Porcupyn's Blog

October 30, 2015

Human interactions in the smartphone era

Filed under: Communication,Peeves — Porcupyn @ 7:48 am

Several times in the last few months, I have been burned by my electronic interactions with fellow humans. Specifically, as a Soccer (and Swimming) Dad, I communicate with other parents via email – to me, it is better than using the phone for two reasons: one, I am never in a position to claim the Extrovert of the Room award at any place or time, and two, I never know what would be a good time to call another parent (he or she might be driving, in a meeting, eating out with family, yada yada yada).

So, I whip out my laptop (most of my communication happens at home, as I don’t typically use a smartphone on the road, though I possess one … finally) and type in an email. Maybe because I am at home and typing on a laptop with all of my fingers, or maybe that is just the way I am, my emails are typically one or two paragraphs long (maybe as long as this post – up to this point).

Invariably, I have received responses that are a sentence long … or shorter! A few times I have asked a question or two in my e-mail that has not been answered. I used to wonder whether it is my email, my face, my kid or what it is that resulted in what I perceived to be failure of communication. Needless to say, more often than not, that is the last email in the chain and I do not bother to respond.

This article makes it appear that I have not been alone at the receiving end of such responses (and at least, I ought not take it to heart as much as the person in this article should).

A close friend recently forwarded me an email exchange with a startup CEO. My friend is a casual investor in startups, and works in finance.

The CEO of one of his portfolio companies sent him (along with other members of a syndicate) an email asking for introductions to venture firms.

In an effort to be helpful, my friend offered to introduce the CEO to one of the top venture firms in the world.

The CEO’s response responded with a brief email containing only two words: “please do.”

After receiving the brief response, my friend asked me an honest question: “is this how everyone in tech behaves?”

October 29, 2015

Online reputation and Theranos

Filed under: Uncategorized — Porcupyn @ 7:39 am

A few months (maybe even a couple of years ago), I came across this article about an attractive young women (Elizabeth Holmes) being one of the youngest billionaires. She had started a blood testing company (Theranos) and was going head to head with the big honchos and so on, the article stated.

A few weeks later, that article faded from my memory, until an old hostelmate asked some pointed questions about her and her company in an email group that I belong to. Specifically, he was asking whether others had ever gotten their blood drawn at a Theranos lab and what they had thought about the results (accuracy, timeliness, etc). No one in the group had ever been tested there, but there were mixed reactions – some had heard of Theranos, others had not; of those who had heard about the company, some had also learned that folks out there were trying to sully the company’s reputation.

Well, said the original questioner, how about some of you get your blood drawn at your megaLabCorp and – at the same time – go to a Theranos-approved location, then see if the results match. Fair enough (and that is where I exited the conversation, after checking and confirming that I couldn’t participate in the control group exercise, there being no Theranos-facility closer to me than the midwest!!).

But then I did some googling. Sure enough, the jury was apparently still out on whether or not the results from Theranos are accurate enough. It appeared to me that Ms. Holmes has hit the main bullet points for creating a very favourable online reputation for her company.

However, it does appear that for each article that praises her company, there are enough detractors (see the comments section of the linked article). So, at this point, until I learn more from my friends’ control group test (and/or have access to Theranos), it is “same old same old” for me.

This week I attended the Medical Innovation Summit and saw Elizabeth Holmes being interviewed by Dr Delos Cosgrove, CEO of one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the world – The Cleveland Clinic. The gathering was attended by forward thinking doctors and researchers in all medical fields as well as private investors, family offices and venture firms that invest in medicine. Holmes was in her comfort zone surrounded by medical professionals and we can certainly acknowledge that women in the STEM fields are among the most promising entrepreneurs.

Holmes is the founder of Theranos – a private, venture backed U.S. company that is working to disrupt the $60 billion blood testing industry. After dropping out of Stanford in 2003, Holmes founded Theranos at the age of 19. The company invented an innovative blood testing approach that revolutionizes not only how painlessly blood tests can be done, but also by how low cost and accessible the tests can be to the masses. Her company employs over 100 engineers and scientists along with other support staff.

Holmes’ incredible work and innovation has been on the cover of magazines such as Forbes, Inc., and the New York Times. Among other achievements, these publications discussed Theranos’ FDA clearance in July for its new hardware, software, at-home blood drawing equipment, and test for the herpes simplex virus.

In mid-October, an article written by the WSJ questioned the validity of some of Theranos’ tests and sparked further examination of the company. It is striking how fast a person such as Holmes can be the darling of the media one day and the focal point of a maelstrom the next.

It is impossible to know at this time if any of the claims made about the Theranos tests have merit. It is relevant to note that the FDA has already approved the first test. Only medical professionals who have the necessary expertise can review the medical efficacy.

