Porcupyn's Blog

June 24, 2018

Becky … and Margaret – a Katya Tale

Filed under: Family,Humour,Uncategorized — Porcupyn @ 7:48 pm

Katya and I recently visited Magic Kingdom on our annual pilgrimage to Walt Disney’s World. Because of intermittent showers, thunder and lightning activity, it was not the normal fruitful trip – many of the rides were cancelled for the most part of the day, especially the outdoor ones. As a result, the queues for those attractions were astronomical even by recent Disney standards – and the resultant spillover because of closures force-landed on the inside attractions such as perennial favourite Space Mountain.

We were forced to wander around looking for something that had a shorter queue. We saw this raft ride that we had usually skipped; this ride was a two-minute ride to a small island – “Tom Sawyer’s Island” – that we’d never been to (other attractions were more attractive to us). After we landed on the island, Katya asked me whether I knew who Becky Thatcher was – I said sure I did, “She was Tom Sawyer’s girlfriend!” Apparently, I had failed to notice that the raft that had helped us cross the moat to the island was named after her (a typical Disney touch).

Anyway, we had fun exploring the little island in the rain, until the authorities were forced to close it due to inclement weather and “extradite” us back to Magic Kingdom.

So, today, we were recounting the incident to Mrs. Porcupyn.

Katya: So, do you know who Becky Thatcher was?

Mrs. Porcupyn: Well, I had forgotten but now that you talked about her, I remember. (Counter question) Do you know who Margaret Thatcher was?

Katya: Ummm… Becky Thatcher’s mother?

Porcupyn: #Facepalm!!

April 23, 2017

My Financial Advice on an Index Card — When I Have Time by Sara Rosso

Filed under: Uncategorized — Porcupyn @ 9:44 am

I share my bite-sized financial advice and some additional resources.

via My Financial Advice on an Index Card — When I Have Time by Sara Rosso

April 18, 2017

Paris and Berlin – a Thanksgiving Saga [Part 3 – Orlando (MCO) to Gardermoen Airport, Oslo (OSL)]

Filed under: Uncategorized — Porcupyn @ 8:19 am

After much trepidation, our day of departure dawned. Norwegian Airlines (or Air Shuttle, or whatever they want to call themselves) was a relatively new airlines, and we had read mixed reviews about them, including instances where the flight had been cancelled after the passengers reached the gate to board the plane. Besides, we had learned that a consortium of US and other airlines had sued to block them from US skies. With all that in mind, we were a bit sceptical that we would actually be on our flights without any issues. Thankfully, our fears were assuaged when we saw that the plane was ready at the gate a short time after we got there, and we started boarding.

Baab was thrilled at the sight of the Dreamliner, the first time we were going to be travelling in one. The boarding process was relatively straightforward and we got one (or maybe two) window seats among the four of us. It was nearly midnight (past 11 pm if I remember) that we finally took off amidst a light rain shower. My photos show the raindrops streaking across the windows as we took off.

Norwegian being a budget airline, there are no complimentary services enroute. We had brought onboard with us some burritos and sandwiches for dinner, which we had a few minutes after we boarded. I liked the barebones service. It would be great if the airlines would knock off a couple of hundred dollars and leave everyone to their own for the duration of the flight and have minimal stewards/stewardesses. I did engage the crew in conversation during a visit to the restroom. I was surprised to note that the crew were either from Thailand or from Indonesia. Having recently returned from a cruise where the majority of the crew was from Indonesia, I quickly figured out one of the means that Norwegian uses to keep their fares low! Basically, they were using the cruise model with the airlines … at least with respect to the attendants.

After a short while, all of us fell asleep. The flight was pretty uneventful, but for the fact that when I woke up, it seemed still quite dark outside while the smartphone (my first!) that I had brought with me indicated that the local time should be past nine am. It took a while before I figured out, thanks to Baab, that it is the effect of the Dreamliner. Instead of window shades, these windows were photocromatic and could be darkened (or lightened) by the touch of a button. So, I spent a few minutes figuring out those controls and, sure enough, I got bright sunlight streaming in!

I could see the ice and the fjords in the Norwegian landscape by this time, and the plane was starting its descent into Oslo’s Gardemoen airport. We landed on time, and had a few hours to kill before the flight from Oslo to Paris. After enquiring around, we found out that we could leave the security area of the airport, then get back for our outbound flight – and that there would not be too much of a queue to get back, so once we were done from our walk outside, we needed to allow only about 15-30 minutes to get all the way back in to the gate.

So, we decided to head out and see if we could walk about a bit outside the airport. Earlier, I had researched to see what our options were with regard to visiting the city. However, the four-five hours that we had appeared to be too less to try that out – at best, it would be a quick trip out and back with an hour spent in the city, which would not be much at all. So, we had abandoned that plan from the get go.

As soon as we came out of the terminal, the blast of cold air hit us. The temperature was about 26 degrees Fahrenheit. And though it was about noon, the sun was way far down in the horizon. I took photos of the longest shadow I’ve ever cast during the middle of the day!!

And I thought you were smart – a Katya tale

Filed under: Family,Humour,Uncategorized — Porcupyn @ 7:18 am

As I was cleaning up around the house and trying to remove traces of my packratism one paper at a time, I came across an unbound tome – it was my doctoral dissertation from more than two decades ago.

Some background aka “flashback”: Katya goes to a school whose director has his PhD. As a mark of respect, everyone refers to him as Dr. ___. It so happens that his daughter is Katya’s classmate. So, each time she refers to this gentleman, she uses “Dr. ___”; I, on the other hand, have never had anyone calling me “Dr. Porcupyn” so it is obvious that Katya has no clue. So, one day, I informed her that I too have a PhD and am within my rights to demand to be called “Dr. Porcupyn”. Katya laughed at me, “No you don’t! You are kidding.”

It took some effort on my part to convince her, though truth being said, I was never really convinced that she was really convinced.

Back to yesterday: Now that I had proof of my “Doctor”ness, I promptly took the sheaf of papers over to where Katya was and said, “Look, here is the dissertation I wrote that made me a PhD!”

Katya: “What is it all about?”

Me: About traffic studies.

Katya (rolling her eyes): Traffic? I thought you were into maths and science!

Me: Well, it needs maths and science.

Katya: Traffic? Who writes all that much about traffic?! Traffic needs maths and science?

Mrs. Porcupyn (coming to my aid): Yes, sure traffic needs maths and science.

Katya (disgusted): You got your PhD in (with extra emphasis) traffic? And I thought you were smart!!

Me (thinking to myself): At least Katya thought I was smart … though it is now in past tense! 😉

July 18, 2016

My Plan by Marchette Chute

Filed under: Uncategorized — Porcupyn @ 6:33 am

A long time ago, I had read this poem in school. For some reason, I happened to remember it a few minutes ago. Thankfully, I was able to google it successfully (in spite of my minimal googling skills).



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

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?

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