Alcohol and Shit

I started drinking when I was 21, after I had graduated from IIT. To most, that might sound surprising, but it’s a fact. It wasn’t supposed to be that way – I had initially planned to make my alcohol debut in my last week at IIT, just before the final exams. However, I ended up falling sick and missed the occasion. It would be another two months and entry into another institute of national importance before I finally broke my duck.

There are several reasons that could possibly explain my delay in experimentation with alcohol (you read that right – despite ample opportunity I never even considered experimenting with alcohol at IIT). But thinking back at those days the most compelling one is shit. Yeah, you read that right. I delayed my experimentation with alcohol because I was afraid of what shit it would lead to. Literally.

In the middle of my first night at IIT, I ended up in hospital. Yes, you read that right. The first day had gone alright. My father had accompanied me and helped me set up my third of the room. I had opened a bank account, registered myself at the mess, and after my father left in the evening, went about exploring campus and venturing into other hostels to meet people I know (a cardinal mistake by an IIT “freshie” but somehow I escaped getting caught).

And then in the middle of the night it started. A few trips to the loo later I figured it was time to seek help (it’s not that I wasn’t prepared – my belongings included a sheet of Andial – reputed to put an instant stop to the toughest of shit. But I ended up puking it out that day). I woke up Paddy the Pradeep, who was the only person in my hostel I knew well. He called the institute hospital, which sent an ambulance, and I spent the rest of the night in the hospital, with some shots and on drips. The next morning I was fit enough to be attending the orientation ceremony.

As if this wasn’t enough, shit problems struck again a month down the line, this time during the first round of exams. To make matters worse, the hostel had water problems (always an issue in Chennai). And the institute hospital’s medications wouldn’t seem to help. It was a nightmare.

It was around then that my classmates had settled down in the institute and started experimenting in life. As they began their experimentation I began to notice, and be told stories of, some side effects. If you drank too much you would puke. If you drank too much, the next morning you would have a hangover. And it was only after you shat that the hangover would pass, i was told. It all sounded like so much of a nightmare to me, who was already scarred about any potential stomach problems. There was no way I was going to try something that would give me more shit.

It was after I moved to an institute with reasonably assured water supply that I started my experimentation. Experiments were mostly successful (except for occasional infringements like this and this and this ). Shit wasn’t so much of a problem at all, I realized. The experimentation, though delayed, had ultimately been successful.

It’s of late – perhaps in the last one year – that I’ve noticed a peculiar problem. Whenever I have a few rounds (few can be as few as one) of Vodka or Beer, it results in terrible shit the following day. You get the normal dump right in the morning. But the real bad shit comes out in two installments, usually one after breakfast and one after lunch. It’s really foul-smelling (normally you shouldn’t mind the smell of your own shit or fart, but this is exceptionally bad). It causes great pressure (which means you better stay not far from a toilet). And when it comes out it results in insane pleasure.

One interesting thing is that this happens only when i consume beer or vodka. It never happens with whisky (the kind of alcohol I most often imbibe) – not even with cheap IMFL whisky. With whisky I can drink copious amounts, get drunk, and carry on the next morning like I had fruit juice the previous night. But not with beer or vodka – does anyone have an explanation for this?

You might have guessed that the gritter for this post was certain events last night and this morning. That’s right. At a party last night I didn’t realize that they were serving whisky, too, and went for beer (UB Export Strong – also known as “Yaake Cool Drink”). Having started I had more rounds of it. And after breakfast this morning it’s started acting! If only I’d gone for the whisky!

Pot and cocaine

Methylphenidate, the drug I take to contain my ADHD, is supposed to be similar to cocaine. Overdosing on Methylphenidate, I’m told, produces the same effects on the mind that snorting cocaine would, because of which it is a tightly controlled drug. It is available only in two pharmacies in Bangalore, and they stamp your prescription with a “drugs issued” stamp before giving you the drugs.

Extrapolating, and referring to the model in my post on pot and ADHD, snorting cocaine increases the probability that two consecutive thoughts are connected, and that there is more coherence in your thought. However, going back to the same post, which was written in a pot-induced state of mind, pot actually pushes you in the other direction, and makes your thoughts less connected.

So essentially, pot and cocaine are extremely dissimilar drugs in the sense that they act in opposite directions! One increases the connectedness in your train of thought, while the other decreases it!

