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Monday, February 27, 2017

Getting LL, DL, IDP in Bangalore without Agent

I tried, and succeeded, in getting Learning License and Driving License in Bangalore without any intermediary and without any "under the counter" fee. Here is my experience related to Electronic City (KA-51) RTO in past one month.

Learner's License

  1. Fill online application at Karnataka Transport portal.
    1. You will have click on 'English' at top right few times to get the page in English. I filled application under Sarathi-3 system.
    2. Really all they need is Application Number and few basic details. Application can only be done online and not on paper. You can either fill online and get printout or fill basic detail, submit, get application number, and then fill paper application.
    3. If you need standard license, select MCWG (Motor-Cycle With Gear) and LMV (Light Motor Vehicle, Car, etc.). I had to make extra trip because I filled both Motor-Cycle With Gear and Without Gear but apparently first covers the second so both weren't wanted.
  2. Provide supporting documents
    1. Get right proof of age and address (original and copy)
    2. Attach one photograph to application. Even though it asks you for 3 copies, they aren't required because you get photographed at RTO.
  3. Go to RTO. Cash (Fee) counter opens until 12:30pm on Saturday and 2:30pm on Weekdays so you want to have 2-3 hours with you for whole process. Try to reach by 11am. New location in Begur Rd has functioning Enquiry counter so they try to help.
  4. First pay the fee in Cash Counter 2 or 3 showing your application. I was charged 30/- for each class, 60/- in total. This was before fee hike happened in early January 2017. They will provide require receipts, called "challans". Cashier didn't try to overcharge me, but is direct and not-friendly. Given his workload though, I wouldn't complain, and he will answer question if you ask.
  5. Get into huge queue to get your documents verified at Room 1. Staple (or Pin, available at Enquiry desk) your documents with challan at top, application in middle, proofs in the end. While your time reading about road signs hanging around.
  6. In about 30 minutes you will enter room, and get your turn with Assistant Inspector of some sort. This guy was very particular about anyone not stepping an inch ahead of yellow waiting line but was clinical about process. If your documents are in order, he will tick or sign on papers. He will ask to see both your hands flattened out on desk, perhaps to do "high quality" medical due diligence about your driving abilities. If you are missing a paper, he will ask you to get one. Anything forms, envelopes, etc. which you need to buy can be obtained from tea-shops outside, of course, at heavy premium. You can usually skip the long queue if you are coming with additional documents on the same day.
  7. Next you will go to Biometric Room 2 (nearby Room 1) where after showing your packet, and waiting few minutes, you will be photographed and thumb-printed. This shouldn't take much time.
  8. You will be asked to go down (find stairs) and go to a place which is crowded with people waiting for their LL Test. Guy outside on desk will check your papers again and ask you to sign in register. As this stage they made me buy prepaid postage envelope (17/- Stamp, 30/- price, a trip to tea-shop again) but I realized that it's not required and others didn't have it.
  9. Test is, of course, a joke. I had imagined computerized or written test, but I just got into Inspector's room with 50 others and he spend next 15 minutes explaining and asking to random people meaning of various signs. No one failed, and he was very particular about cautionary signs indicating caution "200 meters before". If you stay towards end of crowd, you can just get by mumbling something and trying to appear inconspicuous.
  10. End of session, he will collect the document packet and you are done for the day. 2 sheets of LL, one for each MCWG and LMV will be available in a week's time. If you need to learn or take classes, you need to collect these and go about practicing. I didn't so I could've just collected them on day I applied for DL, and saved myself a trip to RTO.
  11. If you don't make errors, you can do all this in one visit and 3-4 hours, which is achievement of the sort. Collect your LLs from Room 4 in few days. No identification needed really nor any register entry made, so anyone can collect anyone else's.

