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The Social Network

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London 

Phil’s right index finger scrolled up and down, indefinitely on the scroll button of his “Porsche” shaped mouse. Every few  seconds he stopped, seemingly taking a quick glance at what was written on the screen. Every other second, he continued to click the left mouse button to confirm his actions on the screen. He glanced at his watch. His report was due in a few hours. Though the stakeholder meeting wasn’t till Tuesday noon, with the looming long weekend for the Queen’s Golden jubilee celebrations, he had to make sure it was submitted by the end of day today. “Who allocates such mind-numbing number crunching jobs on Friday afternoon?” he thought as he continue to scroll through the almost infinite list of updates on his Facebook page. A like here, a like there, a smiley here and a frown-y emoticon there, he continued to do what he was well-known for, amongst his online friends for. Philip was a compulsive liker. All of his 1325 Facebook friends could rest peacefully assured that no matter, what they put up, be it a rant or a sarcastic comment, or even a outright accusation, they were guaranteed at least one like. Oh, and a favourite and re-tweet if they were on Twitter. Though he didn’t give his “compulsive disorder” any thoughts, he found it strange that some of the people on his “friends” list were concerned if there was a delay in his “liking” their update on Facebook. Deep down, Philip knew he wasn’t doing the right thing, and that he needed to actually read and understand the update before he decided whether to hit the like button or not. But that just seemed like a lot of hard work, for someone who had over 1000 friends on Facebook.  And so far, in the three years he’d taken this stand of “liking” everything that his “friends” put on FB and Twitter in a bid to be more popular, he was yet to make any grave errors in judgement. After all, he strongly believed that the people on his contact list had enough sense to put up only likeable stuff on social media networks. And his stand had paid its dividends too. He was more popular in the London social media circle, and people were constantly sending him friend invites and inviting him to groups and “social events”, which he rarely attended for the fear of being exposed as a compulsive liker. He glanced at the lower bottom corner of his laptop to check the time. His lunch hour had finished 15 minutes ago. As he was about to log out of Facebook, he noticed that one of his virtual friend’s had been tagged in a photo with his stunning blonde woman holidaying in the Bahamas. As he always did, he like the thumbs up button, adding another like to the photograph.

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Rishab Singh clicked on the refresh button on the browser to load the updates. He glanced at the time. He still had 30 minutes to go before his late-shift finished. As much as he hated working these strange shifts at the call centre, he secretly enjoyed the fact that he could get off with some of his perversions without people being privy to them. As the senior technical support associate for a prominent IT firm, Rishab often accessed their client’s laptop and PC, remotely to troubleshoot and had access to their sensitive information. As a techie, he found it incredibly silly that people still enabled auto-logins to their emails and social media pages. Of course, he wasn’t complaining. It made his job of tapping into their personal details a lot easier. He loved to secretly stalk people on social media. Whilst he didn’t sell any of the information for money or harass them publicly, he got a certain adrenaline rush from secretly being part of their life. His recent client was a middle aged man from London, who seemed to be some sort of a compulsive liker on Facebook. This characteristic of his, made him all the more interesting to Rishab. One of Rishab’s favourite activities was going through the activity log of his victims. It gave him all the information about what they had liked, commented and viewed. He looked at the last activity that his present victim had engaged in on Facebook. It showed that he had liked a photo. He clicked on the image, and waited for it to load. He took a sip of the cola that he still had left from his dinner. His eyes opened wide as the image of a sexy blonde in a two piece black bikini filled the screen. “She looks fit. And hot!” he thought as he looked at the title of the album which said “Holidaying in the Bahamas”. Feeling a bit aroused, he quickly flipped to the next photo in the album. And then his eyes opened wider. This time, it wasn’t the woman who had caught his attention. It was the image of a man, he knew quite well. It was their organisation's VP from the Amsterdam office. “Such a lucky sod!” he thought, as he hit the logout button on Facebook. “Philip Thomas, are you sure you want to logout?” queried the browser. He hit yes, leaned back in his chair and adjusted his jeans. He was going to need to relieve himself soon.

