Sunday, December 19, 2010

My father's cough syrup

There have been a few tweets from Google about teaching technology to parents.  My brother and I had made a few attempts, but my parents were least interested.  My father wouldn't try anything other than solitaire games and my mother is happy with her books.  I used to feel that she must be thorough with all those stories, but at her age she must be forgetting a lot.

Now coming back to teaching technology, I didn't want to try again, but my father gave a chance.  He complained about the cost of his cough syrup.  I thought I could explain it.  I could visualize the travel of that fifty rupee note from my father's pension account.

Preparing for a long story, I started - "Appa, are you proud that I am earning so much?"  He didn't see any sense in my question.  He appeared confused, "Why?  I'm always proud of you.".  I continued, "Good, let me tell you how I make so much money and that will answer your question on the price of cough syrup."  He let me continue.

- "See Appa, the money you are paying for the cough syrup, is shared between so many people in between - the retailer, the wholesaler and the manufacturer."
- "Yes, I understand"
- "Let's follow the trail on the manufacturer as they get a big chunk of it.  Who manufactures your cough syrup?"
He named a company, being a chronic asthmatic, he knew a lot about medicines and their manufacturers.
- "Well, this company has a lot of expenses - you know things like cost of raw materials, operational cost of manufacturing plants, distribution network, support staff, manage the market..."
- "I know about everything except the market."
I was glad I could get to my part of the story so fast.
- "See, just manufacturing and pushing it to distributors is not enough.  They should know when to increase the production and where to focus on distribution."
- "So?"
- Here is where technology comes in - Your son, that is I, am a cog in the wheel that gives the information to the manufacturers about the market.
There are companies that collect market specific data about products.  They load it in huge computers, programs are written in every step to load the data, process and report that data.  This is called business intelligence.  These programs are dependent on other programs - called databases, operating systems etc.  Some of us write programs that are part of the databases, operating systems, and some write programs for loading, processing and reporting.  And there are a number of people who manage these programmers.
All of us need to get paid, and paid well - to keep their parents proud.  Now you know why your cough syrup is expensive."

I was satisfied with my explanation. He appeared more confused, a bit sad and said - "So, you are still dependent on me!"

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

My experiment with astrology

I wasn't a big fan of predictions, but I surprised myself at deciding to learn Astrology from my neighbor.  I flirted with palmistry when I was in college.   Going all the way to learn Astrology is not something I could have predicted with my limited knowledge on palmistry.

It is one of those impulsive decisions I am known for.  Last year, I decided to try my hand at learning to play Veena, it has been going on fine so far, except for the occasional guilty consciousness for not practicing enough, only when I see Rajesh Vaidhya on TV.

Coming back to my Astrology, I started with all earnestness, met the teacher on a Vijyadhasami day, gave a token guru dakshina, bought his book and two big workbooks - one as a notes book and the other as a record note.  I  called up my parents to send my horoscope and everyone's they know of.  I searched for the horoscopes of Rajini, Jayalalitha and even Karunanidhi.  Who cares if he doesn't believe in it!

My learning started in a strictly scientific way.   I chose to take myself as the sample subject - that's the only subject I can claim to know.  There are these planetary positions at the time of my birth.  These are observations. And there rules.  Applying the rules on the observation, I arrive at inferences.  I cross-check it against my insignificant life and build my knowledge base.

Here, a brief intro about astrology and predictions.  The predictions that you see in magazines consider about 8 parameter, that is, positions of eight planets with respect to the position of sun or moon at the time of birth.  In Indian methodology, all are not planets.  But, that's out of scope for this blog.  For accurate predictions, the number of parameters are a lot more.

I began calculating planetary positions at different times to compare against eventful periods in my life.  After a week, I realized my brain is not strong enough to handle more than one parameter.  With that realization, the hope on the accuracy of my prediction disappeared.

I live in the present and like it that way - நேற்றைய நினைவும் இல்லை - நாளைய பயமும் இல்லை had been my approach to life.  Astrology didn't let me be my usual self.  After about 4 weeks, I decided to call it off.

I didn't gain the knowledge; but am a lot wiser!