Farting with confidence

Of the few things miss since I came back to Sri Lanka, I have to say etiquette takes the cake. Sri Lanka, when it used to be Ceylon under British rule, was actually a very decent country. People were well-mannered (even those unexposed to the Western variety of etiquette) and a lot of social responsibility was taught early to children.

Of course, that all started changing around the mid 70’s. Everyone started going about their own interests, public good be damned, there were clashes among Tamil and Sinhalese citizens — prelude to the full on civil war starting in ’84 (I was 2 years old) — and of course manners went the way of the dinosaur. This wouldn’t be so bad if it were just Sinhalese people (my ethnicity) since if there’s one thing Sinhalese people do well, it’s complaining of other Sinhalese people.

I’m seeing a chronic lack of “Excuse me” or “Sorry” or “Thank You” or “You’re welcome” across the board among all races and ages in addition to an increase in petty vandalism to epidemic proportions. The list goes on into a more disturbing territory.

Loudly burping, sneezing into mid-air (or worse, into hands and then touching everything including children), coughing up both lungs into someone’s face, farting with all the delicacy of a tornado hitting a sewage treatment plant and a systemic prevalence of laziness.  And of course the proverbial disrespect of elders in a land that used to worship them. Sri Lanka is in trouble.

And I didn’t know these were a thing…

Flat-D Flatulence Deoderizer – Disposable Underpads

I’m tempted to print up brochures depicting proper etiquette in Sinhalese, Tamil and English and start disseminating them to everyone, but I’m sure the idiot brigade would require more stern persuasion. I wonder if I can borrow Room 101 for a bit.

Did I mention Sinhalese people like to complain?



Since this is better than having a room full of people looking at you like “he’s talking to himself… weird!”

I miss my balcony, damn it!

My idea of an ideal afternoon would be sitting by the window on a recliner on a cool, rainy afternoon, as the Sun goes down, sipping hot chocolate or coffee while staring out at the treeline from my apartment.

Cue the old timey music.

While there was plenty of rain in New York lately, I never got to enjoy any of it while there was still some light outside. Either I was asleep because I came home early in the morning or it’s already night. It’s been a full two weeks since I last set foot on the balcony and I’m starting to suffer from withdrawal symptoms.

Or it could just be gas.

Note to self: Go to work sober

Giving a presentation while on allergy meds is a good way to make people believe you have the linguistic dexterity of a lobotomized gorilla; after it’s been beaten even more senseless with a shovel.

I used to be able to take Benadryl or any other diphenhydramine and go the whole day without it adversely affecting my work. While my copious coffee intake (which I have since severely curtailed) may have helped a bit, I’ve always been able to suppress the extreme drowsiness, mild dizziness and confusion on my own. That is, until Wednesday.

This may also be a sign that I’m just getting older.

Talking to people who, for all intents and purposes, think you’re about to teach them Sanskrit in mime is quite a bit harder when your situational awareness is being slowly garroted and your eyelids suddenly acquire the weight of depleted Uranium.

Also, mime is not art.

Speech is like a bonsai

Cogency and lucidity require careful cultivation and pruning, especially when you don’t have a particularly tech savvy crowd as your audience and you’re giving them a security overview. The biggest problem seems to be that a lot of people still assume their real world common sense doesn’t apply in the virtual when the opposite is true. I have to make them trust their own judgement and I have to make them feel at ease with technology.

This is especially true of phishing scams.

If some random guy on the street hands you a letter saying your bank account will be closed soon and the only way to stop it would be to provide your personal information, would you :

a) Call the bank yourself and verify this.
b) Give him the personal information.
c) Dance a jig.
d) Throw poo at him.

I remember early in school a teacher saying that in most multiple choice questions, you can usually eliminate two of the answers almost immediately. Then you can take your time thinking about the remaining two.

I now carry a spare roll of Angel Soft brand toilet paper in case I meet the random bank guy.

It sure put a smile on me!

The Benadryl is starting to wear off so it’s about time for another dose.

I’m going on vacation on Friday after much prodding by my family. I think it’s well overdue.

Working the night shift can cause cancer in women?

If working nights wasn’t stressful enough for everyone, now there’s research that shows working at nights may lead to higher instances of breast cancer in women.

