Monday, December 07, 2015

Thanksgiving in US

Because of being employed by world's largest online retailer, I was aware of the custom of Thanksgiving as celebrated in USA. Mostly along the lines of large sales volume and other retail details. Its only after coming to the country, I realized it is indeed a big deal for folks here. People queue up, often overnight, in front of stores. The stores themselves have deep discounts on large ticket items, mostly electronics. The madness and the rush when the store opens in unbelieveable. The closest from my personal experience is visiting pandals in Kolkata during Durga Puja (popularly known as "pandal-hopping").

Unlike Indian festival dates, which are calculated based on position of celestial bodies, Thanksgiving date is defined as "fourth Thursday of November". Its amazing how the dates of what originally was a harvest festival has been adapted to ensure a long weekend. This indicates that the holiday in its present form was standardized after a 5-day work-week had been established. But what is more amazing is how retailers have turned this into a shopping festival. An onslaught of flyers, banners and emails ensure that people get to know of this special time. Mailboxes (physical and email) are filled up with information of "deep discounts" from all merchants. The frenzy is such that sales volumes drop on preceding weeks in anticipation of deals.

Unfortunately these are of little use to people who want only a specific brand/make/model. More often than not, those would not be available. In the rare case that they actually are, its hidden under the pile of other products and tend to sell off fast. Its mostly the things which are highly priced (as a factor of their intrinsic value) which go on sale.

For discerning folks, this provide for a great opportunity. Prices on used goods drop on auction sites. Another advantage is the relative emptiness in the neighborhood touristy places. I would not share the items I bought, but here are few nice shots from that weekend.

Weekend getaway Big Sur, 20151126-27

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Possibilities with dark sunglasses

Aren't you bothered when talking to people wearing dark sunglasses? You know what I am talking about. The ones so dark you can't even make out the eyes. Its weird to talk to a person without being able to see their eyes.

In India, like many other places, its customary to greet someone with a smile and raise eye-brows. It spooks me out when people do this wearing dark shades. Then during conversation you have no clue which way they are looking. For all you know, they might as well be rolling their eyes at you!

There is also a great tactical advantage to not letting others see your eyes. Significant amount of brain is hooked up directly to our eyes. Following a person's eyes is one of the easiest ways to figure out their thoughts. Security folks regularly use this. Next time take a look the security personnel in TV news clips, all of them wear dark glasses.

Now think about all the awesome things that you could do with a pair of these. Use it to your fullest advantage. Stare at random things during those boring conversations. Next time you meet that annoying neighbour or the complaining colleague, instead of listening to their rants, you can be checking out that PYT who passed by. For extra points, you can try winking too. Just imagine the possibilities ... !

Frankly, I don't know what bothers me more, not being able to see the eyes or the perceived advantage I feel they have. Guess I should get a pair of those super-reflective polarizing sunglasses and give this a try.

See others comments in Reddit | Facebook

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Don't drink iced tea with a straw !

It’s only because ice floats in water that we can add ice to a drink in room temperature and instantaneously get a chilled effect. The ice melts and you taste the cold water. Well you might think it’s obvious. And you are right. It is. But just pause and think for a bit. Except for water, all other solid materials have higher density than their liquid counterparts!

Now think what happens when you drink iced tea with a straw. You are drinking the concentrated and not-so-chilled part of the drink first. And it tastes watery at the end.

Somebody will point out that it is the property of cold things to come down and hot things to go up. And they are partially correct. That is how earth is cooled. But that is due to hotter things having lower density like hot air.

If you have made it this far, you must be wondering what's the point behind all this? I was only marveling at how coffee shops serve iced drinks with a straw. At the beginning you are thirsty, so you drink a mouthful. Only after your initial thirst is quenched that you slow down. As and when you slow down, the ice gets time to melt and dilutes your drink. After a while you don’t like the watery taste and order a second round!

Link to the post on reddit and facebook

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Washing Machine and Rain

I am sitting here in my balcony. Sipping coffee while looking at the rain outside and thinking:

Its raining again! Somehow it has to rain whenever I switch on the washing machine. Is there a link between the machine and the clouds? Well you never know. Maybe it will be the next big news in Scientific American,
Scientists find strong evidence linking washing machine usage and rainfall 
... In a recent study published in the Journal of Scientific Mumbo Jumbo, researchers from University of Blah throw light onto the possible correlation between rainfall and washing machine usage. Based on a study lasting over a decade, researchers have found strong evidence suggesting ...

I know. It sounds crazy. But all I am saying is that you never know.

Or maybe I only remember instances of rain when it causes me inconvenience. Or maybe the coffee has hallucinogenic properties.

Link to the original facebook post

Saturday, February 08, 2014

How to avoid triggering the circuit breaker

Heard the following story from a colleague at Amazon:

This happened during the time I was at Amrita University. Back then the hostels did not have power sockets. This was the time when cellphones and laptops were beyond the reach for most Indian students. One day some guy managed to get his hands on an electric heater and wanted to cook in the hostel. Some searching led the guys to a socket in the corridor. Switched on the heater. There was a pop sound somewhere down the corridor and no power for that entire wing. These would be engineers soon figured out that the circuit breaker was getting triggered by the high current drawn.

Ordinary folks would think better and shut down the heater. But there was this one guy (name withheld for obvious reasons) who had this great idea. He proudly told that he will "fix" the circuit breaker. He went down the corridor and asked the guys to switch on the heater. This time there was no "pop" noise. The power went off for the entire wing. And there was a burnt smell.

Turns out that the fix was to hold the circuit breaker to the top contact and not let it "trip" (disconnect). The high load just burnt out the wires instead. No electricity for these guys for a week.