Categories
Tech

I Bought A MacBook Air M1. I Like It.

There’s a fantastic quote in Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun that sums up the disparity in experience enjoyed by macOS and Windows users alike: Any world is queer to people who do not live on it. I suppose this sums up my journey when it comes to explaining my experience (Asimov’s quote is also quite relevant to another post I wrote on this blog) on both sides of the pond. But it also explains why I bought the MacBook Air M1.

My old MacBook Air

My 2014 MacBook Air was getting long in the tooth, and had some battery issues that affected my productivity; this was one of the main reasons why I opted for the MacBook Air M1. I think the main reason for this issue was that I upgraded to Big Sur. But, to be honest, I was pretty bad when it came to looking after the battery as well. I always used the device while keeping it plugged in. I understand that this issue is not applicable to the M1 since this was possibly an issue with the Intel chip as well. (I stand to be educated on this issue, and would appreciate any feedback, which you can provide by leaving a comment below.)

I know that there are many opinions being bandied about, and what you’re reading on this right now is an opinion as well. One life lesson I’ve learned is that it is good to function from two extremes — scarcity and excess. In a way this defines Windows and Apple. The reason I say this is because Windows is ubiquitous while Apple is still residing on the edges of niche-dom.

The Purchase

One of the greatest inconveniences as a writer is lugging around a heavy laptop with a charger when meeting clients. Add insult to injury here when the battery crashes to 75% within seconds and then blips out into darkness within a nanosecond or two. I loved this device while it lasted and couldn’t see myself choosing anything else. But it really was time for a change.

The packaging remains uninspired

They said that in your youth you start out as a liberal and become a conservative as you get older. In other words, you become set in your ways. I used to have Windows laptops throughout and buying a MacBook was like upgrading from a Nissan to a BMW. I just didn’t have the cash. Competition is great, and it is this requirement to push boundaries that has led Windows to come up with some excellent devices. But more on that later.

Inconspicuous yet aesthetically pleasing

One of the most endearing aspects of an Apple product is how minimalist their design philosophy is. Compared to the older MacBook, the packaging of the newer MacBook Air M1 seems, well, uninspired. The big reveal isn’t such a reveal either with the device being smaller while the backlit Apple logo being absent. I prefer the aesthetics of the MacBook Air M1 since it is finally inconspicuous (well, sort of).

The older Mac was bought from Abans while I decided to check out some other outlets and found that Techmart had some great user reviews on Google. The owner was super helpful and I made the purchase. The MacBook Air M1 cost LKR 238,900 while the 2014 MacBook Air in 2017 cost LKR 157,999. That’s quite an increase, but, hey, what can I say except that tech costs.

The Main Benefits

There’s been a huge hue and cry about the new MacBook Air M1 ever since it launched and there’s been a great deal of advertising on its speed etc. It’s all good stuff. Even Windows fanboys and Apple haters had to admit that this device is something that’s extraordinary.

1. Big Sur

For an entry level laptop, the premium quality really does shine through on this Mac. The macOS Big Sur update was the Achille’s Heel for my older Mac simply because its hardware just couldn’t handle the update. Yet I experienced Big Sur on the older Mac and on the newer Mac there’s no difference. There’s just the comfort of it everything being same, and this is one of the highlights of Apple products. It’s a comfortable and easy transition from one device to another.

2. M1 Chip

I’m not a hardcore techie by any stretch of the mind, and while everyone says that this is a fast device, I’ll accept it. There have been no major issues per se. I just need my work done, and this new MacBook Air delivers on all fronts. The battery is fantastic as is the charging facility which is fast. The battery lasts forever and one really cool factor here that helps a lot when it comes to productivity is that you can just flip open the laptop and you are ready to Touch ID your way to action.

3. Retina Display

There’s no doubt that the screen on the MacBook Air M1 is fantastic, and watching YouTube videos and Netflix is a thrill. The brightness is great as is the viewing experience. It’s easy on the eyes, and just makes the world seems a better place (and it is all thanks to the super cool retina display).

4. Touch ID

Now, this is a feature that I’m relying on a lot. When it comes to privacy and easy access, Touch ID is certainly far better than anything else that I’ve used. I’m seriously impressed by its speed, and it has not faltered even once. This is probably not a fair comparison but the fingerprint scanner on my Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite sucks BIG TIME! The fingerprint scanner on my iPhone 7 is still functional and works much better than the Lite. This is just one example where Apple can justify the high prices that it commands.

5. Magic Keyboard

This is a nice touch. What is even nicer is the shortcut key for dictation, which is something that I use a lot. And compared to the older Macbook Air, this is far more effective and precise. The shortcut keys are easy to access and really does help when it comes to functionality.

6. Trackpad

The trackpad got some getting used to, but it has touch variations that are super useful. There is not much to say in this front since I’ve accepted this facility and it has reached a sense of normalcy where I don’t see anything special in it. This is just another perfect Apple feature that works perfectly.

7. Siri

I rarely use Siri. I know it’s great, but there has been no need for it at present. (A note to self: Learn to use it more often.)

There Are Issues

I created a YouTube video using Filmora on How to Install Hyvor Talk on WordPress. It came out pretty well, but had a few issues mainly thanks to the screen size of the MacBook Air M1, which is a 13.30-inch display that has a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels.

Some applications like Filmora is best used with a bigger screen

There were a few instances where the spinning wheel of death stopped my productivity in its tracks. Most of the time it was caused when rendering took place. The spinning wheel happened quite a lot on my older Mac.

