Sunday, June 29, 2014

Are you human?

I guess everyone of us by now have been horrified by captchas. If you don’t know what a captcha is, or if you ever wondered why you were asked to type numbers or letters from a super difficult image, well that was because the website wanted to verify that you are a human and not a bot (a program meant to go create millions of accounts automatically – thereby crippling the website).

I have noticed that captchas are becoming increasingly complex. It is sort of obvious because computers have become excellent at character recognition. What that means is – now only highly complex images with highly distorted characters can’t be recognized by computers and their algorithms.

But the reality is – such images can also not be easily recognized by humans. Case in point is the image below that I got lately cause my email account got blocked. I couldn’t get the captcha right for several images after several tries and the website concluded that I am a bot and blocked my IP address.


The dawn of the super computers is coming. I can’t even prove myself to be human. It’s just a matter of time before computers also break the Turing test.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


These days I get to use the airport quite often, though not as much as some of you. Airports are meant to handle passenger traffic efficiently and there are levels of efficiencies that I have noticed at various airports that I have been to. The one airport that consistently beats my expectations is the Changi Airport.

Managing operations and eliminating bottle necks, especially when there is human traffic involved, looks like a very difficult endeavour. Airports are a classic case of too many humans coming together at the same place at the same time. In such cases, effective operations management is very important for passengers to have a pleasant experience.

The two places where other airports generally have queues for Departure are – out immigration and security. Changi Airport effectively eliminates both of them by – having automated clearance – scan passport and finger and leave the country (I don’t need to see a grouchy officer and consequently avoid the long incessant queues) and then doing the security check at the Gate of boarding. Most airports that I have been to the longest queues are at immigration and security.

On Arrivals the efficiency of the airport is commendable. The fastest I have left the airport is in less than 15 minutes the only bottleneck being the speed at which I could walk. There are virtually no bottlenecks once I disembark the plane. After the automated immigration (again scan passport and finger and get into the country) the only place I slow down is to take a taxi (if I ain’t taking the public transport which is readily available in the airport!).

There was this one time when the taxi queue was longer than usual. The airport one upped its customer service by apologizing and providing free mineral water bottles to everyone in the queue. I think the efficiencies and the small friendly gestures like these have put the airport at the top for so many years. I am sure other airports are studying them and we should see more amazing airports around the globe (or there already exist many – I just haven’t been there yet).

Sunday, June 8, 2014


We have a very close friend in the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and every once a while we get the chance to see a symphony or opera.

Now I am a noob when it comes to understanding music. I can’t read, sing or for that matter even understand some of the instruments. But I enjoy listening to classical music. It elicits emotional responses (sorrow and happiness) off my numb brain, makes my nerves relax and that’s what really matters.

The general audience in such concerts are the tuxedo wearing, evening gown trotting suave people of the higher societies. The kinds that insist that their wines should be at 18°C and public transport is for the general public. So I stand out (in the wrong way). Anyway, I don’t care.

I had the opportunity to go for the opening day sound-test of the Victoria Concert Hall in Singapore. Victoria Concert Hall is the oldest (1905) concert hall in Singapore and was closed for renovation starting 2010. Incidentally, I was lucky enough to go for the last concert before renovation and I made it for the first one after it’s reopening. So, well, I decided to show off and document my achievement here. At my age, these are the only kinds of things you can “achieve” [sarcasm].

Victoria Concert Hall

So, if you have never been for a concert, I highly recommend you go for one. If the orchestra is not that famous, the tickets aren’t that expensive and the experience is just as awesome. Now see this video and imagine you are hearing them live in a hall and the music is flowing around you in it’s purest form. No speakers, no synthesizers.

Beethoven Symphony No. 9 – Ode to Joy

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Long time readers of my blog know that I am left-handed. Being left handed has it’s own quirks and inconveniences that we lefties never complain or whine about. If you are oblivious, I would recommend you go check these few links out.

So, next time when we catch up for dinner don’t think I am rude cause I choose my own seat. It’s just because I don’t wanna keep bumping elbows into you while eating. And being lefty also makes it clumsy for me to use phones, scissors, tin can openers, computer numeric keypads, spiral books, desks and all the other things that right handed people never even notice. And if you wish to see a list of all the things that are inconvenient for us to use, you should check this store “exclusively for left-handed people”.

My general experience with Asian hospitality has been quite positive. However, yesterday was a weird case. I went for this Indian buffet run by an old uncle during rush hour. The ladle kept to take the curries from the vessels were arranged such that they were convenient for right handed people to take. Now, I don’t really mind the way they are kept, I am used to the righty-centric view of the world. Just that after taking my portion I accidentally kept it in a way that a left-handed person would keep. (Imagine how you would take curry from a vessel if you were right handed. Now change your hand and imagine how you would take if it’s your left hand)

Buffet for the right-handed

The old uncle who was standing behind the counter got all ballistic on me. He accused me of slowing down the chain and making it inconvenient for other people! How rude. Though it was completely unintentional, I meekly apologized and walked on.

Only later when I thought about the incident I realized that it was because I was a lefty that I kept the ladle that way, and I inconvenienced the right-handed world. I realized I am a minority and even I am unknowingly ostracized against. Sigh. Life is tough! Lefties of the world – please unite!