Hell no, I won’t grow!

The next guy who tells me about how some experience gave him personal growth is getting something sharp in his cranium. Seriously, blood’s going to pour out of his temporal artery. You know I mean it when I get mad anatomical with my death threats.

Why? Because it never ends there. Given male competitiveness, it turns into an arms race where each one feels the need to one-up the story. And it goes on and on until someone fabricates a coming of age tale where a plucky kid from Mumbai overcame his odds to win a million dollars on a game show in a country where we don’t count money in millions. All I want is to hang out with my friends and discuss guy-stuff. Just your average volleys of double-entendres and nothing too sensitive or soft; nerdy topics are welcome. Instead I get assaulted with this affirmation of adulthood, which often hides a plea for approval.

Most guys I know are comfortable with the ball-busting group dynamic where we pick on one guy and magnify his every imperfection. It’s immature. It’s caveman. It’s our way of sifting the herd for the weak link. So, that’s not four guys ganging up on one at McDonalds; it’s a test for vulnerabilities that we are better off catching here than in the wild—you know, the bar. But it’s familiar. It’s safe. We have come to expect it, maybe even enjoy it. But if well-enough was left alone, life would have been different. We wouldn’t have war and nuclear weapons, and Windows XP would still be the best operating system. (Okay, that last part is true. Not that I care.)

Once you go Mac…

Then someone goes ahead disrupts the equilibrium by showing us what a man he now is. Oddly, it’s often the same guy who used to turn a quiet evening of beer-drinking and cricket-chatter to a tequila-shot-drowned, vodka-infused, Jack Daniels chugging pukefest. You won’t believe it dude, when that kid grabbed my finger, I felt something. Yeah, you felt his fist. And then you returned the infant to his parents who will feed him at 3 am and hold his hand through rehab someday because grabbing that finger scarred him for life. But you will call this a paradigm shift and promote yourself from Jack Daniels to single malt to suit your current state of refinement. And we must follow along or cut you off like the gangrene that you are.

Half the time this whole personal growth or character-building bullshit is a band-aid for the most recent slight life has dished out. If so, that’s fine. It happens to everyone. Just don’t talk about it. It’s called rationalization because you do it to yourself. Selling yourself this crapola is hard enough. If you spread it around, daring others to refute it, you might just find out how many friends you really have.

Listening? Or staying awake by imagining you hanging on a meathook? (www.gogaminggiant.com)

I understand that when you watch Don Draper, who always had a mistress within Metrocard radius, walking around all mature-like, it’s understandable to regret the water-balloon fights and the time we faked a Harvard acceptance letter to mess with a friend’s head (He was so excited that he didn’t notice the w in Harward. Yes, I’m going to hell. More on that some other time.) In the animal world, prolonged eye contact means aggression, but among guys it’s just a staring contest to decide who will do a beer run. No one washes a dish after using it. We each fish ours out of the sink come dinnertime. That way, no one can shirk dishwashing. We order takeout because there’s no dishwashing before or after. But does that mean we are immature? I doubt it. We are just beta-testing adolescence at an age when we can appreciate it more.

If you ask me, it’s the hat. Without it, he’s a dumbass doctor on 30 Rock.

The way I look at it, maturity is paying your bills and having more friends than enemies. Done and done. Saying I mustn’t say or do some things because I’m not a teenager doesn’t resonate with me. Who draws these lines? When your grandfather was your age, he had two children. Yes, but that’s because there wasn’t much to do back then. Procreation was recreation. Let’s see him being all nice and fatherly in his twenties with a House marathon on HDTV and an FiOS internet connection. Do you know what a high-speed internet connection does to guys? It’s like giving us our own set of breasts—a productivity killer. Let’s face it. Most of us are going to live longer than our grandparents did. Why can’t we do things a little slower then? There’s no empirical evidence that playing Medal of Honor Allied Assault reduces your ability to be a father. Well it kinda does, if the laptop gets really warm.

Keep killing ’em Nazis—That’s your only effect on the gene pool.