This is a headache

The spinning wheel usually appears when an application freezes, or overloads your Mac’s processing power. Checking the Mac’s available storage space and RAM capacity can shed light on the potential causes of a frequent spinning wheel. But all is well that ends well. I suspect this probably wouldn’t have happened on a MacBook Pro M1. One other issue I face with the older Mac and this Mac is that Safari freezes. This is why Chrome is my go to web browser.

Enter The Mouse

I was always curious about the Magic Mouse 2. It is a fantastic experience with the whole novelty of swiping gestures promising a seamless and intuitive experience (yeah, I know, it’s all Apple lingo I’m throwing here, but it has been true to date). The mouse, which was also bought from the same place as the MacBook Air M1, cost north of an exorbitant LKR 20,000. Is it worth it? No, not really. But neither is a BMW, but I’m paying for the experience more than anything else.

Not such a big deal, but it’s certainly an enjoyable experience

Once the novelty wears off, it is just peaceful co-existence that you can look forward to with the Apple Mouse 2. There’s just one down side to this contraption and it’s known as being on the heavier side, which can be tiresome on your wrist.

Why I Left Windows

Remember the allusion to Nissan and BMW above? The truth is that both cars can get you from A to B, and that’s the main requirement, right? The same thing applies to both a Windows and Apple device. To put it succinctly the main reason I left Windows is because I was bored, and just required a change. That said the macOS ecosystem is a comfortable place to be in and is something I don’t see myself leaving.

The Dell XPS 13 was in the running to become a switch to Windows

Actually wanting a change is not the only reason why I switched to Apple. I had a very bad experience with one particular Windows laptop in the shape of a HP ProBook 4520. I used to call it Hot Plate since it heated up so much that you could literally fry an egg on it. Add other issues like malware and a system that slowed down and crashed one too many times, it ended being physically abused out of pure frustration.

That said I wanted to check out the Dell XPS 13, but, the prices in Sri Lanka was just crazy. I came across the base model, which commanded north of LKR 300,000. This made no sense whatsoever, and so I decided to stick with Apple. So far no regrets at all.

Psychology Led To This Purchase

The Romans coined a term: de gustibus non est disputandum, which means tastes are not to be disputed. I think we’re drawn to call something beautiful whenever we detect that it contains in a concentrated form those qualities in which we personally are deficient.

I think the above paragraph gives a justification as to why people choose what they choose. I think this is why people choose religions as well. Our understanding of the psychology of taste can in turn help us to escape from the two great dogmas of aesthetics, the view that there’s only one acceptable visual style or even more implausibly that all styles are equally valid.

The diversity of styles is a natural consequence of the many fold nature of our inner needs. It’s only logical that we should be drawn to styles that speak of excitement as well as calm, of grandeur as well as coziness given that these are key polarities around which are own lives revolve.

Final Thoughts

The real deal is that all Apple products offer you an experience and it promises ‘a something’ that goes beyond just pure functionality. If you want just functionality, which based on most complaints I hear, is a flawed functionality (aka Windows). I’m not going to bash Windows too much rather I will say that based on my experience thus far Apple certainly does things better. Yet this blog post is an opinion based on personal experience and comes from a person who is mainly a writer and a content creator. I’m sure Windows does a lot of things better and certain things like Power BI does not cater to Mac devices. Different strokes for different folks is what I’ll leave you with, and I’ll just say that the choice in choosing the right device ultimately lies in your hands.

Categories
Life

Here’s Why I Write Satire

It would be an understatement to say that I love reading, and that I also love writing. This post is about why I write satire and also why satire is important in a free and democratic setting. To put it succinctly, if there’s one regret I have in life is that there’s just not enough time to read all the great books that are out there in the world.

Francis drops this

There’s just one book I have given up on reading and that was 13 Reasons Why. I felt guilty doing so since it would be a waste not to read. It was a good call, though. (Francis Bacon would nod in agreement.) That book is a waste of pages. I realized that it’s better to give up reading a book if you don’t connect with it since you’re just wasting precious time.

But, Why Satire?

Like I said I love writing, and that alone should offer you an indication as to why I write satire. There’s this excellent article I read called 30 Year Thinking by Nat Eliason. It’s a great article about investing time and effort into skills that you know you’d never give up on, and what you’d like doing for the vast majority of your life. Writing and reading are free, and have a great deal of benefits, which go beyond cognitive and artistic benefits.

Growing up, I recall how writing along with art was, at one time, regarded as a dead-end job. Science was regarded highly. It’s great to see that this perspective has changed. I never chose writing as a profession because it would be lucrative, but, in this era, it has become exactly that. Just like anything in life, you need to practice and practice away at your craft, so that you’re good at it.

George Orwell uses satire to address the subject of the Russian revolution

So, why satire? Well, because it just goes beyond the creative aspect of writing. Satire is used to point at the stupidity of the world. It is a tool to help the reader analyse their own human nature and know where they have erred.

The novel Gulliver’s Travels written by Jonathan Swift was a satirical piece aimed at tackling the nature of humans. One of the most famous scenes in the story is when the main character interacts with the tiny people of Lilliput, satire is used here in the height of the heels worn by the men as a way to mock the Whigs and Tories of the British government.

Jonathan Swift uses satire to take about the nature of humans

In Animal Farm written by George Orwell, satire is used as a way of addressing the subject of the Russian revolution, this is perhaps one of the most famous examples of satirical literature in the world. In Catch 22 written by Joseph Heller, there are plenty of examples of satire throughout the piece. One of the most notable is the general ideal of the Catch 22, which the writer uses as a way to talk about the lack of logic often seen in bureaucracy.

