Sunday, April 07, 2013

Not knowing

"You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things. But I'm not absolutely sure of anything, and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here, and what the question might mean. I might think about it a little bit; if I can't figure it out, then I go onto something else. But I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell -- possibly. It doesn't frighten me." -Richard P. Feynman

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Whats going on? Lets talk about it...

From the last post to now, I got laid off from Autodesk as a part of a restructuring exercise after their Q2 result, had to give up my dog (still have visitation rights), found another job, traveled to Birmingham, Philadelphia, New Hampshire, Vermont, Troy NY, San Diego, bought another car, joined the new job and now winter is here! Pretty interesting fall and autumn, I have to say! 

Sunday, May 06, 2012


Marriam Webster has two different definitions for the word humane.
1. Marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals
2. Characterized by or tending to broad humanistic culture 

Both of the definitions are a derivative of the word “humanity” which refer to the behavior of humans towards other humans and animals. Going by the irrationality of human race which is filled with numerous wars, massacres, genocides and our ill-treatment towards fellow human beings, that is hardly reassuring. It almost seems as if the word humane is supposed to appeal to the generosity and nobleness that we only occasionally show. 

Food Inc. has been a pivotal documentary in the food culture of USA. It has changed countless lives and altered how many perceive the source of their food at a fundamental level here in America especially among the hip, urbane and educated communities. Most of the people here are non-vegetarian and I occasionally eat seafood and chicken as well. I have noticed the trend of hip, young generation gravitating towards the idea of humane meat, where animals are treated well before they are killed and eaten compared to when animals are kept in pitiful conditions to minimize cost and maximize profit. It seems like a compelling argument but it causes me to analyze the notion of humane. So what really constitutes humane practices? 

I am under no illusion of morality when I consume an animal or product made out of it. I do not have a sense of pride for exercising my God given right or a political vendetta against exercising it. I do not try to sell it under the garb of words likes “humane”, “kindness” or “respect” of looking an animal eye to eye and then murdering it, just to make me feel better. Should the idea of treating somebody well just before you kill them, be considered humane? Is it okay to show mercy toward somebody before you take them to a wall and shoot them in the back of the head, to minimize pain? Could that be considered humane? Is it okay to give a fatal injection to somebody because you judged that they are better off dead than alive? On the other hand, would it be more humane to forgive and let that animal (or human being) have a second chance in life, to let it live a full life and let it die a natural death or a death of its own choosing? 

Passions are high on both sides of the spectrum. One side considers it their right to hunt, kill and plunder nature for food and natural resources. They consider it as a way of life, a God given right where humans are special (superior) and animals have been created only to serve them. They  believe that animals cannot think and as such cannot feel pain or happiness, all evidence to the contrary. In some cases when they can not deny that animals do feel pain or suffering then they consider it to be not important as those are not emotions of human beings.Vegans are on the other side of the spectrum are equally extremists, and believe that it is a shame that humans are here to plunder the resources and exploit helpless animals. As such they refuse to eat anything sourced from animals going to the extent of refusing to eat even dairy products because, according to them, dairy animals must have been exploited in the process.    

It seems to me that both sides are making a moral argument, with the idea that morality is fixed. One side bases it on something written in a book, or “the” book which would validate their choices of life. On the other hand, the other side stressing that what is right and what is not is fixed in terms of morality no matter what the circumstances may be, and as such it is a choice of right and wrong. Little do they realize that both sides have sparring only inside of a fixed sized boxing ring and feel good about their choices. That notion of absolute morality which guides motivated meat–eaters fizzles away when the animal in question is cute, cuddly, endangered or an animals whose meat is not acceptable to eat in the society in which they live, such as dogs, cats or horses. I am sure their meat would be no less tasty if given due persistence and effort. Similarly the same absolutism for veganism fizzles away when the living organism in question is a fly or a mosquito or an inconvenient insect. They refuse to realize that by walking on the earth they are trampling billions of visible and invisible organisms and micro-organisms, by breathing they are inadvertently responsible for the killing of those micro-organism which are living, by living in a house they are encroaching on what would otherwise have been the living space of a variety of animals, by wearing the leather jacket, shoe, belt or leather purse they have contributed to the death of an animal, by driving a car they have contributed to the environmental pollution which in turn would have killed millions of marine and undersea dwellers. The clothes they wear if not is 100% organic, which probably has fibers originating from a hydrocarbon byproduct. The road they walk on was made by cutting trees, metalled by stones which were mined by destroying the topography or a certain terrain and thereby disturbing the local ecology and finally not to mention the tar which is a mixture of higher molecular weight and long chain hydrocarbons. Most of the medicines which they consume to save their own life have come after numerous animals trials (followed by human trials). Those unfortunate helpless animals undoubtedly had to meet an untimely death once the animal trials for those medicines were deemed to be complete. Looking at these arguments, to me , it seems that idea of principled morality when it comes to meat eat or to not eat it is willful ignorance at its best and principled hypocrisy at its worst.    

