How are stories kept a mystery in your mind? – A Whole Lotta Nothing

How are dreams ever unknown to us?

How are stories kept a mystery in your mind? – A Whole Lotta Nothing

I’d like to ask the opposite – how are dreams ever known to us?

I get fairly vivid dreams every once in a while. Sometimes, I can correlate them to events happening around me – some tension I’m focused on, some happy occasion that’s around the corner, etc. But most of the time, my vivid dreams are out of the blue. I meet acquaintances I’ve not seen in forever, I go to places I’ve never been, and once in a while, my wife stars as a detective in a story-line I have no way to make head or tail of.

But to me, these are not because our brains are trying to hide something from us, as Matt alludes to in his post. Dream narratives are when, according to me, our subconscious is able to surface ahead of our conscious mind. Our subconscious is always there, ticking away, firing off a million connections that make no sense whatsoever. Every once in a while, we have a eureka moment, because some connection is triggered that makes perfect sense to the conscious, and needs to be surfaced.

See, I think that our bodies do somewhat act as “a bundle of parts of competing systems”, but not knowingly. When we’re focusing on something, or going about our daily lives, the primary objective that’s driving our thoughts is survival. This can be of any order – from the most basic physical and ‘where will our next meal come from’ to a much higher level, such as thoughts about the future and metaphysics. But all this while, our body is going at its functions. Just as we don’t forget to breathe, we don’t forget to think in the background. It’s constantly happening. When we have a sudden urge to pee, it’s because our body realizes that we’ve been ignoring this function since some time and an alarm needs to sound. Just like that, when a great idea comes to us, it’s an alarm that some section of our brain sounds to let us know that the connections it recently created make some sense.

But when we sleep, our survival is in the background. If our minds were still preoccupied with urgency, we wouldn’t be able to sleep. So it is either that we’ve resolved the day’s urgencies, or our mind is overwhelmed with them and needs a break. For either reason, we sleep, and when we do, our subconscious’ plays come to the front.

Now, does it always happen that when we need to pee, or need to get up for an important meeting, our mind triggers a bad dream sequence to jolt us into waking up? I don’t think so. However, when those events happen, our mind does use vivid imagery, or fantastical scenes to inform us in its own way that we’re dreaming and need to get up.

As for the last question that Matt asks –

How could you even begin to design an experiment to figure out how stories unfold in our dreams?

I think the way to do this is to give yourself some tension. One time, drink a jug of water before going to sleep. Another time, worry a lot about some upcoming event and see how your dreams are different than when you had water.

I’d like to close by one of my most interesting dreams (there are a few I don’t think I’ll ever forget). As a child, I used to read Tell Me Why before going to sleep. On this particular occasion, I asked myself the question – “what’s the last topic covered in this book?” The answer was a three paragraph explanation of termites. I read it, went to sleep, and woke up in a dream where we had returned home to find termites infesting everything, from the large Eucalyptus tree outside, to every cabinet and drawer inside. It was not a scary dream – I saw it all matter-of-factly. Despite having read a single explanation about termites, and seen just one image about their handiwork, the vividness with which my mind recreated a termite invasion was amazing to me. It wasn’t out of any malice or urgency either. It was just the last thing my mind processed.

Some thoughts on WordPress 5 and Gutenberg

Ok, this is me trying out Gutenberg after it’s full GA release. Let’s see how well it works. This entire post has been written on Gutenberg on Firefox on Windows, saved, privately published, and then edited on Gutenberg on Firefox on Mac, and published publicly. Yay.

Hmmm. There are some interesting quirks. The private publishing thing is available, so potentially there’s scope for the private posts plugin to be updated for Gutenberg. I like this plugin because every post is private by default and that gives me the freedom to publish immediately and edit later.

On a rock, undecided.

There’s an oddity here that might be useful to most people – when you start editing, the menu on the right shifts from Document to Block, so you can quickly change the Block settings if you want. That’s nice and all, but the switch is irritating to me. Maybe in a while I won’t even notice.

Other than that, it’s definitely performing better than it was last time I played with it, when it was in beta. That time, it just completely soured my experience because it kept crapping out on me. But this time, it seems stable and I can actually type a sentence without being constantly kicked out of the editor.

This is a title. Yeah, I know.

LOL. I just noticed that Gutenberg has support for drop capping. I don’t think I’ve ever had it before in my blogs. Interesting!

Is Gutenberg supposed to be useful for longform writing too? I don’t think longformers care about inline images. Also, the whole moving text up or down thing doesn’t make much sense to me. It’s just a weird concept. Maybe it’s useful to speech writers or essay writers – they need to present ideas in coherent ways, with each paragraph a complete idea. So technically, they could massively benefit from being able to move ideas around quickly for the overall coherence and flow of the thing they’re writing.

