Friday, September 19, 2008

Tips to buy a coconut with some common sense!

I was at an Indian store few minutes back.  An Indian couple there was buying a $1.00 coconut.  To ensure that the coconut is fresh and they do not waste their $1.00, they asked the shopkeeper to break the coconut, then saved the coconut water in two polythene bags, and broken coconut in another polythene bag. Three bags for a coconut which doesn't need one. In an effort to be very smart and save $1.00, they are now going to drink the coconut water that will be in a polythene bags for quite some time, waste some more bags and plastic, and remove the freshness of coconut.  Fresh food in plastic, especially the low grade plastic should be avoided.

Next time, if you want to buy coconut (the one you can use for making chutney), shake it, if you can hear water shaking, its fresh and good. 100%.  People break to check only dry coconuts, not the one with water.  I know environment is last thing on most minds, but a simple common sense and google can be used some times.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

People have become very systematic these days!

And when they go to buy grocery, they very carefully put each cucumber in a clear plastic bag, bananas in another such clear plastic bag, Jalapenos in clear plastic bag, each cantaloupe in the clear plastic bag, and then they pack all these individual plastic bags in the grocery bags. Since these bags get heavy they request another plastic bag from the bagger.  The shopping cart looks mostly like the ones below.  It's difficult to realize if they are buying grocery or grocery bags.

At home they throw the big grocery bags in trash, and put all these vegetables in refrigerator. Every time they take out some of these vegetables they throw the clear plastic bags in trash. Many times the vegetables packed in these bags do not get enough air and get bad in those plastic bags and they are thrown in the trash. 

Using huge amount of plastic is already normal in our life cycle these days, and we exacerbate the problem by adding more and more plastic. If you have no idea how these plastic bags are made, they are made up of "petroleum."

I do not understnad how is it convenient to pack bananas in plastic bag and then remove the pack once you reach home? How is ot convenient to pack cucumbers, Cantaloupes, and already packed vegetables and unpack them again? I can understand using those packs for Okra, beans, some leafy vegetables and that's it. You anyways have to (should) take out these things before you keep them in refrigerator. In Walmart today, I saw a lady packing a Bleach bottle in two plastic bags.  I do not understand how come people get so engrossed in a habit that they confuse convenience and habit and intermingle it with stupidity.

Some people say they recycle the plastic bags. Either they lie or they are among 1% of the people who recycle the plastic bags.  Some "supposedly" use them as trash bags. As per my experience, only few of the trash cans are of the size of the grocery bag. Also, these bags mostly get teared up by the time they reach home, making them useless as trash bags.  As per the small clear plastic bags are concerned, they are not worth for second use for anything.

There are some people who bring reusable grocery bags, however I have "never ever" seen any immigrant (Indian, Chinese, Mexican, other Asians, South American etc.) family using reusable grocery bags.  Being an Indian, I mostly go to Indian grocery store and I have never ever seen any other person using these kind of bags (I know some of my Indian friends use that though).  It is surprising to see Indians detached with environmental issues, because statistically they are the most educated ethnic groups in US. Perhaps, education and sanity doesn't always go together.

I would also like to see stores providing some incentives of using grocery bags. Safeway gives you a 3 cent incentive (ridiculous) every time you use your own bag. Trader Joe lets you enter into a weekly raffle.  I sometimes request discount from some stores for bringing grocery bags.  Sometimes they do give the discount.  In next few days I will write feedbacks to most stores to provide incentive for people who use reusable bags, and will post them here.

This post was mostly a rant although I didn't want it to be. In the next post I will try and post some feedback letters I post to the big grocery stores.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Circuit City and its Fraudulent "firedog" Service

So, I was looking for a reasonable laptop last month. I found the most reasonable laptop on Circuit City website. The website gave me the location of couple of stores where it was available for $479.99. I went to the store to buy it and they said they were out of it, but sent me to another store which had the laptops available. This other store was in Palo Alto, CA. That store had only two pieces of the laptop available that I was interested in, but both had the "firedog" service done on it. Circuit city charged me $39.99 for this firedog service. They supposedly had done following things on the laptop.