Nothing is more dangerous then the sense of false morality. History is littered with the horrendous outcomes of a false sense of absolute morality. Few of them which stand out due to their epic proportions are Spanish inquisitions, crusades, slavery, holocaust, world wars, colonization etc. There are no dearth of examples of otherwise well meaning and law abiding group of people chose to commit unspeakable crimes under the false notion of doing something great for their society, country, religion or the rest of humankind and animal kingdom. To mention words like “humane”, “morality” and “hypocrisy” and at the same time not to talk about animal shelters like “Humane society” and animal rights organizations like “PETA” in the same sentence is probably self defeating. The people who work in these organizations are very passionate and dedicated towards what they are doing. They feel good about it so much so that they preach others about the ethics of treating animals right, even to the people whom they do not know. You cannot post an ad for getting a puppy without somebody suggesting that you should go to a shelter or rescue first. If you could not take care of your pet for whatever reason and wanted to send your pet to a good home and to make sure of it, if you demand a small token of money then there are chances that some over-jealous pet rescue activist will flag it down as inappropriate. These activists would passionately advocate you to neuter/ spay your pet even as young as 8 week old with complete and utter disregard and disdain of its effect towards the growing animal. They reason that if there is no over population of animals then there would be no animal suffering.Shouldn't the same logic hold true for humans as well, as we are looking at human over population of earth? These activists in that process vilify private breeders and puppy mills for the poor condition of their kennels, principally because those operations are being run for profit. What they fail to see that if every private person gets their pet neutered and spayed, then people would have no choice but to go to a puppy mill or private breeders for getting a puppy. Ironically, this would create a symbiotic relationship between shelters and private breeders/puppy mills. I guess it is too much to ask for rationality when logic has been banned from discussion!  

These rescue / shelter centers have strict rules as to who is eligible and who is not for getting a pet. They would want you to fill a number of forms, get recommendation from a few people, inspect your home, pass judgment on your living situation, make you sign a legally binding agreement and would give plenty of lectures and unwanted advice about morality for wanting to adopt a pet and the responsibility which comes with it. They are usually blind to the idea that if somebody is willing to jump through so many hoops and hurdles then that someone will probably take care of those animals even in the scenario so many hoops and hurdles were not deliberately placed in their paths. Now what really happens to the unfortunate animals who end up in these hell hole of shelters like Humane Society and those run by PETA? If a dog barks in there, it dies. If it scratches itself, it dies. If it sneezes, it dies. If it coughs, it dies. If it is scared in there and it bites its handler while trying to defend itself then it dies. And if it has not been killed by any of those and managed to survive for about two weeks, and somehow due to its bad luck nobody wanted it during that short period of time(maybe due to onerous amount of requirements plied by these organization on the prospective pet owners), then it dies. Millions of dogs and cats in shelters like these are put to death every year and these organizations call themselves Humane. This hypocrisy of "Humane" makes me lose hope in humanity everyday! 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I had a dream ... and I am living it

For as long as I could remember, I have always wanted a dog. Whenever me or my brother begged or pleaded to my parents for a puppy, more often that not, we used to get long lectures on the value of life of every creature big or small. We were told how owning a pet cruelly separates it from its parents and siblings, and it would be much more happier with its own parents notwithstanding the pitiful conditions in which stray dogs and puppies live on the streets of India. Finally, they told us the responsibilities that a pet brings in our lives which they are ill-prepared to commit to on our behalf. Furthermore they emphasized that we as kids were for sure not responsible enough and would not be able to do so on our own. Overall these were convincing ideas in those times. If we had worked really hard on the beggings and pleadings accompanied with a lot of fits and whimpers then my parents would occasionally relent and would get us a parrot or a bunny which would conveniently disappear after a few days. They would tell us later on that they had to release the parrot to fly away (or return the bunny) as the bird (or the animal) was trying to kill itself because it got too lonely and depressed and that they did not want to be responsible for its untimely death. This used to work most of the times however we got smarter as we grew up. 

