Blackjack and ADHD

My mornings feel like I’m playing blackjack. A few months back, I had a bit of a health scare (elevated blood sugar levels), and since finding good low-carb food in/around office is a challenge, after that I’ve been taking my own lunch box.

It’s a fairly elaborate lunch, which one colleague calls as “looking rather European”. It started with grilled paneer and grilled vegetables, but has now grown to a massive glass Ikea box with grilled paneer, boiled eggs, grilled vegetables (some pre-blanched / steamed before grilling), roasted and crushed nuts and (of late) kimchi.

And despite my cook occasionally helping me out with some mise-en-place, there are a lot of things to do every morning. Some of the processes involved are:

  • keeping water for boiling, for eggs
  • putting eggs carefully into the boiling water (without breaking), and setting a timer for 7 minutes. If I’m not wearing my Apple Watch, I need to also run around to find my phone
  • Putting water in the steamer for steaming vegetables
  • Putting the hard veggies (carrot, beans, broccoli) into the steamer and closing the pot.
  • Taking out the veggies from the steamer before they are too soggy
  • Slicing paneer
  • Grilling paneer on the frying pan with salt and pepper and olive oil
  • Grilling veggies on the frying pan with salt and pepper and olive oil (including the steamed veggies)
  • Pre-heating the air fryer
  • Adding almonds into the air fryer; shaking the fryer once in the middle, transferring almonds to the pestle and mortar
  • Putting cashews into the air fryer
  • Taking out cashews when they have just browned and putting into the pestle and mortar
  • Putting eggs in cold water after seven minutes are up
  • Peeling and slicing eggs, and seasoning with salt and pepper
  • Crushing cashews and almonds and adding them to grilled vegetables

I don’t think I’ve ever timed myself. However, pretty much every morning I get into a frenzy trying to finish all of this, and then take my daughter to school on time. Maybe some days I take twenty minutes. Maybe I take thirty. I don’t even know. Life is such a blur.

As you can imagine, the above process can be heavily parallelised. And while my menu is standardised, the process is not. Which means I’m trying to both experiment and measure at the same time. While cooking four different processes at exactly the same time.

Sometimes, life feels like playing blackjack. You would have flipped the paneer over in the frying pan maybe for one last time. And then you think “I can peel this egg before the paneer is done”. Before you know it the paneer is black. You are not wearing your watch, so you go in search of the phone – to put the timer for the egg. In that time the veggies are burnt.

I don’t even know why I sometimes put myself through this. Maybe this is yet another tradeoff between physical and mental health. For now, physical seems to be winning.

Maybe a sustainable long term strategy is to forego lunch as well (nowadays I don’t eat breakfast unless I’ve gone to the gym in the morning), and transition to an “OMAD” (one meal a day) lifestyle.  Or maybe I should find myself some nice lunch I can take to office which doesn’t involve so many parallel steps.

Until I figure something out, I’ll continue running in the mornings.

Why I never became a pundit

It’s been nearly a decade since i started writing in the mainstream media. Ahead of the Karnataka elections in 2013, I had published on this blog a series of quantitative analyses of the election, when R Sukumar (then editor-in-chief of Mint) picked it up and asked me if I could write for his paper on the topic – quantitative analysis of elections.

And so Election Metrics (what my pieces in Mint – they were analysis and not editorials, which meant it wasn’t a strict “column” per se, but I got paid well) was born. I wrote for Mint until the end of 2018, when my then contract ran out and Sukumar’s successor chose not to renew.

Having thus “cracked print”, I decided that the next frontier had to be video. I wanted to be on TV, as a pundit. That didn’t come easily. The 2014 national elections (when Modi first became PM) came and went, and I spent the counting day in the Mint newsroom, far from any television camera. I tried to get my way in to IPL auction analysis, but to no avail.

Finally, in 2018, on the day of the Karnataka elections, I got one guy I knew from way back to arrange for a TV appearance, and went on “News9” (a Bangalore-focussed English news channel) to talk about exit polls.

“I saw the video you had put on Facebook”, my friend Ranga said when he met me a few days later, “and you were waxing all eloquent about sample sizes and standard errors”. On that day I had been given space to make my arguments clear, and I had unleashed the sort of stuff you don’t normally see on news TV. Three days later, I got invited on the day of counting, enjoyed myself far less, and that, so far, has been the end of my career in punditry.