• Perform initial setup

• Run Microsoft updates

• Clean up icons & software

• Personalize desktop

• Set user-access controls

• 90-day guarantee

First of all they pretty much forced me into buying this service, as they never gave me an option to buy this laptop without the service. Now, in this service, they run through the intial setup of laptop and make a user named Owner. This is probably the easiest thing. Then they remove the only security feature of Vista i.e. User Access Control (UAC). Further they move all the desktop icons to a folder. They run Microsoft updates and then charge you $39.99 for it. They also supposedly 'optimize' the computer for faster boot up.

So I bought my laptop on Aug 22, and as soon as I switched it on in the store, it started downloading updates and the firedog people started giving me reasons that the computer was last updated on Aug 3, 2008 (I realized later that it was actually Mar 8). I said it doesn't matter, "if I am paying you $39.99, I need the service." They said you can sit here and we will do it for you, but will not refund the extra charge. I stopped arguing, bought the laptop and came home. Updated the computer with 23 updates. I was pissed and so I mailed Circuit City on their website as follows.



I bought a laptop on Aug 22, 2008 from Circuit city at E. Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, CA. The laptop model was ACER Aspire 5720-4126. The laptop was supposedly sold with firedog package that added $39.99 to the total cost of the laptop. I went to the store expecting a price of $479.99 as advertised on the web that day. There were only two laptops available on this model and, only on this store.

So, this firedog was forced onto me which I didn't want at first place itself. Further firedog service hadn't done things that it promised. It still had lots of freeware programs installed, the computer took about 2 minutes to boot, and the computer was not updated for more than 20 days.

In wake of these things, I think I was cheated for $39.99 by Circuit City, and I think it's done on a regular basis to all the customers. I would like to lodge a formal complaint in this regard and would appreciate a formal response from Circuit City. In next few days, I will post the picture of unwanted program from "uninstall program" and a video that shows the time taken by this laptop to boot on my blog, if my complaints are not taken seriously.


I got the following response:



Thank you for signing up to receive our weekly emails. We’ll keep you informed of our best in-store and online promotions and send you updates on our new products and services.


I did record a video that shows very normal time for Vista to shutdown and boot, and will upload it pretty soon. Well, couple of days later the computer told me that Vista Service Pack that was released in May was not installed either. Screenshot for update history is below.

Screenshot for Vista SP1 update is below.

I called the store, and the manager and the computer guy said either I can return my laptop, or take it to the store and they will update it for me. Frustrated, I called Circuit City at 1-800-THE-CITY, and nobody ever picked up the phone there. I finally called American Express to cancel the extra $39.99 that I paid to circuit city and now Amex will dispute that with Circuit City directly.

It is frustating to see how big stores like these dupe the customers for small things on regular basis. I am not sure if BBB (Better Business Bureau), does care about fraud of these small things.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Everything's Cool - Trailer

Saw this movie yesterday. It's a pretty good presentation of controversies surrounding Global Warming (unfortunately this has become politically uncorrect word today).

It has a good historical background of this issue which will be helpful for the people who hate Global Warming issue just because it was raised by Al Gore, a political leader.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

McDonalds Advertising in Hindi in Mountain View, CA.

I just saw this ad on a Valley Transit Authority (VTA) bus on route 22. It's interesting that they are advertising in

McDonalds Advertisement in Hindi in Mountain View


Sunday, August 10, 2008

We Indians are very proud of you Abhinav!!! And now more medals

India Challenge - India@Beijing - Beijing 2008 Olympics - The Times Of India

EDIT: India won another bronze medal on Aug 20. This time in wrestling by Sushil Kumar. There is another medal confirmation by Indian pugilist Vijendar. He is in semis. These medals are more so appreciated as they are won not only against the strong opponents at Olympics, but they are won againts lax system, poor resources, and pathetic politics. This Olympic will be a record as "most won medals won by India in any Olympics", three.

