Monday, November 26, 2018

Planning your own foreign trip, with Sri Lanka as example

Cross-published at

This guide is about how I went about planning my own Sri Lanka trip. My actual itinerary and travelogue will be published in a separate post after I complete the trip. This is supposed to help you provide resources and steps in planning any trip your own, and is based on a series of steps I follow when I need to plan any foreign trip.

When and Duration

The first thing to plan is when you will travel, and for how long. Open-ended search on Skyscanner (e.g. from Chennai) can tell you what's the cheapest airfare you can expect to your desired destination. Now you can compare your own airfare for the proposed period against this to decide if your period of travel and any excess airfare is acceptable for you or not. Based on your vacations, leaves, personal desires, and so on you can choose to pay little (or very) more than the cheapest fare for your proposed period. You can also play around a few other months to check what's suitable costing for you. You can also go to Wikitravel to find if your period will have good enough weather. This decides your when.

New go to few tour operators to find out duration of ready-made packages to your destination. Selecting your holiday destination on (e.g.) MakeMyTrip, TravelTriangle, ThomasCook, and SOTC can give you idea of typical duration (and cost) of trip. For Sri Lanka, this was about 4-7 days. Quick Google search or Tripoto search can confirm your decision. This whole thing shouldn't take more than 15 minute as our focus is just overall duration and not cost and not itinerary. For Sri Lanka, I realized that less than 5 is too short and more than 10 is probably too long. This decides your duration

Flight Tickets

Flights being most expensive component, you want to nail this down first. Create permutations for duration based on your decision, say 22-28, or 23-29, or 22-29, etc. to find suitable option based on fare and convenience. I usually look at few websites like,,, airline's own website, and few offers if available on credit cards I hold and book the tickets. This step can take 1-2 hours across days.

You may be tempted to try out many websites and offers, but my lesson is that these days prices are pretty consistent across portals and any offer is mostly teaser and benefit will be lost in transaction fee or convenience fee. Prices tend to go up (Murphy's law) during your search period so you should just book within 1-2 days. Do keep in mind arrival and departure times of flights and travel times too (and not just airfare) since odd timings may add to hotel cost at origin station, or have the inconvenience of night wait at the airport, or cost of an extra meal, or unreasonable cost of airport transfer, and so on. Airfare cost alone isn't everything!

Your Itinerary

This is biggest and most time consuming process. Goal of this is to come up with cities you will stay in, and the number of days within each, and transport between cities. This step may take 4-40 hours of time depending on how much in detail you want to go!

You will have to read a lot! Refer itineraries on tour operators websites,, itineraries, and TripAdvisor forum's to identify potential cities you may be interested in. You can plot these on Google Maps to plan a route which is roughly circular and doesn't require returning back, and minimizes overall travel distance and time. You can also get a broad sense of distance and travel times between places so that you can incorporate travel time between cities in your daily plans. You need to decide if the day of travel can also accommodate some sightseeing or will only be spent on travel due to distance and exhaustion.

Refer to TripAdvisor's Things to Do for those places to decide for yourself what things will interest you — not every tourist spot works for everyone, I like slow paced vacations, and not much interested in historical buildings, for example — and how long you think you need to cover those. Read TripAdvisor reviews of tourist spots and see pictures. Split things into 'Must See' and 'Good to See' and 'Avoid' options based on your preference, cost and reviews. This will broadly inform how many days are needed to cover each city. Do note that many places may have ticket cost which isn't easily available (may have to read few reviews), or free days (may have to check attraction's website), or closed days (e.g. every Tuesday), or limited opening (e.g. morning 10am-2pm) which you need to factor in deciding your local route. Use existing itineraries to double-check you duration at each city. At this stage, you can also drop a city from your plan, or choose between cities if you are in two minds. You will have to decide if you want to shift hotel at each city, or can cover one city with another city as base in day's round-trip.

For each place of stay, plot your sightseeing places on Google Maps to broadly understand the density of activities which will, later on, help guide your hotel location and need for local transport.

Based on previous itineraries, your comfort level, and cost comparison you can also decide if you will drive your car (not an option for Sri Lanka), take public transport (an option if you are adventurous, in Sri Lanka), or have dedicated cab for the full duration. Documents on TripAdvisor's Sri Lanka forum have good information on this. Given that I was travelling with family and prioritized convenience, I chose to go with a dedicated cab.

Once your itineraries and places of interest are finalized, you will have to decide if you need to pre-book anything. For instance, Safari at National Parks in Sri Lanka may be pre-booked (but will cost extra) or booked via hotel or done on the spot. Similarly for Whale Watching tours at beaches.