Enter The Sunday Morning

I spent a great many years working at some of the top advertising agencies in Sri Lanka. It was a great time, and I managed to work with some excellent brands. But, in terms of having a rewarding experience I would think that it was working as a feature journalist and editor at a lifestyle magazine that made me most content. Covid-19 did away with the publishing industry, and I transitioned into the tech industry.

Feminism is not a man-hating hobby

The tech industry is proving to be a completely different ball game altogether; however, it is something that I’m enthusiastic about when it comes to learning. Life is short, and learning transcends the excitement that power and money can extend to you. That said I missed creative writing, which is why I was excited when I was invited to have my own column at one of Sri Lanka’s best newspapers.

Satire on the privilege of the patriarchy and the archaic roles that women have to adhere to

I may have started out as a creative writer, but I wanted to move onto other types of writing as well. I’ve done business writing and technical writing. I just want to have the bragging rights knowing that I can do it all. Writing is an experience, and it’s important to me that I can experience it all.

Satire on elitism, the rich and the new rich

This was why I jumped at the invitation to have my own column on The Sunday Morning called Colombo Confessions. It’s a column that has a light-hearted and satirical view of Colombo and it’s denizens. I admit that at times, it does take on a very caustic viewpoint, but then the subject matter happens to be rather heavy, too. How else is one supposed to talk about sexual harassment, elitism and sexual intrigue?

Satire on how a privileged few with their toxic masculinity use both men and women as objects of sexual gratification

Satire, I’ll admit, is not everyone’s cup of tea, but what a brew it is, and that alone is a good enough reason to write satire. Call it a curse or a blessing, but the fact is that writers are empathetic creatures. We observe and we feel. And most of the time, we feel too much. This desire to feel and extend our feelings onto paper is like consuming alcohol. There is that initial high which segues into a feeling of satiation that lulls you into a sense of bliss. This is another reason why I write satire. I’ve never done drugs (except for alcohol, which technically, is a drug) and never will, but, I guess, there is a thrill in chasing that high quite like chasing the dragon.

Satire Is Necessary

Remember that in a world where there is not much choice, to even think beyond the cookie-cutter norms that have been set up by the status quo is an act of revolution per se. Your voice matters as do your own individuality. This is why it is important to express generously. In what is supposedly regarded as a free and democratic world, our way of expressing is the ultimate challenge of the status quo.

Why I write satire is because satire is great in the sense that it has a complete lack of boring and reasonable moderation, and with the subject matter that is addressed, there is no other option either. As an empathetic writer who does possess a certain degree of sensitivity, the pen is that almighty tool used to create awareness of issues and disparities in society. Satirical literature calls attention to these issues and can make readers aware of something they had not been previously considered or understood.

Categories
Life

Death Is Inevitable And That’s Alright

Death has been a running theme in my life, and that has been a reminder enough that death is inevitable. Just like how a doctor is desentisized to sickness and death, I too have been desensitized to the specter of death. This largely is due to the LTTE conflict and JVP insurgence that Generation X grew up in.

This blog post may come across as being quite morbid and despondent, but it doesn’t have to be. Life and everything that it entails is based on perception. Just like how happiness is a decision, you have the choice of choosing your perception.

Our minds alone can defeat the fear of death. It is what we have been taught since childhood that makes us fear the grin of The Grim Reaper. I have a serious bone to pick with monotheism. Death and fear of it was always central to our lives. Such was the fear death commanded, we ended up not living. The irony being we were dead to the world with no drive, ambition or creative spark. Life was spent preparing for the afterlife completely ignorant of the fact that we are just animals and like animals we too will die. Remember this — We’re just another statistic. And this is something that should be liberating.

I’m writing this post as a reminder to myself that just like Thanos, death is inevitable and very necessary. I will reference The Buddha at this juncture — Life is impermanent, and we are nothing, and nothingness is the best thing we can embrace. I think the real reason I chose to write about death is because of how I was forced to deal with it when my mother passed. It was a traumatic time and dealing with it was hard. I hope this post shifts the perception of death and how it is a necessary end to a life that can and should be fulfilling based on the decisions you actively make.

My Mother Died Of Cancer

Cancer doesn’t discriminate

It took the death of a celebrity for the conversation of colon cancer to make its way to the mainstream. That’s just how the world works; importance and value is allocated to those who are rich and famous. Accept it. It is reality.

My mother passed away due to colon cancer

There’s nothing peaceful about passing onto the next life. It is painful, eerie, traumatizing and excruciating. The idea that you die peacefully in your sleep is, I feel, a lie. Your last breath is your last defiance of the inevitable. You’re suffocating with plenty of air around you. This idea that you slip into the arms of some angel is fantastical. No one is there to document the struggle for breath as major organs shut down.

Don’t romanticize death. Romanticizing is that act from the 1800s with its fantastical stories (created by us) to soften the last uppercut dealt by death. I can’t encapsulate the trauma of looking after a dying mother, watching her suffer, and leaving this life with a strained breath as I held her hand. Instead I can write a book or two. Either way as much as it was a terrible time for me, I found meaning in looking after her. It took some time, but I accepted that day of separation.

From an objective point of view, dealing with death was hard because of the lies perpetuated by monotheism. What is religion but just another story to keep questions under lock and key, and wrapped up in a veil of fantasy about heaven and hell.

We are just animals, and just like animals we will die. And it is this thought that is liberating for me. Parking those nebulous tales of life after death at the entrance of your ears, and living your life to the fullest instead is liberation. Period.

