Sunday, August 29, 2010

Apartment Building Monthly Dues

Our apartment building here has monthly maintenance fees that everyone pays into every month to handle the common, shared expenses.  The standard formula is one based on the size of the apartment, which at first glance might sound fair.  But it's not...

The architecture of the building is that the largest apartments are lower down and they taper to smaller sizes as the building gets higher, this way everyone gets an uncovered balcony.  That means, of course, those of us lower in the building have the highest monthly payments.

However, thinking about it differently, I can see one alternative formula that would most likely be more fair, basing the monthly payment on the floor of the apartment, the higher up you go, the more expensive.

Two of the major expenses are the elevator and pumping water.

Those of us lower down in the building, especially the family on the ground floor, benefit less from the elevator than those higher up.  Similarly, it costs more to pump the water higher up, so again, the distance the water has to go is based on giving water to the higher up apartments and doesn't do much for those of us lower in the building.  If the building was lower we wouldn't need to pump the water so high.

So, those higher up in the building get more benefits for less money, get better views, more quiet as they're farther away from the parking, and to top it all off (pun intended) they get to throw their trash down on our balconies.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Final Follow-up with the Neurophysician

A couple of weeks ago we followed up with the neurophysician about how the medication-based treatment of my headaches has been going. I quickly found on previous visits that when he'd ask me how things were going he wouldn't let me really talk and say what I felt I needed to say, before cutting me off and him talking. So, I got in the habit of writing the details.

This visit was the first one after we got the printer, so I was able to elaborate even more by typing instead of hand-writing, and include a picture, found using Google, to demonstrate what I was trying to say.

With the last visit you increased the dosage of Amitone from 10mg per day to 25mg per day. But we still had a strip of unused 10mg pills, so you said to take two a day, or 20mg, until they ran out, then get the 25mg pills.

The first week, using 20mg a day, I had no headaches whatsoever.

When switching to 25mg per day, I started with the same headaches I had on 10mg per day. After a week of that I went back to 20mg per day, but no change, still had the same headaches, and then after a couple of weeks went back to the prescribed 25mg per day.

Overall I'm still getting headaches a couple of times most weeks. Usually they're not as severe as they were before the month-long one that prompted us to go to you, and the Suminat 50 almost always halts them.

With the increase of Amitone from 10mg to 25mg, the unpleasant side effects are also noticeably worse:
  • The confusion and disorientation when waking up after dawn in the mornings is much worse than when taking 10mg, and that was much worse than not taking anything. If I happen to see myself in a mirror at those times, I don't recognize myself and think there's a stranger in the room.
  • The ringing sound in my ears is louder and more persistent. My ears were ringing pretty steadily for some months before we visited you the first time, but as the dosage has increased, so is the ringing.
  • I've gotten very fat… Despite actually cutting down my meal portions and eating a lot less junk food (e.g. potato chips, Kur Kure, etc.) I'm gaining weight and getting fatter and fatter.
  • When I'm tired and the lights are dim I'm getting more and more hallucinations. These include seeing insects and spiders crawling all over the bed and my arms, though I know they're not real so I don't panic, or seeing things, birds, bats, butterflies, some look real, some look like glass, floating up and into the ceiling.
  • When I look at many things that are brightly colored, they sparkle at those times, too, shimmering like they were covered in glitter, looking a bit like this photo:

At first he started answering me about the hallucinations, that they were absolutely normal and everyone experiences them, and write the medical term on the sheet, something including the root "som" which I know has to do with sleep.

But then he said "this is really well written" and handed it to an assistant (or intern or whatever) and said "insert this into his file, I'd like to keep it on record".

After discussing with him I asked if we could work on eliminating the medications altogether and he put together a plan, one week on 20mg a day of Amitone, then down to 10mg a day for a month and then stop it. He recommended keeping on with the Betacap, which he'd actually forgotten he prescribed until we asked about it, as well as recommending I keep using the Suminat when I get a migraine.

He wrote down what he thought were some of the brand names for the same drugs in the U.S. but didn't know which were prescription-only and which might be over-the-counter. He also gave me an address to email him if I need any advice while I'm in the U.S.

How I Lost My Faith in God

At one time I know I believed in God, but I don't any more. Sometimes I wonder what happened.

I guess the first part of it is when I was 9 and we moved away from New Jersey. In New Jersey we used to go to Etz Ahaim synagogue on a regular basis. I went to Hebrew school there every week and we attended all the high holy day services there.

