Posts Tagged ‘design’

Cryptic crosswords

August 2, 2019

I love my morning cryptic crossword. It’s a very Brit thing…I am hopelessly addicted. I do the Deccan Herald every day; the compiler of the Eco Times crossword changed a while ago, and I am just getting to grips with the compiler’s mentality.

I like the Indian Express,too, and though it’s not my favourite, I do the Business Standard one too, just to keep my hand in with different compilers. The Hindu cryptic is a smug and self-satisfied crossword that I do not like, but I will do it if I can’t find anything else. But my great favourite is the cryptic crossword on Saturday in the Deccan Herald. It’s so witty…it often sets me laughing!

I remember the days in Chennai when the Eco Times had just been introduced; there were small prizes (such as cosmetics) for the first person to finish, and I loved winning all the junkola!

This morning, I posted a “Crossbird” in one of the birding groups I belong to; at once, someone called

Minchu Kulkarni

who works for


pinged me, and helped me make a proper online crossword of it. All the clues are names of birds (no technical stuff, just general names) can try it out


Have fun, and let me know how it went…it’s very simple indeed. Today’s learning…thank you, Minchu! Looking forward to learning more from you.

A walk in Linkoping, 170614

June 24, 2014

We started with the Linkoping Station.


Where the trains went to and fro busily:


where the amount of lumber being transported on one train was awe-inspiring:


PC ( Prashanth Chengi) was getting ready to click, too!


This sculpture looked as if Casper the Friendly Ghost and his friends were having a picnic there:


Here;s PC with the station in the background:


I clicked this



and this



But that was when the (European, not Eurasian!) buildings caught my eye:






this is not a black-and-white photo!







The same place, later in the dusk:


Some smaller touches were lovely, too:



What does this design mean?


I don’t know the story behind this statue:


I wish telephone manhole covers were always this interesting!


Sometimes, the best fashion is no fashion at all:


Magnet Madrass? ­čśÇ


this funeral parlor was right next to the Income Tax office!


I agree, bingo can be rotten, especially when you have ONE number left and everyone gets all the prizes before you:


Cobblestones are quaint, but they ruined the wheels on one of my suitcases!


Dusk falls only by about 10.30 pm:


Prashanth treated me to dinner at “Yogi”:


He had prawn Biryani, but the thought of the bill was apparently enough to prevent him from smiling:


But he smiled when I reminded him that we were celebrating his successful completion of both Halv-vattern (150 km) and the full Vatternrundan (300 km) on successive weekends!


We walked past this lovely seat on our way home:


The problems of travelling by Indian Railways

December 19, 2013


Steam locomotive on display at Guwahati Station, 011213

The Indian Railways 

has is one of the largest railway networks in the world. (Click on the link above to get facts and figures.)

Given its size and unwieldiness, it’s a remarkable organization. The trains are on time for the most part, and earlier delays (up to 24 hours, sometimes!) have been nearly eliminated. When Lalu Prasad Yadav was the Railway Minister, he won laurels for “revamping” the Railways. (The ultimate recognition….it’s a case-study at Harvard.)

But alas…the revamping seems to have brought out the vamp in the organization, and the passenger trains, it seems to me, seem to have a lot of problems. I am listing them, as I see them, here….I do appreciate many things about the railways,but these are outstanding minuses that cannot be wished away.

Awful online booking website.

The IRCTC website 

continues to be one of the least user-friendly websites I have ever used. It’s amazing that to date, on this site, I cannot book return tickets, and have to book each journey separately. It’s so difficult to use that I totally avoid options like break of journey. Very often, it ,can take hours to book one’s tickets on the site, and this enables bad practices like the using of agents and touts to get one’s tickets booked.

Booking dates:

The Railways recently brought back the 60-days-in-advance rule for booking journeys (it used to be 90 days), and this is obviously essential, given the kind of corruption and underhand practices that sometimes marks the booking of rail tickets. It also results in people who are planning ahead, booking the tickets on the date that the booking opens, and sitting on the bookings until they decide whether or not they will travel, or travel by that train. This means that many genuine travellers get only RAC (Reservation Against Cancellation) or WL (Waiting List) tickets, and do not know until much later if their tickets will get confirmed…and they get very uncomfortable side berths, about which I will write more, later.