I Too Might Die Of Cancer

The statistics are clear. Those who have a family history of cancer have a higher chance of dying of cancer. This is a fact. Colon cancer is one of the most common inherited cancer syndromes known. Among the genes found to be involved in colorectal cancer are: MSH2 and MSH6 both on chromosome 2 and MLH1, on chromosome 3. I possibly have them.

Normally, the protein products of these genes help to repair mistakes made in DNA replication. As many as 1 in 3 people who develop colorectal cancer have other family members who have had it. People with a history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) are at increased risk. In life, you need to deal with the cards that have been dealt to you.

Here’s Why I’m Okay With That

I’m okay with it because it is reality. We all got to go someday, and the best way to go is having lived by doing what you want in life. I’m also okay with this reality because there is nothing called immortality and there’s no other option. To understand this better, consider this poem, which is about the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II. Life is built up of memories and moments, and what you have today is fleeting at best. In other words, enjoy life while you can. That is all you can do. Maybe it’s a defeatist attitude to have, but, in reality, it is just a case of self admission. I’ve had the fortune of studying existentialism during my London A’Levels, and Jean-Paul Sartre is an excellent focus of enlightenment when it comes to understanding life and death.

How I View Death

Grin evilly at death and you’re assured of an evil grin back. I’m firmly placed in a culture that believes in its fair share of demons and devils. But the fear of death took on greater importance at church. I viewed death with paralyzing fear, and there’s still pinches of dread that present themselves every time I read a Stephen King novel or watch some morbid Netflix flick.

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The above quote by Nietzsche is one that I admire. It is more relevant to the example of someone who fights evil and ends up being evil. I guess you could, in one sense, end up talking about death in this manner, too. Death is inevitable, and it can change you for the worse. Instead of letting our cultural and religious beliefs dictate how we should fear it, simply accept it for what it is — an eventuality.

Until Death This Is How I Will Live

It is best to approach life from a position of blissful ignorance as opposed to arrogance. This isn’t wholly true. What is true and better is knowing your predicament and dealing with it. Carl Jung gives the best advice on how to live. Just be prepared for the next adventure after death, which most probably is a state of nothingness. But, we humans live on hope, and don’t want this existence to end.

Life expectancy has increased throughout the last few decades, and that’s great, and yet we are constantly reminded that death is inevitable. Modern healthcare has pushed the boundaries of discovery and have created panaceas for most illnesses, and the aspect of health is a personal decision you can make today.

Life is fantastic in itself, and it is we who are trying to make this a terrible situation all by ourselves. There is so much to enjoy and experience in life and that is great.

“Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Another quote I appreciate by Nietzsche is highlighted above. We may be surrounded by darkness, but there is still a sense of beauty in the mundane and in the dark side of things. Seeing reality is comforting, and one way to do it is practicing mindfulness or Vipassana meditation. Death is inevitable, but so too is life, and this is something that should be embraced fully. The meaning to life is to make it less meaningless. This is what we all must do. We need to find our own meaning whatever it is.

Categories
Life

Here’s Why I Read

Podcasts and YouTube may quite possibly surpass the act of reading, but books were the technology of an era long residing in the dried up pages of nostalgia. Suffice to say, the consumption of content has moved on from reading words printed on dead trees to blogs, podcasts, YouTube and Netflix. It’s not all bad, though; but reading gives the same pleasure as a croissant bursting with Nutella and strawberries with the assurance of a no insulin response. Why I read is my personal attempt at convincing you to read and explain why I find this a seriously rewarding past time.

Just like a Nutella-filled croissant, reading a book offers a sense of warmth in stringing words together to form feelings. It’s magical and very real at the same time. The following assertion is true — We exist because of stories and are experts in generating tales that have created religions, philosophies and political movements.

But, in my case, reading has been an effort to pack a myriad of experiences into what is expected to be a short life. We live in a world where extroversion is adulated and introversion is despised. Non-readers won’t understand the happiness that lies within when you’re sipping a gin and tonic; all the while inviting your eyes to see those cursive fonts that form those magical words, which thread together a story that leads to rivulets of goosebumps on your back.

Escapism

What is the act of reading but an exercise in distraction? A hobby it may be, but it is certainly one which is enjoyable. Anyone who is Lankan, and who grew up in the 80s and 90s would know of the tumultuous times that this island nation went through. Life under the LTTE and JVP were nothing like how a decent life should be. This was a time where access to a telephone or television was a luxury. A smartphone, laptop or Kindle would’ve been straight out of the pages of a science fiction novella that resided in the book shelves at The British Council.

Stephen King is and always will be an all-time favorite author

Speaking of The British Council, this was the one solace that existed for the denizens of Colombo. You see, there was nothing else to do in Colombo during that period except to dodge bullets and bombs while focusing on your education in the hopes of migrating to greener pastures. Oh, how things have changed. For the record, I still escape; usually to worlds and plots concocted by Stephen King and Agatha Christie.

Curiosity

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. Instead it made the cat smarter. Books are education. Consider Rene Descartes during the 17th century who offered the theory that only humans feel, and that animals are mere automatons. This is why doctors used to dissect live dogs while placing no mind to their screams.

What better way to get connected to your culture and history than to read about it?

Humans are curious by nature, and this leads to progress. Descartes was a participant of some inhumane activity, but it was education and a progressive mindset plus a change in beliefs that led to a change in how we view other species today. While curiosity has led to the concept of imagination being stretched, it has also served to offer a sense of progress.