Driving License

  1. Fill the same application at same portal, except choose DL as purpose of application. You only need application (with photograph) and previous LLs as documents.
  2. Buy stamped envelop (30/-) and a transparent pouch (3/-) from tea-shops outside. Also get Form-4 (3/-) for Driving Inspector to provide feedback.
  3. Pay fee at Cash Counter, which will include license, smart card, and testing fee. Exact 1000/- for two classes of vehicles. This was after fee hike in early January 2017.
  4. Get your documents verified in Room 1. Staple everything with Both challans at front, Form 4, DL application, previous LLs, envelop, transparent pouch in that order.
  5. Go to Room 8 upstairs for Biometric and then Room 4 downstairs for some computer entry.
  6. Then you have to go a Driving Test area which is outside RTO office in nearby street. Ask at Enquiry desk and get there. You will have to have your own Car and Gear Bike for testing.
  7. There was only one inspector who had asked all Bikers first, and Cars later, to get in line. Only thing he asked on both occasion was hand signs: right (right arm stretch, palm facing front), left (circular motion with right hand), slow-down (up-down motion with right arm, palm facing down), stop (right arm up at elbow, palm facing front). Then he asked me go to dead-end and come back. No one really checked anything and unless you hit someone or something or fall down within 20 feet of him, you cannot fail. Meanwhile he will have scribbled something on your application which you can collect. You will have to do this twice for both (bike and car) vehicles.
  8. Go to RTO Room 9 to get another register entry and submit all document packet. They will ask vehicle number (Registration Card) and insurance validity to note in register. I had worked myself into panic in getting RC, PUC and Insurance for Car and Bike but really PUC was not asked and you could just give any RC or Insurance details irrespective of vehicle you gave test in. They didn't keep copy but noted down in register only, so even phone picture did it for me. I had also wondered about getting additional driver for car and bike apart from me in case genuine question comes up about who drove the test vehicle (since you are supposedly still don't have license) but then nobody bothered asking these, so you could get one too. Also rental bike is okay too since no documents asked during testing and no bike verified during register entry.
  9. You are done, in about 4 hours. License should come to your house in 4-6 weeks. If not, go there and remind them! It did for me in 4 weeks.


IDP, aka International Driving Permit, is document stating that you hold valid DL in your home country. This is often required if your DL is not in English. Since Indian DL is usually in English, this doesn't serve any additional purpose but still some country and states in USA require one. Here is process of how to get one.

Note that you will get IDP from RTO only if your DL is also from same RTO. I didn't expect this given DL is for whole of India and chip DL is connected to computerized network, but then whole IDP process is exercise in redundancy, so there you have it.
  1. Documents you need are:
    1. Application for IDP, Form-4A (pdf here)
    2. Original DL, Original Passport
    3. One photocopy of DL, Passport front/back/visa page, flight tickets on your name (to and fro)
    4. Medical declaration and certificate from registered medical practitioner, Form-1 and Form-1A (pdf here)
    5. Paste passport size photos in application and medical certificate
    6. 3 additional passport size photographs
  2. For RTO Electronic City, signed medical declaration and certificate is available at xerox shops opposite RTO for 100/- (yes, Indian jugaad) where you can fill your name and details.
  3. Pin all documents and go to RTO Room 12 for verification and signature. There is unlikely to be any queue here. There is a rule that you need to reappear for driving test if DL is issued within last 3 months but they didn't seem to notice or mind this in my case, so nothing was asked.
  4. After signature, pay 1000/- at Cash Counter against fee and obtain challan.
  5. Include challan and submit documents again at Room 12, and obtain acknowledgement slip
  6. Collect your IDP after 1-2 weeks.
  7. When I went to collect IDP they informed me for need for additional driving test since my DL was less than 3 months old. [Yeah, they don't read application when they accept and only later when they process it.] Even though IDP was already ready, I was asked to go for driving test. After requests to hurry, I was informed to just pay fee for test (visit to cash counter, challan for 300/-) and then collect the IDP.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why should I care about the future generations - what have they ever done for me?

Cycle of re-incarnation would have you believe that you will reap, as early as within next life, what you sow. While this is certainly a fancy notion, this isn’t truth by any notion of reasonableness. Hence even if you wouldn’t have enjoyed what you do now – for example, luxuries of material progress, benefits of freedom struggle, developments of modern technologies – there is hardly an obligation, let alone nagging sense of guilt, for doing something for future generation.

May be I am selfish but I’ve got only one life. Barely 40 years of pleasurable existence (excluding pre-puberty and senility). There is nothing wrong in me to want to live only life the way I like. I didn’t ask to born, so there isn’t any purpose I am supposed to fulfill. If I am dead tomorrow, why should I even care what happens to rest of the world and rest of the people (and ants, mosquitoes, etc. for that matter). I wouldn’t even know and feel ever.  Why should my narrow sense of kinship with fellow humans overshadow my sense of connectedness with the entire Universe? Should I feel depressed by falling of a star somewhere?

