Where I am Quoted as an Expert

Remember the article I wrote about the BlackWing 602 pencil earlier? Well, I was curious to see how the sale ended, and popped into ebay. Then I searched to see if any other BalckWing 602s have surfaced for sale. There is one.

In the item description, the person who has posted the pencil for sale quotes me! Above Boing Boing – take that, Cory Doctorow Mark Frauenfelder! 😉

Weird are the ways of the web. For what it’s worth, I am no designer, or pencil expert. I was wondering what makes a pencil SO special, and I still do. Running into your name serendipitously is weird. Really weird.

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How Disney Changed Orlando

Forget “Suburbs” – there’s something called an “Exurb” now:

…blobby coalescences of look-alike, overnight, amoeba-like concentrations of population far from city centers. These huge, sprawling communities are where more and more Americans choose to be, the place where job growth is fastest, home building is briskest, and malls and megachurches are multiplying as newcomers keep on coming.

Orlando Before and After Disney

Read how a flyover by Disney, the man, on November 22, 1963 changed the “city” of Orlando at the National Geographic back then, Orlando was just a citrus farm, more or less. That is also about the time UCF was founded. Now, within 50 years, UCF is the seventh largest university by student enrollment numbers!

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It’s a Feature, Not a Bug!

It’s a Feature, Not a Bug.


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Understanding Indian Shoppers – Indians Love Disorder

Kishore Biyani has figured out that in order to sell more, he needs to

  1. make the aisles in his supermarkets narrower, and thus more difficult to walk through
  2. spill some wheat and seeds on the floor
  3. introduce some semi-rotten vegetables into a bin of good vegetables
  4. make his stores noisier

Counterintuitive for westerners perhaps, but this offers a peek into the Indian middle-class psyche.

The article about Biyani’s chain of supermarkets that generates $600 million+ in profits at WSJ is worth a read. In it, Biyani says that making things chaotic enough is not easy, and that the trick to give the customers the impression that “they have won”. Hence the half-rotten vegetables mixed in with the regular good ones, and the choas and disarray. He is quite the man when it comes to inventory control, and modern business practices, and proudly display Sam Walton’s picture on his wall, next to Mother Teresa.

He sells to “India Two”, the Indian population that includes the drivers, maids, cooks, nannies, farmers and others who serve India One. He estimates that 55% of Indians — roughly 550 million people — fall into this category, says WSJ.

“We advertise in the language that people dream in,” says Mr. Biyani, who is proud he isn’t one of the many business leaders in India who has lived or studied abroad. Though he speaks the language, “I don’t dream in English,” he says.

Remarkably enough, everything that leads to more apparent chaos serves him well, including making the check out lanes more confused and chaotic, which apparently increased sales by 30%. It takes a different kind of business smarts to make money in India. No amount of western education can teach one that!

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iBook for Sale

I don’t know if the people that used to read my blog read it anymore. There were many that I turned away by not writing regularly (or at all for a while), and by switching the URL for my feed. All capital sins.

So if you do read this blog, and think that you are one of the people I think read this blog, leave me a comment.

Or better still, take a look at this iBook for sale. If you need an iBook G4 that works, this is the one for you. It works, flawlessly and has been lovingly taken care of by someone who loves me.

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$55.55 a pencil – The Blackwing 602

No, I am not kidding.

If there ever was a pencil that was well-appreciated, it was this. I have a terrible urge to write with one of these.

I have been late to the party, but there is nothing like a legal pad, and a pencil, to get your thoughts flowing. I also hate yellow pencils. Which brings us to why pencils are mostly yellow, not counting the “Nataraj” and “Pinky” pencils I grew up on. Pencils are mostly yellow because that is the color associated (or previously associated) with royalty in China, and that’s where most of the pencils came from in the early days.

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Naming Conventions Ice-breaker

I have been fascinated with names, and how different societies follow different conventions. When it comes to a unique descriptor for a person, it is hard to beat a name, and so I am always interested in knowing more about how someone was named, what it means, what its components are, the right way of pronouncing it, etc. I have a very good memory for how exactly to spell and pronounce someone’s name too. The pronunciation might suffer due to my Indian/Malayali/Tamil exposure etc, but I love remembering the spellings of names.

I read this wonderful article on naming conventions around the world from the perspective of a software designer who designs forms that have to be internationalized, and am already feeling really happy for having read it. Read it, and become a little more sensitive to the different folks you’d be working with.

A similar article can be written about how folks are named in different parts of India. Also about how imposing local customs by force of law can make things all the weirder. The state of Maharashtra required people to have three parts to their name – “Family name” “Father’s name” and “Given Name”, if I remember correctly. That is just so insensitive to those from outside Maharashtra who have to get a birth certificate for their kids, or register their kids in a school there. Bombay, or Mumbai is in Maharashtra.

I find it very strange to have two “given name”s in my name – “Carthik” and “Anand” – neither of which are my father’s name, or my family name. I also find it strange that in our family, we use two family names, or “surnames” – Iyer and Sharma. Most of the cousins on my father’s side are “Iyers”, while I am a “Sharma”. My sister was an “Iyer” before she got married. None of my relatives know me as Carthik. They all know me as Anand, or call me Nandu. I sometimes wonder if, “Carthik”, “Anand” and “Nandu” have different personalities – whether when someone who only knows one of these meets someone only who knows another, they’d be totally surprised to learn about the other side of me.

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The World’s Happiest Man is a Monk

The world’s happiest man happens to be a French guy who quit his Ph.D. in favor of Tibetan Buddhism. I had to read the article after I read the title – after all, wouldn’t you want to know how one can measure something like happiness?

Happiness is as simple as keeping the front half of your brain all pepped up! The trick is meditation, and mind control.

I have tried meditation so many times – it is always the pain the legs that gets me. Keep in mind that when I was young, I used to have to sit cross legged at the temple, during the veda class, and at home, while eating etc. It used to hurt then, and it hurts now. I used to think that with practice, and over time, the pain and discomfort will disappear, but it hasn’t really. My legs are weird, I tell you. I have read that you can meditate in any comfortable posture, but my mind seems to reject the idea of sitting in a chair and meditating – it just doesn’t feel right. So for me, it is a little bit of both, body- and mind-control. I tried meditating today, to get my mind back on track. I quit after 10 minutes of discomfort. Then there is the thing about doing it right – I have this stuck-up notion that I need someone to teach me and do it with me, and help me through the process. Doing it all alone somehow doesn’t seem right.

I know, these are all excuses, and what I really need to do is just sit down, and do nothing.

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An Article about Donald Knuth

Knuth, Up Close – it is so hard to find anything resembling a closer look into the lives of the great. Knuth is one of the greats still alive. I enjoyed the article immensely.

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Laurie Baker Passes Away

One of the most intriguing people I have known indirectly has died. I came to know this through Chetan

Laurie Baker passed away this morning.

Baker was a well known architect who made my humble hometown(Trivandrum/Thiruvananthapuram) his hometown. Read this article for a peek into his life. He was born British, and he died an Indian – having made India his home in the 60s. He had a house in Trivandrum. His architectural principles spread wide and fast in Kerala, as his houses were cheap to build and very efficient. They looked of the earth – natural, and fit into the landscape of Kerala much more naturally.

This picture of his house reminds me best of how his designs looked like – they looked unlike any other house you might have seen before – warm, earthy, cool even in the harshest of summers, and very natural. I would very much have loved to live in one of those houses. A close friend of mine lived in one such house – commonly known as “Baker Model” houses.

He will best be remembered for the low-cost, energy efficient, environment friendly, cool houses and offices he designed. Thank you, Laurie-ji.

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