Personal

Choices for 2024

When your phone does a thing

I’m not much of a resolver, resolutioner, whatever the word may be. But my phone did show me these very interesting choices of app first thing this morning when I unlocked it and was looking for some app or the other, So I’m going to find the Madonna in this toast and overinterpret 🙂 The left two choices are the new Journal app on my phone versus Bluesky, which means I choose to prioritize writing for myself (or my group chats I’m going to extrapolate here) over social media. On the right, it’s streaming versus WordPress, which means I get to prioritize writing (and creating) over consuming. So, be it resolved for 2024!

Also, the icons for Journal and Bluesky are both butterflies and that’s lovely.

Choir Performances
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Choir Performances

In case you did not know, I am in a choir, The Choir, actually, and we have much fun practicing and performing. We’re doing three shows and an open rehearsal next week, so please come and sing along (or watch and wave).

The Choir Open Rehearsal at GVPL Downtown – Wednesday Sep 16 – 730
We’re hosting our (first ever) open rehearsal at the Greater Victoria Public Library Atrium, always an interesting space for music. Join us as we rehearse for Rifflandia. This is a free preview, a rehearsal, so not quite the finished product. But we’ll have as much fun.

Rifflandia Performances Friday Sep 18 – Sunday Sep 20

If you’re coming to Rifflandia (and you should if you can spare the money, lots of great acts including A Tribe Called Red, Modest Mouse, Mother Mother, Joey Bada$$ and so much more, and The Choir!) We open the Royal Athletic Park on all days, so come early to the gates, which open half an hour before show time! It can take 10-15 minutes for you to queue up and get in, so come on in and stay. You’ll need a park pass at least.

Friday – September 18 – Main Stage Royal Park 3 PM.

Saturday – September 19 – Rifftop tent – Royal Park 12:30 PM

Sunday – September 20 – Rifftop tent – Royal Park 12:30 PM

What the choir is about …

See you next week!

Snippets of dreams remembered

Snippets of dreams remembered

Or what happens when you make a single-minded effort to sleep in on the long weekend. These dreams all happened between 5 AM and 9 AM Sunday morning. I don’t usually interpret dreams, and am always pleasantly surprised when I remember them.

Banana FlowerI wake up in my old bedroom in Chennai feeling bad that I have only one day to go on my trip, and that I need to start packing to leave. My packing is all awry, my passport is nowhere to be found. When I actually wake up, I am home, and happy that my “trip to India”, whenever that might be, has not even begun.

Bee on flowerI turn around in bed and feel sharp pain as a bee (or wasp, my dream said bee) has bitten me in the ass (yes). I turn once more, and the sting is actually near my elbow, or is it? Were there two bees? Was there actually a sting? My dream state is not sure. Either way, I wake up, no bees.

SaddleI am fixing S’s bicycle seat, and every time I shake it (this seems to be an important part of the fixing), a new part falls out. The seat, the post and the bike get more and more complicated and full of parts falling all over the place. I feel frustrated and lost, this seat is never going to get fixed, I question my skills. I wake up, relieved it was just a dream, but the seat’s still next to me in bed, parts still falling off. I then wake up for real. I love dreams within dreams and used to get them often, to terrifying effect. Thankfully, they’re now an occurrence rare enough to require immediate documentation.

PS: I was reminded by the NVPA recently that I am required to keep a dream journal.

Walking
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Walking

OspreyNot policy related, but I don’t write free form anything ever, so this is a rare occurrence that is going on the blog. PS: Work does not necessarily mean paid work. Osprey courtesy Sergey Yeliseev’s Flickr Stream used under a creative commons licence because the osprey is on my top 5 list of favourite birds and I did see one eating a rabbit on my walk back from work once.

Walking

I wish I worked like I walk
One foot in front of another
A steady, fast pace
Direct, seeking straight lines
Diagonals
Obstacles gone around or over
But always pausing to smile at the rabbits
Or to wonder when that osprey’s going to make my day
I wish I worked like I walk
Anticipating every light
Speeding up or slowing down
Observing every car that doesn’t see me
Shaking to a song that moves
But the walk continues
I wish I worked like I walk
Rain or shine, only the clothes and accessories change
The pace is still steady
A destination awaits
I know why I walk
The path is good and the end is clear.
and maybe that’s why
I don’t work like I walk…

 

Religion

Religion

A friend’s post on facebook triggered some thoughts on religion, so I expanded my comment (not science/policy related, so feel free to glaze over).