Admittedly, my progeny and kins will inhabit this planet after I’ve departed. Yet, what I do for future generation wouldn’t benefit them as much as what I do for my kids directly. If I think about it, I haven’t even met my descendants and I am not kind of person who gets worked up on what his bloodline is going to suffer in future. In that way, I am kind of a model citizen, beyond narrow interests of family and clan, equally indifferent to all.

Some will say that had this attitude been taken by our forefathers we wouldn’t have had what we do. But, who really knows? Could we have not been better? Did all those who worked on what they did do it for future generation i.e. us? What they did was their choice. My choice is to make optimal decision based on information in my hand at this juncture of my existence.

Assuredly, do what you like, and if it benefits next bunch of people in the world, well and good, but if it doesn’t, don’t worry. Want to buy plastic bags and drink water in paper cups? Be my guest (though you might want to check if it will start hurting you in this generation!) It’s a beauty of this big world that there will be some people who will disagree with even the best construed arguments. My role is to convince you that I (and you too) shouldn’t worry about future generation, with awareness that some of you wouldn’t get convinced, and end up doing (possibly) something good for future generation, which makes my not worrying not as troublesome as I could be. Ironically, success of my argument depends on the failure of my argument. But, either way, who gives a damn?

Monday, December 22, 2014

My favourite Podcasts

I've been listening to various podcasts while commuting to and fro from work for last couple of months, and I couldn't be happier.

Before I discovered podcasts, my options of utilizing a considerable amount of my daily waking life were limited to music from FM radio station or music from my USB stick. Former were annoyance due to abundant number of advertisements, which are often repeated, and limited selection of latest songs, which were also repeated, and which were less of musical delight but more driven by latest movie marketing. Later was considerably preferred, but became boring due to my inability to update my collection often and hence repeating same collection. I tried audio-books few times but quickly discarded the option for they required too much concentration detrimental to safe driving.

Enter world of podcasts! Podcasts are best described as audio blogs. They are delight because they are almost inexhaustive, being updated weekly, and are not as distracting in effect being similar to listening to radio news, and are wildly interesting, entertaining, educational and useful. In some way, I feel they have made my driven less stressful since I am no hurry to reach my destination, instead preferring continuation of my favourite show.

Below is collection of some of my favourite podcasts, in decreasing order of my preference, and my commentary on the same:

Very Good:
  • Freakonomics Radio — Logic and data driven look at almost everything in world around us. Built from book of the same name, this is absolutely wonderful podcasts which brings out best practices in various fields from all over the world. Intelligent and stupid questions, all are honored.
  • Radiolab from WNYC — Interesting informative stories about various themes, primary around science and technology.
  • Futility Closet — Extremely affable narratives from history of world telling history of minor things and incidents. As they describe themselves, will suit you if your mind is curious about oddities and find pleasure in information for sake of it.
  • 99% Invisible — Short stories about man-made things that shape the world, and design consideration there of.
  • The Intersection — Melting pot of Science, History, and Culture in this Indian quality podcast.
  • Planet Money — Stories of past and present things that make modern economy.
  • The Allusionist — Etymology of words explained in saucier language.
  • Every Little Thing — is discussion on minor topics and histories of science.
  • The History of India Podcast — No one told story of ancient India sourced from ancient text better than this! Making history informative and fun.
  • The Data Skeptic Podcast — This just fits into my groove of analytic science, so I love it for its discussion and references. Will work if you have interest in the science of data driven decision making.
  • EconTalk (Library of Economics and Liberty) — This isn't very entertaining but if you want your mental horizon to be stretched with very deep fundamental concepts, this it it. Falls into a category of podcast you should listen to but probably you won't.
  • What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law — Show talks about various topics in US Constitution Law and how they are interpreted in the current environment, their history, their usefulness, key cases, etc. and ties them back to US President's Trump's actions.
  • More Perfect — This show goes into the story behind pivotal cases in front of US Supreme Court, past and present, and how law and precedent and arguments are shaping the legal opinion.
  • Science Vs — This is one the best show to learn about the scientific basis of many common conceptions and misconceptions. Each episode looks at academic literature and tries to synthesize positive, neutral, or negative decision on key questions. Examples of questions explored are the effectiveness of vaccines, diets, multi-vitamins, political questions on abortions, gun control, etc.
  • Undiscovered — Backstories of scientific failures, and how things happened the way did, or didn't.
  • Hidden Brain — Anecdotes from behaviour science and psychology.
  • Criminal — Stories of crimes, laws, and their history from USA
  • This American Life — Interesting, emotional and amusing stories from various walks of life, on varying theme
  • The Economist — Weekly round of world new and explanations on money, market and science. Useful for getting critical international news, and free! Content is heavily biased towards US and UK with bit of Japan, China and Europe but then one can assume it's driven by where money is.
  • HBR IdeaCast — Management gyaan isn't my cup of tea, but listening to key stories of Harvard Business Review is still worthwhile.
  • 60-Second Science — Quick bites into latest scientific research. Mildly interesting.
  • Inside Forbes India — India related stories from business world.
  • Stuff You Should Know — This is 'how things work' of podcasts. It's mildly entertaining but content is too low key and slow for my taste.
  • A Skeptics Guide to Conspiracy — This is very good in content but not so much in editing. I think they could say that same in half the time as there is a lot of repetation in conversation. However, this discusses latest research in science, with few good puzzles thrown in.
  • StarTalk Radio — This has decent enough content on astronomy, astrophysics, and anything Universe related, but there is lot of banter and chit chat which makes it inefficient for me.
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage — This is general discussion, with some comedic input, on scientific concept done in live stage setting.
  • Reply All — This is discussion on internet, technology and social issue surrounding them. Fairly humour, creative, except for its 'Yes-Yes-No' segment where conversation on dissecting an viral tweet.
  • Science Friday — Interviews on cutting edge research or latest discovery in world of Science.
Good but Defunct:
  • Dissecting Love — Science and biology of relationship and sex. Need I say more?
  • Serial — This is a serialized radio show with one story. First season presented a true murder mystery thriller. Very gripping.
  • It's Your Universe — Journey into Solar System. It's only one season though!
  • Invisibilia — Bit verbose and emotion insight into hidden psychological narrative governing current world and human life.
  • 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy — Stories of small things and their impact on world.