Barring a stray invitation from The Republic aside, my career in TV punditry has never gotten close to getting started after that. Of late I haven’t bothered, but in the past it has frequently rankled, that I’ve never been able to “crack TV”. And today I figured out why.

On my way to work this morning I was listening to this podcast featuring noted quant / factor investors Jim O’Shaughnessy and Cliff Asness. It was this nice episode where they spoke about pretty much everything – from FTX and AMC to psychedelics. But as you might expect with two quant investors in a room, they spent a lot of time talking about quantitative investing.

And then somewhere they started  talking about their respective TV appearances. O’Shaughnessy started talking about how in the early days of his fund, he used to make a lot of appearances on Bloomberg and CNBC, but of late he has pretty much stopped going.

He said something to the effect of: “I am a quant. I cannot give soundbites. I talk in terms of stories and theories. In the 80s, the channels used to give me a minute or two to speak – that was the agreement under which I appeared on them. But on my last appearance, I barely got 10 seconds to speak. They wanted soundbites, but as a quant I cannot give soundbites”.

And then Asness agreed, saying pretty much the same thing. That it was okay to go on television in the time when you got a reasonable amount of time to speak, and build a theory, and explain stuff, but now that television has come down to soundbites and oneliners, he is especially unsuited to it. And so he has stopped going.

There it was – if you are the sort who is driven by theories, and you need space to explain, doing so over voice is not efficient. You would rather write, where there is room for constructing an argument and making your point. If you were to speak, unless you had a lot of time (remember that speaking involves a fair amount of redundancy, unlike writing), it would be impossible to talk theories and arguments.

And I realise I have internalised this in life as well – at work for example, I write long emails (in a previous job, colleagues used to call them “blogposts”) and documents. I try to avoid complicated voice discussions – for with my laborious style I can never win them. Better to just write a note after it is over.

Computer science and psychology

This morning, when I got back from the gym, my wife and daughter were playing 20 questions, with my wife having just taught my daughter the game.

Given that this was the first time they were playing, they started with guessing “2 digit numbers”. And when I came in, they were asking questions such as “is this number divisible by 6” etc.

To me this was obviously inefficient. “Binary search is O(log n)“, I realised in my head, and decided this is a good time to teach my daughter binary search.

So for the next game, I volunteered to guess, and started with “is the number \ge 55“? And went on to “is the number \ge 77“, and got to the number in my wife’s mind (74) in exactly  7 guesses (and you might guess that \lceil log_2 90 \rceil (90 is the number of 2 digit numbers) is 7).

And so we moved on. Next, I “kept” 41, and my wife went through a rather random series of guesses (including “is it divisible by 4” fairly early on) to get in 8 tries. By this time I had been feeling massively proud, of putting to good use my computer science knowledge in real life.

“See, you keep saying that I’m not a good engineer. See how I’m using skills that I learnt in my engineering to do well in this game”, I exclaimed. My wife didn’t react.

It was finally my daughter’s turn to keep a number in mind, and my turn to guess.

“Is the number \ge 55?”
“Yes”

“Is the number \ge 77?”
“Yes”

“Is the number \ge 88?”
“Yes”

My wife started grinning. I ignored it and continued with my “process”, and I got to the right answer (99) in 6 tries. “You are stupid and know nothing”, said my wife. “As soon as she said it’s greater than 88, I knew it is 99. You might be good at computer science but I’m good at psychology”.

She had a point. And then I started thinking – basically the binary search method works under the assumption that the numbers are all uniformly distributed. Clearly, my wife had some superior information to me, which made 99 far more probable than any number between 89 and 98. And s0 when the answer to “Is the number \ge 88?”turned out to by “yes”, she made an educated guess that it’s 99.

And since I’m used to writing algorithms, and  teaching dumb computers to solve problems, I used a process that didn’t make use of any educated guesses! And thus took far many more steps to get to the answer.

