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Life as I'm learning it

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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an agèd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Some kinda rich

[This is a direct lift from Thejo's blog! Friend, you can claim a trackback.]

An oft-repeated line from a 60s Tamil song roughly translates to "there are crores of people who are worse off; consider that, and seek solace." This is a part of those solace-seeking measures. There are 5,139,715,394 people in the world who draw a salary that is lesser than mine. Here's where I stand (according to The Global Rich List).

I'm the 860,284,606 richest person on earth, which puts me in top 14.33%.

However, the way the site calculates one's position is flawed. It converts salaries into exchange rate dollars. I would be better off if it were considered in real terms i.e PPP-converted terms. That would put my rank at around 430 million, pushing me into the top 8%. Damn, I say, what self-conceit!

I'm only reminded of this classic sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Ozymandias of Egypt

I MET a traveller from an antique land
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The God of Small Things

[This post is a blatant boast... an expression of my conceit... a vent to my vanity]

Yesterday, we had a team meeting - a kick-off meeting for a really crucial release that is coming up in a few months' time - so critical, it is considered a make or break. After the initial formalities like context setting, appraising members of the criticality of the release, and some introductions, the project plan was dished out.

To my surprise, I found that I had been made an anchor for one part of the project!!! Easily the best thing that has happened to me in quite some time... considering that this is my first job, and I haven't completed one year in the company! I can now command - nay - work with two other people who will constitute my team.

Life is such a great balancer. It gives you something to brag about, but always rolls it up with lots of responsibilities. Spare a thought for God, the Omnipotent. I wonder how he manages the infinite power which brings along with it infinite responsibilities. Surely at least for that, we must salute the Almighty!

To my regular readers: I might not post frequently in the coming days and weeks. After all, an anchor like me has so much work to do. Gotcha! -:)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Why I won't move to MSN Spaces

Let me start by stating some facts and opinions. Microsoft is a phenomenon. I use Windows; though I'm quite comfortable with Linux, I won't use a Linux-only PC for many years to come. Microsoft Office is just too good. Let me accept that I live in a Microsoft universe. I respect Microsoft for bringing the PC to the common man.

But Microsoft has been (probably has always been) sluggish. Be it the fact that they realised the potential of GUIs only after seeing the Mac, or the fact that they realised the potential of the Internet only after Netscape... or that they have just realised that their cranky one-tab only browser is on the way down, Microsoft has not been the first mover in most good things.

But somehow they have managed to retain their place as the top software behemoth... sometimes by fault and sometimes by default. But with the coming of Google, Microsoft has lots to fear. Google has been churning one new technology after another, most of it winning public support. Some industry watchers predict that Google could come up with its own PC, a dumb terminal which could directly connect to the Internet and run Google software. Microsoft, thou 800-pound behemoth, are you all deadweight?

Google's popularity has been such that the site should be receiving at least one on every four clicks on the Net. Nobody uses the term search these days, they always "google" for something! I don't think MSN Search can compare with Google; the only way Microsoft can prevent people from googling is to release service packs for Windows and IE, which would redirect the browser to MSN Search, if the user types in google.com. Microsoft might even put in an alert box saying "Don't try Google - MSN Search is best for you!!!"

Blogging, being one of the world's favorite pastimes, Microsoft didn't want to lose out on this space. So they seem to have come out with their own version of a blogging tool. Given the fact that Microsoft could have studied so many popular blog sites before developing Spaces, I'm amazed that they haven't really improved much.

That same old cluttered interface à la Hotmail is enough to drive away any potential blogger. And then there is the 30 MB storage limit. When Google is increasing mail storage by the second, Hotmail is still touting its 250 MB mailbox as il fenome. And even that is applicable only for residents of North America! In a world sans barriers, that sounds ridiculously ridiculous! Same applies to Spaces. I'm not saying that I'll write 100 pages everyday and exhaust the 30 MB limit inside a month. But Blogger says you write, we host... however huge! Who wins, you decide!

The commenting system in Spaces makes me red with anger. One must log in using his Passport to place a comment. To put in one line "Nice post, dude!", I'll have to do that? Surely, they must be easier ways to make people get a Passport! As one friend remarked, "... for a narrowly read blogger like me costs too much in terms of visits. Obviously, we need some one to read and comment."