But then when we moved to Waldport, with the nearest synagogue being well over 100 miles away, in Portland, we no longer went to services at all. My parents got me several tutors over time to help prepare me for my bar mitzvah, which we also had at Etz Ahaim in the summer when I turned 13, for which we flew across the country and stayed with my grandparents.

Looking back on the tutoring, though, it was focused solely on my being able to read my Torah portion. During that time I didn't learn any more about Judaism, being a Jew or even Hebrew vocabulary, only what I need to read my part, without understanding it. And to keep from taking it appropriately seriously, my father used to time me with a stopwatch when I was reading it, always pushing for faster and faster times as the goal, rather than the usual, normal sing-song rhythm.

Sometime around then, too, my parents started making me earn my TV time by reading "approved" books. For that I had to read 45 minutes for every half hour of TV I wanted to watch, in advance. Most of the books my mother picked were about the Holocaust.

And there, I think was another major reason I lost my faith. How can a youth read all those books about death and murder, with little or no guidance, and still think there really is a God?

As I became a teenager, while not consciously thinking about not believing, I was also reading a lot of swords & sorcery literature and some horror. For quite some time I felt H.P. Lovecraft had the perfect description of what I thought in the story Herbert West -- Reanimator, in which he states 'that all life is a chemical and physical process, and that the so-called "soul" is a myth.'

There's times when I think about what I believe and I really hope I'm wrong, that there is a God, heaven and all that stuff, as the idea of absolutely nothing after death is kind of full. But there's quite a difference between hope and actually believing, and I simply don't believe.

And seemingly at odds with that, I do enjoy some of the rituals of Judaism, and symbolism. That's in some ways part of my identity, as I grew up with my family celebrating the Jewish holidays and going to services, at least before we moved to Oregon. In that regard, one of my favorite stories is about Hillel the Elder, who was challenged to teach the Torah while standing on one foot, and he did, saying "The whole of the Torah is to treat others as you would be treated, the rest is just commentary" (there are quite a few variations on the story, whether it was him or his student who stood on one foot, and slight changes to his actual quote, although they all have the basic idea.)

With further thought I've come to decide that I believe in God as a symbol, but not as an entity.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cross Cultural Training

At work when my project first started preparing to be working in a distributed fashion, some of us put together a page on our team's wiki about cross cultural difference to help each side communicate with the other... I just thought I'd share it... I'm the author of much of the language part (but it definitely wasn't me who wrote about the shorts... (if it was it would've been miniskirts...))

Cross Cultural Training




Moving to the UK


Dress-Code in the TE-UK office is Business Attire. Friday's is dress down day, so you can wear casual once a week


Football is the sport that the British are crazy about


Most high street shops will close in the UK at 5pm. Shopping Centres usually on the outskirts of the cities will stay open till 8pm/9pm.


You will most often have to call for a Taxi in the UK, unless you are in the city centre. You cannot flag them down anywhere like in India


10 Downing Street is the prime minister's residence and office.


The British say 'Holiday' not Vacation.


The english do not use heavy spice or masala in foods, so people from India will often find it very bland.

Moving to India


Dress-Code in the TE-India office is Casual. If you are lucky, you will even see guys in shorts


It is common for people to have a dependancy on others, Drivers, Maids, Service People


Cricket is a religion for people in India


"Two minutes" doesn't really mean two minutes, it's just an expression.


10 Downing Street is one of the prime nightclubs in Pune


In Pune, the rickshaws will only use their meter for charging for longer distances. You will have to agree a price for short distances, out of town or night time. The meter formula is to multiply the meter amount by 6 and add 2 to get the fare in rupees.


You Don't have tip anyone unless you feel like. Unlike America where Tipping is mandatory!


Don't assume "Yes" means "Yes."

General Business Rules Cross-Site


Time – Everyone should be on time both for physical & non physical meetings


Bank Holidays in India differ to those in the UK

Other Useful Hints

Certainly another sort of cross-cultural thing is English word usage… Indians often use English translated almost straight from their mother tongues, Hindi or Marathi (or others from different regions) which to a native English speaker sometimes doesn't make sense, or makes sense but isn't quite right.

An example, was when one guy was not feeling well and came late, someone said "he would be in later". In U.S. English, that would properly be phrased as "he will be in later" with "would" leaving some doubt, like "he would be in later, however…". Indians use "would" the way we'd use "will".

