Friday, November 25, 2005

Queues,Thanksgiving and Turkeys.

Think of Queues….
What is the first thing which comes into your mind?
At least for me, it is ‘Tirupathi’ and I instantly remember those long queues and the devotees standing in queue for hours to get the Dharshana. When I had been to Tirupathi last time, we had been in the queue for 4-5 hours. You may be thinking why this guy in US suddenly is talking about Tirupathi’s queue.

Now it is 2 in the morning & I just came back after doing the rounds in the city! Seeing huge queues in front of electronic shops here, Tirupathi flashed in my mind. Now you may be wondering why people here were standing in queues in front of electronic shops.

Last Thursday of November in US is celebrated as ‘Thanksgiving’ day and the day after is known as ‘Black Friday’. On every ‘Black Friday’ all shops offer grand discounts. But the biggest and most attractive offers are given by electronic shops. But the catch is that these offers are limited and only available to people having coupons. And how people get these coupons? Stand in the line from Thursday night till the time the shops open on Friday morning & distribute coupons. And on ‘Black Friday’ the shops open at 4-5 in the morning!

When I heard this from somebody here, I thought they may be joking. But as Thursday night began to grow, it was becoming true. Many people in apartment also started to go out. So I decided that I’ll go and check myself if this is true.

At some distance from our apartment, there is ‘Best buy’ and ‘Circuit City’. When I reached these places, it was a scene to look at. There was a huge line of people waiting outside the shops. They were totally cladded in winter wear. Everyone had brought the folding chairs/stools to stand (sit) in the queue. Few had brought the comforters and sleeping bags and I heard they were in the queue since 9 in the night!! There were families standing in the queue and enjoying the coffee they had brought!!!

So it was looking like people in the queue had well planned and well equipped to stand in the queue. Most people in the queue were Makkoos, Chincos and few Desis who were there to get the laptops, cameras, TVs, players and whatever they can at highly discounted prices.

Just a thought….
Isn’t that we spend most of the time in our lives in queues??
Queue to get ration, queue to get admission to school/college, queue to get movie tickets, queue for walk-in interviews. I have seen people who will be in the queue waiting to fall for a particular guy/gal!

Back to discount queues….
It is so different from the Tirupathi queues. There people wait in queues just to get a glimpse of the God, here they stand in queue to get the things which can be easily termed ‘materialistic’.
In both cases, people return back with a sense of happiness, here people return with a satisfaction that they were able to save so many dollars, there people return with a satisfaction that they were able to spend some time in presence of Almighty. For me one queue reflects materialistic world and another queue stand for spiritual world.

I just took ‘Discount Queue’ as example of ‘materialistic’ and ‘Tirupathi Queue’ as an example of ‘spiritual’. It may not be so clear cut as there may be elements of materialism in ‘Tirupathi Queue’ and vice versa??

Before I get too philosophical and bore you more, let me tell how the concept of ‘Thanksgiving’ day came into existence.

Several centuries back, it seems that few people from England got frustrated with the suffocating religious set-up there and fled to US . They called themselves ‘Pilgrims’. The first winter in US for pilgrims was very harsh with little flood & extreme cold, due to which many of them died. But the next harvest was extremely good for pilgrims. They had enough food and they also got lots of help from native Indians.

So in order to thank natives and thank for all the good things, they arranged a feast for natives. That practice grew up as ‘Thanksgiving’ over the years. It was formally declared a national celebration during Lincoln’s period.

One thing which is closely associated with Thanksgiving is Turkey. Although it is not clear how it became associated with Thanksgiving, this bigger version of hen has become a must for Thanksgiving lunch/dinner.

It is so much so popular that in white house every year there will be a ‘National Thanksgiving Turkey’ function where the US president does something called ‘official pardoning of the Turkey’! This year Turkey’s name which got pardoned was ‘Marshmallow’. This tradition was started when Truman was president and it involves pardoning Turkeys and retiring them to Park where they will spend rest of their live.

Such a contrast that when several thousands of Turkeys make their way to lunch-dinner on Thanksgiving, few lucky Turkeys gets ‘pardoned’ by president and they live rest of their life royally and guess what is the name of park where these royal Turkeys retire?

Frying Pan Park !!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Spring forward, Fall back

Sun rises in the east and sun sets in west.

You should be thinking what big deal in that, everybody knows that. But one thing we usually don’t take into consideration is the time sun spends in each geography. Sun in certain period of year falls in love with that place so much so that he sets at 8 in the night and in another period he hates it so much that he sets early at 5 in evening.What this means in the uneven number of day light hours during different periods of years.

So how to balance this uneven day light?
Advance the time by one hour during summer months and once summer is over bring back the time by one hour. This concept is known as Spring forward, Fall back. This idea was first floated by Benjamin Franklin and it first got used in US during world war time.As of this year, DST begins for US at 2 am on first Sunday of April and time reverts to standard time at 2am on last Sunday of October.But in 2007, DST is going to extend for few more weeks.

US follows three different zones – Pacific Standard Time (PST), Central Standard Time (PST) and Eastern Standard Time (PST).What it means is when it is 8 am in west coast of US, it will be 11 am in Central US and 12 am in East Coast.Along with these three different time zones, which are already confusing, add Daylight Saving Time to make it a perfect chaos!

Same thing happened last week here after time was adjusted back one hour on last Sunday of October.I actually got up on a lazy Sunday morning at 11:30, but due to daylight saving it was 10:30.All gadgets which had daylight savings logic had automatically changed, but few were still showing 11:30 leaving me confused! So after confirming the time few times, I came to conclusion about the correct time!