Spaces has three good features that Blogger doesn't offer. There is an inbuilt trackback system, a hit counter, and photo albums. But all these features can be installed on Blogger using third-party offerings. And this is where Blogger triumphs. You get the basic framework, and innumerable tweaks and add-ons.

One of my Computer Science professors used to remark that Unix was built for engineers, and Windows for clerks! In an era where everyone is becoming tech-savvy, plain user-friendliness just won't sell! If Microsoft realises this, we've got a real game on our hands. Else, let us roll out the carpet for Google!

A brief history of Google

Joe Anderson is essaying a history of Google right from its days as a fledgling. Makes for some interesting reading.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Those who can, do; those who can't, teach!

Britain's numero uno, Tim Henman, was knocked out of Wimbledon on Thrusday. Personally, I could never have thought of him as a champion - not an addition to names like Connors, McEnroe, Becker or Sampras. Probably he was never meant to be.

A dejected Henman leaves Centre Court Posted by Hello

Some news channel commented that it was time for Henman to concentrate on coaching and assisting younger talents, so that Britain could produce a champion tennis player in the future. Given the fact that I have been under the tutelage of some really inspiring teachers, I consider the saying "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach" a travesty. But Henman can forget all that and inspire a clutch of conquerors. Maybe we already have one in Andrew Murray.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Who is Maheeva Kammat?

Just like everyone else, I'm a music freak. On the road, at home, at work, I keep humming some tune; if not, I keep tapping my fingers (thanks to two years of formal training in percussion). I love almost any music that is rhythmic and not noisy; melodies, I adore! My favourite genre is Tamil film music.

However my music listening is kinda strange. Unlike many I know, I don't listen to entire playlists or even albums. I listen to something; if I like it, I repeat it over and over and over again. Almost as if I am beholding a phenomenon - as if that piece were the anthem, the final word in music. I've observed that this habit of mine hasn't changed - only the songs keep changing, maybe once a month.

The phenomenon I'm currently beholding is Konjam Konjam from the Tamil movie, Arindhum Ariyaamalum. I don't know when I started listening to this solo piece; neither do I know when I'll stop. My friends and colleagues have grown sick of the publicity I've been giving to this song, composed by Yuvan Shankar Raja.

Solo love songs are common in Tamil movies, but they are always sung by the hero. He craves and he croons. I've often wondered how insensitive moviemakers are to the emotions of the leading lady. Don't they long for their hero? Or aren't they creative enough to express their outpourings? Why should they been depicted as haughty? Are only men lovesick? In recent times, the one music composer who changed the trend by doling out melodious love solos is Harris Jeyaraj. He is a real trend-setter. Vaseegara (from Minnale), Poove Vaai Pesum (12 B) and Ondra Renda (Kaakha Kaakha) come to the mind almost immediately.

Konjam Konjam is a fitting addition to this oft-overlooked genre. It is set on the beach where the girl is observing her beau who is playing volleyball. They have been friends for some time, and love is blossoming between them. One needn't see the visuals to guess that the song has some beach sequences. Except for the opening, I haven't seen them myself. The tune and the beats are set in a way that evokes memories of sea shanties - a rare fusion of the African and Mediterranean (or say Carribean and South American) variety, interspersed with a qawwali-style chorus.

One must hand it over to the singer. Her lovely rendering of this song strikes us with awe, more so when we are told that this is her debut song! I haven't heard of the name Maheeva Kammat before; I don't even know if the spelling is correct - but this is the one Google agrees upon. Various music reviews misspell her name ad nauseum, with one claiming that he has done a great job!

The song starts in a very casual, nonchalant even careless way. But twenty seconds into it, we realise that the subdued nature of feminine passion is going to explode. The transition happens, but not fully. Maheeva delights us with her seamless movement from one pitch to another, those neat inflections, and a voice that conveys a longing, that passion. In fact to call it feminine passion is wrong - those girlish notions of romance, pride even in love, are brought out superbly. That passion remains subdued, and lingers till the very end.

That she isn't a Tamilian is evident; her accent and pronuniciation reveal it amply (she says kolluppam for doubt). But given that one is used to hearing bad Tamil from gen-next females, on screen, on TV and in real life, it seems natural, and hence pardonable. But Maheeva wins it with her impeccable style - it compensates for any shortcomings. Her adorable voice makes the song drip with passion. And for that reason, she wins my vote for the Best Debutante Singer award for this year! Maheeva Kammat (if that's the right spelling), I salute you for this magnificent effort!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Jack Kilby (1923 - 2005)

A friend mourns the demise of one of the most important inventors of all time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The delightful art of doing nothing

I received a simple two-line forwarded mail yesterday.

