Category Archives: oddball

How old are you ?

20140323-233349.jpg

I just learnt that Shaheed Bhagat Singh, who hanged for fighting for Indian independence on March 23rd, 1931 was all but 23 years old at that time. Twenty three and a half. Think about it. That’s younger than young. And he had a mission in his mind so clear that he was happy to sacrifice his life for it too.

What purpose he had in his life! One that lived way beyond his life even! What an amazing soul!

Parking at the airport

20140318-214321.jpg
At the Delhi airport parking you pick up a ticket on your way in from an automatic dispenser, pay and then insert into an automatic reader on the way out within 15 minutes of the payment. Parking charges are in three buckets: 0-30 minutes, 30 minutes to 2 hours and then full day charge. All parts except the ‘pay’ one are automated. They perhaps avoided automating it for the cost of interchange. Also I don’t like it because it creates a wait for a bit too long and would only get worse when lots of people get out together from arrivals (3 am on any given day is perhaps the busiest at DEL).

Anyway, I am writing today about something else. The ’15 minute’ part. Once paid, a new ticket is printed and provisioned to work for the next 15 minutes – which leaves enough time for people to find their cars and leave.

I think however that this (15 minute constraint) is unnecessary and easily avoidable at no extra cost. My impulse to think about this came from the long wait I have to do when I have some luggage with me and want to quickly head back to my car and to my way home ASAP. If only they allowed people to pre-pay their parking fee, it would be so much better. The benefit of removing the 15 minute constraint would be that the queue on the human-powered pay counter would drastically reduce because people can pay any time between entry and exit.

Here is how:
The printed ticket is a bar coded paper card that is machine readable and carries 20 digits. Right now it carries a unique number that is allowed to open the gates for the next 15 minutes after which it expires. These systems are pretty similar to prepaid calling cards and recharge cards that telecom operators have used since eons. They are primarily designed to avoid fraud so nobody can print them at home.

Instead, these twenty digits could be split into two: one part the expiry date+time and the second part a unique number that ensures it is protected from fraud. This combination of expiry time and the unique number could further be encrypted so it isn’t easy for anybody to predictably print new ones.

Do you reduce the security by now using lesser number of digits than before for the unique number ? Yes 12 digit uniques are less secure than 20 digit ones but by a practically irrelevant amount. Moreover the combination of these two parts can also be jumbled together to raise security even further.

Now the automated reader at the exit would know to look for a valid expiry time along with a check to make sure it is not a fraudulent ticket.

The change required is purely in software which is the kind of change I always consider equal to buying real estate. Done right, it is one-time investment that never stops giving returns.

The benefit would be a lesser queue and possibly lesser people required at the pay counter. Happy passengers, happy car-parkers, happy pay counter staff. It is truly a situation where the total amount of happiness in this universe will increase.

Free is good. Free is honest.

You build something (product) and then tell everyone about it (marketing) and usually the latter is what takes a larger amount of energy. It is arguably the hardest thing in the world to tell somebody else what to do and it is only more difficult for a startup when it is something new that they have to offer.

Typical consumable goods companies spend an enormous amount of money in informing the masses about what they produce and why it is the best option. And there is good reason to believe that their mass communication methods are highly inefficient. On the other hand some companies allow (their potential paying customers) to use their product for some time for free. Instead of viewing this as the opposite of revenue (not charging for what you intend to), this expenditure should be viewed as a replacement to the advertisements or ‘gentle yet expensive nudges’ that has traditionally been spent in marketing all products. 

Like marketing expect this to be a long term investment and don’t get disheartened if you don’t see any revenue coming in soon after you announce your product. Unlike traditional marketing though, it will be far more ‘honest’ !

on shahpur jat

Shahpur Jat is an interesting place. I have spent quite some time in that village which lies in urbanised surroundings. It is where I met mantriji and maha-mantriji and the one and only pee kay ass :). It is also where about twenty of my friends were roughed up by a couple of locals (i wasn’t there by chance. i don’t think it would have helped though!).

In Shahpur Jat,I have
* felt safe
* been to terrace parties (or competitions in getting drunk without being seen by neighbours ?)
* spent many hours waiting (yeah, just plain waiting)
* drunk the worlds best cold coffee
* felt unsafe

What is also interesting is the shops in basements. Some real cool stuff happens in those by lanes that I discovered only on the internet and never in my visits. Anybody who has been there would know that the landlords and the tenants are a different segment of people and don’t mingle much outside of the once-a-month routine.

A design company, the shoe factory (TSF), a creative forum are from that place.

And a few days ago, I came across this interesting website that sells everyday items made a bit differently. They call themselves Happily Unmarried. Lotus like feet has asked me what I would want from there. I am thinking to choose between the lassi glass, the mug or the 4-set of shotglasses.

SJ is ironic: guess that’s what I wanted to say.

got a life?

Did you know that Sweden has now set up an embassy in Second Life ?
Did you know that INSEAD has set up a campus on Second Life ?
Did you know that IBM, Nokia and so many other companies too have real estate on second life ?

If you didn’t, then you should find out what the fuss is about. Goto www.secondlife.com, download the software and start living. Talk to real people. visit interesting places and well, get a life after all!

PS: I am tempted to continue adding to your compendium of useless information: Did you know that a nursing whale can produce upto 160 gallons of milk each day ?

Helsinki Rocks

Come to Helsinki.

“We have already heard of the arrival of such big names as Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy (Ice Hall, 23.5.), Ozzy Osbourne (Helsinki Arena 6.6.), Genesis (Olympic Stadium 11.6.), George Michael (Stadium 1.7.), Aerosmith (Arena 7.7.), The Who (Helsinki Arena 9.7.), and Metallica (Stadium 15.7.), and this does not include the summer’s usual round of rock, blues, and jazz festivals such as Provinssirock in Seinäjoki, Ruisrock in Turku, and Pori Jazz.”

Helsinki Sanomat Article

I am most interested in Purple Dada and Who bhai log

the business of weather forecasting

The weather changes in Helsinki are pretty abrupt and I have never seen such changes before. This weekend was fantastic with the temperature being in positives and Monday morning suddenly is -14 degrees! Crazy. The above graph is from http://www.ilmatieteenlaitos.fi/weather/local.html?kunta=Espoo and it shows the temperature over the past 24 hours. Notice that in the last 12 hours, the temperature dropped about 15 degrees.

Now, Who needs weather forecasts the most? Here is my list in the order of importance

a) airline companies: to calculate the fuel they need for a trip, the visibility conditions at the airport and stuff like that.
b) energy companies: to predict the short-term demand for energy. The Helsinki energy company, for example, could really use this information to predict how much of heating needs would increase in the next day and keep their supply up to date.
c) you and i: to decide what clothes to wear the next day; to carry an umbrella or not or to take a vacation in someplace or not.

Of the above, option (c) would pay nothing to learn of weather forecasts, but apparently the first two of the lot would happily part with lots of money to get more accurate information.