21 September 2022

“Your relationship with time is the ultimate unrequited love.”

It was exactly a conversation like this way back when with Sharmila sitting at the bar at Milton’s restaurant that made me resolve to go see my parents in India every quarter.

It was originally penned by @SahilBloom in Twitter.

Thank you Raghuram Ramakrishnan for pointing me to this.

— — —

I was out for a drink with a friend. We’ll call him George. As we settled in, George asked about my life and how I was feeling. At first, I gave him the standard response that we’ve all grown so accustomed to:
“I’m good. Busy!”
He stared blankly through my empty words.

Feeling the pressure of his gaze, I adjusted myself and added that living in California had begun to wear on me, it being so far from my parents on the East Coast. I had been 3,000 miles away for the last 12 years. And with the path I was on, there was no end in sight. The moment of vulnerability sparked an interaction that changed my life:

George: “How often do you see your parents?”
Me: “Maybe once a year now.”
George: “And how old are they?”
Me: “Mid-sixties.”
George: “Ok, so you’re going to see them 15 more times before they die.”

Gut punch.
I took a deep breath. It wasn’t meant to be rude—it was just…math.

If the average life expectancy is ~80 years, my parents are in their mid-60s, and I see them one time per year, the math—however depressing—says I will see them 15 more times before they are gone.

Our time together is finite, but we often fail to recognize it until it’s too late. Time is cruel. You’ll love it with all of your being—you may even pray for more of it—but time doesn’t care about you. Your relationship with time is the ultimate unrequited love.

The morning after this conversation, my wife and I had a very candid conversation about what we wanted in life. A few days later, we listed our house in California on the market, packed up our things, and shipped off to the East Coast to be closer to our parents.

It’s been over a year since the conversation that changed my life. I’ll never regret these tiny moments—of doing nothing in particular—that we’ll spend together in the years ahead. I’ll never regret the moments my parents get to spend with my son. I’ll never regret any of it.

My friend @waitbutwhy wrote about this “Parent Time” phenomenon in a recent New York Times op-ed. In classic fashion, he produced a striking visualization to capture the sentiment.
It brings one takeaway to life: Our time with our loved ones is so limited and precious. All of this math—depressing as it seems—should be a call to arms.

Identify the people and activities you care most deeply about. Prioritize them ruthlessly. It may be difficult—even painful—but it’s a decision you’ll never regret.

We spend most of our lives playing a game:

Everything we do is in anticipation of the future. When that future comes, we simply reset to the next one.

“I can’t wait until I’m 18 so I can [X].”

“I can’t wait until I’m 25 so I can [Y].”

“I can’t wait until I’m 45 so I can [Z].”

It’s natural, but it’s a dangerous game—one that we will lose, eventually. Time is our most precious asset and the present is all that’s guaranteed. Spend it wisely, with those you love, in ways you’ll never regret.

Always remember the famous song by Guy Lombardo:

Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink.
The years go by, as quickly as a wink.
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.

— — —

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27 July 2022

Learnt a lot this evening with Dr. Lakin

First time in Birmingham, AL. The evening was spent with Dr. Lakin from Univ. of Alabama mostly discussing how our brains learn and business models around how to help teachers. One of the more absorbing discussions was around “fluid” learning versus “crystallized” learning. I, personally, leaned more towards emphasizing fluid learning versus crystalized. Only because most domains in the world are changing fast enough that value of experience is waning (in my view).

Dr. Lakin’s counter example was “Who would you rather do surgery on your child – an experienced doctor who is done it a thousand times in the last 15 years or a younger doctor who has done it 10 times in the last year?” That question becomes more complicated when you add in another variable though. What if you are told that technology and the science (that is taught in medical schools) has undergone quite some advances in the last five years? Then, who would you rather do the surgery?

But of all the things I learnt, the one that blew my mind was the following. I am not sure how our discussions went to this but we were talking of demographic distributions. The question that I completely got wrong was “What percentage of the population in Alabama is black? How about Mississippi? Louisiana? Georgia? Birmingham? Atlanta?”. I was completely off on all of them! The stat on Birmingham blew my mind away! Guess those numbers and then Google them up. How close were you?

24 July 2022

Ever wondered why the political parties are called “Left” and “Right”?

I have been reading this book on Morality and how that explains the religious divide and the political divide. An interesting fact I picked up is the origin of “Left” and “Right” (in the context of political leanings).

Do you know where it comes from?