I’ve never imbibed cocaine, so this is not first-hand info, but I’ve noticed that alcohol when taken in heavy doses (which I never reach since I’m the designated driver most of the time) acts in the same direction of cocaine/methylphenidate – it increases the coherence in your thoughts. Now you know why junkies in your college would claim that the kind of “high” that pot gives is very different from the kind of high that alcohol gives.

The City Lacks Bars

Yeah you might think I’m crazy to be cribbing like this about Bangalore, supposed to be India’s pub city and all that jazz. But I stick to my statements. Yeah we might have lots of good pubs and lounges but we don’t have lots of good bars.

I was on my way to dinner at Fava at UB City this evening when I noticed the City Bar, and it struck me as to how few such bars there are in the city. Like places where you just go to the bar, get yourself a drink and literally hang around (around random small darshini-style tables) talking to people. I was reminded of my trips abroad, of places like London or New York which are so full of places like this one – where one just goes, buys a drink and hangs around.

My hypothesis of the shortage of such bars got some weight on our way out of Fava when we noticed how full the city bar was. It was like BTS bus 201 in peak hour – there wasn’t even any standing room!

Which makes me wonder why the culture of mid-to-high end standing bars hasn’t taken off in the city, especially considering our glorious tradition of darshinis and of standing bars at the lower segments (I hope you’ve noticed this – every “wine shop” literally doubles up as a standing bar, where people get stuff from the shop in a dirty glass, stand around and quickly gulp down. I must confess I’ve never drank at this kind of a bar).

Is it because the notion of a quick drink isn’t very well defined at the higher segments of our society? Is it because a “quick drink” is associated with the lower end of the spectrum and so the richer people don’t want to indulge in it? Could it be because of the exorbitant price of liquor licenses that makes it uneconomical to serve liquor cheaply enough to get enough crowds to sustain a standing bar? (most shady standing bars don’t have a bar licence; they run on wine shop licenses)

I must admit I’m a bit of a novice at this one (in terms of total quantity of alcohol consumed during my lifetime) but this really intrigues me. Why hasn’t the concept of higher end standing bars taken off in Bangalore? Has it taken off anywhere else in India at least? Again shady bars don’t count.

Booze and volatility

Another of those things I’ve been intending to write for a really long time. Occasionally when I’m not feeling too good mentally, people ask me to go have a drink telling me that everything will be alright. However, given my limited experience in this I’m not too confident it will work. In fact, the only one time I tried drowning my sorrows in alcohol (this was over four years ago) I ended up feeling significantly worse, worse enough to have not tried it since.

The thing with booze is that it increases the volatility of your state of mind. This means that it will flatten out the curve according to which your mental state moves. So after you’ve had a drink or few, you are unlikely to remain in the same state that you were in that you started off at. You end up feeling either significantly better or significantly worse – and the chances of both these go up tremendously when you drink.

I know I have been so far acting based on one data point that went adversely, but I don’t know what causes the selection bias in people who have been through both sides significantly! Of feeling much worse and feeling much better after having some drinks. Why is it that even though all of them would’ve been through significantly worse after drinking at some point of time or the other, they tend to forget about it and only think of the times when they’ve felt better?

Is it that whether you feel good or not is some kind of a binary payoff depending upon the level of the state of mind (basically state of mind < cutoff => “bad”; state of mind >= cutoff implies “good”)? If this is true, then whenever you are “out of the money” (feeling bad), you dont’ really care if you go even more out of the money – your overall feeling doesn’t change by much. And so you don’t really mind the cases when the alcohol starts making you feel significantly worse. But then the barrier is ahead of you so by increasing volatility, you are giving yourself a better chance of surmounting the barrier so drinking makes sense! But then under this condition it doesn’t make sense to drink at all when you’re already feeling good!

Are there any other reasons you can think of for this selection bias? Why do people give more benefits to positive movement in state of mind as a function of drinking than to negative movement in state of mind? Or is it that volatility is a non-intuitive concept and “there’s a better chance you’ll feel better if you drink” is a simple way of communicating it? And let me know your experience about drink making you feel worse..

Sweetie

I wrote this post last evening. Since I didn’t have broadband access then, I’m posting it only now. This was written on my blackberry, so excuse the typos. Also, blackberry meant that I was typing much slower than usual so this post will probably lack the sudden rush of thought that can be noticed in my other posts.

For the first time in my life I really ezperienced and enjoyed a sugar high today. I must say it was almost like being drunk, except for that it’s unlikely to scr3w my health and that I managed to drive fairly peacefully. It was a really wonderful feeling and though it’s unlikely to last as long as an alcohol high, I think it’s really worth it.