Passengers still cannot choose their berths, or seats on day trains. Senior citizens can request lower berths, but other passengers must be content with what they get. Lights may not work, nor fans; the attendant is usually nowhere to be found, and it’s impossible to exchange one’s berth after allocation.

Maintenance of bogies and railway tracks:

The maintenance of the passenger bogies leaves much to be desired. I am still regularly able to see mice and rats in the bogies. All the bogies of the Bangalore-Guwahati Express, which I took on the 19th of November, were dirty and old, and a terrible place in which to spend 3 nights and 2 days, on a 3000 km journey. Even the newer bogies are, unfortunately, of very bad design, with heavy, unwieldy doors, a lack of electrical outlets for many passengers (except the random lucky ones).

The spaces between bogies are rapidly becoming a litter-deposit area, and railway employees think nothing of throwing all the trash out on to the tracks. I am unable to see a responsible method of disposing trash on the many journeys that I make.


(You can see the amount of trash on the tracks. Ahmedabad-Bangalore, 161213)

Air-conditioners in upper-class bogies may freeze the passengers, or let them swelter in an ill-ventilated space. To get the attendant to do something about the problem is tough, given their general invisibility (see below).

The windows, sealed in air-conditioned upper-class bogies, are usually very dirty, and on the Bangalore-Guwahati train, was impossible to see out of, creating a feeling of claustrophobia. On the journey from Ahmedabad to Bangalore, the window was dirty throughout the first day, and was cleaned at Hubli, at 7pm on the 2nd day. I have never otherwise seen the windows being cleaned during journeys. The lower class bogies have open windows, where the glass or steel shutters might be stuck, or come crashing down suddenly…and open windows expose the passengers to the filthy smell from the railway tracks.


Sealed windows on the air-conditioned bogies


My window on the Bangalore-Guwahati journey, 201113. (A/c 2-Tier coach)

Maintenance of toilets

The toilets, even on upper-class bogies, are an abomination. They still open directly on to the railway tracks. They are dirty, often without water, and the flushes just do not work properly, due to terribly bad design.


Upper class bogies are supposed to have attendants in, well, attendance. But usually, they are nowhere to be found, after they hand out the bedding at the start of the journey and it’s impossible to get anything repaired or rectified.

Bedrolls and towels

Bedding (provided free in the upper class bogies) can often be damp from washing, torn, and frayed. Towels are supposed to be provided, too, but are usually not given. Sometimes, pestering the attendant, when he appears with the bedding, works.


The food on the railways is under contract, and this is increasingly result in in a combination of awful food and beverages, and overcharging in the most blatant way. I just wrote a blogpost about the recent increase in food rates


Food is a major issue on long journeys. Good food is just not available. I explored the internet sites of a few caterers, but they want a minimum order of Rs.1500 and are not interested in individual passenger orders. So passengers are still at the mercy of the contract vendors.

Lack of information about the running of the train

The lack of the attendant also means that most passengers do not get any information about whether the train is running on time, or not. Even trains which have display boards only have meaningless messages and advertisements running on the LED display, and no useful information about the next station or how long the train is doing to stop there. In the middle of the night, passengers do not even know which station the train has halted at. My train back from Ahmedabad (AII-Mysore Exp, no. 16209) was due in Bangalore at 3.15am…and I kept awake all night for fear of falling asleep and missing the station. And when there are multiple stations in a single city (eg, Krishna Raja Puram, Bangalore East, Cantonment, and City on the train mentioned above), one has to constantly go to the door, risking one’s luggage, to find out where one is.


Shanties along the railway tracks, Guwahati-Bangalore, 031213.

