Debugging media


You don’t realize how little accuracy there is in network TV reporting until they cover a story in your hometown. ~Robert Braul

True that,

The best way to verify any news reported by mainstream media is to running it through social media. Twitter for example. (I know I know I hated twitter before, I take it back).

Don’t refer facebook, in its all possibility it will feed you a hoax instead.

Apart from SM, there are few good news analyzers out there, they are interesting and hilarious. Here, couple of my recommendations:

1. Mediacrooks , a different perspective to consume news. BTW results are out for India’s worst journalists  - 2014. Two ladies I voted did not win,

2. Newslaundry :  I love it for its clothesline series, in which each week’s news washed. For last week:

3. Unreal times : Most hilarious among them. Love them for their “facebook wall” and “in pictures” series.

Unreal times : In pictures: Rahul Gandhi’s much-awaited interview with Arnab Goswami
Unreal times : In pictures: Rahul Gandhi’s much-awaited interview with Arnab Goswami

4. fakingnews : pure satire,

If you know any blogs in league of these people, please recommend.

Word cloud of “Rahul speaks to Arnab”


To be brutally honest, I did not expect Arnab would manage an entire interview without loosing his cool, especially none of his questions were answered. I would have lost my cool on 3rd “RTI” or “empowerment”.

That’s Arnab, RESPECT !

Those who missed it, watch it here

On interview itself, I was curious how strongly Arnab wanted “nation to know” on how strongly Rahul wanted “empowerment“. So, I pulled complete transcript from here and used Wordle to create tag cloud. This is what I found:

This is what Arnab asked.

Arnab questions

Arnab questions

and this is how Rahul answered

Rahul answers

Rahul answers

Service charges, taxes and Facebook hoaxes


Every time I dined out, which is pretty much every weekend, I ended up paying ~30% extra on items, which I did not fully understand. There were VAT, service charges, service tax and on top there is tip! 30% is huge amount, it can easily buy me couple of coveted dishes, for which I generally have ‘reserve’ apatite even after a full meal.  I paid every time and returned hungry.

Recently came across a facebook post telling me what I did was wrong! Full content of the facebook post is pasted bottom of this post. It claimed India restaurants charge service taxes on top of total bill amount rather than just service charges.  This is that hallelujah moment, where you realize you’ve been cheated but you are not alone.  Generally I don’t believe facebook posts, but this post is telling me just what I wanted to hear.

So basically, so far I understood:

  • Service charge is optional
  • Service tax is on service charge rather than full amount.

Next first thing I tried is one of those fact checking sites, like this one. Unfortunately Hoax or Fact site declares it FACT! But if you see the explanation is about service charges rather than service tax it self.

But all joy was short lived when I read what I did not want to hear. Apparently bill was right, they were according to law, which include “don’t dine outside”. read this for complete understanding on service tax   – Service Tax in Restaurants – What the law really says!

1) Service portion in an activity wherein goods, being food or any other article of human consumption or any drink(whether or not intoxicating) is supplied in any manner as a part of the activity, at a restaurant – 40 %

2) Service portion in outdoor catering wherein goods, being food or any other article of human consumption or any drink(whether or not intoxicating) is supplied in any manner as a part of such outdoor catering – 60 %

Finally, let me summarize

  1. Service tax and service charges are two mutually exclusive overheads on your bill
  2. Service charges are ‘almost’ mandatory tips, will be distributed with all employees of restaurant (technically).
  3. Restaurant has obligation to let you know that there will be service charges, even before you dine/order. In case no such display or abysmal service, you can refuse to pay that (technically)
  4. Service tax, on other hand, goes directly to government, will be 40/60% either on top of total food bill, which includes VAT.
  5. Never trust facebook post on first look.

Happy dining out with your inflated bills !

—————————————————————————————————————————–original content

SERVICE TAX At Restaurants – VERY IMPORTANT!!!
Interesting. I find restaurant bills often so confusing. I just give up and pay the amount shown n the bottom line. Perhaps we shouldn’t.

Incidentally, I also resent the inclusion of Service Charges in restaurant bills, because it assumes that I was satisfied with the service. Just a matter of principle. Service Charge should be something I leave behind at my personal discretion. I recently demanded that the service charge be removed as the service was non-existent. After a short – very short! – Discussion, it was removed. About Service Tax….. Be aware

service tax

service tax

This happened at the restaurant. Let me explain. We had been to several restaurants recently. I observed that “service tax” was being misused in the way it was being charged to customers.

Let me give an example.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
Food and Beverage = Rs. 1000.00
Service Charges @ 10% = Rs. 100.00
Service Tax @ 4.94% = Rs. 54.34 (on F&B + Service Charges)
VAT @14.5% = Rs. 145.00
Total = Rs. 1299.34
As per the definition – “Service Tax can be charged ONLY for the services provided to the customer”.

Now, see what is happening here in the above example. Service Tax should be charged only on the Service Charge amount i.e Rs.100 ONLY, and NOT on the entire amount (1000+100). In this example, the customer should be charged only Rs 4.94, whereas he has been charged Rs. 49.00 extra. Where does this money go? Only the restaurant owner and the chartered accountants who work for them know.

• So, I have started asking them the questions – and am surprised to see the reaction from famous restaurants. Either they say: “Sir we cannot change the format of the bill – so , we will recalculate and tell you the revised amount. You may pay only that.”

