Saturday, March 14, 2015

I choose to live

What do you do when you feel yourself inching towards a viral infection or the flu? Or what do you do when you wake up one morning to a sore throat, congested nose and a flat voicebox? You fight... because of you don't, then you get caught in the grip of a runny nose, sticky hands, headaches, feeling hot and cold, painful ears, painful lung and a sluggish brain... in short a couple of days of pure misery. You're not completely down, but you are not completely alive either. You have to think harder to come to conclusions. You avoid going out cause it's cold. You isolate yourself from friends to avoid spreading the sickness. All you can think of all day is your warm cosy bed... but your bed has all the germs from last night which totally ruins the rosy picture you want. Your table is sticky. Your keyboard is sticky. It's a mess.... so yeah you fight.... and here are a  few pointers...
1. Drink lukewarm water till you get well. Don't boil it and don't drink it cold. Drink it lukewarm. Hot water is painful on your tongue and tastes horrible. It will make you want to puke and you will try to gulp down cold water instead. Which will be a relief for five seconds before you notice it's coldness hitting your raw painful throat. It will make the throat infection worse and you more miserable. Don't drink it no matter how much you have to push yourself to turn on the gas and warm up some water.
2. Use soft tissue paper. Regular paper towels are harsh and will give you rashes. The best thing is to buy a bag of toilet paper dedicated for your nose. Toilet paper is soft. Buying a bag means you won't have to worry about running out of tissue paper. And you won't use the same rag repeatedly on your nose which will just keep you in touch with the germs and hence sick. Using the same rag repeatedly also causes  you not to blow your nose enough which will cause the phlegm to accumulate in your head and chest. This will give you a headache and breathing problems. It will keep you sick for a longer period. Use tissue paper. Whenever you feel phlegm in your nose, blow your nose, and throw away the used tissue. If you use toilet paper, less will be wasted as you will tear only that much which is needed to blow your nose once. If you feel phlegm in your throat, go to the bathroom sink, look up at the ceiling. The phlegm will rise up your throat and into your mouth. Spit it out. Keep your nose and throat clean. It keeps your airway clear. Best, keep a carry bag in your room to throw away the used tissue. Once it's full, close it and dispose it. Put and new carry bag in your room.
3. Gargle every day. Boil a glass of water, mix a pinch of salt in it and gargle every day. This is to kill the germs in your throat and cure the infection. A doctor once told me that it cures 50% of the disease. You need to do this during the period when your throat is painful and sore. When the infection starts getting cured, your throat will get itchy and you will want to cough like an old person. Don't cough. Buy halls with honey flavor to sooth the itching and keep it in your mouth.
4. Keep your room clean. Wash your sheets regularly. Wipe your keyboard, table and other surfaces with CLOROX wipes or Dettol. Do your laundry every day. Open your windows for some time every day to get rid of the dank air.
5. If you went to the doctor, and got medicines, take them regularly on time without fail. Ask the doctor to give you a night dose that will make you sleep. If you are not well rested, then you will be sluggish and will not take good care of yourself which means a slower recovery. Nyquil might not always be enough. Also make sure to get a morning dose that doesn't make you sleepy. You want to be awake during the day. Else you won't do your regular work properly or take good care of yourself which again leads to slow recovery.
6. I also drink hot ginger tea to help my throat. If you can't do that,  that's okay. Just take the medicines.
7. Taking steam will also help fight the throat infection and help you heal faster. Do it once per day.
This must feel like waging a war. And you are waging a war... against a virus that will suspend your brain functions so that you are in a haze. You are just surviving. I'd rather be alert, awake and energized every moment of my life so that I can think and feel every moment. I choose to live... to really live. What about you?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I don't want guitar calluses