Indian English is also a lot more passive than the more active American and U.K. English seems to be… Like someone might say "this computer is having 2 MB of RAM" compared with American or U.K. English where it's "this computer has 2 MB of RAM".

In India "there" means "here", while present and future tense are intermixed. For instance, if someone in the office wants to tell people they will be out of the office the next day, they say "I am not there tomorrow" rather than the English or American, "I will not be here tomorrow".

In India the word "doubt" is often used to indicate a question, such as "I have a doubt about story XXX". English and Americans interpret "doubt" not as a question but a concern, saying you have a doubt about something means you think it is not right.

The word "some" is used differently in different types of English. In American and U.K. English "some" often means something is unknown. For example, if the ICT fellow writes "users cannot connect to the system for some reason" then that means they don't know the reason. In Indian English, "some" often means the writer knows but isn't saying, such as "the meeting is canceled for some reason" means there is a definite reason the meeting is canceled, but the writer isn't telling you.

The word "keep" can also be used differently. In American and U.K. English, keep means not to give something back. Saying "I kept the phone" means you did not return the phone and it stayed in your possession, while in Indian English, "I kept the phone" means you hung up the call and physically put it back where it belongs (e.g. the receiver on the cradle, or back on the charging unit).

When discussing multiplication in arithmetic, English and Americans say "times", while Indians say "into". So, in India, to calculate the rickshaw fare when the meter says 5.00, an Indian would say "5 into 6 plus 2" to get 32, but English or Americans would say "5 times 6 plus 2" to arrive at the same answer... The confusion comes in that for Americans and English, "into" would indicate division more than multiplication (e.g. 5 goes into 30 6 times, that is, how many 5's are in 30).

Don't assume "Yes" means "Yes."

"We'll try," is the "diplomatic way of saying, ‘We really can't, but we don't want to tell you.' Indians have a certain aversion to saying, "No."

Americans/British want a direct "Yes" or "No. For Indians, the tendency will be to say, "Yes," and try to make it happen at all costs. That can create wide miscommunication and variances in expectations.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

iPad - What's in a name?

I recently read a friend's blog post in which he found the "shape" used in a number of hoardings around the city to be "offensive". And bearing that shape in mind, it got me to thinking about the early issue of the iPad's name.

I read a few things at the time of the iPad's announcement in which people compared the name to the simple short form "pad" for a something completely unrelated, and why the iPad was likened to that, while things such as notepads weren't.

What I think it comes down to is something like a notepad has a significant first part, note, and when we think of that, it's "note" that has more prominence in our minds than "pad" so it's a pad for taking notes. Similar with a legal pad. The "pad" part is less important what type of pad it is, and "pad" simply completes the name.

A launchpad is focused more on the launch than it is on the pad. It's a place to launch something, rather than a pad being launched.

But when it comes to the iPad, the "i" simply isn't significant enough, it's not a word or a concept in its own right. While there's "I" for ourselves, we know that's not what that "i" is, so it doesn't stand alone, basically leaving just a pad.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Useless Dwarves in The Hobbit

Rereading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien earlier last year, for the umpteenth time (and having listened to the audio tapes of it hundreds of times) it occurred to me for the first time that most of the dwarves are useless and are only there to fill out the numbers, without actually doing much of anything else. Maybe it's been discussed in other criticism, but I've never really read any.

By the end of the story I noticed that there are only four distinct, dwarven roles in the story.
  • Balin and Dwalin are interchangeable in the role of the oldest dwarf, and the ones who take the best care of Bilbo.
  • Fili and Kili are interchangeable in the role of the youngest dwarf, and the most active and quickest moving.
  • Thorin is obviously the leader, the King Under the Mountain.
  • Old fat Bombur is the bungler, the one who's appetite and clumsiness get them into situations that only Bilbo can get them out of.

The rest are just filler to get the number thirteen.

Sure, they're used in places, like to make the unexpected party amusing and fun and show us more about Bilbo as a host, or later to get Beorn to accept them. And of course, how would the goblins' song sound "six birds in five fir-trees..." it definitely wouldn't ring as well as fifteen.

Nor would Smaug's observation "why not say 'us five' and be done with it" be nearly as impressive as his distinguishing the smell of fourteen distinct entities. And that would eliminate the title "Mr. Lucky Number" which I suppose is what makes Bilbo, Bilbo.

