Archive for July 31st, 2009

Paul Graham tells when it is not good to have a smooth going

July 31, 2009

In his latest piece, here:

Someone riding a motorcycle isn’t working any harder. But because he’s sitting astride it, he seems to be making an effort. When you’re riding a Segway you’re just standing there. And someone who’s being whisked along while seeming to do no work—someone in a sedan chair, for example—can’t help but look smug.

Try this thought experiment and it becomes clear: imagine something that worked like the Segway, but that you rode with one foot in front of the other, like a skateboard. That wouldn’t seem nearly as uncool.

So there may be a way to capture more of the market Segway hoped to reach: make a version that doesn’t look so easy for the rider. It would also be helpful if the styling was in the tradition of skateboards or bicycles rather than medical devices.

Curiously enough, what got Segway into this problem was that the company was itself a kind of Segway. It was too easy for them; they were too successful raising money. If they’d had to grow the company gradually, by iterating through several versions they sold to real users, they’d have learned pretty quickly that people looked stupid riding them. Instead they had enough to work in secret. They had focus groups aplenty, I’m sure, but they didn’t have the people yelling insults out of cars. So they never realized they were zooming confidently down a blind alley.

Take a look!

Devil’s dung

July 31, 2009

I did not realise the amount of flavour that the uses of hing gives to our sambhar and rasam until, one day, I cooked them without hing and tasted the concoction. D Balasubramanian, in his latest column writes about the culinary and other uses of hing:

What gives it the pungent smell? It is the sulphides, the simplest of them being the one from the Kipp’s apparatus of high school chemistry lab.

The major component, 2-butyl 1-propenyl disulphide, is so “stinking” that the Europeans called it asafoetida – Asa from the Persian word for resin and foetida meaning ‘stinking’ in Latin. More colorfully it was called the devil’s dung – both for its shape and smell.

Ferula asafoetida is not grown in India, and is a native of Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and that region of central Asia.

Have a look!