Thursday, February 23, 2012

The best gadget for you

Men are born speco-file - we have the innate urge to compare everything we own in terms of measurable data, comparing them to 3 decimal places, and declaring something a winner. We just can't help it - when we read a review, we jump straight to the comparison section. 

Our buying decisions, the joy of owning something, our social prestige somehow depends on these small differences. If your fast car is revealed to be 0.02 sec slower than model X in 0-100 kmph drag test, life somehow loses all its meaning!

I was no different, but a few episodes over time have changed me somewhat.

Being a motorbike freak, I was looking to buy a new one. The usual modus operandi - pouring over magazines, websites, blogs - comparing data on BHP, torque, acceleration and everything else. Generally getting confused. A friend helpfully guided me to a web-site that had everything on bikes, but do you think these things help? 

While salivating over the sexily shot pictures I came across one small paragraph  near the end. As I loosely recall, it brusquely asked the readers not to worry about the specifications - unlikely that you amateurs would ever push limits - and basically any bike featured would be fabulous for you. Buy whatever your most trusted dealer offers you, as getting it serviced reliably would be your main concern once you own

Trust me, it read PROFOUND to me then. And has served me extremely well since.

The second involved my tennis skill (or the lack of it). Having taken to tennis as part of my keep fit regimen, I was soon consumed by desire to improve it. String type, racket balance, shoes, grip everything went through a makeover without any effect. Like every aspiring tennis player, I blamed my racket for it and went shopping. 

I had a friend accompanying me. Exhaustive search, trial swings and game analysis later, a $450 beaut of a Wilson was my baby. Sharing I tried persuading him to buy it too. The guy was ass-hole to reply "it's OK, I know the limitation in my game is due to my ability, not my equipment"! Well, that ass-hole saved me 300 bucks with his remark!

So sometime back, when I wanted to buy a dSLR, I lapped up a review of Nikon D90 which asked in the end - "D90 is very capable, the question is - are you?". I calmly went ahead and bought a D40. Great buy. I have only recently upgraded to a D7000 after being somewhat confident that I need a better one.

So if you feel caught up in the specifications-war just remember - what do you want it for? And stick by your answer.


A Chaotic Welcome

Nigeria believes in making a good first impression! 

Murtala Mohammad Airport in Lagos is such a joy, easily being one of the most confusing places in the world, where order clashes with chaos & technology with human ingenuity. Where logic comes cropper against whimsical bureaucracy, and where passenger comfort is as scarce as clothes in a porn flick. It's a fascinating place nevertheless - IF you can detach yourself from the surroundings and attain nirvana enough to watch everything uncritically. 

Normally, I love a bit of disorder - at some level it indicates a sign of growth where there is little time to make thing perfect through endless repetitions of the same routine. Things have to adapt to the new and simultaneously keep functioning, even if barely. 

Nigeria must be growing furiously.

Chaos/disorder is not just the preserve of Nigeria - most of the developing world is afflicted by it. A crush of poor humanity being served by insufficient resources rarely produce order. Apathy adds the devilish twists in the tale. Airports are just a part of the whole problem. 

A pattern begins to emerge after you have been through experience a few times. Some will strike you in the face even if you are not very observant:

  • Logic is for fools: most processes would amaze you with sheer stupidity. Lagos airport has two separate queues for Nigerians/Non-Nigerians, enforced strictly, but merge into one just before the immigration desk! Libreville (Gabon) visa-on-arrival process has 3-4 different people doing the same thing and managing to misplace documents with amazing regularity. Ivory Coast will fingerprint you scrupulously every time you pass through - not sure what they do with that data. 
  • Employment generation: seems to be the single aim of any process. Period. In Ghana, relatively well-ordered, 8 different people checked my passport before I reached the aircraft (5-7 people is normal). A Nigerian immigration desk has 3 people - one to look at your immigration sip, another to look through your passport and the 3rd to stamp it.
  • User comfort: Is a concept successively bred out of bureaucracy. After nearly de-clothing you in process of security check, they won't even provide a chair to sit yourself back in order. There would be some chairs, but a posse of security guards would be occupying it. Toilets would be on another floor. Walkways that go in just one direction if at all. Boarding gates that would change without notice. The works!
But what makes up for all this is friendliness and helping attitude of ordinary people. Most would be unfailingly polite, courteous and quick to lend a helping hand. And if you are willing to tip, everything is possible.

Let's raise a toast to these ordinary folks! May you get what you have spent a life-time hoping for. And not succumbing to pressures of simply surviving.