October 9, 2015

How many times does the Earth rotate about its axis in a year?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Porcupyn @ 7:41 am

To be more precise, how many times does the Earth rotate about its axis in 365.25 days? Guess what! Well, if you say “The answer is 365.25, of course” then you would be wrong. The earth actually rotates about its axis once more than the number of days it takes to complete one complete revolution around the sun. To generalize this further, each planet has one less “day” than the answer you would get when you divide its revolution time by its rotation time.

It is ironic that I did not independently understand this fact. I had to read this question and (incorrect) answer combination, and then do some analysis. As an aside, I hope that “nik” has gone on to do higher things in life and hopefully Nicolle understands that she was wrong.

Here is my simple experiment:

Assume that a planet rotates about its axis every 24 hours and takes 48 hours to revolve around its star. Draw the star in the centre and draw four positions of the planet at 90-degree intervals around the star. Pick a spot on the planet and draw the positions of the spot in those four locations of the planet. You will see that though the spot will see only one each of the following,

– star-rise
– noon
– star-set
– midnight

Thus the planet revolves around the star in one day instead of the two days that you would intuitively assume. In fact, here is a table:

Rotation Revolution “Days/Year”
Does not rotate Any One
X hours X hours None (zero)*
X hours 2X hours One
X hours 3X hours Two
X hours 4X hours Three
and so on… and so on… and so on…

When I google the question, most of the answers that come up are INCORRECT!! I did find one (and I am sure there are others, but they are all much deeper down in the search reults) that is correct.

Wait a minute though! That is not the final answer (and depending on how you did your modelling of your star-planet combo, you might have realized it as well). The answer actually depends on the direction of the revolution and the direction of the rotation. If the planet rotates clockwise and revolves around the star clockwise as well, the above scenario holds true, as it does for the Earth and most of the planets; however, some planets rotate in the opposite direction of their revolution, i.e., the rotate counter-clockwise and revolve clockwise, or vice versa. For such planets, whose rotation is termed retrograde, the Days/Year in the above table would be One, Two, Three, Four, Five and so on.

PS: I wonder … which is the closest planet to the Sun where the stars can be seen during the daytime?

October 1, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — Porcupyn @ 7:43 am

Cozi is a calendar App that lets family members stay in sync in spite of busy schedules. I have been using it for about a week now and have liked it so far. I have entered all of Katya’s and Baab’s weekend activities and assigned Mrs. Porcupyn or myself to act as chaperone based on compatibility.

However, I have now come across a bug. What bugs me more than the bug is that I don’t have the ability to share the bug with the Cozi folks as there is no Contact Us button or form on their website. So, here goes :-)

When I am offline, I can add a new item to the calendar; however, the edit functionality fails to work (maybe it is the special situation where you try to edit a recurring appointment). It is OK for the user if the edit functionality fails to work; however, the app does not let you cancel out of the edit.

In other words, right now, I don’t have the option of “gracefully” exiting out of the (failed) edit. I have the option of either deleting the entire series of appointments or only the future appointments in the series (neither of which I have selected) or Cancel. Cancel drops me right back into the Edit mode. There is no way for me to get back to viewing the calendar unless I select one of the above delete options, which I do not want to try.

So, I am in a Cozi “No Man’s Land” right now.

September 29, 2015

Ask how India

Filed under: Uncategorized — Porcupyn @ 7:47 am

A few years back, I had a blog pal Pranav. He was trying to create a movement at the grassroots level to improve Bengalooru. His website has not been active for a while and I am not in correspondence with him either. However, I came across this website today which will likely make him glad as it also appears to be based along a similar thought process.


September 28, 2015

Countries and capitals

Filed under: Family,Humour,Parenting — Porcupyn @ 7:47 am

I have started a new game with Katya and her carpool buddy. I say the name of the country and they have to come up with the capital. To provide some background, Katya is not into geography and bees (of any kind) – carpool buddy, though three years younger, is into the Geography Bee (at his level). Needless to say, the experience has been slow going so far and fun. Sample these:

Porcupyn: What is the capital of Pakistan?
Katya: Give us a hint …
Porcupyn: Isss …
Katya: Islamabad. ding-ding-ding

Porcupyn: How about Afghanistan?
Katya: Give us a hint …
Porcupyn: It ends with ‘bul’
Katya: Islamabull? boink-boink-boink

Porcupyn: Capital of Russia?
Katya: It starts with an M …
Porcupyn: Yess … complete it!
Katya: Give us a hint …
Porcupyn: It ends with ‘cow’
Katya: Mocow? boink-boink-boink

November 27, 2014

Vignettes from a trip to France – Photo illusion

Filed under: Uncategorized — Porcupyn @ 9:36 am

It is weird how when you take a photo and don’t have a human perspective on it, it is difficult to figure out what is top and what is bottom! Sample this one that I took at a bathroom stop in Paris – I cannot tell whether the stairs are going up or down – can you?


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