Poor experience with Cathay Pacific.

I live in Vancouver, Canada. I was visiting India during the festival season. My fight was from YVR to CCU via HKG and back. Cathay Pacific all through. I was carrying with me my DSLR and lenses and also my laptops and my ipad so that I can take photos of the festivals. When I boarded my flight from Vancouver, everything went smoothly and no one complained about my carry on luggage weight. I was carrying mostly my laptops and my camera + lenses with my carry on. I also had some basic minimal spare clothes and couple of small books for light reading.

When I was checking in for my flight back to YVR from CCU, the person at the check in counter started complaining about the check in baggage weight. I told him that I had only my laptops and my camera and I could not check them into my check in bags. When he insisted further, I took some stuff out from my carry on, like some light books and some computer external drives, some clothes etc which I thought were safe to check in and I put them into my check in bag. Still the guy kept complaining that I should reduce the weight further. I was not comfortable with putting my expensive lenses and laptops in the check-in baggage. So I asked him to call his supervisor. The supervisor came and he said I should check in one carry on as an extra bag. Normally back in Vancouver, when a passenger carried an over sized bag or a bag with extra weight, some airlines (Air Canada and Emirates I can vouch personally) would check-in your carry on without an extra charge. The supervisor of this airline said he would have to charge for this extra check in. I would have no problem doing that and I would pay extra if needed only if I was confident that my camera and lenses were safe in check-in. I asked the supervisor whether the airline can take responsibility for my expensive electronics and he said he can’t give me that guarantee. He also said that electronics was not legally allowed in check-in. So here I am, with my stuff which I can neither take in my carry-on nor I can check it in. If I checked it in, it would be fully on my own responsibility. I told him that, had the airline mentioned me their issue with the weight when I was leaving Vancouver, I would have left my stuff back home. However, here in Kolkata I can’t leave my stuff. I am stuck. The supervisor said (and I felt offended by his remark), that he did not know if I had brought the camera and laptops  from Vancouver or whether I bought them here. Why would I lie? I can produce receipts for my laptops and camera lenses and my camera if needed. They were all bought in North America. After much debate, I asked the supervisor for his business card and he did not have any. When I wanted to take a photo of him and his airline ID (so that I could refer this matter to the airline support later on), he did not allow me to take photo of his ID or himself.  Back in Vancouver, when you get into an accident and are required to share information with the other person, most people gladly allow their driver’s license to be photographed. Here, apparently, the guy got concerned about his privacy and hence refused me (BUT he never said that to me – if he did, I would probably somehow find a pen and paper and note down his name). Now, I did not have a pen and paper handy to take down the name. The thought of taking a quick note on my cellphone notebook app did not cross my mind at that time. Even if it did, there are two issues. I could make a typo and get the name wrong. Secondly, more importantly, there could be two persons with the exact same name. Taking a picture of the entire airline ID with all info and designation and location is a pretty straight forward approach and I can’t imagine why someone would deny that in the absence of any business card. I took the photo of the person in the check-in counter and a picture of his ID (and of course I am not going to disclose that information here to protect his privacy – it goes without saying). 

In any case, I was forced to leave the airport (I went through security formalities again). I left one of my bags with a relative who had come to see me off and take only my camera bag along with my laptop bag with me. When I went back, the guy at the counter, a different guy this time, continued to complain about the weight. They showed no urgency or attitude that a valuable passenger is in the dangerous risk of missing his flight. Most airlines back in North America shows some courtesy. There was simply NONE from Cathay Pacific. While we were figuring out weights again, this supervisor conveniently now came forward on his own and reminded the person at the counter that the time window for checking into flight had closed. The guy at the counter immediately refused to check me in. I was disgusted at this point and I left the airport and came back home with the relative. While on our drive back, I called my trusty travel agent and promptly booked another return flight with a much better and well known carrier out of CCU.

I have flown many times from CCU to YVR with various airlines, Qatar, Emirates, China Eastern, British Airways and Lufthansa in the last 10 years. I have never had this issue. No airline which I have used from Vancouver or elsewhere showed so much lack of courtesy, disrespect for their passengers and utter incompetence. This was my first time using Cathay.

Upon returning home, I did some Googling. Cathay Pacific is running business at a loss. Their shareholders are losing money and they are trying very hard to regain profitability. It seems to me that this is an evil tactics to sell an empty vacant seat at an extraordinary high price to some last minute traveller.

