More on Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion are words that are normally thrown around by people of a certain persuasion. In fact, they were among the key principles espoused by one of my earlier employers as well (to their credit, some of their diversity and inclusion sessions did a lot of help broaden my worldview).

However, as I’ve argued earlier on this blog, in a lot of cases, arguments on diversity and inclusion are (literally) only skin deep – people go big on diversity of sex, sexuality, skin colour, nationality and so on while giving short shrift to things like diversity of thought, which in my opinion plays a larger role in building a more successful team.

I’ve also mentioned earlier on this blog about how some simple acts of inclusion can go a long way – for example, I’d mentioned about how building a pedestrian walkway, or pedestrian crossing with signals, would help make one of the roads in Bangalore more inclusive towards pedestrians (a class of people the usual proponents of diversity and inclusion don’t care about).

I was reminded of diversity and inclusion when the recent hoopla about messaging apps happened. A number of my contacts said they were leaving WhatsApp and moving to Telegram or Signal. Others said they weren’t going anywhere and were sticking to WhatsApp, and that Facebook’s new privacy rules were nothing new.

From my personal point of view, since I didn’t have a view on this messaging apps issue, the best solution turned out to be “inclusion”.

I’m on all apps. I’m on Signal, and Telegram, and WhatsApp, and iMessage, and good old SMS. However you choose to reach me, I’m there to receive your message and respond to you. In that sense, when you don’t have a strong opinion, the best thing to do is to be inclusive.

Of late I’ve realised it’s the same with language. Since I now work for a company that is headquartered in Gurgaon, a number of colleagues instinctively speak in Hindi. Initially I used to be a bit snobbish, and tell them that my Hindi sucked, and when they spoke Hindi, I would reply in English.

Over time, however, I’ve realised that I’m only being an asshole by refusing to be inclusive. Since I know Hindi (I got more marks in Hindi in Class 10 board exams than I did in English – not that that says anything), I should let the people decide whether I’m worth talking to in Hindi at all. I’ll talk to them in my broken Hindi, and if they think it’s too broken they can choose to switch to a language I’m more comfortable in.

And a week ago, Pranay and Saurabh of the Puliyabaazi podcast asked me if I’m willing to go on their (Hindi) podcast to talk about logical fallacies and “how not to use data”. I immediately accepted, not only because it’s a great podcast to be on (they’re fun to talk to), but it also gives me an opportunity to show off my broken Hindi.

The episode dropped on Thursday. You can listen to it here:

I realised while I was recording that my Hindi has become really rusty, and I found myself struggling for words many times. I also realised after the episode dropped that I don’t even understand what the title means, yet I’ve been happily sharing it around in my office! (a colleague kept asking me if I knew this word and that word, and I realised the answer to all that was no. Yet I had made assumptions and gone on with the podcast – another example of my own “inclusiveness”!)

Henceforth I’m never telling a colleague that I don’t know Hindi. However, if I find that someone overestimates my level of Hindi I might inflict this podcast on them. Even then, if they choose to speak to me in Hindi, so be it! I’m going to make an attempt to be more inclusive, after all.

 

The Law is an Ape

I’ve always known that I have long arms relative to the size of the rest of my body. I think I discovered this sometime in the late 90s, around the time I both stopped growing vertically and started wearing full arm shirts. I remember being forced to buy shirts one size too large for my shoulders because otherwise the sleeves wouldn’t reach all the way down.

My father had the same problem as well, and so he wore shirts one size too large as well. Over time, I managed to find brands that fit both my shoulders and my arms properly (the Aditya Birla stable is good for this -Loius Phillippe, Van Heusen, etc. Arrow never fits me). And then I took to getting my formal shirts tailored. Last year I bought a bunch at Gap, after I found that they fit me well.

Only recently, while I was trying to analyse my performances at the gym, that I realised that my long arms might be affecting stuff apart from my attire as well. For the longest time now, I’ve been trying to learn to power clean, and have never quite managed it.

The power clean involves, among other things, holding the bar with your arms outstretched where it touches the fold in your waist (where your torso meets your groin). The idea is that as you pull the bar up past your thighs, you make it touch the fold in your waist while performing a “triple extension” and jumping, and that will power the bar up.

