A life ordinary by Amit Sarkar - Issue #38

Welcome to another edition of my newsletter.

My recent trip to the USA was amazing and I’ve written more about it below.

I recently got a hearing test done and my high-frequency hearing loss is still stable. I had checked this in 2018 before we went travelling to South America. I recently got another test done to check if the hearing loss has progressed or if it’s still the same. And the good news is that it’s not progressed. Book your free hearing test with Boots today.

I also attended The QA Financial Forum London 2023 testing conference. The agenda was quite diverse and learnt a lot about emerging trends in the world of QA from the perspective of what the financial organizations are thinking and where the tool vendors are thinking. This was my second year in a row at this conference. Topics like chaos testing, green testing, service virtualisation, visual testing, data testing, shape-up method, etc. were discussed.

And I ran my fastest 15 kms in a time of 1hr 21mins and 43secs. I was trying to push hard for an under 1hr 20mins time but the hills around my house beat me to it. Will try to see if I can get a better time on a flatter course.

Something I also learned recently was that the .ai and .tv domains belong to Anguilla and Tuvalu countries respectively. It’s incredible to think that these domain names don’t belong to technologies that we think they would belong to.

Finally, the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi was a huge event for India and it launched two books on this occasion. One was called Bharat - the Mother of Democracy. The other was Elections in India. Both books highlight different things and it’s definitely worth reading.

🦠 Skin cancer

This is an article about why skin cancer is on the rise among the over-55s. It discusses the increase in skin cancer rates among this population group and the possible causes. Some of the important points are that older adults are less likely to use sun protection and that many people in this age group accumulated significant sun damage in their early years. The article also provides information on the signs and symptoms of skin cancer and how to prevent it.

Signs and symptoms of skin cancer include changes to the size, shape, or colour of moles, as well as new or unusual growths on the skin

When we buy sunscreen, it’s important to pay attention to the SPF rating and what kind of UV protection are we getting.

There are 2 types of UV rays -

  • UVA rays: These rays penetrate deep into the skin and can cause premature skin ageing and wrinkles. They are also thought to play a role in the development of skin cancer.

  • UVB rays: These rays are responsible for sunburn and skin cancer. They do not penetrate as deeply into the skin as UVA rays, but they can still cause damage.

To protect yourself from UVA and UVB rays, you should:

  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, even on cloudy days.

  • Wear protective clothing, such as a hat and sunglasses.

  • Avoid the sun during the middle of the day, when the rays are strongest.

Here are some additional tips for protecting yourself from the sun:

  • Seek shade whenever possible.

  • Apply sunscreen liberally to all exposed skin, including your face, neck, ears, and hands.

  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if you are sweating or swimming.

  • Avoid tanning beds.

⛵ World trade routes

If we ever want to understand history, then we need to understand it with geography. What is around us influences how we do things. And the video below shows how the world evolved with the different trade routes.

Check the important trade routes based on the timestamp from the video -

00:00 - The Incense Route

One of the earliest trade routes linked the Indian subcontinent and the southern Arabian Peninsula, facilitating the exchange of valuable goods like spices and incense. This route included maritime navigation along coasts, followed by desert caravans to Petra, a key trade hub. Alexander the Great's establishment of Alexandria in 331 BC further boosted this route, connecting India and Europe through merchant ships and making Alexandria a major trade center.

01:03 - The Silk Road

The Silk Road, a 1,500-year-old trade route, connected China to the Middle East, facilitating the exchange of silk, spices, porcelain, and jade. It originated in East Turkestan with jade trading for tea and was further developed following Zhang Qian's diplomatic mission to counter the Xiongnu nomads. His report led the Chinese emperor to permit silk exports, expanding the Silk Road into the Middle East, and shaping global trade history.

02:19 - The Roman Empire

After Cleopatra's death, Egypt became part of the expanding Roman Empire. Rome sought valuable goods from the Arabian Peninsula like pearls, spices, and incense, leading to exploration of the Nile route and connections with the Kingdom of Aksum. This exploration established a new trade route to India, reducing the importance of Arabian Peninsula cities. Romans also engaged in the silk trade with China via the Parthians, extending the Silk Road across their empire. Even with the rise of the Sassanids, trade continued, and the Roman Empire eventually moved its capital to Constantinople, emerging as a critical East-West commerce centre.

03:46 - Arabs

The 7th-century Arab conquests reshaped trade routes, disrupting the India-Constantinople connection. The pivotal Battle of Talas in 751 granted Arabs access to Chinese manufacturing secrets, shifting China to safer sea routes. This enabled Arabs to become central figures in a vast network, producing carpets, cobalt blue, and importing items like porcelain and spices. They traded gold, slaves, ivory, and more, fostering Arab city expansion and spreading Islam and culture globally, leading to economic prosperity in the Arab world.