Due to cut throat competition, many airlines have resorted to bad tactics, smaller leg rooms, restrictions on carry-ons, charging extra for a cary-on (oh that would be such a good solution for me in this particular instance), cheaper food, poor in flight services etc. A 7kg limit on carry ons is not reasonable for anyone who carries electronics (a laptop, an iPad and a DSLR would in itself overshoot this limit). The good airlines recognize that and respect their passengers by giving some leeway (particularly true for long haul flights which take you across the world). If they complain about weights, they do it at source, at the start of the journey, not in the return journey when the passenger is stuck.

Maybe these days, we should revise our expectations from some commercial airline carriers. Missing a flight is probably better than getting dragged off the flight by force.

After this experience, I will never ever use Cathay again in the near future. I have never used Cathay before this trip and I am pretty happy with other airlines which I have dealt with in the past. I suggest those who fly Cathay Pacific be aware of this experience and either spend extra money and fly a better airline (one that cares about its customers) or be extremely cautious of Cathay and take appropriate precautions.


Note 1: I did report this incident to Cathay Pacific support. They came back 2 days later with a reply “sorry for your experience but our ground staff acted on the guidelines” BS. I didn’t think they would provide financial compensation given that the company incurred huge losses last year and are resorting to this kind of ugly tactics. I expected someone senior to give me a call and give his personal assurance that things would be looked into and appropriate changes/amends would be made including removal of employees who did not act in a manner that would be courteous or helpful to their valued passengers. None so far. Instead I got an annoying DM on twitter saying “would you spare a couple of minutes to give us the feedback on the support you received” crap. I have blocked them on twitter and don’t intend to respond to any of their messages.


Open Mind.

We live in a strange world today. Technology has created an environment where getting data and crunching numbers becomes easy. Once the numbers has been crunched, social media has enabled us to publish the data and our own thoughts and interpretation on it. The data and the interpretation is then consumed by the mass population in an instant through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. There has never been a time where social networks has been such powerful platform for interacting with the mass population and potentially influencing them. This has created a very interesting opportunity for cunning crafty individuals who can potentially use this medium towards their advantage.

Throughout history politicians and other cunning individuals have tried to present a biased one sided information to the population in a way that benefits only them. When some enlightened people have attempted to remove the blindfold, they have been silenced. The War is a good example. Joseph Goebbels successfully put blindfold over the Germans during the War. When enlightened educated individuals such as Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans Scholl tried to raise awareness, they were executed by the SS.

Unfortunately, manipulating the mass population by individuals and certain media exists even today. It is said that the Russians manipulated the 2016 US elections by publishing fake news through Facebook and other social media. The extent of the influence is still debatable. News media constantly produce biased news content and their biased interpretation of the data ( although being a liberal, I find CNN pretty annoying because they constantly criticize Mr. Trump even though some of Trump’s decisions needs applause). Campaign managers, politicians, bankers, salespersons, car dealers and even recruiters always use crafty mechanism to influence their customers and clients. They publish an interpretation of the data that benefits only them. They will highlight only those facts that portray them positively and hide and downplay data that are negative. For example, fund managers highlights funds that show decent returns and silently kills funds which have failed. There are no such brochures which highlight their failed mutual fund products. They will change the names of the funds to hide their weakness. Car dealers will never ever tell you the faults or weaknesses of the used car. They will downplay accident reports and even mislead and misinform you if they find you naive. Recruiters do the same. They use strong market conditions to highlight how strong their numbers are. They will not hesitate to hide important details from their clients which would falsify their strong apparent position. They also paint a rosy picture based on cherry picking good numbers. During a downturn they go hide in the caves.

Social media is a powerful tool in the hands of such individuals. Manipulation happens constantly, every day in our lives. In fact, we live in a world where we constantly get biased manipulated information through social media. In fact, one has to constantly fight and spend enormous amount of time and energy to dig deep to obtain the truth. These fact manipulators will do everything in their power to fool you, will fight you when you dig deep, will try to silence you and will hold the gun to your head if they could, all attempts targeted towards preventing you from turning over the coin and looking at the other side of it. I am virtually convinced that it’s almost impossible today to get unbiased true picture of any fact or event given the amount of brainwashing we get every day and how polarized and manipulative our world is. Social media has only made it worse.