OR

• “Sir, you do not need to pay the Service Tax amount itself”!! I now have 3 to 4 restaurant bills, but for which I have paid only the service tax on the service charge and NOT on the total amount.

Every bill MUST carry the TIN number and Service Tax Number, if they charge it. So . . . , I ask for the Service tax number if it is not available in the receipt that they provide.

As we cannot go to any government official and ask them to get this right – because of our system. Please remember – we cannot change any political leader – but we can change ourselves. If we change ourselves – things will change. Please do share this with every one of your friends and known people. Ask for the right tax calculation and Pay only the tax which is supposed to be paid. Verify every bill and receipt that you make payment on.”Please share if you think its worth”

Formula one – Hamsters running on wheels


Formula one, I still opine, as nothing more than hamsters running over wheels. It’s pointless, waste of time, money and talent. There are at least 10s reason why I still hate it. Go ahead and prove me wrong.

  1. It’s not sports: Don’t call a bunny-turtle race, a sport. You give same car to all drivers, and then we’ll talk.
  2. It’s not race: What kind of race needs one of its competitors to slowdown due to team order? It’s like Yohan Blake asking Usain Bolt to slowdown because Jamaica said so.
  3. Crashes: I was told spectacular crash will be spectacular to watch. Even I was informed movies like Death Race is inspired by races including F1. If is true, its really sad.
  4. It’s not exciting: Around six blokes always ahead of game, the rest always behind. I take a nap, take a shower, grab a coffee and browse back to the channel – they will be still racing in same race in same position!
  5. It’s a pit race:  By the sound of it, races are won in pit stops rather than tracks. It’s like cricket is won in dug out, not field.
An “Exciting” moment in F1

An “Exciting” moment in F1

  1. Expensive: Considering you’ll only see start, finish and one glimpse per lap! Even 1$ is expensive if the deal is to sit there and yawn.
  2. Technology: I was also told, money is being put into good use of invention automobile industry. A $500mil a year for each team from last so many years, I had expected some alien car craft!  They still breakdown at signal.
  3. Rich-men sport: How easy is it makes an entry for a team? Suppose you do, how many years you need to compete to make a single point on board?
  4. Hype: F1 is nothing more than a ponzi scheme of sports world with blown up go-karting.  People follow because it is uncool not to follow. It’s a fashion statement.
  5. F1 geeks: They irritate me every day with specifics of turbo engines, rpms, cylinders and other part which never amused me!

This is part 2 of what I had written few years back.

——————-

Update 25/01 : Due to a lot of good friends of mine objected the wording of #3 on crashes being spectacular,  I have reworded it to have less exaggeration.  But content remains same. I cant believe you never heard about it. One example right away, this author explains the romance between danger and dependency of F1 revenue on it. He writes :

……No one, myself included, wants to see drivers die, but by eliminating the potential for death (as nearly as possible), the danger which led to the popularity of the sport is lost. 
The remaining glamour, without the danger, is empty and superficial—glamour for glamour’s sake—an endless parade of celebrities shuffling up and down the pit lane and drivers throwing their cars into turns knowing the risks have been diminished should they get it wrong.

I still stick to all other points, unless convinced otherwise.

My experiments with perfume samplers


Perfume samplers are perhaps most annoying bunch of salesmen out there. They are like urban cowboys with a set of perfume bottles in their holster and will shoot at sight like dirty Harry. It hardly ever happened to me that I went to shopping mall and did not get ambushed by them. Its not seldom I ended up buying one of those expensive perfumes, plus came out smelling like a bouquet.

My sympathies with all those who got scammed like this, welcome to “I got tricked into buying perfume I didn’t like” club. We meet on Thursdays.

For others, I dare you to try once. Go to any mall in India and this is how whole process goes:

  • He will start with, if you like is “Eau de Toilette” or some other phrases you don’t even recognize. That’s your clue, if you are impressed with his knowledge on few European phrases, you are trapped.  Simple psychology is, if you don’t understand what is asking, most probably you will stick with what he recommends
  • Then he will ask which flavor of perfume you like, fruity, nutty or shitty. Don’t answer that – it’s a rhetorical question. He will pull one sample no matter whatever you answer. Don’t get scared, not at least – not yet.
  • Then, like a ninja pulls a ninjastar, he’ll pull one sampling strip. He does it so fast you will be tend to think its magic. If you must ask, go ahead and enquire if he does birthday parties.
  • What he does next is something amusing. He will pose like Usain Bolt, like he did after winning gold. Or maybe it is T’ai chi, you’ll never know. Anyways, He will hold paper strip in one hand and bottle in other with a appropriately calculated distance.
joey tribbiani as perfume sampler

joey tribbiani as perfume sampler

  • Then he’ll spray sample into air, more precise than sparkplug of a four-stroke engine! in slow motion.  I was like – OMG splay it already!
  • Before it disperses into air he will wave the testing strip where he sprayed. It’s like a WOW! This is that exact moment you’ll think this guy really knows what he is doing, and perhaps he is topper in fragrance sampling college.
  • And just when you think he will give it you to sniff, wait, there are more steps! how else would this poor fellow justify overpriced liquid? He will blow air on that perfume strip before handing over to you. Don’t be surprised if it smells like onion-fish fry he had that afternoon.
  • There’s more to procedure if you challenge his choice of perfume. He will make you smell some coffee beans. Then procedure repeats from beginning
  • Finally only four thousand saar ! You pay, then you go home having spent entire days budget in one counter,

share your thoughts,