In olden days, if people wanted to become hermits, they used to leave behind their homes, their friends and relatives, and such other things and go to the Himalayas.

These days, they join a software company!
I was on leave today... for two reasons: I had some work to attend to in the morning, and an exam in the afternoon. That both things fell on the same day was lucky indeed, else I would have had to bunk one more day. Mother Nature however provided a third, more compelling reason for a holiday - today was the best day yet of the summer of 2005!

Only now do I realise that it is the 21st of June, supposed to be longest day of the year. But we could hardly spot the sun, thanks to the thick cloud cover. It is nice to know that my blog gets read in worlds other than ours (only I can't find many takers in this world!). My veiled wails of yesterday have been justly answered.

The morning's work was over sooner than expected, so I had lots of time to enjoy the charming weather. Afternoon was even better. As I was riding, there were those ever so tiny droplets of rain threatening to break out in full flow. I wonder when last a breeze so enjoyable floated around the city. I wish I had some poetic sense to describe my thoughts. Such a weather brings out the artist in us all.

The exam I was supposed to take this afternoon is the first part of a four-part exam leading to a Diploma in the French language (Diplôme d'études en langue française). Though I didn't have any doubts of breezing past the exam, the fact that I had to converse in French was giving me the creeps. It turned out to be easier than I thought.

I was supposed the play a prospective buyer of mobile phones, who enters a shop and inquires about different models and finally settles down on one. I threw in some extempore phrases here and there, in a mood to impress la vendeuse, who happened to be the most experienced professor of French in Chennai! The written exam was so simple, it makes one think that it is directed at people who don't know anything of French...

Now that I've said so many demeaning statements about the exam, I should keep my fingers crossed hoping to pass!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Who cares about little Johnny?

This past weekend, some of my project members went to Vishakapatnam to attend the marriage of a colleague. As they returned to work yesterday, most of them were sporting an undesirable tan! At more than 45 degrees C (113 F), the sun was merciless. On an average they should have imbibed 10 litres of fluids each day! Even the nights were no less tortuous.

Not that we're complaining of incessant snowfall in Chennai, but to know that other places are suffering much worse under the heat wave brings mixed reactions - I pity the people who have to toil under such searing heat, while feeling happy that I'm better off here. I remember reading in some book (maybe Word Power) a pithy line under the title Classroom Classics, a collection of common goof-ups because of the misuse of vocabulary: "The climate in Bombay is such that its people have to live elsewhere". I think such a statement can be applied to 80% of places in India.

Last evening provided some much needed relief. A week of 100F days seems to have disturbed even the rain-god and woken him up from his deep slumber. Chennai was screened by some lusty-looking cumulonimbus clouds and was lashed by -- nay, sprinkled with -- some showers. The much excitable Chennai population, and the trigger-happy media (Radio Mirchi, for one) declared celebrations... and since then, there hasn't been one droplet!

I'm certain that young children are spoilt big-time in schools. One of the first rhymes the tiny tots are taught is "Rain rain go away! Little Johnny wants to play!" It is one of the examples of how pathetic and mindless the teaching system is in our country. Kids should be taught something meaningful, practical and relevant. Whenever there are dark clouds, these toddlers sing in unison and drive the rain away. The power of prayers? Public opinion?

If you live in Chennai or some such rain-forsaken place and want to do something about it, I suggest you talk to the authorities in the schools in your area! After all, it is time to revamp the education system...

Friday, June 17, 2005


There is an old anecdote (possibly even apocryphal) about how a woman proposed to George Bernard Shaw telling him that if they married, their progeny would be blessed with her beauty and his brains. The inimitable GBS is known to have shot back, "But what if he inherits my uncomely countenance and your stupid intellect?"

Who doesn't want all the wealth of Bill Gates, the genius of Albert Einstein and the come-get-me looks of Tom Cruise (or Pitt or Depp)? Yes, all of it! You know you won't refuse it. But what if you can't refuse it? What if you don't have the power to refuse it? If it is beyond your control?

There is a theory that if a person has too much pent-up emotions courtesy of incidents, accidents, even tragedies he has faced in his life, his mind can conjure up a totally different personality - an all-conquering ideal, through which the person releases those emotions, sometimes even in violent ways. That is the basis of a split personality. Or so opines director Shankar. And that opinion forms the storyline of the most eagerly awaited Tamil film of 2005 - Anniyan (the stranger).