And I recently discovered that I can’t make my bar touch the fold of my waist unless I hold it really really wide, like you do for a snatch. “Maybe I have long arms”, I thought, and then remembered my troubles with buying shirts.

And then I started wondering if I could quantify if I actually had long arms. Looked around a little and found that there is the concept of the “wing span” or “arm span“. I figured how to measure it, and got my wife to measure it for me. It’s 192 cm. My height is between 179 and 180 cm. This means my arm span is 12-13 cm, or nearly 5 inches longer than my height.

Most humans have their arm spans about the same as their height, or just a little longer. According to this article, my long arms mean that I could have been an elite basketball player or a swimmer, since these sports are good for people with long arms. That perhaps explains why I was a decent defender in basketball in school, though I was among the least athletic people you could find.

I kept looking, and reading articles. I thought of myself as being “the Law” (long arms, get it?). And then I came across this measure where rather than subtracting your height from your arm span, you take the ratio. The ratio of your arm span to your height is called “ape index“.

Most humans have an ape index close to 1. NBA players have an average ape index of 1.06. My ape index is higher than 1.07. Shortly after she had measured my arm span, I told my wife about this. “Well, I always knew you were an ape”, she said.

So yes, for my height I have really long arms. This means I find it hard to buy shirts that fit me. This also means I find it relatively easier to deadlift. Long arms also mean that I find movements where I have to lock out my hands upwards, like the bench press or the overhead press, really difficult. Maybe this explains why I have piddly bench and overhead numbers compared to my squat or deadlift? Long arms also make it harder to do pull ups, which possibly explains why completed my first ever pull up in life at 37.

You could think I am the law. You could also think I am an ape. Or maybe, the law is an ape?

Why I quit public policy

This is yet another of those posts that elaborates something I’ve put on twitter.

I remember getting interested in public policy sometime in 2005. I think that was around the time when I stopped solely talking about gossip (and random “life issues”) on this blog, and started commenting about random “issues” here.

That was also the time when Madman Aadisht introduced me to his blog circle that he called the “libertarian cartel”. Reading blogposts by this cartel (included the likes of Ravikiran Rao, Amit Varma, Gaurav Sabnis (who was once a libertarian), Nitin Pai, etc.), I was hooked. I too wanted in on this “libertarian cartel”.

Soon enough, I started work and did one project that involved the study of some economic reforms. I soon quit that job but wrote about this, and other issues. I started getting into the “econ blogosphere”. Between the libertarian cartel, the opinion pages of the Business Standard (back when TN Ninan was the editor) and “econ blogs” (the likes of Marginal Revolution and EconLog), I got deeply interested in “policy issues”. And I thought I wanted to do public policy.

Of course, what public policy pays is nothing comparable to what post-MBA jobs pay, so I never explored it seriously as a career. I kept moving from one highly paid job to another, though I kept writing about “policy issues” on this blog, and then on Twitter (when I opened an account there in 2008). I even wrote on the “Indian Economy Blog”. And while the libertarian cartel never admitted me as a member, when they did form a mailing list, I got invited to join it soon enough (thanks to Aadisht once again).

“Policy work”, or “policy blogging” (which might be a more accurate term), in the late noughties was enjoyable because most people (at least those I bothered to read) were issue driven. So you had the aforementioned libertarians who analysed issues through a libertarian lens. You had leftists like the Jagadguru Krish and “Jihvaa”.  You had right wingers like SandeepWeb. Each class largely evaluated each issue based on their own philosophies, and commented about them. People avoided being partisan.

And so, in 2011, when I quit full time employment and decided to lead a portfolio life, I decided that public policy should be part of my portfolio. And the Takshashila Institution was kind enough to appoint me as its “resident quant” (for the most part, there were no formal responsibilities for the role and I wasn’t paid. However, we mutually enjoyed it, I would like to think).

That was a fantastic opportunity. I didn’t have to commit that much time, but got the optionality to participate in a large number of fairly interesting discussions with fairly interesting people. I did some work here and there, doing some research and teaching and course designing and lecturing, and it was most enjoyable. More enjoyable, of course, was the set of people I met through this assignment.

