Viranga Perera

Postdoc at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab

Filtering by Category: Reflections

Your Royal Minus

Will cross that line hundred yards at a time
Instill all of my feelings on this rhyme

Understand this is my way of coping
Stand in line? Why? Can’t partake in voting

Dream crushed you say? Nah, here is the yorker
Seam at his legs that discarded joker

Notably tackling this confederate
Totally done being considerate

Feedback for you in the form of a diss
Track these words carefully so you don’t miss

That I am a goddamn force of nature
Doormat, you’re just a pathetic creature

Get this broken orange pekoe some tea
Bet this boaster doesn’t have a rupee

Excuse me kindly your royal minus
Bemuse me later, relax your sinus

Better ask your caddie for some tissues
Hater, you got serious daddy issues

Daddy really could not buy you any class?
Laddie, is that why you are so damn crass?

Short of love? By orders of magnitude
Support your need for constant gratitude

Only a magazine to stroke ego?
Holy! That too far? Wonderful, BINGO!

Wife is keep going to shoo you away
Strife! She will leave you, I have seen this play

Blight House has another new opening?
Right. No, not volunteering, just stating.

Amen! Grab that pussycat on your head
When you wake up by yourself in your bed

Putting on that old 80s tuxedo
Ignoring people of Puerto Rico

Hold another rally, create a mob
Told you are desperate for a fan job

Ribs on your gold plate we believe are prime
Ad libs your way to another hate crime

World-class disaster, much like Chernobyl
Gas you spew can’t hold flame, far from noble

Commander-in-grief, speaker of nothing
Slander is not noticing you bluffing

Sir, next time you spread hate on Fox News live
Answer to life, universe ain’t 45

Civil War: Part 2? Being a hero?
Snivel for a repeat. Score? Two-zero.

Tweet, carry on all that senseless yapping
Browbeat! Life you have, so embarrassing

Last you learnt something? Your adolescence.
Vast, the number of critical lessons

Core math you know? Written on a pencil
For psych disorders, you are the stencil

Being in eternal truth denial
Aging, moldy potato you’re senile

Taxes don’t pay, but talk up privilege
Masses of Joes barely hanging on edge

Bore through another bucket of sherbet
More nominations? Another pervert!

Strive hard to make sure yet more kids are jailed
Contrive not, your fine legacy is nailed

Brought the GOP quickly to its knees
Sort only welcomes Gropers Only Please

Coup that occurred is extremely murky
Who invited this virus? The party?

Foresee no need for reporter Tintin
We know you’d do anything for Putin

Remarry now three-ways with him and Kim
Dowry you give them will be rather slim

Task before trying to ascend the throne
Ask Pomfrey to fast grow your first backbone

Think you’re a king? Not even a spare pawn
Sink yourself with lies, time’s up on this con

Simply you’re divergence of a B-field
Clearly, rest of your time you should just yield

Unfit, you can’t jump a 2-inch hurdle
Admit you would lose to a dead turtle

Know what most of us would really prefer
Throw this rodent on a Hohmann transfer

Remember you are in the micro-scale
November will be in the Richter scale

Final Foundry

Dear Reader,

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts please, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). There are several warning signs of suicide*: 

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose 
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain 
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs 
  • Acting anxious and/or agitated
  • Engaging in reckless behavior
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge 
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
    *This list is from Recommendations for Blogging on Suicide (bloggingonsuicide.org)

This post is not intended for those who have suicidal thoughts. It is rather for those who want to understand. Nothing I have to say is as important as you being alive and well. You are not alone, please call the Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).

With love,

Viranga

Final Foundry

It is diurnal, I don’t feel normal.
Go through a portal into what’s awful.
I feel self-repulse, need to self-avulse,
Then I get impulse, to stop my own pulse.

But why so inclined? You may want defined.
It’s a state of mind that makes me confined.
With these thoughts I seize, it’s a damn disease.
Wish I had the keys to flip the unease.

In part I admit it is my own shit.
Gets me to this pit, don’t care for one bit.
Part of my aliment, is this damn judgement.
Setting like cement and causing torment.
Telling me I suck because who I muck
or not. Garbage truck, is where you should tuck
those words. They do hurt, baiting to revert
till I can’t insert my will, but it’s dirt.

Thought I was Yoda? That’s not true, no duh.
Can’t do some yoga, get to the coda.
Joy I didn’t forgo, perhaps you should know.
Wish I could veto, when I’m feeling low
At final foundry, core-mantle boundary.