I grew up Hindu, or shall we say, Tamil Brahmin. In India, each community’s practice of Hinduism is very different, informed by place, caste, class and more, so calling yourself a Hindu is not very illuminating. I went to the temples with my parents, and felt a connection with something (in hindsight, it was the architecture, grandeur more than Ganapathy) I prayed (after a fashion), more for specific things like “Oh god, let me do well in this test” rather than anything. I participated in the ritual and festivals, like any good kid. All this ritualistic practice aside, my single greatest spiritual memory as a young adult (and to this day) is a 5 minute meditation experience I had with my uncle sitting in a simple Ramakrishna Mission hall. I remember losing connection with my usually racing brain and reaching what I perceived as a meaningful connection with God, but what I would now associate with a particularly successful mindfulness practice. I still haven’t quite achieved that sense of “levitation” since.

I remember being about 15, going to a really crowded temple (I think it was this one) and jostling with thousands of other people to get a fleeting glimpse of a stone (or gold plated? super rich temple!) idol, I lost my faith in one moment (at least, that’s how I perceive it). I persisted in going to temples and participating in ritual for a bit, hell, even going back to the same temple a couple of years later, but there was nothing there.

ganapathyInto my late teens and twenties, I tuned much more into the powers of organized religion to oppress, deny freedom and restrict behaviour. At that age, I perceived the community around me using religion (in hindsight, it’s much more complicated) to restrict my activities and censure them (oh privileged male!). I was very likely to lump the people with their religion. I did not believe religion to be a force of anything other than restriction and censure, and I judged the people around me who still practiced their religion in spite of “ought to know better”. I very plainly refused to practice any rituals, or go to temples. Leaving India helped as well, since I had no community pressure to practice anything.

Those years were ritual free (after a fashion), and I would call myself a primarily analytical person, using logic to solve problems (oh, so simple!). But, I did find ritual missing in my life. Into my thirties, I sub-consciously (at first) started to incorporate some ritualistic practices like morning coffee, regular gym workouts, and many other time based ritual activities as a substitute. My health and well-being definitely improved, though you could say the fact that I chose gym workouts as a ritual rather than bar hopping did not hurt! But, that’s really the point of ritual, isn’t it, to find the ones that centre you?

As I grow older, I am less militantly anti-religious and more likely to incorporate yoga, mindfulness, meditation and other behaviours that could be associated with spirituality into my life. But I see them as healthy behaviours, almost like exercise rather than connecting me to something greater. I went through a phase wishing I could believe in a god again, it would be a lot easier than having to figure it out for yourself, but that passed. I am still as atheist as I’ve ever been, just a lot more tolerant of other people’s paths and processes. I understand that everyone’s well being depends on connection, whether it is social, or spiritual or physical. If their practice of “religion” or their belief helps them achieve that connection, that’s just lovely (The last few times I’ve visited India, I’ve even let my parents drag me on temple excursions!) That is, as long as they do not end up supporting oppressive homophobic, racist or misogynist behaviour based on religion. I still believe that most organized religion is a tool of patriarchy and control, and cynically uses people’s need for connection to achieve political power and money, so no support there.

 

Lasers shooting into irises
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Lasers shooting into irises

I did not think my first minor surgery would involve someone shooting lasers to make holes in my iris. It sounds like more fun than it actually was, but was mostly painless and here I am, looking at a computer screen 3 hours later. My eyes feel like they’ve had about 5 hours of sleep, which is good considering they’re now sporting two brand new drain holes.

Laser iridotomy is also performed prophylactically(preventively) on asymptomatic individuals with narrow angles and those with pigment dispersion. Individuals with a narrow angle are at higher risk of an acute angle closure, especially upon dilation of the eye

http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/La-Pa/Laser-Iridotomy.html

I also just started reading Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, which is about the use and misuse of the banner of science by a large group of people including nutritionists, pharmaceutical companies and “alternative” treatment specialists. It has a great chapter on the “placebo” effect, how much of it is culturally mediated, and how much doctor demeanour and confidence in their skills and outcome affects results. The doctor shooting holes in my eye was extremely confident in their skills and their results, and normally, my brain would be sending off all kinds of hubris warnings. In this case, their confidence reassured me a bit, and Bad Science definitely helped. It was also interesting to see a large section on homeopathy in the book, since I’ve written about my contact with homeopathy and felt that the cultural practices of a good homeopath can be of some use to people as long as they don’t go too far. The book confirmed some of that.

Four Years in Victoria: List Making

I sense quite a bit of internally directed impatience and judgement. So it is good to take stock.

