An Exit Door from a Dark Place

Ryan Holiday wrote this for his thirty fifth birthday. In the email version of this blog, he left in the photo of a sign he runs at in Austin, Texas, USA about leaving the place a little better than you found it.

Screenshot of the email which has the photo of the sign that reads: Leave this place a little better than you found it.

I believe that everything that is in the world gets destroyed. Death is the only constant. On a large scale, destruction of the cosmos. On a small scale, the death of the second that went by. In between, there are multiple complications of death that affect us at a very personal level or does not affect us directly.

Hindu myths believe that there is a rebirth that happens, Creation after Destruction. I have no input on this aspect.

How does this help me now? If everything dies, then why live? That line of thinking leaves me in a dark place.

Reading Ryan above is one inkling of what I can do while I think about this. Make this a better place than it was before. If you ask why at this juncture, you are left back at the dark place. So, this is one of those exit doors.

Fear of Reading Malayalam

It’s not strictly just reading, it could even be listening to it. I have been wondering about how to begin reading works of Malayalam literature.

Of late, I’ve had to read movie reviews of the Malayalam movies I have watched to understand the nuances and cultural contexts involved. I needed articles like Anna MM Vetticad’s on Malayalam New New Wave cinema to understand the cultural intricacies of what’s happening in Malayalam cinema today.

Trailer of the Malayalam movie Hridayam

I supposedly even misunderstood the art in a straight forward Malayalam movie like Hridayam. It took an interview with its director Vineeth Sreenivasan to understand those nuances.

If I misunderstand mass media stuff like movies, then I think understanding books would be many more times difficult. This keeps me away from reading or listening to Malayalam books.

In the beginning of the year, I had written here that 2022 would be about reading and writing. It’s been 6 months in and I don’t think that I have fared too well.

But, there are other things happening. Watching Hridayam got me back to listening to music again. Specifically, listening to the song, പുതിയൊരു ലോകം.

Read before changing WordPress

I wrote a blog post a few days back about having an urge to leave WordPress. In the early days of my blogging (circa 2007), I used to jump blogging platforms frequently.

I was exploring platforms like write.as and blot.im to write in plain text and in markdown. This got exacerbated after reading Derek Sivers blog post on the advantages of writing in plain text. Reading his source code (Ctrl + U on many browsers) was also a joy.

It took reading a blog post by Mukunth to get my breathing back to normal. Every time I feel the urge to try out a new web platform, I must read this.

The Curious Case of the Jeans Loops

A trip to the mall on the weekend is usually undertaken to enjoy, refill kitchen groceries, enjoy some delicious food, or even buy new clothes. One of the objectives of going to the mall this Saturday was to buy a pair of jeans for me. This may seem like a simple mission given that I already had a fair idea of what I wanted to buy and where I wanted to buy it from. But this turned out to be a little more complicated than anticipated.

I usually buy my jeans from Levi’s. I know the pair of jeans I buy there. The only problem I anticipated was the color of the jeans. To confirm this, I tried on a pair of jeans. They fit me well and I was quite happy with how they felt. But, when I tried on the belt that I had, the end tip of the belt did not quite reach the second loop. This meant that the end tip was left hanging between the first and the second loops. This was irritating.

This presented an unanticipated problem. Finding the solution for this involved an exercise of the little grey cells. I thoroughly enjoyed working on a solution to this problem and felt that you may enjoy this solution. Hence, this blog post.

But, before I can tell you the solution. I have to help you understand the problem. To understand the problem, you will have to understand the anatomy of a belt.

Anatomy of the Belt. Image Credit: Art of Manliness

I wear a belt with my jeans. After the belt goes around my waist, the end tip travels through the frame and prong and goes through the first loop on the other side. But since there is still more strap left, the end tip passes through a second loop before it stops. If this tip hangs after the first loop, it keeps moving around when you walk or run, and is a major source of nuisance.