Local Transport

Every country has different options with different cost, and you need to read a lot to find out what will work for you. Rome2Rio is a good portal to quickly get a list of various available options for local transport. As mentioned above, I decided to go with dedicated cab and hence shot an email to key tour operators Tangerine Tours, Red Dot Tours, Walkers Tour, and few others from google search. I also dropped an inquiry at which is an informal collective of non-branded operators (link found from TripAdvisor's forum).

After comparing cost, few Q&A based on what is covered and what is not covered, and comparing cost of all day hire, or partial hire I decided to go with one operator. Before finalizing the operator, I read its review on Facebook and TripAdvisor, wherever possible, since not all operator have reviews. Be careful to not just go by star-rating but read reviews. It takes time but there are lots of fake reviews! Reviews which are not accompanied by description, or timed in short duration are suspect. You can even click on reviewers on FB to see their profile and ascertain if they are genuine tourists or not. I found many times operators or drivers or folks based in Sri Lanka themselves were giving 5 star to their page. I also found few operator having multiple FB pages. All these are unreliable in my mind, though of course I cannot claim that for certainty as I didn't avail their services.

You can also search on airport transfer options, based on your flight timings. Most airports will have taxis available 24x7 but public transport may be cheaper. You can go through the airport's website or search the internet to find suitable options. Your hotel may offer too though that's likely to be expensive. Pre-booking may work, or maybe expensive. Uber is omnipresent but every country has it's local taxi network as well.

As everywhere, evaluate options holistically for convenience and freedom and not just on price. You don't want to spoil you 100k vacations for saving 5k. Since vacations are experiences, day to day convenience matters a lot in making those memories happy or unhappy!


Hotels may not be very expensive in overall cost of the trip, but have undue influence in your vacation experience. Different countries have different hotel booking websites which work better.,, and are good ones to start wtih. Airbnb can be explored and can come out cheaper for Europe and US, but for Asia, hotel operators have flooded listing on and it's not much different. Your map of tourist spots will come handy here and you can select few hotels based on budget, amenities, views, breakfast, and location on the map. Go through pictures and customer reviews of the hotel on TripAdvisor and Facebook to filter out some, and do remember to keep you 'fake review' detector on.

Do remember to email or call the hotel to confirm the booking, and don't just rely on booking portal's confirmation. Many a times inventory is not be updated or hotel may simply overbook and refuse you. You don't want to stuck searching at last minute in the foreign country. If you are staying longer at one place, or like to cook in, you can search a hotel with a kitchen. Hostels and dormitories are good options if you are single or have a tight budget.

Visa, Forex, and SIM Card

There are multiple guides on this on the web and this is a standard official process so you have to do what you have to do. For Europe, I have heard that some countries are more lenient than others in granting Schengen Visa so your itinerary should keep that in mind as a port of entry. For every other country, your Visa is specific to that country so you follow the official process. Sri Lanka Visa is online approval which took less than 30 min to fill and 5 min for approval.

These days you will be carrying a combination of foreign-currency pre-paid card and foreign-currency cash for your trip. Based on hotel cost, local transport cost, meal cost, attraction fee, and a healthy buffer you can estimate how much to carry. Depending on acceptance of card vs cash you can split your amount. For Sri Lanka, you need to convert into local currency in destination only and carrying USD is recommended, though INR may also be acceptable. TripAdvisor forums had good information on where to exchange money.

Similarly, local SIM card from airport, city, or pre-paid SIM card from your origin country can be taken based on price and convenience. For Sri Lanka, generally advise is to take local SIM from the city. You may search for telecom operator with decent coverage at cities in your itineraries. Google, google and google away!

Other Things

For some countries, you will be required to, or advised to take travel insurance and health insurance. Find suitable insurer from your origin country, or compare with WorldNomads. If you are self-driving, you need to find a convenient, reliable and cheap car rental company. Few other things to bother are transit visa, luggage allowance on your flight, and frequent flyer miles for your trip.

Plan and Unplan

There are generally two types of people in travel — those who plan everything, and those who leave everything impromptu. Depending on your persona and comfort level, you can plan further minute details of your day, or leave everything unplanned except flight tickets. Despite all the planning, you have to remember that things may take longer than expected, or unexpected hiccups may occur, or unplanned activities may be found interesting. Travel is for fun, and you shouldn't have to skip fun because you planned way too much! On the other hand, after visiting you may realize that somethings could have been done differently and better, and that's okay! Not everything will be perfect, and least you can do after coming back is to put your advise in travelogue to help someone else next time around!

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

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

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!

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

Planning your own foreign trip, with Sri Lanka as example

Cross-published at This guide is about...