Friday, October 27, 2006

The formation of Leech Band

It was last weekend of August 2005, and my company project team was on a weekend trip to Nainital. We reached Kathgodam by Ranikhet Express early in the morning, from where we proceeded to Country Inn, Bhimtal. We had hired a bus and a guide, and hence could have spent time in a way we best liked, without worrying about transport. After breakfast, we went to Bhimtal, and did boating for quite some time.

The group consisted of about 20 people, and pretty much every one was under 30 years. So we decided to go for trekking instead of following the usual tourist routine. We started circling the taal along a treacherous route, moving towards the hilly side of taal. It took longer than anticipated, and at several places, we had to move through 1-2 feet of water. We pushed forward, and eventually found a way going deep into forest. Soon, we were in a place from where, not a single trace of civilization was visible. The view in the forest was mesmerizing. Being rainy season, the forest was absolutely green, and we had trees with sparkling green leaves all around us. Suddenly, it started drizzling, but we were too much inside the forest, and decided to move ahead, but not before securing our digital cameras and phones in few plastic bags. In about an hour, we found a camping site. Our tour guide knew about it, and presented it as a pleasant surprise to us. The place consisted of few tents and a big thatched roof, with nice tables and wooden benches. Everyone was quite exhausted and took seats.

Suddenly, one of us noticed that his leg was bleeding profusely without pain. The camp people explained that we were attacked by leeches, which are abundant in rainy season. Soon, we discovered that more than half of us had leeches attached to our feet, and I too had 3 stuck to my feet. The simplest method to get rid of those was to put some table salt over the affected place, upon which the leech promptly stopped sucking blood, and tried to crawl to safety. In some cases, the bleeding continued for some time even after the leech was removed. The camp people served us with Hot tea and pakoras, and helped us clean up. It took some time to screen everyone for leeches and the bleeding to stop, but eventually, everyone was good enough to start on backward journey. Everyone was quite careful in return trekking, and we made it back to the Hotel by late afternoon.

Late in the evening, we had a campfire, and got a guitarist singing for us. Though his voice and guitar play was nice, he did not know many songs which people wanted to listen. One thing lead to another, and soon there were 5-6 of us at microphone, all singing whatever they wanted. All attempts to coerce them to come back and sit failed, and hence the "Leech Band" originated, a group of people who will capture the microphone, and won't let go till people are absolutely tired or bored, whichever is first. The name was suggested to commemorate the jovial spirit of us Software Engineers, which even a bunch of bloodsucking leeches failed to dampen. We sang and danced till well over midnight, and now, any Office Group trip is incomplete without a Leech Band performance around a campfire.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More wheels for cars?

Remember those advertisements for 3 blade razors where the first blade left a 1 mm stubble, the 2nd blade trimmed it to about 0.5 mm, and the 3rd one cut the hair completely? Watching such ads, I used to wonder why those fools didn't get rid of 1st and 2nd blade, when the 3rd one alone is enough. The cutting edge and We're Doing Five Blades, confirm what I had suspected all along: More blades per razor are really marketing gimmicks and any tangible benefit to the customer is marginal at best.

Cars started with 4 wheels, and it's a pity that they still run on 4. If car companies were like razor companies, by now we would be driving Super 7 from Audi with 7 wheels or a Nimble 9 from BMW with 9 wheels. Also, Tata Motors would be advertising More Wheels Per Car, instead of pathetic More Car Per Car. These cars could possibly have kept running even if one or two tyres went flat :-) Is any automobile marketer listening?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Best of Raymond Chen's blog

I'm a regular reader of Raymond Chen's amazing blog. This guy has never ceased to amaze me with his knowledge of windows internals, easy manner of explaining difficult things and sense of humor. A recent article explains the length to which Microsoft goes (or rather has to go) to avoid trouble, and avoid getting sued.

Some personal favorites:
PS: I originally wanted this list to have ten or at most a dozen links, but then figured that as of now, I'm the only reader of my blog, and I can use this post for bookmarking my personal favorites in Raymond's blog :-)

The Ghost who likes raunchy hindi music

Sometime in summer of 2004 (Back then, I was in Hyderabad), few friends planned to go out for ice cream on a Friday evening. You must be wondering how can a ghost fit into such a nice and innocent plan? Here's how... The senior most of us (a shy Bengali babu), offered to drive us to a nice ice cream parlor, and the moment his car CD player was turned on, a raunchy Hindi album song played out. Embarrassed, the fellow switched to radio, and uttered: "What disgusting music is being created these days... I wonder who listens to such songs."

There were suppressed smiles all around, but we were too decent to point out to our dear friend that he was a bachelor living alone and the only person having access to that car. What we were left wondering was whether it was a ghost who put that CD in his car music system :-)

Diwali Celebrations!!!