If you can recommend any other, I will be really thankful!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ignoring him would've been the best way

Categories: , ,
This post is summary of few life lessons. Lessons that we the people and media of this nation don't seem to learn even when repeatedly encountered.

When was the last time someone changed his opinion because of your convincing argument against it? If you are among the world's top most elocutionist and honest in your self-assessment, you probably have changed opinions of less than 10% of people you tried changing opinion of. If you are an average man, number will be less than one in hundred. Lesson: Someone doesn't just his opinion just because you have few choice arguments against it. Specially not if person had opinion on the topic to begin with and was not on the fence. Changing someone's view points takes (at least) months of words and action combination (among other things).

Every action has cost and consequence. Every action is motivated by incentives. What did one want when one do something? Are you giving him the very same thing even though you claim not to? Lesson: Focus on the root motivation.

I try to keep this blog free from news-dependent posts to focus on ideas and not events and people. But I just have to say this: Asaram Ji, you've won. Public of this country played exactly as you wanted.

What did he want when he stated unreasonable opinion? What did reaction of public and media gave him?

Let's recap current version: He said obviously stupid thing to small gathering in small town in Rajasthan. People and media reacted, criticized, made fun of, and made him retract his argument. He was instantly famous all over India. From the above life lesson we can be sure that neither he nor his followers really changed their belief: those who agreed with him wouldn't change the view now and those who didn't don't need to change. What will be gained by wasting resource and money on him? Say, really, unto his heart, he changes his mind, so what? Is that's best use of hundreds of media hours, lakhs of man hours, and lakhs of rupees?

Let's imagine alternative history in case people weren't stupid. He said obviously stupid thing to small gathering in small town in Rajasthan. Some of his followers who agreed with him, nodded in agreement. Those who didn't, disagreed in heart, and probably decided to not continue to follow him. End of story.

Freedom of speech is a tough concept to understand. We instantly align with freedom when curb is placed on freedom of press or public expression. Yet, we need to understand that very same freedom implies such bad statements too. And we need to have them their way. Criticizing others for saying what you don't agree with doesn't go hand in hand with demanding freedom to say what you agree with, be it good or bad. And until we have that maturity, we don't really want the freedom per se, we just want freedom for us.