I work with a few ladies at night (our usual schedule) so this news, while it’s been the talk almost every time we meet, is most certainly not welcome. The research pertains to the Danish military in which 18,500 women who served between 1964 – 1999 and 141 had developed breast cancer by 2005 – 2006.

Most surprising, though, was the fact that women who worked night shifts and described themselves as being “morning” people — that is, they preferred to wake up early, rather than stay up late at night — had a four times higher risk of breast cancer than women who worked during the day. “The four times higher increased risk surprised us. It was very unusual,” says Hansen.

This is also the case with almost everyone I work with, not just women. I’m one of the few there that are actual night owls and the rest are the “normal” folks who work because that’s just part of the job and otherwise would rather be enjoying daylight.

There were grumbles of this previously when they looked at nurses who worked the night shift and considered other parameters besides just lack of direct Sun.

The nurse studies had pointed toward a possible explanation for the association: because night workers labor under artificial light, they may be exposed to less natural sunlight and, therefore, less vitamin D from the sun’s rays than day workers; lower levels of vitamin D have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer. Based on the questionnaires, however, Hansen found that the Danish night workers actually spent more time outdoors and had higher rates of sun exposure than day workers, since they were free during the day when others were indoors at work.

I know that at least three are mothers who spend time with their children during the day, outdoors a lot of times. This is most distressing and if it can be corroborated outside the Danish military, we’ll have to rethink the true cost of working at night. However the two other women in the “night owl” category may be spared this danger.

Genes may also play a role, since whether a person is a “night owl or a “lark” is partially determined by his or her genetic makeup. Hansen’s finding that shift work can be particularly risky for “larks,” people who are more alert and active in the morning than at night, makes sense, since genetics may make it harder for a morning person to adjust to hormonal and metabolic changes that come with working at night. “It’s much worse to be a morning person and have night shift work when it comes to breast cancer,” says Hansen.

I hope the vitamins I see a lot of the “larks” taking are compensating for this at least somewhat.


This post previously had “18,500 women who served between 1964 – 1999 and had developed breast cancer”, which is incorrect (very, very incorrect).
Changed to “18,500 women who served between 1964 – 1999 and 141 had developed breast cancer”.

Well that was awful

The good news is that I don’t have to go to work. The bad news… I have Ebloa the Flu. At least I get to look out my window on a rainy day here in New York, so at least it’s not all bad. I do love rainy days.

Not so much to be in the rain, but to look out my window with a nice hot cup of coco.

Well, here’s to small victories.

Quitting coffee cold turkey = abject failure

I have a problem.

It’s not something that’s as frowned upon by society as hard drugs or alcohol, but caffeine addiction, as I discovered, isn’t something to laugh at. And the realization that you are in fact “addicted”, I.E. physically dependent on the chemical, is a strange one at that. It’s not the sort of thing that will keep you up at nights… I mean metaphorically speaking, but it will make you consider what would happen if you can’t, for whatever reason, get your fix.

Keep in mind, at this point I can actually still fall asleep after drinking coffee. I can’t stay asleep for very long, but I’ve always chucked that up to insomnia (something I’ve struggled with since the age of 12) and work. These days, It’s pretty normal for me to get around 4-5 hours of sleep every day. And I do mean “day”, not night since my schedule is often reversed. This hasn’t affected my work at all because I won’t let it, but it has affected my life away from it.

I used to drink 9 cups of coffee a day roughly between ages 17 – 27. This, coupled with my crazy schedule, may have contributed to having a heart “episode” a while back at which point, I was forced to severely curtail my intake. It turned out to be not as big a deal at the time, since I could still manage with “a number” of cups far less than 9. For the last few years, I’ve reduced that number to 4 and then 3.

When I say “coffee”, I don’t always mean the black stuff you find at work, but this was a special blend of mine some of the time.

The day schedule

Back when I had the “day” schedule, I would start the morning around 4:30AM with a full two cups of milk (in my favorite Pyrex measuring cup, which broke recently) to which I would add one teaspoon of instant with three sugars. This is the “special blend” after which I have breakfast. Around 5:30AM, I’m on the road and I would have another coffee (that’s the black stuff) as soon as I’m at work before I start at 6:00AM.