Abhinav Bindra won first ever individual Olympic gold medal for India. This is a gold medal for India after 28 years. He won it in 10 m air rifle event. This is a really proud day for India.


"You look familiar, I think I have seen you in Cisco"

Me: "No, I do not work in Cisco. I work at Company 'ABC'."

Mr. India: "O sorry! By the way, I am Mr. India. Where are you from?"

Me: "Oh, I am from Jhumari Talaiyya!"

Mr. India: "Great, I have a friend from that place too. So what work do you do?"

Me: "I just lay eggs."

Mr. India: "Fantastic, lets meet up some time. May I have your number please?"

Me: "Uh, it is XXX-XXX-XXXX."

Mr. India, calls and checks, if I get the ring.

Mr. India: "Ok, see you later."

Exactly two days later.

Ring Ring.

Mr. India: "Hey hi, Mr. Jhumari Talaiyya, this is Mr. India here."

Me: Hi.

Mr. India: "How are you doing?"

Me: "I am fine, how about you."

Mr. India: "Great, Thanks for asking. Hey listen, I have an e-commerce business. It's a partnership based business. You look very enterprising and I think it would be a good utilization of your spare time."

Me: "Is it related to Quixtar, Amway?"

Mr. India: "Uh, why did you ask?"

Me: "Get the heck out of here. Do not call me again, and I am not interested."

This is a very familiar conversation, many Indians could relate to. Walmart, Malls, Target, Ross, anywhere you go, you get constantly cornered by fellow Indians trying to talk you into their "e-commerce" business. Bay area and Silicon Valley is very badly infected by these menace. It is scary to talk to any other Indian whom you do not know. Either they will be interested to sign you up to this business, or they will think that you are looking for to sign them up.

It has made difficult to make new Indian friends in the Bay area as you are always doubtful of other person's intention. I am sure, many of my friends have their share of horror stories with these people.

Although, I have not been very succesful to avoid all of these attacks, I can give you some tips to avoid them. Do not stray around an Indian couple who are formally dressed in a location, where other people are casually dressed. Be especially away from Indian couple who appear to do shopping at these places, but have empty shopping carts. If somebody wants to talk to you out of blue, just do not give your phone number. And if you do, save them as "Do not pick" in your phone book.

I hope keeping these tips in mind will save you some harrassment from the e-commerce business people.


Monday, August 04, 2008

Follow up post to "Providence, RI is partly responsible for the food problem in World"

EDIT: The previous post was also discussed here.
I got several responses to my previous post regarding my experiences at Providence, RI. Thank you all for that. My friend Sumit wanted me to mention him specifically as he was responsible for part of the eventful trip I had in Providence. First of all I was so excited to meet him that I forgot my suitcase at Boston airport and then he took the keys of my rental car :).

Several people responded my food observation in Providence. I mentioned that restaurants in Providence serve monstrous proportions of food. Many people had views mentioning that restaurants should serve that much food, and people should be able to bring leftovers home. First of all, I would like to mention it that although I wrote what I observed, almost everybody in my group observed the monstrous proportions of food.

I have visited nearly fifty or more cities in US and if I note only a specific city for its food quantity, then there is something to note. Regarding leftovers, its a good idea to take the leftovers and eat it later. However, if restaurants regularly serve us more food than we can eat it at one sitting then there is something wrong. Plus restaurants charge us more money for that. Leftovers is a once in a while thing. It is like if you want to go to buy grocery, the merchant makes you buy extra grocery than you need.

Leftovers are not always a good idea. For tourists its not convenient to take leftover back to their hotel and eat it next time. Somebody in the comment suggested to get a hotel that has all the possible amenities. No Thanks. I don't want to spend extra fifty bucks to get all the amenities so that I can warm up the overpriced food next time.

Leftovers are not a sustainable solution either. First of all, extra food is cooked, packed in styrofoam box, stored in refrigerator, reheated mostly in styrofoam boxes, or thrown in trash more often than not. Wastage at several steps.

One of the respondents suggested that he wants to have a full satisfactory meal when he is in a restaurants. If you have a little more appetite, then you can order several dishes along with main course. It doesn't mean that restaurants should serve food which has twice more than recommended daily nutritional requirements for a common person to each customer.

