th: I meet Preshit on chat. We both need to get one. “Who’s gonna send it?”. The search begins. I hit up a bunch of contacts from the US. All of them agree. Internet friends FTW! (Just so we’re clear, I would have done the same). This one guy though—I won’t mention his name though—was so cool about it, I was surprised, really. I can’t describe the exact transaction, but it can only be described as angelic.

We were getting two iPads. 16GB. Wifi only.

Two hours later: The money was sent, and the iPads were ordered for.

Days go by: We watched, as the parcel travelled from China to the US, marveling at how nicely it adds to the carbon footprint. Fuck the carbon footprint, I want my iPad! Within 3 days, the iPad was at this guy’s place in—let’s not get into specifics here. Within one hour, it was in the hands of a FedEx employee, and so the tracking began. Paris. Paris, how happy I was to see thy name in the tracking page! Another two days, and it was in Bombay.

Bombay: Why did I choose Bombay? Goa is a terrible place for business. People are lazy, shit never gets done, and I was pretty sure the package just lie there in the postage office—unless of course FedEx imports their staff from some place else, which I doubt. I regret this error in judgment.

That morning, I dial a number.



“Tell me something.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Come on. Fucker. Give me the news.”

“You know the feeling, where you’re placed in a big room”. I didn’t really know what he was talking about, but I acknowledged it with an “Uhuh”.

“Well that’s exactly what I’m feeling like right now.”

I knew he was going to get the iPad before me. I knew I’d have to wait another few days before I got mine. But going through this, just like the iPad, is totally different from what your mind imagines. I hated the prick.

That evening, I get on chat. I’ve assumed that the magical device has already been posted and had been jerking off to some iPad porn. You know, photoshopping busty babes into an iPad frame.

“I couldn’t send it. Apparently, the courier companies do not accept packages containing electronics if it’s between two individuals. A company has to initiate it.”

Suddenly it became how whorish those busty babes looked. Fuck this, fuck the Indian postal system, and fuck the goat. Another day wasted. I waited till the next day—didn’t sleep lest I should miss out on the opportunity—and arranged for a courier to pick it up from his place. Fuck the goat and hammer it with a rubber duck because the pick up never happened and my iPad was still in the hands of a slippery serpant. I mean, this was just plain torture.

I’m thinking of my options. At one point I almost jumped into an overnight bus to Bombay, but decided against it. I haven’t travelled by bus in almost 10 years now. I’m sweating (although mostly because it’s very hot in Goa). I try calling up random people who’re in Bombay. “Are you coming to Goa for the weekend?”. On any given weekday I’d have gladly taken a shit at their doorstep, at night, but today they were the best of friends.

I consult with my father, who’s the resident expert on all things. He suggested Preshit should dump it into a bus heading for Goa, and I pick it up here. It’s actually a little more professional than that, but that’s essentially the action. I could have caught a train the next day, but decided against it, since I wanted to go back again on the 23rd of this mont—

“What the fuck is wrong with you, you fucking ingrate?!”, says mother. Well, those aren’t exactly here words, but if I had to convey such emotion, those are the words I’d have used. She doesn’t swear, ever. Good for her.

“If you’re going on the 23rd anyway, why not wait till then? What’s so important?”, she continues.

“Imagine the time you unleashed your first kid onto this earth. Well, imagine yourself back then; I’m sure you regret him now. Back then, what if the nurse said you couldn’t see him for 8-9 days?”, I asked. She tried to contradict, but I was firm. You can’t fuck with a fanboy and his iPad.

A few hours later, and I had scrapped the send it by bus plan, and had booked my ticket to Bombay. It all happened so fast.

I tried to sleep, but couldn’t sleep. I tried watching a film. I don’t even remember which one it was; I was so distracted. Coldplay sounded like a bunch of village idiots banging on church bells—how garish those songs are. I hardly ate any food; mostly because it’s hot and I’m not really a food enthusiast. I don’t know why I’m filling you with unrelated jabber, but I think it added to the discomfort I was going through.