There have been, are and will be idiots in the world. A wise man learns to ignore them. Rest are idiots in different category.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Commandments of Detective Fiction

Categories: , ,
Continuing from ...Why Agatha Christie is better than Aurther Conan Dyle

"Twenty rules for writing detective stories," by S.S. Van Dine, 1928 (Source)
  1. The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described.
  2. No willful tricks or deceptions may be placed on the reader other than those played legitimately by the criminal on the detective himself.
  3. There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar.
  4. The detective himself, or one of the official investigators, should never turn out to be the culprit. This is bald trickery, on a par with offering some one a bright penny for a five-dollar gold piece. It's false pretenses.
  5. The culprit must be determined by logical deductions -- not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated confession. To solve a criminal problem in this latter fashion is like sending the reader on a deliberate wild-goose chase, and then telling him, after he has failed, that you had the object of his search up your sleeve all the time. Such an author is no better than a practical joker.
  6. The detective novel must have a detective in it; and a detective is not a detective unless he detects. His function is to gather clues that will eventually lead to the person who did the dirty work in the first chapter; and if the detective does not reach his conclusions through an analysis of those clues, he has no more solved his problem than the schoolboy who gets his answer out of the back of the arithmetic.
  7. There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better. No lesser crime than murder will suffice. Three hundred pages is far too much pother for a crime other than murder. After all, the reader's trouble and expenditure of energy must be rewarded.
  8. The problem of the crime must he solved by strictly naturalistic means. Such methods for learning the truth as slate-writing, ouija-boards, mind-reading, spiritualistic séances, crystal-gazing, and the like, are taboo. A reader has a chance when matching his wits with a rationalistic detective, but if he must compete with the world of spirits and go chasing about the fourth dimension of metaphysics, he is defeated ab initio.
  9. There must be but one detective -- that is, but one protagonist of deduction -- one deus ex machina. To bring the minds of three or four, or sometimes a gang of detectives to bear on a problem, is not only to disperse the interest and break the direct thread of logic, but to take an unfair advantage of the reader. If there is more than one detective the reader doesn't know who his codeductor is. It's like making the reader run a race with a relay team.
  10. The culprit must turn out to be a person who has played a more or less prominent part in the story -- that is, a person with whom the reader is familiar and in whom he takes an interest.
  11. A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit. This is begging a noble question. It is a too easy solution. The culprit must be a decidedly worth-while person -- one that wouldn't ordinarily come under suspicion.
  12. There must be but one culprit, no matter how many murders are committed. The culprit may, of course, have a minor helper or co-plotter; but the entire onus must rest on one pair of shoulders: the entire indignation of the reader must be permitted to concentrate on a single black nature.
  13. Secret societies, camorras, mafias, et al., have no place in a detective story. A fascinating and truly beautiful murder is irremediably spoiled by any such wholesale culpability. To be sure, the murderer in a detective novel should be given a sporting chance; but it is going too far to grant him a secret society to fall back on. No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds.
  14. The method of murder, and the means of detecting it, must be be rational and scientific. That is to say, pseudo-science and purely imaginative and speculative devices are not to be tolerated in the roman policier. Once an author soars into the realm of fantasy, in the Jules Verne manner, he is outside the bounds of detective fiction, cavorting in the uncharted reaches of adventure.
  15. The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent -- provided the reader is shrewd enough to see it. By this I mean that if the reader, after learning the explanation for the crime, should reread the book, he would see that the solution had, in a sense, been staring him in the face -- that all the clues really pointed to the culprit -- and that, if he had been as clever as the detective, he could have solved the mystery himself without going on to the final chapter. That the clever reader does often thus solve the problem goes without saying.
  16. A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no 'atmospheric' preoccupations. Such matters have no vital place in a record of crime and deduction. They hold up the action and introduce issues irrelevant to the main purpose, which is to state a problem, analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion. To be sure, there must be a sufficient descriptiveness and character delineation to give the novel verisimilitude.
  17. A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story. Crimes by housebreakers and bandits are the province of the police departments -- not of authors and brilliant amateur detectives. A really fascinating crime is one committed by a pillar of a church, or a spinster noted for her charities.
  18. A crime in a detective story must never turn out to be an accident or a suicide. To end an odyssey of sleuthing with such an anti-climax is to hoodwink the trusting and kind-hearted reader.
  19. The motives for all crimes in detective stories should be personal. International plottings and war politics belong in a different category of fiction -- in secret-service tales, for instance. But a murder story must be kept gemütlich, so to speak. It must reflect the reader's everyday experiences, and give him a certain outlet for his own repressed desires and emotions.
  20. And (to give my Credo an even score of items) I herewith list a few of the devices which no self-respecting detective story writer will now avail himself of. They have been employed too often, and are familiar to all true lovers of literary crime. To use them is a confession of the author's ineptitude and lack of originality. (a) Determining the identity of the culprit by comparing the butt of a cigarette left at the scene of the crime with the brand smoked by a suspect. (b) The bogus spiritualistic séance to frighten the culprit into giving himself away. (c) Forged fingerprints. (d) The dummy-figure alibi. (e) The dog that does not bark and thereby reveals the fact that the intruder is familiar. (f) The final pinning of the crime on a twin, or a relative who looks exactly like the suspected, but innocent, person. (g) The hypodermic syringe and the knockout drops. (h) The commission of the murder in a locked room after the police have actually broken in. (i) The word association test for guilt. (j) The cipher, or code letter, which is eventually unraveled by the sleuth.
Edit 28/05/2015

