There is a Men’s restroom right across the Service Canada office in Guy-Favrau complex in downtown Montreal. I happened to visit it one morning. As I was washing my hands, a shabbily dressed man besides me tried to get my attention. He asked if I speak English. As usual my first instinct was to ignore the man who looked like a homeless bum. But if this guy was asking for help just because he couldn’t speak french, I didn’t see any harm talking to him. We just stepped out of the restroom after drying our hands under the hot air blower. Suddenly he started speaking in very good English. That’s not usual on the streets of Montreal.

He said, “I arrived last night by a bus from Halifax, Nova Scotia. My bus arrived at Berry UQAM and I was supposed to go to Boston on a connecting bus as soon as I arrived. But the bus got cancelled and they misplaced my luggage. So my bags haven’t arrived yet. I’m going to Boston to do a procedure on the tumor in my stomache.” This is where it got confusing to me. He opened his jacket, pulled up his sweatshirt and showed a big tumor sticking out of his stomache. It was big. The size of his head maybe. I tried my best to not show my disgust. He covered it up and continued telling his story.

“I need to get my medications. The pharmacist here told me that my Insurance provider in Halifax will not work here. Since I didn’t expect getting stranded in Montreal, I didn’t bring much money with me. I had $120 with me. The pharmacist asked for $148.”

All this time, he was showing me a paper, which had something written on it in blue pen. I could make out words like ‘Berry UQAM’, timings, the sum total of some dollar figures, etc. Everything else was in very illegible handwriting.

“I’m running $28 short.”

… At this point, I found myself confused. Since the beginning I assumed this is a homeless man trying to get some money from me. But I wasn’t prepared for such an elaborate story, certainly not one substantiated so well. Turning down a homeless man is pretty easy, but ignoring a stranded sick traveler can definitely make you feel guilty.

I tried to rationalize the situation. To begin with, I cannot say whether this man is lying or saying the truth. The probability that a given unknown person would lie or tell the truth will be 50%. Then in my mind I drew a table. On the left all the things that indicated he was lying and on the right all the things that could prove he wasn’t. I was filling this table as he was presenting me his story. The actual tumor (or what he showed me of it), was a big entry in the right column. Eventually I decided that even if there is a possibility that he is telling the truth and I walk away; I’ll always feel guilty for being a skeptic and valuing $28 more than the helplessness of a sick person. After seeing the situation in this way, I knew what to do. I wasn’t as worried about being fooled for $28 as I was about being irrational. Also, I wanted to know the truth.

So I took out my wallet and gave him $30. He asked for my phone number to return the money, which of course I didn’t give. And then I started looking for his reaction to get a hint of the truth.

He said, “Thank you. It’s good to know there are people.. blah blah” I cut him short and made my exit.

To me it appeared textbook response. If you are asking strangers for money to treat the pain from an illness, because you are stranded in a foreign city, then you are in a very stressful situation. And then you find a person who just solves that problem by giving you all the money you need. …and you don’t show any emotion. You give a boilerplate response. It was at this moment that I thought I had enough data to prove to myself that he was lying.

Later, I tried to put myself in his shoes as a conman and tried to imagine how such situation could be set up.

It is easy to gain sympathy as a stranded Anglophone in Montreal who can’t speak or understand french. Showing someone a big tumour in your stomach, increases your credibility a lot and gains you lot of sympathy instantly. Moreover, anyone would want to avoid looking at an abnormal growth in someone’s body, so most people won’t tend to overanalyse it, if at all. Putting everything he was saying on a piece of paper, somehow made it more credible. I overlooked the fact that all of it was written by hand and in illegible handwriting. He could have scribbled all of it on his own. Furthermore, the price he was asking was just right. Not too small, to raise the doubt that he was just a petty beggar. Not too large, to outweigh my conscience.

Yes, most likely I was conned. … I would never know.




Types of Art

Dimensions of Idea communication


Lessons for Game designers from "Structure of Scientific Revolutions"

Bicycle pedals

Insanity and Software

Playing games, Doing Mathematics

Violet end of spectrum

Vipassana Meditation

Why gamers like pixelated games


Collecting Vs Hoarding Netflix

Game Design tip for Programmers - Less Automation

Review Ghost In The Shell - The blinds scene

Why Electron is the best development platform?

Project Dialog


Don't Panic

The Entanglement Pattern

The flying cars analogy

Road Trip of Atlantic Canada

Having done attitude


Before fixing performance issues

No Exams, Yes Video games

Podcasts Français


Quotable Quotes



Uruguay's President

New rules for Formula 1

Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice

Something's missing


Coffeescript: To switch or not to switch

Water from air

The single most reason that keeps me using Vim

Time travel fiction

When your git branch diverges from your remote

Something like Olivia - John Mayer

Online courses - New technology, Old rules

Kelsey Grammer is spectacular

Why Patriotism doesn't make sense

Why sea steading is important to pursue?


Rolling back latest git commit

Google Lunar X Prize

iTunes Download stopped (err =9006)

Good essay on user centric software design

Why we need to explore Seasteading?


Master pieces from screen

How to write interactive CLI utility in node.js

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

Why OpenGL ES is so hard?

How to print stack trace anywhere in Javascript

It's not fair to compare Android with Internet Explorer

How to debug WebWorker threads?

Why can't I criticize Government if I don't vote? I sure can.

Elon Musk quote

Don't label yourself

Why the hi-tech minds are writing Social apps?

Truce with exercise

JavaScript is the next C

Ever growing todo list is a good sign for creative projects

Lesser women in tech... So what?

HTML5 offline cache - use swapCache carefully

How Wikipedia and Flattr can together change the World


Discovering LastPass

Functional programming in Javascipt using Underscore.js

Youtube ETA - Chrome extension

Why secure airports when it's planes that fly?

