covid19 HowDoI Uncategorized

COVID-19: My understanding & personal precautions for walking, grocery & purchases

[Updated Apr-17-2020]
DISCLAIMER: I am just another OCD ex-engineer MBA who is transfixed by COVID-19, not a doctor. This blog DOES NOT CONSTITUTE HEALTH ADVICE. This is merely an easy synthesis of duly attributed insights / advise from my reading which shall be regularly updated. I recommend products I have used or am aware of – I make no warranties whatsoever, and I earn ZERO commission. This is just me sharing information to help make the world safer for everyone – in the case of any inadvertent copyright violation, please drop your comments.

COVID-19 is THE scariest health emergency in public memory. Whether for the crazy fatality rates among senior citizens in NYC, or the wide variation in fatalities, or the large (~up to 20%) hospitalization rate that overwhelms hospitals or the extended asymptomatic incubation lasting up to 15 days or the lung damage visualized in nearly asymptomatic patients. Therefore, my primary recommendations (in the Indian context) are as follows:

COVID-19 is THE scariest health emergency in public memory. Whether for the crazy fatality rates among senior citizens in NYC, or the wide variation in fatalities, or the large (~up to 20%) hospitalization rate that overwhelms hospitals or the extended asymptomatic incubation lasting up to 15 days or the lung damage visualized in nearly asymptomatic patients. Therefore, my primary recommendations (in the Indian context) are as follows:

a. Wear a mask – make your own if you must [Hindi]. Tie your hankerchief to your face!
b. Wear Scotch brite kitchen gloves / turban face shield in public
c. WASH YOUR hands – use any handwash or sanitizer.
d. Roll-Quarantine non-perishable groceries
e. Vigorously water wash groceries or use slightly soapy water, if you’re OCD.
f. Destroy food delivery packet upon receipt, transfer it into microwaveable utensil and microwave the hell out of it for 2-3 min basis SARS data!
g. Spray disinfect objects (books / garbage cans / electric ) that aren’t safe for easy sanitization or washing by hand.
h. Prevent children from playing in any playground till a vaccine comes out, or till you can clean it yourself.
i. If you live in an apartment complex, it is safe to take a socially distanced morning walk [ Link, Link, Link] though Indian police may most likely book you if they are alerted.

a. Wear a mask. If you have a N95/99 (Delhi pollution helped us prepare!) – please reuse it as far as possible. I keep mine in the sun inside a glass jar, mimicking glasshouse effect.

My stock came from Smart Air Filters / VENUS – open market stocks are dubious these days unless you buy from the best shops. If you must buy – buy a simple cloth or surgical mask. Those are washable.
b. Wear Scotch brite kitchen gloves or post-mortem gloves / turban face shield in public when out for grocery. LEAVE NITRILE GLOVES FOR DOCTORS! They are not reusable. You can reuse post-mortem gloves for years – mine are just giving up at 4 years.
c. WASH YOUR hands – use any handwash. Among sanitizers, I recommend LifeBuoy, which is available in supermarkets in NCR at the right price (250?/500ml). Avoid no-name sanitizers which have dodgy quality of ingredients and waxy hand-feel.
d. Roll-Quarantine non-perishable groceries. The number indicates the number of days to go before it is safe to use. Every day in the morning we pick up stuff from #1, shift it’s tag to the #2 #2 to #3 and the #3 tag into the #1 area, which is now empty. This ends any confusion. Easy habit to know where to put stuff as well and when to remove. Just 3 cards to be rotated daily.

Surely someone has a better idea. Please do suggest in the comments.
e. Vigorously water / mild soapy water wash groceries: Please don’t waste money on Pigeon Fruit Cleanser. In my read, it doesn’t have 70% alcohol, or enough soap. So its a waste of money.
f. Spray disinfection of objects:. Tjori is launching a spray version. The gold Standard, Dettol isn’t available anymore.
g. Walking in open areas – besides the general advise stating it is safe with social distancing: An authoritative research by the US National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases seemed to indicate aerosols were undetectable after 3 hours [page 7, row #109] – that would imply it is safe to walk at 3/4am without a mask, but I would URGE you to wear one regardless.