In a world, where food prices have gone over the top, several places have had riots due to food price increase and food unavailability, supporting a culture of food wastage is a sign of ignorance and arrogance in my view.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Providence, Rhode Island is partly responsible for the food problem in World.

First of all, I apologize to the people who read my blog regularly for not updating content for quite a few months.  Anyway, I was in Providence, Rhode Island couple of weeks back to attend a conference.  I didn't have much time to roam around the city, however I checked a new restaurant or brewery every night in the area.  Any restaurant I went to served huge amount of food. At some places food was served in plates as big as counter top.

In one of the Indian fast food places, one of our professor went to eat something and server gave him 'half a kilogram' of rice.  So, my professor politely said please do not give me that much food. The server quipped, "Throw what you don't end up eating."

In one of the other places, we were nine people and only seven people ordered food.  Although all nine ate, the leftover was enough for at least 3-5 people.  I was getting curious and so I asked the waitress about this monstrous serving size. The waitress however was pretty slim with nice figure.  She said people in Providence do not like to be served little food. They get angry.

I asked, "But the people here look slim and not unnecessarily fat."  She said because you are looking at us (waiter and waitress), and then she pointed at our table and said "We don't eat that food."

So my conclusion from the trip was Providence is probably the reason for food problem in the world. Have you also been to a place where they serve food portions of the size of monsters?

Eventful Trip: The trip was very eventful for me. I flew from San Francisco on time and reached Newark on time in the morning. I was supposed to fly from Newark to Providence at 8:20am by Continental Air.  The flight got delayed 20 minutes, and it kept on getting delayed, until they told us at 12:00pm that they "might" be able to fly at 3:00pm. Their plane had mechanical trouble. They gave me a $8 coupon, and it costed me $10 to eat a meal at the airport.

I decided to fly to Boston, which is an hour from Providence. They gave a seat to Boston at last minute at 2:45p. I reached Boston, and met with my friends who were coming from Atlanta. They were supposed to take me to Providence. I had to go to Providence airport as I had booked car from that airport. I could not change my reservation as Budget Rental Cars would charge me $300.00 for that. Anyway, I reached Boston, MA, met with my friends and forgot my bag on an airport shuttle.  The shuttle driver after dropping me, went on break, and then it took me more than an hour to find my bag. By the time, we got back to Providence, picked car from rental place and reached hotel, it was about 9:00pm. I was supposed to reach at 8:00am.

The conference was uneventful, however on the last day, one of my friend took the keys of my rental car and went to Boston to catch his flight. He realized that after he reached Boston. Then he left the key at airlines counter, I booked another car to go to Boston and get the keys. I was supposed to return this car on morning in Providence city and the previous car at airport. The city office was supposed to open at 8:00am and my flight was at 6:00am. Fortunately my friend said he will return the car that was supposed to be returned to the city office and I could return the airport car. I woke up at 5:00am, reached airport at 5:30, returned the car and boarded the aircraft at 5:45am. The flight was ready to take off at 6:00am except that it didn't. It never took off. We were deplaned an hour later. Continental again gave us a coupon of $8.00 as compensation where a breakfast costs about $10.00. They rerouted me with the longest possible flight with US airways. I was supposed to reach San Francisco at 11:00am in the morning, and reached at about 9:00pm.

In between, my friend told me that I parked the car in the night at wrong place and I got a $20.00 parking ticket for that. A befitting end to the whole drama.


Funny fact: I learnt today that total fuel consumed by California is more than the total fuel consumed by India or China.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Our Cross-Country Drive

Finally, we left Blacksburg for good in February 2008, to go to Bay area, CA. We decided to drive our Toyota Camry all the way. It was 2700 miles drive and we were excited. We started our drive on a Sunday morning and planned to drive about 750 miles each day. Visually, the travel was as the following map.

View Larger Map

When we started in Blacksburg there was snow all around and wind chills. However, we were lucky to have sun that day. Beautiful, sunny Blacksburg reminded us of the wonderful years we spent here.