The theme is not new. A man whose docile nature sheaths his anger at society, its corrupt and devious elements is a recurrent theme in Shankar's movies like Gentleman and Indian which were roaring successes both with the critics and at the BO. However, unlike Krishnamurthy or Senapathi, Ramanujam Iyengar is not Dr. Jekyll by day and Mr. Hyde by night. He is Doctor er... Lawyer Jekyll all the while. A righteous person, he cannot tolerate those who break or bend rules. But "Rules" Ramanujam is a typical Brahmin, he can complain endlessly, but he cannot act against an erring society. He comes across a website which accepts his grievances and promises to punish sinners.

Lo and behold, Anniyan barges on to the scene. Unknown to the world, unknown to Ramanujam, this omnipotent stranger guillotines the guilty, leaving behind only a jumble of letters. Who is he? Why does he look like Ramanujam? And who's Remo, the ramp-walk model? These are some of the many questions raised in an otherwise boring first half. The riveting second half provides not only the answers but is the saving grace too.

A movie of three hours cannot be without downsides. As already stated, the theme is not new. The storyline seems like a collage of a dozen movies - Indian, Gentleman, Ramana, A Beautiful Mind, The Matrix, Spiderman, Aalavandhaan, For the People (Four Students), Mudhalvan, even Chandramukhi! But Shankar's inevitable touch, technical wizardry and taut screenplay make this breakneck-speed movie very enjoyable . But hey, isn't it unpardonable that a director of Shankar's class should also stoop down to Matrix- and Spidey-style stunts?

For once, a leading lady has some part to play, beyond the usual dance sequences. Sadha grabs her role with both hands and has perfomed well enough for us to remark that she is not saadha. Prakash Raj is his usual self, adding another feather to his already heavy cap. After a long time, Vivek also shines in a role sans dialogues with sexual undertones.

If you thought the soundtrack was great, check them out on screen. Each song has been shot with such taste and to such perfection that the producers could have released music videos separately. Kannum Kannum Nokia is the pick of the music videos! You can miss the initial titles sequence, and still guess that the dialogues have been penned by Sujatha. Savour this... in one scene, Ramanujam is beaten black and blue by some rogues. After some time, in comes Anniyan. One of the rogues asks, "Avana ivan?" Anniyan replies, "Avan illada, Yaman da!"

A couple of days ago, someone raised a question if Anniyan would be Shankar's magnum opus. My answer is NO! But it is certainly Vikram's magnum opus. Yet again, Vikram has proved that he can deliver to the weight of expectations. Though his mannerisms as a typical (?) Tam-Brahm seem like an aping of Poornam Viswanathan, his portrayal of three different roles with such elan is stupefying. His role in the climax where he shifts from Anniyan to Ramanujan to Anniyan to Rama... is a treat. In such cases, there is only a thin line that separates perfection and over-acting. For having tread that line with care, Vikram deserves to be honoured.

Is Anniyan good? Yes! Is it a great movie? Probably. Is it unforgettable? Well, only Oscar Ravichandran, the producer who has splashed 25+ crores, can answer!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Ring - II

Created by Siddhartha Elangovan Posted by Hello

The Ring

The following strip was created by a colleague. I liked it because I found it down-to-earth, direct and simple. If you liked it too, you may post your comments here, or mail him directly.

The Ring Series... by Siddhartha Elangovan Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Dude, where's my shirt? (or why I should check email more often)

Right out of the blue, Sun Microsystems decided to send me a mail today announcing the "opening" of Solaris. Wow, that was so nice of them do it - both the "opening" and the mail.

Such promo mails stay in my inbox only for a few seconds. They are then lost into cyberspace forever. But this mail was special. There was this cool image of a T-shirt and below it were the words "Free T-shirt".

You've guessed the rest of the story by now, but it has a few twists.

The folks who were so kind to send me a mail probably forgot to add a link to the T-shirt image. There were some other links on the page - get the source code, read the blogs, participate in the community etc. But hey, where's the T-shirt?

I immediately followed one of the links, it took me OpenSolaris.com. One more form on the web, and my lone password (and I have only one password for everything) was shared with yet another server. Some checking, validation and verification through email - all the while I was pegging the probability of wearing that cool T up by one percentage every second.

