/rant

errr, but maybe there is no point to ranting about ideas unless they are fully formed and fully thought through. But then again, that wouldn’t be a rant now, would it ?

/endOriginalRant

Ongoing rants:

What does it take to break a mans’ back – bad posture, that’s all really. 🙂

I thought of a couple other parallels to ideas, but they sound crass in my head because they don’t translate well, (well, not a linguistic translation) so I’m going to have to look for better ideas than that.

I thought of a neat little piece/rant which I thought encapsulated an idea real well, but then have no recollection of what it was. Dang it!

So, I was thinking – let’s say you and your apartment co-dweller have a disagreement on the thermostat temperature. You want it set at 76 and he wants it set at 74. You try explaining why 76 is the right temperature, but to no avail. So, you let things be, and agree to let him set the thermostat at 74. Half way through the night, you feel cold, but you agreed to setting the thermostat at 74, so you don’t do anything about it. Let’s assume your friend starts feeling cold at the night too. If he changed the temperature of the thermostat to 76, that would be conceding that he was wrong, but it would solve the problem. If he let the temperature stay at 74, both are cold and nothing was really achieved, except of course, there is no way for you to know that he is cold. But knowing all this, I still have to leave it to his judgement to decide what to do. Because after all, maybe he feels warm at 74 🙂 You do however hope that if he did indeed feel cold too, that he would do the right thing and set the temperature right.

Mirchi Run – Chennai – December 2014

Pre Race:

Having run two half marathons in 2014 (Peoria – Going the Distance and The SF – 2nd Half, and having missed one thanks to the common cold), I was looking to run in India when I would be there for a short vacation towards the end of the year. Unfortunately, some of the bigger name marathons in India did not coincide well with my trip plans, and I was searching for a decent event with at least a half marathon distance. I finally found “Mirchi Run” which was organized by Radio Mirchi, and the date fit me perfectly.

In terms of training, this has been the race I was best prepared for – considering I had enough long runs under my belt, and also had a pretty consistent training regiment – even if it involved a lot of runs on treadmill because of the weather outside. But then, you take a 24+ hour flight, go home and binge on good food for a week, and you pretty much negate all of the training 🙂 A couple of days before the race, I was cleaning some shelf of mine at home and when I got up, my knee gave me such a sharp intense pain that I was genuinely scared. Thankfully, wasn’t much of a deterrent.

Organization:

The event was pretty badly organized, but if you factor in the registration costs compared to some events in the US, some of these can perhaps be overlooked. I think it was either Rs 1000 or 1100.

  • Strike 1: was that the distance they measured and guided us through was not 13.1 miles. Yikes! I had half a mind to keep running till I heard my GPS tracker tell me I was done, but traffic was being opened up on the roads, and it didn’t look particularly inviting after that.
  • Strike 2: There was no official timing. 🙂 When I asked the organizers during packet pick-up where the chip for timing was, they were not even aware of such a thing. I got redirected to multiple people, the way a cricket balls fielding responsibility is redirected by multiple Indian fielders of the yesteryear, only for them to tell me that the timing would be done manually. What a bunch of hooey! I am not too bothered by this since I am not fast enough to have the official time do anything for me, and I track my own metrics anyway.
  • Strike 3: There was no good course map, nor any information of the aid stations …etc. All you have to do is open up a popular marathon website and pretty much ape them on these. There were aid stations though – which was at least better than some events like the SF marathon in 2014.

Packet pick up was the previous day – 27th December 2014, and the packet included a Bib, a pretty yucky looking t-shirt (which I haven’t worn, and wouldn’t be caught even sleeping in.)

Ok, the coolest thing about the packet has to be that the bib number I got was H-007 .That was sweeter than winning the event. 😀 Imagine how cool it is to get a bib number like that. If I got it in a major event I’d be over the moon.

