Tick-Tock Tick-Tock

“October 29th, 1969 is the day the internet was born did you know that?” said the husband. I have seen pups don that look when out and about in sunny meadows with a new bone to boot.

“Google icon huh?!”

I suppose life has taught him to take in his leaping enthusiasm with our barely noticeable uh-huh with equanimity. “Hey! Let’s try again. Today is the birthday of the internet!”

“No….just fun fact. Oct 29th, 1969 – The first-ever computer-to-computer link is established on ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet. And then in 1974, the first protocol for communicating over the Internet was conceptualized. T-C-P – tada! Finally, in November 1977, the internet was functional as the ARPANET for the Defense.

“It wasn’t until the late 1980’s and 1990’s even that the internet was functional the way we know it!”, he said awe dripping from him. “I suppose in a way we were the perfect generation to see the wave take off.”

“So you guys are as old as the internet?! Oh my gosh – that is so old!” quipped the little fellow, mentally slotting us with the dinosaurs. “How did you guys live without the internet? ” , said he puzzled. He has taken to asking Google Home all sorts of things during the day:

“Okay Google – what is the atomic number of Boron?”
“Okay Google -what is the time right now?”
“Okay Google – tell me a Halloween joke.”

“Well – we lived quite well I suppose.” said I, throwing in a bit of philosophy about the simple life needing few things other than sustenance for the body and the mind. “We did not need the internet to entertain ourselves. We played outside, made forts out of mud, ran around, and had fun all the same. No battles on that game of yours – Clash Royale is it?!  We battled it out with sticks and stones.” I said, and the more I talked about our lives pre-internet, the more I realized that humanity had truly passed a technological milestone. It was like the power of electricity – it changed our lives forever, and though life is possible without electricity, it has become so much harder to sustain without it. Looking at the children born after the age of the internet, I realized that connectivity is much the same for these children.



“You want to know what I did with the Internet today?” asked the teenage daughter.

“I’ll show you!” she said in her effusive tones. There was then a rather jerky video of her popping into her mobile phone’s camera from various angles – one upside down and by the sounds of it rather clumsily, for we heard a dull thud followed by an “oww”.

“Not my best video – but how about this one? ” She then went on to show us another jumpy jerky video with some sort of a meme thrown in for good measure. I groaned.

“What is this?! Does anyone even see stuff like this? Tick tock is it?” I looked appallingly at her, and said, “Oh goodness child! You don’t tell me you actually posted this!”

I feel it is worth noting here that the App is called TikTok, not Tick-Tock as I thought up until a minute ago when I went looking for the wikipedia entry – sigh! I am as old as the Internet I suppose!

“For your information Amma, tons of people see this stuff. It is original see? This is the one that is going viral now. Already 30,000 likes and 100,000 views.”, she said, proud of herself.

My jaws dropped. “For this?!”

“Supportive. Mother. Supportive – remember?”

“But I’ve seen plenty of videos – even your own that are much better than this – even the one you showed us before where you banged yourself on the floor by the sound of that dull thud had a comical quality to it. ” I said, and she laughed hard, agreeing wholeheartedly.

“Fame doesn’t need merit Mother.”

“Fame is a fickle friend Harry!” said I in a brilliant imitation of Professor Lockhardt from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

“Fame is as fame does!” said she, and we all laughed.

“Just goes to prove that all our inventions and resources take on a life of their own, and that is what will keep us busy as a race I suppose.” I said.

“All the brilliant protocols developed and conceptualized for dumb Tick-Tocks like this to go viral. What is the world coming to?” said the husband.

“What a tangled web we weave when we choose to connect?” I said paraphrasing not Shakespeare as it turns out, but William Scott in the poem Marmion, and looking around proudly for acknowledgement. Completely lost on the group of course. I sighed and continued – there are times when you explain your jokes and times you don’t. Not when something viral is competing for attention.

“Poor appa! Let’s throw him a bone and listen to him about the philosophy of the internet dears. ” said I, and we listened to him as he explained – his own fascination overtaking him, about how the internet developed and (d)evolved into what it is today.

Here is an interesting video with all the leading websites over time.

More videos here : Data is Beautiful

How we will continue to evolve is anybody’s guess, which leads me to a wonderful essay I read by Ursula Le Guin on the different types of fantasy. (coming up next)

Drones on Kaapi Conspiracy?

The news, is and has been somewhat of a Debbie-Downer and I have kept clear of it. We have instead been listening to heartening material such as Horton Hatches The Egg. This morning, I switched to NPR, and as usual, the news was ready with a bucket of cold water to pour on my head.

The correspondent droned on about how companies in the USA are rethinking employees’ travel plans given that people are made to give up their phones, laptops and even social media usernames and passwords. This was an idea that was floating around in late January:


This idea of asking for social media profiles is abhorrent to me, given that we are further enabling algorithms to slice and dice the populace based on one’s likes and dislikes. But I burst out laughing while listening to it, and probably had folks wonder why.