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Amsterdam 

Julia Gaspar looked up from her desk and tucked away a strand of her unruly brunette hair behind her ear. She’d been distracted by a knocking sound from her phone. She glanced at her desk, where the phone rested in its cradle. The screen had lit up showing that there were some pending Facebook notifications. She sighed heavily. She was starting to rue the day that she’d let Tony convince her to create a Facebook account and download the app onto her phone too. Though she’d had the account for almost three years now, she’d never been an active user of Facebook or any other social media platforms. She preferred the more old fashioned way of communicating with friends, such as telephone calls and text messages. However her husband, Tony, was the complete opposite when it came to having a virtual presence. He had an account with every known social media platform and was literally online round the clock. So much so, that even switching his phone to vibrate mode at nights was not an option. It had to be put on silent, if they needed to get a good night’s sleep. Even so, she’d caught him secretly updating his status and replying to comments at wee hours in the morning, from under the comfort of the blanket. His addiction really bothered Julia, but despite her numerous complaints and requests, Tony had not paid any heed, and still continued to maintain a very active online presence.  One of the things that she hated about Tony’s Facebook-ing activities was that he shared almost every single information online. From what they had for dinner to where they were going to holiday, Tony considered very few things off limits to be shared with his “virtual buddies”, most of whom he had never even met. And lately, he had started tagging her too. Though she didn’t regularly check the notifications, she suddenly felt a strange urge to do so today. It was Friday noon after all and she could do with some distraction. Tony had been away on busienss for almost two weeks, and he was due to come back tomorrow morning. She was excited. Not just because she hadn’t seen him for a while. She also had a very special news to share, one she hoped would make him jump up and down with joy.

Julia clicked on the Facebook Icon on iPhone. The familiar globe sign showed that there were 63 unread notifications.  “It better not be another darn Farmville or Criminal Case invite!” she thought to herself, as her screen started filling up with the notifications. A quick glance through the list of notifications showed her that most of them were rubbish invites to these virtual games that seemed to have taken the online world by storm. As she was about to exit the app, she noticed a Red “1” next to the icon that seemed to have the silhouette of people. From her little experience of using Facebook, she knew that to be the friend request notification. Wondering who it could be, she clicked on the icon. It said “Sarah Cole has sent you a friend request!”. It said that the request wad 173 days old. Sarah was Tony’s secretary and Julia had met her on a couple of occasions at Tony’s office parties. Julia had summed up that Sarah was someone for whom the title of “Social Butterfly” worked aptly. She was pretty, and extremely friendly, and always the heart of every party. And from what Tony had mentioned, she was an extremely capable secretary too.

Overcome by curiosity, Julia clicked on the accept button on the request. This led her to Sarah’s timeline which was filled with photos of her recent holiday, which by the looks of it, she was still on. As she quickly skimmed through the photos of a scantily dressed Sarah, she suddenly felt embarrassed. And a bit weird. She felt like she was spying on someone she hardly knew. After all, Sarah’s personal life was none of Julia’s concern. Yes, she had accepted her friend request, but it wasn’t in Julia’s nature to go through someone else’s life. She knew what Tony’s response would be to her question. “If they’re happy enough to share it with the world, then it’s not spying!”. Almost absentmindedly, Julia continued to go through the photographs. “She looks stunning in that bikini”she thought as she glanced at a photo of Sarah sunbathing on the beach. As the next image from the album filled her 5” phone screen, her jaw dropped. Holding Sarah in his arms and frolicking with her on the beach in Bahamas, was the photo of her husband, Tony Gaspar.

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[This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was "“Do you feel like you “get” social media, or do you just use it because that’s where all your friends and family are?” As usual, I have "twisted" it]

Take Two - The cat and the tot

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I’m going to start this post with a confession. This has been the toughest prompts that I’ve had to tackle. But then again, it could have been because of the sheer randomness (or eerie similarity) of the two “objects” that I captured. So one lovely morning, armed with my cellphone, I walked out of my flat and into the open world. The objective was simple - capture the first thing that I saw. Since I stay in a gated community, most of the things I’d see if I walked out of my flat would be uninteresting things like buildings, buildings and more buildings. So instead I decided to capture the first thing that I walked out of the building.