The race was at 5:30am on the morning of 28th December. My dad was nice enough to drop me off at the race. There were some RJ’s on stage trying to do some kind of exercise, which was funny really. (Thankfully I did not know any of them.) Jothika was there to flag off the run – I’m sure that’s what avid runners care about! But other than such PR stunts, it was a pretty decent race overall – there wasn’t any elevation to speak of, and I have never before run on the Marina in Chennai. (Actually, I haven’t even been to Marina all that much.) The weather was as nice as can be expected for Chennai – a little humid, but perfectly cool otherwise.

I had a pretty decent race overall, except for the left knee niggle which after mile 10 made life extremely difficult. I think I was headed for a PR (personal record) in spite of that,(which is not much considering my previous finish times have been pretty pathetic 🙂 ), but thanks to the distance being miscalculated, I wasn’t able to.

Race Stats:

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 3.01.06 PM

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 2.58.31 PM

Pretty pathetic miles 11 and 12.

Post Race:

This was ridiculous. There were dancers on stage and stuff, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. They did give a sandwich and maybe some juice – which I can’t find fault with really. Alas, to add to all the other goof-ups, there was no finisher medal. Sure, I don’t care for such baubles too much, but when it is promised, it should be delivered. They did come good much later by mailing the medal to my address – so yes, they did ‘deliver’ on their promise. 🙂 So, it was ok I guess. My dad took me to a nice restaurant where I had a lime soda, (the price of which was 40 Rs – which I couldn’t digest.) after which we headed home.

My aim is to run a half marathon in every continent eventually 🙂 Unfortunately thanks to the DNF, I’ll have to run again in India – there’s always a next year, and I’ll look forward to running in a bigger event.

Reading

The “About Me” page on Goodreads pretty decently encapsulates things about my reading and reading habits, but they have a word limit in there.

However, here’s an interesting aspect I’ve never talked about to too many people. I never touched a “serious” book. What do I mean by that and why the choice ?

Well, let’s see – I always lapped away at Fiction – you know, the fast paced, ex-CIA no longer with the Government kind of books, or in some cases even slower books, more drama, definitely stirs some of your emotions, (other than just getting your adrenaline pumping.) and has some kind of a message of what’s right and wrong in this world, and all that kind of stuff.

I consciously avoided self-help books because, I always felt it was a bunch of hooey. If people could read books and be successful, first you wouldn’t need so many books, and second, everyone would be successful. Any school kid with half a brain should, simply by observing the world around him know that, that is empirically not possible, and hence you should run while you can, when you see these books. I am not saying people cannot be marginally more successful, or for a small set of people, it will totally change their lives – it might. I’m no shrink – I don’t know what rocks those people’s boat.

But by saying serious, I didn’t mean self-help books. I meant the really good books – they books that made you think, about the problems of the world, about grand philosophy, about what’s really right and wrong – about challenging everything you’ve been taught and thinking beyond. I consciously didn’t read any of those books – I certainly had the opportunity to, had some good books suggested to me, had the interest, but I didn’t.

It might sound stupid when I say why. As a teenager, I knew that I didn’t want to know of these idea, I didn’t want to think about them – I didn’t want to challenge myself intellectually – to become serious, to mull about the world’s problems. I just liked myself the way I was, and didn’t want my ideals to by influenced and shaped by great works. I wanted to find out who I truly was, before I went about reading these books, and letting them shape/fine-tune my thoughts and actions. I always believed that these books changed you in some irreversible way. Once you read them, there’s no going back. You can’t go back to where you were, a week later and forget all of the ideas in there. Looking back, maybe it was a good idea, maybe it wasn’t. My life might have turned out very differently – can’t say for better or worse, but definitely different.

But, now having read book after book of fiction, I think, I finally crave these books, I want my ideas to be challenged, I want my perception of what is right in the world, and what is wrong to be challenged and broadened. Of course, it is a serious undertaking. And unless you do something useful with the way you have processed the information, maybe it’s of no use to anyone. But I think I’m going to give it a shot anyway. I’ll maybe even write down my thoughts on how it goes.