As I grew older I never lost sight of the fact that I wanted a puppy. After living out of my parents' home for so long, being on my own for almost a decade, I have been secretly doing my research. I knew what breed and what color of dog I wanted. I even knew what gender or the age of the puppy I wanted. What however I didn't know was that if I could be responsible enough to have a dog all on my own without anyone's help.I had my own share of failed experiments where I would befriend hostile dogs and kitten. As a child, once I stole a week or two old puppy from its mother and it raised heavens the whole night in our home. So we had to reunite it with her mother the next morning. I was so crazy about pets, that I remember, I once befriended a completely feral cat (and by extension its family of kittens) who would orbit around our house and raid our kitchen opportunistically. My parents had her and the kitten sent to live in exile far out of neighborhood by a help so that they do not find their way back to our home. It was heart breaking!

Recently I saw an ad in the pet section of craigslist for a female black lab pup about 4 months old, not too far out of city. Based on the description she seemed to fit my requirements but I still needed to see her. They were asking for a small rehoming fee. Most importantly I was not required to fill up any forms, answer any questions about my living arrangement, gather any recommendations, present my apartment for any verification, or needed to get certification for somebody else that I am capable of taking care of a pet. All it really needed in this case was a small amount of money and my willingness to be the first one to ask to get her. I knew this was it. So I went to meet her previous owner. Theirs' was a small country home in a picturesque setting about 25 miles out of Pittsburgh city on highway 30. She was tied to a pole in their back yard jumping with joy to meet somebody completely new and looked cute as a button. I knew I wanted her. So I gave them the money and brought her home. In the beginning, she was confused and scared getting into a new car and in a new home with somebody completely new. Strange as it may seem, but she bonded with me on the very first day. Now she just would not leave me alone and would follow me everywhere I go inside the home. She would refuse to eat if she can not physically see me lurking somewhere from her bowl of food. I think, she has insecurities like any other girl but she seems to love me more every day she spends with me. I think the feeling is mutual!

Owning a pet has its own bitter-sweet experiences. Soon after I brought her home I found out that she was not house broken. Thankfully my apartment has hardwood floorings and now I am crate training her. She has not had any accidents after the first two days. Granted, now I can not just roll out of bed and report to work on the work days as her wet kiss, whimpers and whinings would wake me up every morning before 6AM but I think I am overall happy for it. Dogs are not like fish. They do get bored if they can not find enough toys to keep them busy through their loneliness. Yesterday she completely chewed through my flip flop while I was sleeping away and I was amused to find her done that. Perhaps that is what parenthood is all about when annoying things starts to amuse you and make you happy!

Monday, January 16, 2012


Not all addictions are bad. I have had many harmless addictions in life through time. When I was a child I had addictions then. I was addicted to story and comic books. I was addicted to collecting matches, stamps (philately) and coins (numismatics). It was the golden time. My friendship with other kids at that age was unfettered and unrestrained by any judgement of religion, color, creed, social status or wealth of the families involved, much to the dismay of the elders who would always be quick to tell us what kind of friendship is appropriate and what is not. No doubt these advice over time have a tendency to color our perceptions but even that age we were totally and happily corruptible. The promise or the premise of an exchange of comic and story books, stamps or coins used to be a good enough incentive to disregard everything being taught to us, to be able to gain a quick entry into the privileged club of my friendship circle.

Alas, childhood doesn't last forever. Those stamps and coins are still stored back at home somewhere stashed in some dark cupboard. The matches were not that lucky though!

Now as an adult I have different kind of addictions. I am addicted to news. Every morning I want to find out as to what is going on the rest of the world. In the evenings I want to go to coffee shops and read. On the weekend I want to meet people and go places, see things and live life. But all these addictions are not enough to satisfy and give me enough adrenaline rush for me to keep going through the week. I feel a need to play and to exhaust myself to do it in such a way that I do not have to be dependent on others to be able to get my daily and weekly fix. Running seemed like a perfect addictions where I do not have to wait on others for me to be able to run. I can run and run and run and not look back. I can push myself to limit. I can run on the street and I can run on the pavement. I can run in shorts and I can run in snow. Running basically requires nothing except tons of enthusiasm and a good level of physical fitness. After a year long prodding and encouragement by Amitava, I have finally decided to start running sometime around Christmas. Since then I am proud and happy to say that I have been running regularly most of the time from my neighborhood to Highland park which is about 5K and I love it. I plan to become better at it with time but for now nothing beats the fresh, chill, cold air touching your face when you are busting through the air in the darkened street and a quiet park. It's time for a quick run now!