Waiting list confirmations and side-berth issues

The side berths on the bogies are charged at the same rate as the regular berths, but are far less comfortable, and can often result in great difficulty for the passengers, as they are in the high-traffic area, and cannot get out of the way. The side berths are much shorter, and are allotted to passengers who have been confirmed after being on the waiting list. This is very unfair to passengers who have paid the same as those who are occupying the more comfortable berths. Sometimes senior citizens on the waiting list are allotted upper berths, and have great difficulty climbing up to sleep, especially if they have to visit the toilet once or twice at night.

Safety issues:

Theft of luggage and mobile phones seems to be very common on long-distance trains, and there is absolutely no way one can report theft, unless one is prepared to pull the chain and make everyone wait. My 82-year-old fellow passenger and I had our mobiles stolen in broad daylight when returning from Guwahati, and on the journey from Ahmedabad to Bangalore, another passenger had his mobile stolen. Most passengers just curse their luck and are helpless, as they discover the loss later, there is no attendant to complain to, and the Railway Police never make their appearance on the train.


Travelling Ticket Examiner on train, 031213, Guwahati to Bangalore


An incredible array of vendors seem to frequent the aisles at all times on long journeys, and it is difficult to accept that their presence does not have the endorsement of the Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) or the attendant. Some of these vendors could also be opportunistic thieves.


One of the many vendors on the trains, Guwahati-Bangalore, 211113

So…while the railways are very useful (and I must express deep appreciation for the fact that senior citizens get 40% off the train charges if male, and 50% if female…a discrimination I have never been able to figure out), it takes a lot of stamina and resolve to spend a couple of days on a train, and make the journey with Indian Railways. I do…and I think of myself as an intrepid traveller.

Design matters in the smallest of things…

March 6, 2013

I buy a certain brand of bra, which has adjustible straps, and a plastic doohickey to connect the bra to the strap.

I wore my newest one, and got the feeling that there were pins in the bra. (No laughing,folks, that’s REALLY what I felt.)

So I took it off and inspected the bra carefully, and

bra strp 040313 stl photo DSC01527.jpg

These doohickeys are obviously pressed in a series, and then broken off and fitted to the bras…in the process, no one thought of that tiny, sharp “thorn” on the piece, which would dig wickedly into soft skin.

Why can’t our manufacturing process use a little imagination? Oh…no…that would make them HUMAN!

I had to heat up a knife and melt that spur off….ah, the relief!

The Innovation Trap

March 29, 2012

Harish Bhat, who is a friend on Facebook, and posts a lot of interesting stuff, posted about

the flexible e-paper display launch .

Though I am impressed by the innovation in terms of material use and invention, I still feel that products like this fall into what I call the classic Innovation Trap.

The Innovation Trap is the phenomenon of designers being blinkered and hobbled by designs and forms that they are familiar with. In the case of the product above, it seems to be the goal to get as close in appearance as possible to laminated resemble some form of actual paper. But one wonders why that resemblance is needed at all.

The classic example of the Innovation Trap was when automobiles started being designed. Being familiar only with horse-drawn carriages, early cars looked boxy and square, exactly like the old carriages. It took a while to realize that though it was irrelevant for horse-drawn carriages, for cars, aerodynamics would improve the efficiency, and that the shape of the automobile must be very different from that of a carriage.

This problem was once again demonstrated when, in the era of tailfins and long lines, with the cars looking like ships, the VW Beetle was introduced. It was pronounced an ugly car…when it was actually very functional in design, and hence very beautiful.

In similar fashion, there is no need for outer-space-only spacecraft to have the sleek, aerodynamic, cigar-shaped look of the rockets that lift off from the Earth’s atmosphere. Since they operate in a vacuum, and there is no resistance from the atmosphere, outer-space-only craft (I am sure there is a technical name, very scientific) for such vehicles), they can look as clunky as they want to be, with antennae, and solar panels, and such, sticking out in all directions. Maybe design has to take into account the possibility of an aerial snapping when hit by a passing meteor, but in general, it does not need the shape that a craft that needs to enter the Earth’s atmosphere should have, to reduce the friction and heat of re-entry.