Lexicon: Maama: Uncle; Maami: Aunty; Kaapi: Coffee

Let us assume Kittu Maama is planning to visit his daughter in the Golden Land of the USA to celebrate his 70th birthday with his grandchildren. Kittu Maama has been flagged as having strong opinions on Sasikala, Filter Coffee pronounced Kaapi and Dasavatharam (still baffled whether his views are on the movie or mythology).

In any case, they being the Esteemed and Respected Parents of Silicon Valley Engineers of Indian origin, the administration rubs their hands in glee to data science the heck out of this one.

That’s when the Mannar & Mannar Coffee Conspiracy comes to light.

Kittu Maama and Maami’s social media posts are intriguing.

Day 1: Shared: Good morning – filter coffee is good.

Day 2: Shared: Good morning – filter coffee is the best.

Day 3: Shared: Good morning – filter coffee.

Day 4: Shared: Good morning – filter coffee is very good.


Riveting as these posts were, investigators are unable to fathom the train of thought here.

(a) The posts are being shared from someone’s feed, and this person does not seem to rank high on Kittu Maama’s or his wife’s list of adored folks. Baffling. Why would they go and share it everyday?

(b) The original photograph on closer examination (after using sufficient zooming techniques), had inscriptions on the coffee cup that translated to, ‘This cup was stolen from Muruga Vilas.

Could Kittu Maama be tipping off gangs on stolen silverware?

A few days later, Kittu Maama’s daughter calls from the USA, and asks how they are doing. “What is with your coffee posts everyday?, “ she asks.

The investigators on the nose of this Mannar & Mannar Coffee conspiracy case pick up the dials on the board: Phone calls being made and substance being discussed. Tap and apply algorithm. Quick.

“You only said that we should share if we like something? I don’t know why he puts coffee out everyday, I know Ambujam Maami does not make filter kaapi like that.”, said Mrs Kittu Maama alias Kittu Maami.

To which Kittu Maama chimed in, “Yes, in fact when I go there, I hastily say no to coffee. I stop at Saravana Bhavan on the way back and have good filter coffee there before heading back. “

The FBI is stumped. There must be something here. Could there really be no conspiracy here? Just daughter-discussing-ditchwater-kaapi? But everyday on Facebook, and on International Phone Calls?

A dial spins in the other room. WhatsApp shared: Helpfully labelled ‘Coffee joke’

Is it worth putting a drone on them?

Not just yet.

Note: While the scenario above was light-hearted and frivolous, it is useful for us to know exactly how our social media profiles have been used, and can be used in the future.

Excerpt from Nextdraft (http://nextdraft.com/archives/n20161123/turkey-shoot/)

Cambridge Analytica worked on the Trump campaign. They also worked for those in favor or Brexit. Now they’re in talks to score a couple new big contracts.


Can We Fight The Media River?

I called and spoke to my parents the other day.

It is always a pleasure to chew the fat with the old father. We were talking of this and that – me trying desperately to get a word in edgeways. Grandfather and grandson talk like they are releasing cannon balls from the top of the fort, and that they must somehow made it heard to the populace 1000’s of metres below about the cannon balls before releasing them. People with voices, even like mine, sound like bleaters on the side. Finally, Dusty Crophopper, that wonderful firefighter who is also a racing world champion and works as a crop-duster (if a plane can be that useful, why can’t we?), needed to tend to a fire rescue operation and flew off with his owner and I was allowed to carry on talking to my father.

Dusty Crophopper - The Useful plane: Firefighter, World class racer, crop duster, best friend & model citizen
Dusty Crophopper – That Useful Plane! Firefighter, world-class-racer, crop-duster, best friend & model citizen

We spoke of this and that and the father took to criticizing the evening leeches who sucked blood and happiness from his being, namely evening Tamil soap operas.

“Well…nobody is asking you to watch them.” I said fairly. “You have so many channels, you can always watch National Geographic.” I said.

To which the mother quipped, “Given a choice he has the news going on in endless loops, and all day long there is apa-sagunam(bad omens). Somebody murdering somebody – all on Friday evening. Who wants that? ”

I wonder if it is okay on other days for bad omens, but know better than to ask her that. The mother has a special place in her heart for Fridays. She has complex algorithmic suggestions that would do well with some refactoring. The lot of us are constantly flouting these rules, with or without knowledge, and getting in trouble. I try to classify them simply.

The Friday Algorithm
The Friday Algorithm

“Well..you could watch the financial news then.” I said. I never learn I tell you, I must be as dim-witted as a drunk banana slug. There is no point in providing suggestions, for people are going to do exactly as they please, but I blunder on happily every time.

Anyway, there was a small scuffle at the other end of the phone about financial news and stock markets during which time I was called on an emergency rescue operation of Dusty Crophopper who flew so fast, he crash landed behind the sofa with the owner in close pursuit.

