Sir Terry Pratchett

I have a rational fear of very prolific authors: if they're good, I won't be able to resist reading everything they've written. And I was right to be afraid. After nearly a decade of trying to avoid it, I finally read my first[1] Terry Pratchett book. Well, I wasn't using my free time very productively, so it should OK if I don't do anything but binge-read for the next few months… I hope.

I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard, or a particularly clever use of the English language made me highlight whole paragraphs of dialogue on my Kindle. Here are some of the particularly interesting bits from Guards! Guards!:

Vimes had never mastered ambition. It was something that happened to other people.

He was vaguely aware that he drank to forget. What made it rather pointless was that he couldn't remember what it was he was forgetting anymore. In the end he just drank to forget about drinking.

His age was indeterminate. But in cynicism and general world weariness, which is a sort of carbon dating of the personality, he was about seven thousand years old.

That's the Ankh-Morpork instinct, Vimes thought. Run away, and then stop and see if anything interesting is going to happen to other people.

If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn't as cynical as real life.

The sun rose higher, rolling through the mists and stale smoke like a lost balloon.

He moved the cleaver to his other hand and hammered at the chains again, aware at the back of his mind that more guards were hurrying up, but with that special kind of run that guards had. He knew it well. It was the run that said, there's a dozen of us, let someone else get there first. It said, he looks ready to kill, no one's paying me to get killed, maybe if I run slowly enough he'll get away… No point in spoiling a good day by catching someone.

This was no time for half measures. He was a captain, godsdammit. An officer. Things like this didn't present a problem for an officer. Officers had a tried and tested way of solving problems like this. It was called a sergeant.

  1. I read “Guards! Guards!”. There are many other starting points for venturing out on the Discworld, I recomend checking this reading-order guide.  ↩

No more FeedBurner

With Google shutting down Reader, I don’t think FeedBurner is going to stay for long.

This blog’s official feed address has always been; but I’ve been redirecting it to a FeedBurner URL so far. I’ll stop doing that this weekend. This shouldn’t affect anyone who’s subscribing (all four of them!), but you may want to re-check your feed reader anyway.

PS: It’s done. If you are seeing this update, you are subscribing to the right feed!

Cashless travel on B.E.S.T. buses in Mumbai

I recently found out that the local buses in Mumbai have started a RFID-based scheme for cashless travel. I’m writing this as I didn’t find much information about this online, and I hope my experiences are helpful to others.

How this whole thing works

  1. It’s a simple pre-paid card. Instead of offering cash for a bus ticket, you hand over the card.

  2. It is not a bus pass, each journey does require getting a ticket.

  3. The ticket will print out your remaining balance so you can keep an eye on it and top up[1] if required.

How do you get this thingy

This is the hard part.

  1. You have to go to your local bus depot first. I’m not sure if all depots have this facility; most major ones do.

  2. Find the counter that handles RFID cards (by asking around), then fill out a form with your name, phone number, email address & date of birth. (You will need to pay 25 bucks to get this form.)

  3. You’ll have to be photographed on the spot, but it’s done pretty quickly via a webcam.

  4. Wait for a week. Then go back and pick up your card.

  5. Once you have the card, you need to put some cash in. Do this at the same counter; you’ll need to keep a Rs. 50 minimum balance regardless of how much you put in.

My thoughts

Using the card is pretty seamless; I love not needing to worry about spare change when I’m traveling. But the process to get this card is cumbersome.

Since this is a pre-paid card, not a bus-pass, I don’t see the need to have photo identification. It should be equivalent to cash, and be available on the spot. As the process is annoyingly hard right now, most (sane) people would rather just keep paying cash.

Right now, there is no way to recharge the card online, though this may change later. You have to go back to a bus depot if you are running out of cash on the card.

Also, this last point is pretty creepy, or interesting; depending on how much you value your privacy: visit this page on B.E.S.T.’s site and enter your card details and you should be able to see a complete log of all trips you had undertaken using the card. This may be pretty informative, but I can’t help but wonder about the privacy implications. It would be so much better if B.E.S.T. had went with anonymous, disposable cards instead of tying everything with your identity…

  1. Ugh, I hate using that word but it’s what B.E.S.T. officially uses.  ↩