What is the latest published data about SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 right now: [Comment if there’s something new you would want me to add or remove]

  • Symptoms: Please consult the official MOHFW link or call the helpline at +91-11-23978046 or Toll Free : 1075 or via Email ID : – in the slightest of doubt, please install the central government Aarogya Setu (health bridge) app: Google Play Apple


5 minute hack to optimize your WordPress blog for mobile accessibility

TL;DR: For merely scaling font sizes – Use WordPress Admin Theme Editor to change the base html font size in the theme CSS (a website style documentation standard) to your desired size. It may scale other elements as well, which you can then subsequently tweak to arrive at the right proportions for your website.

I am a free user and am therefore limited to the standard 2020 theme. Simple searches for mobile friendly themes are an endless rabbit hole of time. If you are the slightest bit confident, you can make the 2020 theme quickly compliant with mobiles in five minutes. This does not replace ideally buying a perfectly responsive theme but in the absence of great counsel and honest end-user reviews, this will do for me. For now.

This solution is VERY hacky and basically the ONLY way I know.
First I googled, which was academic and with SEO optimized vendor sites, it is a never ending waste of time. DONT.
Then I simply edited the free 2020 theme CSS. How to do that? Easy: Login to your WordPress dashboard. Browse to Appearance and then click on Theme Editor (last link)

Settings used by me.
A. Set the base font size. The easy way is by searching with the keyword 10px. Basically my theme did some scaling down of the base font size from 16px to 10px to enable all font measurements to be easy to compute. I made that 125% from 62.5%

B. This can have unintended consequences since the entire set of elements in the blog is sized relative to the base text size defined above. This made the blog title too large to read, which was annoying. I solved it by editing the relevant CSS. Instead of giving you a standard answer which MAY NOT work for your theme, the better answer is to use FireFox (or Chrome?) Inspect Element. Open the page, right click on the element you want to change and select Inspect Element – the title in my case.

This is a non-standard page title size specification I had created myself.

Note that the location of the active style selected (2442) tells you where to scroll in the Theme Editor. For those unfamiliar with the term rem – 2.4 rem implies 2.4 times size of the root element which is the html font size defined in step A above.

If such a element doesn’t have a font size defined, you can define it right there in the CSS by adding a line just like I did.

You can use this technique for tweaking anything you wish to edit within your theme instead of paying money for themes that are overkill for everyday bloggers like you and me.

Hope this helps. Please feel free to drop in any questions in the comments.


COVID-Safe Workflow for maids in India

[Disclaimer: In an ideal universe, or for those with 24 hour maids, or no children and a perfect work life balance, the ideal solution is to not let any outsiders in the house. I am not one of those lucky folks, nor seeking to debate about this. Read on if you are like me – click the X if you aren’t – Thanks!]

Firstly – while the maid is working outside the kitchen- ALL residents must wear masks and open as many windows as possible. Indoor within-family transmission accounted for 80% cases in China.

A. Maid should wash utensils with gloves only and puts them to dry. We put them back in the cupboard ourselves.
B. Mopping / pocha in the house should ideally be using the standing mop which is spray sterilized after use. If s/he exerts more, they transmit more COVID as seen in Korean fitness classes.
I further sanitize all door knobs after she’s done her job.
C. S/he must cook food with minimum touching it after finalization e.g
Rotis should be handled using chimta (forceps?) and ideally the resident must put rotis in the casserole themselves, Sabzi should be left in the cooker or kadhai.
D. If one insists the maid puts the food into casseroles then one should gently sanitize the casserole using wipes after the cook puts roti or sabzi inside it.
E. No sanitizer use while the flame is on. No flame to be started till
3 min after sanitizer use.

My rationale for this SOP – basically both tasks are self-sterilized upon completion:
a. Utensils- because they were washed with soap
b. Food because it is cooked at high heat. We make our salads ourselves.

Any further tasks – such as putting dry utensils back in cupboard, or putting food in fridge, is our job. That’s where there is non-self-sanitizing contact.

PS: This SOP is humane and considers that either the resident or maid could be infected and basically minimizes any un-sanitized contact between either party. I do not think making the maid change clothes or footwear makes much sense whatsoever.

X-posted at TeamBHP too.