When the numbers don’t follow a uniform distribution, binary search works differently. You don’t start with the middle number – instead, you start with the weighted median of all the numbers! And then go on to the weighted median of whichever half you end up in. And so on and so forth until you find the number in the counterparty’s mind. That is the most optimal algo.

Then again, how do you figure out what the prior distribution of numbers is? For that, I guess knowing some psychology helps.

 

Hanging out with the lads

One of my favourite podcasts this year has been The Rest is History with Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook. It is simultaneously insanely informative and insanely funny, and I’ve been listening to it as regularly as I can this year.

A few months back, a prequel to The Lord Of The Rings called “Rings of Power” came out on Amazon. To commemorate that, Rest is History did a few episodes on JRR Tolkien. It’s a fascinating profile, but one line especially stood out.

Holland was talking about how Tolkien found himself a steady girlfriend when he was 13 (and got himself excommunicated from the church in the process – he was Catholic and she was Protestant, I think). And then he said “that part of his life having been settled, he now focussed on other things, such as hanging out with the lads”.

I find this to be a rather profound line. “Hanging out with the lads”. And having found myself a steady girlfriend for the first time relatively late in life (when I was nearly 27), I can look back at my life and think of the value of this phrase.

When you are single, among other things, you become a “life detector” (this phrase comes from one friend, who used it to describe another, saying “she is a life detector. She puts blade on anything that moves”). Especially if, as a youngster, you have watched good but illogical movies such as Dil To Pagal Hai.

You may not realise it until you are no longer single, but being single takes a toll on your mental health. Because you are subconsciously searching for a statistically significant other, you mind has less time and space for other things. And you miss out on more enjoyable things in life.

Such as “hanging out with the lads”.

I have written (forgot where, and too lazy to find the link now) about how being no longer single was fantastic in terms of simply appreciating other women. You could say they were nice, or beautiful, or intelligent, or whatever, and it would be a simply honest comment without any “ulterior motives”. More importantly, you could very simply tell her that, without worrying whether she will like you back, what caste she belongs to (if you were into that kind of stuff) and so on.

I listened to the podcast on Tolkien when it came out a few months ago, but got reminded of it over the weekend. I spent most of my weekend in IIMB, at our 15th year batch reunion (ok, it’s been 16 years since we graduated but our party was postponed by a year due to Covid). As part of the reunion (and unlike our 10th reunion in 2016), we had a real “L^2 party” (check here to see what L^2 parties used to be (for me) back in the day).

So effectively, this Saturday I was at my first ever L^2 party after I had graduated from IIMB. In other words, I was at my first ever L^2 party where I was NOT single (my wife wasn’t there, though. Pretty much no one from our batch brought spice or kids along).

However, despite the near 17-year gap from the last L^2 I had attended, I could feel a different feeling. I found myself far more willing to “hang out with the lads” than I had been in 2004-6. I had a lot of fairly strong conversations during the time. I held random people and danced (thankfully the music got better after a while).

Through the entire party I was at some kind of perfect peace with myself. Yeah, you might find it strange that a 40-year-old guy is writing like this, but whatever. Early on, I sent a video of the party to my wife. She sent back a video of our daughter trying to imitate the way I was “dancing”.

And it was not just the party. I spent a day and a half at IIMB, hanging out with the “lads” (which included a few women from our batch), having random conversations about random things, just laughing a lot and exchanging stories. Nobody spoke about work. There was very little small talk. Some conversations actually went deep. It was a great time.

With the full benefit of hindsight, I had as much fun as I did in this period (ok i might be drawing random connections, but what the hell)  because I was secure in the fact that I am in a steady relationship, and have a family. And it took me a long time to realise this, well after I had stopped being single.

 

 

 

 

Eating Alone

In the last 2 weeks, about 4 times I had lunch in my office cafeteria. After a small health scare in early October (high HbA1c), I carry my own (self-made) lunch to office every day now (since I can’t reliably find low carb food around). On these days, I took my lunch to the cafeteria and ate along with colleagues, some of whom had brought there own lunches and others bought from the on-site caterer.

This, to me, however, is highly unusual behaviour. First of all, taking lunch to office is highly unusual – something that till recently I considered an “uncle thing to do”. Of course, now that I’m 40, doing “uncle things” is par for the course.