Now I was wondering about the reasons for my high today since the quantity of sweet I consumed today was nowhere close to peak consumption. Thinking about it, however, I realized it had everything to do with relative value and by that metric I’d eaten a lot today.

For the last three month, for health reasons, I’ve been competely off sweets. I don’t take sugar in my coffee. No sugar in fruit juice. Diet coke. No tea, since I can’t stomach it without sugar. Hardly any biscuits. Strictly no desserts, etc

Biologically speaking, the human body is favourably disposed towards sweets since sweets are extremely high in energy and in times when food was scarce (till 200 yrs back) it was a mechanism to make sure of getting the maximum possible energy. It can be argued that our instinctive love for sweets is a darwinian advantage. Since 200 yrs is too short for natural selection to act for humans, we still like sweets despite them not being good for us.

So the whole point of eating sweets on special occasions, I guess, is to give you that sugar high. And in times of less abundance when calorie consumption was low, eating the sweet would’ve been worth it for the sugar high alone, with taste being incidental.

So when you’re normally not used to consuming too muxh energy, as was the case with most people until 200 yrs ago, eating a sweet results in a sudden rush of energy to the brain. And this sudden extra rush, which is usually not accounted for by the body, gives the brain extra energy to do stuff. And hence you get what is called as ‘sugar high’. You suddenly become high energy. All the ned goes away. You want to do something to spend the energy stimulus. You get sudden enthu. You get high.

Unfortunately, given our high energy lifestyles, normal quantities of sweets are hardly enough to provide any sort of spike in energy flow to the brain, and hence don’t cause any high.  And thus the only thing we can enjoy from the sweets is the taste. The main advantage of sweets seems to have been lost, maybe forever.

I’m glad I’m on this diet. Apart from helping me in terms of general fitness and causing significant weight loss, it has also helped me appreciate sweets better. And experience the real high.

Here’s wishing all my blog readers a happy and prosperous deepAvaLi.

Three is a company, or Difficulty in maintaining bilateral conversation

How easy do you find it to reconnect with an old friend in a one-on-one meeting? How easy do you find it to sustain conversation beyond the first half an hour or so when you catch up on the lives of each other? Especially when you don’t have an external “stimulus” such as alcohol or sport or a movie?

It is incredible that it happens so frequently, and even with so-called really close friends. In fact, closeness of friendship may not even matter so much, as I’ve seen this happen with a large variety of people. You meet after a long time assuming you’ll talk the night away, and half an hour and pfff. Both of you run out of ideas, stare vaguely into your coffee cups, and make meaningless conversation about who has moved to which job.

The number of possible conversations grows quadratically with the number of people meeting up (or even at a higher order if you consider that strictly more than two people can stimulate conversation in a certain topic), which is why it is highly unlikely that in a group of three, you run out of ideas to talk about. And it gets better as the size of the group increases (though if it grows too large, it will split into sub-groups which maintain their own conversatiosn).

So where does louvvu fit into all this? After all, louvvu happens between a couple, and  a “catalyst” (a third person or a “woh”) is undesirable. Actually I suppose sustainability of conversation is one base case necessary (but not sufficient condition) to determine if louvvu are there. After all, if you can’t sustain conversation without a stimulus for half an hour, fat chance that you’ll be able to peacefully live in the same house for the rest of your lives.

The interesting thing in all this is that there are several people with whom I can sustain online conversation (GTalk etc.) for hours together but our conversation fizzles out when either on the phone or when we actually meet up. I think the deal is that in the former case you are multitasking so not all your energies are spent in the conversation. Also the other tasks that you are doing can give you ideas to further conversation.

Anecdotes from school: Copying In exams

A couple of not-so-hilarious incidents from our pre-board exams in 10th standards. It being election year (1998) we had 2 rounds of pre-boards instead of the usual one. The formation in the classroom was interesting – we sat normally two to a desk, and there were two sets of question papers. Since these were pre-boards and not boards, many of us didn’t really take them seriously. I must say that the entire set of exams was a riot. After all, it was the last thing that we did in that wonderful school (the school didn’t have 11th and 12th, so all of us had to shift out).

The biology section of the science exam contained a question on habit-forming substances. Something on the lines of “what are habit forming substances and why are they bad”. A certain mahaanubhaavva thought he didn’t know the answer. Or maybe he didn’t understand the question properly. So using a set of excellently-planned cheat codes, he managed to communicate to the guy in the next row (note that he couldn’t ask the person next to him since she had a different question paper) about this question.