The formalities completed, and Sun getting enough proof that Vijay Krishna was indeed Vijay Krishna, the same old screens were brought up. Read the blogs, participate, get the source... Hey, where's the T-shirt?

I even used the search on Solaris's website, and the results were pathetic - more blogs, more promos, more useless links... Finally I decided to drink the milk from the cow itself. I went to Sun's website, and ran a search for "T-shirt"!

All the while I was thinking that I was the only Indian on the planet (as in scurrying and scouring for the meanest of freebies). Relief was at hand. Someone had already posted this stuff on the bulletin board. Five replies down the line, I got the link, but it warned the prospective beneficiary that there were only 5000 in stock and stcoks would run out soon, if not already.

To stop your mouth from watering too much, here is the link to the free T-shirt - and your guess is as good as mine.

I say, let boys be boys! Who wants it anyway?After all, you see, I don't run after freebies...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Bunty aur Babli

This is one of the worst PJs I've received in quite some time. Crappy but it makes you smile anyway!

Presenting the real Bun, Tea aur Bubbly... Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

Logging your blogspace

At the time of writing this piece, the number of hits my blog has received is not 100 yet. I would prefer a low (even lower) readership to ending up behind bars. Bloggers in China have been directed to provide their full details to the government by the 30th of June. There is a choice, though. They can face criminal charges if they don't choose route #1. Policing on the net? Flogging for blogging? Restriction of basic rights? Freedom of expression at peril?

We in India must accept that China is some sort of a phenomenon we can only dream of emulating. One of the reasons for this is that there is so much indecision in our country, especially the ruling classes. Though each policy decision is debated till death, nothing concrete happens. The worst part is that such inaction is considered a virtue - that the "democratic machinery" in India is still vibrant!

One of the things about policing private views, especially the deviant ones, is that the Government has one trouble less. No Tehelka, no hidden cameras, nothing... print this or we print your death notice. The one thing leaders like Adolf Hitler, Lee Kuan Yew, most Russian Presidents and Chinese Chairmen have in common is their ideas on the role of the fourth estate.

Even after the Internet revolution, China has maintained a strong control on what content providers publish and what the Chinese get to see. This is not uncommon; such restrictions exist in many countries. Some countries block just a few sites, while some others filter out a whole array of sites. The OpenNet Initiative, an inter-university partnership that monitors online surveillance, reveals that China operates the most extensive, technologically sophisticated, and broad-reaching system of Internet filtering in the world. Further, this filtering regime operates at various levels and is supported by a complex set of laws, procedures and regulations. Interestingly, the BBC is blocked in China!

Given such levels of filtering, China has sound reasons to be alarmed by the advent of blogging. The internet provides some kind of anonymity, and people are known to be ten times more foolhardy when their identity is not revealed. It would be foolish to assume that the 700,000 Chinese bloggers are all that way, but it takes just one spark to ignite a revolution - and though it is a communist republic, China is in no mood for a people's revolution.

Countries around the world censor what they think is not appropriate for their people. The ONI has an interesting article about how even India ordered ISPs not to connect to a website which promoted anti-Islamic sentiments. I consider it perfectly sound. A similar argument can be applied to the Chinese case, except that it is probably overdone by a few steps.

Taken in the general scheme of things, the latest move by the Chinese authorities doesn't come as a surprise. It is not as bad either. Though it places bars on self-expression, it is healthy insofar as it can regulate existing content and curtail misadventure. However, the only ones who need to fear such a move are the ones who are contemplating a reckless foray into blogosphere. Good luck to all our friends in China!

Meet "Arbit" Choudhury

I've never read a single comic strip nor followed a cartoon series in my life. The only things I know are that Tom is a cat, Jerry is a mouse, Dennis is a menace and Hobbes is a tiger (or is Calvin the tiger?).

However I ended up liking the "Arbit" Choudhury series of cartoons hosted on www.arbitmba.com. Arbit, whose actual name is Arpit is touted to be be the world's first B-school comic character. If what I hear from my friends in b-schools is true, then the creators need not have looked far for an inspiration. In any case, kudos to Shubham and Hemant!

Here's a sample of Arbit's wisecracks! Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 11, 2005

On a 'jar'ring note

jarring Pronunciation: 'jär-i[ng]
1 : having a harshly disagreeable or disconcerting effect
2 : packing compiled Java classes into one single .jar (Java archive) file

The past three nights were really exciting! I returned home successively at 2:40 AM, 1:45 AM and 4:35 AM. The not-so-very likeable (yet predictable) part about all this is that I was working all the time. That constitutes on the average 18 hours of work every single day... and believe me, I'm not a workaholic!