Another example of this is the “qwerty” keyboard, that is still widely in use. I know that many computer techies (like ) use

the Dvorak keyboard

and many mobile phones and keyboards have an “abcd” keyboard; but the majority of all keyboards still use the “qwerty”, which does have many problems. But…it’s as if we, when used to something, are often unwilling to conceive of

something different .

This applies also when someone has made a true innovation. When Sony built the Walkman, for years, we saw me-too’s flooding the market. Now the iPad and the iPhone are cool things to imitate…even when their drawbacks are quite apparent.

I suppose one may also call it “design fashion”. One particular design becomes the “norm” and other designs, even if better, fall by the wayside sometimes, and are not commercial successes. The cathedral of “That’s the way things are always done” seems to loom large on the skyline of design, and sometimes real creativity is sacrificed at its altar.

How long it took for the no. of camera exposures to be counted downwards, or the fuel guage on cars to show how many miles the fuel available was good for (varying with the speed of the car) rather than just showing how much petrol was in the tank! With the innovation, one could get the actual information one really wants…how many exposures are left, and how many miles one can drive the car for. (Most cars in India still have only the old-fashioned petrol guages.)

But in spite of the Innovation Trap, true innovation and creativity continues to happen, and that’s the great thing about the human mind….!

An architect….

October 26, 2011

LS was a math major in college; after her sons were born and were in school, she decided to study architecture. A few years ago, she took the very tough 9-part licentiate exam and qualified to practice on her own.


is her website…Wave House is her own home, designed and built recently. I’ve visited there a couple of times…it’s a warm home, not just an “architect-designed house”.

I am proud that my daughter is her daughter-in-law!

Good Queue Design….

July 26, 2011

Good design is needed everywhere, not just in consumer products and clothes. In the early hours of the morning, after about 22 hours in the aircraft or at the gates of various airports, we had to jockey around, to join the various queues in front of the Immigration counters, trying to speculate which line would mean the least waiting time. Surely, a common queue, with the passenger at the head of the line going to the next available counter, would have been far more efficient (and, therefore,a better design) than these separate queues, especially when officials ask people to move from one line to another, which results in further chaos. Good design is people-friendly…but it always needs some imagination.

The difference….

July 5, 2011

If it is “Manjunatha Stores”, selling cotton shirts, they will be Rs.200.

But if it is “Nutmeg Boutique ” selling cotton shirts by Arpit Arora (random name I just made up), whose “work is driven by a passion for fabrics”, “synergizes old crafts and new methods”, and “explores the future of textiles”, the same shirts will be Rs.20,000…or whatever the aforementioned Arpit Arora can get away with.

These cotton shirts will be wrinkled, baggy articles of clothing in only the dullest of shades, often in weird designs, and will be worn by the dahlings on Brigade Road who say, “I caaan’t bear synthetics you know!” and light up their cigarettes as they go back to their chauffeur-driven SUV’s.

I once saw an ad for “designer handkerchiefs”. I am not kidding. Each hanky was about Rs.500. I would be afraid to use a hanky like that IF I ever bought one. How do you design a hanky?

I love good design, but I hate the fact that the word “design” seems only restricted to clothes, cars and furniture, and seems always equivalent to “ramp up the price”.

Good design is an integral part of EVERYTHING. Will write more about the design of (to take a random example) Delmar Loop Station on the St.Louis Metro….later!

Bus Stop Design

May 11, 2011

I find that BBMP/BMTC combination has been experimenting with various designs for bus stops…but still, a very vital piece is missing from almost every bus stop that I see. This…is a board that should, at the very least, announce what bus routes are going through the stop. Why is there no provision for this essential piece of information on any bus stop, when there seems to be so much space devoted to advertising?

Another instance of the BMTC/BBMP being less user-friendly than they should be. All it takes is a little imagination..or observation, when our top officials go junketing to Singapore to “learn” from the public transport there.

Slight Design Improvements that God could make…

April 30, 2009

If babies could come with

a. A zipper to open and stuff good, nutritious food into, and

b. A volume control, and

c. A no-poop no-pee policy….

they would be ideal!