For instance, one evening, for two hours, I was caught waving the mosquito bat around. You know the electric tennis racket, which zaps the motherfuckers. It’s fun, I must admit, and for a few moments I was lost in the zapping. It didn’t last long though. The mosquitos didn’t last long either.

April 17th: I board the train. The super fast Shatabdi Express, and even though A/C, it only had chair cars. I write this. I sleep. Try to, at least. The train is fast.

2 a.m., April 18th, 2010: iPad.

“Reply, bitch!”

To those many few who have initiated communication with me via email, must have had first hand experience of my reluctance to reply. The ‘no-reply’ effect as I like to call it, is quite a common feature, especially to those who have sent me emails on more than a regular basis. I’m here to explain myself.

I’m an email addict, who jumps up in joy no matter how insignificant that email is. As long as there’s a red blip on the Mail icon on my Mac or iPhone, or sometimes even the web on a PC, I get super excited to read what’s in there. I never leave an email unread, never. The problem of course, is in replying. There have been times when I’ve ignored multiple emails from the same party, and they think I’m cross with them. Here’s my explanation: I don’t have one.

When it comes to communication in general, I’m kind of a skunk. I hate to pick up phone calls, many a times ignoring them (and then guarding the landline lest someone else should pick up). It’s not like I don’t have the answers, or am afraid of what awaits me at other end1. Nothing like that. I’m the master of my own life and I care a fuck for what anyone thinks2. I’ve observed my behaviour—almost an out of body experience—and I’ve noticed that it’s a sort of unwillingness to succumb to someone else’s will of making me do something that I didn’t want to in the first place. It’s either that, or I’m a pussy.

I understand that the day I signed up for an email address, or got a phone number, I signed the unwritten agreement to respond to any incoming communication. The rule states that if I’m cool with the person, I have the time, and the answers, even if it’s an “I don’t know”, I need to send back that communication. This rule of course carries over from our offline conversations, the one we have in our day to day lives. Unfortunately, electronic communication has its faults in the indirect way it presents itself. If someone asks me a question point blank standing right in front of me, I can reply. If someone asks me a question on the phone (after me having picked it up mistakenly), I can reply. If someone gets me on IM, I can reply. But email, an incoming call, incoming chat, or what have you, are all indirect forms of communication, where if I don’t respond to the communication, it’s not yet acknowledged, and I’m off the hook. That’s my lazy explanation to it at least.

So the next time you send me an email (which by the way is still the best way to get in touch with me), and I don’t reply, please don’t take it out on your dog. I don’t usually like dogs, but whacking them for when it’s not their fault is not something I you should be doing. *kicks dog for no reason*. Instead, know that I’ve read your email, silently acknowledged it, and am on my way to acting upon it (if I have chosen to do so). There are of course exceptions to this, and that’s usually when I just don’t like you.

1. If you can believe that load of shit.
2. Still believing, aren’t you?

Where Atheism is the right move

The world of religion clouds the mind of our youth, and it’s up to me to solve the riddles of life, answer the unanswered questions of the universe, and mock one of my good friends in the closing paragraph.

Early this morning, Aayush decided to share his theory on creationism, family history, and how God has a part to play in the tying of a cat to a pillar. His hypothesis:

Praying to God to get your wishes fulfilled was invented because that’s the only way you could get the ordinary unwashed masses to meditate, an activity which has actual scientifically proven benefits today; old Hindu saints preached that the cow was a sacred animal and that keeping one in the house as a pet would get you to heaven (and killing it would reserve you a seat in hell) because they knew how essential milk was for our health and wanted to ensure that we would have a constant supply of it. […]

The forebears of human civilisation realised that they needed to incentivise doing the everyday good deeds as well and make people fear doing anything wrong and that’s why they invented God. For that reason, I believe in God, even though I don’t.

Since Aayush went ahead and shared an anecdote to illustrate his point, I’ve decided to go ahead with one, too. I have a lot of vivid dreams during my REMs. Sometimes it’s an action sequence, sometimes it’s horror, and sometimes I’m about to get lucky with Carmen Electra. I mention ‘about to’, because some assturd will wake me up just as the good stuff is about to begin. As soon consciousness takes over, the dream starts fading, and I don’t want that to happen. I quickly shut my eyes, and try to get back into that dream. I try to dream of Carmen again, about how my hands were about to discover the plastic in her chest, but she’s fading away. Everything is slowly turning to reality. The pillow now feels like a pillow, and the simulated perfume no longer exists. I will never have Carmen.