05:21 - Italian Merchants

In the 11th century, Pope Urban II initiated a crusade to Jerusalem due to threats from nomadic Turkic tribes and persecution of Christian pilgrims. Italian republics offered supplies to crusaders in exchange for trade privileges in conquered cities. In 1204, Venice redirected the 4th Crusade to Constantinople, leading to its siege and the Byzantine Empire's collapse. Italian republics then dominated Mediterranean trade. In northern Europe, trading cities collaborated to establish a Baltic-North Sea route, exporting furs, grain, herring, and fostering textile production in Flanders and England.

06:36 - Sea-Route to India

In 1453, Constantinople's fall disrupted Asia-Europe trade, spurring Portugal's ocean exploration with Caravel ships. They established trading posts, dominated slave and gold trades, and aimed to reach the Indies by bypassing Africa. Simultaneously, Spain sought the Indies via westward exploration, finding America. Portugal's success in Calicut led to Indian Ocean trade route control, enriching Europe and diminishing overland routes. This pivotal discovery shaped history, leading to Middle Eastern trade route decline, European colonialism in Asia, and the Renaissance's cultural and economic impact.

07:51 - The Manila Galleons

The Manila Galleons, Spanish ships operating from the 16th to the 19th centuries, connected the Philippines and Mexico, transporting Mexican silver to exchange for Chinese goods like spices, tea, silk, and porcelain, before returning to Acapulco, Mexico. This trade fueled the Spanish Empire, introduced new ideas and goods to Europe, and shaped the development of the Philippines and Mexico. However, by the 19th century, factors like European competition, the decline of the Spanish Empire, and the Mexican War of Independence led to the trade's decline.

09:47 - Triangular Trade

The Triangular Trade, spanning the 16th to 19th centuries, connected Europe, Africa, and the Americas through a complex exchange of goods. European ships traded items like crockery, weapons, and tools in Africa for enslaved individuals, who were then transported to the Americas for labor in industries like sugar cane and mining. These ships returned to Europe laden with sugar, tobacco, rum, and precious stones. While profitable for Europeans, this trade caused immense suffering in Africa and the Americas, with millions enduring slavery and harsh conditions, and detrimental effects on their economies and societies. Despite its abolition in the 19th century, the legacy of the Triangular Trade continues to shape the world, underscoring the importance of understanding and learning from this history.

11:02 - The Industrial Revolution

The late 18th-century Industrial Revolution in Great Britain led to rapid technological and economic changes, with mechanization and steam power at its core. This revolution brought about new industries like textiles and iron and steel, urbanization, an emerging working class, increased trade, and the expansion of European colonialism. Innovations in transportation, such as railroads and steamships, further fueled global economic growth and trade, with the Industrial Revolution's lasting impact continuing to shape the modern world, fostering demand for global goods, establishing new trade routes, and improving transportation technologies.

12:18 - Canals

In 1854, France gained permission to build the Suez Canal, which opened in 1869, revolutionizing travel to India by reducing the need for lengthy voyages around Africa. Simultaneously, European powers convened to regulate African colonization, leading to resource exploitation and large plantations for goods like coffee and cocoa. In 1904, the U.S. acquired the Panama Canal, shortening the Pacific-Atlantic maritime route, cementing American control, and marking a pivotal moment in global trade and influence.

13:59 - Globalization

Globalization post-World War I, driven by oil-powered technology and the growth of the automobile and aviation industries, initially relied on sources like the United States, Mexico, and the Caspian Sea for oil. However, the discovery of abundant and affordable oil in the Middle East and America post-World War II boosted global trade. Aviation played a crucial role in facilitating international trade, but instability in the Middle East and Africa, like the Six-Day War and 1970s oil price shocks, disrupted global energy dynamics. Countries explored alternative energy sources, including nuclear power. In the 1970s and 1980s, significant growth in electronics and computers in the United States, followed by Japan and other Far East nations, led to technological advancements in various industries. China's dominance in rare earth metals, vital for electronics, became strategic. This era marked a transformative phase in the global economy, driven by technological innovation and shifting resources.

16:18 - New Silk Road

In 2001, China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) attracted foreign companies due to its low-cost labor force and favorable incentives, resulting in a flood of "Made in China" products and making it the world's manufacturing hub. In 2013, China launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to secure raw materials and expand exports through extensive global infrastructure investments. The BRI, involving around 140 countries and set to conclude by 2049, represents a massive global development project with significant economic and geopolitical implications.