Air purifier recommendation: 2 years on

Ever since the mad winter of 2016 where Gurgaon practically choked on Diwali, we have had a few air purifiers. This is my comparison after a long term usage:

ParameterKent Eternal
Honeywell A5
Philips AC1215
Price (‘000)
19 (2016 Nov)
9 (Nov 2017)
9 (Nov 2017)
E11 (95%)
H14 (99.97%)
Turbo mode

In retrospect, I would happily purchase another Philips even though it has two idiosyncrasies: frequent filter cleaning requests, auto-switch-off LED display (not auto dimming). The Mi 2s appeals more to my geek side but I understand it has lower filter life. I have not changed any filter till date, but I clean the filters every 30-40 days religiously. I can run the Philips quietly all night, but the Honeywell, is a bit discernible.

Pre filter is really critical since without it the HEPA filter deals with the Guragon dust, which is simply overwhelming. I wouldn’t recommend any device without it, except the Mi 2s. Their design prevents a pre filter. Else its a perfect device in almost every way except the noise at full speed.


Honor Band 2: 2 month review

For an occasional user (most of us) who primarily desires sleep tracking – I am mostly happy given my limited use (resting HR / sleep measurement). For an enthusiast (my wife is a fairly serious runner / swimmer) this is pointless. This is not a “WOW!!” but a “Cool” type of device – it is the kind you buy if you are unsure of using one, but don’t want to spend big amounts on a high end device like the top notch Fitbit.

Updated 3.5 month (July 7) review of Honor Band 2:
– Battery life (15-20 days is easy)
– Segmented sleep capture (you can sleep at 12 noon and it will capture it – mi band did not record midday sleep)
– Notifications work as intended
– Number of Watch faces can be simplified using the app – you can drop pages you don’t want, eg running / swimming but only keep HR.
– Sleep tracking is REALLY accurate! This was my primary purpose – however, do note that it doesn’t capture sleep in flights well. It will only capture a subset of that time as sleep, while I’ve heard from others that Apple watch tracks in-flight sleep more accurately.
– Steps is fairly accurate as well. (if you just swing your arms wildly while stationary it counts steps – this is something JawboneUP4 was smart to ignore)
– Bluetooth connection is quick, reliable but you don’t keep it on since it needs BT+GPS to sync (Stupid Android 8 “feature”)
– 100% waterproof. I bathe with it every single day. I only take it off when I happen to knock the lock open by mistake.
– It stores 10 days of old data on itself. I recently changed my phone under warranty and it brought back 10 day old data that had previously been synced to the older phone. Jawbone UP4 does not do that if I recall right.

– First signs of disintegration seen in 3 months of 24×7 usage. The snap fit tabs of the band that fit into the watch, no longer do so, so the band looks slightly puffy at that edge, but is not visibly broken. Since the band is screwed on to the watch portion, it needs a service center visit. I hope to avoid that for 2-3 months but will update when that happens.
– It is not linked to an ID but to your IMEI hence it is NOT portable across phones. Change phones – you lose your data.
– Swimming tracking is very average – only time is tracked. Under water, touch is disabled (but that’s okay for a 3800 bucks band since costlier watches do that as well).
– Classic is basically rudimentary for running (steps X stride length). I regret not buying the pro for this reason.
– You really need to twist your wrist to switch the face on. Kinda annoying – I would’ve preferred a bit more sensitivity to avoid stressing my hand less.
– Switching the swim mode on/off (long press followed by two knuckle taps) is error prone and a bit kludgy.

Please note that this review is cross-posted on Team-BHP as well:



Why i bought the HTC U11

This is a quick post that summarises the rationale for my decision and should hopefully help others decide because HTC U11 is the flagship no one’s buying in India. That’s a shame:

  1. The camera is truly outstanding. I will attach some sample shots at the end of the post. I think if there’s one camera (besides the i8) that probably beats it, is the S8. But it’s really really close. My decision criteria is focusing in low light, on the fly, not beautiful landscapes. That’s just the kind of photos I shoot, especially of my 6 year old son. I found S8 > i7 ~ Pixel >> S7 > G6. This is as good if not better. It truly deserves the 90 rating by DxoMark.
  2. The specifications are outstanding. This phone at 43.5k gave me the specs (6 GB RAM, 128 GB ROM) at par with S8+. S8 at 54 had 4/64!! This has Quick Charge 3 vs 2 for S8. QC3 really works.
  3. Edge Sense is brilliant for me as a biker and even otherwise when you want to shoot in a cinch. Just squeeze the lower half of the phone and the camera opens up. Another squeeze and you’ve shot a photo! That’s super quick and thoughtful product design.
  4. The speakers are fairly good either for conference calls or especially for music.
  5. The uSonic headphones are a miss of sorts. They’re pretty good but they don’t fit as nicely in your ear as many IEMs hence whatever noise cancellation it achieves is lost when the ear sealing is lost to if one is walking. They should’ve simply aped the Bose earbud design to the extent possible.
  6. The back is truly beautiful. I think it’s unbreakable but like all my phones, I used it only after a case was put.