Still, it's one of my favorite stories anyway...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Food Poison on Thursday

Ug, really rotten day yesterday, Thursday. Food poison from breakfast. I was cutting up tomatos and some of them were kind of black inside and I threw them out, but one only had a little black stuff, so I trimmed around it. Big mistake...

After getting to work I had a headache, by late morning I was shivering and sweating, the headache got worse and a bit of nausea... My computer mouse was disgusting to touch, slimy from my sweating hands...

I called Leena to pick me up and take me home shortly after noon, then sat out in the sunshine near the entrance to the office building. She picked me up a few minutes later, dropped me at home and went out to run errands (she offered to stay home, but I said I was just going to sleep, so there was no need).

Once in bed I couldn't sleep, just tossed and turned, feeling absolutely rotten and uncomfortable. I was freezing cold, shivering violently at times, while sweat was running off my body in rivers, soaking the sheet and the blanket on top of me.

What I really wanted was a nice, hot shower, just sit under the hot water. When I don't feel well, that almost always helps, the water beating on my aching head helps relieve it, when my stomach's upset, the hot shower eases that off. I guess it just relaxes me. Unfortunately, it was Thursday, which is Pune's day for long power outages, so there was no hot water all day.

Eventually my burps had the flavor of the cantaloupe I ate before work, but as though it was rotten, a sure sign my digestive system wasn't working right. And a bit after that the vomiting started... Each time I vomited I felt a little bit better afterwards.

After the third time, around 4:30pm, the worst seemed to ease off and I felt more calm, and less cold, less sweat. Leena came home shortly after that from running errands.

I got up from bed around 6pm when the power came back on (it'd been off since around 8am), hallucinating a bunch of glass hummingbirds floating around the room. I got a nice, hot shower for a while, and that lasted till the power went out again and I used up all the hot water in that bathroom...

Then a cold coconut cut open to drink the water inside, followed by a three hour or so nap. By 10:30pm I was able to eat a little bit, nothing with powerful flavor, of course. And I drank a big glass of water and Electrol to replenish the salt and sugar I lost from throwing up. I stayed up reading a while till I thought I could go to bed without getting up to use the bathroom a number of times after the drink.

Now it's Friday and I feel a lot better. Not altogether well. Still a bit of a headache, and Leena said I'm warmer than usual, so the fever's not completely gone. She called the doctor who recommended I take paracetamol twice a day to bring the fever down, but wants to stay away from strong medicines if I can shake it off more naturally.

However, she didn't ask him my burning question... What about single malt Scotch whisky?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Total Recall of the Future

I recently watched the movie, Total Recall again for the first time in eight or nine years. I've enjoyed that movie since the first time I saw it at the theatre near the college campus. But this time I was struck most by some of the director, Paul Verhoeven's 1990 vision of the future.

What made me think to watch the movie with this in mind is the London Underground from my last few trips to the U.K. In Total Recall there's video advertisements all over the subway station, with monitors and video instead of the old paper advertisements. The same things were alongside the escalators in some of the London Underground stations. Many of the real ones were timed so that as you move up or down, each monitor you pass is just a little farther in the advertisement than the previous one.

Near the beginning Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doug, and Sharon Stone as Lori, have breakfast in front a wall that's a TV. Doug keeps turning it to a news channel to find out what's happening on Mars and Lori keeps changing it back to a pastoral scene of a lake in the mountains. While science-fiction back then is a reality now (though maybe not cheap).

Throughout the movie the characters all talk to each other via video phones. While most of our stand-alone telephone units don't have video yet, we're on our way there. At work we have video conference units that are kind of similar, and for my recent job search I used Skype with video sharing.

Then in the movie there's the scene with Lori practising her tennis swing, following along with the hologram. There isn't much detail there, but somehow that makes me think of the Nintendo Wii. I've seen photos and read descriptions of the Wii, but haven't actually seen one yet. But it looks like fun with its controller that you wave around to control the games.

At one point when Doug checks into the Hilton on Mars the clerk says there's something of his in the vault. Both of them put their thumbs on a small scanner and the drawer opens. I don't know if they had biometric stuff like that in the 80's, but now in 2010 I get into the office door using a thumb scanner.

Of course, some of the futuristic stuff is kind of corny. The cars in particular look silly and look like a cheap shell put on top of a real car. The guns the agency operatives use look silly, too.