Saturday, July 14, 2012

You are fired!

Categories: , , ,

No other act has seen use of so many euphemism as corporate action of firing employee off. In quest to be as sweet as possible while doing the exact opposite, corporate HR should probably won some kind prize for coming up so many ways to not say what they want to. Not that I believe companies shouldn’t fire people, but it will be worth a bit honesty and ethics to not rub salt on it. Of course, honesty and ethics are kinds of things you wouldn’t associate with any big company anyway.

In the sprit of doublespeak, then, here is collection of what ‘you are fired’ may sound like:

assignment ended
assignment expired
best shoring
bought out
bounced out
career change opportunity
career transition
contract not renewed
contracted out
down size
early retired
eased out
end of trial period
freed up for the future
going in different directions
headcount adjustment
headcount reduction
helped with exit
invited to be successful elsewhere
involuntary separation
laid off
let go
made available to industry
made redundant
make internal efficiencies
managed out
off shoring
personnel realignment
personnel surplus reduction
position has been eliminated
promoted to customer (retail workers)
pursue other opportunities
rationalize the workforce
reclined to extend
reduced headcount
reduction in force
regime change
released from the talent pool
relieved of duties
re-prioritizing labor expenses
resource action
responsibilities have been reassigned
right size
services no longer required
skill mix adjustment
smart size
stepped down
taking it for the team
we really feel like we’re holding you back here
workforce efficiency initiative

Friday, May 18, 2012

Links to share

  1. Leading a team requires skills different from successful personal achievement. Here are nicely put tips for being a great boss.
  2. Even in this day with GPS tracking, satellite mapping, Helicopter and what not, Amazon forests still remain out of reach of human. See fascinating narration of what lies inside through eyes of explorers who went in search of mythical city of Z.
  3. Given this history, it is not wrong to assume that all government departments are wrong and ready to loot money. Frequent strikes by Air India workers seem to suggest entitlement. But every story has two sides. Here is a attempt to look from other side.
  4. String theory suggests as many as 11 dimensions of Universe. Physical senses can see 3 dimensions. Brain can understand 4th dimension of Time. Beyond that it’s mere imagination. But ain’t it fun!
  5. Is character a well defined social concept?
  6. There is science behind design of parking space and parking penalty!
  7. And there is science behind walking: Part I and Part II.
  8. Humans are fallible. Even those who sit at highest pedestal deciding fate of lives of people: judges. And they don’t make good decisions if they are hungry!
  9. Look behind world of car salesman in US. Also good lesson in human psychology of selling.
  10. The turning point of advertising: mix Sex and Ad.
  11. Once American Airline decided to sell unlimited free flying passes for $300k+. It still lost. Because people just flew too much.?
  12. Why do people overeat?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cost of improper signage

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Small things, yet very important. I am talking of traffic signage in India. Traffic signs are obviously very important for road users. They serve primarily two functions: information and warning. Informative signs provide directions, street names, speed limits, one-way streets, distance, nearest convenience facility, turn permissibility, and so on. Warning signs warn of work in process, diversions, traffic lights, stop sign, lane constraints, road block, weight limit, height limit, and so on. For drivers and pedestrians alike, they serve purpose to facilitate traffic, reduce inconvenience, reduce traffic jam, manage blockage and congestion, provide mental peace, and all in all are very helpful. In fact, I find proper signage so helpful — and this is not just limited to roads, but also in public areas like parks, hospitals, bus and railway stations, airports — that I feel instant gratification for that designer who decided to put a sign where he did in case I find one exactly when I need one.

