The Headache Machine

We all know that the use to which a particular technology can be put is only in your hands till such time that it becomes public. I wanted to find some weird uses of technology. This is what I love about the internet I tell you. Every time I want to find some weird examples, somebody has already helpfully written an article on it, leaving me to twiddle my thumbs and stand around. I love the one where the egg is fried on a hot laptop.

http://www.zdnet.com/weird-tech-12-geeky-uses-for-technology_p12-7000010007/#photo

Anyway, the product I am about to touch upon today is the FitbitFitbit might have modeled its products for a range of uses such as measuring activity, promoting a healthy lifestyle or a move to encourage active living. I don’t think they saw it as a Headache Machine.

A friend of mine who works with preschool and elementary school children on a regular basis got herself a Fitbit. All day long, the curious children wanted to know what it was, why it was used and were thrilled with the fact that every time they pressed the button, a number bigger than before came up. In a few hours, the situation was encompassing a wide spectrum of emotions such as :

* Competitiveness (It must be 500 more. Nope: she was not walking while drinking that cup of water. Want to bet? )

* Entitlement (She will show it to me whenever I ask. I am a good boy.)

* Pessimism (Maybe it is only 2000 steps now – she sat for sometime, so it should have reduced steps said the algorithmic expert)

* Altruism (I am tired but I can walk with it for you to increase your step count)

Headache machine
Headache machine

One particularly persistent child asked to see the device about 7 times every 15 minutes.  It was at the end of this long day that she told them all that it was a headache machine. The children looked at it in awe and shushed themselves. Reminds me of this article I read a while ago on the Fitbit.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/06/30/140630fa_fact_sedaris?currentPage=all

Sounds about right. A headache machine it is. Ever since I acquired one, I hold 10,000 steps as a holy grail. I don’t want to run because it records less strides for the same distance. I would rather sidle up to the daughter to get her to bring me the Fitbit from upstairs or invent a huge contraception to get me the Fitbit when I no longer have it, than to waste those steps in going to get it. Do unrecorded steps help in your statistics? No, they don’t! Yoga? Swimming? Cross-Fit? Don’t bother mentioning those forms of exercise that don’t count towards my step goals. The worst is when I am really tired and hit the bed and see 13689 on my fitbit. Just 311 steps more to make it a round 14000? Come on! I tell myself and off I go.

There are ways I could help myself I suppose, like not taking Fitbit with me, but what if I want to use it the next day? My weekly average numbers would take a toss.

What would really help is the calorie counter. The Fitbit helpfully counts the steps I take to forklift a load of <insert healthy or unhealthy snack here>, but does not tell me how much I ate? What it needs to do is detect the chomp rate and prorate the step counter accordingly. A headache for the company maybe ….

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Piscine Urges

When one walks into the home, one encounters, among other things, a large empty glass tank. Surrounding this monstrosity are objects of inane value, pens of dubious quality, forlorn candy wrappers missing their inhabitants and much more depending upon my energy levels at the end of the day for cleaning up. I like to think of the glass tank as the diverting pivotal point. With that on the center table as soon as you enter, there is no need to clean up around it, since it looks out-of-proportion and ugly anyway.

Piscine Bug
Piscine Bug

But, I am assured by the husband and daughter, that all that is about to change. That ugly glass tank will beg me to reconsider my opinion of it, for it is to be teeming with beautiful life soon.  “When you look into the tank, everything will be so nice and quiet, you will love it there.” (I asked them why the household cannot be nice and quiet now, but I was told that I talk too much.)

Pursuant to the budding marine biologist’s fervent requests, a fish tank made its way home one night and has been sitting there on the center table ever since. It occupied the dining table for some time, but one day, we needed the table to sit down and eat, can you believe it? So, now, it sits on the center table.

I tell you, life in the nourish-and-cherish household! If ever it shows signs of quietening down, we buckle down and take immediate action to rectify the matter.  Friends with fish-tanks have been contacted to find out the best kind of fish we need to have, research has been done on having  peaceful vs semi-aggressive fish tanks. The daughter can now talk smoothly about Molly fish and polyps, the number of gallons of water per fish, and water cleaning techniques.

