Just Landed

An Outsider’s Perspective From The Inside

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Archive for July, 2008

Meet The MES

Posted by anandrr on July 31, 2008

You’re reading about the Army Corps of Engineers stuffing the levee walls with newspapers and thinking, nobody could be as stupid as that. Thing is, it’s not their fault. If you’re in the Army and considered part of their engineering corps, you’re trained to do what it takes. This for instance is how they opened a stuck wardrobe at my brother’s house. That’s right, with a bloody pick axe. Broke it wide open they did. This would be a wardrobe that they had “fixed” the previous day to ensure that it opened and closed right. Brilliant!

Posted in Army, Funny | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Funny Money in Hong Kong

Posted by anandrr on July 29, 2008

As we land here at Hong Kong, I am reminded of the fact that the Hong Kongese have funny money. The last time I was here, I picked up a wad of cash at the airport ATM and went merrily on with my day in the city. Later that evening after a good meal at the local dive, as I got ready to pay our bill, I noticed that the money said “Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Corporation” on it. Now I had gotten my money at the HSBC ATM but surely I expected that the money would say “Reserve Bank of Hong Kong” or “Grand Communist Bank of Capitalist Indulgences” or some such. But no! It said HSBC. And the promise to pay the bearer a sum of HK$ 20, why by the Chairman of HSBC of course. I was convinced now that I had been had. Somehow I had landed in Hong Kong and gotten funny money instead of the real shit. And nothing to be done about it. What’s worse, I had already eaten, and this being a dive didn’t sport the usual Mastercard/Visa signs on the door. Trusting that my countenance betrayed enough innocence, I put my bad money on the tray and waited for my change (wrong move, when passing funny money, pay and bolt). To my surprise, the guy gets me my change, this time with “Standard Chartered” and “Bank of China” emblazoned all over it. Turns out that in Hong Kong, private banks print money. I have no idea how this works. What’s to keep a bank from printing too much to make up for liquidity requirements now that all their subprime loans have gone bad? Nothing we know about private banks over the past 50 years should give us any confidence that when faced with the options of saving their hides and screwing over a country’s economy, they’ll choose correctly. And yet, here we have a prosperous country actually getting away with trusting these fly-by-nights. Weird, very weird.

Posted in Business, Capitalism, Economics, Travel | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Real Duty Free at the Airport!

Posted by anandrr on July 29, 2008

Here we are at the swank Bangalore International Airport, and guess what, in place of the sorry excuse for Duty Free they used to have at the old one, the one where you were surprised anybody went in at all, the one that looked like your grandfather’s ration shop. In it’s place, swankness itself. With all the best liquor. And! And! Prices in Dollars! Only $56.60 for a bottle of Gold label. Obviously with the Blue Label if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. I suppose I can’t then. Even the can of nuts costs like $8. And now here we are at the Illy. The International section gets Illy. The domestics, just Barista. And we lucky duckies get to pay Rs 130/- for an Americano. Ripoff! Damn you capitalists! Damn you all to hell! Come the revolution, we shall have free coffee for everybody.

Posted in Airlines, Capitalism, Economics, Food, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

This delay is due to the late arrival of incoming aircraft

Posted by anandrr on July 23, 2008

As I sit here at the Bangalore Airport, the Kingfisher guy is on the PA system telling us that our flight is delayed. He regrets the delay. And then says that this delay is due to the late arrival of the aircraft. I’ve been hearing this at every airport I’ve been to, pretty much every flight I’ve taken and it leaves me puzzled. As such, nobody particularly cares why their flight is delayed, the fact that it is delayed is probably annoyance enough. But more to the point, how is this a valid defense? A valid defense would be, “it’s raining cats and dogs at Mumbai, so we weren’t able to take off on time,” or “the pilot had to take a sudden unexpected detour to avoid Godzilla,” but “late arrival of the incoming aircraft?” Isn’t that the definition of the airline’s reason for being? Taking aircraft from Point A and getting it to Point B reliably on time?

I’m reminded of Seinfeld’s famous confrontation with the car rental agency.

Posted in Airlines, Business, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Django/Google App Engine Templates: Disappointed

Posted by anandrr on July 21, 2008

We spent the weekend playing with the Google App Engine. Our goal was to write two applications by the end of the weekend, one of which was to involve Facebook and this humble blog. We were stymied badly. And we blame the templating system.