By the time I was back to the conversation, the father was in a melancholy mood. “Wasting time is so easy these days”, he said. I agreed. He continued on, “It is increasingly sad to expect the younger generation to overcome monumental demands on their time to waste it and use it towards something constructive. When you were young, there was only a television to grapple with.”
I disagreed.
The television was nothing to grapple with when I was young. There was no grappling there. Anyone who has spent even an hour watching “Vayalum Vazhvum” at 6 p.m. will provide ready testimony to the fact that it was phenomenally more rewarding to pretend to study. The benefits were multi-fold. You could drool and day dream all you wanted, you had your room to your own devices and authority figures off your back, for weren’t you studying? Also, when you came out refreshed, you sat yourself down to a wonderful dinner where nobody told anybody about the benefits of hard work, because the poor child has just been working really hard. It was marvelous.



I told him so and he laughed heartily.

In today’s world, I’d be sorry to be a kid laden with homework, when there are more Television programs than people have the energy and time for.
Link here:
Quote: The number of new shows this year could, for the first time, surpass the 400 mark.

The laughs from comedy sitcoms are far more numerous than ones your own friends and family can come up with around the dinner table.

When Television gets boring, there is a wide variety of apps and games to amuse oneself for we live in a psychological bubble.
Link here: for tech bubble vs psychological bubble.
I quote:
This time it’s not a financial bubble. It’s a psychological one. The psychological bubble makes you think that because you can code a photo app or design an algorithm to get me to the airport a little quicker, that also qualifies you as an expert on every other topic.

As if all this was not temptation enough, there is also the phenomenal lure of facebook, twitter, youtube, pinterest and instagram.

chasing chicks social media
chasing chicks social media

It is enough to make anyone feel helpless. I sometimes feel like a mute spectator to a torrential river devised to distract you from everything including distractions.

Which brings me neatly to the most entertaining hour of my social media simulation experiment. Coming up next – stay tuned.

Truth or Perception of Truth?

I have written about my train rides before. (the first one dated about a decade ago: https://nourishncherish.wordpress.com/2005/10/27/commuter-blues-or-benefits/) They are entertaining, freeing, frustrating and are not entirely the best friends to the olfactory senses, but then, when else do you get to appreciate the fact that you have allergies and a blocked nose that essentially mean that you don’t have to screw up your nose when others do?

The trains are hugely helpful for people like me who don’t enjoy having their noses stuck to a steering wheel: I would much rather stick my long-ish nose into a book. The trains are functional and not at all fancy. They take me to and from work everyday and for the most part are reliable.  I don’t know what it is with casting an evil eye on the most simple things. I typed this line out about 2 weeks ago for another blog, and in the intervening time, there were huge delays on the system causing much inconvenience and noise on social networks multiple times a week. There was one time when the website said, “We have been overwhelmed with the requests on the website, please check Twitter for updates.” Like any other person, I feverishly dug up all mentions of the trains and was greeted with dire warnings. News sites and social media told me that due to delays people have been queuing up on platforms and that the platform was so full that Police were standing near the ticket gates and turning people away.

All most disturbing. I summoned up that crowd instinct nestled in all of us and made for the station. That instinct is one of many things. One, it subtly points our body in the direction we wish to go and the rest is handled by the crowd. Two, it scans the crowd to see possible options and three, it senses danger. Number Three shows the vulnerability of mankind. For all our talk about finding one’s true self and being what you are and all that, one flaming emotion in a large crowd is all it takes for a person to lose their identity to the crowd. It is enough to sway people. To push them from their standard norms of behavior, and thus behave in ways that most of them would not pride themselves in.

I have been in situations where the crowd turns nasty really quickly and they are not memories I set aside for bedtime tales. For instance, there was this boy who worked at the corner grocery store in Bangalore in those days. He had a shy smile that he flashed every time we bought something. One time, I caught him running after chicks and not making a single victory. (Not eve-teasing, this guy had bought some chicks that looked like miniature powder puffs in various colors and had, in an unguarded moment, let them all loose all at once. ).

chasing chicks

Of course, he had imagined himself being seen to better advantage in front of his customers, but there you are. Both of us laughed at that, I bought my packet of milk and was off. A few weeks later, I remember, some riots broke out (somebody had died or somebody said something about somebody’s death – it doesn’t matter), but this hitherto mildly affable boy was transformed. I was alarmed when I saw the slightly mad look in his eyes, when I was hoping to find friendly ones.

I was strangely aware of all this as I made my way through the streets expecting to be pushed out through the escalators back to the street again, only to find that the station was completely empty. My senses jerked. One lone policeman was leaning against the wall and dreaming of his next coffee, so he could have something to do. Some homeless folk were there using the warmth of the underground pathway, a musician whose musical talent seems somewhat misplaced in a subway station, and two dogs. Nothing else.

Say what you will about news channels and social networks – they can make the happiest person court tears in minutes with nothing but a shred of news. Maybe all this real-time-update frenzy has us expecting to be alive and aware in a place, without really being there. That day, I was enormously grateful that the trains had got back on track and got me home, that I had worried for nothing. There were delays, during the day to be fair, it was the milking on that was quite unnecessary.

But it made me think. In this day and age of sharing and over-sharing, are we aggrandizing the mundane? Or worse still paltering with the truth. What is truth when one is flooded by so many perceptions of it, fanned vigorously by viral social networks?

If this had happened, would it have made a difference to what the grocer boy did in a crowd?

chasing chicks social media
chasing chicks social media
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