Please do show soundly camaraderie.
Not just stand around until everyone’s town
becomes a ghost town. Nah! Let’s get it down
all the way to nil who self-harm or kill
ourselves, since we’re ill. If we don’t who will?

On the Issue of Jerks

Over the years, I have slowly developed the art of letting go of my frustration when someone irks me. It is a good ability to have but I am not even close to mastering it since I still get upset when people behave in annoying ways. Humans are weird sometimes and probably unexplainable most of the time. Often I think it is best to talk it out with family or friends, go for a run, and let it go. 

Occasionally, I find it useful to tell certain stories on the web for others to hear. If we are going to build a better world then we need to talk to each other about what works and what doesn’t. I think this is one of those times. Today, I was talking to someone who burst into laughter in a belittling manner once I asked the definition of a word he used. I wondered why…

There are two points I like to make about what happened. First, this occurred in an academic setting which makes this action egregious. The environment of a school, college, or university should be structured so that every person within the institution can feel welcome and comfortable to learn. That is the whole point isn’t it? Laughing at, making fun of, and/or belittling someone’s lack of knowledge on a particular matter should not be acceptable. Although the vast majority of the people I have interacted with in all of my schooling have been those with a welcoming focus towards learning, there are some who I have come across whose personal insecurities or whose overall bad manner makes them come across as arrogant. It seems like the primary intention of those few is to proclaim their greatness.

My second point is on the definition of words we use in day to day life. The words we use and the references that we make are specific to certain cultures. That point might seem obvious but without thinking too many people overlook this point. ‘American’ culture includes, for instance, heavy uses of baseball terminology. “It’s a new ballgame,” “cover your bases,” “it was a curve ball,” “you hit it out of the park,” “that came out of left field,” “play ball,” “rain-check,” and “right off the bat” are terms used frequently in ‘American’ culture. Or so they say. I use quotation marks when writing ‘American’ culture because it is something that is not well-defined. America includes a range of people who have been here for a few seconds because their airplane just landed to those whose families have been here for generations. It is probably the most diverse place on Earth and that is a wonderful thing. But what isn’t so wonderful is the need to pass on a or the ‘American’ culture. Isn’t it a form of discrimination when one calls someone “uncultured” as a way to demean them? Who’s culture are they referring to? Which stories should one have read to be an “insider?” Which pop culture references must one know? Who decided or decides these?

You don’t know what ____ means? Hahaha! Huh?!

I am a weird hybrid of an American insider/outsider. I was born and lived in Sri Lanka for the first 13 years of my life and then immigrated to America. Now I have lived more than half my life in the United States. This strange condition of being an immigrant gives me opportunities to both know and to not know the meanings of certain words and phrases. While many words and phrases I have learned were by listening to and imitating some people, some words I learned due to awkward laughs from others. Today, I try to use my perspective to kindly help newcomers to America who might ask for a napkin as “could I please have a tissue?” and who might refer to a cookie as a “biscuit.” Making fun of them might make some people feel a sense of superiority but I know that is not the case with a majority of Americans who are welcoming to those tempest-tossed.

Don't be a jerk!

Judging

Do you think that you should not judge other people? Go ahead and take a moment to think about it.

Now, are you on Tinder? 

It’s ok. 91% of people judge other people. The only ones who don’t are enlightened individuals called toddlers. 

We accept judging. We might even say that it’s necessary for our well-being. Heck, judging people might help us find our soulmate. That’s big! 

When it comes to judging there are several types. An example is one that saves your best friend from having to give you the It-Wasn’t-A-Good-Fit-For-You speech for the 25th time. However, I’d like to discuss a type of judging that is more automatic and is more alarming. Let me give you a few examples to illustrate.

Last week I went to the Coffee and Conversation Hour here at Arizona State University. I had received emails stating that this was where “domestic and international students gather to chat and build cross-cultural connections over a cup of coffee.” Sounded nice, so I went. I spotted the coffee and I walked straight towards it since as a grad student coffee is an essential part of my sustenance. A lady, who I suppose works for the International Student Center, was setting up the coffee. I said hello and she said hello but she gave me a confused look. I didn’t think much of it as I poured myself some coffee and looked for the creamer. At that point someone else had approached the table from behind me and the lady directed her attention to that person. From the way she was speaking, I thought she was talking to a child and I wondered what a kid was doing in line for coffee. As I turned around, I was surprised to find an undergrad. The lady pointed at some cups and told him that “those are ex-tra.” It was the way she said “ex-tra” that caught my annoyance. She made sure to pronounce each syllable very carefully with an awkward pause in the middle. I really hoped that she knew he was just an international student, not five.