The optimist in me was secretly hoping that it’s be something nice like green grass or beautiful flowers. So you can imagine discontent when the first thing I spotted was a cat preening itself right at the entrance to our building. Now by the time I got my state-of-the-art smartphone to unlock itself and get the camera ready, all I was left with was a few pieces of cat whiskers and fur. The cat was no where to be found. So instead here’s a picture of a similar cat from the internet. We’ll have to make do with that for now.

ghemotoace-par-pisica Though not extremely fond of cats, I was relatively upbeat. After all, I could write about cats. Grinning happily, I took the lift back to my flat. The wife and son were fast asleep when I’d departed for my morning photographic endeavour. As I opened the door, I looked downstairs and saw our door mat on which the word “Welcome” was neatly engraved. "That’s the first thing I saw. The next thing I see better be something I can write about” I thought to myself as I shut the door behind me.

20140110_193506Suddenly I saw a blur of white rushing towards me. I looked down and saw my son hugging my right leg tightly, still dressed in his fancy white pyjamas. “Great” I thought again. “I can definitely write about my little one”.

And then the actual prompt dawns on me. I was meant to link these two random objects together. “This could get ugly” I thought to myself, as I captured my son’s photo. After almost a whole day’s pondering over how I could potentially weave a post that included a cat and my lovely son with the same ink, I had come up with zilch. That’s when my wife stepped in. And opened up my world to the uncanny similarities between the cats and young kids, especially toddlers. So with that in mind, and lots of gratitude to my lovely wife, here are a few apparent ones.

Demand & cuddles: This one’s so obvious that I am wondering myself why I hadn’t noticed this before. Probably because I don’t own a cat. But both kids and cats demand their cuddles. And sometimes a tummy rub too. Forget kids, even I need a tummy rub too somedays, but the wife refuses. Ok, that’s another blog post. Both cats and toddlers love to be cuddled, petted and tickled under the chin. They know how to get your attention when they want it, and simply refuse to wait for it. At the same time, they’re rarely always in the mood for cuddles. Cuddles are to be given at their convenience and not the other way around.

They are forever curious and exploring Have you ever seen pictures of “that cat who stuck its head down the toilet” or “kid who got his head got stuck in the trashcan” floating about on the internet? Well believe it. I’ve seen it both happen. Both of them are known to be inherently curious and you often find themselves in rather sticky situations because of this. They love to investigate anything and everything.

Following you Another similarity between these sly felines and the little munchkins are they love to follow you around. Though not always, this phrase holds good most especially when you need to use the bathroom. Regardless of whatever you may be doing, they will attempt to come in. If you, by some fortunate timing, manage to shut the door, you will never escape the wailing and the thumping/ scratching against the door.  Sometimes it almost makes you feel like you’re a rockstar and they are your groupies.

The case of the missing objects If something small is mysteriously missing, there’s a very good chance that one of them probably took it. Of course asking them isn’t going to really yield much in way of information. The solution - check their mouth first. You’ll probably find it in there.

Super-regenerative nails (or claws) I’m not sure if it’s something they eat or if it’s some sort of hormonal activity going on, but a toddler’s nails seem to grow at alarming rates. And the worrying thing is that they’re often not afraid to use it, just like cats.

Toys Both toddlers and cats have their favourite toys and they slobber all over it. Further more all their toys make their presence felt everywhere. Talking about which, you can buy them all the expensive gifts you want, but they’ll find something as simple as a cardboard box more interesting. And yes strings, cat’s love to chase them; toddlers love to put them in their mouth.

Food Both cats and toddlers are really picky about what they eat. Even if you make or give them something they’ve gulped down on previous occasions, there are days when they sniff/look at the plate and then glance back at you as if to say “Really? That’s it?”. Talking about food, here’s another similarity. Both of them need to know what is it that you’re eating that they are not.  And very often, they’ll want it too. Here’s another one. No matter how many times you tell them not to play with their food, they will do it.

Naps Another one of those obvious things that you wonder why you never noticed. Both of them can be so active at one point and can fall asleep suddenly and in the oddest of places. Ironically in spite of probably being the smallest living beings at home, they take up the most space in bed.

