Thursday, August 24, 2017

Where I get a bit cranky

Someone once told me "I don't have a problem with where I am with my career when I just look at my job, and how I feel about it. It's when I start looking around at my peers or people I started with that I get angsty."

I am realising the truth of this more and more everyday.

Who you end up working for matters a great deal. I wish I had realised how much it mattered when I was looking at roles. There are managers you get along great with, there are managers you learn a great deal from, and there are managers who genuinely care about your career and your growth. That last factor is something I never gave any consideration to, and that's where I'm feeling increasing resentment these days.

But it's unfair to blame everything on external factors too. Because I suck at networking, at schmoozing, and keeping up with people because they might be useful to me some day. Heck, I suck at keeping in touch with people I do like and love, so clearly people I don't know or like far lower on the totem pole.

If I didn't love my job so much, I would really hate the fact that I seem to be in a bit of dead end in terms of my career, mostly of my own making.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

On podcasts and a year of listening to them

A year ago, I had no idea how to listen to a podcast. I knew they were a thing, and that I should probably figure out how to listen to them on my Android devices, but since my Googling skills suck, I never quite got around to it.

Then, The West Wing Weekly started. And I had to listen to that. So exactly one year ago yesterday (as FB reminded me) I sent out a plaintive request for help out on social media, and friend of the blog* @tantanoo figured it out for me. So I downloaded PocketCast (the only app I've ever paid for in my life) and started listening to TWWW. And I really, really enjoyed it. It also helped me actually stop rewatching The West Wing nonstop. Instead, I would watch only one episode a week - after listening to the podcast episode, so that I could also make sure to notice the little things they'd mention.

At some point the folks on TWWW recommended The Bugle, and that got added to my queue. Then the Pod Save America folks came on some late night show I was watching - I think it was Seth Meyers - to plug the podcast they were about to start, I decided to check out, and that got added to the queue. They started more podcasts, and some of those added to the queue too.

Then, having dinner with friends some months ago, podcasts came up, and my friend's husband suggested the Slate Political Gabfest, saying I'd enjoy it given my "political inclinations." When I mentioned them on Twitter, someone else suggested Slate's Trumpcast podcast, and that got added to the queue as well.

After a while, I felt my podcast queue was just too full of US politics, so I again turned to social media to ask for recommendations for some Indian podcasts. After trying out multiple ones, I have eventually settled on the ones from Newslaundry, and the Mint podcast.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped watching The West Wing, and listening to TWWW completely. Life in the real world got so damn depressing, that it got harder and harder to watch this idealist dream, and then come back to reality. But even with that, suddenly I found myself with a queue of three hours' worth of podcast on any given day.

I learned very quickly that I can't focus on podcasts if I'm doing anything else. So the only times I really have when listening is a possibility is on my daily commute - which is just twenty minutes long. In weeks when I'm travelling, the flights are an excellent time to listen. Sometimes when I'm cleaning up around the apartment, or cooking, I'll try and do some listening then too, but somehow it doesn't seem to sit right. On the very rare occasion I go to the gym or for a walk, I get some listening in then too.

But all of this has meant I had to prioritize what I will listen to. And since I very clearly like/pay attention to more the podcasts that are discussing the news, and as a friend put it, have "banter" in them, the sequence became this:

  • Pod Save America - yes, they're three white dudes, but they acknowledge that, which I guess is something. I usually agree with their opinions, except when they don't push back on something their guest says.
  • Slate Political Gabfest - I think of this as a grownup version of Pod Save America, frankly. But my favourite thing about this podcast is Emily Bazelon, her passion and her articulateness, and the very clear way in which the men on this podcast defer to her as the legal expert. That is refreshing simply because no other podcast I listen to does that.
  • The Bugle - no, John Oliver is no longer a co-host, but Andy Zaltzman is fantastic even so. And his choice of getting a rotating panel of co-hosts from around the world works very well I think. Anuvab Pal, who I had never really heard before this, and Nish Kumar, are the ones I enjoy the most, for perhaps obvious reasons. And I really, really like Alice Fraser too.
  • Lovett or Leave it - purely for the laughs. There's really nothing else to say on it.
  • The Mint Editor's podcast - a weekly, 15 minute podcast that recaps and pontificates on business, and occasionally other, news of the past week. I like it because it's a good way to keep up with things back home, and it's short enough for a one-way commute. Also I like R Sukumar, the editor of Livemint. What I really don't like about this one though is the format - it usually has one other person, who is there to purely bring up a topic and then say "hmm" in varying tones and lengths as R Sukumar speaks. Also their ads are weird.
  • Newslaundry Hafta - the one I have the most mixed feelings about. First of all, it's a pain to listen to. Even though I did end up subscribing to NL, their app is terrible, so I don't like using that. I did figure out a way to download their episodes and add them to PocketCast, so that helped. Each episode is also close to two hours long, which gets painful. Having said that, this podcast is also my way of keeping up with what's going on in India, which is something I've struggled with for the past few years. Their panels, deliberately so, have a range of views, and so there are some I agree with almost all the time, and there are some I disagree with almost all the time. Manisha Pande very often sounds like the only person who knows what she's talking about, while the rest are expressing views, but sadly she seems to get talked over more often than not. There is one particular person on the panel who has been increasingly irritating me over the past several weeks, but the other panelists have for the most part yelled back at him, so I still haven't sent in that rant-filled email I mentally compose every time he speaks.
  • Newslaundry Awesome and Awful Entertainment Wrap - my main source for what Hindi movies I should or should not watch. Unfortunately, one of their co-hosts left a few months after I started listening. I did like the banter between the remaining co-host and the replacement co-host, but then both of them decided to not continue, so it seems to have gone on an indefinite hiatus.
Those are the ones I listen to every week. Then come Pod Save the World, Trumpcast, NL's sport podcast (which I listen to only if they're discussing cricket), the Late Night with Seth Meyers podcast, Pod Save the People, NY Times' The Daily, and With Friends like These - all of these are listened to if I have any time and if the topic they're discussing is still relevant by the time I get to it. Because that's how crazy the news is these days. I have two Pod Save the World episodes half listened to from last week, when North Korea was being talked about** by everyone, and then Charlottesville happened, and I simply haven't gone back.