More importantly, eating lunch in the cafeteria is even more unusual behaviour for me. And in the last couple of days, most days I’ve sat there because a colleague who sits near me and brings lunch as well has called me on his way to the cafeteria.

A long time ago, an old friend had recommended to me this book called “never eat alone“. I remember reading it, but don’t remember anything of its contents (and its average goodreads rating of 3.8 suggests my opinion is not isolated). From what I remember, it was about networking and things like that.

However, as far as I am concerned, especially when it comes to lunch on a working day, I actually prefer to eat alone (whether it is at my desk or at a nearby restaurant). Maybe it is because my first “job” (it was actually an internship, but not my first ever internship) was in London, on a trading floor of an investment bank.

On trading floors, lunch at desk is the done thing. In fact, I remember being told off once or twice in my internship for taking too long a lunch break. “You can take your long break after trading hours. For lunch, though, you just go, grab and come and eat at the desk”, I had been told. And despite never again working in an environment like that (barring 4-5 weeks in New York in 2010-11), this habit has struck with me for life.

There are several reasons why I like to eat alone, either at a restaurant or at my desk. Most importantly, there is a time zone mismatch – on most days I either don’t eat breakfast, or would have gone to the gym in the morning. Either ways, by 12-1230, I’m famished and hungry. Most others in India eat lunch only beyond 1.

Then, there is the coordination problem. Yes, if everyone gets lunchboxes (or is okay to but at the cafeteria) and goes to the cafeteria, then it is fine. Else you simply can’t agree on where to go and some of you end up compromising. And a suboptimal lunch means highly suboptimal second half of the day.

Then, there is control over one’s time. Sometimes you can get stuck in long conversations, or hurry up because the other person has an impending meeting. In either case, you can’t enjoy your lunch.

Finally, when you have been having a hectic work day, you want to chill out and relax and do your own thing. It helps to just introspect, and be in control of your own mind and thoughts and distractions while you are eating, rather than losing control of your stimulations to someone else.

Of course it can work the other day as well – cafeteria lunches can mean the possibility of random catchups and gossip and “chit chat” (one reason I’ve done a few of those in the last few weeks), but in the balance, it’s good to have control over your own schedule.

So I don’t really get the point of why people think it’s a shame to eat alone, or thing something is wrong with you if you’re eating alone. I know of people who have foregone meals only because they couldn’t find anyone to go eat with. And I simply don’t understand any of this!

Quiz Time

This morning was Mahaquizzer, KQA’s (used to be) annual national solo written championships. When I had seen the invite a few days back, I had somehow registered in my head that the quiz was between 11:00 am and 12:30 pm.

The website says,

Reporting time for participants will be 10:00 AM

The quiz will be held across all cities from 10:30 am – 12:00 pm

But in my head I had it as 10:30 registration and quiz starting at 11:00. And so around 10, I went in for a long shower. And came out and just for the heck of it, picked my phone to confirm what time the event was. And panicked.

It was 10:55 by the time I reached the venue and started doing the quiz. This meant that rather  than the allotted 90 minutes, I only had 65 minutes to answer the 150 questions. I got into my “speed zone” (I used to be good at solving problems really really fast – that’s how I did very well in CAT etc.) and started working my way through the paper.

It was ~ 11:55 by the time I got done with my first parse of the paper, which meant there was little time for me to revise. And so for a lot of questions I ended up paying far less attention than I should have. And I left some 5-10 questions unattempted (more because I didn’t have a good answer rather than due to lack of time itself).

When the answers were given out presently, I figured I ended up making 67 out of 150. There were a few bad misses. My intuitive thought then was that had I had the full 90 minutes, I could have done better in some 5-10 questions and maybe ended up with 75 out of 150. My misreading of the time had cost me 5-10 points (and I’ll know in a few days how many places in the national rnanking).

Thinking about this, I headed out for lunch with 3 other quizzers (all of whom scored much more than me this morning). Through the lunch, we discussed all the questions. It turned out that for a bunch of questions, some of these people had over-analysed and over-thought, and ended up getting the wrong answer. Because I was doing the quiz in some insane speed mode, I didn’t have the luxury to over-analyse – I had written down the simplest and most intuitive answers I could think of.