This year's Diwali celebrations turned out to be the best I have ever had. Probably the best testimony to this is the fact that I did not get time to open my laptop between 20th and 22nd October 2006 :-)

Diwali means cleaning and decorating the house, some religious ceremonies, lots of sweets, some crackers, talking and meeting with friends/relatives and generally having a good time. This year, I did all this, and more!!! I met many friends/cousins, talked to even more friends/cousins, finalized a year end trip to Goa with cousins, and finally, set up music system in the common gallery on our building floor, and started a dance party at around 10pm on Diwali night, which turned out a huge success and went on till about 1 in the morning.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Don't go window shopping with him...

There's a close friend (Mr. A), whose has a knack for making decisions in a snap. Though having such a gifted friend has numerous advantages, it is not without it's perils. As an example, you cannot go shopping, and more importantly, windows shopping when he is around, one of our favorite pastime when on trips. While window shopping, the protocol is to get as much information about whatever you are planning to buy, and then make an informed decision afterwards. But our Mr. A makes decisions instantaneously, and carries a wad of bank notes with him. So if you are deciding whether the new earphones you are trying out are worth 500 bucks, forget about even asking Mr. A for advice. The last time a friend (Mr. B) tried that (in winters of 2001, during our institute sponsored Bangalore trip. And yes, 500 bucks in college was big money for most of us), instead of replying, our beloved Mr. A handed 500 bucks to shopkeeper, and shocked, Mr. B immediately decided not to buy those earphones, and not do any more window shopping that day.

Discussing courage and bravery

Here's my first attempt to write about something which happened a long time back, but is still fresh in my mind.

I was in a train with a group (batch mates from college) of 6 people, on a weekend trip, during summer of 2001. Those days, looting of passenger trains was in news frequently, and somehow, the discussion turned to what we will do if robbers attacked our train.

Everyone had an opinion, and lot of joking was going around. People wanted to flee, surrender, fight, use their unknown super powers and so on. This went on for some time, and then someone asked for my 'sincere' answer. I said that it will depend on the exact situation, their vs. our strength, the kind of arms they have and so on, but I don't have a 'ready made', 'fit for all situations' decision.

To raise the stakes, the question was changed to, what if they loot someone in the group. My answer changed to that the odds of my staying and fighting would increase, but again it would depend. Somehow, the conversation took a personal touch, and two of us were involved in a verbal dual:

Him: "Depend on what? How can you even think of leaving someone with robbers, and run away, or surrender?"
Me: "I'm not thinking of any such thing. What I'm saying is that I don't really know what I would do."
Him: "I surely would fight till there's life in me."
Me: "I can say this too, but I'm not sure that I would, so I will not say this. It's very easy to say and equally hard to follow such words."
Him: "You are a coward. How will you fight when you are already thinking about options of running away or surrendering."
Me: "We can only find out what any of us will do when we really face such situation. Till then, anything we say are just words."
Him: "What if your family is there?"
Me: "For them, I'll be prepared to fight till any eventuality."
Him: "So you have double standards. I am sure you will run away even when your family is attacked."
Me: (sarcastically) "But you will still be there to save them :-)."
Me: (continuing) "What my stand is that I know I can die saving my family, but whether I will do so for someone here, I'm not sure. And yes, god forbid if any of us is attacked, we'll see who will stand longer. The only thing is, I cannot promise anything now."
Him: "So you don't care about people here?"
Me: "Lemme put it this way, would you care more for your family, or people who you don't even know properly?"
Him: "For me, anyone in trouble is a personal responsibility."
Me: "Oh yeah!!! So far, I haven't seen you helping a beggar get a job, or admitting an orphan to school."
Him: "That has nothing to do with courage."
Me: "So is courage just about violent fighting? What about fighting the circumstances? What about helping others who are victims, though not of a direct robbery?"
Him: "I'll do all that when when I have more money."
Me: "How much more?"
Him: "Well, hard to say right now."
Me: "Can I assume you don't care for those poor people?"
Him: "No, of course not. Just because I'm not doing anything now doesn't mean I don't care."

There were some more words exchanged, but eventually, others intervened and we ended our verbal dual midway.

5 years down the line, both of us stick to our arguments as we are fortunate and have not been attacked by robbers to prove any of us right/wrong :-) . Why write about this incident? Because it taught me an important lesson. Too often we quickly come to the belief that our opponents are not only mistaken but scoundrels, something which is not true most of the times. It might be you who is holding mistaken belief, or in fact both may be correct in some way. What I learn from such encounters is that two completely honest people can easily have different viewpoint about a given situation, and it's good to discuss about the differences. You benefit simply by understanding more viewpoints about the issue. As a bonus, it convinces you that even those whom you disagree with usually have heartfelt good intentions.

It will be great if I can get more views on this.

Writing some memoirs!!!