While going to the Chinese Parade, I was telling Tess about how my fingers hurt during Guitar practice. She said, "Oh yeah, you will get Guitar calluses." My mouth fell open. "What are Guitar calluses?" I asked. Tess responded, "Eventually you develop calluses from playing Guitar and your fingers become numb. You loose sensitivity." And I was like, "But I don't want to loose sensitivity in my fingers. I like my fingers the way they are." I immediately pulled out my phone and googled Guitar calluses. Most people said, "Live with it. It is the way it is. There's no way to avoid getting them." A few random posts suggested ways to lesson the calluses. And then I found a post from a person saying that he has been using a well fitted golf glove while playing Guitar and has never gotten calluses. So I googled Sports shops in the Chinatown area. After watching the parade, we walked to a couple of them and found golf gloves in City Sports. The gloves definitely dimmed the pain during practice, however, they increased the surface area of contact per finger. It was making me hit multiple strings at the same time. In the end, I just tossed the gloves off and practiced without them. I still don't want the calluses. Hopefully I will figure out a way soon.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Celebrating the Year of the Goat

Tess and I went to Chinatown area yesterday to watch the Chinese Parade that is held one week after the Chinese New Year. The procession started with a banner and boys walking with colorful flags.
They were followed by 3 dragons going from shop to shop and dancing. The dragons were followed by a motor-powered cart carrying the instrument players.  The purpose of the parade is to bless shops good luck for the coming year. The dragons would dance in front of each shop and sometimes even go in. Then firecrackers were burst in front of the shop and the dragons would move to the next one. I also saw a man wearing a costume although I couldn't understand his role.

To understand the ceremony better, I read up about it online. It was an interesting read. When the dragons visit a shop, the shopkeepers offer dragons oranges and a cabbage to consume to please them. The dragons accept the offerings, smash the cabbage in front of the shop to bring good luck for the shop and throw the oranges in the crowd. Whoever catches an orange is said to have a lucky year ahead. The firecrackers are meant to chase the bad spirits away.

The dragons also climbed on top of each other in the middle of the road. Small children gathered around them to watch the spectacle. It was a refreshing experience to see tradition in the midst of urbanness.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Stackoverflow... I finally get you

Stackoverflow and all its sisters are very frustrating to use. You have to earn the right to do anything except posting questions and answers. Yesterday I was discussing this with a colleague, Chris and he enlightened me why.

I was unhappy that I had to earn the right to add comments in order to ask follow up questions. Given a specific question and its answers (of which one is the accepted answer), I might have questions about the answers themselves. Or the answers could apply to the person who posed the question, but not to my situation. It is hard to provide an accurate and universal answer especially for any Engineering related question as Engineering problems tend to be complex. I could have questions about the question itself too. Some people tend not to be specific. Chris said that Stackoverflow discourages discussions. They want high quality questions and answers. An answer is considered high quality if it is accepted by the person who asked the question. Upvotes also help increase its credibility. Another reason to make people earn the right to comment is to avoid silly comments like '+1' and 'Thanks'. And to ensure that people are being fair while upvoting/downvoting questions and/or answers, the right to do so also has to be earned. You earn these privileges by increasing your reputation. And how do you increase your reputation? Simple, answer as many questions as possible and ask good questions. Your reputation increases with the upvotes you get for your questions and answers and decreases if you get any downvotes. The downside is the competition. Everyone wants a high reputation. So people answer questions aggressively. Chris said that he's frustrated every time he tries to answer a question and someone else answers that question just seconds before his answer. If the other answer gets accepted, then it's a waste of effort to have answered the question. The accepted answer tends to get upvotes.

Chris said that despite all of this, it is still possible to have discussions on a topic. Stackoverflow and all its Stackexchange sister sites have meta communities just meant for discussions. That is exciting news for me because I want to be free to ask as many questions as necessary to understand concepts. He said that another way to deal with follow up questions is to ask another question and describe it clearly enough to distinguish it from the initial question. He explained that this also improves the Search Engine Optimization for that particular topic as users would get all 20 questions related to it and any one of them could apply to their situation. Comparatively, it's harder to find things if related questions are hidden in follow up comments to a question. 

After a long discussion with Chris, I understood Stackoverflow much better. They want to have responsible users - people who contribute by answering other people's questions, not just by asking questions. Their vision is a high-quality reference on every topic created and maintained by the same people who use it.