The same issue arose again and again for different pairs of jeans or chinos that I tried in different stores. The sales assistants at these stores did not seem interested in helping me solve this problem. This meant that it was up to me to solve this problem.

The solution struck me when looking at the mirror in the trial room of the Lifestyle store. To help explain the solution look at the picture below.

The Second Loop. Image courtesy: Dhanya

The major design change that was causing the end tip of the belt to hang, and unable to reach the second loop was because of a change in the position of the second loop. The second loop had moved from the left of the vertical line to the right of the vertical line.

This provided two solutions. I could either bend over the end tip to push it back into the first loop or buy a shorter belt that would end immediately after it passed through the strap. The first solution leads to wear and tear in the belt and reduces how long a belt would last. The second was a much better solution.

Comparing the belt that I was wearing to the belts available for sale at the Lifestyle store, I realized that I was wearing a size 42 belt while I should be wearing a size 36. The Lifestyle store had size 34 and size 38 belts. Size 36 belts were not available. The Size 38 belts also hung between the first and the second loop. Whereas, the Size 34 belt did not even reach the first loop of the belt.

Thus began a mall-wide search for a size 36 belt. I finally located a nice size 36 belt in the Reliance Trendz store and purchased it. The belt fits me quite well. The solution negated the need to buy a new pair of jeans.

NaPoWriMo 2022 #10

This is #10 in the prompts for NaPoWriMo.

Photo by Bhavesh Jain on Pexels.com
Reflection/Shadow

It's all a play of light.
It's a reflection,
When it comes back at you.
It's a shadow, 
When it's behind where you are.

A reflection let's you think about yourself.
Yourself, in terms of how you look,
Yourself, in terms of how you feel,
But, more importantly,
Reflection confirms what you feel about yourself.

A shadow tells us about ourselves,
Ourselves, in terms of what we fear,
Ourselves, in terms of what we don't expect.
But, more importantly,
Shadow tells us that fear is just a play of light. 

Replace satellites before they die

Image of Oceansat-2 from ISRO. Source: Wikimedia Commons

There was news recently that an issue with the attitude control system caused the end of life of the Megha-Tropiques mission. The satellite had completed more than ten years in orbit. This reminded me of a comment we had submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

One of the comments I had written as part of The Takshashila Institution’s comments to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests, and Climate Change addressed said:

The Department of Space must aim to put in orbit replacements for operational satellites before they reach end-of-mission life and not of end-of-design life.

pg 7, Comments to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change on Demand for Grants (DFGs) in the Union Budget for FY 2022-23

With reference to Megha-Tropiques, which had a mission life of three years, I meant that we seek to replace them before the end of three years and not the ten years it eventually served because its parts were designed to last this long.

Perhaps, replacing Megha-Tropiques was not top of mind at ISRO or CNES, the French space agency. But, consider a satellite that we plan to launch in the near future, Oceansat-3.

Oceansat-1 was launched in 1999 and had a mission life of 5 years. Oceansat-2, the replacement for Oceansat-1, was launched in September 2009, six months after 10 years of Oceansat-1’s launch anniversary. Oceansat-1 survived for 11 years.

Oceansat-2 had a mission life of 5 years. The scanning scatterometer (SCAT) on board the Oceansat-2 failed after 4.5 years. In 2016, India launched a satellite, SCATSat-1, to replace the functionality. Oceansat-2 has now been functional for 12.5 years. Oceansat-3 has been plagued with delays. The new launch date for Oceansat-3 is now August-September 2022.

The pandemic played a role in the delay. If Oceansat-2 had failed after 11 years like it’s predecessor, we would not have a Oceansat. What would that mean? The Wikipedia page says:

Oceansat satellites facilitate a range of applications including documenting chlorophyll concentration, phytoplankton blooms, atmospheric aerosols and particulate matter as well as marine weather forecast to predict cyclones.

Oceansat Wikipedia page

Forget if the others don’t make sense to you but imagine not being able to predict cyclones with accuracy. Remember the claims of being able to predict cyclones much earlier and hence being able to save more lives? What happens if that function goes kaput?