In USA I’ve found signs to be absolutely well placed. Almost as if someone is reading my thoughts and the moment I feel I need directions, a sign happens to be right there as soon as I look up. This, unfortunately, hasn’t been the case in India. Indeed, while they are absolutely important to avoid unnecessary U-turns and save fuel cost and traffic congestion, I doubt anyone in Indian municipalities — which are responsible bodies for this kinds of works — pays any iota of attention to them. There are many problems:

  1. Major issue is that there aren’t just signs where there obviously should be, like fork in the road or a flyover or traffic junction or closed road.
  2. Content of signs leaves enough to be desired
    1. First, there is a issue of font size. There is hardly any standard for any sensible font size which can be read by driver is who driving at or below permissible speed limit. More often than not, it’s too small that you need to be parked to be able to read.
    2. There appears to be is no standardization on sign language too. Often for temporary signs (for construction work, for example, which in Indian case, temporarily last for up to couple of years) signs are not phrases but full sentence. Combine that will small font size and you are predestined to be unable to read it.
  3. Biggest issue is of placement
    1. While vehicles are permitted on all lanes, sign is placed exclusively to cater to lane nearest to it, even when it is applicable to all lanes.
    2. Sign is too close to the point where decision based on that information can be made e.g. you are already on flyover when sign says where this flyover goes and where road below does, or sign on left lane is so close to junction that moving to left lane at that point is impossible, or speed-breaker sign is after speed-breaker.
    3. Sign is hidden behind an advertisement poster or an overgrown tree
    4. Sign has moved/shifted/turned by forces of nature and time or is misplaced in the first place where it points to direction which is wrong is vague (arrow marks the street where there isn’t any). This is specifically bad of places like Bangalore where concept of perpendicular road crossing is rare and you’ve multiple roads crossing at odd angles.

None of this, of course, matters to traffic police should they decide to cite you for violation. You may have driven on a road couple of kilometers before you see a speed-limit sign (if you do, despite above) yet you are expected to somehow know that and not exceed that. You may come across a traffic junction and keep looking if and where is the signal for you, for it’s either placed at strange angle or is behind a tree. Blind turns and road conditions ensures that one may drive at full speed only on roads where one has driven few times. Do not expect speed-breaker or turn sign will warn you. You will have to remember that. That and that pothole which is just there unannounced ready to engulf you with your car.

And improper signage is not just small annoyances. I personally have wasted quite a lot fuel and time on missing a turn or driving on a flyover when I am not supposed to. Subsequent course correction adds to unnecessary traffic congestion and caused road rage. Compared to investment of putting useful, readable, properly placed signs, returns on overall fuel, time, accident saving, and public convenience is expected to be high. I do not have numbers with me but I’d expect them to have one of highest return-on-investment for any public expenditure work. Yet, there is no future where I envision this will happen any time far.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Birthday wishes

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Birthdays are special occasion for most people. Special day, celebrated, purely because it happens to be the day on which the self, which, of course, is the center of known universe — not in cosmic sense but in sense of world around it — came into existence in its own conscience. An exercise in narcissism, no doubt, yet perfectly valid, for any other metric of time is intellectual, theoretical, abstract, and in any practical sense, immaterial. A person’s conscience has only one true timescale which runs from birth to death. Of course, why the day, and not moment, hour or minute, and why annually, and not in any other periodicity, is purely conventional.

Most people like to make their birthdays special day for themselves, affording themselves luxury of their favourite pastime, meal, indulgence, or anything that brings them happiness. Most of remaining people are generally upbeat their birthdays if not making a fuss of it. Rest, just let it be.

For those who care, of course, receiving birthday wishes is expected. It is desired from one to wish another birthday wish, if former happens to come to know about this, and is in presence of later, even if there is no familiarity between them. At their annual frequency, birthdays, naturally, become convenient touch points with people whom one would place in acquaintance category — not too friendly to connect often, yet preferable to be in touch with. Given that people expects and like being wished on birthdays helps the matter.