Many things keep happening in our everyday life, but then there are some which you remember forever. I have lots of such events to share, and will be putting them here, over next few months. Of course there are a lot of embarrassing memoirs, and things which, if shared, will compromise other people's secrets :-). Needless to say, such memories/events won't make it to here.

What I request from readers is their opinion in form of emails or comments. Brickbats are as welcome as garlands!!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Preparing Mathri at home!!!

Yesterday was one of those Sundays when one doesn't really have anything specific to do.
Deepawali is around the corner, and we decided to make Mathri. Homemade mathri has a charm unmatched by any salty snack, especially with evening tea.

We got the ball rolling at about 11 am which in itself a feat on a Sunday morning. My father spent next 45 minutes mixing spices and cooking oil in mixture of gram and wheat flour to create the perfect dough. We, being the naivetes we are, made the dough with more than 3 KG of flour. When dear mother saw the dough, she nearly fainted. We had never made mathri from so much dough in one go. Actually, the mathri we make is very thin, and we realized soon that the task is going to take much more time than was anticipated originally. We set out to work at about noon time and mother took over making small dough balls, me and my brother the task of rolling the dough balls into circular disks, and father, the task of frying them into delicious mathris.

The first few mathris I rolled looked not like circles, but more like maps of various countries. My brother's mathris looked more like circles. When he pointed out this discrepancy, I had to explain to him that according to functional specifications of homemade mathris, the mathris are meant to be eaten, that too at home, and hence it didn't matter which country's map they resemble. Nonetheless, with time, the mathris started to look more like circles and less like maps. By 1 pm, we had filled the original container which was supposed to store the mathris, and hunt began for a big container. We were not even halfway mark yet!!! My brother turned on the computer and started playing music at high volume, and for once, mother did have other things to worry about than to complain about the high volume.

Mother emptied a big steel stock pot, which we managed to fill to brim by 3 pm, and finally had to store the final few mathris in a big aluminium boiling pan. We finally finished by about 4 pm, with proud owners of over 350 mathris, over half of which were my designer creations. The work might have finished a bit earlier, but Cricket match between England and India started at 2:30 pm.

My brother opened the TV at about 2:45 and shouted "Eleven for 2!!!".
Me: "Who's playing?"
Brother: "England and India." (He knew what I wanted to know was which team had lost 2 wickets).
Me: "Oyee..."
Brother: "Arre dono team khel rahi hai. Abhi kisi ne haar nahi maani hai."
Me: (in a threatening tone) "Uthkar aaun kya?"
Brother: (referring to disks rolled by me) "Nahi, banata reh nakshe. England batting kar raha hai."

English players kept interrupting the work by getting out, and making us rush to TV to see replays :-)

Currently, the mathris are being consumed at a fast pace, and I wouldn't wonder if they don't last even for 2 weeks.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Shakira! Shakira! Shakira!

A supposedly true article about how hard many people work to make a living, and an assertion that they deserve their small luxuries. It's the last 12 lines (starting from line: “Shakira! Shakira!” Eduardo says smiling.) which touched me.

Is it possible to have a 36 hour day?

Jon explains how it's possible to have a 36 hour day. Though I don't agree with everything, the article has some really nice and practical time saving tips such as optimizing sleeping patterns, optimizing diet and using software to your advantage. A good read.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Favourite love quotes from movies

A collection of my favourite love quotes from hollywood movies. I've not assigned any ranks as it's impossible for me to declare one better than others. I stopped myself at a dozen quotes, and a sequel to this might appear one day :-)

Love Story

"Love means never having to say you're sorry."

As Good As It Gets
Melvin: You make me want to be a better man.
Carol: ...That's maybe the best compliment of my life.

George: Hey, would you, uh, love me the rest of my life?
Lace: No. I'm gonna love you for the rest of mine.

Untamed Heart
Caroline: You love with your mind and soul, not you heart.
Adam: [Touching his chest] Then how come I hurt here when you're not with me?

Notting Hill
William: "I live in Notting Hill. You live in Beverly Hills. Everyone in the world knows who you are, my mother has trouble remembering my name."
Anna: "After all... I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her."

Indecent Proposal
"If you ever want something badly, let it go. If it comes back to you, then it's YOURS forever. If it's doesn't, then it was never yours to begin with."

Runaway Bride
"Look, I guarantee there'll be tough times. I guarantee that at some point, one or both of us is gonna want to get out of this thing. But I also guarantee that if I don't ask you to be mine, I'll regret it for the rest of my life, because I know, in my heart, you're the only one for me."

When Harry Met Sally
I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

Imagine Me & You
"I want you to be happy, but more than anything, I wanted to be the cause of happiness in you. But if I’m not, then I can’t stand in the way. What you’re feeling, is the unstoppable force, which means that I’ve got to move."

Six Days Seven Nights
Robin: "You're here."
Quinn: "I decided my life is too simple, I wanna complicate the hell out of it."