Suddenly, by the end of the lunch (by which time we had analysed the full paper), I wasn’t sure any more on how much more I would have got had I had more time. Yes, there were 5-10 questions that would have definitely benefited from my paying more attention. On the other hand, there was another bunch of questions where more attention might have actually been damaging – I would have ended up over-analysing and turned my correct answers into wrong ones.

So I  will never really know how much more (or less) I might have got had I had the full quota of time this morning.

And now that I think of it – it is the case with my blogposts also sometimes. Most of the times I just want to bang it out and publish it, so I get into one zone and start writing. And it will be a stream of thought that will go on to this page, where you will read it .

However, when I try to write more leisurely, I make a right royal mess of it. I over-analyse, over-edit, spend needless time worrying about things I shouldn’t be worrying about, etc. In my own opinion, the best blogposts are those I have written in a “mad speed zone”. Editing can only make my writing worse.

PS: Because I was quizzing today (in the afternoon I attended Asiasweep along with Kodhi. Doing a quiz with Kodhi is always a lot of fun because we end up laughing about random things through the quiz). I deliberately decided to skip my ADHD medication for the day. And that worked out well, since I was able to make all sorts of random connections and work out the answers.

In quizzing, a little bit of hallucination can be a good thing!

Portfolio with a dominant stock

Last night, I read this post I had written shortly before I turned 29. I had embarked on a “Project thirty“, a year on project I had sponsored for myself. The plan was to do everything I had wanted to do but had never been able to, and the only condition that I had put for myself had been that I wouldn’t take up a full time job until the end of the “project”.

The project, largely speaking, was successful. It laid the bed for what was a fantastic decade of “portfolio life”, as I did several things with my time (though most of my income came from one of those things I did). I built a career as a freelance analytics ad data science consultant (which is how I made most of my money), wrote a newspaper column, became an adjunct professor, involved myself in public policy research and wrote a book.

In the middle of all this, i made time for myself to go spend a semester with my wife as she completed her MBA in Barcelona, and then followed her to London when she got a job there. It was all wonderful stuff.

And then, around the time I turned 38, partly fuelled by the pandemic, I brought my portfolio life to a close. Around then, my wife asked me what my “project forty” would be. “To stay in my job”, I had told her then. And now, that has been successfully completed.  As a bonus, according per my calculations, this is the job I would’ve stayed the longest ever in!

In any case, recently, my wife asked me the usual question once again. About what my “project” for my early forties is. She probably first asked me this a month ago or something, and I don’t think I had an answer then. And then last week, after we came back from our vacation to Tanzania, I spent 2 days at home just chilling.

My new personal computer (a 14″ M1) had arrived by then, and I spent the time setting it up, reading, writing, being on twitter and exploring cool new technologies such as Stable Diffusion and Chat GPT. It was absolutely enjoyable, those 2 days. It felt great having a non-work computer of my own (my previous one had conked 6 months back, though it had hardly been operational for a year before that). Those two days were spent like my project thirty days were. They were wonderful.

And so, by the time the tens place of my age number got its increment, I had the answer ready to give to my wife. On what my plan for my early forties is. It is “portfolio with a dominant stock”.

I really enjoyed the portfolio life I lived through most of my thirties. And want to get to a portfolio again. On the other hand, I’m in a job that I’ve settled fairly well into. And during the recent holiday to Tanzania, I also realised that it feels good to be able to spend on holidays like that without really thinking a hundred times.

So what is the solution? It is basically about having a portfolio with a “dominant stock” – the dominant stock being my job. My objective for my early forties is to continue having a full time job, but also have an interesting life on the side.

For now, what the interesting sides will be – I don’t have that much of an idea, and am likely to go back to things close to my old ones.

I want to travel a lot more.
I’m restarting my newsletter soon.
I want to start teaching once again. Part time only. Need to wing this somehow, somewhere.
Meet people regularly. Breakfasts. Lunches. Dinners. Drinkses.
I want to start playing a card game competitively. Either resume bridge or (more likely) learn something new such as poker.
I have no intention of writing another book (yet). Even if I do, it is likely to be via Substack.