Four years in Victoria, an incomplete list of firsts…

  1. Joined the board of an organization
  2. Donate(d) to multiple organizations
  3. Made presentations to the city council, school board, public meetings, met MPs, MLAs, councillors, mayors
  4. Facilitated public forums (not fora, which would make me an elitist)
  5. Joined a political party
  6. Went door to door for a political party
  7. Played music in a band for a paying audience
  8. Wrote music
  9. Sang in crowded street corners (with other people) busker style
  10. Grew veggies and greens
  11. Canned, made beer, made wine
  12. Became a property owner and joined the strata board!
  13. Lost my connection with the automobile. Driving, except for road trips, is now a necessary chore.
  14. Started busing to work.
  15. Got a new (lack of )hairstyle
  16. Garlic scapes (How did I miss out on garlic scapes for this long??)
  17. Expect to see Orca every time I get on a boat (I guess getting on a boat regularly is a first too).
  18. Expect to see snow-capped mountains at every turn while wearing a T-shirt and sandals in February

Being visible in public is relatively new to me, always good to remember my past when explaining my present reluctance.

This might be my first ever link less post.

Old-School Music Snobbery
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Old-School Music Snobbery

(Warning, fact-free reminiscences, no policy, science or anything resembling analysis, possibly of interest only to my indulgent friends)

Obscure knowledge was once a kind of currency. To get it, you had to be in the loop. You had to know the right people to learn about the right bands. You had to know the right record stores to hear those bands.

via Why the Old-School Music Snob Is the Least Cool Kid on Twitter – NYTimes.com.

This article took me back to my 15 year old self. I grew up in pre-cable, pre-“liberalized” India where access to “Western” popular music was very limited, and class and income segregated. The top 40 stuff of the time was available as cassette tapes. Finding albums was almost impossible, most of the time, you got “Now this is what I call music” type compilations. The music popular and available as LPs was a mix of big names like The Beatles, ABBA,  and an eclectic mix of  Boney M, Osibisa, The Ventures, Uriah Heep? (don’t even ask). The popularity of these more off-the-wall choices was probably linked to their willingness to tour India and bring their records.

My mom was a huge Beatles and Cliff Richard fan growing up, catching it on Indian and Sri Lankan radio in the early to mid 1960s. As I cast my mind back to my parents’ collection, I see a bunch of Beatles LPs (The Red, Blue and Rock’n’Roll Double LP compilations), some ABBA, Boney M, Uriah Heep, The Ventures 🙂 I didn’t have money to buy my own, and we didn’t really have too much money to spend on records anyway.

Which brings me to 15, my music tastes have stagnated, I’m occasionally listening to random mixes of music, done with ABBA, still liking the Beatles (I still like the Beatles!), but need more. Where can I find music that will move me? Well, there’s no internet, and no radio/TV playing anything other than Top 40 stuff (very rarely) or the Beatles. I don’t have rich relatives in the US to send me music either. In hindsight, I guess I could have tried short wave radio (which we definitely used a lot for sports), but how do you know what’s cool?

I was “rescued” by a friend, with whom I listened to a very scratchy recording one day. This friend was lucky enough to have an older brother who had access to music. The first minute of Black Dog changed my life! I “discovered” Led Zeppelin in 1988(9), and all the usual suspects soon after. I can’t even begin to express how I felt the first time I heard Bohemian Rhapsody. I know, right, what a lot of my friends from when I was older and living in the US and Canada  think of as the most clichéd over-exposed, un-cool songs set the cool kids of Madras apart from the rest.

Finding full albums of music of decent audio quality was another matter. We soon heard through word of mouth (probably the brother) of this magical small store in Anna Nagar, on the other side of the city. So, we took the bus out one day. Anna Nagar was a gridded sub-division, which for some reason confused people like me who lived in older parts of the city. We had an address, which led us to a house on a mundanely residential street, with a small sign board for the “shop”, only open evenings. We walk in, and, magic, it was many rows of LPs stacked and arranged alphabetically by band. You told the guy at the store what albums you wanted, gave him blank cassettes and money, and a week later (a long week later), you went back and picked up your magical tape. A 90 minute cassette could fit two albums, of course, so I always associate Led Zeppelin II with The Best of Cream (back to back).

Wow, clear LP transfers of music, I still remember all those little discoveries like the bass pedal response of Mitch Mitchell to Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze riff, and scratching “Excuse me, while I kiss the sky” on every desk I sat in for a couple of years.

I was also part of a crack school quiz team at a time when these quizzes were basically wank fests for people like us. We got quiz “masters” asking us obscure music trivia and playing songs from the 60s and 70s for us to identify and win the quiz shows. Looking back, our smug superiority was probably unwarranted 🙂 This period was the peak of musical snobbery, limited access meet obscure knowledge! I hoarded, I judged, I laughed at people who listened to the wrong music, not a very nice 19 year old at all. We had no internet, but I had “discovered” that libraries were a great source of music books and my obscure minutiae quotient was off the charts. That strange intersection of my “discovery” of music and its scarcity was a magical and intense place.