17:54 - Current Situation

In today's global trade, arms and drugs, controlled mainly by criminal networks, constitute major sectors with an annual turnover nearing $500 billion. Opium poppies, cannabis resin, and cocaine are sourced from specific regions and transported to Europe and the United States. The primary maritime trade route encompasses key straits and channels across the globe. Climate change-driven ice melting at the North Pole may create shorter, more efficient routes, potentially benefiting Russia and Canada. Global powers closely watch this development, with the United States and the European Union advocating for open navigation, while China seeks to establish a Polar Silk Road, highlighting geopolitical competition and strategic interests in these emerging trade routes.

🚗 USA trip

I recently went to the USA to meet a few college friends. It was my first time in the country and a real eye-opener.

Fast food - In the USA, people are extremely busy and hence, fast food is a popular thing. My favorite fast food chain was Chipotle as I’m vegan and they had really good options.

Sight-seeing - Over the period of 1 week, I visited

Shopping - We went to the Merrimack outlet on our way back to Boston from New Hampshire and bought some stuff for our families. There is no state tax in New Hampshire. And in some stores, they give discounts on top of the outlet price. So it was a great deal for us.

Tipping culture - Well, this was something new to me coming from the UK where we are used to paying a 12.5% service charge as part of our bill. In the USA, it’s different. They first add the total, then they add the state tax and then they add a tip. This tip could be anywhere from 18% to 28%. Which was much higher than what we are used to in the UK. But this tip is only when you go to a proper restaurant. In fast food chains, you can avoid those tips.

Running - I ran the Jamaica Pond parkrun in Boston and a 10K route in Central Park, New York. And it was amazing to see so many runners in both the cities.

Driving - The USA is built for cars. They have interstate highways that connect every state to each other so driving is very easy. We drove 1073 miles in 5 days. Our car was a Chevrolet Malibu.

Gun culture - Guns are very popular in the USA and you can find shops where you can buy guns if you have a proper license. Cops are also carrying guns very casually. This is quite different from what we see in the UK. Another interesting fact I learned while I was there, was that of Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine in the USA is a legal principle that pertains to the use of deadly force in self-defense situations within one's home or "castle." It generally allows individuals to use force, including lethal force, to protect themselves, their family, and their property from intruders or attackers without a duty to retreat first.

Diversity - I was surprised to see so many Spanish-speaking people and even in the train stations there were instructions written both in English and Spanish. Airports had staff who could speak both English and Spanish. This indicates that the USA is much more than what we see on TV and in films. It has a huge migrant population that has integrated really well into the country.

👨‍🚀 A million miles away

Recently I saw this film based on the true story of José M Hernández, the first migrant farmworker to go to space.

The film comes up with 5 ingredients for success outlined below -

  1. Find your goal.

  2. Know how far you are.

  3. Draw a roadmap.

  4. If you don't know how, learn.

  5. When you think you've made it you probably have to work harder.

José applied to the NASA Astronaut program 11 times before finally getting selected on his 12th attempt. It was a wonderful film highlighting the fact that perseverance and support from loved ones can help you achieve any impossible dream.

Aiming higher and working towards it consistently will pay you the reward. Be it any goal.

❤️ Things I enjoyed

This section has been inspired by Ali Abdaal’s wonderful newsletter.

🎬 Video - SPEED COMPARISON 3D | Fastest Man Made Objects is an incredible comparison of speed between different man-made objects.

📱 App - Trading 212 to buy shares, index funds and invest in ISAs. Do you want to get free shares worth up to £100? Join Trading 212 Invest with my link, and we will both get free shares. I have been using it for over a year now and would highly recommend it.

🎬 Video - Why Coconut Farmers Risk Their Lives To Feed The World's Superfood Obsession is an important video highlighting how a simple food becomes a superfood.

📝 Article - Elon Musk’s Shadow Rule highlights Elon Musk’s impact on the world which is not without controversy. Some people have criticized him for his business practices and his personal behavior. However, there is no doubt that he is one of the most influential people in the world today.

📺 TV show - Extrapolations on Apple TV Plus is a show that discusses how climate change will affect people’s lives in the future. It can be quite depressing at times but nevertheless, it tries to imagine a future where climate crisis is inevitable and how humans cope with it.

🌐 Website - Animates knots by Grog is the web’s #1 site for learning how to tie knots.

Thank you so much once again for reading my newsletter this week. Please feel free to Buy me a coffee if you are enjoying what I am sharing.

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Until we meet again next week, stay warm, be kind, explore more, stay curious, love more and be happy.

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