I will offer you another example in the form of Yuval Noah Harrari. He has been central to the change in the global mindset when it came to humanity’s reliance on religion. The latter had done more harm than good, but religion certainly did have its place. But the shift is happening now; people are trusting science more. The best instance of this is when science told all churches and mosques to stop religious activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And the vast majority of the human race believed science.

Entertainment

The entertainment value of books are unparalleled. It’s the cheapest way to travel and the cheapest way to experience brand new feelings. There’s a reason why the written word will always surpass the pixel.

Poetry could be defined as being little heartbeats of words

Netflix may be able to showcase one point of view, but I rather read a book and let my brain expand on the intricacies of plot, tone and character. Books help expand your mind and the universe within yourself. What is life if not for a vibrant and colorful imagination. Today and all the intuitive products we use is an idea that has been dreamt up and created thanks to a creative imagination.

New Skills

Reading the right books can help you expand your perception of the world, and assist you in changing your mindset. What reading does is help you learn the skills that make you relevant. In an era where technology is as pervasive as sugar, it is mandatory to always stay relevant. Consider all the manuals that I used to read on WordPerfect back in the 80s — while it still exists it might as well be redundant.

An important book that helped me expand my skillset

If there’s one book that has helped me stay relevant in 2020, it would be — 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. It is a must read for those of us who are in our 40s and are still trying to be relevant. It is a must read for anyone; and will offer a great lesson for any person to always keep learning. Don’t be a Kodak, be an Apple instead. You see, to stop learning is to die.

Real Life

Reading books is living experiences. The suave lines in poetry and literature hints at how people behave. It’s this familiarity of human nature via books that led me to be rather unsurprised by Colombo; unsurprised by how Colombo society is okay with someone stealing someone else’s husband or wife, but bad table manners is a serious faux pas.

One of the first books I read in my late teens that I ignored then but respect now

Reading helps you develop empathy. We all know this is something that is seriously lacking in the world today. Philosophy and knowledge have the answers that we crave. One huge influence in my life has been the observations made by Arthur Schopenhauer; his quote — compassion is the basis of morality — is a fantastic indication of how man should live hand in hand in peace and harmony.

I Read Classics

Simply because classics offer an exceptional view of human nature. All these tales by Dickens and Elliot gives you an opportunity to understand the nuances and intricacies of the human heart.

Consider the tale of Silas Marner: a man who loves the material world, but reluctantly desires that all-important human connection. It is still very relevant today. Capitalism is the God we serve at the expense of real human relationships. This might give an explanation to the recent rise in loneliness, suicide and depression.

The Biggest Lesson That Reading Affords You…

… is discipline and patience. Reading lends these two skills to your life. Your impatience is stilled as is your mind. How else are you supposed to soak up the words and travel a literary route? I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. Books help us live through the people in them. Social media helps us compare ourselves to others. Interestingly, like in other rewards, both learning and cognitive areas play a significant part in the food reward. Who needs comfort food when there’s an increase in the dopamine response from the human amygdala whenever one indulges in cognitive tasks.

It’s understood and accepted that reading and writing can help stave off cognitive decline. As shown in previous paragraphs reading helps keep you relevant and makes you empathetic. As a former literary student and, more recently, a lifestyle journalist, the very act of reading helped me increase my vocabulary and add value to the content I put out. Reading is bliss; and it quite possibly might be the solution to all our problems and worries. Either way maybe less conversation is a better way to get started on the journey of reading the written word.

Categories
Life

Why Are We Envious?

Firstly, let’s define Envy and Jealousy. Jealousy is different from envy in that envy covets what others have, while jealousy is the fear that what you have, or may have, will be taken away. We view the world as a place where we must fight to get what limited resources there are before they are gone.

We’ve all been there — that insidious purgatory of ill where we are green with envy. Maybe it’s inherent within us or maybe it’s a result of the influences around us. With that thread of thought leading away, let’s look to a Jungian idea for explanation — We are all at war with our own evilness.

It’s true that we have cosseted within the deep and dark recesses of the privacy of our hearts terrible feelings and intentions. I wrote about how we are often the authors of our own destruction. This is largely true. This topic has been discussed over and over again with well-meaning friends until such thoughts have dissolved into bottles of whiskey and arrack throughout the years.

“All of our lives are too unique to copy the path from someone else”.

Master Shi Heng Yi

Surely there’s a salve for this pain we choose to put ourselves through, yes? Maybe the answer lies in knowing ourselves and the way our mind functions so that we can perhaps condition ourselves to react and feel differently. At times you have to wonder if solitude is the ONLY way to know yourself. Other people influence you and shape your character to fit theirs to help their gain. There are very few genuine people in this world but if you find one keep them.

The above paragraph is an attempt at urging you not to keep bad company. Bad company leads to bad habits. Being envious of others may possibly be something that’s learned. Or, could it just be biological?

Envious Hormones

We are animals just like our relatives the chimpanzees — a bundle of neurons, flesh and bone with an ocean of thoughts and emotions stitching our personalities together. Part of such personalities are the cocktail of hormones that make us feel. A new study carried out at the University of Haifa has found that the hormone oxytocin, the “love hormone,” which affects behaviors such as trust, empathy and generosity, also affects opposite behaviors, such as jealousy and gloating.

One or the other

The hormone is an overall trigger for social sentiments: when the person’s association is positive, oxytocin bolsters pro-social behaviors; when the association is negative, the hormone increases negative sentiments.

This possibly could be an avenue to hack your biology so that you come out of this internal battle unscathed. Consider mindful meditation, which would be an excellent antidote to those evil proclivities that stand in deep thought within us.

