Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Caught in the humdrum of life, we dismiss many things as ‘routine’ or ‘mundane’. Because of this tendency to trivialize, many important things pass us by, unnoticed.

Take the simple matter of sneezing. Do you remember when you sneezed last? Why? Where? What was the intensity? How many sneezes at a time?

Shame on you, if you can’t recall.

A blogger has shown us the way. Starting from June 2007, he has sneezed 2590 times and he has recorded details of each one of them in a separate post. Where was he when the sneeze happened? Was it a weak one, moderate or strong? What activity was he engaged in at that precise moment? For example, his entry # 2588 reads “Kitchen; Strong; Transferring falafel(s) into a Tupperware”.

He follows precise rules. All sneezes are timed and dated. All times are GMT. Avoids confusion when he has to record a sneeze that has happened when he is abroad. Also, he might sneeze on one side of the International Date Line, then cross the International Date Line, and then sneeze again. Using local time, the second sneeze would have occurred the day before the first sneeze, generating confusing and nonsensical data.

The strength of the sneeze is recorded as “Mild, Moderate, Moderate to strong, Strong, Very strong or Very mild”. However, he cautions scientists that these are completely subjective impressions, and almost certainly not consistent, or independently verifiable. And Seismologists to please note that this scale is non-exponential.

Why does he document his sneezes? He explains,

I started counting my sneezes on 12 July 2007. What started out as a little conceptual art joke, a playful satire of the “blogosphere”, and a mock scream against the futility and emptiness of modern life, turned into something more intriguing.

Counting my sneezes, and documenting the time and place of each sneeze, has revealed curious regularities in the way I live my life. For example, it has revealed how much time I spend in the ‘Office/spare bedroom”, in front of a computer. It is interesting to note how much time I spend in this place, and compare it with how little I manage to get done.

Although sneezes are sufficiently unpredictable and involuntary, the act of counting them offers an interesting new take on the old theoretical physics line about events being affected by the process of observation. Sneezecount makes each sneeze matter. It is no longer possible just to blow one out and forget about it . Now that sneezes had a name, an identity.

I am very impressed. I am thinking of doing something on these lines, to bring a sense of purpose to my life.


ramesh said...

ah it's due to such habits of westerners that you can mine through google books about old india

Anonymous said...

Let me start counting my sneezes from!
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