Flipkart Fiasco

Flipkart is something of a butt of internet jokes at the moment. Meme creators are going after the e-commerce website like nobody’s business. 🙂 (Not that I have anything against them – it keeps me entertained.)

Even ‘The Hindu’ had an article quoting tweets and memes. Other facebook groups like ‘Srini Mama’ are doing a fine job of creating memes that cater to a section of the population (Tamil speaking, tamil movie watching.)

Flipkart Sale: Mega success or epic fail ?

Flip(ped)kart

While the innuendos are adorable, and the memes are truly well thought of, I think the Indian e-consumer needs to get some perspective of things.

Most of people’s crib’s about Flipkart have been around for ages on other e-commerce platforms. Amazon for instance has ridiculously priced items too – of course people make awesome fun of it, and Amazon itself sometimes publicizes it. Read about this watch – specifically the first customer review.

There’s also, Amazon’s own list of awesomely written reviews. There’s also this – especially the horse mask.

A lot of times, there are algorithms in the background that will set the price ridiculously high or ridiculously low. There have been many instances of prices being entered wrong, and the seller not being able to fulfill the order because it would be ridiculous to. Of course, when the prices are low, we aren’t complaining – when the price is accidentally high, instead of contacting the customer care, and trying to resolve the issue, we end up posting it on social media – not at all a wrong thing to do. I guess either way, the retailer ends up correcting the price even if only eventually.

Amazon (in the US) definitely does a better job in terms of the website being up, but they are a software behemoth that knows exactly what they are doing.

Price Changes:

When Amazon slashes prices of items already on discount, they show it as a two-step discount. (i.e., original price, discounted price, further discounted price.) This way people don’t think the prices are being inflated before being offered a discount. But anyone who has used plugin’s like camel know – there is no price guarantee in online e-commerce. The prices vary with the retailer intelligently trying to guess how much a person is willing to pay. So, if indeed the prices go up from time to time, there is nothing to complain about. However, if Flipkart did increase the prices of items beyond reasonable limits of what it was before, only to show deep discounts, that was clearly unethical.

There have also been complaints about the prices of some items on Flipkart being more than competing sites, and also being more than a direct retailer price. Again, nothing new – you will find things like this on Amazon as well. Some resellers price the items the way they want – and Amazon doesn’t control it. If you want it bad enough, and are lazy to do some research, then you will end up paying more.

Out-of-Stock Issues:

As for only a small number of items being available at discount, maybe Flipkart could have done a better job of advertising that – but maybe they didn’t want to kill the buzz. Thanksgiving shopping is similar in the US in terms of availability – the amazing deals like eggsbox (sic!) for $50 – there are probably 5-10 per store. Chances are you won’t get your hands on it. It will take people a couple of years to get used to this, and then they will eventually realize, unless they really must have it – like the Gollum must have his precious, it’s not worth the hassle. That consumer maturity will come with time.

Cancellations

This really has no excuses – you should be able to handle multiple requests coming in at the same time. Anyone who knows anything about transactional databases knows that this cannot and should not happen.

All said and done, a bad day for Flipkart, but the consumer needs to understand that if a discount sounds too good to be true, chances are – it is. Most deeply discounted items are also generally useless. As an interesting after thought, I wonder how much resellers make on products if they can afford to routinely give 40-60% off. Are they selling items at a slight loss when then sell it at 60% off ? Or does it mean goods are extremely marked up ? One wonders.

