A recent article on Wired.com reveals some of the underlying conditions that make the Ipod, and other Apple products both extremely difficult to obtain and extremely coveted– feeding an illegal black market.
While Windows machines enjoy low prices because they’re produced locally, Apple Computer products have to make their way from production facilities in China. Along the way, they pick up several cost-inflating customs stamps.
Shopkeepers have responded by smuggling huge loads of illegal iPods and MacBooks from Singapore, Dubai and Malaysia.
As a result, it’s now almost impossible to buy any Apple product legally.
“You can’t buy Apple in India. I have to fly out of the country every month to get more,” said Om Gani, proprietor of a hole-in-the-wall stall in Burma Bazaar, Chennai’s most notorious illegal market.
A big thanks to the great dentists at Apolo Clinnic, in Koramangala, Bangalore. They fixed a slight gap in in my front teeth (caused by not wearing a retainer after braces) without using crowns or changing any part of my natural teeth (US dentists told me that it would require a cap). This procedure was much less invasive and was really inexpensive. What they did was widen and extend my incisor using fillings– so in the future, another dentist can just chip it away and fill it again, if necessary. Very professional! Total cost was 1500 rupees (around $30 US). If I did it in the US, the dentists probably would have drilled down my tooth and put a porcelin cap over it. A much more invasive procedure (and more expensive, probably around $400 US).
Last Friday we formed a little group for some river rafting action at Cauvery/Kalvery about 80 kilometers south-west from Bangalore. Much like anything else in India, it’s the officials that are the most problematic. And the monkeys.
After an hour or drive, we stopped by some villages for some firewood. Don’t bother, it’s a waste of time, as firewood can be found at the various camping sites near the river. For the foreigner and anyone else, bring a lot of cash so that you can bribe the various officials who will demand permission slips that don’t exist or otherwise hard to find. Also, various villages will attempt to block your path in order to exact a toll.
Be sure to ask whether a specific camp ground has a temple nearby, as the cooking of non-veg products is frowned upon and impetus for more fines. Do bargain and haggle, and don’t be afraid, but as we learned, too much of that can lead to bigger fines (although a few negotiating tactics including europeans and americans along with our indian friends acting confused and frightened helped it a little bit) On the whole, it should not be more than 1000 in fees and such (this is a high end estimate, if you bargain, as we also had transportation across the river to a nice secluded island of sorts).
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Yesturday was a good day for me in terms of exposure. Desipundut.com very courteously linked my site on their site. Quickly following that, blogger Sudha, and blogging site Bangalore Bytes both made some positive comments.
Sudha’s recent article is a thoughtful piece on the subject of skin color– something that I’ve come to realize is a reality wherever you go. In the USA, South America, Mexico, Korea, China, Japan, Phillipines, Africa, — heck whereever you go, the “fairer” colored are favored. How much of that is western influence I do not know, but I do know that this prejudice has deep roots.
Bangalore Bytes remarks with skepticism on the recent hoopla over the pesticide content in soft drinks. As an avid addict to Coke (no, not the drug, silly), of the diet kind, it’s been a struggle for me to decide whether to continue drinking the stuff here. In the end, anyway, I’m an addict, and I think I’ll stick with my daily routine of 2-3 (or more) soft drinks a day.
The general demographics of bloggers seem to be mostly people in the IT and tech industries. I’m perhaps not the best person to convince others of the fallacies of that notion, but it seems to follow the trends I remember in the early 2000s. Pretty soon, you’ll have the likes of webcam girls (in the Bollywood style) with hordes of male bloggers vying for attention. Then you’ll have the general subversion of mass media by the growing power of Indian bloggers. Prediction: Expect to see major political scandals revealed exclusively through blogs, if it hasn’t happened already.
An interesting piece by Slate.com explains the importance of the Internet in modern political campaigning.
I didn’t really perk up, as everything was rather obvious, but this quote caught my eye.
There was an argument over whether Lieberman had reserved only 10 gigabytes per month, or, as his campaign insisted, 200. “Bandwidth” was the word of the day. Lamont aides, offering to send Lieberman a techie, suggested that the senator could rely temporarily on Google’s cache of his site. Lieberman’s tech consultant pleaded his case, explaining that the campaign had upgraded its traffic capacity to handle video circulation.
Yesterday, Times reporters tried to contact the company that hosts Lieberman’s site. “Executives at Server Matrix did not return phone calls seeking comment,” the paper reports. Next time, try e-mail.
Since Servermatrix is the host of this web site and my other sites (some of which use up hundreds of gigabytes a month, to the tune of half a terabyte), and the minimum bandwidth allocated by the dedicated hosting is 1000 gigabytes, it looks like poor Lieberman went to a reseller (who only allocated him 10 or 200, neither which is sufficient for the amount of video traffic that Lieberman and a web saavy Democratic base would use), or the facts given by the spokesman is wrong. Most likely, I’m guessing Lieberman went with a cheapie reseller and got burnt. Lesson? Pay for dedicated hosting if your election is on the line!
Bonus explanation: Here is Servermatrix’s cheapest plan, at $120 a month. Notice the 1.5 terabyte of bandwidth allocated? That’s 1500 gigabytes a month! Further proof that he probably went with a reseller who happened to use Servermatrix dedicated servers to resell a dozen or more sites.
Bonuser explanation part deux: The table design that his webmasters threw up is ugly. Guys… have an emergency mirror next time. Isn’t the max donation a thousand dollars per individual? Then PLEASE pay for dedicated server for a year and get another one somewhere else. It’ll only take Joe’s cousin and his wife to each cough up a thousand bucks to pay for all the hosting you’ll need.