Climbers If there is anything that can be climbed onto in your house, both your cat and toddler will have climbed then. Be it the chair, the sofa, the counter or even the dining table.

Your kind of people And here’s the final one. People who don’t have them (both young kids or cats) look at you in a very different way. It takes a fellow cat-person or a fellow parent to understand the trials and tribulations of having either one of them (or in some case (Bless them!) both of these)

Come to think of it, now that I have a toddler already, maybe it is time to get a dog.

Oh, and a disclaimer : No cats or toddlers were harmed for or during writing of this post.

[This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was "Take two - Run outside. Take a picture of the first thing you see. Run inside. Take a picture of the second thing you see. Write about the connection between these two random objects, people, or scenes. "]

Kick It

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What’s life without a little pleasure, eh? I know. We’ve all thought about it. Sometimes dwelling on it, sometimes just as a passing thought. As cliched as it sounds, a bucket list is made meaningful only because of the end result it provides when we strike items off that list - the pure, unadulterated bliss of happiness. There’s hardly any one of us who’s not heard about the term “Bucket List”.  Simply put, it is a compilation of activities that you want to have completed or achieved before your earthly being goes to sleep one final time. I’ve often read that people think that bucket lists are only for millionaires. That’s not true. Bucket lists are for everyone. For you, for him, for her, for them, for me - for us all. Of course depending on things that you’d want to achieve before you depart, you might need to be a millionaire for some. But essentially anyone can create a bucket list. There is no set rule for the afore mentioned list. It can be a collection of something really simple or a plethora of extravagance. I mean, there’s nothing stopping you from writing down anything on a bucket list. But that’s probably where people lose track a little bit. A bucket list is very different to a wish list. A wish list is a list of things or activities that you “wish” you could complete/purchase. A bucket list is, or rather needs to have slightly more realistic list of things. Well, that’s just my opinion. I think of a bucket list as something that helps inspire me and clarify the more meaningful things in my life.

But a bucket list is also the ultimate paradox. To achieve most things in your bucket list (unless they are all philosophical or behavioural in nature), you will need money. And to make sure you earn money, you need to work (irrespective of whether you enjoy it or not). And because you’re often too busy working, you seldom find the time to cross off the items on your list. So it leaves you in one of those Catch-22 situations, ever so often. The way to create an effective bucket list is to imagine how you’d live your life if you only had a year left.

Okay, enough with the sadness and the abstract thoughts. Let’s talk about something a bit more fun. Well, at least for me. The prompt for this post was “What is the 11th item on your bucket list?”. Considering that I was yet to make a bucket list, I knew this was going to be quite an ask. But then, with it just having turned 2014 on the clock, I decided to try and create a list of things that I think are personally achievable, if I only had a year left in my earthly abode (Don’t worry, you’re not getting rid of me that easily! We’re talking figuratively).

But instead of jotting down eleven points, I’m going to do something a bit different. I’m going to share with you the eleven phases that my bucket list encompasses.

The Traveller

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This is the extreme optimist in me speaking. As I write this, I have no hope of ever being able to travel the length and breadth of this beautiful planet called Earth. For one, I don’t have the funds. For two, I’m no longer a single person without commitments  or loans. But yes, as someone who has always been fascinated by new places and people, this will always be my number one item on every list. At the very least, I’d love to visit all the seven wonders of the world, see the Northern Lights, travel onboard the Glacier Express in Switzerland and traverse a third of the globe covering the whole 9288 kms on the Trans-Siberian railway across Asia. Additionally, I’d love to have a go at being a space tourist. Unfortunately, heights still give me the jitters. So that can probably wait. Oh, before I forget. A true African Safari. You know what, this list can be truly endless.

The Aquatic Wanderer

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I have a dream. No, not that one. But something very similar. I have a dream that one day, water bodies will not discriminate against me. That I’ll be able to immerse myself in a rather large body of water without the danger of being suffocated or drowned. And no, the bathtub doesn’t count. So, as you’ve probably guessed by this point, as much as I’d love to be an aquatic adventurer, I have no idea how to swim. Ironically enough, I used to, when I was a little kid. A rather dire incident at a water-theme park seems to have sucked out all my knowledge of how to swim. But assuming that at some point, I’ll be able to re-discover this hidden skill, there are a few aquatic adventures that I’d love to pursue - Deep-sea diving at the Great Barrier Reef, read a newspaper while floating on the Dead Sea and experience the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa in Iceland.

