Friday, February 26, 2010

Holding the door open

One thing that I imported from US stay was holding the door open for your following walker. This practice is so common in US that everyone will do it even for complete strangers when passing through a gated entrance in any public place. It obviates need for follower to pry open the door, specially if that warrants special effort or entry pass and saves few moments of his time. It encumbers leader to spend few moments waiting for follower to catch up to him and keep the door open lest it shuts on follower’s face. This is all part of acceptable social courtesy and admittedly a good one.

However, being a courtesy ritual, this also has danger of having more meaning in intention than in reality. In some cases, waiting for follower to catch up could be as long as 10 to 15 seconds (a not insignificant time standing holding the door) which could be inconvenient for the leader. Moreover, sometimes it is not required for leader to wait holding the door open for follower, even if leader has intention of eliminating efforts of opening on follower’s part. This is because of how some door works.

As you know very well, some doors have spring or damper in their hinges which makes them close very slowly even when not held open. As you also know that typical human frame can enter a door which is only half open because of difference in width of door opening and width of human body. Combining these two insights with the common sense estimate of follower’s speed can sometime make leader leave the door and walk away just at the moment so that door is still half open for follower to pass through without having to open again. This will not only serve the purpose of helping your follower but also reduce waiting time for the leader — a win-win situation which serves the courtesy as well as minimizes total inconvenience. But, of course. Follower’s potential inability to understand this dynamics and calculation in leader’s mind and read leader’s action in not keeping the door open as violation of social courtesy, thereby imparting more meaning to ritual rather than effect, and thereby casting doubt on intention of leader rather than evaluating impact of his action, forces leader to wait till follower catches up, thus achieving suboptimal solution for himself without improving convenience to other.

I've had this debate internally so many times whenever I was leader in this ritual.

Edit 14th July 2014.
I was much ahead of the times :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


That’s the number you’ve been told about remaining number of tigers in India. Campaign is ubiquitous: on prime time TV, on print media, on bill boards. Cause is just: after all, conservation of any animal specie is worthy effort, let alone unique, majestic and royal creature as Royal Bengal Tiger of India. So, of course, you are supposed to join the roar.

I do wonder though if such expense of money on campaign is going to serve any useful purpose at all. Your writing blogs, SMSing friends and writing articles in media will help whom? Are poachers, illegal traders or users of goods made from tiger will suddenly change their heart because Mahender Singh Dhoni says so? Will politicians and forest officials will see light at the end of tunnel and gear their actions towards stricter punishment and speedy justice? Will China stop consuming soup of tiger’s private parts for increasing their fertility? If not, what is your roar going to do?

Even their website is not sure if you can help. It says 'you can help', so I went there looking how. It says “roar” and previous paragraphs tells me that impact of that is non-existence and unclear at best. It says “donate” which, naturally, will help promote this very campaign but which is not going to have any effect anyway since this is precisely what we are discussing now. It says “be informed” which is good but again a useless activity. I am well informed about severity of this issue and how is this going to help me or tigers? It says “speak up” which is another word for “roar” in ‘saveourtigers’ lingo. You see where am I going here? Website suggests us to “lead the change”. Now if you are kind of person who will kill tiger for money or wear that necklace of tiger bones, I am not sure if reading this website will change your mind. Supposing if it does, what fraction of market of tiger goods is from these kind of people? And, of course, if you are not this kind of person then you are already part of change, even if unconsciously. Having access to most strata of India society, I don’t see any of intended audience of this campaign consuming tiger anyway. Further advice given in the campaign is to “write, SMS, donate, spread the word” which we have seen is rehash of earlier.

What can be remotely considered useful is advice about being “responsible tourist” and example given is not to throw chips packet in national parks. How much impact will it have in improving 1411 number doesn’t require a genius. Hint: it won’t. It continues to say that we should “preserve natural resources”. Preaching to the choir?

What happened, if I can imagine, is this. World Wildlife Fund knows that this is worthy cause and Aircel joined with big sponsorship and now we have an organization which has lot of money but nothing to do with it. So they blow all in advertisement saying what they do (save the tigers) but that they don’t actually do (they just campaign). I am not good at these sort of things but I’d reckon that throwing all the money to bribe forest officials to catch poachers, lobbying politicians to change regulations, incentivizing local communities near forests to alternate livelihood and exposing China’s consumption to world at large will be better use of money than that expensive billboard shouting “1411”.

Related read: Only other blog raising this question, Humorous take on this (NSFW)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Unimpressed by magic

I’ve seen magic shows (live, on TV, on web) and I’ve read about them. Because they are magic shows, they are, well, magical and unbelievable. Some stuff just seems impossible, but being magical, is shown to be possible. I’ve read about people being handcuffed and locked in multiple iron boxes and thrown in sea and come out free as a bird few hours later. This is quite unbelievable and more magical than tricks on stage because you don’t have access to equipment and stage itself. I’ve seen people in audience dropping their jaw and going ‘wow’ over magic. I’ve found myself interestingly amused but not blown over. Why?

For first, I am convinced that there is some trick to magic so it’s not real magic but merely an illusion. It’s not a momentous insight but this knowledge doesn’t let me really get into magic because part of being blown over is to believe it as real. Second, being aware that trickery is being performed, and being aware that I don’t know what is it, implies ignorance on my part which is not something I am impressed by. Magic, thus, is thrown in category of things-unexplained-yet-but-there-is-explanation-somewhere-that-i-don’t-know-yet along with God, black holes and what women want. These are the things I am fascinated by but not awestruck by.

What gets me going is though the explanation behind magical tricks. That, of course, is not easy to come by. I’ve read workings of trivial magical tricks in books and on web and seen some of those in movie The Prestige (which is a must watch movie, by the way). A double layered milk bottle which when turned upside down drains its little quantity of milk into oversized bottle stopper thus creating a illusion of whole bottle worth of milk disappearing is simple yet impressive trick for me.

Genius which creates illusion which blows over masses and confuses prowess of brain is worthy of my true admiration, and not it’s creation.

Edit 20/03/2010: Explanation of one of truely amazing tricks:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Anticipatory pleasures

Among the things I like to eat, there are some things I start missing if I’ve not had them for many days. Rich chocolate cake, pizza, turai sabzi, daal-baati and Subway™ sandwich are some such examples. When faced with opportunity of consuming them, I develop irresistible urge to savour the object of desire. I often succumb to my urge. What is surprising to me is the fact that I end up enjoying them mere okay and not become as ecstatic as I thought I would be after eating them. Even more surprising fact that despite my less than extraordinary experience this time, I will once again start missing same things and cycle will continue.

Why does my mind plays such tricks on me? Do my expectations always overshadow my real experiences? If so, why don’t my expectations decrease next time? Am I tough nut to please? Am I subconsciously enjoying them? Is there such thing as subconscious enjoyment of eatables?

It seems that only way for me to enjoy what I enjoy is not to really enjoy it but only anticipate the enjoyment the enjoyable object will bring.

Planning your own foreign trip, with Sri Lanka as example

Cross-published at This guide is about...