Yet, we smart educated individuals are not fools. No one has the right to treat us as idiots. None of us deserves to be manipulated by individuals who earn their living by manipulation, people who only care about money and power and will not hesitate to do anything, however morally wrong their action is, to achieve their goals. They will fight us to get to the truth, downplay the facts we bring to the forefront, silence us, intimidate us and even use our weaknesses against us for a few extra $$. It is upon us to fight this. Every single day, because some battles are worth fighting for.

silver lining

So if you think about it carefully every negative or difficult experience in our lives has a positive effect as well. Often it is possible to turn a negative situation into a more constructive positive experience if we want to. For exsmple we might have a dofficult and frustrating experience at work. Well we can grudge and complain about it or basically accept the fact that for the most part, we can not change the overall situation. However what we can do is that we can  change our own outlook. Try to get a project that excites us, find something that perhaps we wanted to do for a long time but never was able to get to it. Develop a hobby, do something new. From my own personal experience I have realized that once you start doing that you’d almost be grateful that you ran into a frustrating and agonizing experience.Imagine of you always had a rewarding work life – you’d never have thought of doing something new.

This applies to other tjings in life as well. There’s always a silver lining. All you need to do is to find it.

Gene Roddenberry had a point!

So this thought has been lingering in my mind for a while now. Gene Roddenberry had a point when he introduced the concept of universal translator in the Star Trek universe. I remember having a conversation with my supervisor at grad school about this. He told me that he thought one such device could change the world, solve a lot of the current challenges in a modern society and even prevent wars. I didn’t delve into this thought any further in those days. However, I now think that he did indeed had a good point.

If you think about it, often we spend so many years of our lives trying to master a language not spoken by our parents. Every day, we ardently try hard to make this ‘foreign’ language our ‘mother tongue’. We spend hours thinking how we can perfect our understanding and command over this language. We read books, write letters and even converse among ourselves in this language from very early stages of our schooling (kindergarden in my case), all aimed at improving our understanding of this language. But why? Why learn it? Why spend so much energy, passion, time, money, thinking into mastering a skill that is completely orthogonal to what we really want to do in our lives? For example, a student aspiring to pursue graduate studies in a primariliy English speaking country, such as US, Canada, UK or Australia is required to prove her or his proficiency in English through scores in such exams such as TOEFL, GRE and IELTS, regardless of her or his aera of study. I have seen my friends spend hours and hours, days and even months preparing for these exams. I have also done the same. Sometimes even scores in these exams are not enough. In spite of having a relatively high score, you might experience difficulties because of your ‘weird’ ascent. But why? Why learn 5000 words of a foreign language that none of your parents ever spoke or felt comfortable with? What is accomplished by such hard work? Nothing. Does your first language indeed change by doing all this? No. Would you have rather preferred to study something that is closer to your heart, like engineering, math, science, arts? Yes. Do you really become one of those who were born to English speaking parents? No.

So a universal translator is indeed a useful device. Why ever learn more than one language? Why does English has to be the language for all? You need to learn one language through which you can express your thoughts and understand other’s thoughts. Thoughts, feelings and expressions should flow easily and smoothly across people of different mother tongue. There should be no stupid exams asking subtle meanings of some arcane words of a particular language. Exams such as TOEFL, IELTS and GRE would not be necessary. People should be able to do what they love, regardless of what they speak. This is important, this is fair.

I hope some brilliant guy from a top school does get to invent the device. I hope they do it soon. I hope I am able to see the change it can bring to our society and our thinking before I die. At least, I hope so …

(500) Days of Summer

“If Tom had learned anything… it was that you can’t ascribe great cosmic significance to a simple earthly event. Coincidence. That’s all anything ever is. Nothing more than coincidence. There are no miracles. There is no such thing as fate. Nothing is meant to be …”

So this year, on my way towards visiting my folks in India, I watched this movie on our Lufthansa flight (twice over). Whereas I am still trying to digest the movie, one thought kept lingering in my mind as I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. This thought has prompted me to turn on my laptop while we are flying at about 35000 feet, cruising our way towards Frankfurt at about 536 Miles/hr.