Wait, does Gutenberg not have autosave? The Classic editor does. It does it every time you stop writing for a significant and noticeable amount of time. But Gutenberg just seems to sit there.

I hit the gear icon and the right side menu disappeared. That’s good. More screen space to focus on writing, even though all the writing is happening within this one central column.

I wonder if Gutenberg would be useful to Instagram poets. Does this allow you to place text anywhere on the page? That might make a very pretty ‘flow’ thing that would work beautifully! If it doesn’t exist, someone should make it!

I really like Unsplash for pictures now. It’s not always on point, but there are some gorgeous pics out there! The Instant Images plugin is also nice – it doesn’t play with Gutenberg, but it sits outside and so it’s easy to add an image and then come to Gutenberg on an already open post and just click on the image block to pull the latest images. That seems to work well. My main problem with the plugin is that it’s got a max image size. They’re just trying to foster consistency, I think. But for an image that’s 5000×4000, to bring it down to 1600×1200 max size is a little irritating. But it does the sizing well actually. No graininess there! (Except maybe the graininess introduced by my theme)

Inline images in Gutenberg aren’t perfect. They don’t do everything as advertised, which will put more pressure on theme devs, I think. For example, the three images in my post till now don’t quite align the way I see them inside the editor. Weird. I wonder how they’ll look if I exit the editor and come back?

Embeds are separately supported now, as a block for each one of them. Nice. Good exposure to functionality. Earlier it used to be – use this shortcut and put the url in there in this format, and then do this incantation to call upon that demon to embed stuff on your blog. Now, it’s just there. Might actually cause an increase in link embedding across WordPresslandia. Maybe. Let’s see. I noticed after publishing that the embed doesn’t look the same inside and outside. Jeez. I think the embeds are a feature of Jetpack and that needs to be further updated to work properly with Gutenberg?

Instagram embedding did not work. Maybe because my blog isn’t https? I dunno. It’s fine.

I wonder if Automattic is tracking Gutenberg installs and usage? They should. It’s pretty good to highlight usage in the first week, first month etc.

edit: When Gutenberg opens in edit view (or maybe this is only on Mac), the currently being edited block is highlighted while others are faded out. That’s nice for focus, but weird for reading and revising

edit to that edit: I realized this is called Spotlight mode. Now, why is Spotlight mode active on my Mac and not on Windows? Don’t tell me there’s small JS differences which the devs have not reconciled yet.

edit: Gutenberg is NOT a happy camper on the Mac. I can move the central edit column horizontally in a not-so-good way. Separately, the dropcap paragraph, when it moves into edit mode, removes the dropcap in a very ugly way.

Verdict: I’m keeping Gutenberg on for a while. A few more posts it in. Let’s see. I already have the Classic Editor installed and I might just go back to that if I don’t see a lot of value in Gutenberg, or if I see a lot of noise in it.

That’s all folks!

Ghost: My comments

Ghost showed up on Kickstarter yesterday and like any good blogging platform, it’ll be judged, commented on, loved and hated. So let me start early. I don’t like it. I love the idea, I loved the beginning, I just don’t like the execution. Here are the two reasons why –

  1. NodeJS? Really?

NodeJS is all the rage right now. Every developer is discovering the strange and amazing things you can do with, of all the things, JavaScript and is running from pillar to post to launch a real-time, fast and easily scalable app as soon as possible. Of course, this means that there are some really nice apps out there. But is NodeJS ready?

Well, define ready.

Of course. Ready means that the next time some layman decides to set up a blog on the Internet, can (s)he purchase a simple hosting plan, upload a couple of NodeJS files and be up in 5 minutes? No. You have to rent a VPS or invest in Amazon AWS, upload files via git and then know how to develop locally and push out changes to the repo in the cloud(Notice all those keywords I threw there, developer?) In other words, you better be a developer and please don’t expect every Tom, Dick and Thorsten to be able to use this technology.

The ghost blog tries hard to defend its decision to go with JS based on the argument that it’s the future and is robust and allows innovation. It leaves out the fact that until the GoDaddies of the web hosting world don’t come out with NodeJS support in their basic plans, you’re not going anywhere with this blogging platform other than the few platforms that specifically support this technology. Oh, and your own computer.

  1. What about WordPress?

When Ghost was first introduced, O’Nolan talked about how WP changed his life and how it was awesome and awful at the same time and how his plan is to take the WP Core and rewrite parts of it to make it awesome-awesome. He meant it. He was going to fix WordPress with just a plugin. But then he didn’t. He’s going to keep the WP format, so that themes and plugins can be easily converted. He’s going to make tools to import from WP so that people can shift to Ghost ASAP. He’s going to take from WP and literally give nothing back. Ever.