The Driver

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I love to drive. And as any fellow driver would probably agree, there are two stretches of roads which can make any automotive driver’s dream come true.

The first is a 151 mile stretch of road which makes for one of the most scenic drives anywhere in the world - The Great Ocean Road in Australia.This road stretches from Geelong to Portland, encompassing dramatic and diverse regional structures from surf beaches and whale lookouts to breathtaking mountain ranges and wild and wonderful natural wildlife. Not to mention the amazing Twelve Apostles along the spectacular coastline.

The second is to drive in true “Fast, Furious & Fearless” style along the German autobahns. Though these sleek autobahns form the federal motorway in Germany, they have no federally mandated speed limit. Of course, they do advise due caution and careful driving in urbanised and accident prone zones. And neither am I advising rash driving. But its the sense of freedom that comes from driving on a speed unregulated stretch of road that is sure to get the adrenaline pumping for every automobile junkie.

The Interior Designer

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Here’s a little less known fact about me. I love places like IKEA, Home Centre, B&Q, Home Depot and the likes. I can literally spend the whole day in there without getting bored. I am well aware that I say this at the risk of sounding like a total whack job, but I love to check out the way everything is designed, arranged and incorporated. A messy, clutter free house is a dream of mine, and as my wife can completely justify, I am truly far away from achieving it. As a guy I love gadgets, but I also would love to incorporate them into the house so well, that everything appears so flawless. Of course that first means that I need to own my own house. Apart from inherited houses, I am yet to purchase one. So this one will hopefully fall into place, I guess I’m still stuck in rented apartments having to take the landlords permission for everything. Having said that, we have an amazing landlord.

The Career Seeker

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Almost everyone that I’ve spoken to about it has dismissed it as my mid-life crisis. And I’m offended a tad by their comments. But truth be said, I can say at least half of us have been there. I’m talking about finding a job that you love. I’ve done a variety of jobs over the past decade (well, close to a decade) since I graduated, and whilst I’ve been good at it and enjoyed them to a certain degree, I’ve always had the nagging feeling that it wasn’t the ONE. And then I started blogging. And somehow it felt write (ok, right. Excuse the pun). And now, with a lot of support from my lovely wife, I’m trying to start afresh on a new career path. It may work out. Or sometimes it might not. But it’s a risk I’m ready to take. And this blog and every other piece I write builds up my confidence as a writer. And of course all of your feedback helps as well. I suppose, from that point of view, I should probably strike this off my list. But not yet. Hopefully soon, I’ll be writing to you to tell you that I’ve found my true calling.

The Resident

tumblr_ktgsymYp6N1qzyw8io1_500Some of you may argue that this point goes hand in hand with the travel piece. Though you wouldn’t be completely wrong to say that, I would politely disagree. Ever since I’ve read about these two places, I’ve been wanting to spend at least a night in these two places.

The first is to spend a night at the original ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, a small village 200 km above the Arctic Circle. Preferably in either the Snow Room, which is a simple, yet spacious room set at a very comfortable -5 degrees. But the guests are guaranteed a good night’s sleep. Or better yet, in the Deluxesvit, where everything, including the bedding, seating and decorations are all made of ice. And it includes an ensuite sauna and toilet. Chilly, I say :)

The second is to spend a night at the Winter Igloo village in Kakslauttanen, in the heart of Lapland, Finland. So what’s so special about this, that it’s made it your bucket list, I hear you ask. Well, imagine spending a night in either a snow or a glass igloo. You’re completely surrounded by snow and absolute silence. If you’re in the glass igloo, you may be fortunate enough to view the northern lights from the comfort of your very own warm bed. The weather inside is a brisk -5 degrees, whilst the lovely weather outside can get up to -32 degrees. This special “resort” is usually only open between December to March. As you huddle together with your partner, sip a cup of warm drink and watch the playful lights of the sky, you’ll probably struggle to think of anything more romantic.