P.S: I buy some stuff on Flipkart from time to time – especially books and music CD’s. (well, music CD’s because (a) I don’t always like enjoying music for free, and (b) I like lossless music, and there is no website where I can purchase lossless Indian music! (at least not that I know of) ) I also compare prices on amazon.in on the books – and have found that no one website has the best price every single time. It keeps changing.

uShip – ItsOnMyWay Shipping – Motorcycle Moving Review

You can check out the profile of the movers/shippers here:

http://www.uship.com/profile/Itsonmyway/

I wanted to share my experience with using uShip, and using ItsOnMyWayDispatch to ship my bike from Tempe (Phoenix), Arizona to Austin, Texas. I have a 2012 Honda CBR 250R (not the sportiest of bikes, but gets the job done, and has great gas mileage). I was in two minds over whether to try selling it in Phoenix, or have it shipped to Austin. Now, I looked at a few motorcycle shipping websites, and though I’m sure they know what they are doing, and are very good at it, it was costing me $700 to get my bike shipped. Now, bear in mind that if you have a $15,000 CBR1000 RR, or a Harley or something, it makes absolutely good sense. For a $4,500 bike, that’s a substantial fraction of the bike’s cost to make it attractive enough to sell the bike instead of having it shipped.
I then found uShip, and on 09-13-2014, posted an entry there with my requirements, and the price the website suggested. (You can quote higher or lower.) uShip offered to ship my bike for roughly half that price, and suddenly it was attractive enough – and I get to keep my beloved bike instead of selling it. I didn’t have any hard and fast requirements as to when I wanted the bike delivered, but I did want it picked up soon, as I was moving out-of-town. My offer was accepted by ItsOnMyWay shipping on the same day, only a few minutes later (8 minutes to be exact) – wow! Now, I had a couple of extra items I wanted carried with the bike – like a bike jacket, my tank bag, helmet, chain lock, swingarm stand …etc. Had I tried carrying these with me on a flight it would have been one checked luggage worth of stuff. I could have mailed it with USPS, but the Kryptonite chain locks tend to be real heavy – something which would have translated to extra money. The folks at ItsOnMyWay – Cameron and Marvin, were nice enough to be able to accommodate all of that for no extra charge which is really appreciated. I also checked with them to see if they use soft tie down straps, and they did. I wish they would show it better in their pictures though – they are not doing themselves justice with the pictures they have currently on uShip. (something I have told them as well – take some time out, and add good photos of just one bike tied down.)
Pick Up:
The bike was picked up on 09-14, (yes, a mere day after I posted the listing on uShip). Marvin was in touch with me, and after I told him that I would not be available between 11 and 3, he got to my place first while he had planned to come a little later. Again, top-notch customer service. My bike was quickly loaded onto their covered trailer (you can see pictures on uShip), and nicely secured with tie down straps.
Delivery:
The bike was promised to be delivered on 09-19 (which if you think of it, is just 5 days later for a ~1000 mile distance.) I was anyway supposed to come to Austin only on the 17th, so this was wonderful for me. Marvin kept me updated as he was nearing my place, and gave me sufficient time and heads up to be home by the time he arrived. He said he had experienced heavy rains and a flat. The heavy rains I can certainly attest to. Must have been difficult conditions to drive in. The bike was delivered in wonderful condition. I needed to get a 12k mile service done anyway, so I had the bike serviced right after I got it delivered, and it is now running just as wonderfully as before.

Grand Canyon-Rim to Rim Hike

Ok, while a lot of planning went into trying to make this trip happen, it never did, due to unforeseen circumstances. Bummer! Hopefully, we’ll do it someday in the future, and take pride in having done it.

I even had a t-shirt with a QR code embedded in it with a link to this page 🙂 I’m never wearing that t-shirt in public sight till I complete the hike some day, and have a link to that page in here, so that at least some pride can be salvaged if people ever decide to whip out their smart phones, and look up the QR code.

Update: 2015-11-23:

I finally earned the right to wear that T-shirt with the embedded QR code on it. Although it reads Rim-Rim May 2014, and I did not get a new T-shirt made, (the first time it was a group thing, and we all wanted T-shirts to be worn after the hike 🙂 ) I think I’ll just include a link to the new hike here:

https://karthik3685.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/grand-canyon-rim-rim-rim-hike/