Somewhere down the line, maybe in 2015 or 2016 (or maybe even earlier), things changed. Basically policy became partisan. Out went the libertarians and totalitarians and right wingers and left wingers. In came the “Congressis” and “bhakts”, and republicans and democrats.

Output of policy analysis everywhere, except in academic journals (which I can’t comment on since I don’t bother reading them), became a function of the author’s political preferences. One year, an author might be favourable to the BJP and everything he/she wrote would nicely tally with the BJP’s view of the world. And then maybe the author would change political preferences, and there was a 180 degree turn on most issues!

On twitter, on mainstream media, on blogs, even on Instagram – “policy analysis” became rather predictable. Once you knew a person’s political preferences and leanings, it became clear what their view on any topic would be – it was identical to the view of their chosen party at that point in time. This partisanship meant there was “no information content” in any of this writing.

And that is how I started getting disillusioned. And the disillusionment grew over time, until a point when I started actively avoiding policy discussions (I’ve even muted the word “policy” on twitter).

I’m happy living my life, and doing my work, and earning my money, and paying my taxes. In the spirit of 2020, I’ll “leave public policy to the experts”.

Ending on a high

Now that I have a “proper job” I don’t get that much of an opportunity to post during the week. So I might dump “ideas gathered during the week” each weekend. Hopefully quality won’t suffer. Also, I should add that all opinions here are my own and don’t reflect that of any organisation(s) I’m associated with. 

My lifting had suffered massively during the lockdown. In the first week of March, just before the lockdown had hit, I had managed all-time personal bests in front squat, back squat and bench press. And then the gym shut for six months.

Both physical and mental health suffered. Physical because I wasn’t lifting, and so wasn’t burning as much calories as I used to, and so I lost muscle, and put on fat, and triglycerides and other things.

Mental because I wasn’t lifting, so I wasn’t sure any more what or how much I could eat. I would be anxious about every little thing I ate, or didn’t eat (after considering eating). All the mental models I had built up over time of what is good or bad for me went for a toss, meaning I had to make decisions on the fly. And that wasn’t easy at all.

So when the gym reopened in the middle of August, I was among the first to get back. Yes, the risk of catching the disease of 2020 was there, but that got counterbalanced by the prospect of vastly improved physical and mental health.

I restarted slowly, at about half the weights I had left off at in March. I had expected it to take a year to reach my previous highs. The guy who runs the gym thought it will take a couple of months. He had the better prediction – in the beginning of November I managed to deadlift twice my body weight (I had done that once before, in September 2019, but for post-lockdown, this was a massive high).

And then things went for a toss. Maybe I started going to the gym too often. Maybe I started sleeping too little. Maybe the diet I went on (after the elevated levels of triglycerides in my blood got confirmed due to a blood test) ended up reducing my strength.

The following week, I attempted 5 kg above twice my body weight. Failure. A week later (I do “normal deadlifts” once a week, and “sumo deadlifts” once a week), I tried 2X my body weight again. Failure again. And yet again. And three continuous weeks of failure was a bit too much to take. And it didn’t help that in my usual program, the deadlift is the last exercise before I wind up. Irrespective of how much I had lifted before, ending the workout with a failure wasn’t a great thing to do.

A T-shirt I bought recently

And so this week, I decided to reverse course. I still continued with the deadlift as my last lift of the day, but gave myself enough time for it (by changing my workout schedule) that there was time to “end on a high”.

So on Tuesday, I tried 2X my body weight once again. Failure. However, my schedule meant that I had time left over. I removed 5 kg, and tried again. Failure again. I wasn’t going to be done. I took off another 10kg and attempted again, and managed to complete 3 reps. I was done for the day.

It happened once again with the sumo deadlift yesterday, and with the overhead press three days back – giving myself more time meant that I had the time to scale back upon the end of my unsuccessful lift, and finish the day on a high, even if it is a lower high than what I wanted to end on before I started my workout.

Oh, and I should mention that in the last week, I’ve managed to hit all time personal bests (including pre-lockdown) in front squat, sumo deadlift and bench press. I think the “ending on a high” philosophy, combined with giving myself more time, have something to do with it.

PS: Ending on a failure, apart from ruining the rest of that day, also makes you more apprehensive the next time you want to lift, and might lead you to lift less than your potential next time.