The pronunciation of “extra” might not seem like a big deal but it is a subtle indication of you are different from me. “Ex-tra” says that because we are different, I will alter my speech for your benefit. This is an example of our automatic judgments getting the best of us. However, it doesn’t just apply to the way that people speak but also to the way that people look.

A few months ago, my sister was at a store looking for a dress to wear to one of her friend’s weddings. She had picked a dress that she liked but wasn’t quite sure if it was good, so she went to the checkout counter to ask. “Do you think this dress would work for a wedding?” my sister asked. The lady at the counter responded, “Well, it’s ok for an American wedding but I’m not sure about an Indian one.” Overhearing this a few yards away, I was pissed. So, I tweeted about it. What made that lady say that? My sister isn’t Indian so why assume that she was based solely on how she looked? Why assume that a dress that is appropriate for an “American” wedding would not work for an Indian one? Out of curiosity, what would that lady define to be an “American” wedding? Would Darius Rucker and Beth Leonard be invited? How about Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka?

It is not only your accent that generates special treatment but also the way that you look. You can sound like a foreigner, which makes it proper to talk to you like you were a child. You can look Indian, which makes it acceptable to assume that you should dress differently. This automatic judging behavior is by no means unique to a certain group of people doing it to another group. This form of judging is rampant.

For example, in high school I volunteered for the Rose Parade in Pasadena. After one of the events I was waiting for my ride home. As I waited, a lady approached me and asked me a question in Spanish. I wasn’t quite sure what she said so I responded as best as I could with “No hablo español.” She repeated it back to me with what I could only describe as revulsion and disappointment on her face. I got the feeling that she could not believe that someone who looked like me didn’t speak Spanish. I wonder if it would have helped if I could have told her that I was born on the opposite side of the planet.

It would be all too easy for me to write a blog post and say that we should stop doing this type of judging. It isn’t that easy to do. Instead, I think we can try to be more aware of it. Hopefully, over time we can keep it in check. For now, go out and say hello when you meet someone. Ask them “How are you?” or “Kohomadha?” or “¿Cómo estás?” If you don’t know what to say, just smile, because that, says it all.

Winning

A pistol goes off and several people, who were waiting in anticipation, take off running with the single goal of being the first. This means that while running nothing else matters but crossing the finish line before anyone else does. There is a particular race that my mom has told me about many times over the years. It took place several decades ago during a school sports meet at St. Joseph’s College. Though called a college, it was an all-boys Catholic school that taught kindergarten through high school in Sri Lanka. Located in the commercial capital of Colombo, it was a large school with a cricket field near the entrance and a church just behind the field. 

On that particular day, my mom was sitting in the stands by the cricket field. A small crowd had gathered for the school sports meet where students from various grades would compete against their classmates in an amateur version of the Olympic games. As she tells the story, one of the races was about to start. The race began and she watched as a boy took off quickly. The crowd cheered as it was clear that this boy was going to win the race handily. However, a few yards away from the finish line the boy stopped. The crowd was confused and in their confusion they started to yell at the boy to keep going. That way! They pointed and shouted. Finish the race! The boy perhaps did not hear or did not care. After having stopped running, he turned around as if he was looking for something he had lost. After a few moments, the boy turned back around and finished the race. However, by that time two of his classmates had overtaken him; therefore, he came in third.

Ever since hearing this story for the first time, I asked my mom why that boy stopped before finishing the race. She believes that the boy was looking for his friend. He had noticed that he had dashed off and his friend who was there at the start of the race was no longer with him.

I know what that feels like. Around my junior year of high school, I started to focus and be driven to excel in my academics. This led me to completing two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s degree, and being half-way through my Ph.D program all by the age of 28. Someone fired a pistol and I, like that boy, took off running. I had to get to that finish line. Was it my idea? Was it that boy’s idea? Perhaps. Maybe, on the other hand, we both started running because that’s what we thought we had to do.

My mom had the podium picture of the top three finishers of that race. It was just another picture until I slowly started to realize how important that boy’s actions were. Therefore, I asked my mom for a copy of that picture and now I have it as a reminder to try to be as altruistic as that boy was running that race. I admire that boy. He had it right. He could have easily won that race but he thought about something more important. He thought about his friend. Where is my friend? I could imagine him wondering as he hit the brakes and turned around. 

That picture and the story that goes with it has helped me reformulate my plans for the future. When people ask me what I want to do when I graduate and who I want to be, as much as careers and jobs are important, I hope not to lose sight of what is vital. Therefore, when I grow up, I would like to be as good as I once was when, those decades ago, I turned around looking for my friend.