My Best Friend's Wedding
"If you love someone you say it, you say it right then, out loud. Otherwise the moment just... Passes you by..."

Jerry Maguire
Jerry: "I love you. You... complete me."
Dorothy: Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at "hello."

Coach Carter (the movie)

Spoiler warning: Plot and ending details follow

I'm deeply impressed with the movie. When I set out to see it, I didn't know that it's based on a true story and was just expecting a cliche movie where a new coach comes, and puts new life in a failing basketball team, and helps them win some coveted championship. I did notice that the movie was 135 minutes long, and was wondering why they have to take so long to show a simple concept like this. Now I explain how the movie kept me hooked till the very end.

As movie starts, Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) joins as coach of Richmond High School basketball team, 'The Oilers', who have never won the local basketball championship. Jackson is a school alumni, and wants to do something for the school. True to my belief, Jackson did his magic, and the team won the local level championship for first time in school's history. They do it in a fairy tale manner with an undefeated record, in about 70 minutes only. I don't care, I do love fairy tales.

The movie captures the team spirit with simple dialogue such as "You said we're a team. One person struggles, we all struggle. One person triumphs, we all triumph.". The coach's and team's highest ambitions have been achieved and the lovely fairy tale seems over. Now the question nagging me was, what are they gonna do in next 65 minutes?

What really happens is that not all is fine with our fairy world. In order to concentrate on Basketball, the team members have neglected their studies, and most are failing academically. The coach wants them to concentrate on their studies for a while, but the team members are blown over with their success, and want to prepare for competing at state level. To put a little background, it's an academically low ranking school, and most of the school's students anyways are supposed to fail, and hence no one really cares. In between, we are also shown love life of a player, and the attraction towards criminal way of life of another.

In a stern move, Jackson suspends all basketball practice, and predictably the students/players revolt. Jackson makes his case heard to public in following manner:

Jackson: [to the people in attendance at the board hearing] You really need to consider the message you're sending this boys by ending the lockout. It's the same message that we as a culture send to our professional athletes; and that is that they are above the law. If these boys cannot honor the simple rules of a basketball contract, how long do you think it will be before they're out there breaking the law? I played ball here at Richmond High 30 years ago. It was the same thing then; some of my teammates went to prison, some of them even ended up dead. If you vote to end the lockout, you won't have to terminate me; I'll quit.

The school administration chooses to override Jackson, and he prepares to leave. In the meanwhile, the player with tormented love life takes right decisions (and of course regains his love), and the player moving towards crime checks himself with some help from Jackson. In general, players realize Jackson's good intentions, and rally to his support (Fairy tale stuff again, but I do love it).

So what happens next? I would have bet my money on the Oiler's going on to winning the state championship. But actually, our Oilers are pitted against the state champions in an early round, and are defeated, but not before giving some scary moments to the champions. They lose the match but win the hearts. The final match has some memorable quotes, and the one which tops them all is:
Jackson: "Just because you deserve it, they won't give it to you. Sometimes you have to take what's yours."

And then we come to know that it's a true story, and most players of that team indeed passed out from school, attended college, and are reasonably successful in life. Who says fairy tales cannot be true?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Creative Writing!!!

Today, we were doing an excercise about communication skills, and my task was to transform following sentence into a complete argument:

"I think we should launch the Cytherea product line on June 15th."

Following is what I came up with in 10 minutes, and amazed myself as well as few others:

I propose that we aim to launch the Cytherea product line on June 15th. I am presuming that Venus Corporation is coming out with a competing product in July end, and I believe that with our solid engineering team, we can deliver before them. Given that the prototype is ready and has received good feedback from test customers, the basic architecture of product is already in good shape. Does anyone think it is not a realistic goal? Please feel free to share any concerns.

Yes, this is self congratulatory, but today I came to know about the creative writing skills hidden in me, and a guy does have the right to pat his own back :-)

Monday, October 09, 2006

A beautiful day

It's breakfast time, and we are enjoying delicious Aloo Paranthas.

There's a certain sweetness in the potatoes, and my younger brother and sister are having an amusing argument about who bought the sweet potatoes and mother is made the unwilling referee. Myself, and a cousin (staying with us for few days) are laughing clutching our sides.

After some funny exchanges (like that the last time they bought potatoes, they were soiled, and so cannot be from cold storage, and how cold storage potatoes can be soiled before selling), my sister: "I know precisely how you got the sweet potatoes. You must have asked rates of the 2-3 varieties of potatoes the shopkeeper had, and bought the ones with lowest price". My brother is indignant and says that even if it's like that, he can never buy sweet potatoes. Brother: "I always tell the shopkeeper that I want sweet potatoes, and only buy from one who says he does not have any". Needless to say, mother, who so far was refraining from laughing, joined us in the laugh riot.

Start of another beautiful day!!!