Things changed. MTV hit India in 1993, and grunge showed up in Madras at about the same time it took  over the US. I could also hit up my US based sister for music, band shirts, merch. Stores started bringing tapes in (and CDs, though those were some shiny unaffordable jewels). But there was still that class-based division, and access was limited, though every year made the music more accessible.

Moving to North Carolina hipster heaven brought the rather unwelcome news that classic rock (oh, so my music has a genre?) was associated with middle aged white folk, and as uncool as it got. Oh well, it didn’t stop me from listening, but parties became a bit less fun. My music tastes expanded into the roots of all that rock, into blues, jazz, and funk.

As I understood the politics of appropriation and where all that music really came from, my attitudes changed, and I listen less. But those riffs still have a direct connection to a very emotional part of my brain. I will always be that uncool kid who knows every Jimmy Page solo in my head even as I cringe at the misogyny and racism of the lyrics and laugh at the bombast and obvious masculine posturing.

I am very glad that the internet has mostly erased the boundaries. The ability to listen to a song just by searching for it is life-changing. Yes, people will still judge, but it is harder and harder to hoard, and use scarcity as a filter. I love it. My relationship with the music has not changed. When I hear something I like, it is still such an intense emotional experience, especially when it links back to memories, the people I first heard it with, the things I did when the music was playing in the background, it’s lovely.

To end, another quote from the article…

Populism is the new model of cool; elitists, rather than teeny-boppers or bandwagon-jumpers, are the new squares. There are now artists who sell out concerts while rarely getting played on commercial radio

 

Tracking my mail

Tracking my mail

On the sidebar, you will find a new donut chart which is a simple cumulative count of the mail we get at home. The measurement started on the 19th of March, 2012, so not much data yet 🙂  Useful – Mail I will find useful (yes, including bills). Solicited – Mail I find marginally useful, but comes from organisations I support, so I guess it is okay? Junk – Well, you know it when you see it; RTS – Return to Sender, addressed to previous occupant. Canada Post charges quite a bit for mail forwarding, whereas the USPS does it free for a year, so people get better at updating addresses and not missing a couple. I have lived in my current place for 18 months now, still get mail for multiple different people.

My Mail

No particular reason to do this, I was just curious, and this article about the US postal service starting to solicit more direct mail (what most people regard as junk) customers just triggered me to post the results online. My perception is that the signal/noise ratio on my mail is very low, let’s see… The underlying data is in a simple google spreadsheet and the image is linked dynamically, so should always be current.

Update: I don’t have a red dot on my mailbox, no particular reason, just supporting my economy and increasing the GDP, perhaps? More seriously, I would like a green dot campaign, where unsolicited mail is not welcome unless I place a green dot on my mail box for all unsolicited mail, and an amber dot for not-for profit, advocacy, political and generally non-commercial mail.

Update:  Not tracking my mail any more, as you can see. It was remarkably stable at around 58-50% “junk”. Interesting…

Featured image is of a letter box from Nepal, from flickr user manc72 used under a creative commons licence.

A Year in BC

Or at least, it was when I started this post, now it’s almost 13 months!

  •  It is still beautiful, breathtakingly so
  •  We feel more settled for some reason, even though it is a new place
  •  Definitely more relaxed than I’ve ever been, which is saying a lot
  •  The cat is getting fatter, wait, that’s always been true
  •  Making friends is not easy in a non-university setting, but I’ve managed
  •  Fresh start, new habits, new zeal/drive, new person, not so much!
  •  The cable/cellphone/internet services make me long for the states. Rude monopolists abound and there is no competition/innovation.
  •  The “establishment” is very strong here, and the news media is very deferential
  •  Our famous social safety net is fraying, but it does not have the American charity/philanthropic base to replace the funding cuts
  •  We think we are an environmental leader, we are not and it is getting worse
  •  I worry that we are making no efforts to transition to the 21st century
  •  I still follow Carolina basketball, Go Heels!
  •  Facebook has made it very easy to keep in touch, given I am a terrible phone caller
  •  I still do not get hockey, did I mention I do not like fights?
  •  Let’s just say I’ve gone DIY on alcohol
  •  The BC Liberals are anything, but!
  •  Victoria feels like a slightly more urban Chapel Hill-Carrboro, but needs a Weaver Street Market.
  • Blogging has gotten non-existent, for a number of reasons.