Last night was the longest I've ever worked. 8:30 AM to 4 AM the next morning non-stop is a quite a thing by anyone's standards. However I was comforted by the presence of an iyengar veettu azhagi, a stranger in black and an andankaaka kondakaari. Those who are yet to listen to the Anniyan soundtrack, I pity you!

When I look back at it, the work seems quite simple. But the end product hardly reveals the effort that has gone into making it the way it is. The one real positive I can take out of this is that I've learnt something at the end. No work is a waste. After all, life is a learning process.

As is evident from the palm tree analogy (see previous post), a software job is quite thankless, especially if what you are doing is worthwhile. The outside world mostly sees only the gloss of the annual reports that Indian IT giants dish out or the class of nouveaux riches nerds, and thinks that that is all there is to IT. That's just one side of the story.

The other part is about software engineers slogging it out well into the night and into another day, buoyed by unlimited loads of caffeine and blaring songs, punctuated with intermittent calls to their loved ones at onsite! Of course, that's life. If I wanted a cosy life with lots of time to waste, I should have signed up for a nine-to-five job with the Government. As with anything else, nothing can be gained unless something is lost. The choice here is to lose a few hours of sleep or to lose a job. What we choose is evident, isn't it?

Today at the Alliance Francaise, our professor was explaining a lesson. There was this word cadre (as in Il est cadre), which she explained was the French equivalent of a white-collar job. She then asked the guy sitting next to me about the characteristics of a cadre. He suggested that les cadres don't sweat! Wow, that was news! That 'audacious chap' ended up getting a kick from me.

Actually, I don't crib about working long nights. (Then, what's all the above?) My attitude to night-outs is some kind of Stockholm syndrome. I don't want to do it, but then I do it, and end up loving it. When I left at 4 AM on Saturday morning, I was actually thinking about spending a couple of hours extra. Believe me, I just love this job! I've even coined a term for night-outs... a slogfest!

I wonder how my parents are able to put up with me!

Of palm trees and project life cycles

A couple of days ago, my project mates and I had a rather hilarious discussion about project life cycles.

We were returning back to office after lunch when someone started cursing about the time frame he was given to complete his module. He said that the estimated time was much less compared to the actual effort. He then asked another person about the basis of estimation, how it was done and the like.

The other person, a module lead, came up with an interesting analogy. "Look at that palm tree in the distance? The task is to climb it. From over here, you'll have to say whether you can climb it, and the time needed for it. That's the L1 (level 1) estimate. Of course when you get closer to the tree, you realise that climbing it was a tougher proposition that you thought it was. So you give a revised, more detailed estimate... and that's L2."

"After the client agrees to your estimate, or in most cases, to 20% of it, you start climbing the tree... fall down, start climbing again and somehow finally make it to the top of the tree. That's coding and rework. Of course, now comes the testing and quality assurance (QA) stage. QA is damn clumsy and they know nothing. So you'll have to get down and carry them on your shoulder back to the tree top. They then taste the fruit, and considering that we've helped them, say that the fruit could have tasted better. That's testing and bug-raising. You get what I say, don't you?" ended he.

Another module lead ended the analogy by saying, "And after all this happens, the fruit is presented to the client. He takes one look at it and says, 'Hey, this is okay, but I don't think I want this fruit. Can you get me a mango?' That's a Change Request!"

Welcome to the world of software!

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Some months ago, the Government of India allowed the retailing of petrol by private players, breaking the monopoly held by state-owned oil companies like IndianOil, Bharat and Hindustan Petroleum. Some companies got the requisite license for the same, two of which are Reliance and Shell.

Shell put up one of its first petrol filling stations in the country in Chennai. This bunk, which is about 3 kilometres from where I live, is hard to miss. It looks very posh, and is extremely well-lit and maintained. Newspapers don't care about petrol bunks. But this one was praised by all the broadsheets. It was a hit even with the auto-wallahs because the people at the bunk dusted and clean every vehicle waiting to get filled up. Normally such service is the prerogative of only swank cars.

