Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Word puzzle

From the beginning I've enjoyed spending time with my son, Nivaan taking care of his school activities and homework. Initially it was just about drawing, shapes, alphabets and numbers and he was highly enthusiastic about it and used to look forward doing them. But now that he has moved up to Sr.KG class, even his activities are to the next level, specifically spellings, words and sentence formation. Since these are comparatively difficult and time consuming, it becomes challenging to keep his interest level up during these activities. So, often I find myself coming up with new and innovative techniques of getting things done that really helps both of us. 😊
Since few months, there is this dictation activity going on in his class where all the kids are asked to write about 10 words dictated by the class teacher. These words are shared to the parents one week in advance so that they can make the kids practice writing those words. Making a kid write 10 words seems a pretty simple task but believe me, my son's interest lasts only till the forth word and after that it's a war between him and me. So I decided to come up with a great idea of getting those words added in a word puzzle and make him solve it. A puzzle and the sense of accomplishing solving it always drives the kids. It worked quite well in my case as my son got interested in it every week and in the process I could make him get the phonetics and spellings of each word correctly. The results in the class were also encouraging and this made him feel good about it. Mission accomplished! 😎
Here is how it went down. Initially, I made the word puzzle myself on a sheet of paper taking the words given by the teacher.

But as this was weekly activity, I decided to improvise and automate it. I wrote a program which would take 3 parameters as input; complexity, number of words and the list of words. And the output of the program is the word puzzle in a file. I just need to take a print out of this and voila! the meal is served on the table.
Before writing my own program, I realized few word puzzle tools were already available over the net, but I didn't find a perfect match for my requirements:

  • I wanted word directions to be only left-to-right and top-to-bottom in the puzzle as I wanted them to be quite easy for my kid during initial weeks. 
  • And I wanted the gap fillers in the puzzle from a selective set of alphabets like O, X, Z etc which will make my kid find the words easily.


Here is the snippet of it -

Input:

Output:

Activities like these will undoubtedly bring a lot of satisfaction not just in kids but also in us as well. Isn't it?! 😉

And now, can anyone puhleeease suggest how to make a kid write 'Fruit' and not 'Froot', and that too after they have taken all the phonetics classes? 😣

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Fraud alert! (OLX)

So, tell me how many of you get annoyed by repeated reminder texts/mails cautioning us not to share any credit/debit card numbers, CVV, PIN, OTP or passwords with anyone?
I'm sure almost everyone gets annoyed. But believe me, this is very much required.
Because despite these reminders from the banks and institutes, many people out there get cheated every single day. The losses range between few hundreds to thousands of Rupees, and in few cases in lakhs. Yes right, just talk to a police office and he will confirm the same.

With all the convenience and ease that comes with the new technologies, through smart phones and applications especially, there also comes newer ways of exploiting the system and cheating people. That's why we see so many news headlines of frauds and scams every other day.

Many of us might be aware of how these digital systems, online banking processes and procedures work. But there are larger chunk of people who are new to all these changes, the upgrades and so called applications that are offered through smart phones. They are unsure, ignorant sometimes, about these and that's why they fall prey to online frauds. That's why it becomes more important than before why we need to educate our near and dear ones about these technologies and what different ways the fraudsters take to steal information and money.

Last year sometime, one of my relative was duped of money when he shared an OTP to someone who claimed to be a bank manager over phone. Of course, this OTP was used for some online transaction and not for "unblocking" of account as that fraudster claimed it to be for.

Now, here is a bigger and interesting story.

Recently, while talking to one of my near one, call him Kunal, he mentioned that he is trying to sell his iPhone through OLX and has got a buyer who is expecting him to courier the iPhone to Nigerian address. I immediately knew something is fishy and went into the details.

  • Firstly, after the iPhone ad was published in OLX by Kunal, he receives a message to share his WhatsApp number from the fraud buyer Mr. "Smith" in order to discuss more.
  • On sharing, Mr. Smith texts Kunal in WhatsApp and tells he is interested in buying the iPhone at a better bargain. To boost up his image, he further adds that he works in army and holds a good position and currently is out of country for a "mission". You can just say, he dished out a wonderful story.
  • He even convinced Kunal saying that if he ships the iPhone to this "Nigerian" address, his bank will credit the amount to his account immediately on his instruction.
  • Kunal in fact receives this below mail which kind of reinforces his claim and starts believing everything is genuine and should proceed towards the shipment.