Now whether you like Carmen Electra or not, is a different matter. I have my days; but mostly, I do. That’s besides the point. The point—hypothesis, as Aayush says— is that once you know, you know. There’s no turning back. You can’t dumb yourself down, because let’s admit is, religion is all about dumbing you down. The problem with Aayush’s convoluted mess of a hypothesis, is he confuses God, with religion. God doesn’t exist. End of story. You know it, I know it he knows it. If that’s the case, you’re an atheist, and I’m an atheist; there’s no argument beyond that. Unless, of course, you do believe in God, in which case you should probably stop reading this blog, rethink your beliefs, or just sit quiet in the corner—grown ups are talking.

Religion is culture, with God thrown in just to fuck with people. Aayush is right on many counts, on how many of the religious practices came into being. Whether they are good practices or bad, that’s a whole new argument. But he confuses religion with God. There’s two things about religion that one can be absolutely sure of is thats (a) it’s man-made, and (b) is heavily evolved. Religion of the cave men is different from the religion of the Rishis a few thousand years ago, to the religion of modern day god worshippers. You can single out a few instances where practices in today’s religions have real world benefits, but collectively it’s a waste of time, and mostly detrimental.

A little about my religious beliefs. I’m a Christian. I was born into a Roman Catholic family, and I went was forced to go to church till the age of 18. I’m essentially a Christian Atheist. But I respect other people’s I celebrate Christmas, enjoy village feasts of Saints (the food part of it at least), Easter, San Joao, all that. I even celebrate Hindu festivals with my neighbours. I do not have any Muslim friends though, sadly. To me, religion is about celebrating culture, about taking days off from your regular work-life, about your relatives and friends coming together, communicating. These are important social interactions for healthy human living, and I enjoy them. I do not however waste my time at sunday church, nor do I sit around chanting the rosary, nor do I write letters to the Pope. I am, in my beliefs, and actions, an atheist.

But atheists are not just non-believers. They’re people who think for themselves. Once you remove God and religious doctrines, you have to make up your own. Every decision is your own, and you are aware of it. An atheist understands—or at least tries to understand—the thresholds of what’s good and fun, and what’s detrimental, causes harm, or is just plain fucking stupid. ‘Make up your mind’ doesn’t mean violent, uncultured, anarchic or stupid. Atheists don’t around slaughtering cows, eating unhealthy foods, or refuse to eat neem leaves, any more so than they would if they were followers of a religion. An atheist understands the reasons behind any religious practice, and practices them because of that understanding.

Thankfully, modern civilisation and things-to-do-other-than-god-stuff is bringing about a change in thinking, with a lot more atheists roaming free on this planet. This is a good thing, for the points illustrated above. Aayush isn’t exactly wrong, but he isn’t right either. First of all, I think he’s got his concepts about Agnosticism wrong. He’s clearly an atheist, so we’re off on a good start. His folly is he wants to blindly follow religion because he assumes it’s good for him; and that’s an irresponsible decision. He quotes neem and meditation, and while those are acceptable religious practices, we’ve seen a lot of them which are detrimental to humanity. Besides, religion is not even required to perform them. As we have seen, you can meditate without praying to a God, you can have neem leaves without a morning sacrifice, and humanely rear cows without considering them to be gods.

“A couple of [extra] buttons [on the iPhone] that can be mapped to third-party apps or any feature in a third-party app (like creating a tweet in Tweetie).” — Aayush Arya

But let’s excuse Aayush this once. I have a feeling the Hawas got to him which resulted in his thought-compass going haywire. I mean, on this very same day the idiot actually wanted the iPhone to have an extra button, that would serve functions like creating new tweets. Oh Aayush, get well soon.

[To note: A German Nazi helped me collect my thoughts.]