To find out how different this new phenomenon was from the usual filling stations, I took my trusted old Caliber this evening. The queue wasn't a big one, and when my turn came, the guy at the pump came up, and did a traditional vanakkam bringing together his hands. That was kinda funny because he really didn't need to do it. After the petrol filling and card swiping formalities were completed, I went to the Air and Water booth. The person there duly inflated the tyres and gave me the Go.

As is my routine, I proffered him a one-rupee coin. He smiled; the hand that proffered the coin was still in the same position, the coin still between the fingers. His smile was still there, and he said, "Air and water are free in our bunk, Sir!" That was the case everywhere, but clients dished out the customary coin nonetheless. It was taken in every other bunk, sometimes it was solicited. But this man was unmoved. He showed no reaction, except of a man dead certain on not receiving a tip. I insisted that he take it, saying that it was my wont. But he bluntly refused repeating his line. Clearly he was tutored; but such tutoring cannot make a man curtail his body language, his natural reactions... unless he had imbibed the philosophy behind the action.

Mr. Vijay Krishna, B.E., Software Engineer at a billion-dollar IT behemoth, then kickstarted his bike to leave Shell's new petrol bunk, feeling, for the first time in his life, like a pauper...

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Rafael "Sachin" Nadal

Will he or won't he? That was the question. But young Rafael Nadal from Mallorca (?) took advantage of an erring Federer to close out in four sets what was touted to be the game of the year. The match wasn't a classic by any standards, but Nadal played with a passion which anyone other than a Spaniard would have been able to display.

Friday's match was the first time I saw a full game featuring Nadal. He's got really powerful ground-strokes. Of course, you can't beat Federer without matching him stroke for stroke right?

The one thing that was clearly visible was that Nadal was egging himself on. With every point he won, it seemed as if he felt he was nearing closer to meeting Puerta in the final. Every passing shot, every winner was followed by a pump of the fist or a jump.

I don't know why, but I was reminded of Sachin Tendulkar. Nadal wasn't cheeky, but he brought that boyish enthusiasm, that burning passion of a teenager to what's otherwise a gentleman's game. As one commentator remarked, the birthday boy was playing tennis with the heart of a footballer. He confirmed this when he won a crucial break (to clinch the third set, I think), leaping up high in the air, half-knowing that he was going to return to Philippe Chatrier on Sunday.

He'll need one on Sunday too... albeit a giant leap!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Winners never quit...

Today, Karthik Guruswamy of ECE Class of 2004 (KG for short, and always that way) informed me that he had quit his job. It came as a surprise, a shock even. Who would quit a swank job at an IT major, just like that?

It is a generally held belief that if you graduate with a BE in ECE from Anna University, and end up in a software job, the four years you spent in college are as good as naught. I don't subscribe to that view, partly because I am into software myself, and also I did learn a few things when in college, engineering not being one of those -:)

Back to KG... he's one of those folks who breathes electronics through one nose and mathematics through the other. I can visualise how he would have spent each day of past year fuming at the numerous Excel sheets and Word documents that every IT guy has to fill out. His mind would have craved for his first love. But a compromise must be made. As they say, you don't get to keep the cake and eat it as well (did I get the order right?).

This is the hard part. You can decide upon, enact and live the perfect life in your brain. But can you transform that to reality? Never a person to be fazed by transforms, our man took the ultimate step. He approached the one professor everyone in the ECE department fears (I forget his name, haha), and convinced him to take him under his wings. Voila, KG has now been reunited with his first love - he is now a project associate!

But they say that winners never quit? Quite true, and in this case too. It depends on how you interpret it. Here's a person who's hung on to his passion, what he likes the most. And taken a decision to move away from the normal, the beaten path... away from the petty economic necessities that block us from following what we truly love.

To quote Coelho, "... when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." My friend KG, you are a true winner. In choosing to exert yourself in the field of your interest, you've proved that you are ready for the game, ready for life. Let my universe also conspire to help you reach the pinnacle of success. I salute you, Sir.


Yesterday the Indian government, specifically the Union Health Minister, has mooted a legislation to ban cigarette smoking on screen.

I'm a non-smoker, and I can't stand the smell of smoke. In fact, I choke if someone smokes in the vicinity. Yet I consider this move to be ridiculous. The reason profferred by the Honourable Minister is that smoking is a dangerous habit, a "public perfomance" of which tends to set a wrong example to the younger generation.

I would have welcomed this move had it covered the entire spectrum of the common health-injuring pastimes known to man - smoke, drink and drugs. Even under the category of smoke, there is a distinction. Whereas cigarettes are taxed heavily, "beedi" (the poor man's version of the cigarette) is not taxed at all. The new law is specific to cigarette smoking. One wonders why.