What doesn’t help, apparently, is the mechanism for helping you remember their birthdays. People expects, surprisingly, that you wish them because you remembered their birthday. This also applies to any wish-requiring occasion such as anniversary. An emphasis on expensive brain real-estate marks the importance person has in your life. Even if you took help of any of technological aids (calendar, reminder), you are not to disclose, for it will reduce well-being conveyed by your wish. No wonder impact of my ‘Happy Birthday’ drops a notch soon I tell them — only on being asked how come I remember — that I remembered it because I was reminded by my calendar system. I must pretend that I remembered. My getting external help seems to suggests farcical wish and not a genuine one. That I bothered to make note in may calendar and took effort to wish is easily swept away. Of course, wiser next time, I just remember. That is not to say that people don’t know it but they would rather not have this be stated explicitly. How many birthday wishes on facebook, a purely rhetorical question, mind you, are because your friend saw the reminder on top right? Yet, would one dare to draw the attention to the same? No one does, of course.

Seems I find this topic little more fascinating than I imagined — I have written on the same couple of years earlier too.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Three Men in a Boat

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When I started reading Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome, a humourous book written in 1889, I had not imagined that what lay ahead of me. Book is through and through hilarious story of three good-for-nothing lazy hypochondriac friends who decide to take one week trip along the river to help them relax. From story point of view, book offers little; rather, one can say that there isn’t really an story. Indeed what constitutes this 200 odd page narrative is collection of numerous meanderings off-shots tales which either recounts some historical episodes from protagonists past or are part of wild and vivid imaginations. Narrative is definitely old English yet flows freely and isn’t trouble to read or understand. In fact, this book affirms faith that despite hundred and quarter century of time difference and thousands of miles of cultural difference between me and them, basic human nature has hardly changed. If a minor annoyance must be noted then that should be about convoluted names and British history of various places on river they visit which a modern and non-British reader may find unfamiliar. Best way to present what is awesome about this book is exhibit collections of quotes from within. And if you don’t find them hilarious, then perhaps this book isn’t for you.

Book introduces our protagonists and their hypochondriac nature:

It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form.

I had the symptoms, beyond all mistake, the chief among them being “a general disinclination to work of any kind.” What I suffer in that way no tongue can tell. From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it. As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day. They did not know, then, that it was my liver. Medical science was in a far less advanced state than now, and they used to put it down to laziness.

And when they decide to take trip down the river:

…said, however, that the river would suit him to a “T.” I don’t know what a “T” is (except a sixpenny one, which includes bread-and-butter and cake, and is cheap at the price, if you haven’t had any dinner). It seems to suit everybody, however, which is greatly to its credit.

Describing one of the member of journey:

You can never rouse Harris. There is no poetry about Harris—no wild yearning for the unattainable. Harris never “weeps, he knows not why.” If Harris’s eyes fill with tears, you can bet it is because Harris has been eating raw onions, or has put too much Worcester over his chop.

Oh and oh, three men in a boat also have a dog with them. His introduction follows:

To hang about a stable, and collect a gang of the most disreputable dogs to be found in the town, and lead them out to march round the slums to fight other disreputable dogs, is Montmorency’s idea of “life.”

Montmorency’s ambition in life, is to get in the way and be sworn at. If he can squirm in anywhere where he particularly is not wanted, and be a perfect nuisance, and make people mad, and have things thrown at his head, then he feels his day has not been wasted.

Planning for the trip:

“Begin with breakfast.” (George is so practical.) “Now for breakfast we shall want a frying-pan”—(Harris said it was indigestible; but we merely urged him not to be an ass)...

And packing for the trip:

I said I’d pack.

I rather pride myself on my packing. Packing is one of those many things that I feel I know more about than any other person living. (It surprises me myself, sometimes, how many of these subjects there are.) I impressed the fact upon George and Harris, and told them that they had better leave the whole matter entirely to me. They fell into the suggestion with a readiness that had something uncanny about it. George put on a pipe and spread himself over the easy-chair, and Harris cocked his legs on the table and lit a cigar.

This was hardly what I intended. What I had meant, of course, was, that I should boss the job, and that Harris and George should potter about under my directions, I pushing them aside every now and then with, “Oh, you—!” “Here, let me do it.” “There you are, simple enough!”—really teaching them, as you might say. Their taking it in the way they did irritated me. There is nothing does irritate me more than seeing other people sitting about doing nothing when I’m working.

I’m not like that. I can’t sit still and see another man slaving and working. I want to get up and superintend, and walk round with my hands in my pockets, and tell him what to do. It is my energetic nature. I can’t help it.

And so on and so on. I could cite many, trouble being the given the wandering nature of book, quotes tend not to be just quotes but paragraphs themselves. Not good for blog but a recommended read. You have no excuse since it’s even free and available on Project Gutenberg.