But more confusion was yet to come in office.

After Daylight Saving Time got over, the time was adjusted back. But what everybody forgot was the fact that there are few areas in US like Arizona and Hawaii which don’t follow DST. So our system calculations based on date & time started behaving strangely in the first few days as the time zone setting was not taken into account for Arizona and other non-DST zones. It took some time to get into the bottom of problem.

But why they do they go for day light savings?
One of the major reasons being quoted is energy conservation. It is said that amount of electricity consumed depend on when sun sets and when people go to bed. As people have same bedtime through out the year, by artificially moving sunset one hour late, the amount of energy consumed is reduced. To prove this, there are statistics which shows that DST reduces the country’s electric usage by one percent.

DST also is said to increase opportunities for outdoor activities.Most people plan outdoor activities during the increased hours of daylight.Other benefits include lesser traffic accidents and lesser crimes!

By the way, this day light savings is not followed in every country. Countries close to north pole or south pole , the daylight period is longer in summer.In countries near equator or in the tropics,the day and night are nearly the same length.So DST is usually not useful in the tropics and in equator.

There is one interesting incident I read about this DST.
In September 1999, the Palestinian West Bank was on daylight saving time while Israel had just switched back to standard time. West Bank Palestinians prepared time bombs and smuggled them inside Israel to their men, who misunderstood the time on the bombs. As the bombs were being planted, they exploded—one hour too early—killing three terrorists instead of the intended victims—two busloads of people!!

Opponents of DST claim that there are not enough benefits of DST.Disturbed sleeping patterns, less productivity due to sleep-disrputed workers, accidents, confusion for people traveling are the several reasons to criticize DST.

I heard India also once tried DST when it was in war with Pakistan.

I’ll leave with you to think on this..
Supposing some lady gives birth to twins on the night when DST is reverted back.Say one child is born at 1:50 am.At 2 am the clock is turned back one hour.Now another child is born which actually is born at 2am but due to DST it is born at 1am, making it the older of two child even though it is the younger. Doesn’t it have legal effects in cases of properties or rights?

What do you say?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Halloween day & Spooky night!!


The ideas, thoughts and imaginations related to the ghosts/spirits are as old as the ghosts themselves. The ghosts form a significant part in every culture and each part of world has its own traditions related to ghosts.

One such tradition prevalent is Halloween Day.

Halloween day, most commonly associated with weird costume parties, spooky nights and candies. It is widely celebrated in United States, Canada, England & Ireland. These days, it is celebrated in other countries also.

I was amazed at the way, houses were decorated here for Halloween Day. Atleast 2 weeks before the Halloween day, there were Jack-O-Lanterns in front of each house. There were ghosts made of balloons & life-size ghost toys put up everywhere. More amazing was the way people were waiting eagerly for the day.

Loads of mails was sent in the office to discuss the dress code for the day.After much debate and voting it was decided that everybody would come in ‘Cow Boy’ dress to office on Halloween day!

The office on Halloween day was looking straight from the old Cow Boy movie. Most of them were in big check shirts and denim with the trademark Cowboy hats.

A part of office was decorated as an old cow boy bar with posters of ‘Most Wanted Cow boys’ pasted all across. There was even a funny skit which was about the outlaws la Cowboys fighting against the sheriffs. The skit was about cow-boy programmers who don’t want to follow any ‘Process Change Management’ and about Sheriffs who want everything to be process oriented. The dialogues were so humorous.

Another group of people in office had dressed up as aliens with antennas, one more group had dressed up as nerds, some other group as Egyptian Pharaohs. It was a welcome change to see such vivid images in office!!

For Chocolate buffs, there were tons of plenty of chocolates everywhere in office.On each of our desks were placed peanuts & chocolates!!

Back in apartment in the evening, I saw people roaming around wearing those ghost masks and dressed up like ghosts. There is an old belief that on Halloween day, ghosts/spirits would be back on earth and would be roaming around to get into the human body. By wearing those ghost masks & dresses, probably that was a way to confuse the ghosts and misguide them that people in those dresses were also part of ghost community!

Jack-o-lantern, which is a carved pumpkin lit by a candle inside, was placed on each doorsteps. Scary face carved on the pumpkins was one more way of frightening ghosts!

One more Halloween related tradition is 'treat or trick'.Children would go to each neighborhood house, knocking the doors and shout ‘trick or treat’. The house occupants would give chocolates, candies or sweets. Candy Apple was the hugely popular item that was given to kids on Halloween day. It was such a nice tradition where children were ‘officially’ allowed to go and demand chocolates, candies or sweets from anyone.

But nothing is allowed to remain straight and simple!

I read somewhere that act of ‘trick or treat’ went for serious scrutiny after rumors that the some individuals were embedding things like razors and pins in the apples that were given to children. The paranoid followed and the hysteria reached such a stage that few hospitals on Halloween day offered to X-ray the candy apple collections. Few incidents where the candy apples were ‘drugged’ or ‘poisoned’ were also reported. So that act of ‘trick or treat’ never remained same. These days I heard children rarely go out & collect candies.

These days the most popular thing is the Halloween night party where there will be costume party with people in all sorts of dresses and which has all the spicy ingredients required for making a ‘spooky night’!

I believe like any other old tradition, Halloween day is no more only about ‘ghosts’.It has acquired new dimensions. More over it has given a chance to people, to be something they are not and to do things which they always wanted to do. Ask anyone who went to Halloween party, they will agree with me!