It’s not going to be easy of course. Last 2 years, I’ve largely focussed on my job and family, and done little else (apart from this blog and lifting). I will need to prioritise properly, and manage my time well (something I’ve never been good at). But there is no harm putting out this goal, and in public, in the hope that having put this out will help me do better at it.

Let’s see where this goes! And any ideas are welcome.

CGM Notes

At about 5:30 pm last Wednesday, I chanced upon a box of Sandesh crumbs lying in the office. A colleague had brought the sweets to share the previous day, and people had devoured it; but left aside the crumbs. I picked up the box and proceeded to demolish it as I reviewed a teammate’s work.

Soon the box was in the dustbin. I chanced upon a cookie box that another colleague had got. And started to demolish the cookies. This was highly atypical behaviour for me, since I’m trying to follow a low-carb diet. At the moment, I assumed it was because I was stressed that day.

Presently, I took out my phone to log this “meal” in the Ultrahuman app. There the reason for my binge was clearly visible – my blood sugar had gone down to 68 mg / dL, pretty much my lowest low in the 2 weeks I wore the last sensor.

This, I realised, was a consequence of the day’s lunch, at Sodabottleopenerwala. Maybe it was the batter (or more likely, the sauce) of the fried chicken wings. Or the batter of the onion pakoda. Something I had eaten that afternoon had spiked my blood sugar high enough to trigger a massive insulin response. And that insulin, having acted upon my lunch, had acted upon the rest of the sugars in my blood. Sending it really low. To a point where I was gorging on whatever sweets I could find.

About a year (or maybe two?) back, I had read Jason Fung’s The Obesity Code, which had talked about insulin being the hormone responsible for weight gain. High levels of insulin in the blood means you feel hungrier and you gorge more, or something like that the argument went. The answer was to not keep triggering insulin release in the blood – for that would make the body “insulin resistant” (so you need more insulin than usual to take care of a particular amount of blood sugar). Which can lead to Type 2 diabetes, high triglycerides, weight gain, etc.

And so Fung’s recommendations (paraphrasing – you should see my full blogpost based on the book ) included fasting, and eating fewer carbs. Here I was, two years later, finding evidence of the concepts in my CGM data.

I have worn a CGM a couple of times before. Those were primarily to figure out my body’s response to different kinds of foods, and find out what I should eat to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. The insights had been fairly clear. However, since it had been ten months since I last wore a CGM, I had forgotten some of the insights. I was “cheating” (eating what I wasn’t supposed to eat) too much. And my blood sugar had started going up to scary levels.

The objective of this round of the CGM was to find out “high ROI foods”. Foods that gave me a lot of “satisfaction” while not triggering much of a blood glucose response. The specific hypothesis I was trying to test was that sweets and traditional south indian lunch trigger my blood sugar in the same manner, so I might as well have dessert instead of traditional south indian lunches!

Two weeks of this CGM and I rejected this hypothesis. I had sweets enough number of times (kalakand, sandesh, corner house cake fudge, etc) to notice that the glucose response was not scary at all. The problem, each time, however, occurred later – maybe the “density of sugars” in the sweets triggered off too much of an insulin response, leading to a glucose crash (and low glucose levels at the end of it).

Traditional south indian lunch (I would start with the vegetables before I moved on to rice with sambar and then rice with curd) was something I tested multiple times. And it’s not funny how much the response varied – a couple of times, my blood glucose went up very high (160 etc.). A couple of times there was a minimal impact on my blood glucose. It was all over the place. That said, given the ease of preparation, it is something I’m not cutting out.

What I’m cutting out is pretty much anything that involves “pulverised grains”. Those just don’t work for me. Two times I had dosa – once it sent my blood sugar beyond 200, once beyond 180. One idli with vade sent my blood sugar from 80 to 140 (on the other hand, khara bath (uppit) with vaDe only sent it to 120). Paneer paratha (on the streets of Gurgaon) sent my sugar up to 200.

That some flours work for me I had established in previous iterations wearing the CGM – rice rotti hadn’t worked, jowar rotti hadn’t worked, ragi mudde had been especially bad. But that dose and idli and paratha also don’t work for me was an interesting observation this time. I guess I’ll be eating much less of these.