A Solution

Jordan Peterson has a great solution which is to nurse your feelings of envy to fuel your ambition. This is a thought that speaks volumes. One aspect that he mentions hit a nerve at one instance, and that is that you have no idea of the terrible life the person in the Ferrari is having.

Compare yourself to who and what you were yesterday

Our brains have this insidious way of leading us down to a path of taking actions that could be illustrated as being self-sabotage. Comparing yourself to who you were yesterday is a better stab at maintaining your mental wellness that coveting the materialistic illusion crafted by social media influencers and the like.

Memento Mori

Stoicism probably has an answer when it comes to dealing with envy. I’m sure at one time or the other you would have woken up at some liminal hour wondering — Is there life after death? No one knows the answer while you were probably trying to unravel that tangled skein of confused beaded thoughts.

History unravels the tale of how Roman slaves whispered Memento Mori — remember that you must die — to their commanders en route to war. Who would have thought that one verbal phrase uttered in a quasi-whisper would be a stark reminder that one must not be consumed by hubris, and that one must have your feet firmly on the ground.

I view this Latin phrase as a reminder not to waste time. Why waste time when life is short? Why make it shorter by coveting an imperfect life that is not yours? The Stoics used death as a sort of compass towards life, guiding them towards what really mattered to them. In other words, use this reminder to un-worry about other people’s lives and to start living one that is solely meant to be yours.

Stay Envious

Envy is a complex, socially repugnant emotion made up of a mix of inferiority feelings, hostility, and resentment. Maybe it’s not a bad deal after all — to be envious. There is such a thing called Positive Envy where you can use these feelings of green to better yourself. We humans are complicated entities. While one emotion can lead to a state of disrepair, we could flip that same emotion on its head to achieve something positive, and maybe — spectacular.

Categories
Tech

The Machines Are Taking Over

Gods have a habit of dying: they usually do once a civilization ends. Case in point: does anyone still worship Poseidon or Zeus? But humans need something to worship, and as human revolution has given away to technological evolution, it is obvious that the machines are taking over.

Yuval Noah Harrari talks of the gods of the technological era. These are (or yet to be) our new masters. We know about how the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution is leading to the loss of jobs, but maybe some cannot be replaced at all.

But why is AI becoming a big deal today? For one reason, we have a huge level of computational power today. We also have oceans full of data and that’s not going to stop. Another reason is the level of complex algorithms that we have. Plus the accuracy and benefits offered by AI means that businesses and governments are investing in AI, and it is becoming an economy in itself.

Upgrade on Netflix is an example of Artificial Super Intelligence

John McCarthy first coined this term in 1956. He defined AI as the science and engineering of making intelligent machines. Artificial Narrow Intelligence, which is known as Weak AI, like Siri is what we have today. Then there is Artificial General Intelligence, which is known as Strong AI, can be a reference to something like AlphaGo. Lastly, Artificial Super Intelligence, which is a hypothetical situation, is where computers will surpass humans when it comes to capability.

I Am Mother on Netflix is a firm favorite, and showcases how AI can be devious and nefarious

The writing of this particular blog post is heavily influenced by Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harrari. We hear of how we humans are living longer now, and how violence and famines are on the decline. It’s clear that the future of humans is one where we elevate ourselves to becoming gods. This is clearly happening with the marrying of tech and biometrics. The desire to live forever is fast becoming a serious expectation, and the evolution of technology could probably lead to its reality.

Ex Machina on Netflix portrays the dangers of AI, but then again, it is fiction after all

But can humans survive an AI apocalypse? Nick Bostrom argues that a computer with near human-level general intellectual ability could initiate an intelligence explosion on a digital time scale with the resultant rapid creation of something so powerful that it might deliberately or accidentally destroy human kind. We are someways away with such morbid and despondent predictions. Present-day AI fatalities are more to do with faulty car sensors.

Or, alternatively humans in the near future might become a class known as the ‘useless class’ since tech is evolving at such a fast rate and we are being made redundant. We see this happening in the job market already. Even in the armed forces, drones and cyber worms have taken over the jobs of soldiers.

Despite the ideas being portrayed that the future looks bleak, I suppose, one could trust human nature and its ability to feel a sense of connection. This excellent interview with Yuval Noah Harrari shows how technology can be an issue and lead to a dictatorship, but that can also be a blessing in disguise. Technology in one form or the other is a blessing. It is true to state that the machines are taking over, but the question remains as to what checks and balances should be put in place to ensure that humanity isn’t at the wrong end of this transition.

Categories
Tech

Life With A Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite

As per biologist E. O. Wilson: In ancient history and prehistory, tribes gained visceral comfort and pride from familiar fellowship, and a way to defend the group enthusiastically against rival groups. It gave people a name in addition to their own and social meaning in a chaotic world. It made the environment less disorienting and dangerous.

These prehistoric proclivities have migrated onto modern life, and now, it does more harm than good. Let’s discuss lies, and how they are related to the forever argument of whether Android or iOS is better.

Lie Number 1: Apple/iOS is the best.

Lie Number 2: Samsung/Android is the best.

Your purchase depends on the narrative that you choose to believe, you see. Sadly, in society you need to subscribe to one or the other. Like most things that make up society whether it be religion, food or a university/school, you are compelled to choose. Or, your circle of influence (think parents, friends, religious leaders et al.) will embrace you into their fold and hammer their beliefs into you.

But, it is all a lie. Anyone who has read Sapiens will know that we choose the narrative we want to believe based on the stories around it. That sense of community created by brands (because, they all are brands, aren’t they?) is the glue that builds camaraderie.