Mac book red light audio jack problem on Linux

How to save HTML5 canvas image to Google App Engine

Why don't they publish eBooks for free but with embedded ads?

Silicon Valley and Hi-tech

Reality distortion field around

Indirect experiments

Music sharing

ReaderScope 2.0.6 - Find Comments

ReaderScope 2.0

predictably irrational

ReaderScope upcoming changes


Why "Open" is not the first concern of user?

Mutt, Gmail, gdata, notify-send: A Perfect Email solution

Are you the Matt Damon of your game?

ReaderScope 1.9 - OAuth

New app "Find Comments"


ReaderScope 1.8.{2,3} - new authentication and global share

Portable apps for iPhone, Android, Pre, n900 - Can Processing.js help?

ReaderScope 1.8.1 - rethinking features

ReaderScope 1.8 - Random

Android fragmentation : How big a deal is it?

on Dropbox


ReaderScope v1.7 - Widget, new Icons and .... Ads

on Git: tips for SVN users and Git in Dropbox cloud

How to do an online IDE for Android app development

Anti Asserts

Bono's top ten list

Make Android speak your Twits with "TwitSpeak"


Reality of colors

Talking Twitter client

ReaderScope 1.5 - quicker, better, prettier

Preview android.R.drawable.* images

Is definition of "Evil" changing?

on Music: Battle Studies

ReaderScope 1.4 (with a Theme Pack)

On Chrome OS

Black on White

Android AsyncTask template

The AND-OR problem of laptop and mobile phone

ReaderScope v1.3.3 - offline podcasts

ReaderScope v1.3.2 - Social Channels

ReaderScope v1.3 - Beyond Google Reader

Frets on Fire for Maemo - Update

ReaderScope 1.2.7 - Podcasts, Expanded View

Sprint HTC Hero problems with ReaderScope

ReaderScope 1.2.3 - Search

ReaderScope 1.2.1 - Auto Login

ReaderScope v1.2

ReaderScope 1.1.3 - SDCard storage

Crash report for Android App

Wifi and Battery

ReaderScope 1.1.2

ReaderScope 1.1.1 quick-n-easy features

ReaderScope 1.1 - Social Beacons

ReaderScope 1.0.2 - making deep cache simple

ReaderScope 1.0.1

ReaderScope 1.0

Detecting HTC magic on Fedora

ReaderScope beta4 - offline fun

ReaderScope beta3 - Tweet the news

ReaderScope Beta2

ReaderScope beta1 is out

Intercepting Up/Down keys from bash script

Makeshift XML beautifier in python

HTC Magic (Indian version) - expectations and facts

using android AsyncTask

Android development with Vim + Eclim

Cutewit (preview)

Einstein's Dreams

Preprocessing the GUI

Evas + Inkface in v0.2.5

easy source

FoF - PyOpenGL = miniFoF (possibly for n810)

FoF update

Twitter client with inkface-pygame v0.2.2

Frets on Fire on Maemo 5 (Fremantle)

Static IP configuration on Fedora 10

Inkface+pygame v0.2.0

Smooth scrolling with Inkface+pygame

Inkface v0.2 update and automated GUI testing

Testing Android (Koolu Beta 3) on Openmoko Freerunner

Clutter animation paths with Inkscape+Inkface (v0.1.3)

Turning a page

Planning Inkface v0.2

Debian repository on Google App Engine

Inkface + Clutter

Inkface v0.1.2, Twitter-inkface client


Inkface update

Debugging python reference counts

Paul Graham nails it again!

Fedora 10 on MacBook 2,1

A great essay

Thanksgiving at Crater Lake

Digital SLR buyer's guide

more fun with notify-send

(k)ubuntu 8.10 - not ready for my home yet

Migrating to Google App Engine

Android opened - first looks inside

Has it started?

Inkface v0.1

Musical discovery of the week

Die Berlin-Affäre

aus Berlin

Inkface - SVG based GUI design

Script fun

Visualizing source code

OpenMoko photo tour

New connection with the past

George Carlin - favorite clip


80-20 rule

Python fun

OSiM'08 Berlin, Germany

Of games

"Wine" tasting

Today's slashdot and open source

Cost of Open Source

Lions for Lambs

Ubuntu reviewed

Flickr uploads from n810

Cringely and Paul Graham

Accelerometer brainstorming

Clutter Webkit

OSiM USA 2008 - Day 2

OSiM USA 2008 - Day 1

Google code

Gr8 commercial

OSiM USA 2008, see you there

OpenMoko, Android and a great hacking post

two great videos

Blog from nokia tablets


cool n770 hack


Colbie Caillat

Firefox 3 is brilliant!!!

XML RPC server inside apache mod_python

best effort technologies

coding Monalisa

formula of a horror movie

next desktop jump

The "Screen"

Nice review article on virtualization technologies

Once again... a quote from 'Troy'

Story of a random number

quotes from George Carlin

"from time import sleep"

Sea surfing under the Golden Gate

Trip videos


across two hours

What I read...

How do I backup to Amazon S3 storage service

Stranger than fiction

Gas prices... seems like big scam

Another nice quote

Hilarious nerd comment

Programming & Painting

Why do we like fiction?


If Harry Potter were a computer hacker ...

Gentoo, XGL, HGG

Henry Ford

VI - A capable IDE

New blog

Safari Bookshelf


Back to the L4


GCC 2.95 rpms

repeat (ps | grep) = filtered top

Halo fixed on ATI Mobility Radeon 9000

DirectX Installation Problem

Warning: const is a keyword in ANSI C

Not much on L4 front

Last two weeks


Stumbled on HURD

Installed HURD console

Make problem solved


Handy way to create stack trace