What did work for me was what has sort of become my usual meals when going out of late – avoiding carbs. One Wednesday, I got my team to order me an entire Paneer Butter Masala for lunch (Gurgaon again). Minimal change in glucose levels. That Friday, I had butter chicken (only; no bread or rice with it). Minimal change yet again! Omelettes simply don’t register on my blood sugar levels (even with generous amounts of cheese).

To summarise,

  • Sweets may not send my sugar very high, but in due course they send it very low (due to high insulin response). The only time this crash doesn’t happen is if I’ve had the sweets at the end of a meal. Basically, avoid.
  • Any kinds of pulverised grains (dosa, idli, rotti, paratha) is not good for me. Avoid again
  • The same food can have very different response at different times. This could be due to the pre-existing levels of insulin in the body. So any data analysis (I plan to do it) needs to be done very carefully
  • On a couple of occasions I found artificial sweeteners (like those in my whey protein) causing a glucose crash – maybe they get the body to release insulin despite not having sugars. Avoid again.
  • Again last week I met a friend for dinner and we had humongous amounts of seafood. I didn’t eat carbs with it. Minimal spike.
  • Some foods cause an immediate spike. Some cause a delayed spike. Some cause a crash.
  • Crashes in glucose levels (usually 1-2 hours after a massively insulin-triggering meal) were massively correlated with me feeling low and jittery and unable to focus. It didn’t matter how recently I had taken the last dose of my ADHD medication – glucose crash meant I was unable to focus.
  • Milk is not as good for me as I thought. It does produce a spike (and crash), especially when I’m drinking on an empty stomach
  • Speaking of drinking, minimal impact from alcohols such as whiskey or wine. I didn’t test beer (I know it’s not good)
  • Biryani (Nagarjuna) wasn’t so bad – again it was important I ate very little rice and lots of chicken (ordered sides)
  • Just omelette is great. Omelette with a slice of toast not so.

All these notes are for myself. Any benefit you get from this is only a bonus.

Signalling, anti-signalling and dress codes

A few months back, I read Rob Henderson‘s seminal work on signalling and anti-signalling. To use a online community term, I’ve been “unable to unsee”. Wherever I see, I see signalling, and anti-signalling. Recently, I thought that some things work as signals to one community but anti-signals to others. And so on.

I was reminded of this a couple of weekends back when we were shopping at FabIndia. Having picked up a tablecloth and other “house things”, my wife asked if I wanted to check out some shirts. “No, I have 3 FabIndia shirts in the washing pile”, I countered. “I like them but maintenance is too hard, so not buying”.

The issue with FabIndia shirts is  that they leech colour, so you cannot put them in the washing machine (especially not with other clothes). Sometimes you might get lucky to get a quorum of indigos (and maybe jeans) to put in the machine at a time, but if you want to wear your FabIndia clothes regularly you have no option but to wash them by hand. Or have them someone wash them for you.

That gave rise to the thought that FabIndia shirts can possibly send out a strong signal that you are well to do, since you have domestic help – since these shirts need to be hand washed and then pressed before wearing (the logistics of giving clothes for pressing near my house aren’t efficient, and if I’ve to do it consistently, I need help with that. I end up wearing Tshirts that don’t need much ironing instead).

On the other hand, the black T-shirts (I have several in various styles, with and without my company logo) I wear usually are very low maintenance. Plonk them into the washing machine with everything else. No need of any ironing. I don’t need no help to wear such clothes.

And then I started thinking back to the day when I would wear formal shirts regularly. Those can go into the washing machine (though you are careful on what you put in with them), but the problem is that they need proper ironing. You either spend 20 minutes per shirt, or figure out dynamics of giving them out for ironing regularly (if you’re lucky enough to have an iron guy close to your house) – which involves transaction costs. So again wearing well cleaned and ironed formals sends out a signal that you are well to do.

I think it was Rob Henderson again (not sure) who once wrote that the “casualisation” of office dress codes has done a disservice to people from lower class backgrounds. The argument here is that when there is a clear dress code (suits, say), everyone knows what to wear, and while you can still signal with labels and cufflinks and the cut of your suit, it is hard to go wrong.

