30 August 2010

Back from DC

I just got back from a trip to DC.

Cast of characters
Kumar Anna: means Kumar older brother.
Sowmya Manni: means Sowmya wife of my older brother
Nithya: their daughter, 9(?)
Vinayak: their son, 6
Shivakumar Anna: Sowmya Manni's brother. He has the same exact name as my brother, so I'm using the full version to keep them sorted.

So I got to DC, and one of the first things Kumar anna asked me is "Why didn't you just catch the bus at 1 am on Friday, sleep on the way here, and just arrive into DC in the morning?" D'oh! The answer was so obvious that I couldn't see straight. OK, so that's what we'll do the next time. Vinayak was well and truly conked out. Nithya was playing with Kumar anna's new ipod touch. Sowmya Manni was driving in the front, and chatting with Shivakumar anna.

I updated Kumar anna about my committment to quitting smoking, having learned that he'd undertaken the same journey. On the way to the store, we find out that Shivakumar anna had done his own quitting about 4 years back. Huh. Interesting, eh? So with that knowledge under my helmet, I was free to relax about curbing cravings.

Once we made it to their house, got the car emptied, and trooped indoors, I was quite ready to tuck into Sowmya Manni's cootoo. It's a South Indian dish made from vegetables (generally things like radish, squash, bit of onion, cumin, mustard seed, and coconut milk). It's a pretty simple (though very tasty) dish, and it looked ravishing after that five hour bus ride to DC. I immediately helped myself to a bowl.

I mentioned off-hand what a pain it was that my ipod's bluetooth had gone under with the latest software update (which no amount of rolling back fixed, thanks), and I had to use wired headphones, because that's all that will work.

"What's wrong with the wired?"

"They keep getting caught on everything."

"Just wear the wire under your shirt."

The day had barely begun, and he'd already delivered two hugely useful bits of advice without a second thought.

I thought of these exchanges today, when I was at work. "Huh? What does '1 bucket of soup, broken and discarded'," even mean? I stared at the "broken/discarded items" log blankly. Last year, I'd keep forgetting to update the Quickbooks with any losses because of damaged items. This year, I'm jotting it all down on a log, so I can keep a running tally.

Upon further investigation ("Boss, what on earth does this mean?), it would mean that one of the service buckets, inside which soup is stored, was dropped by accident (everyone was OK; the service buckets are plastic), and the bucket broke, meaning that the soup and the bucket had to be thrown out.

Now we're getting somewhere. Right, but what do those cost? Boss Man shrugged. I silently cursed as I stalked off to the office to get to the bottom of this. I calculated the rough liquid capacity of the soup mug (12 oz~ish), and the rough size of the bucket (3 quarts?), and went about converting the one to the other and dividing across, and looking at the final score.

Then I cursed aloud, balled up the paper, and flung it across the room at the wall. 8 servings per bucket? That made no sense. So I started up again. Maybe the buckets are 2 quarts. Yeah, that's it, it's 2. Then I checked my math, and the cost of the soup. If that indeed was how much soup I'm getting for that soup recipe, we're not charging nearly enough. This makes no sense! I balled up a second sheet of paper, and stewed for a minute.

Wait a minute.

Excitedly, I ran out into the plating area, grabbed a soup mug, grabbed an empty service bucket (it needed washing out anyway), and filled it with water. Then, counting down, I started to empty the bucket, one mug at a time.


Sometimes, it takes an intelligent person a frustratingly long time to find the same answer that you could have figured out in 10 seconds. I cross-checked the math with the pricing, and the little lightbulbs went off in my head. Yes. Everything fit neatly, and easily. Also, now I had a quick way to assess whether or not I'll need more of a particular thing. If I've only got 1 1/2 buckets of soup left, I'd better get into the kitchen and whip up another one. If it's lunch rush and I've only got 1 1/2 buckets of soup left, then I'd better crank the stove, crank the oven, and /run/.

Why is this so exciting to me? Because now I /know/. A little thrill of triumph crossed my face as I completed the maths problem the easy way, made my notations, and moved to the next set of hurdles to jump, with its own set of numbers to rescue from the clutches of "I don't know."

All in a day's work.

To be continued ...