Proper Job

For the first time in over nine years, I’m taking up one of these.

If someone, sometime, were to do a compendium of stories of people whose careers changed because of covid-19, then I might feature in it. To be very honest, my present career change had been in the works for a while now. However, a bunch of things that covid-19 forced upon me this year made it that much easier to take the plunge.

As the more perceptive of you might have observed by now, I quit full time employment to embark on a “portfolio life” in late 2011. Apart from getting control over my own time, this change allowed me to do a lot of interesting things apart from my “core work”, which I took on such that most of the work I did was things I was good at or interested in.

So over the last nine years, apart from doing a lot of very interesting consulting work around data and analytics and AI and ML and “data science” and all that, I did a lot of interesting stuff otherwise as well. I wrote a book. I wrote a column for Mint. I taught at IIMB. I did public policy work for Takshashila.

I met lots of people and had loads of interesting discussions. There were times, yes, when I went into every meeting or catchup with a “sales mindset”, trying to sell something to someone. Thankfully these times were infrequent, and short. At all other times, I enjoyed all these random catchups, without any expectation  that anything come out of it.

My network expanded like crazy during these years. For the first time in my life, I came to be known for something apart from entrance exams. I spent time living in other places. I “followed my wife” when she first went to Barcelona, and then to London. It was all smooth.

In any case, you might be wondering how the pandemic resulted in my transition to employment being easier. The main way in which it has eased this transition is by ruining my carefully constructed lifestyle of the last nine years.

I’ve loved going around and meeting people. On an average, I would meet two to three people a week, for things completely unrelated to work. That has come down to nearly zero in the last nine months.

I had grown used to having massive control of my time and schedule. The prolonged school shutdown has completely sent it for a toss, with shared childcare responsibilities. “If I don’t have control over my time any ways, I might as well take up a job”, went one line of my reasoning.

I sometimes think I have a fear of open offices (I’ve felt this even during my consulting times when some clients have asked me to do “face time” in their offices). I hate having other people looking at my screen when I’m working. Maybe it has to do with some bad bosses / colleagues I’ve had over the years. The pandemic means I start working from the comfort of my home. And by the time I go to an office I will have hopefully settled down in this job.

And speaking of offices, the pandemic has normalised remote or hybrid working to an extent that I applied to jobs without having the constraint that they necessarily need to have an office in Central Bangalore. The company I’m joining – I’m not sure I would have thought of them in a “normal job search”. As it happens, while they’re not primarily based here, they do have a small office not far from Central Bangalore, and I’ll be going there once it reopens.

Then, thanks to the pandemic, I have successfully concluded my jobhunt without stepping out of home. All interviews, with a big range of companies, happened through video conferencing. In terms of my personal experience, Zoom >> Teams >> Meet.

But yeah, the biggest impact of the pandemic has  been on my lifestyle. So many things that I craved, and took as given, have been taken away from my life, that changing lifestyle seems to have become far easier than I had imagined. It’s like the tube strike model. I got shaken out of my earlier local optimum, and that has enabled me to convince myself that this new lifestyle will work.

In any case, I hope this works out. Just before joining, I feel positive, and excited in a good way.

Oh, and I guess I need to add here, and maybe at the beginning of every subsequent post.

All opinions expressed here on this blog are mine, and only mine. They don’t reflect the thoughts or opinions or positions of any organisation(s) that I might be associated with. Also, none of what I write on this blog is to be taken as investment advice. 

 

Ten pertinent observations, ten years later

It’s been ten years since this happened:

So we spent the morning watching our wedding video (yes, you might think wedding videos are useless, but they do come in useful once in a while, so you better get them taken) with our daughter. Here are ten pertinent observations about our wedding after watching this video, in no particular order.

  1. The whole thing seems way too long drawn out (the official wedding itself lasted seven sessions, or three days and a half). I remember being incredibly tired and stressed out by the end of it. A lot of things we did seem rather meaningless, in hindsight, as well.

    Given a choice now, I’d do it in a registrar’s office, followed by a party.