In the absence of formal dress codes, however, people from lower class are at a loss on what to wear (since they don’t know what the inherent signals of different clothes are), and the class and status markers might be more stark.

My counterargument is that the effort to maintain the sort of clothes most dress codes demand is significant, and imposing such codes puts an unnecessary burden on those who are unable to afford the time or money for it. The lack of a dress code might make things ambiguous, but in most places, the Nash equilibrium is most people wearing easy-to-maintain clothes (relative to the image they want to portray), and less time and money going in conformity.

As it happened, I didn’t buy anything at FabIndia that day. I came home and looked in the washing bin, and found a quorum of indigo shirts (and threw in my 3-month old jeans) to fill the washing machine. My wife requested our domestic helper to hand-wash the brown FabIndia shirts. While watching the T20 world cup, I ironed the lot. I’m wearing one of them today, as I write this.

They look nice (though some might think they’re funny – that’s an anti-signal I’m sending out). They’re comfortable. But they require too much maintenance. Tomorrow I’m likely to be in a plain black t-shirt again.

Stereotypes, K-Dramas and ADHD

My wife is currently watching a K-drama which she said I might like, because the leading female character in that is autistic. “You have ADHD, and you might be on the spectrum, so you can at least half watch with me”, she said.

Given that it is in a language that I don’t know, I can’t really “half watch”, but I’ve sat through an aggregate of about ten-fifteen minutes of the show in the last 2-3 days.

My first impression of the show and the character was “gosh she’s such a stereotype”. They showed her in court or something (the character is a lawyer), and she takes something someone says extremely literally. And then there was something else that seemed rather stereotypical and then I almost wrote off the show.

And then they showed one scene, which is also possibly stereotypical (I don’t know) but which I massively massively empathised with, and then my view of the show turned, and at this point in time I’m “half watching” the show (to the best extent you can when you need subtitles) as I write this.

I might have written about this before – back in 2013, after about six months of taking methylphenidate for my ADHD, I had started to believe that it was crimping my creativity. What I thought had defined me until then, which is also something you see a lot on this blog, is connecting very random and seemingly unconnected things.

In fact, I considered that to be one of my superpowers – to see connections that a lot of other people can’t. After a few days of not taking the medication (when I saw myself making those connections again), I decided to get off them. I didn’t get back on till 2020 (as things stand I take them).

Anyway, back to the show, the protagonist is shown having a vision of a whale, and that vision reminds her of something else, and she keeps connecting one thing to another (I was really empathising with her in this snippet), and gets a massive insight that solves the case that she is on. My view of the show turned.

A few pertinent observations before I continue:

  • One of the speakers at one of the early episodes of NED Talks made a point about how some of have possibly evolved to have what are now considered as “disorders”. “Hunting and gathering are team activities, and you need different skills for it. Not everyone needs to run after the prey. The autistic person in the tribe will be able to detect where the prey is and the rest can hunt it”.

    So we have evolved to be different like this. Putting together genetics and game theory, it is a “mixed strategy”.

  • The downside of being able to connect seemingly unconnected things is that you tend to hallucinate. I’ve written about this, in a completely different context.
  • Another downside of seeing visions and connecting unconnected things to find a solution to the problem that you’re working on is that it makes it incredibly difficult to communicate your solution. Having seen it in a “vision”, it is less explainable. You cannot “show steps”. Then again I don’t think this trait is specific to people with ADHD or on the autism spectrum – I know one person (very well) who doesn’t have ADHD by any stretch of imagination, but has a worse problem than me in showing steps
  • I have always been happy that I didn’t study law because it’s “too fighter” and “involves too much mugging”. But then the protagonist in this show shows remarkable attention to detail on things that she can hyperfocus on (and which her visions of whales can lead to). I’ve also read about how Michael Burry found holes in CDOs (back in 2008 during the global financial crisis) because he was able to hyperfocus on some details because he has Aspergers (now classified under the autism spectrum in general)

Anyway as I was writing this, I half watched parts of the second episode. In this again, the protagonist had another vision of the whales, which led to something else and an insight that led her to win her case. Now it appears stereotyping again, after I saw the same setup in two different episodes – it seems like the standard format the show has set up on.

I don’t know if I’ll half watch any more.