It was that functionality that was lost and was replaced by SCATSat-1 in 2016. That instrument has now been running for 5.5 years. It has crossed six months since end of it’s five year mission life. Maybe it will survive eleven years like other satellites in the series. Maybe not. Hence, replace satellites before they die.

Update on April 10 @ 2126 hrs IST: @zingaroo on Twitter had an update on SCATSat-1:

Many other things could also go wrong. This is why redundancy is good. But, there are constraints. There are budgetary and people constraints. I think that is why we must work towards replacing the satellite as close as possible to the end of mission life.

This is not the first time I am making this point. I had written an article for The Wire Science in 2019 where this was one of the issues that I had raised. In the article, I applauded ISRO because it was doing much better at replacing satellites of the CARTOSAT series compared to other remote sensing satellites just after mission life.

I thought of putting the suggestion again in the comments to the Parliamentary Committee because I thought the pandemic reinforced the lesson. In case of an unforeseen incident because of which we are not able to replace a satellite before mission life, we have some tolerance before if we launch it before end of design life. But, it we launch it close to end of design life, there is a possibility that there may be a loss of the satellite before we can launch the replacement.

NaPoWriMo 2022 #5

This is #5 in the prompts for NaPoWriMo.

Spices and Seasonings

She remembered a time,
When the food wasn't bland and dry,
It had spices and seasonings,
And accompaniments and fries.

She remembered a time,
When rain poured from the dark sky,
When children played in puddles,
Without a worry, nor wondering why.

Now the food was bland,
As spices were lost to a fire,
Neither were there seasonings,
Because there was no one to hire.

It was just her,
Alone on Earth,
Wondering if anyone would come to save her,
Or at least get her some spices and seasonings.

NaPoWriMo 2022 #4

This is #4 in the prompts for NaPoWriMo.

the taste of an emotion

My therapist and I, 
Had tried so many things,
We had had so many sessions,
That my wife thought we were havin' flings.

I was getting desperate,
Will there ever be any cure,
We had tried so many things,
But there wasn't anything but a lot of furore.

Finally she looked at me,
Asked me point blank,
What's the taste of your emotions,
I tasted nothing, I said, being quite frank.

But then having food at home,
Quite anxious what my wife would say,
About my session with the therapist,
I felt anxiety taste bitter for the first time that day.

NaPoWriMo 2022 #3

I missed #2 in the prompts for NaPoWriMo. The numbering scheme is the prompt number and not the poetry number.

a broken object you continue to hold onto...

I am a minimalist,
So, I don't hold on to objects.
I am a spiritualist,
So, objects don't really hold me.

But, there was this one broken object,
I held it and it held me.
It was a simple Swiss knife.

It was just loose,
Although everyone else insisted 
That it was broken

The knife was with me,
Through several highs and 
Many more lows.

It was with me when I,
Used it to uncork that wine bottle,
On our beautiful honeymoon.

It was with me when I,
Had to tear open the letters,
When I was separated from my lover.

It was with me when I,
Wanted to fix my daughter's,
Broken toys and odds and ends.

It was with me when I,
Had forgotten to clean my nails,
Jus' before a work meeting.

It was with me when I,
Had to open a bottle,
Of jam for my daughter.

But now, when it is broken,
It is they, who ask me to throw it away,
They know not all that it has taken.
While I hold it and it holds me!

NaPoWriMo 2022 #1

April is celebrated as National Poetry Writing Month. An Instagram user I follow, @literarychills helped with a daily prompt for each of the thirty days. These are just my practice off-the-cuff efforts.

An Overrated Adjective

Do not use adjectives,
That was the simple directive,
I used the word overrated,
Realized too late that it's an adjective.

I was taken to a Remedial Room,
Where a machine went zip-zap-zoom,
The next thing that I realized,
Was that I had forgotten all adjectives.