So I’ve decided to stay immature, by society’s definitions, that is. Every now and then, I’ll wear whatever I can lay my hands on. I’m religious about showering and deodorants, so don’t call the CDC just yet. But if someone walks into a joke, I’m not gonna be the bigger person and let it go. Your ass is gonna get ridiculed. It will make you a better person. Or not. I don’t know. It will make me a happier person. That’s for sure.

Whoever decided that 26 is too old for that’s-what-she-said jokes did not check with me. In fact, all those who feel that way should just admit it right now. Admit it so I can un-friend you and cut you off. Or deal with it in silence. And that includes dick jokes, funny rape jokes (NOTE—I did not say rape threats, and no, they’re not the same.), and every other joke conceivable.

Except the Aristocrats. That shit is nasty.

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10 not so common Mac OS X shortcuts

You’ll be using these keys (myfirstmac.com)

Many websites feature keyboard shortcuts for OS X. Most of them bury the good shortcuts under a sea of common ones that everybody knows and those that nobody will use and end up as trivia. So, I have compiled the ones I use regularly and weeded out those that seemed common knowledge. Some of these shortcuts are keyboard-alternatives to using the mouse/touchpad. Others automate to save time. I have provided Windows alternatives in some cases.

UPDATE: Some of the browser-based shortcuts may not work with all browsers. They work with Google Chrome.

1. Shortcut: Cmd+L    
    Function: takes cursor to address bar

You want to go to a particular website, but you’re too lazy to drag your mouse pointer to the address bar. Pressing Cmd+L (I wrote L in uppercase for easy identification only; please don’t press shift!).

For Windows users: Alt + d

Of course, sometimes you want to go to the address bar just to copy the URL. In that case…

2. Shortcut: Cmd+option+c (in Google Chrome)
    Function: Copies current URL

The option key is also called alt. This copies to clipboard the URL or link of the website you’re on. You can then right-click anywhere and paste. Again, if you’re only copying the URL to share by email…

3. Shortcut: Cmd+shift+I (in Google Chrome)
    Function: Opens a compose-mail dialog with current URL in body

When I want to share something interesting I find online, the altruism is tempered by the effort it takes to copy the URL, open mail client (or web app), click compose, paste the URL in the body and await grateful responses. Yikes!

But, this nifty shortcut opens a ‘compose mail’ dialog in another tab with said URL in the body. You need to be signed in, or this will take you to the login page, but you knew that already, right?

4. Shortcut: Option+space or ctrl+shift+space
    Function: Inserts a non-breaking space

Ever written something like, “$700 billion,” only to find that your word processor has wrapped the text to take ‘billion’ to the next line leaving $700 in full view, turning the Bush-bailout into a personal stimulus package? That’s because you inserted a regular space between ‘$700’ and ‘billion.’

A non-breaking space (also: hard space or fixed space) takes the whole figure ($700 billion) into the next line if necessary, but never separates the two.

For Windows users: Ctrl+shift+space

5. Shortcut: Cmd+1/2/3
    Function: Switches to the 1st/2nd/3rd tab in a browser

If you have a few tabs open in your browser, and need to go to the third one for example, press ‘Cmd + 3’

6. Shortcut: Cmd+space
    Function: Opens spotlight 

Pretty self-explanatory. This command opens the spotlight and allows you find files, preview them (by hovering over the file name in the spotlight search-result and pressing ‘space’) and even do basic mathematical calculations up to logarithms and trigonometry.

7. Shortcut: Cmd+option+c (in MS Word)
    Function: Change case 

This shortcut, when pressed, will cycle through lowercase, uppercase and sentence-case (only first letter in uppercase).

For Windows users: Shift+F3

8. Shortcut: Cmd+shift+4 and Cmd+ctrl+shift+4
    Function: To select part of the screen for a screenshot

Pressing these sets of keys will show crosshairs using which you can select a rectangular part of the screen. If you press ‘ctrl’ the screenshot will be copied to the clipboard. Without Ctrl, the screenshot is saved as a picture file (.png) on your desktop by default. If you want to capture the whole screen though, you’re better off with…

9.  Shortcut: Cmd+shift+3 and Cmd+ctrl+shift+3 
      Function:  Capture the entire screen as a screenshot

Again, pressing ‘ctrl’ will copy the screenshot to the clipboard. Without ‘ctrl’ you’re going to end up with a picture file on your desktop.