The Economic Times puts forth the argument that cigarette smokers are not a vote bank at all, whereas those involved in tobacco farming are a major vote bank. An analogy which comes to mind is the comparison of the prices of diesel and petrol. Diesel has always been priced lower than petrol, not because of any reasons relating to production. The reason is political - millions of trucks, lorries and buses run on diesel and not on petrol. The result is obvious, isn't it?

The one point which many people outside of Tamil Nadu wouldn't be able to appreciate is the stance taken by the father of the Health Minister. Dr. S. Ramadoss, who heads the PMK (a party formed and functioning purely on casteist lines) is a sworn enemy of actor Rajnikant. A couple of years ago, he created a huge furore by publicly proclaiming that the actor (whose movies always had a scene in which Rajni was seen smoking stylishly) was the sole reason why young Tamils were taking to smoke.

What a clumsy argument! It was aimed solely at scoring political points. This latest move by his son seems no different. Some political stance, just to remind voters of his presence.

For want of a nail, a kingdom was lost...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Bull run

This evening, there occured a grand event at my office. Some salespeople from Red Bull (the energy drink) were distributing Red Bulls cans for free as a promo. The entire population of Infy Chennai converged on that stall - I wonder if they had brought enough stocks.

A similar can of Red Bull is priced Rs. 75; and it was given for free! I've seen some Red Bull cans previously in the sandwich shop in the Food Court, but have dismissed it as alcoholic. Believe me, so has everyone in the past. But today, the picture was reversed. Everyone was speaking volumes about the merits of the drink, some convinced that it had some form of alcohol, others reeling off names of vitamins that their energy drink offered.

Whether the drink is alcoholic or not matters least to me. It does show how vulnerable we are to freebies. There is a saying in Tamil that people would drink phenol if it were given for free. I saw a live testimony of it.

No doubt, Red Bull is enthused by this "reception" that Chenfoscions have given them. I wonder if they will reflect on this free flow. They must have given out anywhere between 500 and 1000 cans. That's a lot of money. Let alone the price sensitivity of the Indian market. No one in their right mind would spend Rs. 75 for a drink... er, I'm speaking for the teetotalers.

Many things which seem quite obvious to me (us) are hardly noticed by others. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the people behind today's marketing gimmick knew what they were doing - they had factored in price sensitivity, popular attitudes to freebies and all that. Beats me.

Will this bull run be sustained?

Piercing through

When she won the 1995 Australian Open, Mary Pierce was thought to be the next tennis sensation. However she almost faded into oblivion before resurfacing in the 2000 French Open. After that, she's hardly ever been heard of.

In a sport like tennis, you become a veteran if you cross 28. The women's version has lowered the bar still. But Mary, the original power-girl of tennis, announced to the world yesterday that no one can afford to count her out yet. After all, if you wallop the number one seed 6-3 6-2, who cares if you are 30 or 300?

Probably M'lle Pierce has vowed to win a Grand Slam once every 5 years. But she's got to overcome Likhovtseva in the semis and then almost certainly Justine-Henin Hardenne in the finals. A tough proposition, but she can take heart from the fact that she's got my backing -:)

An interesting piece of information. Pierce's two previous Grand Slam final victories came against Spaniards, Arantxa Sanchez and Conchita Martinez. She would have loved Henin-Hardenne to be Spanish.

Deep Throat

Though the Watergate scandal happened a decade before I was born, it will be considered as quite an event in the history of the 20th century. The only details I know about it are that President Nixon resigned because of it and that the scandal was uncovered by two journalists of The Washington Post.

Now it has been revealed that it was the then FBI No 2 who was nicknamed "Deep Throat" (not the nicest nick, I know). Two commonplace questions arise. Why now? And why at all?

Ellis Henican writes in NewsDay... For many years, Woodward and Bernstein had been promising to reveal the identity of their chief Watergate source. They'd do it, they said, just as soon as he was in the ground. But the aging Felt, nudged by family members, showed everybody he still had a move or two left. Why let someone else control your story? Why have someone else profit from it? Why not bask in what glory remains in being the one person who was there when it mattered with the courage to do what was right?

I agree; that is all there is to it. After all, everyone must be entitled to his / her 15 minutes of fame... especially if you are the world's best deep throat!