I did not expect this. Well, the folks at WordPress probably did. They understand that WP is open source and people can easily add or take as they want. But I did not expect that instead of solidifying and giving better direction to WP, John would just steal from WP so blatantly and try to replace one good platform with another. He could have worked on the Core, he could have made it so much better as to force Automattic to consider his direction as the right path forward. He could have influenced the lives of so many WP lovers in such a positive way, but instead he chose to give up all that just because it would be a little more difficult to make the same stuff in PHP than it is in NodeJS. He gave up on the entire idea and instead focussed himself on getting people to drop WP and come to Ghost, leaving behind the entire essence of the platform that he’s clearly got a lot to thank for.

I’m a big proponent of WordPress. When friends come to me with even a semi-serious resolve to start a blog, I tell them of the cheap and easy hosting plans out there, how they can just upload a bunch of files and run an install script by opening a link in a browser and can search for and edit plugins and themes right from inside the web app and be running a blog in 5 flat minutes.

Now, when people will ask me about Ghost, the “better WordPress”, I’m just going to tell them that it’s not worth the effort and that it’s not ready for prime time. That’s because, NodeJS being such a nascent technology, we can’t expect to see large-scale adoption of the platform any time soon. We won’t see people being enabled to quickly setup a blog without too much hassle and we won’t see ghost being the de facto standard for someone just stepping into the world of blogging. You thought was a country club? Wait till Ghost comes out.


This whole thing seems too much like a rant? As O’Nolan says, “Haters gonna hate.”

Experimenting with a new way of microblogging

Today, someone pointed out to me that my live blog – wasn’t truly a micro blog because there was no way for people to reply to me. This got me thinking. Following the tenets of what a micro blog is from my recent post, I believe that a post, reply model, with no character limit on the post other than the author’s discretion with the ability to include multimedia in the post and the ability to host it on their own server really defines a micro blog.

Towards that, here’s an experiment – Disqus, the famous commenting system, has all of the above features. Though I do not, in the end, control the database of the posts, I can host a disqus plugin just about anywhere. This is where I choose to do it. This is now, a micro blog. Anyone can come and comment here. This allows  for Guest replies, mentions, multimedia attachments, moderation and links in the comments. There is even a mobile theme which will work if you visit this page from your smart phones.

This is just an experiment. I will post here only if people start posting here. My primary personal micro blog will still be on and if anyone wants to reply there, you can do so on the Disqus comments at the bottom of that page.

Save yourself from the Ephemeral

As users of the Internet, we change a lot. We move email IDs, we jump from one social networking fad to another, we change bookmarking and read-it-later sites and even crash, delete or just forget blogs that we write on.

Most of the stuff I’ve done in the past 10 years or so on the Internet has been pretty personal. Emails, Orkut or Facebook where privacy settings allowed me to block external users or bookmarking sites that were private by default. But recently, most of my contribution to the Internet has been public – twitter and, my blogs and even my bookmarking has been public. So is true for most of us out there. With the shift in social networks’ view of what data should be totally private, there’s a lot of data that’s in the public domain. This also means that there’s equally that much data that can be lost or can stagnate when an eventuality occurs – a web service shuts down because of acquisition or drying up of funds, your blog crashes and you have to start from scratch, you leave a social network and even though you download all your data and invite all your connections to the new one, some don’t join or you can’t upload any of that data anywhere else (how many social networks out there are interchangeable? None.) or maybe you just stop using a site or service and that data just sits there, alone and forgotten (just ask my bookmarks on Continue reading


I have practically no use of Google+. My common friends are sticking with Facebook and twitter, my tech follow ups happen mostly on twitter and rss feeds and I’ve not joined a single hangout ever. Instead, a lot of strangers keep adding me to their lists.

I am not saying GP isn’t growing. It certainly has good numbers on its side. But somehow, it all doesn’t make any sense to me.

Hopefully, in the future, I’ll see more on GP, else I’ll just let it stagnate.

WordPresser: An HTML5 iOS blogger tool

WordPress is a great blogging tool. It has a lot of potential and in it’s more recent updates, it has grown from simply a blogging tool to a content management solution. I use wordpress on this blog for two purposes – blogging and tweeting. You see, twitter is a great service but the 140 character limit is a pain. There are thus a lot of services that allow for longer tweets. But I prefer using my blog for long tweets using the hash tag #LongTweet.

To tweet quickly from my iPhone, I want to use the WordPress app for iOS but it’s not adequate. So, I’ve built WordPresser. It’s a web app that uses HTML5 and XML-RPC to post to your blog. The link you need is – WordPresser. Open this in your iPhone or iPod’s Safari (opening it in any other browser doesn’t do much). Once you’ve opened it, save it to your Homescreen, it’ll save as a web app with the name “WordPresser”.

Before you go further, there are two things you need to do with your blog. One is conventional, the other, not so much. Continue reading