Android and iOS both fulfill a function, but most audiences prefer to snuggle in a rabbit hole of arguments and dysfunction. Rather see a product for what it is, which is to cater to a requirement, and make whatever inconveniences redundant. The problem with any circle of influence is the set of beliefs they instill in you.

Thus begins my justification of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite — (sometimes) referred to as Lite hereonafter. Whatever you assimilate today make sure you ponder the contents of this article before you make a purchase decision. Full disclaimer: I’m comparing the Lite to an iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus running on iOS 14.

Productivity and Word Consumption is Better on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite

The stylus on this Lite for some strange reason helps the sinuosity of my sentences. Maybe because it is a novel experience or maybe because the user experience is conducive to creativity. Either way this is a great addition and it makes the Lite a fantastic smartphone.

The stylus on the Note was a game changer and continues to be one

Since I’m a writer by profession, the varying keyboards that you can draw up are helpful. I usually shift between the Samsung Keyboard, Gboard and the Microsoft SwiftKey Keyboard. The whole experience of collating, curating and fleshing out data is a joy on this device.

Who needs a laptop?

Although I want to try Stencil as a design tool, I have decided to stick with Canva since I have a Pro Version of it, and working on it via the Lite is an absolute breeze. Collaborating via the Google Workspace and using apps like Ahrefs is convenient.

Ted Chiang is an inspiration

The Kindle app works great on the Lite, and reading is a rewarding journey on this device. Of course, there’s nothing like a book as far as the writer in me is concerned. But this works well and the reading experience is fantastic.

Samsung Health is Better than Apple Health

My weight loss journey is documented on this blog, and I used Apple Health to document the distance of my daily walks. I knew that there is assured to be some disparity with regard to the accuracy of the distance covered. But what I realized is that some measure was better than nothing.

Apple Health was generous with clocking in the distance on the 20th of October

Enter the Lite. I was curious to see what was actually better when comparing Samsung Health vs. Apple Health, and so decided to do my morning walk with both devices.

On the 20th of October, Samsung Health said I’ve walked less compared to Apple Health

The Lite said that I’ve done less when it came to the distance covered. And based on the app reviews present, I think I will believe the data generated by Samsung Health simply because there is proof.

Netflix and Apple Music is Better on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite

Who would have thought that Apple apps work better on an Android? Without diving into the whole mechanics of what is under the hood, it makes sense to remember that it is the experience that matters. The Note 2 that I had promised a lot in the way of specifications but ANY iPhone would have put it to shame.

This is my jam and Doja Cat is the bomb

And then there’s Netflix on Android, which offers a fantastic viewing experience, too. This is largely thanks to a 6.7 inch screen that is Super AMOLED. Running on Android 10 with One UI 2.5 the user experience on this Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite is far better that iOS 14 and that truly is just my opinion.

Deadly Class is a great watch on Netflix and I really think that Tarantino actually made this

Let’s also consider sound when it comes to the listening experience. The Lite features a 3.5mm audio jack and Dolby Atmos surround sound technology. The sound experience on this device offers one eargasm after the next.

Dolby Atmos on and Dark Mode off

I use JBL earphones when walking and the Samsung earphones when listening to media. Both are great, but, as you would expect, the JBL noisemakers are better.

Battery Life is Seriously Good on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite

Everything works seamlessly in one cohesive team powered with a 4500 mAh battery pack. The Lite has lasted more than 1.5 days on a full charge.

4500 mAh worth of power

This efficiency will reduce as time goes on. But with 4 months on the clock, there’s no visible sign of the battery losing its glimmer. The Lite has a Snapdragon 855 processor, which is a flagship phone processor, and that’s quite a good reason to go for it. The processor is one generation old compared to what is powering the Note 20, but the Lite is great as it is.

What Should You Buy?

It’s a good rule of thumb to skip the first generation of any product since there will be teething issues. This is why I researched thoroughly before deciding on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite.

Additionally the whole concept of marketing is done in such a way that you would always opt for the flashiest and newest iteration of whatever product. And, this is a surefire way to ensure that you end up burning a hole in your pocket.

Rather choose a product based on your requirement; this video shows why a Samsung Note 10 Lite is enough compared to a Samsung Note 20.

Categories
Life

Understanding Architecture

Understanding architecture is akin to understanding art. It is, I suppose, similar to subscribing to a story that fits your perceptions. Consider the famous architect — Le Corbusier — who was somewhat minimalist. He desired that the houses of the future be ascetic and clean and frugal. Architecture for him was meant to be about mechanical efficiency. A home had only a few ambitions — to provide shelter, to be a receptacle for light and air, and a place to look at the stars.

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque Period painter active during the 17th century

Now consider art by Johannes Vermeer, which is a celebration of the ordinary. His famous work of art — The Little Street — shows the attractiveness and beauty in ordinary life. The Ferrari car, Gucci shoes and Michelin Star meal is an empty and vacuous representation of modern life that is wrongly celebrated.

An architectural design by my friend, Gayan, showing that ordinary lines and curves are indeed beautiful

Maybe society needs to change the narrative towards celebrating ordinary. It is the long walks, the appreciation of the rays of sunshine streaming in through the window, and the smile of a parent that ultimately matters. There is deeper meaning in art and architecture.

Another angle of the same property crafted by my friend Gayan

I’d like to segue into the school of thought perpetuated by Andrea Palladio during the 1500s. It is this school of thought that I would subscribe to. Palladio thought how architecture’s purpose is to make us better people. Calm, harmony and dignity are the virtues promised by architecture as per Palladio.