In a hurry to get a good deal, he doesn't even take a step back and wonder whether all this sounds fine?! Forget about noticing the dead giveaways during the chat or in bank mails.
Please check below image to lookout for in these kind of bank mails for authenticity. Kunal was ready to ship his iPhone at the courier desk when I happened to speak to him. I'm pretty sure, Kunal wouldn't have received any money if he had shipped it.




I was fortunate enough to get in touch with Kunal at the nick of time and prevent this fraud from taking place. I informed him about all these details and convinced him that this whole thing was a setup and he should be careful about all these things going forward.

Mr. Smith, who was now disappointed understandably, had some nice words to share at the end.


If you just search for these kind of frauds and complaints, you will come across innumerable ones already reported in different forums. So please talk about these kind of frauds/scams with those who are less aware and who needs some help in understanding important topics such as the banking transactions, online shopping and the payment options along with the process involved with selling/buying used items etc.

You may as well share your similar experiences here.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Mumbai

Over the last few years, I've lived in couple of state capitals and visited many other cities in India but no other city has impressed me as much as the amchi Mumbai. Yes, that's a big statement which might surprise a few and few others might simply acknowledge what I mean exactly. Well, I visited Mumbai for the very first time recently to participate in the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2018 held on 21st January. It was a 3 days visit and I had just enough time to explore at least a few interesting places in the city. My friend and host, Abhishek was gracious enough to take me around and made sure I had a memorable trip.

Here are the places I visited and the things that impressed me:


The Gateway of India:
The distinguished monument at the waterfront was a great scene. The monument pulls good crowd and its neighbors, Taj and Trident buildings just add to the beauty. And these are the places I generally like to visit and spend some time. And that's exactly what my friend and myself did, clicking photos and taking in the whole atmosphere.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya:
Formerly named as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, was an interesting place with a great variety of artifacts of great historic importance and included artifacts from other nations as well.
Jehangir Art Gallery:
A quick stop-over at this gallery amused us with some awe inspiring art work. Few paintings were simply outstanding showcased by artists from all over India.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park:
A well known wildlife sanctuary with dense flora and scarce fauna is a good option to spend some quite time in the natural habitat. There is a short ride inside in mini-bus to take us around few tigers and lions. Spotted deer are common and are found easily in the interiors. A lake/pond in the middle has a boat riding option where people can enjoy.
Local commutation:
Everybody uses local trains in Mumbai and I'm sure it's one of the most talked about thing. I had heard about it before but I understood it quite well only when I traveled in it. The auto-rickshaws outside the stations are lined up to transport the incoming crowd to their destinations. All of a sudden, everything around you seems to go in that fast track and you in your own thoughts stuck there watching, perhaps admiring the city pace.
Mumbaikars:
I need to emphasize on few aspects here otherwise the whole description about the city would be utterly incomplete if I miss mentioning them. 
- Firstly, along with the city getting kinda evolved over the years, the Mumbaikars have also evolved and not just the systems around which they exist. Take an instance, they follow some unsaid guidelines during the commutation in those over-crowded local trains; they know exactly how to or which side to board or get off, how to adjust and accommodate with others in that train without being too fussy about the whole over-crowded situation. Mumbaikars understand very well the problems what one faces and are more than willing to help others, just like when I had an altercation at the counter due to unavailability of exact change to buy a ticket, people came forward to lend that amount to me. I tried to transfer them online but they simply refused to take back asking me to consider them as friends.
- You will hardly see any taxi/auto-rickshaw driver overcharging or denying the trip just because he doesn't want to go to a particular destination. I know there will be exceptions and all, but when compared to other cities, this is so great.
- I found this city comparatively clean and I'm certain that this change cannot happen with just the system. Even the people contribute immensely in keeping the city clean. I found many folks who made sure to keep it clean and even objected others when they tried to litter around.
Mumbai Marathon:
Last but not the least, the Mumbai marathon is immensely popular in India and now I know why it's regarded as the best in India. The route took us through the sea-link i.e. the bridge connecting the Bandra and Worli through the sea and it was a great sight and experience running on it. Followed by it was the marine drive which each and every runner would have enjoyed. Local crowd came in good numbers to cheer the runners. They even went ahead distributing orange slices, water and candies. As if that wasn't enough, they even brought placards with funny & witty lines and shouted inspirational quotes all along.

When I sat alone at the airport while returning, I started wondering what was more satisfying, was it running my personal best at the marathon, meeting my trekking friends or was it the charming city Mumbai experience. I couldn't figure it out frankly.