Friday, July 07, 2006

 
On Adams, boarding passes and others
Douglas Adams is a polite man. In one of his books, he calls airports ugly places, and also says that they have been designed specifically so they look ugly. This is diplomacy at it's best. In reality, airports are ugly, stupid and irritating. They have been designed so people get REALLY irritated. The designers of the airport would then be able to look at the irritated passengers and laugh at them. Everything in the entire air travel industry, ladies and gentlemen, is stupid beyond hope. Consider, for example, the ticketing system. To start off, tickets are booklets with red carbon paper. The people who write tickets are seemingly recruited based on poor handwriting. The 3-letter city codes have been designed, I'm sure, with the hope that some poor passenger gets on the wrong flight, and is, consequently, grossly inconvenienced. On the penultimate leaf of the ticket, there are hilarious diagrammatic representations of matchboxes, firecrackers, guns and gas stoves. Gas stoves? Which imbecile would carry a gas stove on an aircraft? Terrorists have done some very strange things in the past, but I suspect that having a hot cup of tea before hijacking the aircraft is not generally part of plan.

Continuing with the obvious and frequently-exhibited stupidity prevelant in the ticketing system, consider boarding passes: I do not claim to be extraordinarily brilliant, but I FAIL to understand the thought process that went behind designing the boarding pass system. Why can't airlines take a leaf out of the Indian Railways' book? In the railways, each passenger is issued a single sheet of tough paper (with upto 4 names on it). Usual disclaimers are at the back. Further, these disclaimers are printed in small font, because everyone knows that nobody reads them. THese tickets are expected to be carried during the journey. If a passenger is found without a valid ticket, he's politely asked to step off the train. With the altidunial advantage that aircraft have, this system, when copied in it's entirety, will prove to be, I'm sure, flawless. We wouldn't have long queues at airports - we'd simply have to get on to the right staircase (or, in more modern airports, the right aerobridge or whatever nonsense they call the silly tube that is designed to spark off arguments among fellow passengers about who ges right of way). Once in the aircraft, the airhostess would do her silly dance (about which another story will be written) holding a toy seat belt in her hand , and then the pilot would take off. Once this happens, the airborne equivalent of a Travelling Ticket Examiner will need to examine each passenger's ticket. If any passenger is found to be ticketless, he/she would need to be disposed off immediately (with this in mind, it'd make sense for ticketless passengers to take seats at the head of the cabin so, when caught, they might still survive, provided they have seen Schwarzenegger movies). In order not to inconvenience other passengers with sudden loss of cabin pressure (if this happens, bright oxygen masks drop down, as is demonstrated in airhostess' silly dance. She further advises that if you're with a baby, save *your* ass first), I've even designed a special exit system (see attached drawing).
Once the system is implemented, there might be one, maybe two people who try to travel ticketless. If above steps are followed, and results sufficiently publicized, I'm sure ticketless air travel will be a thing of the past. As will be, thankfully, the silly boarding pass system.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

 

Economics for Dummies

GDP:
Gross Domestic Product: This refers to products of a particular class of products that are produced in a country. These products, being gross and unhealthy, are best exported. For eg, stale food is a gross domestic product. Since these products bring in monies, it is desirable to have a large number of Gross Domestic Products.

Current Account Deficit:
This basically refers to the amount that a person owes the Electricity Board of his city. It generally happens when a person receives an electricity bill, but fails to settle it. For obvious reasons, a high current account deficit is bad for the country.

Fiscal Account Deficit:
A term that has it’s origins in the medical world. It started off as ‘Physical Account Deficit’. It can be safely assumed that the man who introduced this term to economics was poor at spelling. It refers to the difference between what a person SHOULD way, and what a person ACTUALLY weighs. A positive deficit means the person is underweight. For eg, it would not be incorrect to say: “Due to the poor quality of food at the WIMSI mess, the students have a large fiscal deficit.” When the term is used with reference to a country, it refers to the sum of individual fiscal deficits. A country with a large fiscal deficit would have a large number of underweight people, and vice versa. This can be empirically verified, taking the cases of Somalia (high fiscal deficit, underweight citizens) and Sweden (low fiscal deficit, overweight citizens).

Capital Account Convertibility:
This refers to the ability of bank customers to move their accounts to branches outside New Delhi. Due to the widespread of electronics in the banking industry, India has high capital account convertibility.

Fully Convertible Rupee:
A situation where you can convert ALL your money in rupees to goods, without getting any fractional currency (paise) back. Simply put, it means the prices of goods are integers. For eg, if the price of a toffee is Rs 1.50, the rupee is NOT fully convertible (as you get 50 paise back). In India, companies like Bata have been largely responsible for the rupee not being fully convertible.

Appreciation of the Rupee:
Those of us who’ve paid attention to the designs on currency notes have noticed that some patterns are decidedly more appealing than others. The Rs 500 note, for example, has a nice depiction of the Dandi March. It also has a pleasing greenish yellow colour. The Rs 5 note, on the other hand, shows a middle-aged, well fed farmer driving his tractor. The designer was obviously inspired by the rainbow when he decided to splash the note with a wide array of colours. Here, the Rs 500 note is said to be better appreciated than the Rs 5 note.

Stagflation:
The term refers to a situation where there is a sudden and unexplained inflation in the number of single males at a party. Etymology: Stag + Inflation = Stagflation. Sociologists argue that this is representative of a deeper phenomenon, one where men need to just have some time with old buddies. Boys will be boys.

Indifference Curves:
Economists like to draw graphs and plot curves, in much the same way that consultants like to draw matrices. From the economics students’ perspective, however, only some of these graphs are important from the point of view of passing the examination. The other graphs, to which students pay little attention, are called indifference curves. The exact classification of which curves are indifferent and which are not depends on the examiner, and the type of papers he sets.

Disclaimer:
The above were written during one of the author’s more adventurous exploration of economics. These definitions are not intended to replace or contest those that appear in more conventional text books. The author has deep respect for economists, and is constantly amazed at how things work in a field where everything affects everything else


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

 
These days, people are considered *SO* uncool if they:
1) Don't own an iPod
2) Are doing something that "isn't really them", if you get my drift
3) Don't know some form of Latin American dance

Incidentally, I don't own an iPod. I'm not sure if what I'm doing right now "is really me". I know more about astro physics than dancing.

One of the semi-cool things that a person CAN do, however, is to create a blog. What probably started off as a geeky pastime is now arguably the world's biggest waste of time and megabytes. I've decided to join the party. I don't know what to expect, or what I'm supposed to post, but for whatever it's worth, here goes...

By the way, if you're reading this, you're probably one of the 14 people I claim to know well, which is deeply moving....here's wishing you bright sunny days ahead! :)



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