The guy in the next row wasn’t such a stud in dumb-charades, and decided to use standard gestures rather than excellently-worked-out codes. He wanted to show booze in as intuitive way as possible. Putting his fist near his mouth, and with a clever movement of his thumb, he indicated drink. Sitting behind him, I thought this was excellent for someone not well-versed in Dumb Charades. Unfortunately, people well-versed in Dumb Charades tend to think too much. In went the answer paper “the primary habitat forming substance is water. It is bad because people and animals can fall and drown in it”. He must count himself lucky he got the hall ticket.

This incident has had far-reaching consequences. The mahaanubhaava who didn’t know the answer was so traumatised by the incident that he is yet to taste alcohol. He is afraid of drowning in it – that dreaded habitat forming substance.

****************

One day later was the social sciences paper. Unfortunately I wasn’t part of the Dumb Charades study group, so I hadn’t been introduced to the art of communicating the question number across the class. I realized that with my skills I was unable to even communicate across the aisle. I wasn’t even as good as the guy in front of me who put his fist to his mouth. So it had to be the cute girl next to me who had to help me out with the question that I didn’t have a clue of. If I remember right, she was partially trained in Dumb Charades.

What I didn’t realize was that you are not supposed to copy if you are seated in the first row – it is too easy to get caught. Moreover, if you are in one of the middle columns (like I was) you are in the direct line of vision of the invigilator. So it is never a good idea to copy. But then, I’d never copied in my life, and I knew this was the last opportunity for me to make amends. So what if I didn’t know the codes? So what if I was seated on the first row? So what if the cute girl next to me had a different set of questions? This was my last chance to profitably copy, and I had to take it.

I usually pride myself on being good at eye contact. I pride myself on the fact that I can communicate anything to someone of the opposite gender by just looking deeply into her eyes. I know that if I were to copy from a girl who was seated in FRONT of me, I could have done it with just eye contact. Unfortunately, the only person seated across me and looking towards me was the invigilator. Obviously I couldn’t ask her the answer?

The rules of copying state that it is always the dumber person who copies from the smarter person. The class topper never copies. If he were a copycat, his topping could never have been this sustainable. By knownig the two names, you can easily know who is the copier and who is the copied. Things always go by the rules. So if you try to invert  these rules, it is usually easy to fool the invigilator. And so forth.

So unlike the mahaanubhaava who hadn’t understood the question, I didn’t get caught for the attempt to copy. No one threatened to not give me my hall ticket – that honour went to the cute girl who had been sitting next to me. I didn’t do well in my social science pre-boards – I hadn’t been able to get the answer from the benchmate – she had got caught for copying from me before that. Despite now knowing the codes, and having zero experience in this department, I had played my cards well. I never repeated this experiment. Even if I wnated to, I think I’d’ve never found a counterparty.

Lazy Post – Search Phrases Leading To This Blog

this is yet another “lazy post”. One for which I don’t really need to do too much work. Harithekid recently brought out a list of search terms that have resulted in people hitting his blog. Looking through my google analytics statistics, I find quite a few funny/unusual phrases that have led to people reaching my blog, so I thought I should share it with you.

I don’t want to make this list too long, since some good stuff might get lost in that case. So if you think you reached my blog by searching for a phrase that you thought was interesting and you don’t find that in this list, my apologies. Maybe next time I’ll include the phrase that you searched for in order to land up here.

The top spot of course goes for “pertinent observations”. This is closely followed by people searching for “noenthuda”. Maybe because I’ve never put my real name anywhere on this site, there aren’t many searches for “karthik” either as a word or in combination with other words that lead up to here.

Ok so getting to the gems:

  1. “iit madras” + blog + girls
  2. bitchy logos
  3. broken engagement second thoughts
  4. gay in iimb
  5. how to avoid absent mind with south indian food
  6. how to make my husband stop consuming alcohol
  7. positive black relationships
  8. top reasons marriage engagements break in pakistan
  9. why don’t northies learn a new language
  10. does mckinsey employee non iits
  11. hypothesis for muslims are not terrorist
  12. bleeding hearts by nassim taleb reviews

So I think this is a good time to ask you how you stumbled across my blog. Did you reach here by way of searching for something unusual? Or did you find link to blog on someone else’s blog? Or is it through twitter? Or facebook? Or through a friend’s google reader shared items? Do leave a comment and let me know.