Google App Engine itself is quite brilliant. It’s Django dressed up with a “Google data store” and instant uploading and deploying of applications. It’s a great way for start-uppers to write and deploy apps and see what sticks. As such, we approve. We’re not yet certain what the various quotas mean, and how they affect someone seriously trying to build an application on the Engine (500MB of data storage seems ridiculously small), but we’ll figure that out when we get to it. After all it’s free.

However, we don’t like Django’s template system. We’re told we can stick any template system we want, and that we are not restricted to using Django’s system. But that is what we got to start with, so that is what we used. Mostly, we didn’t like that we couldn’t have complicated logic in the template, and any time logic was involved, Django would relegate it to the business logic layer. This isn’t always true. Presentation layers sometimes do have logic embedded in them. This is what makes presentation interesting. Requiring the business layer to pre-compute all the logic that the presentation layer might need seems silly. Django puts it all down to their “design philosophy.” Sometimes though it looks like design deficiencies masquerading as philosophy. The entire template system seems to run on a regular expression engine. This is great for speed, but sucks when you want any form of recursive evaluation. They seem not to want a PHP like language, but we like our PHP like languages. We aren’t arguing that all of our business logic should go into the presentation layer, but we would like to have the flexibility to choose which of our logic is business and which of it presentation. PHP straitjacketed one into putting all one’s logic into the presentation. Django takes the opposite approach and puts all our logic in the business layer.

We speak with some experience in this area. Back when Python had just modpython and some primitive application and template engines, we picked up an open-source system and extended it quite a bit to roll our own application engine and template system. We used this to write a fun side project at the time and the original front-end to our company’s product. We wrote both of those with clean separation of business logic and presentation logic. But, hark! It is still used to run the famous debug tool at our company. This tool was written by someone who had no time for business logic, so they wrote it all into the presentation layer. They had this flexibility precisely because the presentation layer was as powerful as Python. This has led to a somewhat unmanageable product, but at least it allowed for rapid development and deployment.

All in all, we wish the Django authors had not been so dogmatic. Twice we had to rewrite our business and presentation logic just to get around silly limitations in what the templating system permitted us to do.

Posted in Geek Talk | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

You know you’re not in the US when (III)

Posted by anandrr on July 20, 2008

“My name is Mohammed Atta and I will be driving you to Abu Simbel today,”

This is

  • The chilling opening line from a new United-93 style movie about 9/11
  • The opening line of a travel article about Egypt in today’s Hindu!

Posted in Funny, Media, Newspapers, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Film Reviews from Hell

Posted by anandrr on July 19, 2008

Today’s Hindu has a review of Vidya Balan’s latest movie, Kismat Konnection. Most of the review is given not to reviewing the movie but to discussing the heroine’s physical appearance. Way to stay classy, Hindu! It also includes this jaw dropping line:

In the proverbial slip between the cup and the lip, the woman,…

What, no room to add a Beavis and Butthead chuckle at the end?

Posted in Films, Funny, Media, Sexism, Showbiz | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

In Which We Hate On Leopard (Less!)

Posted by anandrr on July 18, 2008

Turns out Firmware update 1.5.1 fixes the problem where our Mac would go all weird when we resumed it from an interrupted suspend. Thanks Apple!

Don’t believe the swap thrash problem is solved yet, but we might be able to live with that for a while.

Posted in Geek Talk | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Let’s All Haggle Together Now

Posted by anandrr on July 18, 2008

We like Hugo Chavez, we really do. But this is a little much: Comrade Hugo thinks that the best way to handle inflation is for consumers to haggle more. What, asking consumers to just starve wasn’t available as an option?

We eagerly await Harkishen Singh Surjeet recommending a similar plan for Indian consumers.

Posted in Capitalism, Communism, Economics, Funny, Incentives, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Don’t trust servers that you don’t control

Posted by anandrr on July 18, 2008

Most of the pictures posted on various Blandings Media Empire websites are not functional. This is what happens when you host your pictures on your personal webserver half way around the world with no real uptime guarantees except your friendly sysadmin who promises to look at it first thing tomorrow morning when he gets the time. Oy! Note to self: Investigate hosting on Google.

UPDATE: And we’re back. Yay Barker!

Posted in Geek Talk | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »