The Aladdin's Cave

Hi, thanks for stopping by! The dictionary defines the idiom “The Aladdin’s Cave” as “a collection of interesting and beautiful objects”. Likewise, my website is a potpourri where you can browse and read from a variegated collection of articles on sundry subjects. Be prepared to stumble upon pieces ranging from noodles to analytics and from novels to friendships. Like what you read? Thanks a ton for being such a sweetheart. Don’t find it up to the mark? Well, blame it on back-breaking expectations ;) Jolly Reading!

Category: Let’s Learn (page 1 of 2)

Washed Your Credit Card?

You know how they say you never know what life’s going to teach you next? Please don’t ask me who says that; I just know that many people do. Yeah, and they are quite right about it too. Here’s what life chose to teach me this past weekend – you can put your credit card (CC) through a wash cycle, and it will (probably) live to continue paying your bills. If you have read my blog before, I know exactly why your super-critical mind is telling me off at this very moment – ‘Huh, first she drowns her Nexus phone, and now she bathes her credit card’. Well, let me tell you that I took a good two-years-eight-months break between these two unlucky washouts. Now allow me to get back to my informative story because I think this one is going to take a while.

Like all of you, I have my usual pick of alibis (been traveling/busy/sick/lazy) for ‘not been able’ to have done my laundry when I should have. And then, ‘really not been able to have done it’ much later after this ‘should have’ date. As a result, there had been bucket-loads and bagsful of clothes demanding immediate attention for a while.

And then it happened this Saturday night: Gunjan officially ran out of clothes (another good reason to not be allergic to shopping). It was one of those ‘laundry today or naked tomorrow’ kind of situations, you know. It was then that we finally decided to wash anything that says machine washable, and then some others too. Armed with a generously loaded laundry card, detergents and fabric softeners, we hauled bags full of rags (and some fineries too – because we are too lazy to wash them by hands) to the laundry room. Gunjan and I started dumping the clothes in the machines (er, took three of them), and by the end of this activity, we realized that the last machine was quite unsatisfactorily filled. You know, it was one of those annoying situations when you just hate the asymmetry caused by this one under-loaded machine. Not getting a wash worth a dollar and seventy-five suddenly seemed to be a really big deal, and we simply could not ignore the pesky imbalance. To remedy this situation, I rushed back to our apartment upstairs to see if there was any washable linen lying around that had slyly escaped us earlier. Even after putting together a little pile of semi-dirty stuff, it seemed that my imaginary scale (mentally weighing the three washing machines now) would still be a little off and I was having this compulsive need to correct this misalignment. I reckoned that the trousers that I was wearing wouldn’t mind an early wash, so I changed in a flash and threw my trousers in the pile too. With this newly acquired somewhat-filthy plunder, I reached the laundry room again, and we hugged and celebrated the much-awaited gurgling and rumbling of the (perfectly-loaded) machines in action. (Judge me all you want until I find out your crazy idiosyncrasy and judge you back!)

Two episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. later, we rushed down to transfer the freshly clean clothes to the dryers. Now, imagine my shock when I saw my American Express Credit Card and my Discover Card sitting helplessly amongst the wet clothes. Oh, how I rued hastily stuffing these two cards in my pocket two hours ago when we had stepped out for a bite. I really don’t know why I can’t simply carry my wallet for these quick things (or at the very least, carry just one of these cards). And Gunjan – oh, he who is such a devotee to all things bearing magnetic disks and magnetic strips – oh, poor thing – I really must stop doing this to him. I don’t have the heart to describe his horror on witnessing this sight. Let me just say that at this point, I would have gladly accepted the vexation caused by a trio of unevenly-loaded machines than that caused by a pair of freshly-washed CCs.

Washed Your Credit Card?

Accidentally in Machine

It’s not like procuring a new copy of a CC is particularly challenging. But this blatant display of such shockingly irresponsible behavior did cast a pall over the joyful laundry session. Gunjan was too disturbed by the treatment meted out to the cards to say much – more so, after I pulled out a $20 bill from the pocket of the trouser that I had hastily added to the load. Even though I should kick myself for this third unintentionally-washed item, I will admit that it contributed in making his consternation complete and rendering him totally speechless. Hence, I had mixed feelings about this uber-hygienic albeit heedlessly-laundered bill. With dented spirits, we completed the drying part of the laundry session and ended the day with clean clothes but no hopes (for our cards).

Then, instead of resting on the seventh day (Sunday), I stepped out with two spotless but potentially dysfunctional cards (to test them out) and one not-so-spotless but functional card (as a backup). I picked a few random stuff (say ‘n’ of them) in Jewel-Osco, pretended to forget one of these n items in the cart and proceeded to pay for the (n-1) goods with one of the speckless CCs. As the sales assistant requested me to swipe my card, I was already fingering the backup CC in my other hand. The ‘payment approved’ message alleviated most of the nervousness that I was feeling, and gave me high hopes for the other unlucky CC. Not choosing to celebrate too soon, I duly acted out my part of forgetting the nth item in the cart, and now presented the second CC to make this payment. It suffices to say that this transaction elicited distinctly different reactions from the payer (who switched from a gloomy to a remarkably celebratory mode) and the sales assistant (who could hardly comprehend the reason for the payer’s joyfulness, relief and sense of achievement over this most mundane chore).

Thanks a lot, if you have stuck with me and my CCs through this rather long post and I sincerely hope that you never have the misfortune of laundering your bill-paying instruments. But in case you do, remember my story and stay hopeful. Even though I do not have the evidence to make a blanket statement like ‘Voila! Credit cards are waterproof’, I can say from experience that all may not be lost, and visiting a store to use a squeaky clean CC is definitely worth a shot!

Oh, in case you are wondering, the $20 bill managed to survive the wash too! 🙂

Take care!

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Pronunciation Bloopers – 4

Hello Readers,

I hope you have mastered the previous lists in this series and are ready to absorb the ones that I present in this new set. In case you are new here or need a quick refresher course, please refer to Pronunciation Bloopers – 1Pronunciation Bloopers – 2 and Pronunciation Bloopers – 3 to familiarize yourself with the other potential bloopers  In this list, we will tackle some seemingly-simple but possibly-treacherous words that take great pleasure in tripping the non-native speakers of the English language. Ha, what a cruel world we live in! I will never understand why we need to have Hs and Gs and Ls and Bs planted in those words where we never intended to pronounce them in the first place. Anyway, since nobody is asking me for my expert opinion, I will stick to doing what I can – memorizing these pronunciations and making my peace with them. And I advise you to consider doing the same thing, for the joys provided to us by the English language greatly outnumber the few pains that it directs our way.

Word Comment on Pronunciation Note
Elect [ih-lekt] , not [ai-lekt]  The ‘e’ at the beginning pompously breaks itself from the rest of the letters. The pronunciation for both ‘elect’ and ‘election’ start with an ‘e’, and not with an ‘el’.
Cough [kawf, kof], not [kuff] Yep, to add to the misery of cold and cough, we must be mindful not to make this one rhyme with puff and tough.
Lieu [loo], not [lyu] Lieu rhymes with flu and clue – and you might want to glue this to your mind.
Loose [loos], not [looz] With loose and goose, the language is uncharacteristically phonetic. But the same cannot be said for lose that rhymes with ooze.
Crumb [kruhm], not [krum-b] Let’s be as particular about this one as Monica (from Friends, of course) is about her ‘no crumbies’ rule!
Dumb [[duhm], not [dum-b] In case this makes you feel a little dumb, trust me you are not alone.
Trio
[tree-oh], not [try-oh]
Remember this one from the golden trio – Harry, Ron and Hermione! Since we talk about this trio so very often, we definitely don’t wanna get this wrong.
Plumber [pluhm-er] not [pluhm-ber] Another one where the ‘b’ is just ornamental 🙁
Ghost [gohst], not [gh-ost] What? Did you say that ‘h’ in ghost is silent? Now this one is certainly gonna haunt me for a while.
Meticulous [muhtik-yuh-luh s], not [met-tik-yuh-luh s] If you are a meticulous speaker of English, you must remember this one to uphold your reputation.

As always, I would love to receive your feedback and suggestions through the comments. Take care and stay tuned for more of these!

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Pronunciation Bloopers – 3

Hey there, everyone!

I hope you all had a pleasant Thanksgiving/vacation/weekend and I pray that we always have plenty to be thankful for! More importantly though, I hope that we always are thankful for all that we have, instead of taking things and people and life in general for granted. And I take this moment to thank each one of you for encouraging me to keep writing, and for all you love and support. It really, really means a lot to me.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” – William Arthur Ward

After Pronunciation Bloopers – 1 and Pronunciation Bloopers – 2, I am here to present to you the third part in this series dealing with some commonly misspoken English words. This set of words might contain a shocker or two for the non-native speakers of the language. But before dismissing any particularly unpleasant pronunciation with  the utterance of ‘Smoke and Mirrors!’ and forsaking this website, kindly refer to your trusted dictionary and check for yourself. And then, you might be willing to give the fourth post in this series a chance too, which will be out soon.  Now I invite you to take a look at the following list, and to let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Word Comment on Pronunciation Note
Respite [res-pit] – US , [res-pite] – UK Mishi – Pit as in bit (US), pite as in bite (UK); Thanks Sumit!
Up-to-date [uhp-tuh-deyt], not [up-to-date] Mishi – Please don’t ask me why, and I know this hurts! 🙁
Steward [stoo-erd, styoo-erd], not [stee-ward] Mishi – Yeah, ‘ste’ + ‘ward’ messes up both the parts
Icon [i-kon], not [i-kan] Mishi – Just pronounce I and con separately, as we do in iPhone and iStore
Awry [uh-rahy], not [aww-ree], nor [aww-rye] Mishi – The pronunciation goes awry, if we pronounce it as ‘aww-ree’ or ‘aww-rye’
Opportunity [op-er-too-ni-tee,op-er -tyoo-ni-tee], not [op-er-chyu-ni-tee] Mishi – The language takes a phonetic turn with this word; just pronounce it as you see it, don’t have to end it with ‘choonity’ or ‘chyunity’!
Vehicle [vee-i-kuh-l , vee-hi-kuh-l], not [vay-hi-kuh-l] Mishi – A very-commonly used and very-commonly misspoken word!
Category [kat-i-gawr-ee, -gohr-ee], not [kat-a-gary] Mishi – Remember ‘mandatory’ from the first  post in this series? We should treat category as its mispronounced cousin.
Longevity [lon-jev-i-tee, lawn-], not [long-i-vity] Mishi – Even though it has ‘long’ in it, we cannot just append ‘-ivity’ to ‘long’; the pronunciation is quite different with ‘jev’ in the middle.
Tomb [toom], not [toom-b], not [tom-b] Mishi – Double the ‘o’ and forget the ‘b’ to pronounce it correctly; thanks Tarun – for suggesting this one!

Have a great week ahead!

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Pronunciation Bloopers – 2

All the encouragement that I received for my previous post Pronunciation Bloopers – 1 has spurred me to action, and so here is the second part in this series focusing on commonly mispronounced words. This post specifically deals with words related to food and cooking, and all things palatable and potable. I took all your suggestions to post this one promptly because these really are words that we use in our everyday conversations at homes, offices, restaurants, parties, everywhere.

Before I give you the list, let me share a little something. This Wednesday night, I had pizza for dinner. Even though the calorie-laden slices made me regret my dinner choice, my one solace was that I had pronounced it correctly (as we learnt about it in the first part). So you see, learning the correct pronunciations might help soften the blow of these dietary slip-ups. And since I am a tad conscious after my cheesy lapse, I will start this list with some healthy choices and then plunge in the calorie pool! I hope you all find this one useful too.

Word Comment on Pronunciation  Note
Quinoa [keen-wah, kee-noh-uh] Mishi – Very difficult to resist starting with “qui” as in quick
Raspberry [raz-ber-ee, -buh-ree, rahz-], not rasp-berry Mishi – Ah, I keep forgetting this one
Salmon [sam-uh n] Mishi – Yeah, the “L” is to be ignored
Almond [ah-muh nd or am-uh nd], not al-muhnd Mishi – As in salmon, ignore the “L”
Shea [shee, shey], not shee-aa Mishi – I hear this more often in the cosmetics stores than in the grocery stores 🙂
Cheddar [ched-er], not shed-er Mishi – Start with ch as in check, not sh as in shed
Steak steyk, not steek Sumit- One leads to another
Mishi – If the waiter doesn’t get it, your steak is at stake – so remember to pronounce this one as stake 😉
Chow mein [chou meyn] Mishi – The “chow” part is easy, just remember not to end it with an abrupt “min”
Provolone [proh-vuh-loh-nee] Mishi – End it with “lo(h)ny”, not “loan”
Tortilla tawr-tee-uh, not tawr-tilla Mishi – No idea what’s with these food words and their step-treatment towards the letter “L”, but it is to be ignored here too

Happy Weekend, Friends!

How do you enjoy cheese the most?

 

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Pronunciation Bloopers – 1

This is part 1 of a collaborative effort to consolidate some of the words that trip us and our friends – either due to their unintuitive pronunciations or because the mispronounced words are so deeply embedded in our vernacular that the correct utterances grate on our ears. Many of my friends are contributing to a google sheet to make this collection as exhaustive as possible, and to help us all improve…day by day, word by word. We are also sharing our thoughts/struggles/frustrations/hopes/jokes in the ‘Note’ column to make this an enjoyable class. Please feel free to share your “tripping words” in the comments section, and I will be happy to publish them in one of the subsequent posts. Thanks to all my friends who have given me the liberty to share their words here, and thanks to all the readers too. And I welcome you to this fun class where all the harassed students double as the harassing teachers! 😀

P.S. Native speakers of English might find this to be an extremely stupid endeavor. Nevertheless, you are welcome either to contribute/correct us or to enjoy some other posts on this website! 🙂 Also, keep in mind that the emphasis is on highlighting the part(s) of the words that are commonly enunciated incorrectly.

Word Comment on Pronunciation Note
Chic ‘Sheek’ Mishi – Not ‘chick’, not ‘cheek’, not ‘shick’
Reservoir [re-zer-whar] not voir Sumit – thanks to my English teacher in school who first told me this
Gross gros, not ‘graus’ Sumit – learnt this very recently
Gourmet goor-mey Sumit – the T is silent! and yes I love food
Monk Pronounced as ‘munk’, not ‘maunk’ Mishi – The ‘munk’ who sold his Ferrari
Pizza Peet-suh’, not ‘Piz-za’ Mishi – mispronounced at an alarming rate during parties
Mandatory manda-tory’ or ‘manda-taury’, not ‘manda-tary’ Mishi – finally mastered this
Assume Pronounced with s, not z; and oo, not yu Mishi – Uhh
Worcestershire [woo s-ter-sheer, -sher] Sumit – a totally different pronunciation from what the letters suggest
Consume(r) Pronounced with s, not z; and oo, not yu Mishi – Uhh

Have a beautiful day!

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It’s Or Its?

Well, this is one error that shows itself every single day – so let’s get it clarified once and for all.
It’s: This has two words – “it” and “is”. If we think of this as two separate words, we will always use it correctly. We should use this only if the sentence would make sense with both “it’s” and “it is”.
Its: This is the possessive pronoun of “it” – we should use “its” to indicate that something belongs to “it”.

Examples:

  • It’s a beautiful day! (= It is a beautiful day!)
  • The baby is blinking its eyes! (Here, the eyes belong to the baby.)
  • Look at the flower – it’s amazing to see its colors! (Here, it is amazing to see the colors of the flower.)
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Best Practices in Communicating Complexity

Preface:

Hello Friends!

I beseech you all to give me one more chance to explain my disappearing act. It has been around five months since I joined the 12-month MISM (Master of Information Systems Management) program at CMU (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh) and believe me, it has really killed me! Yes, it has killed me but I have lived to tell the tale. However, I will tell that tale some other time – the wounds are too fresh to prod. 😀

So even when being smothered with assignments, quizzes and all other components packed in the grad-school parcel, I’ve been battling this guilt of ignoring my dear blog. And then this thought flashed – to share something that I had already penned down but not posted. I wrote this academic article as a part of a coursework here and I hope it will be of some use to some of you.

Here it goes:

Let me begin this post by analyzing the title of this write-up. As soon as we read the topic, the first questions that come to the mind is – “Do I really need to know about these best practices?” or “Can I imagine myself in a situation where I would be required to convey complex and intricate data to an audience?”. The answer to these questions is a firm and truthful “Yes”. In fact, as future managers, we will be required to do this all the more frequently and we could lose out on significant success in our careers if we don’t master this skill.

No matter what professions we are in, a major part of our job responsibilities comprises explaining our work/data/results to an audience who is unfamiliar with our domain. In these situations, we must recognize that it’s not the right place to show off our knowledge and command on the subject by employing the usage of unnecessary jargons and numbers. If we are the presenter, it’s understood that we are experts on the subject. Or else, we would not be relied upon by our company to be the presenter. What the audience trusts and expects us to do is to relate our data-heavy story in a simple manner so that they can really understand the subject.

According to Charles Whaley (1999), the usage of complex phrases only makes the communication less efficient, thus defeating the whole purpose of the exchange of information. In his paper (Charles Whaley, 1999), he cites a simple example of the usage of the word “disintermediation” in place of the phrase “cutting out the middleman”. By using such ‘biz-speak’, we risk losing a major part of our audience to whom the phrase “disintermediation” might be nothing more than gibberish. As a result of such convoluted phrasing, the audience simply loses interest in the subject and stops participating.

To be an effective communicator, there are some key factors that we must keep in mind. First, we must always target the audience we are presenting to and should only present relevant information. Also, the information must be communicated in a different manner while presenting to audiences belonging to different age groups or categories so that they can relate to it. The second thing to remember is that pictorial representations always win over textual representations. The chances of us remembering or understanding a pie chart or a histogram are much higher compared to that of retaining figures and numbers. Use of multimedia is very helpful in detangling intricate information and in keeping the audience interested. The third important principle is to sequence the flow of the information. This technique ensures that we adopt a step-by-step approach and not bombard the audience with an overwhelming amount of information. The last point is that we must never undermine the importance of feedback from the audience. This can be done by simply asking questions to the audience to ensure that they are with us in the communication process. Receiving responses from the audience keeps a check on our tendency to ramble through the presentation by just dumping all the data without providing the interpretation.

In the end, we must remember that it really is a challenge to adhere to the best practices in communicating complexity and it does not come naturally to everyone. This thought has been beautifully summed up by E. F. Schumacher in his quote – “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Hence, we all must put in a conscious effort and discipline ourselves to follow these practices and become a better communicator of ideas, data and stories.

References

Charles Whaley. (1999). Avoid Excessive Complexity In Communicating At Work. Retrieved on August 9, 2014 from

http://search.proquest.com.proxy.library.cmu.edu/docview/225027308?pq-origsite=summon

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In spite, NOT Inspite

Why so spiteful as to chain these two together? ‘Inspite’ is just another incorrectly connected word that we come across. So better not to cut off the space to spite your grammar! 🙂 Simply use ‘in spite’.

P.S.: Hope you didn’t miss the reference to ‘cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face’! 😛

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At least, NOT Atleast

Well, the least you can do is to just give these two words a bit of space! 😛 ‘Atleast’ is a common misspelling of ‘at least’.

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“Wantedly” isn’t a word!

Consider these:

I didn’t do it “wantedly”.

He joined the training “wantedly”.

At times, we do hear such sentences. But there is no such word as “wantedly” in the English dictionary. It’s like stretching “want” and “wanted” a bit too far! 😛 Depending on the meaning we want to convey, we can use “willing” or “intentionally”.

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