At 8:00AM, that would be when the first two doses start to lose effectiveness, it’s time for my third. Then at 11:00AM, I could just squeeze in one more before lunch at 12:00PM. Lunch, of course, means time for another. Around 2:00PM, those will start to fade, and it’s time for one more. At 3:00PM (after that painful meeting) it’s time for yet another.

When I’m finishing up stuff for the afternoon at 4:00PM, it helps to sip a cup with one hand while typing / clicking / writing (and may God help the reader) with the other and I learned to alternate hands because I actually didn’t like putting my cup on my desk. I always used to have a folded paper towel on my desk that kept disappearing (I guess the cleaning people didn’t read “don’t throw this away”) and I didn’t like having a coaster on my desk because it clashed with the way I arranged the Post-It notes and the stapler. Uh, yeah, mild OCD.

5:00PM is time for final Q&A and a cup would be handy about then. Something about having folded arms not good for communication and I appreciate directness when people speak to me. Having something in your hands is good to prevent that from happening even subconsciously, so why not let it be a coffee cup?

Out of work after 6:00PM and on the road again. Around 7:00PM, I’m home and it’s time to have one big measuring cup full of that same “special blend” before dinner.

You may notice I didn’t mention eating much. This was a big problem because, even though I definitely don’t have an eating disorder, I’ve always considered having to eat, drink or go to the bathroom as “getting in the way”. This is not to say I don’t enjoy food and I do eat well when I’m not working, but when I’m not working, I also have more of the “special blend”. It wasn’t unheard of for me to go through a gallon of milk in 3 days or less when I’m at home, just on the “special blend”.

That was before work switched to the night schedule

Mercifully, I’m no longer working at the other place. I don’t always need to go to the city and do sometimes miss the interesting vignettes I come across. That’s not to say that I enjoyed the times I was expected to conform or be treated like rubbish or the times I inadvertently revealed, I’m slightly nuts. I certainly don’t miss the pollution. I can’t even believe most people consider the semi-opaque poison they breath in to be air.

There are more instances that allow me to work from home, which may or may not be a good thing from a health perspective. Working from home also means I don’t have to meet the same standards of appearance (I.E. wearing pants) as long as Skype isn’t involved. TMI?

The times I do have to venture out for work, I find it easier because I do have time to prepare materials and keep offsite backups. But each time I do travel, I switch again to the black stuff and not even my “special blend”. There goes the dosage restriction.

Time to quit bucko!

Uh, yeah. I was getting to that.

Let’s just say that I’m not unaccustomed to headaches. I’ve had to deal with migraines most of my life so a plain ol’ headache is something I’ve managed to give presentations with, go to office parties with and even hide in pleasant conversation. A migraine is a different beast altogether and I have them like clockwork if I don’t have coffee.

Maybe you can imagine the genuine fear I had before setting about at least reducing the caffeine dosage further. That’s not the sort of war wound I was willing to experience, but in the interest of saving what’s left of my health, I decided to do just that. I wasn’t really prepared for the migraine that followed. Then again, you can’t prepare of a migraine. Not really.

For those of you who don’t know what a migraine feels like, go to your kitchen and take the biggest knife available in your hand; hold it there and mull over it a bit. Now imagine that knife is embedded in the middle of your skull. Imagine that knife is being moved back and forth, being twisted and jerked, being generally messed with when you desperately want it to be taken out, but can’t grab a hold of the handle, no matter what, to pull it out.

Imagine someone who loves you dearly comes over and wants to talk to you while the knife is being fiddled with (still in your skull) and offers to make dinner or to take you to the doctor or asks if there’s anything she can do. All the while, the knife is invisible to everyone, except you, but you can’t pull it out, she can’t pull it out, and you can’t find the words to express feeling. In fact, you can’t find the even actions to mime the experience at the time. All you can do is hold your head with both hands and stare ahead with your eyes closed.

Now you kinda-sorta-maybe know what it’s like talking to your mom while having a migraine.

End result : Failure. The above was the exact reaction I had last night after cutting down that 3 cup diet to 1 and possibly zero.

At the time, I thought “right, that’s it, I’m never doing this again”. But I’m not quite sure I want to give up now that the pain is gone and I can see straight.