Excursions by Amit Gawande

I intend to blog on each day during the month of November — and as a challenge, I wanted that post to be a flash fiction series. So I am writing a section every day as a response to the mbnov prompts. The posts tagged so are part of the larger story, do read along here.

Mon, Nov 4, 2019 thoughts

You don’t always have to be mean to others, Roy”. It was only a couple of weeks back when his fight with Mary got too heated. And nothing has been the same since. Even today he doesn’t remember what exactly happened that day. And even today Mary’s nowhere to be found. #mbnov

Mon, Nov 4, 2019 flashfiction prompt

Roy’s Abode is not fancy,” he was known to assert, but it’s lively.” For a place that he occupied alone since Mary left him forever, it felt uncharacteristically lively even to him. The aura made Roy restless. A sudden, but gentle puff nudged the door closed behind him. #mbnov

Sun, Nov 3, 2019 flashfiction prompt

He gawked at the unshut door. Was it his fuzzy memory playing games with him again? Wasn’t it only today that he’d locked his home? He stressed his mind to limits, but couldn’t recall. He gave up and entered the home, having missed a small but clear X mark on the door. #mbnov

Sat, Nov 2, 2019 flashfiction prompt

He checked his pockets again. He was sure he’d locked the main door while leaving the home earlier. Must have lost it,” he sighed. With pitch dark and drizzling outside, he scrambled up the stairs. And there he saw it. The keys, dangling eerily - with the main door ajar. #mbnov

Fri, Nov 1, 2019 flashfiction prompt

I recently read through a few of my journal entries from a month back. The experience was refreshing, that too with just a month that’s been passed. It is the content, however, that I find extremely impressive. I had written so freely about everything. Not just the stuff happening with or around me. But thoughts, opinions, views about anything that I find interesting.

As I read through them, I wondered if any of the stuff that I had written was so secret that I cannot share openly. There are some parts which I would not like to talk publicly about. But that is true about only a handful of entries. A majority could very well have been a blog post.

Then why is it that I write a lot more freely in a journal? Is it because I believe no one will read it? And I subconsciously want others to read the blog posts? Maybe.

Fri, Nov 1, 2019 thoughts

A quarter in, I had to stop reading Deep Work after another chapter trying to convince me why deep work is necessary. It was getting too repetitive. Sure, I understand the importance of deep work. Can we move on to the ways to be away from the distractions?

Fri, Nov 1, 2019 thoughts

I kind of won’t mind if flip phones made a comeback. Not that they are the best form factor for a phone (especially a smartphone). But flat slate devices have gotten boring, common. Only natural that we are seeing more and more devices launched with moving parts.

Thu, Oct 31, 2019 thoughts

I wonder what has caused a sudden surge of Bluetooth earbuds being made available in the market. I see almost every player - big and small - launching one of its own. Sure, Airpod’s a success. But it wasn’t the first one. Is it the lack of 3.5mm jack? And so was Apple right?

Wed, Oct 30, 2019 thoughts

Logging out judiciously from social media

I am on a journey to consciously reclaim focus from the shambles of the distracting digital world. As part of the process, I have started actively following one more routine - I log out of every social media service once I have used it.

I have, since long, not had any social media apps on my mobile device. This has helped me reduce the subconscious pick-ups of the device. At the same time, it was really easy to access the service in a browser. Especially because it is just one tap away in my favourites. That’s as good as having an app on my device.

To deter these, I now log out of every service from my browser once I have used it. So, every time I am tempted to access any of these services, an additional step of logging in is needed. There’s also an added barrier of two-factor authentications for the services that support it. Cal Newport aptly captures this sentiment of mine.

By removing your ability to access social media at any moment, you reduce its ability to become a crutch deployed to distract you from bigger voids in your life.

All and all, this one step alone of logging in every time is enough to fool my lazy mind to stay away from these crutches”. And hence not subconsciously spend any time on the services.

Update: I have already gotten rid of every social media platform I do not need (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat). I am active only on Twitter and Micro.blog. To reiterate, my logout routine is applicable to every site that serves feed of some kind. Including email, feed readers, instant messaging platforms etc.

Besides, I have started accessing these social services only at my desktop browser in Private mode (the Incognito mode in Firefox). So even if I forget to logout, it does not matter. Once the window is closed, all my session information is lost.

I believe this change should also help me from a privacy perspective. The belief is the cookies from these data-hungry social media services would not follow me as I browse around the Internet.

Can’t they? Won’t they? That’s a whole different discussion. But overall am spending a lot less time absentmindedly scrolling these stupid feeds. I feel a lot less burdened thanks to that.

Wed, Oct 23, 2019 thoughts minimalism

Alexa and Google Home abused to eavesdrop and phish passwords

By now, the privacy threats posed by Amazon Alexa and Google Home are common knowledge. Workers for both companies routinely listen to audio of users—recordings of which can be kept forever—and the sounds the devices capture can be used in criminal trials.

Now, there’s a new concern: malicious apps developed by third parties and hosted by Amazon or Google. The threat isn’t just theoretical. Whitehat hackers at Germany’s Security Research Labs developed eight apps—four Alexa skills” and four Google Home actions”—that all passed Amazon or Google security-vetting processes. The skills or actions posed as simple apps for checking horoscopes, with the exception of one, which masqueraded as a random-number generator. Behind the scenes, these smart spies,” as the researchers call them, surreptitiously eavesdropped on users and phished for their passwords.

These horror stories of privacy violations on smart speakers are unending. There are just a few options here.

  1. Don’t have anything, that has a mic or camera and is connected to the internet, around you.
  2. If that’s too much for you, don’t have any smart speakers in your home. Use your smartphone to connect to a good old Bluetooth speaker.
  3. If you do want a smart speaker around, learn you to use it cautiously. Switch it off when not needed. Use the mute option. Do not, do not install any third-party skill on the device. Let only Google and Amazon track you. At the very least, they can be held accountable.
Mon, Oct 21, 2019 replies links

Infinite scrolling sucks. I hate that more and more websites are implementing this terrible feature. It fails user-experience wise. I am at your website to read a particular article — don’t try to entice me with another totally unrelated one.

If you do decide to support this feature, don’t plaster it over your existing website design. That footer you have at the end? Yeah, that’s not accessible. Contact information, copyright notices, nothing can be reached. (Update: This article by Adrian Roselli details more such points).

The only publication that I feel has done this well is TechCrunch. They have thought the experience through and designed the interfaces around that.

I understand why publications want this to succeed. It leads to more page views, and hence possibly to more advertising revenue. But I was pretty surprised to see that even Dave Winer felt the need to support it on his simple blog. Completely unnecessary.

Update: Another aspect I did not think of initially was around accessibility. It must be an extreme nightmare. I think it is an issue even bandwidth wise. Especially on mobile devices. So in short, just don’t implement this solution.

Sun, Oct 20, 2019 thoughts design

It’s so ironic that Google names one of the colours on Pixel 4 as Oh So Orange” and make it not orange at all. They could very well have named it as Not Orange”. Plus what’s the recent craze of silly names? The cute” colour names for the devices do not lead to more sales.

Sun, Oct 20, 2019 thoughts

📚 Finished reading Sourcery. I usually enjoy the fantastical narration that Terry Pratchett weaves. But with this one, it was a tad bit incoherent. Some characters just weren’t fun, enjoyable. And they all combined failed to work well together. Rincewind to go on pause.

Sun, Oct 20, 2019 thoughts

Early morning drive through the nature with a steady drizzle around is always rejuvenating. Especially with the windows rolled down!

Sat, Oct 19, 2019 photos