  2. For our reception, my niece, who was then barely a teenager, was wearing a “cold shoulder” dress. I had no clue that cold shoulder tops/dresses were already a thing in India in 2010, or that it had already gotten popular with teenagers.
  3. We had invited lots of people. It was absolute chaos at our wedding, especially since it was on a Sunday morning. Guests at the wedding included aunt’s school friends, my grandfather’s cousins (some of whom I didn’t know at all), the priest at a temple near my wife’s house, the bhelpuri guy with a cart down the road from my wife’s house, parents of a friend I’d long lost touch with, the  guy who supplies coffee powder to my in-laws, etc. Now you know why Indian weddings (pre covid-19, at least) are big and fat.
  4. Some of the guests whom neither of us know well – we have over the years tagged them by the gift they gave us at the wedding. “This is my dad’s cousin who gave us that clock”, or “this is the family that gave the plate”, etc. Sometimes we think that if we don’t know the hosts well, what gifts we give doesn’t matter. Not always true.

    On the other hand, you don’t remember the gifts that people close to you gave you. Your relationship with them goes far beyond a wedding gift.

  5. The funniest part of reception photos is when groups get mixed together. Given that we had long lines (see 3 above), taking a photo with just one guest was a sort of waste of time. So in some cases, people were arbitrarily (based on their position in line) clubbed together for photos. It’s fun to see these combinations, in hindsight.
  6. The only way we know that someone attended our wedding is if they gave us a gift (they’re all tabulated in a diary), or if they came up on stage (braving the crowds) to wish us during the wedding or the reception. So if you think that your “presence is itself a present”, then you need to make sure that you clearly register your presence.

    The evening of my wedding, I saw two emails, from friends saying “I was there at your wedding. I’m not sure if you saw me”. Smartphones weren’t a thing in 2010, but if you’re going to do this now, you better attach a selfie as well.

  7. There’s a reason I’ve put a picture from our wedding, and not from our reception, as part of this post. We both look absolutely atrocious at our reception. Both heavily over-made-up. Every time we look at our reception photos, we end up laughing loudly at each other.
  8. I’ve worn my wedding suit only once in the last 10 years – for my wife’s MBA graduation. My wife hasn’t worn her reception sari even once after the wedding (I had completed my MBA before we got married). At the time we bought them, they were our costliest ever suit and costliest ever sari respectively.
  9. It’s fun to watch these photos and videos to see how some people have changed over the years. A lot of people have visibly gotten older in the last 10 years. Many others look exactly the same. And some people actually look younger now than they did at our wedding (maybe a function of fitness?).

    The funnest to look at are those who were kids at the time of our wedding, but who are adults now. And those who had hair at the time of our wedding, and don’t now.

  10. Over the years, the influence of Bollywood has meant that South Indian weddings have borrowed a lot from North Indian weddings. Like mehndi is a common thing in South Indian weddings now. Maybe shoe hiding as well. However, we’re extremely proud of the one thing we “imported”, and which not too many others have done (even ten years down the line).

    On the eve of our wedding, at the wedding hall itself, we had a dance party. Yes, really. We had a DJ. No choreography nonsense. Just a good old post-dinner dance party. Among other things, we got to see a side of some relatives that we hadn’t otherwise seen. It was great fun overall.

 

Number fourteen

I killed another rat this morning. The fourteenth of my life. This came six years after my thirteenth. And it was also the hardest, forcing me to take the help of “unnatural support” to trap and kill it.

Unfortunately this was the best picture we could get, since I had decided to close the sticky mat after killing the rat on it

I first noticed the rat on Monday night when I was talking to a friend. I had stepped out of the bedroom to take the call, and we were barely done with pleasantaries when I said, “shit, there is a rat in my house”. “Oops, do you need to go? Are you scared?”, he asked. “Not scared, but I need to kill it”, I said, and ran.

As it happened, I was wearing my AirPods, and I ended up running too far away from my phone, and the call got cut. I had seen the rat going under the dining table, and then into the kitchen. By the time I fetched a stick broom (the one usually used to sweep outdoors – they are excellent for killing rats – see my left hand in the picture above), the rat had disappeared.

The fundamental principle of killing rats is to isolate it in one room, that is preferably “open” (without too many nooks and corners where it can hide). Our living room in this house is especially unsuited for this purpose since it has too many orifices, and many of these orifices can’t be shut.