So I ask myself, why didn’t they make this movie 5 years back? Why did I not watch it then? I had made some mistakes in my life those days and perhaps this movie might have prompted me not to take those same steps. Even now, at night, when I go to bed, I sometimes wish I could turn back the clock and go back in the past and get a second chance to re-live some of those days. Then, I would do things a little differently on the second attempt. I would then perhaps had been able to shape my life in a different and better route. Unfortunately, for better or for worse, once something is done, it’s permanent, written in stone for ever. You can’t turn the clock back, your past remains with you and you got to learn to move on & live with your mistakes.

Fortunately, I am not the only person with these thoughts. Humans in this world make lot of mistakes in their lives. To make mistakes *defines* what we really are. Most people learn from their mistakes and try to do things differently in the future. Unfortunately, sometimes opportunities present themselves only once and if you fail to grab it then, you loose it for ever. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you do in the future, your past already had made it’s deep imprints.

So what if we *could* turn back the clock and go in the past and do things differently? I remember this nice episode from Start Trek TNG where ‘Q’ (though not explicit, it was implied that this was done by ‘Q’) takes Picard back in time in his youthful days but with the knowledge and wisdom of his present day intact. Picard, now having learnt from his past experiences and his past mistakes, takes the opportunity and does things differently. Age and experience has now made him more cautious, reluctant to pick a fight and he does things the way a ‘wise man’ should do. That girl to whom he could never confess his true feelings in his real youthful days is beside him and this time, the old Picard tells her how he feels about her …

But look what he has done! He has taken a different course in his life now. All this new changes in his life has made him into a different man. He is no longer reckless, no longer a risk taker. However, this change also meant that he could no longer achieve the same milestones that he had achieved in his real life. He, as a person has changed. He is no longer the captain of the Enterprise, but only an Ensign.

So the bottom line is, the experiences that we go through in our past make us what we are today. If we could somehow skip those experiences, we wouldn’t be the same person as we are now. We wouldn’t be where we are now in our lives. We would be different. All those failed relationships, all the pains that we have endured from heartbreaks made us wiser, different. It determined how we would react to a situation in the future, blend us into individuals that we would never otherwise had been.

(500) Days of summer reflects some of the experiences from my own life. But should I
regret that they happened? Perhaps not. Yes, it’s the coincidences that build experiences in our lives. Some of these experiences changes our lives for ever.

Now I must turn my macbook off for now. The battery is almost dying and we are experiencing lot of turbulence. Only a little while left before we touch down at FRA.

Are developer egos a problem in the open source development model in general?

Response from Con Kolivas to APC magazine:

I think any problem with anydevelopment model has multiple factors,
and ultimately, it is humans that make decisions. I won't comment
on the humans themselves.If there is any one big problem with kernel
development and Linux it is the complete disconnection of the
development process from normal users. You know, the ones who
constitute 99.9% of the Linux user base.The Linux kernel mailing list
is the way to communicate with the kernel developers. To put it
mildly, the Linux kernel mailing list (lkml) is about as scary a
communication forum as they come. Most people are absolutely terrified of mailing the list lest they get flamed for their inexperience, an inappropriate bug report, being stupid or whatever. And for the most part they're absolutely right. There is no friendly way to communicate normal users' issues that are kernel related. Yes of course the kernel developers are fun loving, happy-go-lucky friendly people. Just look at any interview with Linus and see how he views himself.I think the kernel developers at large haven't got the faintest idea just how big the problems in userspace are. It is a very small brave minority that are happy to post to lkml, and I keep getting users telling me on IRC, in person, and via my own mailing list, what their problems are. And they've even become fearful of
me, even though I've never viewed myself as a real kernel developer.Just trawl the normal support forums (which I did for Gentoo users as a way of finding bug reports often because the users were afraid to tell me) and see how many obvious kernel related issues there are. I'd love to tell them all to suddenly flood lkml with their reports of failed boots with various kernels, hardware
disappearing, stopping working suddenly, memory disappearing, trying to use software suspend and having your balls blown off by your laptop, and so on.And there are all the obvious bug reports. They're afraid to mention these. How scary do you think it is to say 'my Firefox tabs open slowly since the last CPU scheduler upgrade'? To top it all off, the enterprise users are the opposite. Just watch each kernel release and see how quickly some $bullshit_benchmark degraded by .1% with patch $Y gets reported. See also how quickly it gets attended to.