Friday, December 23, 2005

Order and Chaos

Driving in India is absolutely insane. There are occasionally lines in the road, but they're pretty pointless in actuality, as people drive similarly regardless of their existence. Its very common for motorbikes and rickshaws to cross each other within a few centimetres in every direction and there are no seat belts in any backseats. As far as I can tell, I've been in about 764 near-miss accidents today, although I bet our drivers think its closer to zero. And no I will not drive anything with wheels in this country. My grandmother is over 80 and she's better at both bargaining with market vendors and crossing the street than me. Its quite hilarious.

We took a ridiculously crowded bus today from
Calangute to Panjim, where I finally gave in and used my Marriott points (about 20,000) to get one night at an amazing hotel -- the Goa Marriott, Panjim -- with an amazing view (normally we stay with my grandparents in their amazing house in Siolim). And since I'm a platinum member, I arranged for a billion and ten upgrades, so I've got free broadband internet AND I'm drinking for free -- and this stuff is Cashew Feni!

My sister is calling me, so I have to go... actually I think I'll ignore her for a few minutes and check my email again!


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sousegade: Welcome to Goa

Yes, I am truly on vacation. This means I have no computer or cel phone (actually my phone doesn't work here). It took forever to get here, but I've finally arrived. Hopefully I'll get to post a couple of entries, but getting internet access is a little tough in Goa, India. I'm staying at my grandparents' place with my sister and her husband, and it's absolutely amazing -- they have mango trees and coconut trees in their yard. The coconut guy came today with his machete, climbed the trees and cut down some coconuts (these trees must be 6 or 8 storeys tall).

My flight schedule (Toronto time):
Thurs: Fly Detroit to Toronto (3 day layover, including writing my exam, getting car insurance, and seeing a musical). I was too tired to drive, so I flew.
Sun: Fly Toronto to Amsterdam, 7.5 hours (3 hour stopover)
Mon: Fly Amsterdam to Bombay, 7.5 hours (7 hour stopover)
Tues: Fly Bombay to Goa, plus 1 hour taxi ride
Tues: Arrive at my grandparents place!!!Tues: SLEEP

After just one day here, I've also learned a new word, "Sousegade", which roughly translated means "laid back". I actually learned the meaning of this first hand, which is "VERY VERY VERY laid back"...

This morning, after getting up (believe it or not I have no Jet lag), we were awaiting a courier guy delivering a very important package. We needed this package to start our day, so we waited. And waited. Every couple of hours we would call them or they would call us and we'd learn again that he was "about" to arrive. Finally we decided to stop waiting and we sat down for lunch. The moment we started eating, the dog barked, and it was the courier guy with the package, which I signed for.

As we then ate, my sister's lost-luggage people called, and they wanted to deliver the luggage today, so before we could go to town to use the internet, we waited for them. And waited. And waited. Finally we decided to go out. While we were walking, we actually walked right past the Jet Airways van, and the driver was phoning someone to get better directions (guess who they were trying to phone), so we stopped him and he drove us back to the house to get the luggage sorted out. Finally we left to get our email.

When we arrive, the internet place has one room with three computers, all of which are in use, of course. The guy says there's about 30 minutes waiting time, so we wait. And wait. After 20 minutes, we ask him again, and he says we should come back tomorrow because the power is out. We are a little confused because people are still typing on the computers, and he explains they have a UPS with only 10 minutes left. So we decide to leave. Once we get about 30 metres away, I happen to look over my shoulder and he's waving us back because the power came back on. We come back, and wait another good 40 minutes, at which point we finally get on the internet and I have the chance to write you this story.

So at this rate, when I tell you I'll write another blog entry tomorrow, it'll probably be about 3 days... Happy Sousegade!


Monday, December 12, 2005

Land Lines: Soon Six Feet Under?

Due to the travelling nature of my life recently, I've heard that people have trouble tracking down which phone number to use to get ahold of me. Eventually, it may not matter that much. With the advent of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, eventually long-distance billing will be a thing of the past, as people will be (and already are) having conversations over the Internet instead of by traditional phone. Applications such as MSN Messenger, Skype, and Google Talk, which have audio conversation capabilities, have been instrumental in unleashing the onslaught of low-cost alternatives to big corporations with expensive phone plans. Perhaps it won't all be completely free forever, but don't you think that such a trend will be impossible for the big phone companies to ignore once the masses switch to VoIP? It will happen... Bell Canada beware. Email me your Skype I.D. if you have it, and lets talk for free. But if I'm offline, I guess you'll just have to call.

On a related note, I once worked for Broadcom, and was involved specifically in low-level tone detection within VoIP data streams, involving mathematical convolutions of discrete PCM data in ANSI C within the firmware of some of the company's embedded ASICs, for all of you nerds out there.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Down But Not Out?

I read recently about a new test that allows for early detection of Down Syndrome. The article, forwarded to me by Johnathan, discussed some of the ethical issues involved and provided a statistic that 90% of women who get a positive test for Down syndrome get an abortion. Apparently, however, there is a huge demand to adopt babies with Down Syndrome. There's a big can of worms opened up by this, of course.

I also discovered something intereseting that is related. Here are the statistics on the likelihood of having a child with Down Syndrome versus the mother's age:
  • under 30: less than 1 in 1000
  • 30: 1 in 900
  • 35: 1 in 400
  • 36: 1 in 300
  • 37: 1 in 230
  • 38: 1 in 180
  • 39: 1 in 135
  • 40: 1 in 105
  • 42: 1 in 60
  • 44: 1 in 35
  • 46: 1 in 20
  • 48: 1 in 16
  • 49: 1 in 12

One other interesting thing the article raised was that if one of the purposes of prenatal screening is to reduce the frequency of disabilities, what does that say about all the people who currently have disabilities?