Turns out the root of this goes back to the French Revolution in 1789. The members of the French Assembly found themselves divided in their support for the revolution (against monarchy) and against (for the King). To avoid up close and personal fracas, the ones that favored change sat on the left of the chamber and the ones that favored preservation sat on the right. The terms “left” and “right” have stood for liberalism and conservatism ever since!

In a bit of irony, the “left” then were called “Republicans” (they wanted a republic over a monarchy)

Learnt something early this morning.

10 July 2022

Catching up on one of the two unfinished books

What with all the moving, packing and unpacking, I am totally behind on two books I have been reading – on on Morality (in electronic form) and another on the breakup of Yugoslavia (in paper form).

Finally caught up on one of those today in our new abode. A little wary about how Jay Jay is eyeing my hard earned drink this evening 🙂

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29 May 2022

Digital Junk?

As we get ready to move houses, one of the obvious conclusions that we have come to – like anybody else who moves houses every decade or so – is that, we have accumulated too much stuff thru the years. They occupy space, never are used and meaninglessly take up space and time. (Some of the boxes that were moved from Dallas to Atlanta in 2007, we realize regreattably, are still unopened).

Here is another observation on those lines… pictures and videos!! If you are like me, you probably take a lot of pictures and videos (this wonderful thing called smartphone has made it so easy that we take multiple shots of essentially the same scene – just in case something is amiss). Some of you are probably as fastidious as me and transfer them to a main computer and then keep one to three backups. And some of you may not be as diligent. You just buy a new phone with much more space!!!

You know you will never forgive yourself for losing any picture of the kids growing up and all that.

Here is the uncanny question I have for myself these days. Let me ask you… How often do you actually go back and see those pictures that you had taken so that you can enjoy them in the future? Sure, once in a while, that database comes of use (you know, like settling a debate with the spouse on which hotel you stayed in when your family visited a city and all that). But really, how many photos have you gone back, watched and enjoyed – let’s say three months after it was taken?

How about videos? For me, that is even worse!!!

So, just like all those stuff we bought and stored that are of no use to us… are we also creating digital junk for ourselves? I know storing does not take much time or money. But backing up them does. And we perhaps lose the magic of the moment when it happens… because we were too busy trying to save it digitally for the future.

What do you think?

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18 April 2022

What is the difference?

My friend Somya commented on a previous post of mine about the beautiful fog in our area (we live very close by) that she found the mist very beautiful too.

That got me thinking – what is the difference between a fog and a mist? I often use them interchangeably. Or a haze for that matter. After doing some internet searching, here is what I have gathered.

A fog is essentially a low lying cloud. It is low enough that it touches the ground level (the ground you are on might up in the hills). Being a cloud, it forms slowly by evaporation of water from water bodies nearby and then condenses as water particles and hangs in the air. Visibility is usually less than a kilometer.

A mist, on the other hand, is caused by rapid condensation of water vapor – usually from volcanic activity or sharp changes in temperature and humidity. Because of the speed of condensation, the water particles are smaller. Therefore the visibility is higher and it disappears faster than a fog.

A haze, I found out is also suspension of particles in the air – but dry particles. Has nothing to do with water. Could be around a factory, as an example.

Do you know any more on this subject?

Thank you Somya – for helping me learn something new this morning!

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7 January 2022

My unique experience from Covid isolation

Just came out of Omicron isolation yesterday. Fortunately, it happened after I reached the US and not while in India. Also, isolation was relatively painless since I had the whole new house to isolate from! The only hassle was there was no bed – so it was more of camp night experiences with a couple of camp blankets used as mattress on hardwood floor. But, otherwise, I had the place all to myself.

Because of coughing and the bed situation, I could never sleep more than 15-20 minutes at a stretch the first five or six days. And I could not talk to anybody over the phone because of the coughing.

That actually opened up to me an experience I had never had before. For about 10 days, I was in near 24 hour silence. With no talking whatsoever. Any of you who know me can be excused for not believing it.

I sat endless hours in that picnic chair you see looking outside the door. I could not go out into the patio – it was too cold for me. And that step stool was my handy tea-cup stand and place to keep my phone and ipad.

This has gotten me intellectually curious in the topic of Silence itself. What does silence do to us? Is it desired or have we evolved out of it? Does being a social being still jive with silence?

Reached out to my friend Neal Rajdev for some pointers on books that I can read. Have you ever read a good book on Silence or the Practice of Silence? If so, could you share with me?

One of the things I veered into during those long nights of Covid isolation was poetry on silence. Most of them had some kind of an inner self / spiritual kind of bend. The best ones for me were from the Persian poet Rumi. This particular one became my favorite:

“Silence is the language of God
All others are just bad translations”

Loved it!