In any case, I saw the rat hiding inside the back of the refrigerator. The idea was to move the refrigerator and whack it as soon as it ran out. Unfortunately, with my reflexes not being what they used to be, I wasn’t able to whack it adequately and the rat ran into my daughter’s room (she doesn’t sleep there yet).

This was both a good and a bad thing. The good thing was that the rat could be isolated inside this room. The bad thing was that there are too many things in this room, making it impossible to trap a rat there. I tried anyway, with a broom and a stick, for twenty minutes before giving up and calling back my friend.

Yesterday was an attritional battle. We woke up to the sight of the rat having tried to gnaw at the room door. It was nowhere to be found, though. I went to a nearby shop and got some rat poison (in the form of “cakes”), and for good measure also got a rat sticky board.

Representative image of a rat glue trap

I left some old potato chips in the middle of this pad, and spread the poison cakes throughout the room. Every two or three hours through yesterday I kept going in to check if the rat had eaten the cakes or otherwise been trapped. There was no luck.

This morning there was evidence once again that the rat had tried to gnaw the bottom of the room door. It was time for more proactive measures. The first step was to empty out the room. The amount of stuff (toys, dolls, games, etc.) that my daughter has is insane. Having made a mental note to “Marie Kondo her stuff” later today, I went on to finding the rat.

Despite mostly emptying the room, the rat was nowhere to be found. This reminded me of computer programming. Sometimes you know there is a bug, but you just aren’t able to find it. Finally, after more than an hour of search, I found that the rat had made itself cosy in the window curtains.

In computer programming, once you’ve found a bug, fixing it is relatively easy. With physical rodents, it’s not so straightforward. The rat started giving me a hard time.

Out (of the room) came the curtains. Out (of the room) came these boxes in which my daughter stores her toys. It was to no avail, as the rat cleverly used the mattress as a shield (irrespective of how I placed the mattress – horizontal / vertical / whatever). Finally, having made sure that the rat wasn’t in the mattress, that was pushed out of the room as well.

In general, catching a rat needs two people. One person prods from one side and the other person whacks from the other. My first ever experience of killing a rat (it’s counted in the 14) came as an assistant to my father, who had handed me a cricket bat when a rat had dared to come to our bathroom.

On subsequent occasions, I’ve used my aunt, my aunt’s housekeeper, my mother-in-law and others as my assistants. Today, there was no such help coming. My wife was too scared, and she had convinced the daughter as well that rats can be scary, so I was left to my own devices.

And it was my devices – one that I had purchased yesterday, to be precise – that came of use. I had noticed that the rat kept running under a chest of drawers every time I attacked it. So I strategically left the sticky mat under the chest of drawers, and kept chasing the rat under it. And one time, it stuck.

A couple of whacks with the broom finished it off. “Fourteen”, I shouted. I admit I sort of “cheated”, by using “unnatural aids” (the sticky mat) in this process. In my defence, I didn’t have any human support so was forced to use this.

Start the game already!

Join a boss or join a company?

“You don’t quit your job. You quit your boss”.

Versions of this keep popping up on my LinkedIn with amazing regularity. People have told me this in a non-ironic way in personal conversations as well, so I assume that it is true.

And now that I’m back in the job market, I’ve been thinking of a corollary to this – basically, if you apply “backward induction” to the above statement, then it essentially means that you “join a boss” rather than “join a company”?

I mean – if the boss is the reason why you quit a particular job, then shouldn’t you be thinking about this at the time when you’re joining as well? And so, while you’re interviewing and having these conversations, shouldn’t you be on the lookout for potential bad bosses as well?

In that sense, as I go through my hunt, I’ve been evaluating companies not just on the basis of what they do and what they might expect me to do, but also on the basis of what I feel about the people I talk to. In some places, I have an idea on who I could potentially report to, and in some I don’t. However, I treat pretty much everyone I talk to as people I have to potentially report to or work with at some point of time or the other, and evaluate the company based on these conversations.

Sometimes I think this might be too conservative, but at other times I think that this conservatism now is worth any potential trouble later.

What do you think about this approach?