We have a few neighborhood kids around our office, and most of the time they are great. Today, I stepped away from my computer for a few minutes and went outside, avoiding a puddle of water which happened to be there. Unfortunately, one of the kids decided to toss a water balloon into our office lobby.
The security guard was angry. Tom, one of the marketing guys at my office, asked the security guard what had happened. After a few moments of charades, we determined it was the tall, chubby kid (much taller at age 12 than he ought to be, actually), who often flitters around the office, unwelcome and annoying (although perfectly fine outside of our gates, he is quite a loud and chatty kid), threw a water balloon into the lobby. Presumubly for attention. The security guard motioned to me and barely contained his anger, and he said, “Sir, I am here 4 hours of the day and 4 hours at night, and this is my only duty. My only duty. My manager made a mention to me. I am greatly mentally disturbed, sir. Greatly.”
If you are obviously a foreigner, it may seem difficult to bargain or haggle on items. With some items you can bargain as much as 20% of the original price (80% off the original price). Here are some tips:
- Be prepared to walk away. You can probably find that t-shirt somewhere else for a lot cheaper. That being that, know what the standard price is for items. A tshirt for 100 rupees can be found– a brand name knock off can be found for 200-300 rupees.
- If you are buying a lot of stuff, it’s easier to bargain. My favorite tactic is bargain a price for two items. Then add about 3 more items. A 1000 rupees, equivalent to around 20 US dollars, is quite a chunk of change, and it’s eaiser to bargain when you make it more profitable for the merchant. Then ask the total price for the 5 items– he will most likely give you a non discounted price taking into account the 5 items you now have. Now bargain for a little bit. Then if he won’t budge, then take away the additional 3 items you purchased. He will budge, of course. That will usually give you another 5% – 10% in savings.
- Don’t ever be pressured into buying anything on the street. Just say no. If a no won’t work and they start to pull at your shirt, then snap your arms and give them a ridiculously low price (1 ruppee for a t-shirt, for example). If they still won’t leave you alone, then don’t be afraid to use an authoritative voice. This tactic works when there is a lot of people around, since you don’t see venders in uncrowded spots. Be aware if it’s a deserted road, since they might not be a merchant at all.
- Brand names of all kinds can be found in Bangalore– made in Thailand and are usually good facimilles, although the quality isn’t there. You’ll see all kinds of brands: Gucci, Chanel, Coach, Diesel, etc. Be aware that these are nowhere near the quality of the real thing (they start to fray after a day or two), but some items, such as t-shirts, are just as good as the real thing. Bags, not so much.
- If buying pirated DVD’s, be sure to ask if it’s a good quality. They will usually be honest. That being that, buying a lot of stuff will make you friends really quickly.
- Like anywhere else, if you are a former customer, expect better service. It’s also easier in Bangalore to be a good customer than in a lot of places, since everything is much more inexpensive.
- NEVER agree to the first “agreed” upon figure the merchant throws out. Walk away. He might call out an even lower figure. Don’t worry about him making a good profit, he will never sell lower than what he needs.
- If the merchant throws out the standard line of wanting to eat, needs to feed his family, etc, use some sarcastic acting. Remark at how big his store is and how many employees he has, and how you didn’t get to where you are by being an idiot. Or say that you agree, he will go out of business rather quickly if this one transaction will make or break him. The delivery is important– keep it light-hearted. Both of you will laugh and possibly drop the price down a little.
- Keep two sets of wallets. One with a small amount of money, and the other with a lot of money. In fact, it’s better for haggling purpose to just pull money from your pocket. If the quoted figure is 600 rupees, maybe pull out a 500 and say that’s all you have. And walk away.
Remember at all times that if it’s not profitable for the merchant, he wouldn’t be selling it to you. So haggling won’t put him out of business– that’s his responsiblity. It’s your responsibility to not get ripped off.
We hung up a little swing next to our office over a big tree. We had a crowd of dozens watching our every move, and afterwards, everyone wanted to join in on the fun. An elderly man walked by with his grandchildren and his face brimmed with pride as he plopped them on top of the swing.
Certainly a hit!
A fruit wagon. Cheap and ripe fruit.
I thought the coloring of this apartment complex looked interesting. 100 feet away is the slums. Another 100 feet away is an amazing gated complex.
The gated complex.
This is a few minutes walk from the gated complex. They were happy to take multiple photos and were thrilled and posed for many shots.
This is right outside of a church. Notice the nails serving as a make shift barbed wire. The church is heavily protected and enclosed with thick stone walls. Around the corner is what appears to be a beggars den, and just a bit further is where people urinate and defacate.
So I was eating at this sandwhich roll place (pretty good actually), when I noticed a scrawny kid peering through the window. As I stepped out, he gave the usual beggar hand pose. Knowing that many just want money (it’s quite a racket here, with people renting babies that cry so that people will feel more inclined to give them money or buy a trinket from them, and it’s run by various criminal organizations), I kindly said no, and offered to buy him food.
Uncharacteristically for beggars, and much of a change from the usual, and quite a shock to me, he actually said yes. So we walked to a near by store, and I did what every American does when he sees a scrawny kid asking for food. I offered to buy a nice expensive Snickers bar. He actually said no, and pointed to orange juice, which was a lot cheaper. I paid for the orange juice, one of those little paper cartons that juices used to come in, and I have to say, I’ve never seen anyone suck juice out of a box so quickly. He actually crunched up the box to get all of it out. He made a double bicep guesture in a show of bravado, and put the box in his pants, smiled, and waved good bye. I walked away shaking my head.