10. Shortcut: Cmd+shift+n (In Finder)
      Function: Creates new folder in current Finder folder 

Of course, you can always right-click your mouse/touchpad and choose ‘new folder’ but where’s the fun in that?

So there you have it. Ten shortcuts that are hopefully useful, yet not too common.

Sources: Wikipedia, Apple support, Lifehacker.com

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iPhone mic and volume control

iPhone mic and volume control

My iPhone 3Gs is my pride and joy. The earphones worked fine, but the mic and the volume control buttons generated no response. I thought I wrecked my phone for sure (as my earphones were working on other people’s phones). I looked online and found this page. All you need to do is switch off the phone and put some slender object like a pin (preferably not too sharp) into the earphone socket. You end up pulling out enough lint to make new pants out of them!

Once I dug out all that lint, the earphone started working and it works great now! I decided to post this in the hope that it might help someone else.

Black Friday blues

Thanksgiving has always impressed me. Growing up in Mumbai, I’m used to religious holidays; I was particularly egalitarian as a child because some Christian or Muslim or Parsi celebration meant that I could stay home from school. The other kind of holiday was the national kind, mandated by the government so we can remember Mahatma Gandhi or the Republic day or something like that. But those holidays weren’t really celebratory.

That’s what makes Thanksgiving interesting. The idea that people of many religions adopt a standardized turkey-based (and other trimmings) meal with beer and football games is incredible. Irreligious ritualistic celebration is refreshing. It marks a level of maturity that is indicative of an evolved people.

Then comes Black Friday.

So there I am, outside BestBuy with a buddy. Doors are supposed to open at 5 am, so we have five hours to kill. Nothing hurts the Indian sentiment more than paying retail for something that just went on sale, and what with it almost being winter break (when many of us go home acting as couriers for electronic devices for our relatives in India), there are many desis in the queue. It is  an electronic store, on perhaps the biggest discount day of the American year, so the line is disproportionately Asian.

We suddenly hear a stream of Gujarati from the group ahead of us. They are whispering loudly about the laptop they want, and going into specifics, logistics and schematics. I think I see a floor plan in their hand, and a bespectacled guy is handing out strict instructions to his friend and girl-friend. I get a sinking feeling that they’ve actually made at least one reconnaissance trip to BestBuy just to get the upper hand on the rest of us who were playing it by ear. They are stealing naps in turns. There is some science to this whole black friday shopping thing, and they are on to it.

I have never fully appreciated the horror of varicose veins until tonight. Alternating between standing and sitting cross-legged on the cold parking-lot floor is not my idea of fun. I think someone is smoking some reefer which is pissing off the NYPD. I didn’t inhale.

The cops are keeping a watch for unruly behavior. Apparently there have been stampedes in such situations, and occasionally a couple of casualties. But hey, as long as we can get 25% off on that air purifier! Of  course, anyone who has been a regular on a Mumbai local train will find the most beastly black friday queue a breeze.

Ah…we finally get in, and reach the place where they keep the laptops, wait…what? Only those with the ticket can buy  discounted laptops. And the ticket was a piece of paper handed out to the first twenty people in the line, which means we were never in the running for it anyway. There’s a little kid running around (not a day over twelve), selling tickets for twenty bucks. Wow…capitalism is so organic to us.

My friend’s already got the latest unlocked blackberry along with an external hard drive and a sandwich toaster under his arm, and a camera and some other stuff now under my arm. I’m just buying an external hard drive, but it’s nice and sleek. Products sold by Apple and Bose are price-controlled, so no store can undersell them even if they want! So the Bose in-ear headphones I wanted were jeering at me from a corner in all their retail arrogance.

Pitch black is turning into twilight as the day is breaking, I buy a mixed chicken-lamb with rice from a roadside vendor. You gotta love NYC.