Upgrade effect in action

So the workflow goes like this. Sometime a week to 10 days back, I read about the “upgrade effect“. It has to do with why people upgrade their iPhones every 1-2 years even though an iPhone is designed to last much longer (mine is 5 years old and going strong).

The theory is that once you know an “exciting upgrade” is available, you start becoming careless with your device. And then when the device suffers a small amount of damage, you seize the chance to upgrade.

I’m typing this on a MacBook Pro that is 6 years old. It is one of the last “old Macbooks” with the “good keyboard” (the one with keys that travel. I’ve forgotten if this is “butterfly” or “scissor”).

With consistently bad feedback about the other keyboard (the one where keys didn’t travel), I was very concerned about having to replace my Mac. And so I took extra good care of it. Though, this is what the keyboard has come to look like.

Last year I dropped a cup of milk tea on it, and panicked. Two days of drying it out helped, and the computer continued to work as it did (though around the same time the battery life dropped). Last year Apple reintroduced the old keyboard (with keys that travel), and I made a mental note to get a new laptop presently.

However, with this year having been locked down, battery life has ceased to be a problem for me (I don’t have to work in cafes or other places without charging points any more). And so I have soldiered on with my old Mac. And I’ve continued to be happy with it (I continue to be happy with my iPhone 6S as well).

And then on Wednesday I saw the announcement of the new M1 chip in the new Macbook Pro, with much enhanced battery and performance. I got really excited and thought this is a good time to upgrade my computer. And that I will “presently do it”.

I don’t know if I had the article about the “upgrade effect” but the same afternoon, sitting with my laptop on my lap and watching TV at the same time, I dropped it (I forget how exactly that happened. I was juggling multiple things and my daughter, and the computer dropped). I dropped it right on the screen.

Immediately it seemed fine. However, since yesterday, some black bands have appeared on the screen. Thankfully this is at one edge so it doesn’t affect “regular work”  (though last 3-4 months I’ve been using an external monitor at home). Yet, now I have a good reason to replace my laptop sooner than usual..

Based on the reviews so far (all of them have come before the actual hardware has shipped), I’m excited about finally upgrading my Mac. And this computer will then get donated to my daughter (she has figured out to type even on a keyboard that looks like the above).

I hadn’t imagined that soon after learning about the “upgrade effect” I would fall for it. Woresht.

Is handwriting hereditary?

I don’t know the answer to that question. However, I have a theory on how handwriting passes on down the generations.

So my daughter goes to a montessori. There they don’t teach them to read and write at a very early age (I could read by the time I was 2.5, but she learnt to read only recently, when she was nearing 4). And there is a structured process to recognising letters (or “sounds” as they call them) and to be able to draw them.

There are these sandpaper letters that the school has, and children are encouraged to “trace” them, using two fingers, so they know how the letters “flow”. And then this tracing helps first in identifying the sounds, and later writing them.

With school having been washed out pretty much all of this year, we have been starved of these resources. Instead, over a 2 hour Zoom call one Saturday in July, the teachers helped parents make “sound cards” by writing using a marker on handmade paper (another feature of Montessori is the introduction of cursive sounds at a young age. Children learn to write cursive before they learn to write print, if at all).

So when Berry has to learn how a particular sound is to be written, it is these cards that I have written that she has to turn to (she knows that different fonts exist in terms of reading, but that she should write in cursive when writing). She essentially traces the sounds that I have written with two fingers.

And then in the next step, I write the sounds on a slate (apparently it’s important to do this before graduating to pencil), and then she uses a different coloured chalk and traces over them. Once again she effectively traces my handwriting. Then earlier this week, during a “parent and child zoom class” organised by her school, she wanted to write a word and wasn’t able to write the full word in cursive and asked for my help. I held her hand and made her write it. My handwriting again!

Now that I realise why she seems to be getting influenced by my handwriting, I should maybe hand over full responsibility of teaching writing to the wife, whose handwriting is far superior to mine.

The trigger for this post was my opening of a notebook in which I had made notes during a meeting earlier this week (I usually use the notes app on the computer but had made an exception). Two things struck me before I started reading my notes – that my handwriting is similar to my father’s, and my handwriting is horrible (easily much worse than my father’s). And then I was reminded of earlier this week when I held my daughter’s hand and made her write.

This is how handwriting runs in the family.