Her maternal Grandfather has taught her well. You see, her grandfather, before making any purchase first makes it a point to fill the house with brochures on whatever-it-is he intends to buy. Then his wife(my mother) loses it and says she is going to throw everything out. It at this point in time that he goes and buys something for which he forgot to pick up a brochure. It is a process. If you peek into our car, you will find brochures telling you how best to set up your fish tank. These brochures are not only there in the car, but also on the kitchen counter, in the mailbox and on the center table. You may even find one in the refrigerator like I did. I suppose there is a section about maintaining the right temperature somewhere.

It has been 2 weeks since the tank came home.We are already cracking on the gravel. I will keep my readers posted on when the fish can come.

P.S.: The nourishncherish-fishtank process is not a true reflection of the energy in the house.

Let Children Play Outside

Please indulge me once more as I meander down the memory lane. After all, The business of life is the acquisition of memories.

The business of life is the acquisition of memories
The business of life is the acquisition of memories

Regular readers of my blog know that I grew up in a beautiful hill station surrounded by hills, forests, springs and tea estates. Obviously, I spent a good part of this time enjoying my life. I’ve tasted berries whose name I know not, played in the rain, walked through the fog not knowing whether I am heading for a cliff, I have walked and run so far away from home, but nature always guided me back to my home (well, mostly, folks who worked in my parents’ school and realized I was lost), drank water from fresh water springs, cycled on ‘bridges’ made of slender logs,  ran helter-skelter after spotting wild boars hiding in bushes.

Lovely Nature
Lovely Nature, Sweet Nature

Maybe, I could have died in a hundred different ways, but I also lived in a thousand beautifully different ways.

Which is why modern parenting makes me stop and think.  Do we structure our childrens’ time too much too soon to remove the true benefits of unstructured time? Are we over-protective? So many of the things this article spoke about resonated with me.

http://time.com/3005611/helicopter-parenting-chilhood-obesity/

I quote from the article:

But today, to keep our kids “safe,” we drive them back and forth to school. “Arrival” and “dismissal” have morphed into “drop-off” and “pick-up.” Kids are delivered like FedEx packages. About 1 in 10 use their legs to get to school.

Do we really need 599 cars dropping off 599 children in a school less than 5 miles from home every morning? What happened to biking, walking or taking a school bus to school? It is no wonder that obesity rates are spiking.

The fact that I don’t see residential neighborhoods filled with children playing on the street saddens me. The only way to change that is to open those doors and step outside. Let children play.

The Unaccustomed Ears

The grandparents have arrived and ever since the children have been clamoring over them leaving me high and dry. They sometimes look at me and give me fleeting, commiserating hugs as if to assure me that they have not forgotten me, and then fly back like butterflies attracted to nectar filled flowers. The grandparents, are of course, thrilled with this reception. The son thinks goes a step farther in making them both feel equally loved and addresses them together at all times: Grandfather-Grandmother. As in :

“Grandpa-Grandma, see this car!” 

“Grandpa-Grandma, I will show you my toys.” 

“Grandpa-Grandma, I am going to pee.” 

I saw all of this and did what any normal parent would do. I sneaked off for a longish hike with the husband one early Saturday morning leaving the butterflies, nectar etc. with Gpa-Gma. Got to make hay while the sun shines, what? Which seems to be a lot by the way. The hills near our place are dry and make for a brown water-starved eyesore. It usually is this way at this time of the year. Apparently, these hills made for some excellent cow-grazing pastures for the cattle years ago and all the forests were, well, deforested. As far as shortsighted planning goes, I think this is the classiest. For now: there is no cattle grazing up there. It is empty, parched grasslands eh hay lands with walking trails taking an insane amount of foot traffic for those wanting to burn off a few calories before that week-end sumptuous tuck-in after the week-long exercise-less tuck-ins that is. The Earth looks strangely unaccustomed to the onslaughts we continue upon it daily.

The Unaccustomed Earth
The Unaccustomed Earth

There is another thing one has to note in the nature of conv. between the h and self. If there is one word that truly describes it, it is FRAG.<Hey! No pouring water inside the bus!>.MEN.<Do you really want to fill up on chocolates now? Put them away – not on that sofa. Chocolate melts.>.TED. <What were you saying? Sorry, I got distracted>.