Although Gayan De Silva, a close friend, whom I’ve known for many years is probably not aware of how his work probably takes on the same philosophy that Palladio promoted, I see similarities. There is less noise in his work. There is balance, symmetry and the focus on space, and the dislike for ostentatiousness. Palladio was all about simplicity and ensuring that everything aligned with proportion.

There’s this assumption that simplicity is easy and cheap. In actual fact it is the opposite. It’s incredibly difficult to create something that is functional and a solution to inconvenience. Grandiosity is a travesty. And such ostentatiousness only serves to be costly and not useful.

Dieter Rams who designed Braun is the epitome of simple and useful design. A quote by HoraceThe art lies in concealing the art — offers an insight into how architecture should be showcased. Considering how influencial architecture has become today, maybe we need to change the narrative we want this influential art form to have.

There’s pleasure in simplicity. Because simplicity shows a lack of anxiety about being ignored. As a modern society that is comfortably cosseted in the 21st century, we possibly need to shift our focus and indeed our ideals onto the values that matter.

Rams and Vermeer possibly have a lot in common, and could offer us all a way when it comes to understanding architecture. Rams creates designs that are for everyday use, while Vermeer did art. The majority of these individuals have in some form or the other contributed so much to architecture. It is the guiding philosophy that we need to embrace.

Categories
Life

Why Are We Addicted?

Jake:
If it’s poison, why do you drink it?

Charlie:
Because there are things inside of me I need to kill.

Why do we drink alcohol? Why are we addicted? The above conversation piece from Two And A Half Men gives an insightful answer as to why. You see, there are demons in our subconscious that lie and lie silent. Lucky for you if you don’t meet them, but most of us do.

I was an alcoholic, and now I’m not. That is not to say that I don’t enjoy a drink. I choose gin since it’s keto-friendly.

So, this thing with Addiction — is it something that is predisposed or a choice? It’s neither. It’s the result of our environments. Consider the issue of PTSD afflicting soldiers who survive war.

Addiction, you see, is an attempt at a solution; it is not a problem by itself. As per Gabor Maté, most of our trauma can be rooted in childhood. The subject on this is huge, but a child that is emotionally abused will overcompensate by being overly nice even if they don’t want to.

A child’s brain circuitry is developed while in the mother’s stomach. A stressed out mother leads to a stressed out child. Children when growing up are narcissistic by nature, and believe that they are the center of their own universe. When they don’t get the love and attention they crave from their parents, they carry such dysfunction into their adult lives.

This is the reason why stressed out parents bring up children who are stressed out. This is why children are more prone to autoimmune disorders like Multiple Sclerosis and even Cancer.

So, does the fault lie with parents? Somewhat, but the majority of this fault lies with the social, economic and political issues that we have faced throughout the years. For instance, both parents, in recent times, have had to work to bring in the finances thereby leading to their children being neglected with no mother at home. We know that our emotions and physiology cannot be divorced from each other. When one suffers, so does the other.

We are social creatures, and human connections are intrinsic, and looking for comfort in electric connections just won’t do. In fact, it would only lead to those who are vulnerable to resort to a variety of addictions.

Why We Are Addicted

“Nothing records the effects of a sad life as graphically as the human body.” – Naguib Mahfouz.

Most addicts aren’t afraid of dying. They are afraid of living. What does alcohol, drugs, food and shopping in excess have in common — they cure pain. The question shouldn’t be — Why is there addiction? The question should be — Why is there pain? Keith Richards in his biography talks of how he sought oblivion through his addictions. Why? Because he was not comfortable being in his own skin.

A truth bomb.

We are addicted because whatever we are addicted to offers respite from the pain that we are feeling or because it gives us pleasure that’s available to us.

Let’s first define this whole concept of Addiction — it is any behavior that gives you temporary relief or pleasure, but in the long term causes harm, and you can’t give it up despite the negative consequences.

Drugs per se aren’t addictive. Many people choose their addiction, and it is all to do with Dopamine and Endorphins. As many addicts claim, the stimulus they are addicted to offers them warmth and comfort and a space that is non-judgemental. This is all an attempt at trying to fill in the void that exists within us. It all goes back to what we didn’t get when we were small.

The Meaning to Life

I wonder at times if addiction can be cured through science. The meaning of life is to distract ourselves from the
meaninglessness of life. Love is the highest meaning of
life. We pervert it and fail it a billion times over. It doesn’t pay the bills, but it satiates the spirit like nothing else.

Professor X is kind to those who are flawed

It takes courage and responsibility to be kind to flawed humans as Professor X has shown us. But it’s our highest calling. It elevates everything we do. Any sense
of value or meaning in an
objectively meaningless universe can only be the result of whatever sense of value we subconsciously project onto the world and some of the experiences within it, or in turn, whatever meaning we perceive when we look out into the world.

The very fact that people say — Find your meaning — means there’s no meaning to life. Rather we need to find our own individual purpose, and finding it means there’s a thin line between sanity and insanity.

Leave Well Alone

Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within. Buddha said be a lamp unto thyself. The choice we have to make is to heal and be kinder to ourselves. The majority of us are damaged in one way or the other. Yet the only solution, as per Jordan Peterson, is to be strong.

And, if we do choose to move away from the hurt and grief we feel, we’ll realize that we made those first steps towards healing. In the grand scheme of things, you’ll realize that choosing contentment is possibly the only way forward. Once we do heal, the Faroese word — nøgdsemi — gives an indication of how we should live. Nøgdsemi means Life Is Good The Way It Is and it offers a way to accept life just the way it is.