The Helper

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I appreciate that this might be a rather strange one to put on a bucket list. But hey, strangeness is my middle name. Though mostly all of us are wired to be hedonistic, sometimes helping others can give you a lot of happiness too. It could be just helping that weary traveller whose car has broken down on the highway or offering to pay someone else’s bill that they can’t quite cover completely. It could even be helping someone to fulfil their goal. Something completely selfless without expecting any glory or mention in return. This one ought to be stricken off my list, but I’m going to leave it up there, because I think I can do more.

The Fear-Facer

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This one’s pretty self explanatory. I’m a play-it-safe kind of guy. I’m extra cautious and rarely a thrill-seeker. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s boded well for me so far. But I’d love to face at least one of my fears and do something that absolutely terrifies me. Maybe Sky diving over the Everest at 29000 feet. Or hang over the edge of 1800 feet tall Toronto’s CN Tower. Or maybe bungee jump from the Royal Gorge bridge which is only 321m tall, i.e. just over a 1000 feet in height. Oops. Just the thought of those tall structures are giving me the heebee-jeebees. Let’s move on shall we.

The MasterChef-er

687474703a2f2f677265656e746561616e6462697363756974732e66696c65732e776f726470726573732e636f6d2f323031302f30382f636865662e6a7067I love cooking. I must also quickly add that I don’t cook all that often. But I do love experimenting with food. So it should come as no surprise that I’ve got something to do with cooking on my “bucket list”. Though this list is in no way comprehensive, I’d love to have a shot a cooking side-by-side with one (or more) of these amazing, talented chefs: Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver, George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan. And to top it off, I’d love to have my food tasted by Matt Preston and Joe Bastianich. You’d have probably guessed that I’m a MasterChef aficionado. But there’s a reason behind me choosing each of those chefs. I love Heston’s “molecular” cooking, Gordon’s “get it perfect every time” style, Jamie’s healthy fast food, George’s amazing Greek food and Gary’s unique Australian-English recipes. And no, I’ve not tasted all of their food. But the proof of the pudding is in the recipe I say.

The published Author/Writer

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For those of us, who love to blog or write, this has to be one of the ultimate dreams. To be a published author/writer. The only thing that can top that is if you’re the published author or writer of an international best-seller. But then, let’s take baby steps for now. No matter what anyone says, writing meaningful stuff, be it an article, a book, a short story, a journalistic piece, an advert or even a blog is as tough as trying to cold call someone to get sales. You have to be quick to adapt your styles to make sure your readers maintain their interest and purchase your content. So yes, I truly say it deserves a piece on my bucket list. And if things go according to plan, I’ll be able to strike this one off soon :)

The Pre-Technologist

Okay, the prompt for the post was “What is the eleventh item on your bucket list?”. However I’m hoping that by now, my readers have understood me well. I am unable to summarise anything succinctly. So I wanted to share the top ten things on my bucket list too. But hey, here we are. Eventually.

NO-TECHNOLOGY

Now, though I’ve noted it down as the 11th thing on my bucket list, I am not ever sure I’ll be able to achieve this. But I’d sure like to give it a go. I love gadgets. And for me to renounce all of them completely for even a day, is quite an unthinkable ask. But at some point before I depart, I’d like to try and take at least a week long break from all technology. Technology invades every single phase of our every day existence. For once, I’d like to experience how it feels to be independent of technology. No phones, no internet, no laptops, no ebooks, no watches, absolutely nothing that is remotely related to technology. Of course, I’m not keen to go back to the Neanderthal age. But it’s more to do with having no connection with the outside world in any way, shape or form. Knowing me, I’ll probably commit suicide before the week’s up. But then again, I’m not a quitter. So I just might see it through. But something tells me, that if I go ahead with this, I might just start to appreciate the finesse of the simpler things in life.

There we have it. The eleven phases of my bucket list.

So tell me, what’s the eleventh item on your bucket list?

[This post is written for the Wordpress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts program aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was "Kick It - What’s the 11th item on your bucket list?"]