So, give us a few minutes in which complete sentences can be exchanged and we are like apes thrown in water. It is a skill lost. I suppose we can talk to other people without shouting out crazy things in between. The point is, after sometime we got our tongues rolling (mostly I got my tongue rolling.) The h. was strangely quiet and nodding. After a particularly longish sermon of about 23 minutes on deforestation and water-conservation etc, I looked at the husband smiling at me. I was pleased with the results of my talk. I asked him what he thought, and he said, “I think it may be because of the headphones I wear. I can’t hear anything. I think my ears are blocked again. I suppose I should get them cleaned. Couldn’t hear much of what you said.”

I suppose that is what most environmentalists must feel like. Or Unaccustomed Ears. Sigh!

P.S. A friend of mine had used the phrase ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ in a rather beautiful status update, and I have been stuck with the phrase in my head ever since.

The Holy Tunnel of Lint

I am a tad spirited in expressing the way we are consumed by technology these days. I look at videos that show us how we are all peering into our phones with a vehemence that is perhaps overdone and say ‘Ha! See? I told you so.” I may have been getting a little chatty of late about the topic. Of course, the wrong gadgets got offended with my unguarded statements. The tumble dryer that has been huffing and puffing along noisily but religiously in the background shuddered and refused to dry the clothes. It still chunked and bunked about, threw its weight around like it always does. It tried to remain the General in the laundry room, but there was no mistaking the fact that no drying was being done there.

The husband and I tried all the methods of repair we know without having to consult the vast Internet. That is to say, we reset the switches, gave resounding thumps on random areas of the dryer. We have seen mechanics do the same with astounding success, but our own thump quotients yield nothing. In fact, our oven got so offended with the Thump Technique, it refuses to acknowledge our presence anymore. “I Won’t Beep! Not EVEN If You Reset The Switch!” it said and turned its LEDs off with a spectacular flourish.

That is when the husband went you-tubing and found a whole lot of things that can happen to dryers. He went into the laundry room squeaking clean one Saturday morning accordingly and within minutes we saw a mountain of lint and the husband somewhere in there sounding like an astonished frog deep in a well and saying something like ‘Holy Moly! There is soooo much lint in here.”

“Do you want any help?” I asked peeking into the room with the toddler son in tow. He might have accepted my help, but he looked alarmed at the son’s expression. He looked gleeful at all the soft lint available for a variety of projects – there was a possibility of lint fireworks, lint flakes drifting in the room, lint piles for jumping in. The husband was quick to realize that the biggest help was probably no help at all. “NO! Just keep him away. I am fine!” said the martyr and went back to de-linting the machine.

If you are one of those folks who regularly move the refrigerator so the space under the fridge is clean, you can stop reading now, but for the rest of us, here is news. Apparently, the lint does not only accumulate in the lint filter (You know that narrow piece that says, “Please clear after use!” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothes_dryer#Lint_build-up_.28tumble_dryers.29). Apparently, the lint overflows into every inch of space the lint can find. It expands, it builds its regime. It cranks hard at tubes going out into the big bad world and it frightens rodents into leaving. It seems to me like Genghis Khan could take a lesson or two from Lint on empire building.

LLint Lint Everywhere Lint Near & Far
Lint Lint Everywhere
Lint Near & Far

A few hours in lint saw the husband emerge looking like he had been rattled by rabbits in a bag full of fur. He was clutching a large garbage bag full of lint, several portions of lint clung to his clothes, hair and feet. He looked a sorry mess. I felt a pang for the man and thought of inserting a bit of humor to the proceedings to lighten him up. “Have you been tunneling in lint?” I asked. I was shocked to hear my sarcasm was completely pointless for he was doing just that. “Yes…did you know that the tube that tunnels through the wall is filled with lint too? I got most of it out, but there is still some sticking to the pipes and I am heading out to the other side to extricate the remaining.”

I suppose this is often the case with technology. You never know which one will truly grow into epic proportions.Who knew The Vortex of Lint Terror or the Holy Tunnel of Lint would come from that small lint opening?

Thanks to the awesome skills of the Lint Remover, we are now wearing dry clothes again.