Where it misses out but doesn’t matter to me:

  1. Edge screen: S8 screen is beautiful, no doubt. But as a forever kludge, I am worried it’ll be easier to break due to the exposed edges.
  2. Bezel less screen. That’s a miss I’m willing to live without, given the savings.
  3. IP68: that’s fine. I don’t intend to expose my phone to water ever. It’s good knowing it has IP67, same as my 2011 Motorola Defy.

My photography comparison across phones:

Sample photos:

Crop from a photo I took in a moving cab

Another couple of low light photos


Sach pass trip accommodation

This quick post summarises the best options for staying while attempting Sach Pass. A. Satrundi 3400m This place is ideal if you have slept the previous night at 2000m or more. There’s only two places here – two dhabas with the capacity of six people each. Nice and cosy at the princely sum of 150/head. Locals even whispered that if you’re really late and tired (like a cyclist) the policemen will let you sleep in their all weather camps, which are weather proof. The phone number in the photo no longer works as BSNL has shut down that tower. B. Bairagarh This is ideal for normal travelers who aren’t racing on the clock. I was. Bairagarh is a nondescript village of a sudden or so houses along the main road. Luckily the best hotel is the first one, Chamunda Hotel. They have CCTV camera in the premises so you’re totally safe! My room even had a Toshiba TV!


Early morning flight in Cebu? Reserve a traditional taxi only 

Our experience flying out of Cebu on 1st January 2017 was quite traumatic. I strongly recommend booking a traditional cab with a trusted provider like Danny Noy (recommended on TA) +639061534659 or Mario (an associate of Danny who drove us) +639266710973. At this time the airport drop rate was 500 peso. The other thing is that mobile phone networks in the Philippines have rather bad connectivity so even in Cebu I had no data outside a busy shopping center. So relying on app taxis can be costly. 

Traditional taxis and Uber and Grab cars were either drunk or asleep at 330 am. Why do I say so? Even a 2x surge didn’t get us a single driver! Mind you even at 2x surge it’s cheaper than the typical taxi (charge 400-500). Grab had no surge and an impressive list of drivers but with the exact same result. 

Our hotel concierge’s bad English made a terrible situation untenable. They said taxi on signal. So we thought the taxi is at some signal enroute. Only after 25 min we realized that all they had done was switch on the “Taxi needed” signal. But being situated off the main road meant it was useless. The hotel’s own cars were booked. 

What finally worked? Grab has two options : Grab taxi and Grab car. The latter is a sort of premium service (we got a spanking new Innova Crysta) at 2x the rate. In the end we got to the airport within 15 min of booking Grab Car but only after 1.5 hours of false starts. It could’ve been much worse. 

Don’t be like me – trusting Uber with my intl vacation in a city where its yet to be established. Take the safe  way out. 


Making SMS from your old Android phone available on your new iPhone

For whatever reason, if you’re like me, and you discover that the Move to iOS app does not fully move your SMSes (don’t ask why!) – there’s a backup.

You can use mDroid SMS Backup & Restore (not the Carbonite one) to export messages to CSV, and then upload them to google drive. You can export into text and email to yourself as well. The latter is preferred since you can always access it via gmail!


Why move to iOS fails on some Android devices

The reason is twofold:
a. Your android phone is most likely not in airplane mode: It transfers data to the iPhone by first setting up a WiFi hotspot on the iPhone to which the Android phone connects. The problem is that the wifi hotspot does not provide internet access. So in the background, Android tries to shut down access to this hotspot, resulting in the Android phone being unable to access the iPhone. Putting the Android in airplane mode solves it on most phones. Atleast it did on our 1+1. Lots of threads say the same things.
b. Lack of permissions: On many devices, it doesn’t gain the permissions upfront. You need to open the privacy control app (or the equivalent) to give the app full access.