Snow in Blacksburg Snowy Blacksburg

We entered into Tennessee in just few hours. The Tennessee welcome center was quite big and designed artistically. The landscape of Tennessee was not much different from Virginia, but it was definitely flatter. We drove about 490 miles in Tennessee.
Tennessee Welcome Center Tennessee Welcome Center

We entered Arkansas in the night. I have been here few times but it was first time for Vinny. We booked a hotel on phone and then called Dr. Saraswat. Dr. Saraswat is my senior from my undergrad college. Well, it was a mistake to call them after booking the hotel and we realized that after we got some nice scolding, and a great welcome from Dr. Saraswat and his wife in Little Rock, Arkansas. They cooked a really nice dinner for us. Too bad, we forgot to click a picture at their house.
Vinny in Arkansas Welcome Center A scenic view in Arkansas from I-40. (The scenery is behind us :)
We started from a place called Conway in Arkansas, which is very near to Little Rock in the morning. The time zone change was showing its effect and we got up a little early. On the I-40 in Arkansas, we got a chance to catch a scenic view in our camera.

We did not have to travel much in Arkansas and we were in Oklahoma by early noon. They really had a nice welcome center. Oklahoma welcome center displayed some interesting examples of some skills of Indian's craftsmanship. I found an interesting quote in the Oklahoma Welcome center as well.

Oklahoma Welcome Center Inside Oklahoma Welcome Center Quote in Oklahoma Welcome Center Oklahoma Landscape

Oklahoma was mostly flat, and pretty much deserted on Interstate 40. We reached Tulsa, in the afternoon. We wanted to eat at a nice Indian restaurant, but we didn't know address of any restaurant. So we tried the GOOG 411 service for the first time. Those who do not know about it, it is a service to find out local businesses by dialing 1 800 GOOG 411. We ended up at an amazing restaurant Gopuram at Oklahoma City. We had a nice buffet.

We reached Texas around evening. The welcome center for Texas was just a welcome sign. They didn't have any rest rooms there. We saw quite a few windmills as soon as we reached Texas. The size of these windmills were really huge.

Welcome to Texas Wind mills in texas Nevee missed a train Train again

We reached Amarillo, Texas in the evening. Interstate 40 passed though the Amarillo, so we were able to see that city. We in fact did some shopping at Kohl's there. Having interstate in the city is positive as the people passing buy can actually see the city and may be visit it as well. Amarillo, however, like many other US cities is also made for cars, not people. You cannot walk between two showrooms if they are just 20-30 feet apart. That rant some other time though.

Around the time we were going to pass Texas, we saw a beef farm right beside the interstate which was more than a mile long. All the beef in the farm were waiting to get butchered. I hadn't seen animal agriculture at that scale before, it was overwhelming. At the end of Texas, severe wind was blowing which was shaking our car badly. We entered New Mexico after dark, and the time zone changed as well. We stayed in Tucumcari, New Mexico that night in a Super 8 Motel. Actually, that was first time I stayed at a Super 8, it was pretty good. Tucumcari looked like a small beautiful town. I could see Route 66 from my room in motel. Route 66 is considered were scenic.

We started from Tucumcari in the morning and reached Albequrque, NM during lunch time. My cell phone was having problems, so I had to go to a verizon wireless showroom in NM. Albequrque, NM is situated in a valley with mountains surrounding it. Its a beautiful place. I talked to four people in NM, two verizon wireless representatives, one hotel receptionist, and one native Indian at the roadside. They were not only very nice, they had a very special warmth as well. May be that's a characteristic of NM people? There was a village situated right beside Interstate on a dormant volcano. I think I forgot its name, but some Indians were on the road and one of them told me about it. The nearby areas had black earth due to that volcano which erupted few hundred years back. New Mexico had some snow by that time, and the surrounding areas were looking very beautiful. Enjoy some other pictures from new Mexico as well.

Village in NM beside I40 Village and a dead volcano in New Mexico NM Landscape NM Landscape NM Landscape NM Landscape

Arizona had a nice welcome center. It was based on the theme of an Indian village.