What a year of listening to podcasts has done most for me though is two things. One, my interest in watching TV and staying caught up on shows has somehow gone down dramatically. I am now far more interested in staying caught up on podcasts. Even if I'm not really listening to podcasts when I'm home, the TV isn't always on like it used to be. I think part of why this has happened is that I also watch late night shows regularly (my friend's offhand comment about banter was a lot truer than he or I realised at the time, I think), and so all other shows have taken a backseat.

Two, the biggest sufferers in my yearlong obsession with podcasts are very clearly the parents. My drive to work used to be my time to call them, every few days. Now, with my podcast queue constantly growing longer, my calls to them have become more and more infrequent. And that is something I definitely need to fix.

* Yes, I stole that phrase from one of the podcasts I listen to. Shoo now.

** I was about to write North Korea was blowing up, and decided to rephrase because I realised that may have been a bit too much on the nose.

Monday, August 07, 2017

On hating to love a show

Some five odd years ago, I asked Twitter, that fount of all wisdom, whether I should read the Game of Thrones books, or start watching the show. The show was in its first or second season, and the general consensus at the time was that I should read the books, and so I did.

I often say I have a love-hate relationship with the books. There is SO MUCH that annoys me tremendously about them. There is a ridiculous amount of seemingly unnecessary violence, which is not something I tend to enjoy in literature. There is misogyny and mistreatment of women on practically every page, and anyone who tries to bring up the old argument about how "that's how medieval times were" can just stop now - if the kind of language and curses expressed by people can be updated to reflect the 21st century, so can other things.

And yet, I plodded through all five books, even if the cast of characters had grown so much that I was constantly flipping to the glossary at the end to try and remember who's who. But I plodded through them, whimpering at various stages thanks to GRRM's insistence on killing off practically any character I started growing even slightly fond off. I plodded through, mainly because, dammit, you want to know what happens.

When I finished the fifth book, the next book was expected to release that fall. But it kept getting pushed, and pushed, and pushed, till I'm very sure it's never coming out at all. And meanwhile the show kept going.

I never wanted to watch the show, even though everyone said it was SO GREAT. I can barely read violent stuff in books, why on earth would I want to watch them depicted on the screen? And since this is a show that is talked about pretty constantly, I've pretty much known what the show is doing even without watching. And reading about things the show changed from the books, which more often than not sounded like they had just made things more unnecessarily cruel, did not make me want to watch the show.

But then in the last couple of years, the show has clearly overtaken the books. And while I still held out, thinking maybe the next to books would come out eventually, that just seems stupid at this point. So in the last few weeks, I've been talking to friends who do watch the show, and asking which season I should start from.

Almost without fail, the answer has been, well, why wouldn't you start from the beginning? Because, well, I don't want to. I'm already going to be doing this very grudgingly, my interest in watching TV has gone down dramatically in recent months (which is a topic for another day), there is already SO MUCH TV that one must apparently watch, and I only really wanted to start watching from where the show really starts diverging from the books, and then keep going. And based on that, the consensus seemed to be that Season 4 would be a good starting point, and I figured I'll plan on that.

But then.

I was travelling for work last week, and needed to go through a gazillion decks to prepare for a call the next morning. I was flipping through channels on the television to have something play in the background, and the most recent episode was playing as I came to HBO. And for some reason, I let it stay on that channel.

By the end of that hour, I knew I was going to have to start my binge watch sooner rather than later.

And then.

Last night, I happened to go online soon after the latest episode must have played. And twitter had clearly watched, and gone berserk. So I decided to watch the episode.


I spent the next hour gasping practically every five minutes. And now I can't decide if I just start my binge watch tonight and keep going till I'm up to date, or if I just watch this season as it happens and then do my binge watch, or do a combination of both, or WHAT.