DSCF0152 DSCF0149

The interstate in Arizona had some big statues of dinosaurs which appeared to be running towards the interstate.

Dinosaur running towards I40 Dinosaur running towards I40 If not dinasaur, then me Snow in Arizona

Arizona was looking really beautiful and we entered California by night in the pacific time zone. California didn't have any welcome centers, although California welcomed us by checking our cars. I think they do not allow import of agriculture products and live animals. We stayed in Needles, CA that night.

We still had to travel about 550 miles in California and reach our apartment in Fremont before 5 to get the keys. Thankfully, time zone change helped us wake up by 5 and leave Needles by 6. This was our fourth day of driving, but we were as excited as we were on day one. We were less than half a tank of gas when we left Needles and were planning to get it filled before moving forward, but we forgot and realized when we were in the desert of Mojave national park. That area was dry and deserted as in the pictures below and you could easily see small wild animals (fox, rabbit, deer etc.) running around .

Desert in California Desert in California

We tried to call 411 (couldn't call 1800GOOG411 as my phone was discharged and another phone was out of minutes), but that was not of much help, as we didn't know the name of city or county where we were. We had no other option than to drive as far as we could. We finally found a place called Ludlow, out in the desert, which had only two gas stations in total and nothing else as far as one could see (one could see for miles actually there). We could have been in serious trouble if that place was couple of miles away. Once we got the gas, we started again. California had the most varying landscape, changing from desert, to snow covered mountains to huge agricultural farms to concentrated cities. You can see the varying landscape of CA in pictures below. We found amazingly big wind mill farms near Mojave as well.

Nobody in the vicinity Never missed a train again. Snow laden mountains in CA from far far Can you see the wind mills? Snow in Cali? Yeah... Wind mills from closer distanceAmazing ladnscapes of CA Plain areas with agriculture Lot of fruits Looks like the default wallpaper in Win XP

We had lunch in Bakersville, CA. We were able to reach Fremont, CA before 5, and we got the keys. In few minutes, we left for Ikea to buy the bed. We took the picture below couple of days later to show how dirty our car was after so much driving.

Dirty car.

I always wanted to do a cross country travel like this, and I am glad I did it with my better half. It was an amazing experience. The visual panorama we experienced for four days will always be in our minds and heart like a treasure. All of that cannot be illustrated in the pictures or in my shoddy writing, but hopefully you liked them.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Encouraging people to buy and use reusable grocery bags

I haven't written in a long time, but those of you who followed my Global Warming: An issue or just politics will remember that I had committed 10 hours for community service as part of VT-ENGAGE program.  I wanted to spend these hours to encourage people to buy reusable grocery bags and use them as often.  One of the grocery stores in Blacksburg OASIS WORLD MARKET agreed to help me in doing it.

The OASIS owner was very enthusiastic towards this project and she ordered 500 reusable bags from 1 bag at a time for this project.  She also committed to sell those bags at the cost price.  The process took a little longer as we had trouble finding a reliable and cheap place to buy those bags. Finally, everything went well and I was able to do it yesterday, couple of days before I am leaving Blacksburg for good.  A colleague from my department also helped me for couple of hours. She is Chinese, so she was able to convince some Chinese customers.  I was at the grocery store for about 4 hours and was able to sell about 35-40 bags.  As percentage wise I was able to sell the bags to 20% of customers during that time frame.

Some people don't care about this issue at all.  They do not want to think or even talk about it. Some people said that they have bags but forget to use them. I requested them to remember it everytime they come for shopping, and develop a guilt if they don't.  I hope I was able to bring some change into the society. 

Below are some pictures of the event.

Me trying to convince people to buy reusable grocery bags Me trying to convince people to buy reusable grocery bags


I am leaving for Mountain View from Blacksburg, tomorrow and will be driving the 2700 miles distance. I hope I will be able to post some pictures from the way.



PS: By the way, I had gifted these kind of reusable bags to my friends in Christmas as well.